A. Scarlatti: Responsories for Holy Week: Holy Saturday

La Stagione Armonica, Sergio Balestracci
dhm 1 90758 02412 7

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]carlatti’s settings of the nine responsories from the Tenebrae office for Holy Saturday are performed here in their three nocturns, preceded and separated by four Lenten motets and four organ pieces by the same composer. It makes for a satisfying programme which showcases Scarlatti’s more restrained side, using the developed stile antico  idiom commonly found in late 17th-century liturgical music. This refers back to late 16th-century style but uses more advanced harmonic shifts, sometimes becoming quite chromatic in response to the words. The listener can have some fun looking out for influences from earlier composers of responsories like Victoria and Gesualdo. Those recorded here survive in a single source, now in Bologna; although not attributed, they have long been thought to be by the elder Scarlatti – probably composed for the Medici in Florence – and certainly match the style of his more authenticated motets on this disc. The source provides a basso continuo, and organ is used to accompany the set here. The CD opens with an organ toccata and fugue, played by Carlo Rossi, which provides a full-bodied introduction in Italian style; the organ is a copy of a late 17th-century South German portable organ by Zanin of Udine. The sixteen voices of the choir produce a full choral sound, also in a typical Italian manner. Blend is good, even if tuning is not always spot on. The singing does have a strong sense of commitment and brings out the subtleties of the harmony and of Scarlatti’s word-painting devices. The final Miserere  is particularly heartfelt.

Noel O’Regan

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