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1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 11:42 am

50. Henry Purcell -
Chacony In G Minor (c. 1678)




Recording

Title: Ayres For The Theatre
Performer: The Parley Of Instruments
Director: Peter Holman
Year: 1987
Length: 4 minutes 22 seconds

Review

I find it quite hard to review these very short pieces of music, because no matter how familiar I get with the piece, it is only 4 minutes of it, it takes me longer to write this review than listen to it. Actually I can listen to it 4 times while writing this.

Now that I have written some filler so this review doesn't look as pathetically short as it is going to be let's get on with talking about the music. Let's? Why not, maybe we should... what about now?

Ok this is a Chaconne, or Chacony or however you want to spell it, here because Brits don't understand "foreign" it's a Chacony, which is a form of music noted for its repetitive figures, where Purcell excels here is in making this constant repetition interesting, the ornamentation of the simple base line is actually quite a beautiful thing, nothing mind-blowing, but very nice.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

In music, a chaconne (IPA: [ʃaˈkɔn]; Italian: ciaccona) is a musical form whose primary formal feature involves variation on a repeated short harmonic progression.

Originally a quick dance-song which emerged during the late 16th century in Spanish culture, possibly from the New World, the chaconne was characterized by suggestive movements and mocking texts. By the early eighteenth century the chaconne had evolved into a slow triple meter musical form. The chaconne is understood today—in a rather arbitrary way—to be a set of variations on a harmonic progression, as opposed to a set of variations on a melodic bass pattern (to which is likewise artificially assigned the term passacaglia). In actual usage in music history, the term "chaconne" has not been so clearly distinguished from passacaglia as regards the way the given piece of music is constructed.

Here is the thing, this is a longer version than the recording and it is with a full orchestra it seems... the above version is better:


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 11:48 am

51. Michel-Richard de Lalande -
Grand Motets (1680-1700)




Recording

Title: Te Deum
Performers: Les Arts Florissants
Director: William Christie
Length: 1 hour
Year: 1990

Review

If I had to chose a country with my favourite baroque music it would probably be France, which is actually quite under-represented in this list, particularly Lully is quite under-represented, having only one opera on the whole freaking list. But here we get the Lully of church music.

And it is fantastic, music for the court of Louis the XIV was quite spectacular as you can imagine, he wasn't called the sun king because of his love of sunbathing, but because he had tremendous delusions of grandeur, and so did the music that surrounded him, and that is really a lot of fun to listen to.

De Lalande gives us the most epic Church music that we got until now, this is devotion by people who didn't feel that humble, or humble at all, Louis was pretty much on the same level as God and this music reflects that. There are of course moments of tender devotion here, but what grabs your attention are the great instrumental and choral epics which go "Hey, God, how's it hanging?". Brilliant, beautiful and powerful stuff.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Delalande was arguably the greatest composer of French grands motets, a type of sacred work that was more pleasing to Louis XIV because of its pomp and grandeur, written for soloists, choir and comparatively large orchestra. According to tradition, Louis XIV organized a contest between composers, giving them the same sacred text and a time to compose the musical setting. He alone was the judge. Delalande was one of four winners assigned to compose sacred music for each quarter of the year (the other composers being Coupillet, Collasse and Minoret). Delalande's was the most important quarter of the year because of the Christmas holiday. Later he had full responsibility for the church music for the complete year.


Michel Richard de Lalande (1657 - 1726)
Mariage - III. Air pour les Indiens -
Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, Christophe Coin.


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 11:51 am

52. Henry Purcell -
Fantasias (1680)




Recording

Title: Fantazias
Performers: Rose Consort of Viols
Length: 53 minutes
Year: 1995

Review

If you asked my who my favourite viol composers are I would have to say François Couperin or Msrs. De Ste. Colombe (Pére and Fils) or Marin Marais, Purcell would not be in the top 5 really. And after listening to this recording the situation hasn't really shifted that much, I would thank the people on the editing team of this book to try to sell me British music for the sake of it. Ok, I know that after Purcell there will be no significant British composer until the 20th century (with the exception of Handel who was actually German, much like the Royal Family), but there is no need to toot your own horn.

Rant over, this is in no way bad, actually it is pretty good, only that I feel that better stuff was left out of the list for this to be included. But this is some pretty atmospheric music for Viol consort, and yes it is good. After a deep breath and a glass of water I have to admit to quite liking it, and that Purcell while being out of my Top 5 might just possibly make my Top 10. I am sorry I'm grumpy.

Purcell's Fantasias and In Nomines for the Viol are mainly sombre affairs, with the occasional light beam shinning through it, one of the best things about them however is the way in which Purcell is not afraid to create dissonances or to linger in a not for a very long time, making the work quite unexpected at times. But it isn't AMAZING, it's just nice.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Purcell is among the Baroque composers who has had a direct influence on modern rock and roll; according to Pete Townshend of The Who, Purcell was among his influences, particularly evident in the opening bars of The Who's "Pinball Wizard." The title song from the soundtrack of the film A Clockwork Orange is from Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary". Meanwhile, noted cult New Wave artist Klaus Nomi regularly performed "The Cold Song" from King Arthur during his career, including a version on his debut self-titled album, Klaus Nomi, from 1981; his last public performance before his untimely death was an interpretation of the piece done with a full orchestra in December 1982 in Munich.


Here an In Nomine, which are basically Fantasias based on the In Nomine setting:


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 11:53 am

53. John Blow -
Venus and Adonis (c.1683)




Recording

Title: Venus & Adonis
Performers: New London Consort, Catherine Bott, Michael George, Libby Crabtree
Director: Philip Pickett
Year: 1992
Length: 53 minutes

Review

This is the first British opera that we have knowledge of and it is quite an interesting one. Firstly it is much shorter than any one we have had up until now, lasting under one hour and then it is quite a simple affair. The plot is an extremely uncomplicated one.

This is the story of how Adonis goes hunting and Venus waits for him and eventually he comes back dying from a wound and then dies. So not much happening there, but there are some fascinating vignettes peppering the thing like the lesson that Cupid gives to the little cupids while they and Venus are waiting for the return of Adonis.

In the end it is quite derivative music, coming from a mix of French and Italian tradition, but with a humour all of its own, a very interesting piece with some truly great moments like the lesson and the mourning of Adonis.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Between 1680 and 1687 he [John Blow] wrote his only stage composition of which any record survives, the Masque for the entertainment of the King, Venus and Adonis. In this Mary Davies played the part of Venus, and her daughter by Charles II, Lady Mary Tudor, appeared as Cupid.

Some people from the Old Country do a production of Venus and Adonis, here's the third act:


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 11:55 am

54. Henry Purcell -
Dido And Aeneas (1683 or 1689)




Recording

Title: Dido & Aeneas
Performers: Academy Of Ancient Music And Chorus, Catherine Bott etc.
Director: Christopher Hogwood
Year: 1992
Length: 1 hour

Review

Another short British Opera, there is a major problem with these short operas, much like in John Blow's Venus And Adonis the story is extremely simple to be able to fit it in one hour, with prolonged arias which take their time to put plot across and interludes and dances, there is very little left in terms of a plot.

Plot is not, however, the only reason to listen or see an opera, and Dido and Aeneas rewards the listener in other ways. There are some delightful sections here, but none more so than Dido's Lament, near the end of the third act, a beautiful aria. Meanwhile there are some pretty amazing parts by the Sorceress which in the case of this recording is played by a man with an appropriately demonic voice.

It is hard to grade this opera, because while it works brilliantly as music it works less well as a theatrical item. Because even if most people think of Opera as music it is much more than that, it is a play with music. Another reason to hate the Josh Grobans and Boccelis of this world, although Bocelli would have problems following stage directions without bumping into the scenery.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

This work is somewhat problematic, since no score in Purcell's hand is extant, and the only seventeenth century source is a libretto, possibly from the original performance. The difficulty is that no later sources follow the act divisions of the libretto, and the music to the prologue is lost. Part of this stems from the practice of the time of using such entertainments to add spice to another piece, such as a play, breaking up the original work and only using parts of it, rather than putting it on as a complete work.([2] pg. iv) It is a monumental work in the Baroque opera, remembered as one of Purcell's (and perhaps England's) foremost operatic works. It may be considered Purcell's only true opera, as compared with his other musical dramatic works such as King Arthur and The Fairy-Queen, as well as the first English opera. It owes much to John Blow's Venus and Adonis, including structure and overall effect.

Maria Ewing as Dido at the end of the Opera, starting with the amazing lament:


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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 11:59 am

55. Jean-Baptiste Lully -
Armide (1686)




Recording

Title: Armide
Performers: Collegium Vocale, La Chapelle Royale et al.
Director: Philippe Herreweghe
Year: 1992
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes

Review

Finally something by Lully, but as much as I love him I am still slightly disappointed, why not have Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme or the Divertissement Royal instead of what is quite an insipid opera by Lully Standards?

Lully is all about the pomp and circumstance and there isn't enough of that here, he is never best at vocal work unfortunately. Still there are some prize moments here, and for that this opera is a worthy addition to the list. It is an epic, although I could not find the libretto for it unfortunately, leaving me to guess what was happening from reading a synopsis of the Opera.

Lully is at his best in the instrumental interludes or when a choir comes in allowing him to do his best Sun-King sound. But you kind of keep waiting for these moments through the recitatives and arias, there is nothing of the calibre of Dido's Lament here or anywhere near it. And this is a pity for such a great composer.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Roughly eight decades following Monteverdi's L’Orfeo, Jean-Baptiste Lully produced Armide with his longtime collaborator, playwright Jean-Philippe Quinault. Together they had developed the tragédie en musique/tragédie lyrique, which served as a new form of opera that combined elements of classical French drama with ballet, the French song tradition and a new form of recitative. Armide was one of Lully’s last operas and is therefore extremely developed in style.

The opera's instrumental overture is divided into two parts, all with the same highly professional sound, as if to accompany the entrance of a highly revered authority. It is in fact, according to the Norton Anthology of Western Music, a “majesty suitable to the king of France, whose entrance into the theater the overture usually accompanied when he was in attendance” (NAWM p. 520). At points it is playful and bouncy, but while always remaining ceremonious. The first section of the overture is in fact slower than the second, which speeds up the rhythm, before returning to the slower pace of the beginning.

The most famous moment in the opera is Act II, scene 5, a monologue by the enchantress Armide, considered “one of the most impressive recitatives in all of Lully’s operas” (NAWM p 520). Armide, accompanied by only a continuo, alternates between glorying in her own power and succumbing to piercing angst. Clutching a dagger, she expresses to us her unyielding desire to kill the knight Renaud, who has foiled her plan to keep captive the knights of the Crusades, whom she had imprisoned for the sake of her own pleasure. Though not orchestrally elaborate, the techniques of dramatic interpretation of rhythm, impressive use of stressing on downbeats, and exaggerated use of rests beautifully complicate this piece.

Chaconne from Armide:


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 12:03 pm

56. Alessandro Scarlatti -
Cantatas (1688 - 1720)




Recording

Title: Scarlatti - Hasse, Salve Regina- Cantatas & Motets
Performers: Deborah York, James Bowman, The King's Consort et al.
Director: Robert King
Year: 1996
Length: 50 minutes

Review

This is some beautiful music indeed, the Cantata is usually seen as the poor cousin of the opera, but actually its lack of emphasis on being performed means that it compensates by its beautiful musical flourishes.

Each and every piece of music here by Alessandro Scarlatti is extremely interesting and very, very beautiful, actually it feels a lot more like later Baroque of the style of Vivaldi and so forth than most of the music we have heard before.

The recording also contains works by two other composers, but the Cantatas are truly the highlight for me, they have an immense range of emotion, form mournful to jubilant and everything in between sung marvellously, particularly the Cantatas by Deborah King. And the Largo Infelici Miei Lumi is particularly amazing,with some lovely dissonances.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Scarlatti's music forms an important link between the early Baroque Italian vocal styles of the 17th century, with their centers in Florence, Venice and Rome, and the classical school of the 18th century, which culminated in Mozart. His early operas (Gli Equivoci nel sembiante 1679; L’Honestà negli amori 1680, containing the famous aria "Già il sole dal Gange"; Pompeo 1683, containing the well-known airs "O cessate di piagarmi" and "Toglietemi la vita ancor," and others down to about 1685) retain the older cadences in their recitatives, and a considerable variety of neatly constructed forms in their charming little arias, accompanied sometimes by the string quartet, treated with careful elaboration, sometimes by the harpsichord alone. By 1686 he had definitely established the "Italian overture" form (second edition of Dal male il bene), and had abandoned the ground bass and the binary form air in two stanzas in favour of the ternary form or da capo type of air. His best operas of this period are La Rosaura (1690, printed by the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung), and Pirro e Demetrio (1694), in which occur the arias "Rugiadose, odorose", and "Ben ti sta, traditor".

None of this is on youtube, but there is a lovely video of Teresa Berganza singing Violette by Scarlatti:


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 12:12 pm

57. Juan De Araujo -
Dixit Dominus (c.1689)




Recording

Title: Moon, sun & all things
Performers: Ex Cathedra
Director: Jeffrey Skidmore
Year: 2004
Length: 8 minutes 30 seconds

Review

This piece is particularly interesting because it comes from the context of the Spanish colonies in Latin America and in that sense it is of quite great historical importance, particularly as it is music without much visibility in the wider world.

Unfortunately, however this particular track from what is a fascinating CD is not that interesting. It is pretty much a throwback to polychoral music, nothing is particularly new or innovative, even if a lot of the sounds on the album clearly are inspired by native music that is not the case with this particular work, which sounds very much European.

So interesting because it was composed in Bolivia, but not much else. Does not fascinate me.

Final Grade

7/10

Trivia

From Goldbergweb:

South America’s greatest composer of the Early- to Mid-Baroque, Juan de Araujo was the last significant voice of the older Iberian tradition, before the invasion by Elizabetta Farnese’s Italians in Madrid (and in short order the Américas) around 1715.

There isn't a video available of this piece, so we have to put another one from the same author:
Juan de Araujo - Los Coflades de la Estleya
Ex Cathedra Choir and Orchestra, Jeffrey Skidmore
New World Symphonies: Baroque Music from Latin America


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Jue Sep 24, 2009 12:19 pm

58. Marc-Antoine Charpentier -
Te Deum (1690s)




Recording

Title: Te Deum
Performer: Les Arts Florissants
Director: William Christie
Year: 1989
Length: 23 minutes

Review

The prelude of this Te Deum will make a smile come to the face of anyone in Europe, as it has been co-opted decades ago as the music for the Eurovision Broadcasting thing, meaning that if you have Eurovision Song Contest or more frequently as a child growing up in a Formula 1 obsessed house on every single Formula 1 broadcast. So this is probably the most familiar tune to me on the list up until now.

But frankly that shouldn't taint what is a pretty great piece of music, if we ignore the Prelude which has all the pomposity associated with Louis XIV the rest of the Te Deum is just as great. And great is definitely the word here, grandiose is what Charpentier is going for and he does it beautifully.

The choirs are pretty amazing with the last movement neatfully mirroring the prelude in it's greatness. Fun, beauty and grandiosity in a little Charpentier pack. Get it.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Beginning around 1672, he worked with Molière, after Molière's falling out with Jean-Baptiste Lully. During the 1680s Charpentier served as maître de musique at the Jesuits' Paris church of St. Louis. In addition, Charpentier served as the music teacher to Philippe, Duke of Chartres. Charpentier was appointed maître de musique à la Sainte Chapelle in 1698, a post he held until his death in 1704. One of his most famous compositions during his tenure was the Mass "Assumpta Est Maria" (H.11).

Eurovision, Charpentier's Te Deum Prelude:


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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Vie Sep 25, 2009 12:43 pm

59. Henry Purcell -
The Fairy Queen (1692)




Recording

Title: The Fairy Queen
Performers: Schutz Choir of London, London Classical Players, et al.
Director: Roger Norrington
Year: 1999
Length: 2 hours 15 minutes

Review

This is a strange kind of opera, well it would be more accurate to call it a semi-opera, a type of opera quite endemic to the British Isles, it also makes for some pretty uninteresting Opera from the point of view of dramatic expression.

This is not so much an opera as a collection of vignettes that were supposed to fill in the spaces between the acts of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. The vignettes themselves are quite unrelated to the play in many of the cases, they are related however to the event when this was first played in the court of King William III.

Watching or listening to it today out of context is just baffling, maybe it should be integrated with the play making it last for more than 4 hours and it would still make little sense.

Musically, however it is lovely, some of Purcell's best music but it is so disjointed that it even hardly feels like a whole work and more like several little works. Some of them are funny, some tragic, some nonsensical. Oh well.

Final Grade

7/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The English tradition of semi-opera, to which The Fairy-Queen belongs, demanded that most of the music within the play be introduced through the agency of supernatural beings, the exception being pastoral or drunken characters. All the masques in The Fairy-Queen are presented by Titania or Oberon. Originally Act I contained no music, but due to the work's enormous success it was revived in 1693, when Purcell added the scene of the Drunken Poet and two further songs later on in the work; "Ye gentle spirits of the air" and "The Plaint". As said above, each masque is subtly related to the action in the play during that particular act in a metaphorical way. In this manner we have Night and Sleep in Act II, which is apt as that act of the play consists of Oberon's plans to use the power of the "love-in-idleness" flower to confuse various loves, and it is therefore appropriate for the allegorical figures of Secrecy, Mystery et al to usher in a night of enchantment. The masque for Bottom in Act III includes metamorphoses, songs of both real and feigned love, and beings who are not what they seem. The Reconciliation masque between Oberon and Titania at the end of Act IV prefigures the final masque. The scene changes to a Garden of Fountains, denoting King William's hobby, just after Oberon says "bless these Lovers' Nuptial Day". The Four Seasons tell us that the marriage here celebrated is a good one all year round and "All Salute the rising Sun"/...The Birthday of King Oberon". The kings of England were traditionally likened to the sun (Oberon = William. Significantly, William and Mary were married on his birthday, 4 November.). The Chinese scene in the final masque is in homage to Queen Mary's famous collection of china. The garden shown above it and the exotic animals bring King William back into the picture and Hymen's song in praise of their marriage, plus the stage direction bringing (Mary's) china vases containing (William's) orange trees to the front of the stage complete the symbolism.

Hornpipe from Fairy Queen:


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Vie Sep 25, 2009 12:50 pm

60. Henry Purcell -
Come Ye Sons Of Art, Away (1694)




Recording

Title: Purcell Complete Odes And Welcome Songs - volume 8
Performers: Choir Of New College Oxford, The King's Consort
Director: Robert King
Year: 1992
Length: 25 minutes 40 seconds

Review

Purcell has saved the best for last and this is definitely my favourite Purcell from the list, although my favourite Purcell composition is not here, the Music for Queen Mary's Funeral we do get some music for Queen Mary's Birthday.

This is a great ode and as would be appropriate to a Birthday it is a cheery one. Purcell gives us a delightful collection of music here, with a lot of variety while keeping a theme of music celebrating its patron.

Purcell definitely has a light touch here even including in jokes on the third movement when he refers to the Shores meaning the two trumpeters in his orchestra. And this is all tempered with some great pomp particularly in the last choir which gives an approapriately bombastic ending to a great Ode.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

He died at his house in Dean's Yard, Westminster, in 1695, at the height of his career; he was in his mid-thirties. The cause of Purcell's death is unclear: one theory is that he caught a chill after returning late from the theatre one night to find that his wife had locked him out; another is that he succumbed to chocolate poisoning; perhaps the most likely is that he died of tuberculosis. The beginning of Purcell's will reads:

In the name of God Amen. I, Henry Purcell, of the City of Westminster, gentleman, being dangerously ill as to the constitution of my body, but in good and perfect mind and memory (thanks be to God) do by these presents publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament. And I do hereby give and bequeath unto my loving wife, Frances Purcell, all my estate both real and personal of what nature and kind soever...

Purcell is buried adjacent to the organ in Westminster Abbey. His epitaph reads, "Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that blessed place where only his harmony can be exceeded."

So that's the end of Purcell.

Henry Purcell, Come ye sons of art.
Concerto di Pasqua.
Direttore Mario Pigazzini, Gruppo strumentale da camera Ciampi, organo: Marco Molaschi, basso: Alessandro Molinari, tenore: Mario Visentin, controtenore: Michel Van Goethem, soprano: Chiara Borlenghi


JM

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

Mensaje  JM el Vie Sep 25, 2009 12:52 pm

61. Antonio Caldara -
Maddalena ai Piedi di Cristo (c. 1698)




Recording

Title: Maddalena ai Piedi di Cristo
Performers: Schola Cantorum Basilensis Orchestra, Maria Cristina Kiehr, Andreas Scholl et al.
Director: Rene Jacobs
Year: 1996
Length: 2 hours 5 minutes

Review

Caldara is not a name I had heard before and that makes him a good find here, because this is a pretty great work. We are no coming inexorably to High Baroque when instrumental music starts being as important as vocal music and you can see those seeds very much here, even if this is still a vocal piece.

It is a vocal piece with a difference however, the arias are accompanied with some tremendous instrumental playing which becomes as much part of the music as the voice itself, a particular highlight for me is Pompe Inutili on the first CD, almost a Cello and Voice Concerto, beautiful cello solo allied to some of the best singing we have had. A real highlight.

But then the whole Oratorio is quite beautiful, Caldara eschews choirs here, there is no need for them, when he needs pomp he uses instruments to give it to us and it works perfectly. Just a little gem.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Caldara was born in Venice (exact date unknown), the son of a violinist. He became a chorister at St Mark's Cathedral also in Venice, where he learned several instruments, probably under the instruction of Giovanni Legrenzi. In 1699 he relocated to Mantua, where he became maestro di cappella to the Duke. He remained there until 1707, then moved on to Barcelona as chamber composer to Charles VI of Austria, then pretender to the Spanish throne with his royal court at Barcelona. There, he wrote some operas that are the first Italian operas performed at Spain. He moved on to Rome, becoming maestro di cappella to Prince Ruspoli. While there he wrote "Faithfulness in Love Defeats Treachery" for the public theatre at Macerata. In 1716, he obtained a similar post in Vienna to serve the Imperial Court, and there he remained until his death.

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Re: 1001 classical works (The best) I- 12th-17th Centuries

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