Agostino Steffani was a composer who, more so than anyone else, was responsible for the diffusion of musical taste for musical drama and Venetian chamber music throughout Europe and, in particular, in the German speaking countries. He had a considerable influence on Georg Friedrich Händel, who owed him quite a bit both in terms of the music he wrote and in terms of his career. It was Händel who took over Steffani’s position as Choirmaster and Musical Director in the court of Hannover in 1710, when the composer from Castelfranco Veneto was called to the highest diplomatic offices of the Elector of the Palatinate.
Agostino Steffani was and remains one the most important Italian composers of the 1600 and 1700s. Given the creativity of his music and the widespread diffusion of Italian music in all of Europe, he can be considered one of the most important composers in the history of music, undoubtedly doubt equal to Alessandro Scarlatti.
25/07/1654 Born in Castelfranco Veneto
1667 Followed the Elector Ferdinand Maria to Munich
1669 – 1671 Studied with J. K. Kerll
1672 Studied with E. Bernabei, who he went later followed to Munich
1675 Named court organist
1678 – 1679 Became resident in Paris and Turin.
1681 Wrote “Marco Aurelio”, his first theatrical opera. Was named Director of Chamber Music, Vice Choirmaster and Music Director and court diplomat.
1682 Ordained Abbot of Lepsing (Baviera).
1685-1688 “Solone”, “Audacia e Rispetto”, “Servio Tullio”, “Alarico il Baltha”,
“Niobe, Regina di Tebe”. Leaves the court of Munich for that of Hannover.
1689 “Henrico Leone”,”La lotta di Ercole con Acheloo”, “Alceste” inaugurated the
opera season at the new theatre of Hanover.
1690-1695 “La superbia di Alessandro”, “Lo zelo di Leonato”, “Orlando generoso”
“Le rivali concordi”, “La libertà contenta o Alcibiade”, “Bacchanali” “I Trionfi del Fato o le Glorie d’Enea” (“Enea in Italia” or “Didone”).
1696 – 1697 During this period Steffani begins an intense diplomatic activities in various European courts. Attribution of “Briseide” and “La costanza nelle selve” is dubious.
1703 Enters into the service of Giovanni Guglielmo Prince of Palatinate and is named Rector of the University of Heidelberg.
1706 Pope Clemente XI consecrates him Bishop of Spiga “in partibus infidelium”.
1709 Composes “Tassilone”, a tragedy in five acts, which is the most important work to come out of Steffani’s collaboration with the librettist S.B. Pallavicino. “Amor vien dal Destino o Il Turno”.
1709 – 1721 Returns to Hannover as Choirmaster and Director of Music but will continue to alternate between diplomatic activities and composition. On his return from a trip to Rome to see the Cardinal Ottoboni, he is accompanied by a young G. F. Händel, who will succeed him as Choirmaster and Music Director in 1710, when the diplomatic “offices” prohibit him from continuing in that position.
1722 -1727 Diplomatic activities in Germany and Italy. The London Music Academy names him Honorary President.
12/02/1728 While traveling to Italy he suffers a heart attack and dies in Frankfurt am Main.
Other works: approximately one hundred duets, “Duetti da Camera”, “Sei Scherzi a due voci con istromenti”, “Sette scherzi a una voce con istromenti”, “Due madrigali”, “Trastulli” and the “Sonate da Camera a tre, due Violini Alto e Basso”. Steffani also composed sacred music: “Stabat Mater, “Laudate Pueri”, “Laudate Dominum”, “Sperate in Deo” (1673-1674); “Due Mottetti” (1676); “Psalmodia vespertina volans 8 plenis v. concinenda op.1” (13 vespers and a Magnificat, Roma, 1674); “Sacer Janus quadrifons” (Munich, 1685). As far as theoretical works are concerned: “Quanta certezza abbia da suoi principii la Musica” was published in Amsterdam in 1695.