Saturday, 25 March 2017


“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” - Soren Kierkegaard 

Antonio Bertali (probably March 1605 – 17 April 1669) was an Italian composer and violinist of the Baroque era. He was born in Verona and received early music education there from Stefano Bernardi. Probably from 1624, he was employed as court musician in Vienna by Emperor Ferdinand II. In 1649, Bertali succeeded Giovanni Valentini as court Kapellmeister. He died in Vienna in 1669 and was succeeded in his post by Giovanni Felice Sances.

Bertali's compositions are in the manner of other northern Italian composers of the time and include operas, oratorios, a large number of liturgical works, and chamber music. Particularly his operas are notable for establishing the tradition of Italian opera seria in Vienna. Approximately half of his output is now lost; copies survive made by Bertali’s contemporary, Pavel Josef Vejvanovský, some of the pieces are currently in possession of Vienna’s Hofbibliothek, the library of the Kremsmünster Abbey and the Kroměříž archive.

The most important source for Bertali’s work is, however, the Viennese Distinta Specificatione catalogue, which lists several composers of the Habsburg court and provides titles and scoring for more than 2000 compositions. The Ciaccona (chaconne) is perhaps Bertali’s best-known work.

Here is his Oratorio “La Strage degl’ Innocenti” (The Massacre of the Innocents), relating to the biblical account of infanticide by Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi. This is performed by the ensemble, Melopoëia & Apollo & Pan.

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