Rinaldo Alessandrini, Part 4: Into the 18th Century

Program: #21-40   Air Date: Sep 27, 2021

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This time the Italian early music conductor and performer takes us from Alessandro Scarlatti to Vivaldi and on to Bach.

NOTE: All of the music on this program features the Concerto Italiano conducted by our guest, Rinaldo Alessandrini.

I. Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater. Naive CD OP30446.

Domenico Scarlatti - Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini – Stabat Mater  A Dieci Voci (2007, CD) - Discogs

From Amazon: Alessandro Scarlatti's setting of the Stabat Mater is a model of Baroque emotional expressiveness, essentially an operatic cantata, with the sectional variety of recitations and arias over basso continuo that Vivaldi had employed in his earlier setting and that Pergolesi was soon to use in his. Whether Domenico Scarlatti intended his remarkable Stabat Mater for Ten Voices to be taken as a sign of his independence from the model of his father, or a response to a commission from the Duke of Alba, or a challenge to the 'theatrical' composers of the musical moment who lacked 'the true laws of writing in counterpoint,' the younger Scarlatti chose to compose in the strictest "prima prattica" style of vocal polyphony with minimum continuo, a form of music closer to Palestrina or Brumel than to his 18th Century peers. The ten voices are not even grouped into two choirs in the antiphonal manner of Gabrieli, and they double up as a choir of five parts only for brief sectional emphasis. Young Domenico clearly seems to have intended to prove something; this is true ten-part polyphony that any Renaissance master would have had to admire.

The Mass for Four Voices is possibly even more a piece of defiance, a challenge to composers of popular but shallow music to match the higher standards of previous eras. The only source of the work, dated 1754, is a manuscript copied in a graphic style plainly imitative of the elegant part-books of the Renaissance. Thus the "most modern" composer of his age, so christened by modern worshipers of his keyboard works, was also the most "reactionary!"

I've given myself the pleasant task of surveying the great Stabat Mater settings of the 18th Century - by Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti, Pergolesi, Bononcini, and Haydn - all of them works for solo voice or voices with instrumental support. This ten-part archaic Stabat Mater by Domenico is of such a different musical style and emotional affect that it seems utterly timeless, a meditation on sorrow rather than a depiction. The performance by Concerto Italiano, directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini, is heavenly; this is an ensemble that has specialized in the soloistic, operatic repertoire of the 17th and 18th Centuries, but their restrained and balanced singing of Scarlatti's anachronistic polyphony makes me wish they'd turn more attention to earlier masterworks.

Stabat Mater A Dieci Voci E Basso Continuo
1 Stabat Mater Dolorosa 4:16
2 Cujus Animam Gementem 4:55
3 Quis Non Posset Contristari 2:21
4 Eja Mater, Fons Amoris 2:16
5 Sancta Mater 1:50
6 Fac Me Vere Tecum Flere 0:50
7 Juxta Crucem Tecum Stare 1:55
8 Inflammatus Et Accensus 3:06
9 Fac, Ut Animae Donetur 2:15
10 Amen 1:32

Missa Quatuor Vocum

11 Kyrie 6:21
12 Gloria 7:40
13 Credo 8:39
14 Sanctus 1:43
15 Benedictus 1:43
16 Agnus Dei 3:19

II. Vivaldi: Vespri per l’Assunzione di Maria Vergine. Naive CD OP30475.

Vivaldi: Vespri per l'Assunzione di Maria Vergine Product Image

From Classics Today: This 2-disc set is a reconstruction of a “let’s pretend” event, described in the booklet as “a service of Solemn Vespers for the Assumption of the Virgin such as Vivaldi might have performed…”

Whether he did or not is of little import since the concept places the music in a proper liturgical context. More relevant is the quality of the music and the performances, typically Vivaldian in their energetic theatricality. The latter trait, we’re told in an essay by Rinaldo Alessandrini, is an element of the “festive devotion” characteristic of the Italian Baroque. There’s secular music here too–a movement from a Vivaldi Concerto serves as an overture, and conforming to the practice of the time, the Concerto in C major RV 581 for violin and strings is placed after the Magnificat.

The harmonized and embellished antiphons in this reconstruction are by Alessandrini in the style of Venetian period examples due to the fact that the Gregorian plainchants had fallen out of usage in the Venetian Baroque. Fortunately, he’s eliminated the celebrant’s liturgical readings and responses in the service, so all we get is the music.

And what music! The best-known works in the set are the Psalms and the great Magnificat, but also included are stunning motets such as Ascende laeta, which is beautifully sung by Roberta Invernizzi. Another fine soprano here is Gemma Bertagnolli whose Psalm 112, Laudate peuri, reveals a big, warm voice that makes an immediate impact. The Dixit Dominus, Psalm 109, is a feast of exciting music as well, with a lovely duet for two sopranos and a beautiful (and beautifully sung) “Tecum principium” solo by contralto Sara Mingardo.

Mingardo also is outstanding in the Psalm 126, Nisi Dominus, where she sings with great intensity. Try its “Cum dedent” for singing that combines style, rapt concentration, and deep feeling, all to a gently rocking accompaniment that makes it irresistible. In the following “Sicut sagittae” she displays vibrant attacks and virtuoso vocal runs, while in the “Gloria Patri” she spins long legato lines to organ and viola d’amore accompaniment. The chorus is spotlighted in the Magnificat RV 610a, where its spirited singing takes center stage. Mingardo clearly is the star vocal soloist in the set, but her colleagues are never less than good and most are well above what we too often hear in historically informed performances of Baroque music.

The impressive energy conveyed in the choral singing owes much to the set’s guiding force, Maestro Alessandrini, whose leadership consistently results in vital, vibrant performances. Attacks are crisp, dynamics varied, rhythms infectious. Whatever the scholarly efforts that went into this recording, the result bursts with life, making this an essential set for lovers of Baroque vocal music.

Concerto For 2 Cori And Double Orchestra In F Major, RV 584
Transcription By – R. Alessandrini*
1-1 Allegro Non Molto 5:34

1-2 Intonatio: Deus In Auditorium 0:14
Domine Ad Adiuvandum Me Festina, Rv 593

1-3 Domine ad adiuvandum me festina (Allegro) 2:15

1-4 Gloria Patri (Andante Molto) 2:50

1-5 Sicut Erat In Principio (Andante, Allegro) 2:13
Introduzione al Dixit (in loco antiphonae): Ascende laeta, RV 635

1-6 Aria: Ascende Laeta (Allegro) 4:09

1-7 Recitativo: Quam pulchri, quam formosi 0:36

1-8 Aria: Sternite, Angeli (Presto) 3:14
Salmo 109 Dixit Dominus, RV 594

1-9 Dixit Dominus (Allegro) 2:00

1-10 Donec ponam inimicos tuos (Largo) 4:31

1-11 Virgam virtutis tuae (Allegro) 2:06

1-12 Tecum principium (Andante) 2:55

1-13 Juravit Dominus ( Adagio - Allegro) 2:36

1-14 Dominus a dextris tuis (Allegro) 1:52

1-15 Judicabit in nationibus (Largo) 3:18

1-16 De torrente in via (Andante) 2:51

1-17 Gloria Patri (Allegro) 1:14

1-18 Sicut erat in principio (Allegro) 2:36

1-19 Antifona: Assumpta est Maria in caelo 0:36

1-20 Antifona al Laudate pueri: Maria Virgo assumpta est 0:30
Salmo 112 Laudate pueri Dominum, RV 600

1-21 Laudate, pueri Dominum (Allegro) 2:00

1-22 Sit nomen Domini (Largo) 3:50

1-23 A solis ortu (Allegro) 1:46

1-24 Excelsus super omnes (Andante) 2:35

1-25 Quis sicut Dominus (Largo) 2:16

1-26 Suscitans a terra (Presto - Adagio - Andante) 1:43

1-27 Ut collocet eum (Allegro) 1:48

1-28 Gloria Patri (Largo) 4:45

1-29 Sicut erat (Allegro) 1:42

1-30 Amen (Allegro) 1:38

1-31 Antifona: Maria Virgo assumpta est 0:32

1-32 Antifona: In odorem unguentorum 0:26

1-33 Salmo 121 Laetatus sum, RV 607 3:12

1-34 Antifona: In odorem unguentorum 0:30

2-1 Antifona al Nisi Dominus: Benedicta filia tua Domino 0:21
Salmo 126 Nisi Dominus RV 608

2-2 Nisi Dominus 2:34

2-3 Vanum est vobis 1:37

2-4 Surgite postquam sederitis 1:53

2-5 Cum dederit 4:37

2-6 Sicut sagittae 1:26

2-7 Beatus vir 1:22

2-8 Gloria Patri 5:00

2-9 Sicut erat 1:05

2-10 Amen 1:36

2-11 Antifona Benedicta filia tua Domino 0:24

2-12 Antifona al Lauda Jerusalem: Pulchra es et decora 0:24

2-13 Salmo 147 Lauda Jerusalem RV 609 6:29

2-14 Antifona Pulchra es et decora 0:25

2-15 Ave Maris stella 1:51

2-16 Antifona al Magnificat 0:32
Magnificat RV 610a

2-17 Magnificat 1:33

2-18 Ey exultavit 1:50

2-19 Et misericordia 3:09

2-20 Fecit potentiam 1:50

2-21 Deposuit potentes 0:54

2-22 Esurientes implevit bonis 1:21

2-23 Suscepit Israel 1:50

2-24 Sicut locutus 1:43

2-25 Gloria Patri 2:04
Concerto in Do maggiore Per la SS. Assunzione di Maria Vergine RV 581 (in loco antiphonae)

2-26 Adagio e staccato - Allegro ma poco poco 5:23

2-27 Largo 4:33

2-28 Allegro 4:44
Antifona Salve Regina RV 616

2-29 Salve Regina 3:49

2-30 Ad te clamamus 1:24

2-31 Ad te suspiramus 5:26

2-32 Eja ergo 1:19

2-33 Et Jesum 1:43

2-34 O clemens 2:48

III. Johann Bach: Overtures for Orchestra. Naive CD OP 30578.

Johann S/Bernhard/Ludwig Bach: Ouvertures For Orchestra Product Image

From The Whole Note: How pleasant to explore music by relatives of Johann Sebastian Bach other than his sons. Johann Ludwig was a third cousin of Bach, Johann Bernhard a second cousin. On this CD, they each contribute an Ouverture to accompany the four by the Bach.

So is Concerto Italiano’s choice justified? The works by the two cousins are substantially shorter than the great man’s. Yet listening to them shows how highly enjoyable they are: listen to the Rigaudons and Gavotte en Rondeaux in Johann Bernhard’s Ouverture-Suite in E Minor.

Then there is Johann Ludwig’s contribution to the CD, namely, his Ouverture in G Major. This is even shorter than Johann Bernhard’s work but much more spritely. The movements all ask to be danced to, whether or not they actually were at the time. Indeed the Ouverture by Johann Ludwig could even be played as background music at any event, no matter how formal.

And so to the four Orchestral Suites by Johann Sebastian. From the movement which opens the CDs (the Ouverture to the Orchestral Suite No.3) there is a complexity to Bach’s composition which marks him out for the composer he was. Real demands are made on the string-players, an aspect repeated throughout the four Suites. It is quite clear that by Bach’s time the movements named after French country dances were well advanced from their original rural simplicity.

Although his own writing shines through on these CDs, the sleeve-notes state how much Johann Sebastian respected his two cousins. The beautiful pieces selected by Concerto Italiano and their sheer vivaciousness demonstrate why.

Ouverture No. 3 In D Major (BWV 1068)
Composed By – Johann Sebastian Bach
1-1 Ouverture: [...] - [Fuga] - [...] - [Fuga] - [...] 9:40
1-2 Air 3:53
1-3 Gavotte [1re] - [Gavotte] 2de - [Gavotte 1re] D.C. 4:06
1-4 Bour[r]Ă©e 1:09
1-5 Gigue 2:29

Ouverture In E Minor
Composed By – Johann Bernhard Bach
1-6 Ouverture: [...] - Allegro - [...] - Allegro - [...] 6:49
1-7 Air [Premiere] 2:56
1-8 Les Plaisirs. Vitement 1:24
1-9 Menuet 1 [Alternativement] - Menuet 2 - [Menuet 1] 2:17
1-10 Air [Seconde] 2:06
1-11 Riga[u]don [Alternativement] - [Rigaudon 2de] - Da Capo [Rigaudon 1re] 2:48
1-12 Courante 1:53
1-13 Gavotte En Rondeaux 1:14

Ouverture No. 1 In C Major (BWV 1066)
Composed By – Johann Sebastian Bach
1-14 Ouverture: [...] - [Fuga] - [...] - [Fuga] - [...] 10:31
1-15 Courante 2:57
1-16 Gavotte 1re Alternat[ivement] - Gavotte 2de - Gavotte 1re Repetatur 3:18
1-17 Forlane 1:08
1-18 Menuet 1 Alternati[vement] - Menuet 2de Piano - Menuet 1re Repetatur 2:49
1-19 Bour[r]Ă©e 1re Alternati[vement] - Bour[r]Ă©e 2de Pour Hautbois Et Fagotts - Bour[r]Ă©e 1re Repetatur 2:36
1-20 Passepied 1re Alternat[ivement] - Passepied 2de - Passepied 1re [Repetatur] 2:42

Ouverture No. 4 In D Major (BWV 1069)
Composed By – Johann Sebastian Bach
2-1 Ouverture: [...] - [Fuga] - [...] - [Fuga] - [...] 12:24
2-2 Bour[r]Ă©e 1 Alternat[ivement] - Bour[r]Ă©e 2 - Bour[r]Ă©e Repetatur 3:03
2-3 Gavotte 1:58
2-4 Menuet 1 Altern[ativement] - Segue Trio [Menuet 2] - Menuet 1 Repetatur 4:32
2-5 Rejouissance 2:50

Ouverture In G Major
Composed By – Johann Ludwig Bach
2-6 Ouvert[ure]: [...] - Vite - Lentement - Vite - Lentement 5:14
2-7 Air [Premiere] 1:21
2-8 Menuet 1:15
2-9 Gavotte 1:14
2-10 Air [Seconde] 2:40
2-11 Bourrée 0:51

Ouverture No. 2 In B Minor (BWV 1067)
Composed By – Johann Sebastian Bach
2-12 Ouverture: [Grave] - [Fuga] - Lentement - [Fuga] - Lentement 11:10
2-13 Rondeaux 1:17
2-14 Sarabande 2:39
2-15 Bour[r]ée 1 Alternativ[ement] - [Bourrée] 2 - Da Capo [Bourrée 1] 2:01
2-16 Polonaise Lentement. Moderato E Staccato - Double - Polonaise Ab Initio 4:09
2-17 Menuet 0:55
2-18 Battinerie [Badinerie]

Composer Info

Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Bernhard Bach, Johann Ludwig Bach

CD Info

Naive CD OP30446, Naive CD OP30, Naive CD OP 30578475