Friday, January 17, 2003


Extraordinarily, Alessandro Scarlatti (who died in 1725 and forms a strong bridge between the mature Baroque and later classical traditions, according to musicologist Edward Dent) wrote some sixty-four operas, twenty oratorios, hundreds of chamber cantatas, and a host of madrigals, masses, motets, toccatas, concertos, sonatas and symphonies. Very little of this is heard today, sadly, except in specialist circles. Perhaps one of the more popularly performed pieces is 'Abramo, il tuo sembiante' (a Christmas cantata). When Handel visited Italy between 1706 and 1710, he met Scarlatti and may even have studied with him.

There is a marvellous Scarlatti Project on the web. This is "based largely on the research of Rosalind Halton, Kate Eckersley, and James Sanderson, all of whom are performer/researchers dedicated to turning manuscripts of long forgotten music into experiences of music and poetry interwoven." Most of the music in the catalogue has never before been available in modern editions or recordings, so there are some extraordinary new aural experiences to be had thanks to the SP cyber-scholars.

In sorting out some old boxes recently, I was fortunate enough to come across a fine LP (Editions de L'Oiseau Lyre, OLS 154, 1957) featuring two cantatas - 'Clori e Lisa' and 'Floro e Tirsi'. As far as I am aware it has not yet made it to CD, but we can hope. Thurston Dart plays harpischord and Desmond Dupre viola. The sopranos are Elsie Morison and Jennifer Vyvyan. I was fortunate enough to hear Vyvyan before her untimely death in the early '70s. She performed recitals regularly in London, including more popular concerts at the Anglican church opposite the BBC in Langham Place, London, All Souls. She and Morison tackle the developed lines and exacting ornamentations of Scarlatti's writing with considerable depth and feeling. A beautiful recording of songs written around 1706-7.

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