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A Scarlatti: "Bella madre de' fiori - Cantatas"

Marķa-Cristina Kiehr (soprano)
Concerto Soave
Dir: Jean-Marc Aymes
rec: May & June 2000, Freiburger Musikforum
Harmonia mundi - HMC 901725 (71'25")

Bella Madre de' fiori; Correa nel seno amato; Poi che riseppe Orfeo

Alessandro Ciccolini, Patrizio Focardi (violin), Gaetano Nasillo (cello), Mara Galassi (harp), Matthias Spaeter (archlute), Jean-Marc Aymes (harpsichord)

Alessandro Scarlatti is thought to have composed about 600 secular cantatas for 1 or 2 voices with instruments. In recent years some of these have been recorded, but so far they haven't got the status of the standard repertoire of baroque singers. Most of them concentrate on Handel and Vivaldi. Therefore it is good news that a new recording has been released with three cantatas, performed by Marķa-Cristina Kiehr and the Concerto Soave.

The first cantata, Bella Madre de' fiori, is a very long one - it lasts almost 30 minutes. It starts with a Sinfonia in the form of a trio sonata for 2 violins and bc. After that a series of recitatives and arias follow. The violins are more than simple instrumental accompaniment. In some sections they are as important as the solo voice. Very beautiful is the aria "Vanne o caro" which is a dialogue between the voice and the first violin. The cantata doesn't close with an aria, but with a "finale" in the form of an arioso, in which the emotion of the singer reaches its peak. There are some very striking harmonies in this arioso.
Poi che riseppe Orfeo is about Orfeo, of course, not telling the well-known story, though, but about Orfeo reflecting on the events. This cantata contains some heavy chromaticism.
Correa nel seno amato is again an unusually long work. Like the first it ends surprisingly, this time with a recitativo accompagnato.

These cantatas contain some dramatic elements, but are not as dramatic as others. And that is just as well, since Ms Kiehr is not the most dramatic singer. She is at her best in more introverted music, and that's why this CD is a good one. Even so, in some sections I would have liked to hear a little more drama and she could have used a little more rhythmic freedom in the recitatives. The first cantata, Bella Madre de' fiori, has also been recorded - transposed downwards - by Gloria Banditelli and the Ensemble Aurora (Tactus TC 67012001). The Concerto Soave is superior to Aurora, but in my view Ms Banditelli is just doing a little more with the text and brings a little more drama. But I don't have a clear preference for either of them. I wouldn't like to miss any of these recordings.

Anyway, it's great that Alessandro Scarlatti's cantatas have found such good interpreters as Marķa-Cristina Kiehr and the Concerto Soave. There is much more to perform. Hopefully we can expect more, from these musicians or others.

Johan van Veen (© 2002)

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