His full-length comic operas made Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801) the leading Italian composer of his day. But he also continued the tradition of the comic intermezzo that Pergolesi had defined with La serva padrona. A typical tale of social climbing and thwarted ambitions, I due baroni di Rocca Azzurra was first performed in Rome, in 1783; it then succeeded in Russia and Austria before reaching its natural home in Naples in 1793.
The trials and tribulations of exasperated theatre folk were a ready source of humour for 18th-century librettists and composers: Scarlatti, Haydn and Mozart all produced musical scenes of backstage buffoonery. But in Il maestro di cappella, Cimarosa distils the tradition into one solo dramatic scene that, in its precise evocation of a composer preparing a performance against the odds, allows us to eavesdrop on a lost musical world and its manners. The violinist and conductor Angelo Ephrikian (1913–1982) was a post-war pioneer in the rediscovery of Renaissance and Baroque Italian music, notably the music of Vivaldi. In these path-breaking performances from 1968, he conducts the distinguished baritone Gastone Sarti; Sarti was a member of the Quintetto Vocale Italiano, with whom Ephrikian recorded the complete works of Gesualdo.
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