Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)

Alessandro Scarlatti’s influence was immense both through his pupils (such as Hasse and Geminiani) and his son, Domenico Scarlatti (born in 1685 and later also his pupil). Alessandro (1660-1725) is of the generation that precedes Bach and Handel (who were both born in the same year as his son Domenico). His musical career was focused in Rome and Naples. He is regarded as the Father of Neapolitan opera since he was the key figure in the development of the operatic elements in particular the arias, recitatives and in the use of the orchestra. He composed 115 operas and many other works – including oratorios, Masses, madrigals, concerti grossi and chamber cantatas (of which he wrote about 600).

Sca 1

Bella Dama di Nome Santa

Tu sei quella

Edited by Derek Harrison

Cantata da camera for alto (c'-d''), recorder, two violins and bc

Price: £ 6.50

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.

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Sca 2

Three Cantatas with Recorder

Edited by Barbara Sachs

for soprano (d'-a''), two recorders and bc

Price: £ 10.80

Augellin, vago e canoro
Filli, tu sai s'io t'amo
Mentre Clori la bella

Augellin, vago e canoro, in D minor, has three da capo arias, all in triple metres, separated by recits. The recorders introduce or echo the voice in the first aria, and conclude the second aria which is without them, and provide a totally independent accompaniment throughout the last aria. Syncopations make the second and third arias as unpredictable as the vagaries of the little bird.

Filli tu sai ch’io t’amo, in C major, reverses the structure, framing two da capo arias between three very short recits. In the arias the two recorders alternate with the solo voice, playing in very modern trio-style thirds (and in passages labelled unisoni). The singer is graciously insistent while berating Phyllis for not recognizing what it means to love.

Mentre Clori la bella, in C minor, is strikingly without any hint of da capo aria form. It presents a Cloris determined to have no more to do with Fileno, who, however, is listening to this outburst. Her state of mind is not quite so linear, though, and the three-part structure explains her dilemma. The opening recit is mainly by the narrator, the first aria, with recorders echoing the voice and harmonizing the cadences, is sung twice, (warning him to expect nothing more of her), followed by an instrumental ritornello. A long recit and an aria – repeated in its entirety, but without recorders, and followed by an instrumental ritornello – states that she had loved him once, but that after whatever he has done, she can only hope now to be revenged. A short recit expresses some doubt, and the following aria with recorders has no repeat, though its four lines are set twice, promising a retraction of her disdain. In this cantata Neapolitan 6ths underline all the most dramatic words (sospiri; folle t’inganni; temprati i sdegni).

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Sca 3A

Ardo, è ver, per te d'Amore

Bella, s'io t'amo il sai

Edited by Derek Harrison

Cantata for soprano (d'-g''), recorder and bc

Price: £ 6.50

SECOND EDITION with opening recitativo

In this second edition of the cantata generally known by the opening of the first aria, Ardo, è ver, per te d’Amore, we have restored its opening recitativo, Bella, s’io t’amo il sai.

The manuscript  source for the opening recitativo is in the collection of the Fondazione Ugo e Olga Levi in Venice, and that of the rest of the work, is in the Biblioteca del Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majello in Naples, and we acknowledge with grateful thanks the help of these libraries in making copies of the MSS available.

The pain of love is an almost everyday theme for composers to choose in the texts that they set.  For Scarlatti, the text of this cantata is no exception. The opening recitativo is graphic in its depiction of the lover’s suffering; for example,  l’immenzo foco che m’accesero in sen (the great fire which is lit  in my heart).  In the second recitativo Scarlatti makes use of the most arresting harmonic gestures to underline the text.  For example, e m'avvelena in sen ogni piacere ("and poisons in my breast all pleasure"; bar 6) and e sento pena al cor, fiera et amara ("and I feel pain in my heart, fierce and bitter"; bars 16 & 17).  The use of recorder gives the outer movements a somewhat angelic and other-worldly quality which modifies and softens the distress of the text being articulated by the singer.

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Sca 4

E perche non seguite, o Pastorelle

Cantata with sinfonia

for countertenor/alto (g-d''), 2 violins, 2 flutes/recorders and bc

Price: £ 8.70

The present cantata comes from the collection of the Abbato Santini (1778-1861) which is in the care of the Diözesanbibliothek Münster. This cantata , very confidently ascribed at the head of the first folio as “Del Signe Alesso Scarlatti”, and titled “Cantata /con Violini, e Flauti”, is the first in the manuscript MÜs HS 3975. It is followed by the cantatas Mentre Clori la bella and Augellin, vago e canoro, well accepted as by Alessandro Scarlatti, both of which are available in the Green Man Press edition.

It is curious therefore that this cantata, E perche non seguite o Pastorelle, is not listed in Grove among the cantatas of Alessandro Scarlatti, nor as a work of doubtful attribution, and the work is listed neither in Hanley nor in Rostirolla .

This attractive cantata for a countertenor or alto (the ‘persona’ is a love-lorn man), follows the usual pattern of alternating recitative and aria, but is introduced with a generous sinfonia in three sections, slow-fast-slow. The final aria has as a ritornello a graceful instrumental minuet. The scoring for two violins and two flauti is unusual: only a few of the cantatas by Scarlatti have this many obbligato instruments, and none have this combination. This instrumentation provides plenty of rich and lively material. While it is usual to be able to take flauti to mean recorders, the second flauto part has one bar in the sinfonia, and four in the first aria, which are too low for the treble recorder. However the second aria’s flauto solo part is typical writing for the treble recorder. Perhaps the second instrument could be a tenor recorder.

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Sca 5

Aria: Sconsolato Rusignolo

for soprano (f'-a''flat), recorder, violin, viola and bc

Price: £ 5.50

This single aria is found in the manuscript MÜs HS 3934 in the Santini Sammlung of the Diözesanbibliothek Münster. The aria Sconsolato Rusignolo is closely followed in the manuscript by the cantata Filli tu sai s’io t’amo, well accepted as by Alessandro Scarlatti, which is also available in a Green Man Press edition.(See Sca 2 above). Although the top edge of the first folio has sustained some damage, the ascription to Alessandro Scarlatti is just discernable as Del Se Alesso Scarlatti / 1701. Curiously this aria is listed in Grove among the cantatas of Alessandro Scarlatti, as if it were the title of a cantata the first line of which is Filli tu sai s’io t’amo. In fact it does not relate to that cantata in key, instrumentation, text or copyist. This strange error has been copied from the first to the second edition of the New Grove.

This amusing short da capo aria for a soprano with ‘flautino’ and strings contains light-hearted writing in imitation of the birdsong. The soprano recorder may well be the best instrument to convey the playful spirit of this piece.

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Sca 6

Tra speranza e timore


Edited by Timothy Roberts

for bass (B-e'), violin and bc

Price: £ 6.50

The original describes the work as a cantata ‘con violini’, suggesting orchestral accompaniment; this is confirmed by the indication ‘unis.’ at the start of the last movement. The use of an orchestral body of violins playing in unison is typical of Scarlatti’s opera, and of much other Italian music at this time. However, there is no musical reason why Tra speranza e timore should not be performed as a chamber cantata with solo violin.

The customary appoggiaturas to strong syllables in the recitatives are indicated in this edition by small notes above the stave. It is striking that the composer takes special care to show that each recitative should run directly into the ensuing aria; dramatic continuity is essential in the performance of Italian secular cantatas. For the same reason, it is preferable not to delay the recitative cadences in the familiar fashion.

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Sca 7

Filen, mio caro

Filli, che esprime la sua fede a Fileno

for alto (c'-d''), recorder, two violins, and bc

Price: £ 7.90

Filen, mio caro is found in a manuscript collection of cantatas in the Biblioteca del  Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella in Naples,  (I-Nc. 33.3.10) which includes another of Scarlatti’s  cantatas for the same scoring, Bella Dama di Nome Santa, also published by Green Man Press (ref Sca 1).  We  acknowledge gratefully the assistance of the Naples Conservatorio in making a copy of the  manuscript available for study.

Phyllis is so enamoured of her beloved Phileno, that she is convinced that the whole of nature, as well as her tears, will testify to her devotion to him, but if this should not convince him, he has only to ask her to die for love of him, and she will do so.

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Sca 8

Recit & Aria: Se geloso è il mio core

for soprano (a'-b''), trumpet, two violins, and bc

Price: £ 6.90

This aria is from the cantata Endimione e Cintia, a substantial work providing for an orchestral setting with concertino and ripieno strings, marked concerto grosso at the beginning of the score. It also features solos for oboe, violin, and violoncello respectively. Unusually, this aria, like the other nine arias in the cantata, is in da capo form, but with the repeated A section written out fully after a very brief B section.

Endimion is the lover of Cintia (Diana) the moon goddess, and although they are deeply in love, they become disconsolate because they can only see each other at night. This becomes a bone of contention between them, and both are in danger of becoming jealous.

This aria, which is the only one scored with a trumpet in this cantata, is representing jealousy as a battle within Endimion’s heart.

The story of these lovers is told also in Nicolas Bernier’s continuo cantata Diane et Endimion, set for soprano and bass, also published by Green Man Press, ref Ber 1

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