have had a great deal of pleasure – and, indeed, pleasurable
instruction – from many of the CDs issued by the Italian label
Tactus. But, sadly, I have to report my disappointment as far
as this particular CD is concerned.
reputation has not, in modern times, regained quite the lustre
it had during his lifetime and for a long while after. Both
Bach and Telemann studied and admired his music; Haydn, Mozart
and Beethoven were all familiar with his work. Charles Burney
praised Caldara as the composer of choral works which were “grand
and majestic in ... public performance, and curious and improving
to the student, in his private studies”, calling him “one of
the greatest professors both for the Church and stage that Italy
can boast” (A General History of Music, 1776-9). The
English composer Charles Avison put him in very good company
in his Essay on Musical Expression (3rd
edition, 1775), praising “the bold and inventive SCARLATTI;
the sublime CALDARA; the graceful and spirited RAMEAU”. There
isn’t, I’m afraid much that is either majestic or sublime to
be heard in these performances. The orchestral playing is adequate,
though not without blemishes; the choral singing is somewhat
ponderous, with one or two problems of intonation. None of the
soloists are, it has to be said, particularly distinguished.
Nor is the recorded acoustic entirely helpful, with patches
of muffled sound and odd inconsistencies of placement and distance.
These are the sort of performances which, were one to meet them
at a concert in an Italian church would be a pleasant enough
experience; there are things to enjoy, in parts of the mass,
for example, and in one or two of the motets; but the performance
as a whole isn’t successful enough for one to want to return
to it repeatedly on CD.
shame, because Caldara is, indeed, an interesting composer.
The earliest works here, the sacred motets, were written in
Rome; the collection, published in Bologna by G.A. Silvani was
the only sacred music published during Caldara’s lifetime. They
contain a good deal of inventive music, of flowing polyphony
and – sometimes – almost dancing rhythms. The ways in which
Caldara responds to his texts are often quite striking. But
they need and deserve more consistently successful performances
than they get here. And it would be good to hear the whole set
Missa Dolorosa is not one of Caldara’s greatest works
– written as part of his enormous output at the imperial Court
in Vienna – though the case for it might have been put more
powerfully than it is here. The Sinfonia which opens the disc
also belongs to Caldara’s years in Vienna.
booklet notes are very brief and not especially helpful; the
texts are untranslated. In short, though there are things to
enjoy here, this is not a CD which matches the high standards
which Tactus has set in it best recordings.
Caldara at something like his best and performed with greater
assurance and technique, one needs to go to recordings such
as René Jacobs’ marvellous version of Maddalena ai piedi
di Cristo on Harmonia Mundi or, for the instrumental music,
the trio sonatas played by Parnassi musici on CPO.
see also Review
by Kevin Sutton