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GRAMOPHONE ( 04/ 2019)
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Concerto Classics

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Reviewer: David Vickers

Serenatas were nocturnal concert pieces akin to cantatas for special occasions that could be performed in costume with a backdrop, but without acting or scene changes, and which sometimes took place outdoors depending on the season and the weather. Estévan Velardi and the Alessandro Stradella Consort present premiere recordings of two serenatas by Alessandro Scarlatti that were both composed for Naples after the composer was re-established as maestro di cappella at the royal chapel of the Habsburg viceroy.

Al fragor di lieta tromba (1711) is a quickly forgettable celebration of the name day of Emperor Charles VI, whose virtues are extolled by Love, Peace and Providence; the performance is patchy. The level of instrumental playing, singing and Velardi’s pacing are all on much better form in the infinitely more engrossing Bel piacere ch’è la caccia (c1717-18). Crammed full of exceptionally creative music, it depicts the feisty huntress Diana (sung classily by Anna Chierichetti) boasting that she is immune to love, but then promptly falling prey to the arrows of Cupid (sung with suppleness by Rosita Frisani), instigated by Venus (the plummy countertenor Marco Lazzara). There are masterful arias featuring a variety of instrumental textures such as a pair of trumpets, oboes, cleverly varied string-writing and even one number featuring obbligato parts for two theorbos. The recording is dedicated fondly to the memory of the great Scarlatti scholar Roberto Pagano, whose extensive and authoritative essay is printed in the detailed booklet – although it is unhelpful that the English translations of the sung texts provided are not placed in parallel alongside the Italian.

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