Baruffe Amorose del Settecento

Eighteenth-century love squabbles
A. Scarlatti: Palandran e Zamberlucco
Anon: Selvaggia e Dameta
Cappella Musicale di San Giocaomo Maggiore in Bologna, Roberto Cascio
Tactus TC 660005

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These two intermezzi, one by Alessandro Scarlatti and one anonymous, consist of comic musical interludes to be inserted into more substantial and serious dramatic works. In Scarlatti’s Palandrana e Zamberlucco a comic dialogue between an old widow and a young blade is set with operatic flair, while the anonymous Selvaggia e Dameta features an old shepherd and his young companion who engage in quarrels and deception. The first of these is accompanied by a chamber ensemble of strings and oboe, while the second, more overtly comical in character and scored for three unspecified instruments and continuo, is performed by three recorders. Heard in the cavernous acoustic of the Palazzo Zabeccari in Bologna, where it was almost certainly performed in the 18th century, I found this lightweight music rather outlived its welcome in spite of the energetic performances. Nothing dates as quickly as comedy, particularly comedy in a foreign language, and perhaps the visual element of an actual performance was needed to bring these pieces fully to life. Or perhaps, by definition, intermezzi written as light relief from more serious matters are always going to sound a little trivial on their own. I was intrigued to hear in the second intermezzo a line from Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda – well, from Torquato Tasso – and wondered how much more of the humour was lost to me in an Italian text, of which no translation was provided.   

D. James Ross

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