By Lawrence Budmen

Patrick Quigley, a brilliant choir director and inquisitive musician, has continually presented rarely heard scores with his remarkable ensemble Seraphic Fire. On Sunday Quigley’s revival of choral works by Domenico Scarlatti filled the intimate sanctuary of Miami Beach Community Church with sounds of the most heavenly variety. 

A Cello Sonata by Giuseppe Torelli opened the afternoon on a patrician note. With a majestic adagio and incisive, ornamental finale, this gem of a score provided a brilliant showcase for the talents of Gyongy Erodi. Playing a Baroque cello with gut strings, Erodi produced a rich, distinctive sound, displaying fearless agility. 

Although Scarlatti (1685-1757) is best known for his keyboard sonatas (which were fervently championed in the 20th century by Vladimir Horowitz and Maria Tiepo), he spent the early part of his career as an organist and composer of sacred works in Naples and Rome. These surviving scores are remarkable for their harmonic invention and quasi-operatic vocal writing.

Sarah Guttenberg displayed a soprano voice of exquisite purity and expressive power in Scarlatti’s Iste Confessor, a melody of eloquent, incandescent beauty. 

From its opening baritone solo to the final choral pronouncement, Scarlatti’s Te Deum is an intensely reverent score. 

Erodi and organist Henry Lebedinsky were the superb continuo players. Scarlatti only annotated a bass line in his scores which Lebedinsky brilliantly ornamented and improvised into a two hand keyboard part. 

Scarlatti’s Missa La Stella (for four vocal soloists and chorus) features a stirring Gloria and a Credo so rich in inspiration that it seems to come from the heavens. . 

Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater was the afternoon’s most remarkable offering. This score’s ten part vocal writing is daringly ahead of its time in its harmonic dissonance and dramatic concision. From the dark key of C minor, Scarlatti journeys to a finale of the most sublime proportions. Quigley’s sense of balance and harmonic transparency produced the most elegantly beautiful choral sounds.

For its encore the choir sang Randall Thompson’s Alleluia, a New England choral chestnut, with serene restraint. Such artistry continues to define Seraphic Fire as one of Miami’s finest cultural treasures. 

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