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Antonio Caldara (1670 - 1736): "Cantate e Sonate"

Fons Musicae
Dir: Yasunori Imamura

rec: Sep & Oct, 2001, Grimisuat (Sion, Switzerland), Studio Tibor Varga
Pan Classics - 10 139 (77'02")

Chaconne for 2 violins and bc in B flat, op. 2,12; Dipartita amorosa / Clori e Tirsi, cantata for 2 voices, 2 violins and bc; Daliso e Clori (Quel duolo del mio core), cantata for 2 voices, 2 violins and bc; Sonata a 3 for 2 violins and bc in c minor, op. 1,6

Monique Zanetti, soprano; Pascal Bertin, alto; François Fernandez, Sara Kuijken, violin; Rainer Zipperling, cello; Yasunori Imamura, theorbo, guitar; Naoki Kitaya, harpsichord

Antonio Caldara is one of those composers from Italy whose career brought him to Vienna, where he composed and performed mainly oratorios. He started his career in Venice where he was born in 1670 and where he studied with Giovanni Legrenzi. Being an accomplished cellist he was probably a member of the orchestras of the opera houses in Venice. In the 1690's he published two collections of trio sonatas, which are following the example of Corelli. His first opus, published in Venice in 1693, was again published by Roger in Amsterdam in 1698, a sign of their popularity. The chaconne which concludes his collection of 12 trio sonatas opus 2, could be interpreted as a tribute to Corelli, who also concludes his opus 2 with a chaconne.

After a period as maestro di cappella in Mantua, he went to Rome, where he started to compose oratorios and in particular chamber cantatas for the accademia of the Marchese Francesco Maria Ruspoli - Sunday morning concerts attended by the elite of Roman society. About 200 cantatas Caldara composed during his time in Rome. Among them are a number for two voices, soprano and alto. It is quite possible that the alto parts were performed by Caterina Petrolli, whom he married in 1711. From that point of view the performance by a male alto in this recording is perhaps not quite historically justified.

In the chamber cantatas of the baroque period mythological characters dominate, like Tirsi, Clori or Fileno. We meet three of them in the two cantatas on this disc. The overall structure is identical: the cantatas start with a two-movement Sinfonia, followed by a string of recitatives and arias for the respective singers, and concludes with a duet. The cantata Dipartita amorosa slightly differs from this pattern in that the Sinfonia is followed by a recitative for both singers. The concluding duet is also preceded by a recitativo a 2.

As far as the content is concerned, these two cantatas are more different. Whereas in Dipartita amorosa both lovers are united in lamenting their impending separation, Daliso e Clori is more about two characters in conflict with each other: Clori accuses Daliso of being unfaithful, whereas he swears to his faithfulness to her.

There is plenty of text illustration in these cantatas, like the violins imitating birds in Daliso's aria "Augelletti vezzosetti" (Beautiful little birds, learn how to call Clori) in Daliso e Clori or playing staccato notes (illustrating dropping tears) in Clori's aria "Crudo addio" in Dipartita amorosa.
Not only the two cantatas are full of expression, so are the trio sonatas, especially the slow movements of the Sonata in c minor ('grave' and 'adagio' respectively). The concluding Chaconne is a worthy conclusion of this disc.

The record company should be ashamed of itself for producing a booklet like this. In the liner notes cantatas are mentioned as if they appear on this recording, which they do not. And a part of the English liner notes is printed twice. The texts of the cantatas are riddled with omissions and typos, and the French translation of the concluding sections of Dipartite amorosa is printed twice, at the cost of the English translation.

Fortunately the performance is better than the booklet is printed. The interpretation given here is considerably better than one of the ensemble's previous recordings (arias, duets and cantatas by Steffani). The main improvement is that Monique Zanetti is more able - or willing - to keep her vibrato in check, and as a result the balance between the two voices is far better. That is particularly important since the two singers have strongly different voices: Monique Zanetti rather bright and strong and dramatic, Pascal Bertin more intimate, soft and sweet. Only in the forte passages Monique Zanetti's vibrato starts to manifest itself again. The instrumentalists are doing a good job, both in the instrumental works as well as in the cantatas, where the effects Caldara requires are well realised.

Johan van Veen (© 2004)

Relevant links:

Antonio Caldara
Pan Classics

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