Et in Arcadia ego – Italian Cantatas and Sonatas by Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Lotti and Mancini

Reviewed on Fri 27 Feb, 2015

The four featured composers here were all associated with the Italian Pontificia Accademia degli Arcadi (‘The Academy of Arcadia’), a society dedicated to classical fantasies of sighing shepherds dallying with nubile nymphs as cupids gambol frivolously amid fabulous scenery of the kind found only on a Renaissance palazzo’s ceiling. Antonio Lotti’s ‘Ti sento, O Dio bendato’ (‘I feel, O blindfold God …’) is an affecting example of the sighing pastoral lament so beloved of the society’s members, while Francesco Mancini’s recorder sonata has the same quasi-vocal sense of melancholy. Alessandro Scarlatti’s two vocal works are in similar vein, but Handel’s two cantatas from his early Italian period, ‘Mi palpita il cor’ and ‘Pensieri notturni di Filli’, are the most three-dimensional in their depiction of tormented love. Period-instrument group Concentus VII brings vivacious colour to these melodramatic scenes, with soprano Emily Atkinson especially plangent in the recitatives.
–Mark Walker