The program is a strong point straight off here; the Alessandro Scarlatti Missa Breve and the Stabat Mater by his son Domenico are both rich, fascinating works that progressively deconstruct the model of making music around two (or more) separate choirs, a century old by the time the Scarlattis took it up. The Stabat Mater is a really lovely work, but it's been hampered in the repertory but uncertainty over performance practice; it's not clear how many singers should be used, or how they should be deployed in solos and massed groups (if any). It is not really a double-choir work at all but a mass in 10 parts, with those subdivided into various groupings including five plus five. The Choir of Christ's College treats it mostly as a choral work, with soloists used in some of the more purely operatic moments. The soloists have more to do in the Missa Breve, where the two-group structure serves as a basis for vocally flowery solo-choir contrasts. As an entr'acte the group offers a half-dozen motets by the elder Scarlatti, and these are also forgotten treasures. For four unaccompanied voices (the larger works have a continuo part, played here on an organ), they are serious, dense, and harmonically quite complex. The choir, consisting of mixed-gender young adults (they are Cambridge University students), is anything but typical of the English cathedral sound; the women have an entirely distinctive reediness that delineates the rich polyphony throughout, and the five soloists are all attractive. A superior Baroque choral release.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Missa breve, e concertata a cinque voci (I-Rsm 73/12)|