Bella Dama di Nome Santa
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Editor: Edited by Derek Harrison
Cantata da camera for alto (c'-d''), recorder, two violins and bc
As a genre, the Italian chamber cantatas (Cantate per camera) are a treasure house of adventurous compositions. They were an enormously popular art form with musical connoisseurs (both amateur and professional). While our concept of “amateur” might suggest that composers simplified their ideas for less skilled musicians, this is far from the case in the chamber cantatas. Indeed, it was a form in which composers experimented with many innovative harmonic and structural ideas.
This piece, Bella Dama di nome Santa, contains several moments that are both poignant and baffling - particularly in the recitatives where for example certain key words are underlined musically (such as the closing words of each). As in his operas, Scarlatti makes full use of the da capo form in the arias of this cantata. The colourful instrumentation sets the voice against flute (recorder) and violins. The texture is particularly enriched in the opening Introduttione by the addition of a second violin. The source for this work is the manuscript in the Biblioteca del Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella in Naples.