A. Scarlatti Giardino d'amore

Author: 
Nicholas Anderson

A. Scarlatti Giardino d'amore

  • Venere e Adoni Il giardino d'amore, 'Care selve, a
  • Venere e Adoni Il giardino d'amore, 'Care selve, a

Alessandro Scarlatti's serenata, Il giardino d' amore is the story of Venus and Adonis contained in a sequence of recitatives and simple da capo arias prefaced by a three-movement instrumental Sinfonia with trumpet. The story unfolds in a dialogue between Venus, a castrato role sung by the American countertenor Derek Lee Ragin and Adonis, a soprano one sung by Lina Akerlund. Scarlatti wrote several such pieces in a miniature dramatic form this one dating from somewhere between 1700 and 1705. I know of few if any works by Scarlatti which make such immediate appeal as this and it has long been a favourite of mine since I first heard a fine performance of it on Archiv Produktion; it was reissued during the early 1980s but has since disappeared once more.
The new recording of the serenata is directed by Rene Clemencic who fields a small band of period instruments. The performance is lively and well-paced but the string ensemble too often sounds thin and undernourished seldom matching the generally high standard set by the two vocalists. Clemencic has a firm grasp of style and his own keyboard realizations are effective; yet I feel that there is more lyricism in the music than he uncovers here. The approach is sympathetic but the playing inclines towards blandness at times and lacks warmth. Nevertheless there are several highly successful numbers notably Venus's tender ''Augeletti si cantate'' and the two duets, ''Tanto respire il core'' and ''Viena, vola''. Both singers ornament the da capos tastefully and imaginatively but their ecstatic declarations are not always mirrored in the instrumental accompaniments. More serious, however, is the treatment afforded Adonis's ''Piu m'alletta e piace il vago usignoletto'' (''The pretty little nightingale''); here Clemencic allows the music with its obbligato sopranino recorder to be constantly disturbed not by one nightingale, nor even two, but what sounds like a veritable aviary. None is needed since Scarlatti provided the effect he wanted in his recorder writing. This silliness causes an unwarranted distraction from a captivating aria and deserves censure.
By and large, however, I enjoyed the performance mainly for the singing, but also for Clemencic's vigorous direction. Recorded sound is clear with a pleasant ambience but an interminable pause between the end of the fourth aria and the following recitative—clearly overlooked in the editing—rudely interrupts the dramatic continuity. The booklet is less than helpful with a libretto in Italian only and separated at that from any tracking indices. A qualified welcome but, if I were in a position to choose between this version and the older Archiv one, I would opt for the latter with its greater warmth of declamation and finer sense of propriety (its reissue is long overdue, I think).'

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