I Barocchisti / Diego Fasolis

Agostino Steffani: Danze e Ouvertures

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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. The "danze e ouvertures" title, partly Italian and partly French, suggests what's going on here: the music, well before Bach and Couperin, contains multiple national styles. The overtures often contain a slow introduction and a fast conclusion, but the fast part consists of Italianate operatic-dramatic music, not French formal dance music. Most of the music here is receiving its recorded premiere, but it would have been well known when Bach was young, and it is ancestral to both the general dance suite and the church and chamber sonata. The performances by I Barocchisti and its leader, Diego Fasolis, are ideal: they have Fasolis' trademark vigor, and they capture what was new and exciting about the music at the time. Though no more than a few minutes long, some of the pieces have vivid programmatic effects, including in one case battle music complete with a big bass drum. You may never have heard of Steffani, and the primary interest of this album may be to Baroque fans, but Decca is right to take a chance on it: anyone can enjoy it.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Orlando generoso
1 2:42
2 1:01
3 0:22
4 0:32
5 1:13
6 0:32
7 0:52
Marco Aurelio
8 1:56
Henrico Leone
9 2:44
10 2:16
11 0:18
I trionfi del fato
12 3:40
Le rivali concordi
13 1:36
Tassilone
14 4:00
Niobe, regina di Tebe
15 3:50
16 0:55
17 0:40
18 0:41
La lotta d'Hercole con Acheloo
19 2:18
I trionfi del fato
20 4:05
Le rivali concordi
21 2:43
Henrico Leone
22 3:07
Briseide
23 3:02
Orlando generoso
24 1:18
La superbia d'Alessandro
25 1:42
26 0:45
27 0:45
28 0:49
29 0:56
30 1:00
Alcibiade (La libertà contenta)
31 3:32
32 0:34
33 1:10
34 1:20
Servio Tullio
35 2:23
I trionfi del fato
36 2:15
37 1:23
Niobe, regina di Tebe
38 1:15
La lotta d'Hercole con Acheloo
39 1:45
40 0:50
41 1:21
42 0:29
Amor vien dal destino
43 4:06
blue highlight denotes track pick