02 Scarlatti La SposaAlessandro Scarlatti – La sposa dei cantici
Meghan Lindsay; John Holiday; Jay Carter; Ryland Angel; Ars Lyrica Houston; Matthew Dirst
Acis APL53721 (acisproductions.com)

The Scarlattis were a tremendously gifted and prolific musical family, with Domenico composing over 500 keyboard sonatas and his father Alessandro writing over 100 operas, 600 cantatas and 30 oratorios. Even in comparison to their impressively productive contemporaries such as Bach, Handel and Telemann, their output remains staggeringly high and defined Italian musical style for decades.

This recording, performed by Ars Lyrica Houston and directed by Matthew Dirst, features Alessandro Scarlatti’s La Sposa Dei Cantici (The Bride of Songs), which is scored for strings, continuo and four soloists: three countertenors and one soprano. As with many early works, this music’s journey from composition to 21 st century performance is characteristically complex, its material existing in numerous reworkings, adaptations and even different libretti set to the same music for performance in different locations at different times of year. Long story short, this recording is essentially a snapshot of the music’s state in 1710 in Naples, as indicated through manuscripts in the Stanford University Library and Paris’ Bibliotheque National.

As with almost all Italian Baroque oratorios, La Sposa Dei Cantici consists mostly of recitatives and da-capo arias, with a brief orchestral Sinfonia and the occasional dramatic interjection. Despite this formulaic nature, Scarlatti was able to craft a large-scale work of striking beauty, using both vocal and instrumental soloists to achieve ranges of expression that are both delightful and captivating.

Built on a libretto far less dramatic and aggressive than Italian opera, Ars Lyrica brings out the best of Scarlatti’s La Sposa Dei Cantici, keeping a sense of momentum and expression that ensures a smooth flow from recitative to aria and back again. This is a wonderful recording that deserves to be heard by all, whether familiar with the Scarlatti family or discovering them for the first time.

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