Steffani is not a well known composer today but in his day was admired and enjoyed patronage from a number of European courts. Born in the middle of the seventeenth century he became a chorister at St Marco’s in Venice at a young age.
Angus Menzies played a range of pieces and set them in the context of his most interesting life. In addition to his musical and compositional abilities, he was a diplomat being sent on various diplomatic missions around Europe including Brussels. He was also involved in the various negotiations between the Hanoverian court and the Pope concerning the rights of Catholics in that city. He did sufficiently well to be made a bishop by the Pope.
He offered encouragement to Handel who was embarking on his career and who admired Steffani. We heard several works including a chaconne, arias and a trio sonata. Also an extract from the opera Enrico Leone.
His music was original and showed a blend of Italian and French influence derived from his time in Paris studying with the great French composer Lully.
The Elector of Hanover became George I of England and some of his manuscripts are preserved in Buckingham Palace. He was made president for life of the Academy of Ancient Music in England and in recognition of that, composed a Stabat Mater (and some other pieces) from which we heard an extract.
This was a fascinating evening listening to music that most members have never heard before. It is truly surprising the number of artists and composers who were once famous and sort after, are now almost forgotten and in the case of Steffani, undeservedly so.
The next meeting is on Monday 4 March and concerns another composer largely forgotten today, a Frenchman, Valentin Alkan. He composed much piano music but led an eccentric lifestyle. If you haven’t come to a meeting before you would be very welcome and it is only £3 to attend. There is free car parking outside. Further details look at the ‘find us’