Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/706
��Bernabei in Rome, for both Steffani and he were in Munich in the summer of 1674. Bernabei succeeded Kerl as Kapellmeister at Munich in that year. After his return Steffani again took up his position as Kammermusikus with a pay of 770 fl. 20 kr., and almost immediately published his first work, 'Psalmodia vespertina volans 8 plenis vocibus concinenda ab Augost. Steffana in lucem edita setatis suae anno 19 Monachii 1674.' This work was a brilliant success for the young composer, and a portion of it was thought worthy of being included by Padre Martini in his 'Saggio di Contrappunto,' published just a hundred years later. The extract is a fugue ' Sicut erat in principle,' ' estratto dal Magnificat dei Salmi brevi a 8 voci pieni.* Padre Martini here speaks of Steffani a one of the most remark- able professors that music can boast. Hawkins mentions that this work was previously printed during his stay in Rome in 1674, 8O tii&t * ne generally received notion of his having been a pupil of Ercole Bernabei is in all likelihood erroneous, 1 but that he gathered his knowledge from John Kaspar Kerl, a pupil and follower of Carissimi, and from his own study. On March I, 1675, he was appointed court organist.
But music was not the only study which had occupied his mind ; he must have been well educated from his early youth, for though he left Venice before he was 12 years old his writing remained through life an Italian hand. He had studied mathematics, philosophy, and theology with so much success that in 1680 he was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, with the title of Abbate of Lepsing; and such was the favour shown to him by the new Elector, his old friend Ferdinand Maria having died the year before, that a decree of Nov. 3, 1680, accords to the 'Honourable priest, Court and Chamber musician, and Organist Steffani,' a present of 1 200 florins for ' certain reasons and favours ' (gewissen Ursachen und Gnaden). Hitherto he had confined himself to the composition of motets and other church music, but now appeared his first work for the stage. The title, taken from the contemporary MS., evidently the conducting score, in the Royal Musical Library at Bucking- ham Palace, in an Italian hand, probably that of his secretary and copyist Gregorio Piva, runs thus : ' Marco Aurelio, Dramma posto in Musica da D. Agostino Steffani, Direttor della Musica di Camera di S. A. S. etc., di Baviera, 1'anno 1 68 1.' It will be seen that a further step had been gained he was now Director of Chamber- music. The score does not mention any wind instruments, but the overture is scored for 5 strings, the songs chiefly for 4. In the 1st act one of the characters accompanies another on the stage, but the instrument, probably a cembalo, is not mentioned. The overture opens with a short introduction of a broad character, followed by a fine and spirited fugal movement, and ending with a charming minuet. The first two acts finish with a ballet ; but after the 3rd and last act we
i Rudhardt can find no trace In the accounts at Munich of bis having had any lessons from Bernabei.
have a Scenico spettacolo rappresentato dai 15 Musici di Corte. This commences with a mock rehearsal, in which such sentences are found a ' Ah ! ah ! ah ! mi sento poco in voce,' etc. (my voice is in bad order). The opera contains many fine recitatives and melodious airs. For the time it was written it is a remarkable work, bearing traces of real genius. It is curious to find Fetis stating that the Da Capo was first introduced by Alessandro Scarlatti in his opera ' Teodora/ given in Home in 1693, whereas it is already here in, general use 1 2 years before, and Steffani himself probably borrowed it from Cavalli, who had greatly advanced opera since the days of Monteverde, and whose works Steffani must have heard in Venice, either in his chorister days or during his journey in 1674. ^ n ^83 appeared some Sonate da Camera for 2 violins, alto, and bass, and in 1685 a collection of motets entitled ' Sacer Janus Quadrifrons 3 voc. Monachii,' but no trace of these works is to be found. For the Carnival of 1685 he composed the opera ' Solone/ to words by Ventura Terzago, court poet since 1677. This appears to have been an opera bufFa in 3. acts ; the score however, like all the Munich operas by Steffani with the exception of ' Marco Aurelio,' is lost. In conjunction with Terzago, he further composed in this year a musical in- troduction for a tournament, with the following title : 'Audacia e Rispetto, prerogativo d'Amore, disputate in Campo di Marte. Torneo celebrato tra i carnevaleschi divertimenti della sua Elleto- rale corte dal Seren. Massimiliano Emanuele, etc., nelF anno 1685.' The new Elector Maxi- milian Emanuel was married at the end of 1685 to the Archduchess Maria Antonia, daughter of Leopold I., and the wedding festivities in Munich in the first days of January 1686 began with the opera ' Servio Tullio,' again by Terzago and Steffani, with ballets arranged by Rodier, and music to them by Dardespin, the Munich Concert- meister, danced by 12 ladies and gentlemen of the court, with costumes from Paris. The music made its mark, as we shall see hereafter. On Jan. 1 8, 1687, the birthday of the young Electress, we have an opera the text of which was by the new Italian secretary Luigi Orlandi, whose wife sang on the stage called ' Alarico il Baltha, cioe 1'audace, re dei Gothi,' with ballets composed, arranged, and danced as before. For this opera fresh Italian singers were brought from Italy. Of the value of Steffani's music to it no record is given. In 1688 he composed the opera 'Niobe, regina di Thebe,' probably for the Carnaval, the text again by Orlandi. This was his last work for the Court of Munich.
Various reasons have been put forward to ac- count for his leaving a court where he had been, so well treated, and where the art of music was held in such esteem, for Munich had not only at this time good singers, a good orchestra, and ex- perienced and intelligent audiences, but had like- wise a splendid musical history. Duke Albert III. (1438-1460) was a great patron of the art ; he was followed by other rulers, all lovers of music. Here at the beginning of the i6th century we