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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific disc, 5 Dec 2012
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
This is a terrific disc of arias by Steffani, a little-known baroque composer whom Cecilia Bartoli wants to bring to public attention. In my experience, little-known composers are often little-known for a very good reason, but not Steffani. Bartoli is right - his music is excellent and well worth bringing to light as she does here with a disc made up very largely of first recordings.

And what recordings they are! Bartoli is, as always, excellent. She has a stunning technical mastery and a deep understanding of the music and text she is singing, with the control to avoid spilling into over-emotional self indulgence. Her voice is beautiful, rich and sensuous and she uses it here to create something very special from Steffani's music. The orchestra are also excellent, giving the pieces real drama, passion or a joyous zing as appropriate, and to cap it all Bartioli is joined by the great countertenor Philippe Jaroussky in four duets. It is a pleasure from start to finish.

I am sorry to sound gushing - this disc has a provocative cover and has been very heavily marketed and promoted, which to me often means a rather ordinary product. Not here - this is a terrific CD of fine music, beautifully performed and is warmly recommended.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 13 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
Cecilia Bartoli brings to light the music of the enigmatic Agostino Steffani - castrati, priest, missionary, diplomat, spy and Baroque composer. Plenty of fireworks and plenty of delicate beauty. A stunning eighty minutes. Probably not a recommended first purchase for someone unfamiliar with Cecilia Bartoli or Baroque opera, but for a Cecilia fan or anyone looking to extend their Baroque collection it's a must have.

21 of the 25 tracks are first recordings. The text explains this as Steffani falling through the cracks. Being Italian born but mostly based in Germany, and sometimes composing in a French style, he doesn't fit well into any particular tradition and was consequently forgotten. As this album shows, that's a fate he didn't deserve. Full marks to Cecilia Bartoli and Decca for remembering him.

Besides Cecilia Bartoli and the I Barrocchisti ensemble, there are appearances by counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky on four tracks, and Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera on four tracks. Track 5 (Amami, e vederai) is a luscious piece with Cecilia accompanied only by Rosario Conte on lute. That they all have an enthusiasm for the music is evident. How much more satisfying it must be to display one's creative ability by bringing music to the world that hasn't previously been heard by anyone alive today than by coming out with yet another interpretation of established repertoire no matter how good it may be. It shows.

The presentation is also sumptuous - a hardcover book with about 160 pages. It includes English, French and German text and graphics, but that still leaves enough pages to delve into Steffani's intriguing life in each language. Note that I'm reviewing the limited edition which has ASIN: B008LSSI4S in Amazon's product details. It might be the only version available as I write this but, if you are reading this sometime after its release, there might also be a less sumptuous (but cheaper) standard edition available.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!, 23 Dec 2012
By 
Jon Carey (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
I have enjoyed the music made by Cecilia Bartoli for several years, but this raises the bar to a new level. An example is the transition from track 16 to 17; I laughed out loud with excitement as if I was a child again when I first heard it. The use of percussion is dramatic.
Her control on the quieter track is immense. Steffani is a real discovery.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A baroque master of melody and feeling, 12 Nov 2012
By 
Stephen Midgley (Tarbrax, West Calder, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
The "Mission" of this CD's title has two meanings. One is a reference to the fact that the composer, Agostino Steffani, was throughout his career a man of many missions; for not only was he a musician of genius, he was also a diplomat and priest whose royal and ecclesiastical employers entrusted him with many important tasks, demanding both travelling stamina and negotiating skills in equal measure. The second meaning refers to the mission Cecilia Bartoli has clearly set herself - to introduce, to those who don't already know it, the marvellous music of this long-neglected mid-baroque composer.

The programme consists of a dazzling variety of arias and other extracts from Steffani's operas - all of them originally produced in Hanover or in the other German states where this Italian composer spent his adult life. They are performed by the brilliant Ms Bartoli herself, joined for the duets by no less than Philippe Jaroussky, and supported with both grace and panache by the early-music ensemble I Barocchisti directed by Diego Fasolis. The first few items set the tone superbly, quickly impressing upon the listener the dramatic range of styles and moods of which Steffani was such a master. We start with the brassy, warlike brilliance of `Schiere invitte' from "Alarico il Baltha" (you can sample the tracks in the MP3 version, in case you don't know that already). It's followed by a lilting, chaconne-like aria of melting beauty and grace from "Servio Tullio", `Ogni core può sperar' (Every heart may hope; mine alone must weep), its instrumental accompaniment with its delicious solo passages ever so tenderly played and just as beautiful; and so here we have an altogether lovely demonstration of Steffani's feeling for word-setting and of his genius for the expression of human emotions - which for today's listeners are among the most enticing qualities of the baroque. This piece is then followed by one of Anfione's profoundly contemplative arias from "Niobe, regina di Tebe".

The majority of the pieces here, as you might expect from a baroque opera collection, concern the moods and trials of love - variously expressing pain, torment, longing, fury, jealousy, ecstasy or triumph. This range is shown in the sheer beauty, subtlety, colour and textural variety of Steffani's fabulous music. In fact there are so many more jewels in this programme that I can only mention a handful of them here. `T'abbraccio, mia Diva' (track 6), again from "Niobe", is a truly exquisite example of Steffani's duet and ensemble writing, sung here to perfection by Bartoli and Jaroussky. Then again, it's followed by the extreme contrast of a triumphantly belligerent aria from "I trionfi del fato", accompanied by trumpets and horns. `Sì, sì, riposa, o caro' (track 10), with its touching delicacy and its catchy, lilting melody ending in sleep, is followed by the different, but equally gentle, rocking gait of `Notte amica al cieco Dio' (Night, you friend of the sightless god) from "La libertà contenta". Another extract from "Niobe" (track 16) brings us "Sfere amiche", Anfione's melancholy aria sung in the company of the stars and planets he loves to watch, with the instruments weaving a wonderfully sinuous accompaniment to his words (Friendly spheres, endow my lips/ with the harmony of your revolutions). `Serena, o mio bel sole' (track 18) is another, most beautiful example of Steffani's mastery of duet form and texture. `Deh stancati, o sorte' (track 20: Ah, cease, o destiny, your torment of me), expressing infinite sadness and longing for death and beautifully enhanced by the accompanying recorders, is another aria from "La libertà contenta" - an opera which, judging from the examples on this disc, I would dearly love to hear in full. An aria from "Henrico Leone" with a lovely, lyrical accompaniment (track 24), followed by a tuneful and triumphant chorus from "Marco Aurelio", bring the programme to a fine, and for once typically baroque-opera, conclusion.

The presentation of the "Deluxe edition" CD version is lavish, with a very substantial booklet, ample superb photos and images of Ms Bartoli, and some attractively presented documentation and maps. All texts, translations and sources are included, although there's no commentary on the pieces chosen for this disc. There is also plenty of genuine and fascinating information about the composer's life written by the acknowledged Steffani expert Colin Timms, as well some rather dubious hype and pseudo-mysterious speculation from other quarters, including the cover as you can see for yourself (NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!!). In truth there isn't all that much mystery about the composer's life and activities - it sounds good, but most of the supposed mysteries can easily be cleared up by a good look into Colin Timms' excellent book on the composer, Polymath of the Baroque: Agostino Steffani and His Music - published in 2003 but unfortunately quite hard to find at a decent price these days.

Altogether this is a stunning project, brilliantly executed by Cecilia Bartoli and her colleagues. The singer's voice, agility and expression are all fabulous, as they need to be in these very demanding roles; Diego Fasolis and his excellent musicians do a wonderful job with equally enticing baroque style and feeling, and the recording quality and balance are exemplary. But for me, without a doubt, star billing should go to Agostino Steffani, a seemingly inexhaustible fountain of music and melody with a rare genius for expressing words and emotions. If you fancy investigating his music further, you could try some of the exquisite chamber duets (Duetti Da Camera or Steffani: Duetti Da Camera) or his final masterpiece, the beautiful "Stabat Mater", in Handel: Dixit Dominus; or, for a complete opera, Orlando Generoso. In the meantime, though, Ms Bartoli and friends offer the ideal introduction to Steffani's wonderful music with "Mission", and fans of the baroque simply should not hesitate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo Steffani and Bartoli, 21 Feb 2013
By 
R. Regan - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
This would have to rate 5 stars. I’d not heard Steffani before and sometimes found the vocal tricks of Bartoli hard to take. Here she is on best and most beautiful behaviour. The variety in the music is remarkable and Bartoli performs it with beautiful legato and fire where required . Philippe Jaroussky is very good too in his pieces. What a pleasant discovery are the operatic works of Steffani. I would say the DVD too is luscious with the Versailles backgrounds but the treasure is the sound captured perfectly in the CD.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AWESOME!, 14 Dec 2012
By 
John Roots - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
Another batch of brilliant Bartoli recordings (alliteration!!!) - if you love Cecilia (who doesn't) you will love this terrific disc!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Mission, 14 Nov 2012
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La Bartoli does it again! An exquisite album of varied arias from Agostino Steffani that range from the stirring `Mie fide schiere, all'armi!' to the exquisite `Amami, e vederai'. Having the counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky accompany her on several tracks is a delightful bonus. Amongst Cecilia's finest recordings.
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5.0 out of 5 stars To die for, 15 Mar 2013
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Wonderful work by Bartoli to bring to us this wonderful music. Great notes with the CD so you know what is what. Inventively presented and she is such a talent. Stunning.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I took a gamble, 5 Dec 2012
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I took a gamble as I have never bought any baroque opera. And the gamble really has paid off. Dynamic and involving. And boy so different. Love this album !
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bartoli's Superb!, 21 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
Thank you Mediastation for your excellent speedy delivery of Cecilia Bartoli's Mission Deluxe version. My husband is very pleased with this purchase and comments the cd is " truly excellent " and the hardcover glossy book is a wonderful addition to his collection.
We shall definitely use Mediastation again for future purchases.
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