Sebastiano Baldini was a poet so well known as a writer of texts for music in his native
Rome that almost every composer working there in the mid-17th century would have enjoyed some form of collaboration with him. The playboy composer Alessandro Stradella was no exception; and, given their choice to work together despite the clashing of their towering egos (usually over Stradella’s slashing editing of Baldini’s texts for other composers), it’s hardly surprising that the result was a combination of music and text so inextricable that it’s impossible to tell which came first.
The ‘world premiere’ of La forza delle stelle on this disc is not the first recording of the piece per se but the first conflation of the two versions over which Stradella and Baldini argued, and consequently the most complete representation of the whole project currently available. La forza is a work of considerable craft (researched and edited by Carolyn Gianturco, whose reconstructions of this type have long been worth seeking out), beautifully galvanised by the Roman group Ensemble Mare Nostrum as an easy progression through a satirical story of love and fate. There is more to interest the ear here than there often is in ‘new’ discoveries and the performances far outstrip those commonly associated with such niche recordings: they provide powerful but clean operatic interpretations – Raffaele Pé and Nora Tabbush are particular treats – of the extreme expressionism of these two artistic collaborators, both of whom lived lives coloured by dissoluteness and debauchery.