Agostino STEFFANI (1654 – 1728)
Alarico il Baltha, cioè L’audace re de Gothi
1. Schiere invitte, non tardate [2:15]
Servio Tullio
2. Ogni core può sperar* [4:23]
Niobe, regina di Tebe
3. Ove son? Chi m’aita? In mezzo all’ombre ... Dal mio petto* [5:18]
4. Più non v’ascondo [2:19]
Niobe, regina di Tebe
5. Amami, e vedrai* [6:41]
6. T’abbraccio mia Diva ... Ti stringo, mio Nume* [2:42]
I trionfi del fato
7. Mie fide schiere, all’armi*
Suoni, tuoni, il suolo scuota* [3:26]
8. Sposa, mancar mi sento ... Deh non far colle tue lagrime* [5:42]
La superbia d’Alessandro
9. Non prendo consiglio* [1:17]
Alarico il Baltha
10. Sì, sì, riposa, o caro ... Palpitanti sfere belle* [3:12]
La libertà contenta
11. Notte amica al cieco Dio* [3:48]
I trionfi del fato
12. Combatton quest’alma* [2:08]
13. A facile vittoria [2:58]
La superbia d’Alessandro
14. Tra le guerre e le vittorie* [1:27]
La libertà contenta
15. Foschi crepuscoli* [2:05]
Niobe, regina di Tebe
16. Dell’alma stanca a raddoleir le tempe ... Sfere amiche, or date al labbro* [6:16]
La lotta d’Hercole con Acheloo
17. La cerasta più terribile [2:38]
Niobe, regina di Tebe
18. Serena, o mio bel sole ... Mia fiamma ... Mio ardore* [2:21]
19. Dal tuo labbro amor m’invita* [2:39]
La libertà contenta
20. Deh stancati, o sorte* [3:04]
21. Svenati, struggiti, combatti, suda* [3:11]
22. Padre, s’è colpa in lui* [5:08]
Le rivali concordi
23. Timori, ruine* [1:35]
Henrico Leone
24. Morirò fra strazi e scempi [2:40]
Marco Aurelio
25. Non si parli che di fede* [1:19]
Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo), Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor) (6, 12, 18, 23), Rosario Conte (lute) (5)
Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera, I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis
rec. Auditorio Stelio Molo, Radiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana
Sung texts with German, English and French translations enclosed
* world premiere recording on CD
DECCA 478 4732 [80:28]
Cecilia Bartoli continues her archaeological activities, digging out forgotten music by forgotten composers. Once again she enters centre-stage with a well-filled basket where sparkling jewels lie side by side with opaque but immensely beautiful pearls.
Agostino Steffani was ‘a man of many missions’: singer, musician, composer, diplomat, politician and also a learned man with a large library and an art collection. Though by some scholars regarded as the foremost Italian composer between Monteverdi and Vivaldi, his music has been largely neglected. Some of his works have been recorded and of late his opera Niobe, regina di Tebe has been performed in several places. Cecilia Bartoli’s albums tend to be best-sellers so it seems that there is a Steffani renaissance on the way. No fewer than 21 of the numbers here are world premiere recordings on CD so this disc is a goldmine not least for those collectors who already have ‘everything’.
The album launches with a flying start, orchestrally and vocally. The aria from Alarico il Baltha is a virtuoso piece with blaring trumpets, punchy percussion and coloratura fireworks. On the whole Steffani’s handling of orchestral colours is masterly. In the first aria from Tassilone (tr. 4) he employs castanets. The call-to-arms in Il trionfi del fato (tr. 7) with trumpets, percussion and chorus is riveting and in another war song, this time from La lotta d’Hercole con Acheloo (tr. 17) he even incorporates firearms.
The dramatic and virtuoso numbers are only one side of Steffani’s art. Many arias are intimate and restrained. The beautiful love song Amami, e vedrai from Niobe, regina di Tebe (tr. 5) is accompanied by a sole lute and time and again one marvels at the melodies and the inventiveness of the composer. Possibly the most beautiful aria of all is the one from Henrico Leone (tr. 24) but the next minute I feel that Dell’alma stanca a raddoleir le tempre from Niobe is just as good.
Those unfamiliar with Steffani will probably fall in love from the very first track and then there is not one weak number. The playing of I Barocchisti is absolutely stupendous, the chorus is first class and by now most reviewers have run out of superlatives concerning Cecilia Bartoli’s singing. As a bonus she has invited that marvellous counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky for four duets and the two voices blend admirably. As usual the production values are superb: A hardback 174-page book with copious background material in four languages, complete texts, lots of photos and other illustrations and a playing time of 80+ minutes. The recorded sound is ideal – in short: everything is as perfect as anything can be!
Göran Forsling
As perfect as anything can be!