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.
Bien avant que Cecilia Bartoli n'attire l'attention sur Agostino Steffani avec son disque "Mission", Divox Antiqua et le groupe Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca avaient essayé de le faire avec ce très beau CD consacré à des ouvertures et suites orchestrales tirées d'opéras comme "Henrico Leone" (Hanovre 1688), "Il trionfi del fato" (Hanovre 1695), "Niobe Regina di Tebe" (Münich 1688), et "Amor vien dal destino" (Düsseldorf 1709).
Allegri's early Baroque masterpiece Miserere from around 1630 movingly juxtaposes modal chant with tonality, and was so popular that the Vatican refused to allow it to be performed anywhere else - until the 14 year old Mozart broke the Vatican's monopoly by writing it down from memory after attending a performance. Pergolesi's late Baroque masterpiece Stabat Mater for soprano and alto dates from 1736, the year of his death at the age of 26. It was originally written for male voices but since it's hard to find a castrato these days, it's generally performed by two women or by a female soprano and counter-tenor. This performance uses a female alto but in other respects it's very much a period performance - the sound is intimate and the tempos are lively without any sacrifice of spiritual depth. The soloists, soprano Monika Frimmer and alto Gloria Banditelli, sing beautifully without overdoing the vibrato, and their voices are well matched. The disk also contains a brief "Sonata a quattro" by Vivaldi, and another setting of the Stabat Mater, by the late Baroque composer Antonio Caldara from around 1725.(Kenneth Dorter)