Le Caravansérail, Emmanuelle de Negri, Paul-Antoine Benos-Djian, Bertrand Cuiller – Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater & Other Works (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 01:16:20 minutes | 3,01 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © harmonia mundi
A model of daring harmonic and contrapuntal treatment, Domenico Scarlatti’s extraordinary Stabat Mater is one of the very few surviving examples of his music for the church. To place this unique masterpiece in context, Bertrand Cuiller and members of Le Caravansérail invite us to sample the composer’s unjustly neglected contribution to the genre of opera and secular cantata, tracing a fascinating itinerary that leads from Naples to Rome and on to Madrid.
Beware the pen of a critic. When in 1720 an arrangement of Domenico Scarlatti’s 1714 opera Amor d’un’Ombra e Gelosia d’un’aura arrived at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, Charles Burney’s pen was gently damning. “Though there were many new pleasing passages and effects”, proclaimed London’s esteemed writer on all things musical, “those acquainted with the original and happy freaks of this composer in his harpsichord music, would be surprised at the sobriety and almost dullness of the songs”; and over the ensuing centuries, critical opinion has largely persisted with the line that Scarlatti’s best work is to be found not among his vocal or instrumental works, but instead among the 555 harpsichord sonatas he wrote for the Portuguese Queen of Spain, María Bárbara.
Now though, here is a multi-genre Scarlatti programme from Bertrand Cuiller and his period instrument ensemble Le Caravansérail, its aim to enable the listener to reach his or her own conclusion as to Scarlatti’s wider worth. Although with repertoire and performances as fine as these, it’s perfectly clear which side Cuiller wants us to come down upon. Not least he opens with a piece of shameless wooing: the famous Sonata in G major, K. 144, but heard not on harpsichord but instead from harpist from Bérengère Sardin in a performance of melting warm fragility and hope-filled nobility.
Then with that still ringing in your ears comes one of the few surviving examples of Scarlatti’s sacred music, the Stabat Mater in C minor with its rich, ten-voice texture supported by basso continuo accompaniment alone; and instantly your ears are locking on to that continuo section’s harp-reminiscent archlute, and thus becoming extra-alive to the accompaniment’s poeticism, even as the clear-toned voices unfurl over it and entwine around each other, themselves bringing definition and lucidity to even the score’s most lavishly contrapuntal vocal writing.
Onwards and there’s a D minor instrumental feast: violinist Leila Schayegh’s sombre, expressive reading of the Sonata, K. 90, one of a few harpsichord sonatas that appears to present the option of choosing a solo instrument on the melodic line; then, following a nimbly urgent ensemble reading of Charles Avison’s “concerto grosso” transcription of another harpsichord sonata, Cuiller himself bringing gossamer-weight lyricism to Harpsichord Sonata, K. 213.
As for the secular vocal works, the numbers from Amor d’un’Ombra e Gelosia d’un’aura more than hold their own here, thanks to soprano Emmanuelle de Negri and countertenor Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian’s committed performances, while an album highlight is the lilting melancholic expression brought by de Negri to ”Pur nel sonno almen tal’ora vien colei” from the Cantata “Pur nel sonno almen” – composed to a Metastasio poem that appears to have been given to Scarlatti by star countertenor Farinelli, and thus inevitably sounding like a composer inspired to give his best.
In short, in the case of Cuiller versus Burney, it’s a win for Cuiller. Also, indeed, for Scarlatti. – Charlotte Gardner
01. Bérengère Sardin – Sonata in G Major, K. 144 (Version for Solo Harp) (04:22)
02. Le Caravansérail – I. Stabat Mater dolorosa (03:20)
03. Le Caravansérail – II. Cujus animam gementem (03:14)
04. Le Caravansérail – III. Quis non posset (02:14)
05. Le Caravansérail – IV. Eja Mater, fons amoris (01:40)
06. Le Caravansérail – V. Sancta Mater, istud agas (01:55)
07. Le Caravansérail – VI. Fac me vere tecum flere (00:51)
08. Le Caravansérail – VII. Juxta crucem (01:53)
09. Le Caravansérail – VIII. Inflammatus (02:40)
10. Le Caravansérail – IX. Fac ut animæ (02:09)
11. Le Caravansérail – X. Amen (01:26)
12. Leila Schayegh – I. Grave (03:22)
13. Leila Schayegh – II. Allegro (04:49)
14. Leila Schayegh – III. (00:49)
15. Leila Schayegh – IV. Allegro (01:01)
16. Le Caravansérail – Concerto Grosso No. 3 in D Minor (after Domenico Scarlatti): IV. Allegro (02:04)
17. Emmanuelle de Negri – Amor d’un’Ombra e Gelosia d’un’aura, Act I Scene 3: Sento, che a poco, a poco (04:03)
18. Bertrand Cuiller – Sonata in D Minor, K. 213 (06:13)
19. Le Caravansérail – O qual meco Nice cangiata: Sinfonia. Cantabile andante (01:27)
20. Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian – Amor d’un’Ombra e Gelosia d’un’aura, Act II Scene 5 & Act III Scene 2: Dammi un poco – Ma di raggione (03:18)
21. Le Caravansérail – No. 1, Introduzzione alla Cantata (02:36)
22. Le Caravansérail – No. 2, Minuetto (01:00)
23. Emmanuelle de Negri – No. 3, Aria “Pur nel sonno almen tal’ora vien colei” (08:15)
24. Emmanuelle de Negri – No. 4, Recitativo “Pria dall’aurora o Fille, io sognando ti vidi” (02:32)
25. Emmanuelle de Negri – No. 5, Aria “Parti con l’ombra è ver l’inganno et il piacer” (05:00)
26. Emmanuelle de Negri – Amor d’un’Ombra e Gelosia d’un’aura, Act III Scene 3: Dio d’amor – Arcier fatale (03:53)