Francesco Scarlatti, Armonico Consort, Christopher Monks - Dixit Dominus Mass

Published Monday 5th June 2023
Francesco Scarlatti, Armonico Consort, Christopher Monks - Dixit Dominus Mass
Francesco Scarlatti, Armonico Consort, Christopher Monks - Dixit Dominus Mass

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Signum Classics SIGCD740

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Whist not quite as tangled as the family tree of the Bachs, there were none the less enough talented Scarlattis to cause modern listeners to double-check which one is under review. Francesco (1666-1741) was one of the brothers of the opera composer Alessandro and uncle of Domenico and of the three is the least recorded. However, this enjoyable release certainly stands comparison with the two better-known Scarlattis and will be of interest to anyone who enjoys Baroque choral music. The Armonico Consort under founder and director Christopher Monks sing and play very well and the recording at All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, produced by Tim Oldham, is bright and clear and special praise must go to trumpeter Peter Mankarious whose playing soars above the vocal lines and rings around the building in a most uplifting way. Francesco started his professional career working for his brother at the Royal Court in Naples before eventually moving to London in 1719. Francesco's Messa and Dixit Dominus both date from his time in Sicily in the early years of the 18th century although the fact that we can hear them today is a result of his later move to England as the autograph scores have survived in Oxford's Bodleian Library and it is from this manuscript that Christopher Monks has worked. In his helpful booklet notes, Dr Geoffrey Webber outlines the possibilities of whether the music was composed for concert performance or church use and explains the interesting use of 16 vocal lines in the form of four four-voice choirs which, on paper, sounds both confusing and chaotic, but when heard it makes a glorious sense, with echoes of Tallis's 'Spem in Alium' or even Striggio's masses in 40 and 60 parts, and I am confident that if you like any of these classics then this more obscure work by Francesco Scarlatti will also appeal.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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