A. Scarlatti: Clori, Ninfa e Amante – Arias & Cantatas

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The music of Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) lacks the representation in the catalog it deserves. The Italian composer, who is probably best known as the father of Domenico Scarlatti, composed over 50 works for the stage (predominately operas) and over 700 chamber cantatas, two of the most popular genres of 17th-century Italy. This recent Stradivarius release offers two of these cantatas and five arias from the composer's opera Gli equivoci nel sembiante. These are sung marvelously by singer and actress Renata Fusco, accompanied by a trio of minstrels playing plucked instruments.

Renata Fusco has a beautiful voice, one which is perfectly suited to this music. There's an air of spontaneity to her delivery. She sounds unpretentious - the word 'casual' comes to mind - light, but with a reserved intensity you're often aware of. Agogic accents and tonal colorations, added in just the right measure, depict a wide range of emotions. It seems clear she has blended her acting talents with her vocal art.

The unusual use of the three plucked instruments to accompany the vocal soloist creates unusual and memorable textures and colors. Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli play the baroque guitar with Mr. Micheli also contributing on theorbo - an instrument with a neck that is almost as long as the performer is tall! Massimo Lonardi plays the archlute. The latter two instruments are curious in that they are both fitted with a second peg box in the middle of the instrument's neck, providing the player two sets of strings, or courses, to play. The stings of the longer set can be five or six feet long, adding a rich, resonant bass to the realm of possible sounds. These musicians play wonderfully, sounding thoroughly relaxed in perfect balance and ensemble. There are beautiful touches everywhere - in phrasing, dynamics, articulation and the exquisite dovetailing of melodic threads. They provide a lush cushion of sound for Ms. Fusco beautiful voice.

The trio is given two spots to shine on their own, in a brief overture by Alessandro Scarlatti and in the transcription of Keyboard Sonata K.81 by Domenico Scarlatti, the only work on the album by Alessandro's illustrious son. There are a couple caveats I should mention: at about forty-eight minutes, the album is rather short and there are no English translations for the sung texts in the booklet. Nevertheless, if you are drawn to what I've described and enjoyed the samples from the album, go for it. For me, I'm happier to have this forty-eight minute CD that I enjoyed over and over again than some seventy-five minute disc I could hardly struggle through once.

Alessandro Scarlatti: Arias & Cantatas - Onde, ferro, fiamme e morte from the opera Gli equivoci nel sembiante