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Glossa Music Record Label - Glossa Music: “Spain's first independent classical label.”
Release Date: 2014-04-29

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Alessandro Stradella (1639-82): La Susanna, oratorio

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Some composers are satisfied to live quiet but purposeful lives, have many children and leave a great musical legacy. Others are like Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682) who led the life of a scoundrel in the midst of a great musical career, living to only 42 years of age. He lived the life that movies are made of. He produced over 300 works composed for royalty, poets and clergy. He was also tried for embezzling from the church and got into many amorous affairs. He was run out of various cities, was the victim of an attempted assassination in 1677 and was murdered in 1682 by three brothers of a woman he had seduced.

Vocal music was Stradella's strength, having composed six operas and more than 170 oratorios. La Susanna is based on the same material as Handel’s oratorio composed in 1748. The narrative is taken from the biblical Book of Daniel. The first part sets up the story of a very pretty young married woman, Susanna. She is bathing nude in a private stream in her garden while two older men, both of them judges, lust after her. The men attempt to rape her but must stop when she screams out. To save themselves they lie, accusing Susanna of having an affair. If proven guilty, she would be stoned to death. In the second part of the oratorio, Susanna is imprisoned and begs the heavens for help. The young prophet Daniel arrives, saying he is an emissary of God. He speaks to both of the Judges separately and discovers that their stories differ. Daniel condemns the judges to death and frees Susanna.

Stradella scored the text written by the poet Giovanni Giardini. Musically and in form the piece sounds more like Monteverdi than Handel. There is definitely an early Baroque sound to the work. There are only five soloists: Susanna, Daniel, the two judges and a narrator. Susanna and Daniel are sopranos, one judge is a tenor, the other a bass and the narrator is a male alto (countertenor). There is a choir that at the end of the oratorio calls upon all to rejoice. Emanuela Galli sings the role of Susanna; her sound is bright and her singing makes an indelible impression. Barbara Zanichelli portrays Daniel and her singing is quite stylish and majestic. The narrator, sung by countertenor Roberto Balconi, occupies a critical role in the work. Balconi carries it off quite well, while tenor Luca Dordolo and bass Matteo Bellotto fill out the roles of the judges. Their excellent singing adds to the quality of the recording.

The Ensemble Aurora is led by Enrico Gatti with great precision and beauty. The recording was made in Preggio, Italy in July 2003 for Glossa. As with most Glossa recordings, the sonics are great and very effective.

Enjoy an extended extract from this recording in the video below.