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Antonio CALDARA (1670 - 1736): Arias & Motets

[I] Motetti a due e tre voci op. 4
Ingeborg Dalheima, Anna Kellnhoferb, soprano; Alex Potterc, Franz Vitzthumd, alto; Jan Van Elsacker, tenore; Florian Götz, baritonef
United Continuo Ensemble
Dir: Thomas C. Boysen
rec: May 2 - 4, 2016, Schleswig, St. Johannis-Kloster; May 5, 2016, Gottorf, Kapelleg
Pan Classics - PC 10362 (© 2017) (59'06")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Antonio CALDARA: Ad Dominum cum tribulareraf; Benedictus Deuscd; Caro mea vere est cibusab; Ego sum panis vivusbd; Exaudi, Domine, vocem meamabf; Laboravi in gemitu meodef; Miserere mei, Domineadf; O sacrum conviviumabf; Peccavi super numerumdef; Respice in me, Domineadf; Transeunte Dominode; Transfige, dulcissime Jesudf; Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621): Psalm 116 'Ick hebb den Heer lief' (SwWV 313)g; Toccata 2. tonig; Franz TUNDER (1614-1667): Auf meinen lieben Gottg; Matthias WECKMANN (1618/19-1674): Toccata vel praeludiumg

Jörg Meder, violone; Thomas C. Boysen, theorbo; Johannes Hämmerle, organ (solog)

[II] "Caldara"
Valer Sabadus, alto
Nuovo Aspetto
Dir: Michael Dücker
rec: July 2 - 5, 2015, Cologne, Orchesterprobenzentrum
Sony - 88875129732 (© 2015) (69'13")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto da camera a violoncello soloa; David umiliato, oratorio (Ti darò laude, o Dio); Il guoco del quadriglio, opera (preludio; Ah se toccasse a me, aria); Il nome piu glorioso, componimento da camera (Giunse appena quel bel nome); Le lodi d'Augusto, festa di camera (Nume, che sei - Merta il propizio, acc & aria; Vive l'immagine vostra, aria); Le profezie evangeliche di Isaia, oratorio (Reggimi, o tu, che sola); Osminda e Fileno, cantata (attr) (sinfonia); Sedecia, oratorio (O eletto del signor - Ahi! Come quella un tempo città, rec & aria; Ti sento, Iddio, ti sento - Esca da l'Aquilon, rec & aria); Tirsi e Nigella, pastorale (preludio; Questo è il prato, aria)

Martin Sandhoff, transverse flute; Monika Fischalek, chalumeau; Elisabeth Seitz, salterio; Frauke Pöhl, violin; Mayumi Hirasaki, violin, harpsichord; Corina Golomoz, viola; Ulrike Becker, viola da gamba, cello (soloa); Francesco Saviagno, double bass; Johanna Seitz, harp; Michael Dücker, Stephan Rath, lute; Wiebke Weidanz, harpsichord

When Antonio Caldara entered the service of the imperial court in Vienna in 1716 he soon developed into one of the most famous composers in Europe. He took up the position of vice-Kapellmeister under Johann Joseph Fux and first court composer. In this capacity he was responsible for the composition of operas and other vocal works, not only for regular performances at the Hoftheater, but also at special occasions like birthdays and namedays of the Emperor and Empress. Charles VI was an ardent lover of music, as his predecessors had been, and that had resulted in a musical infrastructure which was second to none in Europe.

Caldara's oeuvre is huge; the number of his compositions is estimated at around 3,400. Despite his historical importance only a small part of his oeuvre is known today. It is telling that it is not catalogued as yet. The fact that only a very small portion was printed in his lifetime doesn't help. This can probably be explained by the fact that the largest part of his oeuvre consists of large-scale works, such as operas, serenatas and oratorios which were mostly not printed and his compositions were usually written for specific occasions and places - such as the imperial court in Vienna - or specific persons. The latter is the case with his cello sonatas which he composed at the request of the German count Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn-Wiesentheid.

The two discs reviewed here shed light on two very different aspects of Caldara's compositional activities. The first includes the twelve motets which he published as his op. 4 in 1715. The second is a sequence of arias from some of Caldara's vocal works, written for the court in Vienna.

Caldara composed his motets when he worked in Rome. He was in the service of Marquis Ruspoli, but dedicated the collection to Cardinal Ottoboni. They are scored for two or three voices and bc; none of the motets includes a part for a treble instrument. The texts are either biblical or liturgical. The disc opens with Caro mea vere est cibus, a setting of verses from the 6th chapter of the gospel of John. The second, Laboravi in gemitu meo, is based on the 7th verse from Psalm 6. Transeunte Domino is an antiphon for Sunday Quinquagesima, and the closing motet, O sacrum convivium, is a Magnificat-antiphon of the second Vespers of Corpus Christi.

Stylistically these motets are rather old-fashioned. Gerhard Poppe, in his liner-notes, states that "[the] motets could well have been composed at least 50 years previously, but this at least prevented them from falling quickly out of fashion." They are examples of Caldara's mastery of text expression. Respice in me, Domine, a setting of verses from Psalm 24 which is the introit for the third Sunday after Pentecost, opens with a descending chromatic line. More chromaticism comes later: first an ascending, later a descending figure, on the words "lacrimis meis". In Benedictus Deus chromaticism is used for the word "tribulatione". Miserere mei Domine on a verse from Psalm 6 includes some poignant dissonants, and the same is the case with Peccavi super numerum (I have sinned beyond the number of the sands of the sea). The closing line is an eloquent example of text illustration: "I have provoked your wrath, and done evil in your sight." It is quite theatrical and reminds us of Caldara's skills as an opera composer. Another example is the coloratura on the word "clamavi" (I have cried). Transfige, dulcissime Jesu, a setting of lines from the Oratio Sancti Bonaventurae, has an intimate character which fits the text very well.

The six singers deliver wonderful performances. They have captured the character of every single piece perfectly and their voices blend very well. Thanks to their perfect intonation the harmonic peculiarities which are such an important tool of expression, come off to the full. The balance could have been a little better; especially the bass is often a bit overshadowed. It is quite odd that the motets are alternated with organ pieces by composers from northern Germany and the teacher of some of them, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. "The organ compositions featured on this recording originated in the Netherlands and North Germany, but are still regarded as an element of a pan-European tradition displaying significant details of Italian style", Poppe writes. That may be true but I find this connection rather stretched. I would have preferred the inclusion of pieces from the time these motets were written. It can't be too difficult to find such pieces, for instance in the oeuvre of Bernardo Pasquini, who worked in Rome until his death in 1710. Johannes Hämmerle plays the organ pieces well, though, and uses an organ which perfectly suits them.

Caldara is best-known for his vocal works; from this part of his oeuvre Valer Sabadus has chosen a number of arias. Because of Caldara's connection to the imperial court and to other courts before 1716 he was expected to compose occasional works, such as serenatas, which were mainly used as vehicles to sing the praise of a royal or aristocratic person. His employer was Charles VI, who became Emperor in 1711, succeeding his brother Joseph I. In 1708, when he was still Archduke Charles III of Austria, he married Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in Barcelona. In this and the next year Caldara composed several occasional pieces, for instance Il nome più glorioso, a componimento da camera for Charles' nameday, 4 November. The aria Giunse appena quel bel nome has obbligato parts for lute and cello. There can be little doubt that Caldara himself, a cellist by profession, played that part himself during the performance.

In many of the works Caldara composed for the court in Vienna we find arias with obbligato parts for various instruments. This reflects the high standard of the court chapel which had many virtuosos in its ranks. One of them was the theorbist Francesco Bartolomeo Conti, who was later succeeded by his son. The most remarkable obbligato parts are for the salterio, a kind of dulcimer which was played in Vienna by Maximilian Hellmann, who was a pupil of the famous Pantaleon Hebenstreit. The scoring of the obbligato parts demonstrates the mixture of 'old' and 'new' which was a feature of the music scene in Vienna. On the one hand we find a part for viola da gamba (Esca da l'Aquilon, from Sedecia), on the other hand the aria Questo è il prato from the pastoral Nigella e Tirsi includes an obbligato part for the modern chalumeau. The same is the case with the arias: most are in the modern dacapo form, but the arias from the oratorios David umiliato (1731) and Sedecia (1732) are strophic, which was common in the 17th century.

This disc is an impressive demonstration of Caldara's qualities as a composer of vocal music, and in particular music of a dramatic nature. All the arias are very fine; especially Reggimi, o tu, che sola from the oratorio Le profezie evangeliche di Isaia is a wonderful piece. Vive l'immagine vostra from Le lodi d'Augusto, a festa di camera from 1731, has an obbligato part for the lute. The basso continuo is played here on the harp which results in a beautiful dialogue between the two instruments. Valer Sabadus is on fine form here. On several occasions I noted a pretty excessive use of vibrato; it is not absent here, but he keeps it nicely in check, and it hardly spoiled my enjoyment. The playing of the obbligato instruments is excellent, and so are the performances of the orchestra. The Concerto da camera a violoncello, apparently the only piece of this kind from Caldara's pen, is given a sparkling interpretation by Ulrike Becker.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

Relevant links:

Anna Kellnhofer
Alex Potter
Valer Sabadus
Franz Vitzthum
Nuovo Aspetto
United Continuo Ensemble

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