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Travellers' Fantasies: Una Follia di Napoli

Maurice Steger records recorder pieces from the mid-Baroque from Naples, during a short period when the instrument there became popular enough to see the composition for it, from a number of composers. This 2012 recording on Harmonia Mundi features Steger with a number of support musicians performing works by Sarro, A. Scarlatti, Fiorenza, D. Scarlatti, Barbella, Mancini, and L. Leo.

Steger plays Pieces from Naples

A few of these pieces emerged earlier on disc, and from my collection, what comes to mind, was a recording by Giovanni Antonini with a relatively young Il Giardino Armonico performing the Sarro. Always an expressive player, I can say that Steger, here, likely outshines him in expression and virtuosity. That doesn't mean the end-result is always superior, but it's at worst equally good. In the case of the fourth movement, Steger and ensemble treat it more like a bass line with variations, it caught me off guard first, but the change was certainly welcome if you were already familiar with another way of approaching it. There's a concerted effort by all on the disc, it seems, to be creative.

5th on the disc is a version of Follias that opens with lute. At over 11 minutes, it's a major highlight of the recording, with a lot of virtuosic flair. I might have placed it last.

Steger plays a variety of instruments. About the only criticism I have is the use of a psaltry in his instrumentarium/backup band. Playing the instrument is the talented Margit Übellacker from L'Arpeggiata, but it's a color that puts things just one tad over the top in trying too hard at being creative.

Please know going too far or trying too hard is more welcome than far too many sleepy recordings. Few players could match Steger's technical abilities, and his playing really didn't require extra color. That said, all the musicians play well together in good taste.

Recommended for mid-18th century Italian baroque enthusiasts, or fans of the recorder, who will likely encounter a few new pieces.

Jaroussky Farinelli, Popora Arias

Imagine - Pieces by Bach, Performed by Jean Rondeau