In the wake of the wars of the Portuguese Restoration and the Spanish Succession, the courts of Lisbon and Madrid sought to move away from their traditional austerity. Though Farinelli and Scarlatti were the most renowned Italian musicians recruited to further this project, they were joined by a steady stream of their compatriots, including architects, painters, sculptors and other musicians. This interesting programme provides a window on 18th-century Iberia, when Bourbons sat on the throne of Spain and the Braganzas ruled Portugual.
Britain’s special relationship with Lisbon is given its full due in William Corbett’s Concerto ‘alla Portugesa’, inspired by the music written by Italians in Portugual, from his collection of concertos called Le bizzarie universali, published in 1728 and 1742. One manifestation of the esteem in which Scarlatti was held in contemporary England is Charles Avison’s 1744 Concerto grosso No 5, in which each individual movement is an orchestral transcription of one of Scarlatti’s sonatas. Staier plays three Scarlatti sonatas, flanked by two harpsichord concertos by his gifted pupil in Lisbon, Carlos de Seixas. The latest work on the programme by at least a generation is Staier’s arrangement for string orchestra and harpsichords of Boccherini’s famous D minor Quintet, Op 30 No 6, depicting music in the streets of Madrid at night. It is unclear what this charming piece may have gained in sonority to counterbalance a certain reduction in textural flexibility.
The Orquestra Barroca Casa da Música, founded in 2006, uses four firsts and seconds, two violas, two cellos, bass and continuo harpsichord for this recording, offering up efficient performances. They will be touring various venues in Europe with Staier in this programme during the coming season.