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Hyperion Records

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Christ sinking under the weight of the cross by Paolo Caliari Veronese (1528-1588)
Lauros-Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55354
Recording details: February 1996
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: September 1996
Total duration: 18 minutes 38 seconds

'Congratulations to Hyperion on imaginative programming of repertoire, some not otherwise available on disc. Highly recommended … for repeated enjoyable listening' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The recording is exemplary. If you want an introduction to vocal writing in compact forms in early 18th-century Italy, this is ideal' (American Record Guide)

'Una de las mejores elecciones de musica barroca que haya escuchado este año. Por supuesto que lo recomiendo vivamente' (CD Compact, Spain)

O di Betlemme altera
1695; Christmas Cantata
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Alessandro Scarlatti’s fine Christmas cantata O di Betlemme altera may have been the result of a commission from an Italian noble, for there seems to have been a tradition, led by the Pope, of ecclesiastical households commissioning ‘a virtuous entertainment in music … a cantata in Italian about the Nativity of the Child Jesus’. This work would have been performed as a prelude to ‘a most abundant supper’, which was served between first Vespers of the Nativity and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Scarlatti’s graceful cantata starts in traditional form with an elegant Introduzione whose second section introduces pastoral, Christmas bagpipe drones, much in the style of Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, the ‘pifa’ of Handel’s Messiah and Part 2 of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. After an introductory recitative comes a jaunty aria, ‘Dal bel seno’, full of opportunities on its da capo for the soloist to show her skill at ornamentation. The second aria, ‘L’autor d’ogni mio bene’, is glorious, with solo violin and viola accompanied by ‘Violoncello e Leuto’ (playing in an especially high tessitura) providing a shimmering, atmospheric accompaniment to a delicious melody. The final movement completes the delightfully pastoral scene, with a lilting melody accompanied by orchestral drones. Here is one of the most charming of all baroque representations of the shepherds at the manger, worshipping the little baby Jesus.

from notes by Robert King © 1996

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