Early Music Review
A. SCARLATTI QUARTETS
Alessandro Scarlatti Four Sonate a quattro edited by Rosalind Halton Edition HH (40 361), 2014. xii + 35PP + 4 parts, £28.00
I've known for many years that Benjamin Cooke's 1740 edition of Six Concertos in Seven Parts is an expansion of the four-part versions which Alessandro wrote. I was aware that more authentic editions survived in Charles Avison's extensive workbooks, though I haven't followed the discovery in any detail. Avison seems to have been responsible for the Six Concertos a7. They have been widely used, and we sell facsimiles at £35.00, but it is good now to have a fine edition of the quartets. The remaining two concertos are based on Scarlatti's lesser-known son Francesco. Further discussion on the relationship between the two versions is forthcoming from the editor and Michael Talbot, which I look forward to seeing.
This is not, however, treated as the main MS, despite the opening of the introduction concentrating on Avison. Münster Santini-Bibliothek Hs. 3957A is earlier (c.1705-10) than the Avison MS and differs not just in textual details, but in the explicit indication in both Santini & Avison that the quartets are not intended to have a continuo accompaniment – yet the Santini MS is erratically figured. (It's a pity that the single page of cello facsimile doesn't include any figures.) The editor leaves what is notated but doesn't expand on them. Is the 17th-century convention of only flat and sharp accidentals/figures retained or as the edition prints them?
Interestingly, a series of transcriptions aimed at helping poor musicians during the 1930s included two of A. Scarlatti's 1740 Concerti grossi, headed Sonate a Quattro in g and in d, as the opening of vol. 2. They were copied in four instrumental staves with an added keyboard realisation. I assume that the music wasn't modernised, but the updated introduction for Garland's publication in 1988 was by Kenneth Cooper.
The substance of the music is the same, so there's no need to praise the music. My playing (as keyboardist) would undermine the point, and I don't think I've played a string quartet since the mid-1960s! The idea of a string quartet might seem anachronistic as a term – but I hope the article mentioned above will place the music within some keyboardless quartet concept. The edition itself is typical of HH's excellent standard, clearly legible.
We are grateful to the editor of The Early Music Review for permission to reproduce this review.