“Una Follia di Napoli 1725” = Music by FRANCESCO BARBELLA, NICOLA FIORENZA, LEONARDO LEO, FRANCESCO MANCINI, DOMENICO SARRO, and ALESSANDRO and DOMENICO SCARLATTI [TrackList follows] – Fiorenza de Donatis, Andrea Rognoni, Anaïs Chen (violins), Stefano Marcocchi (viola), Mauro Valli (cello & violoncello piccolo], Vanni Moretto (double bass), Brigitte Gasser (violetta, viola da gamba & lirone), Naoki Kitaya (harpsichord & organ), Daniele Caminiti (theorbo, baroque guitar & archlute), Margit Übellacker (psalterium) & Maurice Steger (direction, recorder) – Harmonia mundi HMC 902135 CD+DVD, 72:40 (CD) 26:20 (DVD) [10/9/12]*****:
After making a series of brilliant recordings for the Swiss Claves label, Swiss virtuoso Steger has moved on to Harmonia mundi with hardly a skip stepped; there has been a new rounded softness to his tone, perhaps, but the energy and vitality of his piping remains undiminished. The recording venue, the cathedral in the Swiss town of Arlesheim, is where the French label recorded Lionel Rogg’s first Bach organ cycle 40 years ago, and it remains an audiophile’s delight: alive but warm and not too bright, with a sense of soundstage that’s very dry and yet extends out into the night.
The context for this recital is a visit made by the great flutist Quantz to Naples in the papal Holy Year of 1725. The great virtuoso inspired sonatas and concertos by Alessandro Scarlatti and some of his most talented successors. Now Maurice Steger brings these treasures back to life, drawing on an actual Neapolitan collection dating from 1725. The music bills and coos as much as any mere human could bear to listen to without feeling true love. The highlight is a brilliant performance of Alessandro Scarlatti’s extended improvisation on “Follia di Spagna,” with an indecently sumptuous accompaniment from the all-star backing crew.
The 30-minute 16:9 DVD gazes luxuriously and affectionately on the musicians and their instruments while Steger narrates a guided tour with excerpts of the musical delights of another city in Italy that was not Venice where the recorder flourished. [You can get this pairing for as little as $13 online…Ed.]