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VIRGIN CLASSICS

Lamentazioni (Scarlatti, Leo, Legrenzi, Lotti, Caldara) - LES ARTS FLORISSANTS

Lamentazioni (Scarlatti, Leo, Legrenzi, Lotti, Caldara) - LES ARTS FLORISSANTS

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The singers of Les Arts Florissants, "a golden choir" under the direction of tenor Paul Agnew, perform elaborate unaccompanied sacred works by Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Leonardo Leo and Antonio Caldara, recorded in the Benedictine abbey at Ambronay in eastern France.

Les Arts Florissants, one of the most influential and prolific ensembles in the world of historically informed performance, was founded in 1979 by William Christie, who now regularly shares conducting duties with Paul Agnew, best known for his achievements as a tenor - not least with Les Arts Florissants.

In September 2010, as part of the annual festival at Ambronay in eastern France, not far from the Swiss border, Agnew directed the singers of Les Arts Florissants in a concert at the village's 9th-century Benedictine Abbey. It presented a number of masterpieces of church music by Italian baroque composers: the Neapolitans Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) and Leonardo Leo (1694-1744), and the Venetian Antonio Caldara (1670-1736), who took charge of music at the imperial chapel in Vienna.

The younger Scarlatti's Stabat Mater forms the lynchpin of this programme of sorrowful, a cappella pieces, which was recorded at Ambronay prior to the concert. It evokes the rigorous period of Lent, when, with the theatres shut, the public was deprived of operatic pleasures. Music-lovers could find compensation in this religious music since, as the regional newspaper Le Progrès reported in its review of the Ambronay concert, the composers produced: "sensual, richly ornamented music which places considerable demands on the singers and, above all, on the conductor, who must ensure its polyphonic contours and the transparency of the vocal lines."

Under the headline "A golden choir", the review went on to say that: "The choir fulfilled its role perfectly. Beyond the quality of the voices, often in the soloist class, and the supple and appealing tonal blend, the fluidity of the transitions and the precision of articulation proved that the ensemble ... has few (if any) rivals in this repertoire."

1 SCARLATTI: Stabat Mater 23:20
2 LOTTI: Crucifixus (à 10 voix) 2:34
3 LEGRENZI: Quam Amrum est Maria 5:11
4 CALDARA: Crucifixus (à 16 voix) 4:01
5 LEO: Miserere (à 8 voix) 18:32
6 LEGRENZI: Crucifixus (à 8 voix) 2:41

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