The historical-instrument ensemble Ars Antiqua Austria under violinist/conductor Gunar Letzbor has specialized in neglected repertory of the eighteenth century, and few composers fit their aims better than Antonio Caldara, a Venetian trained in the grand tradition at St. Mark's cathedral. He had a distinguished career that took him to Mantua, (perhaps) to the then-Austrian court at Barcelona, to Rome, and finally to Vienna itself, where he became vice-kapellmeister under emperor Charles VI. As with other composers in this milieu, most of his production was vocal. The 12 Sinfonie a quattro recorded here are very brief specimens of the kind of sinfonia that served as a curtain raiser for an opera or oratorio, the genre from which the independent symphony ultimately evolved. In this case the sinfonias are taken from oratorios, named in the subtitles of each work. They consist of three or four movements, many of them extremely short but not excluding counterpoint and even little fugal finales. The tone is restrained, in keeping with the religious subject matter, and the texture is pretty constant aside from a few violin solos. Combine that with the technically smooth but rather deadpan readings from Letzbor, a disciple of Reinhard Goebel and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the result, at least for the general listener, is a very subdued hour of music in a program that would unlikely have been performed in its own time.(James Manheim)
A ubiquitous Viennese figure in the early 1700s, Francesco Conti was one of several gifted Italian Baroque composers who settled in foreign lands. If Caldara remains the most durable Italian figure in Vienna, Conti's star — on this evidence — deserves to be dusted down and given a second chance. These four cantatas from eight Cantate am istromenti probably date from the first decade of the century and feature the most delectable plethora of obbligato instruments imaginable.
Antonio Maria Bononcini (1677 - 1726) is the younger and lesser-known brother of Giovanni Bononcini (1670 - 1747). He was one of a number of Italian composers who were active at the imperial court in Vienna, and introduced the newest trends in Italian music to the Austrian capital. His brother also did belong to this group of composers, as well as Ziani and Ariosti. The chamber cantata was one of the genres these composers paid attention to as listening to cantatas was part of the entertainment at the court.
Hitting the progressive rock scene in 1996, the Swedish quartet comprised of Michael Thorne on organ, mellotron, digital synths and vocals, Patrick Enwall on bass, Peter Rendius on guitar, and Roger Johansson on drums. Together they took ingredients from neo progressive cornerstones Marillion and IQ, and blended them into a sound that's been compared to British symphonic bands like Yes.
Catweazle released Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying) in 1996. As described by Mike Taylor on Gibraltar's website, the album "is a concept album that seems to be not only about a man coming to grips with his life as he dies, but also a statement of the death of different phases and aspects of life (e.g., the innocence of childhood, the loss of human dignity in a gulag)"…