Alessandro Stradella’s colourful life and eventual murder have since furnished writers with material for novels and stageworks. But he was very highly regarded as a composer during his short life, and made important contributions to several musical forms with operas, instrumental sinfonie and cantatas. This programme features five seldom performed chamber cantatas and two of his sinfonie or sonatas. Soprano Christine Brandes has a light, pleasing voice, and an athletic technique which enables her to circumnavigate most of Stradella’s often demanding vocal writing. But she is stretched to her limits, perhaps even a shade beyond, in the virtuoso, fiendishly difficult ‘Ferma il corso e torna al lido’.
Betrayal, sorcery and one dazzling aria after the next…Ovid's Queen Niobe of Thebes, who turns to stone when her children are slain by the gods as punishment for her arrogance and pride, is the subject of this forgotten 1688 masterpiece. The Italian composer-priest Agostino Steffani languished in obscurity until the opera was rediscovered recently; the Boston Early Music Festival give its world-premiere studio recording with Karina Gauvin in the psychologically complex title role, and countertenor Phillipe Jaroussky singing 'powerfully and sweetly' (The New York Times) as Niobe's husband Anfione, driven to suicide in the face of family tragedy.
CPO follows its stellar releases of Conradi's Ariadne and Lully's Thésée by the Boston Early Music Festival with an equally extraordinary performance of Lully's Psyché. These are works that have had limited exposure and are known far better by reputation than by performances or recordings.
One of those special discs where the combination of repertoire and performances is of such unerring quality that it can justly be called definitive, Paul O'Dette's 1991 recital of lute works by Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger is as good as it gets. Born in Venice, Kapsberger was unsurpassed in his times as a lutenist. His published collections of works for his instrument were considered all but unplayable by anyone but himself at the time they were first published./quote]