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Una Follia Di Napoli - Concerti & Sinfonie For Flute 1725 / Maurice Steger

Steger / Chen / Rognoni / Marcocchi
Release Date: 10/09/2012 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 902135  
Composer:  Nicola FiorenzaEmanuele BarbellaDomenico Natale SarroFrancesco Mancini,   ... 
Performer:  Daniele CaminitiAnaïs ChenAndrea RognoniMaurice Steger,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



UNA FOLLIA DI NAPOLI Maurice Steger (rec, cond); Various performers (period instruments) HARMONIA MUNDI 902135 (72:40)


SARRI Concerto No. 11 in a. A. SCARLATTI Improvisation on the Partite “La follia di Spagna”. FIORENZA Sinfonia in a. D. SCARLATTI Sinfonia No. 1 in A. Read more class="COMPOSER12"> BARBELLA Concerto No. 3 in C. F. MANCINI Sonata No. 11 in g. LEO Concerto in G

"The recent beginning to the recovery of the wealth of Neapolitan instrumental music of the late Baroque and early Classical periods has now resulted in a special disc of recorder concertos (and other miscellaneous pieces). First of all, it can be said that, even though the bulk of the composers are greater and lesser lights of the late Baroque, the degree to which their music is known ranges widely. The father-son duo, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, are of course well known, each with an established and now expanding reputation as more of their works become available. Leonardo Leo has had a small role in the revival of Neapolitan opera seria, while elsewhere in this issue I discuss a new disc of the sacred music of Sarri (here called Sarro, an alternative spelling). But I venture that few will have heard much about Nicola Fiorenza, Francesco Mancini, or Francesco Barbella, all of whom were important teachers and church/opera composers in Baroque Naples early on in the 18th century. It is therefore quite illuminating to have all of these composers represented here with a series of recorder concertos, performed with an ensemble made up of instrumentalists who are in and of themselves some of the leading lights of the early-music wave in Europe. Contrabassist Vanni Moretto is known as the conductor of Atalanta fugiens and a proponent of the Milanese symphonies of Sammartini, Brioschi, and others, while violinists Fiorenz de Donatis of I Barrocchisti, Andrea Rognoni of Europa Galante, and Anaïs Chen of La Cetra and La Fenice are all quite active in their own ensembles. Europa Galante has also contributed violist Stefano Marcocchi, and the continuo group consists of Mauro Valli on cello (complementing Moretto on bass and performing with dexterous virtuosity on the baroque cello in some of the movements), Brigitte Gasser from the Concerto di Viole on gamba, Naoki Kitaya on keyboard, Daniele Caminiti on plucked instruments (theorbo and guitar), and, adding a dulcet, jangling tone, Margit Übellacker on the psaltery. One might think that such a range of experts would find it difficult to work with each other, given their own careers built upon individual explorations and interpretations of the music of this era, but here I am delighted to say that the ensemble performs so seamlessly that one would almost wish they would stay together as a group (and of course, come up with their own name).

The key person in this collection is recorder player Maurice Steger, who happened across a collection of 24 concertos for various instruments in a manuscript in the Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella in Naples from 1725. He decided to extract the recorder concertos for this disc. The DVD is filled with Steger and his colleagues (mainly Valli) commenting upon the various aspects of performing these works; how the continuo functioned, the choices in instrumentation, the tempos, etc. Although pictures of Steger conducting, in that very particular loose manner that seems to be de rigeur for early-instrument ensembles of late, abound, it is clear from the short film that many long hours devoted to every detail of how to perform these works has been undertaken. The result, at least from the visual clips, is a rather nice kaleidoscopic view of the recording sessions, and the close-ups of each performer demonstrate the focus and enjoyment they have in bringing these concertos to light. I would venture to say that this is one DVD that really ought to be standard viewing for anyone interested in performing or reviving early music, or even perhaps forming their own ensemble, for it demonstrates convincingly just how such a professional project can be realized.

As for the music itself, the bulk of the works conform to the four-movement pattern common to the Baroque concerto (even the works labeled sonata or sinfonia). The exceptions are the Leo G-Major Concerto, which is perhaps the most Vivaldian of the bunch, and the Domenico Scarlatti Sinfonia. The very spooky theme and variations on La Follia by Alessandro Scarlatti, which begins with the theme in the guitar and then adds the strings in soft suspension and the psaltery with its liquid sound, is based upon a gigantic ground bass. This is the only exception to the rule. Of the rest, the Mancini Sonata’s second movement runs the recorder to the extremes of range in a brilliant virtuoso display, while the opening movement of the Sarri Concerto has the strings in a soft strumming staccato, which is almost guitar-like. Even the recorder uses appogiaturas to imitate this motion. The second movement of the Fiorenza Concerto is based upon a unique Lombardic rhythm, while one finds a rather strict fugue in the second movement of the Barbella that doesn’t quite extend out far enough before devolving into episodic sequences. The Leo concerto is extraordinarily modern, sounding like C. P. E. Bach, with a sudden shift in the opening ritornello to the minor key in the second thematic group, a Lamento second movement with duple and triplet rhythms, and a stately minuet to conclude. Even the Domenico Scarlatti Sinfonia, with its highly stylized dotted rhythmic opening reminiscent of a French overture, explodes with strings scurrying about in a top speed Presto . The final movement is a rollicking hornpipe, making this string symphony a truly international sounding piece for 1725.

In this last work, which omits the recorder, one finds exactly how precise and disciplined this pick-up ensemble truly is. Not a note is out of place in the difficult virtuoso part, and the continuo group elsewhere functions as a single unit, whether they are subdivided or tutti. Steger’s recorder playing is, in a word, stupendous, right on pitch, with extreme care in the ornamentation, phrasing, and musical contrasts. Moreover, he is a first among equals with his ensemble, blending in where necessary, and emerging with dazzling display in the solo passages. This is most evident in the high pitched flautino of the Leo concerto, which to my mind makes the Vivaldi concertos for this instrument sound like mere mechanical exercises. In short, this is a fabulous disc."

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

1. Sinfonia for Flute, 2 Violins and Basso Continuo in A minor by Nicola Fiorenza
Performer:  Daniele Caminiti (Theorbo), Anaïs Chen (Violin), Andrea Rognoni (Violin),
Maurice Steger (Recorder), Mauro Valli (Cello), Brigitte Gasser (Bass Viola Da Gamba),
Vanni Moretto (Double Bass), Fiorenza De Donatis (Violin), Stefano Marcocchi (Viola),
Naoki Kitaya (Keyboard), Margit Übellacker (Psalterium)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; Naples, Italy 
2. Sonata for Recorder and Basso Continuo in C major by Emanuele Barbella
Performer:  Daniele Caminiti (Theorbo), Anaïs Chen (Violin), Andrea Rognoni (Violin),
Maurice Steger (Recorder), Mauro Valli (Cello), Brigitte Gasser (Bass Viola Da Gamba),
Vanni Moretto (Double Bass), Fiorenza De Donatis (Violin), Stefano Marcocchi (Viola),
Naoki Kitaya (Keyboard), Margit Übellacker (Psalterium)
Period: Classical 
Written: Italy 
3. Sonata for recorder & orchestra No. 11 in A minor by Domenico Natale Sarro
Performer:  Daniele Caminiti (Theorbo), Anaïs Chen (Violin), Andrea Rognoni (Violin),
Maurice Steger (Recorder), Mauro Valli (Cello), Brigitte Gasser (Bass Viola Da Gamba),
Vanni Moretto (Double Bass), Fiorenza De Donatis (Violin), Stefano Marcocchi (Viola),
Naoki Kitaya (Keyboard), Margit Übellacker (Psalterium)
4. Sonata for Recorder and Basso Continuo no 11 by Francesco Mancini
Performer:  Daniele Caminiti (Theorbo), Anaïs Chen (Violin), Andrea Rognoni (Violin),
Maurice Steger (Recorder), Mauro Valli (Cello), Brigitte Gasser (Bass Viola Da Gamba),
Vanni Moretto (Double Bass), Fiorenza De Donatis (Violin), Stefano Marcocchi (Viola),
Naoki Kitaya (Keyboard), Margit Übellacker (Psalterium)
Period: Baroque 
5. Concerto for Flute no 1 in G major by Leonardo Leo
Performer:  Daniele Caminiti (Theorbo), Anaïs Chen (Violin), Andrea Rognoni (Violin),
Maurice Steger (Recorder), Mauro Valli (Cello), Brigitte Gasser (Bass Viola Da Gamba),
Vanni Moretto (Double Bass), Fiorenza De Donatis (Violin), Stefano Marcocchi (Viola),
Naoki Kitaya (Keyboard), Margit Übellacker (Psalterium)
Period: Baroque 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Unfailingly gorgeous and delightful music May 25, 2013 By Anthony G. (Valley Stream, NY) See All My Reviews "This music is consistently delightful, surprising, and captures the listener's ear. There is much that is profound here and achingly beautiful." Report Abuse
 Wonderful: Charm & Energy! October 17, 2012 By Marco  E. See All My Reviews "If you were a music lover in Naples in 1725, you no doubt would have been privy to the tremendous buzz created by the visit of J.J. Quantz, then the best known flute virtuoso of his time. The visit spurred on the composers in town to produce a spate of concertos and sonatas for flute, which were preserved in a Napolian collection from that date. Maurice Steger, wonder of the recorder, directs an eminently authentic and exciting ensemble in a series of lovely compositions from that collection in Una Follia di Napoli (Harmonia Mundi) which is out this month. There are works by Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico Scarlatti, Leonardo Leo, Francesco Mancini, Francesco Barbella, Nicola Fiorenza and Domenico Sarro, perhaps not all familiar to us today, but solid baroque craftsmen-artists all, writing music of great verve. In the hands of Maurice Steger and his ensemble, there is a period authenticity and tremendous vitality to the music. Steger is a master and the ensemble is superb. This is baroque come alive with all the charm and energy it can exude. Bravo! Highly recommended. The DVD is informative and stylish. Wonderfully played and spoken mostly by Maurice Steger himself. Sophisticated and detailed booklet. Bravi tutti!" Report Abuse
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