Domenico SCARLATTI (1685 - 1757)
Iste confessor [3.52]
Miserere in e [11.11]
Salve Regina [8.14]
Te Deum [7.12]
Cibavit nos [3.48]
Te gloriosus [6.08]
Magnificat [12.39]
Laetatus sum [13.15]
Susan Erickson (soprano); Cynthia Melson (alto); Stephen Arnold (cello); Michael Bisio (double bass); Edward Rutschmann (portative organ)
Western Washington University Concert Choir Bellingham/Robert Scandrett
rec. Western Washington University Concert Hall, Bellingham/Washington (USA), 1991
CARUS 83.320 [65.42]
You can't help but get the idea that Domenico Scarlatti rather lived under the shadow of his father Alessandro. It is only with his move to the Iberian peninsula that his career seems to liven up. Very few of his surviving choral and vocal works live up to the imagination at play in the keyboard sonatas. His vocal works were highly regarded by his contemporaries and Charles Burney was admiring indeed. Remarkably, as recently as 1941, only his Stabat Mater had appeared in a modern edition. It was during the centenary in 1985 that new music was discovered and made available.
This recording, made in 1991, has been re-issued in Carus Classics’ series of re-issues of past outstanding recordings. The choir is the Western Washington University Concert Choir Bellingham, an elite choral organisation of the Western Washington University Department of Music. It is quite a large group, some fifty voices, which would not perhaps be seen as an obvious size for music of this period. They are young voices, clean and focused, with a nice feel for line. There is a light purity to their singing which is very appealing.
They open with Iste confessor which is little more than a simple hymn. Then in the Miserere in E plainchant alternates with simply polyphony. By the time we get to the Salve Regina we are hoping for something a bit more challenging, but though there are some interesting fugal sections it is all rather carefully correct.
Scarlatti's writing is heavily based on the correct Palestrina model, adjusted for contemporary taste. That is what we find here. Even the large-scale Magnificat follows this model.
The double choir Te Deum is attractively direct, with a nice use of the antiphonal groups. There is a suggestion that the slow harmonic rhythm and simple antiphony were designed to make the best of the acoustics of the large church of St. Roch in Lisbon. The Te Deum, the motet Te gloriosus and the psalm Laetatus sum all exist in Portuguese libraries and were probably written for use in Portugal. They do introduce a little more variety.
The attraction of this disc is the performance by the choir, under Robert Scandrett's sympathetic direction. They bring a freshness to the music which adds interest to what is otherwise of frankly limited charm. The pieces are nicely put together, carefully correct but with only a few signs of the imagination that Domenico Scarlatti would bring to bear in his later works. Buy it for the light it sheds on Scarlatti's oeuvre, but it’s the performance that charms.
Robert Hugill
Scandrett and his choir bring a freshness to the music which adds interest to what is otherwise of frankly limited charm. 
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