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Antonio CALDARA (1660-1737)
Motetti a due e tre voci op. 4
Ingeborg Dalheim, Anna Kellnhofer (soprano), Franz Vitzthum, Alex Potter (alto), Jan Van Elsacker (tenor), Florian Götz (bass)
United Continuo Ensemble/Thomas C. Boysen
(Jörg Meder (violone), Thomas C. Boysen (theorbo), Johannes Hämmerle (organ))
rec. May 2016, St. Johannis-Kloster & Gottorf Chapel, Schleswig
Texts included, with German translations
PAN CLASSICS PC10362 [59:06]

Soon after Antonio Caldara entered the service of the imperial court in Vienna in 1716, he 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 being 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 proportion of it 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. Moreover, 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 present disc sheds light on pieces which date from before his time in Vienna. Caldara composed his motets op. 4 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.

Johan van Veen

Disc contents
Antonio CALDARA (1660-1737)
Motetti a due e tre voci op. 4
Matthias WECKMANN (1618/19-1674)
Toccata vel praeludium [2:31]
Caro mea vere est cibus [3:18]
Laboravi in gemitu meo [3:14]
Respice in me, Domine [3:43]
Franz TUNDER (1614-1667)
Auf meinen lieben Gott [7:53]
Miserere mei, Domine [3:43]
Benedictus Deus [3:25]
Exaudi, Domine, vocem meam [3:11]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)
Toccata 2. toni [2:45]
Ad Dominum cum tribularer [2:35]
Transeunte Domino [2:58]
Transfige, dulcissime Jesu [3:49]
Peccavi super numerum [2:59]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Psalm 116 'Ick hebb den Heer lief' (SwWV 313) [6:18]
Ego sum panis vivus [2:24]
O sacrum convivium [3:50]



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