San Giovanni Battista: Oratorio by Alessandro Stradella - Concert 1
Valletta Baroque Festival 2024
Music Director: Steven Devine
Countertenor: Filippo Mineccia (San Giovanni Battista)
Soprano: Gillian Zammit (Erodiade la Figlia)
Bass: Albert Buttigieg (Erode)
Mezzo soprano: Alessandra Vavasori (Erodiade la Madre)
Tenor: Cliff Zammit Stevens (Consigliere)
Valletta Baroque Ensemble:
Harpsichord & Conductor: Steven Devine
Violins: Alberto Intrieri, Sarah Spiteri
Cello: Jacob Portelli
Theorbo: Pablo Zapico
Violins: Tatjana Chircop, Carol Ciantar
Violas: Orietta Beaumer, Joseph Mallia
Cello: Ruth Maria Verona
Double bass: Gjorgji Cincievski
Alessandro Stradella, a gifted composer of the 17th century, is often remembered not only for his musical brilliance but also for the dramatic and scandalous conclusion to his short life. His untimely assassination at the age of forty-two has cast a lasting shadow of intrigue over his legacy.
Born in 1639 to a family of minor aristocrats south of Rome, Stradella made his mark in the Eternal City by the mid-1650s. Despite opportunities for permanent service in esteemed families, he chose independence, seeking commissions for a diverse range of musical works. His compositions spanned sonatas to operas, reflecting the major genres of his era. Stradella's distinctive and inventive musical style garnered admiration from influential figures like the Colonna and Chigi families, as well as Queen Christina of Sweden, providing a fertile ground for musicians during her exile in Rome.
A pioneer in shaping the concerto grosso style, Stradella's innovative approach featured a "concertino" group of soloists set against a larger "ripieno" ensemble. His vocal compositions were equally groundbreaking, incorporating virtuosic recitatives and arias with a scoring style reminiscent of the concerto grosso. With over three hundred works, including six operas and six oratorios, Stradella stood out as one of the most prolific composers of his generation. Despite his musical prowess, his downfall was attributed to a lack of discretion in engaging in romantic affairs with influential individuals' mistresses, a transgression that surpassed the tolerance of the 17th-century societal norms.
In 1675, leveraging his influential connections, Stradella obtained a prestigious commission from the Confraternity of the Florentines in Rome. The task was to compose an oratorio focusing on St. John the Baptist, the revered patron saint of Florence, which held special importance for the confraternity. The libretto for the oratorio was penned by Ansaldo Ansaldi, a revered poet and canon closely linked to the organisation.