Stradella was murdered in Genoa when he was forty-two years old. Until then he enjoyed a dazzling career as a freelance composer, writing on commission, collaborating with distinguished poets, producing over three hundred works in a variety of genres. His musical style is distinctive, characterized by fluid lines, great skill in counterpoint, and harmony which was tonal but which occasionally offers chords that were unusual then and striking even today.
The oratorio San Giovanni Battista was written for performance on Palm Sunday in the Holy Year of 1675 where some fourteen oratorios were commissioned by the confraternity of the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome—an auspicious event. San Giovanni Battista is a deeply ‘Baroque’ score, vibrant, rhythmically insistent, requiring singers to perform phrases of difficult fiorituras or deeply moving legato lines. The libretto is dramatic and emotionally vivid, and the music is closely tied to the text, creating a distinctly operatic atmosphere—described by the disc’s conductor Alessandro De Marchi as ‘a true Salome’.
The first complete and unabridged recording of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s operatic masterpiece, as well as the world-premiere recording on period instruments, undertaken by the critically acclaimed 2010 production from the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music, known as the “Bayreuth of Baroque Opera”. In his all too brief career Pergolesi, who died in 1736 aged only 26, set the course for 18th century opera. His works, especially L’Olimpiade, which was first performed in 1735, introduced a new and sentimental tone to the opera stage. Based on one of the most popular subject matters of opera seria, Pergolesi’s masterpiece L’Olimpiade offers a drama of love and intrigue coupled with highly virtuoso singing. Presenting Italian conductor Alessandro de Marchi, one of the most sought-after Early Music specialists, and a stunning cast of top-league international Baroque singers.
Argentine countertenor Franco Fagioli has emerged as one of the rising figures in that hot field, seemingly with the Italian opera of the first half of the 18th century as a specialty. As such, he might be particularly well represented by this collection of arias by Nicola Porpora, whose activities cut across a cross section of important activities in the century's second quarter. He was the teacher of both Haydn and Farinelli. He snagged many of Pietro Metastasio's high-tragedy opera seria libretti for himself and set them with suitably florid music, but he also had a considerable for sheer melody that's on display in this well-chosen program. Fagioli is not an exceptionally powerful countertenor, but he's capable of sheer smoothness of line that's appropriate to Porpora, who was called the greatest teacher of singers among composers, and the greatest composer among teachers of singing. He gets excellent support from the sparse but extremely sensitive Academia Montis Regalis under Alessandro de Marchi, and he makes a strong entry in the continuing case that Porpora ought to be ranked among the operatic greats. A countertenor release that can be recommended for pure melodic beauty.(James Manheim)