Customer Review

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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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Dec 2012 06:08:59 GMT
Panjandrum says:
I think he was probably a "castrato" unless you are inferring that there is more than one Steffani...

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Dec 2012 10:24:31 GMT
No, only one of him. But it certainly sounds as if he had many faces. I'll leave the typo in the original review otherwise these comments won't make any sense.

Posted on 4 Dec 2012 17:59:00 GMT
As far as I know, there's no evidence that Steffani was a castrato, either singular or plural - there's certainly no mention of it in the standard work on the composer, "Polymath of the Baroque" by Colin Timms. I think such speculation is just part of the entertaining hype that goes with this CD, a bit like the cover photo. Unless anyone else knows different?

Posted on 22 Dec 2012 23:01:51 GMT
Thank you for your review. I will no doubt buy this CD but when I do I will have to do something about the hideous photograph of Cecilia on the cover. She is not unattractive so what what was she thinking of? I thought the photos used in her other album sacrificium were bad enough. I know we buy the the CDs for the musical content and not the packaging but that does not mean the packaging can't be pleasant to look at.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Dec 2012 23:34:13 GMT
I understand what you mean. Cecilia might be making a point - she doesn't need to look pretty to sell her CDs! There are some nice pictures of her on the inside, though. If they are also in the booklet that come with the standard version due out in January, you could get that and fold the booklet to make one of those the cover. However, the deluxe hardcover version is rather good and, at present, there's very little difference in the price.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Dec 2012 16:57:29 GMT
Panjandrum says:
David, I think the photo is designed to show Cecilia as a man, given the theme of the record. I suppose they could have portrayed her with a beard or a tash but that might not be to your taste either!
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