Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 4 Track 46-48
Alessandro knew that once was not enough. His audience would want to look at his Zelda just a little longer. Not interested in singing something new, she repeats what she has already sung. The listeners follow the dal segno, entranced. Because they have already heard this music as recently as a few minutes ago, they are now well-trained listeners. They are able to hear the background without being distracted. They are able to look past the notes into the face and sorrow of Griselda.
Scarlatti set the scene for Griselda's complaint very quickly. Within the first few bars, the violins and continuo evoke bittersweet contemplation during a walk by presenting a melody peppered with dotted rhythms. They are joined by a flute which imitates their tune. The flute, an instrument long associated with the great outdoors, establishes the pastoral setting of Griselda's outing.
What I like about this aria is the relationship of parts. The violins, continuo, flute, and voice overlap and blend in way that is unpredictable but never jarring. The violins, the most continuous part, provide a vantage for the listener from which we are able to admire the other parts and sympathize with our heroine.
Read also a timeline on the history of the flute