get the impression that Domenico Scarlatti remained under
his father’s domination both musically and personally until
the younger Scarlatti left for the Iberian peninsula. It
was only after this move that Domenico’s music seems to have
taken flight and developed real life of its own. In fact,
Domenico had to resort to a court case in 1717 to prevent
his father interfering in his personal affairs.
disc is unusual in that it is a survey of Domenico Scarlatti’s
choral music. Usually his works crop up on disc in tandem
with those by other composers. The Stabat Mater
available in versions by such groups as The Sixteen and Concerto
Italiano. But here King’s College Choir, under Stephen Cleobury
give us three additional pieces to form an attractive programme.
works range in time from his period in Rome (1715-1719) to
his years in Portugal. The lovely Miserere
in manuscript in the Vatican archives. It was almost certainly
written for the choir of the Cappella Giulia of which Scarlatti
was the musical director. Like the Allegri setting of the
psalm, this work was probably written for the Tenebrae service
at the Sistine chapel. Like all the settings of this text
used by the Vatican for the Tenebrae service, Scarlatti’s
piece interleaves polyphonic verses with plainchant. His
setting is relatively simply but all the more moving for
its simplicity. It is given a beautiful performance by the
survives in Vatican manuscript and was probably written for
Vatican forces; it is Scarlatti’s only surviving Magnificat.
The work is in four parts and three movements.
other work from his Roman period is the Stabat Mater
best known piece. A substantial ten-part setting in eleven
movements, it mixes solo and choral movements. Scarlatti
probably wrote it for the Cappella Giulia, at least it appears
to be designed for a virtuoso group. Though he is relatively
sparing in his use of full vocal forces, the choral sections
include some highly vivid writing.
dates from the Scarlatti’s period of employment
in Portugal during the 1720s. An eight-part work full of
vigorous part-writing, it reflects the Portuguese court’s
habit of marking the end of the year with a service of
final work is the psalm setting, Laetatus sum
is notable because it was first heard at the wedding of Scarlatti’s
pupil Infanta Maria Barbara to the heir to the Spanish throne.
This marriage which resulted in Scarlatti moving to the Spanish
Royal Court with his pupil.
College Choir performs this music with their customary aplomb,
and aided by the chapel acoustic give the music a lovely
bloom. There are moments when the trebles sound a little
taxed, but this is not surprising in music that was probably
both unfamiliar and tricky. Similarly the solo treble voices
can be a little varied, but none is less than creditable.
you are mainly interested in the Stabat Mater
you might do well to investigate one of the CDs where the
work is sung by a mixed voice choir. The particular delight
of this disc is the way Cleobury has surrounded the better
known work with a quartet of other attractive ones.
Cleobury and King’s College Choir give this music the attention
it deserves and have produced a lively and attractive programme.
Sometimes Scarlatti seems to be note-spinning in contemporary
style, rather than developing music in his own distinctive
style, but it is well put together nonetheless. Nothing on
this disc has quite the attention-grabbing distinction of
some of the keyboard sonatas, but it is still a programme