Within the vast repertoire of the Baroque oratorio, San Nicola di Bari is unique in two ways. It is the only composition to treat a scene from Saint Nicholas' life, and the only one that emerged from the long and successful collaboration between the librettist Silvio Stampiglia and the composer Giovanni Bononcini. Although Giovanni Bononcini was undeniably one of the most successful and influential composers of the Italian mid-Baroque period, his fame with audiences today is no longer what it once was. So far, none of his operas and only one of his oratorios have been recorded. We hope that the present recording of Bononcini's most successful oratorio will awaken some curiosity about the many other masterpieces of a composer who has, unfortunately and undeservedly, dwelled too long in the shadows.
Lavinia Bertotti, soprano
Elena Cecchi Fedi, soprano
Gabriella Martellacci, alto
Furio Zanasi, bass
LES MUFFATTI came into being to satisfy the need felt by several young Brussels musicians — with an eye to performing Baroque orchestral repertoire — to establish a professional working environment where the basic pleasure of music-making, the refinement of skills, and the investigation of content could be equably combined. Their enthusiasm, application and idealism resonated with Baroque specialist Peter van Heyghen, who joined the ensemble as permanent coach and conductor. They presented their debut concert in Brussels in 2004, and have since performed in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. They have appeared numerous times in the Concertgebouw in Bruges, at the Musica Sacra festival in Maastricht, and at the renowned Early Music festivals in Bruges and Utrecht.
The ensemble's name refers to the cosmopolitan composer Georg Muffat (1653-1704), a key figure in the orchestra's history, and one of the first writers to describe in detail the great stylistic differences between French and Italian Baroque music. LES MUFFATTI's first recording was devoted to the works of this composer.
The central element of LES MUFFATTI's performance practice is their permanent endeavour to perfect a musical approach grafted to the inherent theatricality so elemental to Baroque art. This goal — one reaching much further than simply the correct performance of a score — is based on the conviction that this highly affective and rhetorical form of communication is not only typical of the Baroque, but is essentially universal in character. A thorough knowledge of style, appropriate playing techniques and a carefully assembled instrumentarium allow LES MUFFATTI to continually entertain, move and convince modern audiences with historic repertoire.
Peter Van Heyghen, direction
Tuomo Suni (KM), Ingrid Bourgeois, Sandrine Dupé, Marie Haag, Laurent Hulsbosch, Marcin Lasia, Catherine Meeùs, Tami Troman, violins
Wendy Ruymen, Julie Vermeulen, Manuela Bucher, violas
Marian Minnen, Corentin Dellicour, Marc Vanscheeuwijck, violoncello, violoncello picollo and bass violin
Benoît Vanden Bemden, double bass
Kris Verhelst, harpsichord
Bart Jacobs, organ
Bernard Zonderman, archlute
PETER VAN HEYGHEN was trained as a recorder player and singer at the Royal Conservatory in Gent (Belgium). Through the years he developed into an internationally acknowledged specialist in the field of historical performance practice of both Renaissance and Baroque music. He performs worldwide as a soloist, with the recorder consort Mezzaluna, with the chamber music ensemble More Maiorum, as the co-director of the Dutch vocal Renaissance ensemble Cappella Pratensis and as the conductor and artistic director of the Brussels Baroque orchestra Les Muffatti. He is a regularly invited guest at the early music festivals of Bruges, Antwerp, Utrecht, and St.Petersburg, among others.
In 2005 he was selected as the »festival star« of the Bruges Musica Antiqua festival by the Flemish radio channel Klara. Between 2007 and 2009 his ensembles will be in residence at the Centre for Early Music Augustinus in Antwerp. He has recorded for the labels Passacaille, Eufoda, Accent, Opus 111, Klara and Ramée.
Peter Van Heyghen is also active as a researcher, publicist and teacher. He is professor of Historical Performance Practice at the Early Music Departments of the Royal Conservatories in Brussels and The Hague, and is also regularly invited to give masterclasses, lectures and conduct workshops throughout the world.
In more recent years, Peter Van Heyghen has been increasingly active as a conductor and teacher in the field of the Baroque operatic repertoire. Together with stage-director and choreographer Sigrid T'Hooft he has conducted the opera workshop at the Händel-Akademie in Karlsruhe since 2003, and they have been invited to be the artistic directors of a full-scale production of Handel's opera Radamisto at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe in February 2009.