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Antonio CALDARA (c.1670-1736)
Sonatas for two violins and continuo Op.2: No.4 in G minor; No.6 in A; No.8 in F

Chiacona No12
Cantatas Op.3: Il Silentio; L’Anniversario amoroso; La Fama

Vicino a un rivoletto – cantata for alto, violin and cello
The Four Nations Ensemble (Jennifer Lane (mezzo-soprano), Ryan Brown and Claire Jolivet (violins), Loretta O’Sullivan (cello) and Andrew Appel (harpsichord and director))
Recorded at St Mary’s Church, Hudson, New York, January and February 2001


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Caldara’s sacred vocal works are the ones by which we know him best – the Missa Dolorosa, the Stabat Mater, La Passione and the Magnificat are some that have received fine recordings recently – but this disc shows us another side to him. Caldara was certainly not the first and assuredly not the last to be influenced by Corelli’s Sonatas and in his Op.2 the influence is palpable though never enough quite to submerge Caldara’s own highly individual compositional personality. As with his model’s works, which were published in 1685 when Caldara was about fifteen, he ends the set with a single movement Chaconne and throughout the set, of which we have Nos. 4, 6, 8 and the Chaconne (No.12) the expected dance movements are evoked.

There are numerous points of interest. These include a fine attacca style cultivated by the members of the Four Nations Ensemble in the second movement Corrente in No.6 in A – a movement that shows an insinuating Corellian lyricism at its heart. He was especially fine at the Corrente, as No.4 shows, with its neatly stylish vivacity. The little No.8 in F (most last five minutes or so) sports a sensitive, suspenseful and lively Allemanda whilst the Chaconne may also remind one of Monteverdi. With this Op.2 set comes his very different Op.3, a set of twelve cantatas – we have three of them here. If Corelli was the influence in the instrumental sonatas then Alessandro Scarlatti is the influence here – those who followed the Scarlatti Cantatas series on Conifer and DHM will be aware of the cool formality of many of the settings. Again Caldara adheres closely to his model in taking themes of Arcadian love, reminiscent of Virgilian Eclogues, and fusing Recitative and aria and distilling the essence into a concise and formal structure. The results are appealing and convincing and have the advantage of mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane, whose clarity of diction, fine trill and warm intensity across the range illuminate Il Silentio – and in particular its opening aria, Se al tuo penar. Though some of Caldara’s contemporaries frowned on recitative in works of this kind – and Caldara’s employment of it is correspondingly restrained – Lane shows delicacy and agility in her use of it. The opening aria of La Fama reminds one strongly of Alessandro Scarlatti’s La Violette but in general the settings are discreet and elevated. The biggest of the cantatas is Vicino a un rivoletto, which probably dates from Caldara’s time in Rome (c.1707-08). It is an accompanied setting, with obbligato violin and cello as well as the continuo. Unusually one string instrument accompanies each of the two long arias; the violin aptly high-lying and windswept in its more frivolous setting, the cello expressive and love-lorn, and approaching moments of sheer desolation. There is some powerfully imaginative writing here and the performances are equal to the writing.

Caldara may have been a follower rather than a formal innovator in these works but there is still much to enjoy. If the Sonatas show a degree of constraint, the cantatas trace a journey, through their formal precision, well beyond the merely representational. It’s a journey well worth undertaking.

Jonathan Woolf


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