Polymath of the Baroque: Agostino Steffani and His Music

By Cheney, Stuart | Notes, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Polymath of the Baroque: Agostino Steffani and His Music


Cheney, Stuart, Notes


BAROQUE MUSIC Polymath of the Baroque: Agostino Steffani and His Music. By Colin Timms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. [xviii, 422 p. ISBN 0195154738. $99.00.] Illustrations, music examples, bibliography, index.

Colin Timms has synthesized much of his life's scholarly work in his biography of Agostino Steffani (1654-1728), and readers interested in Italian and German music of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, especially the widespread phenomenon of Italian dramatic music imported into Germany, owe the author a debt of gratitude for elucidating so clearly the life and works of one of the period's principal figures. If anyone were to write this book it would have to be Timms, whose work over thirty-seven years has frequently centered on Steffani's chamber vocal works and other genres. The author has already written at least sixteen studies on the composer's biography and music, along with producing editions of the music; among these are groundbreaking works on Steffani's chamber duets (including Timms's Ph.D. dissertation), operas, correspondence, and Handel's indebtedness to Steffani's secular and even sacred vocal works. The British Academy recognized Polymath of the Baroque by awarding it the 2004 Derek Allen Prize.

Part 1 (chapters 1-5) provides the biographical portion of the book, with a chapter each on Steffani's early life in Castelfranco and Padua, his professional tenures in Munich, Hanover, and Düsseldorf, and finally his position as Apostolic Vicar of North Germany. Timms draws on an impressive command of a multitude of historical sources, including manuscript scores; libretti; letters by the composer, his patrons, and observers; extensive archival resources in Hanover, Munich, Rome, Venice, and Würzburg; and a wide array of historical studies written since the mid-eighteenth century. This means that the few speculations Timms necessarily makes in order to fill in significant gaps in the biography are highly informed.

Part 2 (chapters 6-9) examines the music in four chapters, divided between the composer's sacred works, two chapters devoted to the operas, and his chamber works. Specific examples of Steffani's music, along with their place in each genre's tradition, are clearly explained. Timms writes fluidly and engagingly in both parts of the book, each of which requires specialized approaches to the subjects at hand. Three useful appendices follow. Appendix A presents a small group of documents in their original Italian or German, including an autobiographical letter by the composer. Appendix B is the first published catalog of Steffani's musical output, which will prove to be one of the most useful aspects of the book; its twenty pages organize the works by genre and provide information on the principal manuscript and printed sources, including some modern editions. Each of Steffani's sixteen operas is broken down in Appendix C by such features as overall dramatic structure, types of vocal scorings, arias and their subtypes, instrumental involvement in arias, and key-relationship statistics for the recitatives.

An extraordinarily gifted singer, Steffani was taken at age twelve from Italy to Munich, where he was to spend twenty-one years in the service of the elector of Bavaria. He later spent fifteen years in Hanover, six in Düsseldorf, and most of his remaining nineteen years back in Hanover. Owing to his musical and especially diplomatic activities, Steffani was unusually well traveled; besides his principal cities of residence, he lived and worked in Venice, Rome, Paris, Turin, Vienna, Brussels, The Hague, Herten, Leipzig, Dresden, Heidelberg, Brunswick, and Florence. In 1722 Steffani retired to Padua near his native Castelfranco, but was persuaded back into ecclesiastical duty in 1725 and returned to Hanover. His wide travels produced another impressive list, that of the several prominent musicians with whom he crossed paths: his teachers Johann Caspar Kerll and Ercole Bernabei, plus Gaetano Berenstadt, Jean-Baptiste Farinel, John Ernest Galliard, George Frideric Handel, August Kühnel, Carlo Pallavicino, Johannes Schenck, Silvius Leopold Weiss, and probably Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Polymath of the Baroque: Agostino Steffani and His Music
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.