On record: Alessandro Scarlatti – Con eco d’amore


The extremely promising young soprano Elizabeth Watts delivers a stunning disc of arias from operas and cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti, in the company of The English Concert and Laurence Cummings. The disc is released by Harmonia Mundi

What’s the music like?

Elizabeth Watts and Laurence Cummings deliver a well-chosen selection of arias here, representing the many and varied moods the Italian baroque composer Alessandro Scarlatti can conjure up in his vocal works.

We move from the high energy bout between soprano and trumpet, Se geloso è il mio core, to the dreamy Mentr’io godo in dolce oblio, in arias tending to last between three and five minutes. Scarlatti is a very expressive composer, responding to the words with music that taxes his performers.

Does it all work?

Without question. The levels of musicianship here are uncommonly high, and that’s before we even get to talking about Elizabeth Watts. Trumpeter Mark Bennett is outstanding in his role as the soprano’s opponent in Se geloso è il mio core, the sort of work in which composers of Scarlatti’s day specialised. Violinist Huw Daniel is then exceptionally good in his role as soloist in the cadenzas of Esci omai.

Yet it is nonetheless Watts who steals the show, because she can go from the high register bravura of Figlio! Tiranno! O Dio! to the withdrawn, sensitive singing of Nacque, col Gran Messia and the sparing use of vibrato for the opening strains of Ombre opache, a lament from the cantata Correa Nel Seno Amato, which contains arguably the most powerful music here.

The real technical showstopper is D’Amor l’accesa face, from the serenata Venere, Amore e Ragione, where Cupid warns against showing too much desire. Watts’ performance suggests the opposite is in fact the case!

Cummings and The English Concert are very fine image painters, and their dramatic orchestral response in the recitativo from Erminia, Qui, dove al germogliar, is illustrative of the power they have at their disposal – and Cummings secures from them particularly careful attention to detail on the volume of their contributions.

Is it recommended?

Unreservedly. With performances of great enthusiasm and technical command, you will find few if any discs of the Baroque era to better this one in 2015.

Listen on Spotify

You can hear Con eco d’amore on Spotify here:

On record: Purcell – Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts (Vivat)


The King’s Consort play Purcell’s collection of twelve sonatas published in 1683. In the words of the Vivat label website, they ‘combine French elegance, Italian vigour and delicious English melancholy with harmonic daring, extraordinary contrapuntal technique, ravishing dissonances and unique melodic ingenuity’. Clearly Purcell was anticipating a united Europe!

What’s the music like?

Purcell is one of the most obviously expressive composers of the Baroque period, and even his instrumental music has strong vocal qualities. His music here also experiences relatively rapid mood swings, the individual movements of the sonatas capable of switching quickly from grave, browbeaten music to melodies that are full of the joys of spring.

There are dances too, such as the one a minute or so into Sonata no.8, or the enjoyable repeated-note motif that closes out the first movement of Sonata no.2.

When the English melancholy does make itself known the results are rather special, such as the sumptuous beginning to Sonata no.6, where the strings make a sweet sound. By complete contrast the start of Sonata no.4 is relatively stark, bringing Purcell’s daring discords to the surface – before moving into a resolute faster section.

Does it all work?

Yes. There is some beautifully poised playing on this collection, as the staged entries in Sonata no.8 confirm. Violinists Cecilia Bernardini and Huw Daniel are blessed with beautiful, penetrating tones, and the continuo section – bass viol, theorbo and organ or harpsichord – alternates its colours sensitively and effectively, a prime example being the wonderful organ sound half way through the first movement of Sonata no.3. The fugue halfway the first movement of Sonata no.12 sums things up very nicely.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Purcell’s vocal music tends to get the headlines but this disc shows just how imaginative and effective his writing for instruments could be.


You can get a preview of each track from this disc on the Vivat website