A. Scarlatti: Il Dolore di Maria Vergine

Rosita Frisani Mary, Anna Chierichetti St John, Gianluca Belfiori Doro Nicodemus, Mario Cecchetti Onía SSAT, Alessandro Stradella Consort, Estévan Velardi
146:08 (2 CDs in a case)
Brilliant Classics 95534

Composed in 1717, in its composer’s maturity, Scarlatti’s Oratorio Sorrow of the Virgin Mary is probably his masterpiece in the genre, and possibly even overall in his work. A substantial work in two parts for four solo voices and strings with a selection of woodwind and brass, it presents the reaction of the Virgin Mary to the unfolding tragedy of her son’s condemnation and crucifixion in a series of dramatic arias, duets, trios and quartets with linking sections of narrative recitative, some of it accompanied. Rosita Frisani’s account of the part of Mary is beautifully expressive and musically accomplished, while she is well supported by an excellent cast of solo singers representing the supporting characters. Curiously Scarlatti sets the part of St John the Evangelist for soprano, perhaps serving as a dramatic distancing effect, while Nicodemus is an alto and Onia, the hostile High Priest, is a tenor. The crafting of the vocal lines is masterly indeed, while the sparing use of the solo wind instrument colours is deft and highly effective. You can tell that by 1717 Scarlatti is a skilled operatic composer, and the date coincides with his move from Naples to Rome, suggesting that the new oratorio was consciously written to appeal to Roman taste and to launch his musical career in the Eternal City. Performed here in a new edition by Estévan Velardi, it is interesting that this oratorio doesn’t even merit a mention in Scarlatti’s extensive Wiki entry – perhaps there is some evangelical work needed on its behalf.

D. James Ross

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