The problem with Allesandro Scarlatti is that he just wasn't as talented a composer as some of his contemporaries were. Sure, he imbibed the baroque forms, but his compositions seemed more like regurgitated cliches than anything striking or original. Try as he might, Scarlatti simply couldn't live up to the measure of a Handel, Bach or Vivaldi. In fact, it wouldn't be amiss to describe his work with that dreaded b-word that can be the death of any artist: Boring. Still, he was highly respected in his own time, even enjoyed royal patronage, and his compositions represent important historical documents. So we really can't fault anyone for wanting to work with his music.
Thank heavens, though, that such a talented ensemble as the Accademia Bizantina undertook this effort. The Accademia is a highly skilled collective, and they succeed where others might have failed. They bring an emotional intensity to these works, giving them a sense of both gravitas and drama. At the same time, the Bizantina is careful to avoid finessing the music with too many frivolous flourishes, a temptation to which many baroque performers succumb. The acoustics are masterful, too. You can hear each member of the string section, for instance, instead of just a mish-mash of violins. You can also feel the bows travelling across the bridges of these instruments, and the warming effect is physically palpable. I also feel compelled to say something kind about the unsung harpsichord player who turns in a stellar performance here. Somewhere along the way he cranks out a blistering solo or two, as though he were a 17th Century version of Eddie Van Halen. I'm tempted to rip the corset off of a Parisian maiden, but such a gesture would be improper. All in all, a collection of super-stellar renditions, even if the music is only so-so.