Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) was the most important composer ever to be appointed by the Duchy of Hannover. At the end of the 17th century this noble family embarked on a cultural offensive with the objective of having Duke Ernst August become a prince elector. To this end, the Welph dynasty obtained the services of Steffani, a master choice in itself as his works are still performed to this day in the majestic gardens of Princess Caroline of Monaco and her husband, the current Ernst August of Hannover.
Remastered from the original LP recording, this performance is now available on CD.
Leclair was one of the best violinists of his times. The story is told that he had to compete in a musical duel with Locatelli in Kassel - then a most highly popular form of musical entertainment. The chronicler describes his "devilish" playing, contrasting it with the "angelic" style of his Italian rival. His trio sonatas suggest familiarity with the Italian school but also draw on entirely independent French traditions and shine with ingenious inventions and harmonic refinements.
This is Volume 2 in the series of orchestral works by Alfredo Casella, performed by the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda, with the pianist Martin Roscoe. The disc also forms part of the ‘Italian Series’ on Chandos, in association with Ricordi Music and the BBC Philharmonic. International Record Review said of the previous volume: ‘Anyone with more than a passing interest in this fascinating composer needs to have this remarkable disc.’
Alessandro Scarlatti’s 600-plus cantatas make him one of the more prolific exponents of a form that flourished in Italy in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Though he’s generally credited with standardising cantata form, his early essays in the genre were often imaginatively varied, as is shown by the delectable Arcadian Academy disc. Rather than the usual two or three da capo arias alternating with recitatives, the four secular cantatas here boast opening sinfonias, closing ariosos, large numbers of movements and a range of aria-types. Bella madre dei fiori, for example, experiments with a mix of poetic strophes and instrumental ritornelli. Even so, this formal ingenuity would be of limited interest were it not for Scarlatti’s gifts for attractive melody and sensitive illustration of his texts. Christine Brandes sings these pieces beautifully in a bright, clear-toned voice, and is given adroit, vivacious support by her five colleagues. La Famiglia Scarlatti offers two cantatas and two sonatas by Alessandro, together with a cantata apiece by brother Francesco and son Domenico. These are delightful performances, with Kai Wessel’s mellifluous alto a winning advocate, especially on the captivating Doppo lungo servire, Domenico’s earliest surviving work. Extensive and informative notes are a further bonus.–Graham Lock