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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steffani duets - the second best recording, 12 Nov 2012
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Stephen Midgley (Tarbrax, West Calder, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Steffani: Duetti Da Camera (Audio CD)
This is a welcome reissue of one of DG Archiv's classic recordings, originally made in 1981 and then issued on CD in 1993 as part of the Collectio Argentea series. The first thing to say about it is that this is music of great subtlety and beauty; for Agostino Steffani's eighty or so chamber duets are among the exquisitely intimate masterpieces of baroque music, much admired and emulated in his time and for many years afterwards, and just as appealing to us today.

The present disc brings us a representative selection of eight of them, sung by excellent musicians in convincing style. The singers, performing the duets in various combinations, are Daniela Mazzucato (soprano), Carolyn Watkinson (mezzo), Paul Esswood (ct) and John Elwes (tenor), supported by Wouter Möller on cello and Alan Curtis directing from the harpsichord. All the singers cope pretty well with works that are vocally extremely demanding, although I found the continuo playing a bit too straitlaced for my liking.

The trouble is that, good as this recording is, there is an even better one on the Glossa label sung by Rossana Bertini and Claudio Cavina (Duetti Da Camera). This brings us seven of Steffani's duets, with only one duplication in the form of "Placidissime catene" which sounds even better there than on the present disc. The two singers in the Glossa recording make an absolutely superb team, performing with both passion and impeccable style; the instrumental support is richer and more diverse, including at various times harp, theorbo, viola da gamba and harpsichord.

So altogether Cavina and Bertini's disc is superior in style, texture and above all commitment, conveying to perfection the exquisite passions, harmonies and interwoven melodic lines of these works. "Crudo amor" - performed only on the Glossa disc, not on the Archiv - is a glorious example, beautifully expressing the simultaneous agony and ecstasy of unrequited love. I would certainly want both of these recordings, but if I had to choose one to begin with it would undoubtedly be Bertini/Cavina; it may seem hard but I'm suggesting four stars for this present Archiv CD, mainly to draw attention to the fact that there's an even better disc available of Steffani's duets.

P.S. I've only seen and heard the 1993 Archiv issue; I presume this 2012 reissue still includes texts, translations and Colin Timms' excellent booklet notes. If any other customer can confirm or deny this, please feel free to add a comment.
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Steffani: Duetti Da Camera
Steffani: Duetti Da Camera by Agostino Steffani (Audio CD - 2012)
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