The triumphant release of Mission in autumn 2012 drew rave reviews and was followed up in September 2013 with Steffani’s Stabat Mater, alongside his greatest sacred works for chorus, orchestra and soloists, and a further disc of dances and overtures with the celebrated I Barrochisti conducted by Diego Fasolis. On the Stabat Mater, Bartoli leads an array of internationally celebrated singers including countertenor Franco Fagioli, the bass Salvo Vitale and the two young German tenors Daniel Behle and Julian Prégardien. The final album of the collection is Danze & Ouvertures’, contains 43 great tracks of enchanting early-baroque music.
Don't hate this album because it has been beautifully marketed, for if you do you'll miss out on something extraordinary. Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli reportedly worked on it for three years, even suggesting a mystery-novel tie-in, and her label, Decca, kept the contents under wraps until the album's release, dropping hints via Internet videos. When the album appeared, it was issued in a limited-edition hardbound package including numerous essays covering aspects of the life of the composer involved, Agostino Steffani.
Until it was revived in the late twentieth century, Handel's opera Faramondo was performed just eight times in London in 1738 and then fell into obscurity. According to the conventions of Italian opera of the period, men's roles were often written for women, in spite of the lack of dramatic realism, and the use of castrati was common, so higher voices strongly predominate. Handel wrote the title role, which would have gone to a castrato, usually a male alto, for Cafarelli, who had the range of a mezzo-soprano. This recording is exceptional in its use of countertenors in all the male roles, and it's intriguing to hear together the variety of voice types lumped together as "countertenors"; the singers here are distinctly males altos, mezzo sopranos and sopranos. The early twenty first century is blessed with an abundance of extraordinarily fine countertenors, and the singers on this recording are exceptional, with voices of great tonal fullness and purity, agility, and individuality.
The plot is as follows: We are on an island where women reign; three of them–Tulia, Aurora, and Cintia–argue over who should become Queen. Their browbeaten boyfriends, when not begging for a kiss, groveling, or trying to figure out how to please the women, attempt to stop them from bickering, and worse, killing each other. Eventually, sick of the women’s petty rivalries and led on by the tenor Ferramonte, the men take over, returning things to their “natural” state: “You will find us merciful provided that you moderate your vanity,” they sing before the final chorus, which states that “Women in command make for a topsy-turvy world that is inevitably doomed to failure.” The Italian studios of Swiss Radio have lately produced a number of impressive recordings of early music, and their skills are well illustrated in this fresh, lively account of Galuppi, with a first-rate team of soloists, chorus and orchestra. (The Guardian)
Cecilia Bartoli’s exploration of the music of Steffani continues on from her best-selling recording ‘Mission’ with an album of the celebrated Stabat Mater alongside Steffani’s greatest sacred works for chorus, orchestra and soloists, constituting the most comprehensive collection of Steffani’s sacred choral music on CD. Bartoli leads an array of internationally celebrated singers including countertenor Franco Fagioli, the bass Salvo Vitale and the two young German tenors Daniel Behle and Julian Prégardien. Diego Fasolis conducts the authentic instrument forces of I Barocchisti and the chorus of RSI Lugano
Agostino Steffani, roughly contemporary with Arcangelo Corelli, worked mostly in Germany and was known across the continent for his operatic music. Some of it was championed by mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli on her daring Mission album. Now Bartoli, properly more in the background as part of a sacred-music ensemble, returns with an album of Steffani's religious music, for which he was equally renowned. She joins a group of fine soloists, many of whom will be familiar to early music devotees and quite worthy of the broader audience association with Bartoli and the major Decca label will bring. The vigorous instrumental ensemble I Barocchisti, its leader Diego Fasolis, and the commendably sizable Swiss Radio Choir are all top-notch…
The booklet to this release freely concedes that Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) wrote no instrumental music, making the present collection unusually obscure in terms of repertoire for a major-label release. What you get is a set of operatic overtures and dance excerpts from operas, similar enough to what might be presented on an album of instrumental music, from operas 150 years later. But until his operas were championed by Cecilia Bartoli, few had heard of Steffani, who was a leading star of vocal music in Germany in Corelli's day and was listened to all over the continent. It all goes to show how the Baroque revival is no longer confined to small specialist labels. The chief interest in these little pieces lies perhaps in their influence…
Two voices of celestial beauty and expressive poignancy come together in this new recording of Pergolesi’s exquisite, but tragically charged Stabat Mater as Philippe Jaroussky is joined by the rising young soprano Julia Lezhneva…
Giovanni Paisiello, whose works Mozart thought enough of to study closely, was mostly forgotten in the nineteenth century, and this "Passione de Gesù Cristo" remained buried until 1998. This is its second recording; a Polish version on the Arts label, from that year, is also available. The oratorio's text is by the preeminent operatic librettist of the eighteenth century, Pietro Metastasio. One can easily understand why the work has never had a critical mass of general listeners, but for those interested in Mozart's world it's truly fascinating. This passion story features neither Jesus nor Pontius Pilate, nor any of the other usual personages. Instead it takes place after Christ's crucifixion, recounted by St. John, Joseph of Arimatea, and Mary Magdalene (in surely her biggest part until "Jesus Christ Superstar" came along) to St. Peter, with the accompaniment of a chorus of Christ's other followers; in the second part, all bewail the corruption of Jerusalem and look forward to Christ's resurrection. – FANFARE: Colin Fleming
Vivaldi's operas were virtually unknown until the late decades of the 20th century, but by the early years of the 21st more and more were coming to light, on recordings if not to the same extent on-stage, and some have been recorded multiple times, thanks to the dedicated research of early music specialists and the emergence of a spate of first-rate counter tenors. Such is the case with Farnace, which receives its second recording on the Virgin Classics label with counter tenor Max Emanuel Cencic leading an extraordinary cast of soloists. Diego Fasolis conducts the period instrument orchestra I Barocchisti and Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano, in a vibrant reading of the score.Review by Stephen Eddins