Scentual Sunday

Alessandro Scarlatti (2 May 1660 – 22 October 1725) was an Italian Baroque composer, especially famous for his operas and chamber cantatas. He is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of opera. He was the father of two other composers, Domenico Scarlatti and Pietro Filippo Scarlatti.

Scarlatti was born in Palermo, then part of the Kingdom of Sicily. He is generally said to have been a pupil of Giacomo Carissimi in Rome, and some theorize that he had some connection with northern Italy because his early works seem to show the influence of Stradella and Legrenzi. The production at Rome of his opera Gli Equivoci nell sembiante (1679) gained him the support of Queen Christina of Sweden (who at the time was living in Rome), and he became her Maestro di Cappella. In February 1684 he became Maestro di Cappella to the viceroy of Naples, perhaps through the influence of his sister, an opera singer, who might have been the mistress of an influential Neapolitan noble. Here he produced a long series of operas, remarkable chiefly for their fluency and expressiveness, as well as other music for state occasions.

In 1702 Scarlatti left Naples and did not return until the Spanish domination had been superseded by that of the Austrians. In the interval he enjoyed the patronage of Ferdinando de’ Medici, for whose private theatre near Florence he composed operas, and of Cardinal Ottoboni, who made him his maestro di cappella, and procured him a similar post at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome in 1703.

After visiting Venice and Urbino in 1707, Scarlatti took up his duties in Naples again in 1708, and remained there until 1717. By this time Naples seems to have become tired of his music; the Romans, however, appreciated it better, and it was at the Teatro Capranica in Rome that he produced some of his finest operas (Telemaco, 1718; Marco Attilio Regolò, 1719; La Griselda, 1721), as well as some noble specimens of church music, including a mass for chorus and orchestra, composed in honor of Saint Cecilia for Cardinal Acquaviva in 1721. His last work on a large scale appears to have been the unfinished serenata for the marriage of the prince of Stigliano in 1723. He died in Naples in 1725.

Scarlatti’s music forms an important link between the early Baroque Italian vocal styles of the 17th century, with their centers in Florence, Venice and Rome, and the classical school of the 18th century. Scarlatti’s style, however, is more than a transitional element in Western music; like most of his Naples colleagues he shows an almost modern understanding of the psychology of modulation and also frequently makes use of the ever-changing phrase lengths so typical of the Napoli school. His early operas (Gli equivoci nel sembiante 1679; L’honestà negli amori 1680, containing the famous aria “Già il sole dal Gange”; Il Pompeo 1683, containing the well-known airs “O cessate di piagarmi” and “Toglietemi la vita ancor,” and others down to about 1685) retain the older cadences in their recitatives, and a considerable variety of neatly constructed forms in their charming little arias, accompanied sometimes by the string quartet, treated with careful elaboration, sometimes with the continuo alone. By 1686 he had definitely established the “Italian overture” form (second edition of Dal male il bene), and had abandoned the ground bass and the binary form air in two stanzas in favour of the ternary form or da capo type of air. His best operas of this period are La Rosaura (1690, printed by the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung), and Pirro e Demetrio (1694), in which occur the arias “Le Violette”, and “Ben ti sta, traditor”.

From about 1697 onwards (La caduta del Decemviri), influenced partly perhaps by the style of Giovanni Bononcini and probably more by the taste of the viceregal court, his opera arias become more conventional and commonplace in rhythm, while his scoring is hasty and crude, yet not without brilliance (L’Eraclea, 1700), the oboes and trumpets being frequently used, and the violins often playing in unison. The operas composed for Ferdinando de’ Medici are lost; they might have given a more favourable idea of his style as his correspondence with the prince shows that they were composed with a very sincere sense of inspiration.

Mitridate Eupatore, accounted his masterpiece, composed for Venice in 1707, contains music far in advance of anything that Scarlatti had written for Naples, both in technique and in intellectual power. The later Neapolitan operas (L’amor volubile e tiranno 1709; La principessa fedele 1710; Tigrane, 1714, &c.) are showy and effective rather than profoundly emotional; the instrumentation marks a great advance on previous work, since the main duty of accompanying the voice is thrown upon the string quartet, the harpsichord being reserved exclusively for the noisy instrumental ritornelli. In his opera Teodora (1697) he originated the use of the orchestral ritornello.

His last group of operas, composed for Rome, exhibit a deeper poetic feeling, a broad and dignified style of melody, a strong dramatic sense, especially in accompanied recitatives, a device which he himself had been the first to use as early as 1686 (Olimpia vendicata) and a much more modern style of orchestration, the horns appearing for the first time, and being treated with striking effect.

Besides the operas, oratorios (Agar et Ismaele esiliati, 1684; La Maddalena, 1685; La Giuditta, 1693; Christmas Oratorio, c. 1705; S. Filippo Neri, 1714; and others) and serenatas, which all exhibit a similar style, Scarlatti composed upwards of five hundred chamber-cantatas for solo voice. These represent the most intellectual type of chamber-music of their period, and it is to be regretted that they have remained almost entirely in manuscript, since a careful study of them is indispensable to anyone who wishes to form an adequate idea of Scarlatti’s development.

His few remaining Masses (the story of his having composed two hundred is hardly credible) and church music in general are comparatively unimportant, except the great St Cecilia Mass (1721), which is one of the first attempts at the style which reached its height in the great Masses of Johann Sebastian Bach and Beethoven. His instrumental music, though not without interest, is curiously antiquated as compared with his vocal works.



Anthology with music by A. Scarlatti, F. Mancini, R. Valentini, F. Barbella, D. N. Sarro & G. B. Mele

dedicated to: Johann Joachim Quantz?

source: San Pietro a Majella (Naples) / Ms. 38.3.13

Concerto for flute, strings and basso continuo in A major

I. Allegro – 0:05
II. Fuga – 1:00
III. Adagio – 2:54
IV. Allegro – 4:48

Concerto for flute, strings and basso continuo in D major

I. Allegro, adagio – 6:12
II. Fuga – 8:21
III. Largo – 10:25
IV. Allegro – 12:14

Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in A minor

I. Allegro – 13:39
II. Largo – 15:39
III. Fuga – 17:17
IV. Piano – 19:23
V. Allegro – 21:11

Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in C minor

I. Moderato – 23:06
II. Fuga – 24:27
III. Largo – 26:20
IV. Allegro – 27:51
V. Andante – 29:21

Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in A minor

I. Andante – 30:15
II. Allegro – 34:27
III. Veloce, lento – 36:20
IV. Allegro – 37:33

Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in C major

I. Adagio – 39:29
II. Fuga – 41:07
III. Largo – 43:26
IV. Allegro – 44:57

Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in G minor

I. Allegro – 46:33
II. Fuga – 47:27
III. Largo – 49:38
IV. Allegro – 51:39

Michael Schneider (A. Brown, after Denner)
Karl Kaiser (G. Kowalewsky, after Palanca)
Sabine Lier (S. Klotz, 1760, Mittenwald)
Ingeborg Scheerer (T. Eberle, 1781, Naples)
Rainer Zipperling (V. Panarmo, 1786, Palermo)
Sabine Bauer (Italian model, Griewisch / Fr. Lieb)
Harald Hoeren (Fr. Lieb)

Botanical Profiles – Elderflower

Sambucus (elder or elderberry) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence. It contains between 5 and 30 species of deciduous shrubs, small trees and herbaceous perennial plants.

The genus occurs in temperate to subtropical regions of the world. More widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, its Southern Hemisphere occurrence is restricted to parts of Australasia and South America. Many species are widely cultivated for their ornamental leaves, flowers and fruit.

The leaves are pinnate with 5–9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11). Each leaf is 5–30 cm (2.0–11.8 in) long, and the leaflets have serrated margins. They bear large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers in late spring; these are followed by clusters of small black, blue-black, or red berries (rarely yellow or white).

The flowers of Sambucus nigra are used to produce elderflower cordial. The French, Austrians and Central Europeans produce elderflower syrup, commonly made from an extract of elderflower blossoms, which is added to Palatschinken filling instead of blueberries. People throughout much of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe use a similar method to make a syrup which is diluted with water and used as a drink. Based on this syrup, Fanta markets a soft drink variety called “Shokata” which is sold in 15 countries worldwide. In the United States, this French elderflower syrup is used to make elderflower marshmallows. St. Germain, a French liqueur, is made from elderflowers. Hallands Fläder, a Swedish akvavit, is flavoured with elderflowers.

The Italian liqueur Sambuca is flavoured with oil obtained from the elderflower.

In Germany, yoghurt desserts are made with both the berries and the flowers.

Wines, cordials and marmalade have been produced from the berries or flowers. Fruit pies and relishes are produced with berries. In Italy (especially in Piedmont), Germany and Austria, the umbels of the elderberry are batter coated, fried and then served as a dessert or a sweet lunch with a sugar and cinnamon topping, known as “Hollerküchel”.

Hollowed elderberry twigs have traditionally been used as spiles to tap maple trees for syrup.

In Romania, a slightly fermented soft beverage (called “socată” or “suc de soc”) is traditionally produced by letting the flowers macerate, with water, yeast and lemon for 2–3 days. A similar drink is produced in the UK, but in this case the last stage of fermentation is allowed to proceed in a closed pressure proof bottle to give a fizzy drink called elderflower champagne.

Ornamental varieties of Sambucus are grown in gardens for their showy flowers, fruits and lacy foliage.

Native species of elderberry are often planted by people wishing to support native butterfly and bird species.

Black elderberry has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Some preliminary studies demonstrate that elderberry may have a measurable effect in treating the flu, alleviating allergies, and boosting overall respiratory health.

Elder is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, dissolved in wine, for rheumatism and traumatic injury.

Branches from the elder are also used to make the fujara, koncovka and other uniquely Slovakian flutes. Similar musical instruments (furulya) are made of elderberry (fekete bodza, Sambucus nigra) in Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The ripe, cooked berries (pulp and skin) of most species of Sambucus are edible. However, most uncooked berries and other parts of plants from this genus are poisonous. Sambucus nigra is the only variety considered to be non-toxic, but it is still recommended that its berries be cooked slightly for culinary purposes. The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots of Sambucus plants can contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside (a glycoside which gives rise to cyanide as the metabolism processes it). Ingesting a sufficient quantity of cyanide-inducing glycosides can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body.

In 1984, a group of twenty-five people were sickened, apparently by elderberry juice pressed from fresh, uncooked Sambucus mexicana berries, leaves and stems. However, all twenty-five recovered quickly, including one individual who was hospitalized after drinking five glasses. Such reported incidents are rare.

The berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds. In Northern California elderberries are a favorite food for migrating Band-tailed Pigeons. Flocks can strip an entire bush in less than an hour. Elders are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Buff Ermine, Dot Moth, Emperor Moth, the Engrailed, Swallow-tailed Moth and the V-pug. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell.

Valley elderberry longhorn beetle in California are very often found around red or blue elderberry bushes. Females lay their eggs on the bark. Larvae hatch and burrow into the stems.

Dead elder wood is the preferred habitat of the mushroom Auricularia auricula-judae, also known as “Jew’s ear fungus”.

The pith of elder has been used by watchmakers for cleaning tools before intricate work.

Folklore is extensive and can be wildly conflicting depending on region.

  • In some areas, the “elder tree” was supposed to ward off evil influence and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit.
  • In some regions, superstition, religious belief, or tradition prohibits the cutting of certain trees for bonfires, most notably in witchcraft customs the elderberry tree; “Elder be ye Lady’s tree, burn it not or cursed ye’ll be” – A rhyme from the Wiccan rede.
  • If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be cut while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.

(Above info and pictures via Wikipedia)

Elder flower absolute is a dark brown, almost black viscous liquid displaying an deep, rich, sweet,herbaceous, coumarinic, fruity-floral bouquet with a honeyed, balsamic, slightly spicy undertone. Its complexity, richness, and smoothness are a delight to explore.

In natural perfumery can be used in high class florals herbaceous bouquets, sacred perfumes, mythological essences, chypre, fougere, culinary creations, new mown hay, high class florals.

(info via White Lotus Aromatics)

Steffen Arctander says:

Elderflower Absolute is a solid, waxy mass only
slightly lighter colored than the parent concrete.
The odor varies according to the solvents used
but it is in general intensely sweet-herbaceous,
honey-waxy, faintly anisic-floral or spicy. The
odor of elderflowers does not please many people
and the elderflower absolute presents a very
concentrated edition of the nauseating sweetness
of these flowers.
Elderflower Absolute lends, however, interesting
warm-floral effects in suitable dilution and in the
trace amounts where it is useful at all in perfumes.
It blends well with bergamot, boronia, oakmoss,
ylang-ylang, anisalcohol, ionones, isoeugenol, etc.
in carnation bases, lilac, tabac bases, etc…

Elderflower Absolute is occasionally used in
flavors where it can lend interesting bouquet
notes to honey, blackcurrant and cherry flavor



Scentual Sunday

Josquin Des Prez: Miserere mei Deus

Josquin des Prez (or Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez; c. 1450/1455 – 27 August 1521), often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Netherlandish composer of the Renaissance. He is also known as Josquin Desprez and Latinized as Josquinus Pratensis, alternatively Jodocus Pratensis. He himself spelled his name “Josquin des Prez” in an acrostic in his motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix. He was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Palestrina, and is usually considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School. Josquin is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime.

During the 16th century, Josquin gradually acquired the reputation as the greatest composer of the age, his mastery of technique and expression universally imitated and admired. Writers as diverse as Baldassare Castiglione and Martin Luther wrote about his reputation and fame; theorists such as Heinrich Glarean and Gioseffo Zarlino held his style as that best representing perfection. He was so admired that many anonymous compositions were attributed to him by copyists, probably to increase their sales. More than 370 works are attributed to him; it was only after the advent of modern analytical scholarship that some of these mistaken attributions have been challenged, on the basis of stylistic features and manuscript evidence. Yet in spite of Josquin’s colossal reputation, which endured until the beginning of the Baroque era and was revived in the 20th century, his biography is shadowy, and next to nothing is known about his personality. The only surviving work which may be in his own hand is a graffito on the wall of the Sistine Chapel, and only one contemporary mention of his character is known, in a letter to Duke Ercole I of Ferrara. The lives of dozens of minor composers of the Renaissance are better documented than the life of Josquin.

Josquin wrote both sacred and secular music, and in all of the significant vocal forms of the age, including masses, motets, chansons and frottole. During the 16th century, he was praised for both his supreme melodic gift and his use of ingenious technical devices. In modern times, scholars have attempted to ascertain the basic details of his biography, and have tried to define the key characteristics of his style to correct misattributions, a task that has proved difficult, as Josquin liked to solve compositional problems in different ways in successive compositions—sometimes he wrote in an austere style devoid of ornamentation, and at other times he wrote music requiring considerable virtuosity. Heinrich Glarean wrote in 1547 that Josquin was not only a “magnificent virtuoso” (the Latin can be translated also as “show-off”) but capable of being a “mocker”, using satire effectively. While the focus of scholarship in recent years has been to remove music from the “Josquin canon” (including some of his most famous pieces) and to reattribute it to his contemporaries, the remaining music represents some of the most famous and enduring of the Renaissance.

(info via Wikipedia)