Notes and Editorial Reviews
A chance to enjoy some of Caldara’s rare instrumental music.
Caldara’s reputation largely derives from the very many vocal works - operas, oratorios and cantatas - which he composed. It is with good reason that Julie Anne Sadie, in her
Companion to Baroque Music, describes him as “extraordinarily prolific”. The major oratorios included
Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo (c. 1700) and
La Passione di Gesù
Cristo Signor Nostro (1716); his huge output of operas includes
Adriano in Siria (1732) and
L’Olimpiade (1733) - which is to get a revival in Athens in 2009 - and many, many others; his cantatas are full of beautiful music (try
Medea in Corinto). Caldara’s instrumental music is altogether less abundant (consisting of just four sets of works), less well-known and, it has to be said, perhaps less immediately attractive.
There survives a set of very early Trio Sonatas written in 1693; to balance these, as it were, we also have a very late set of sixteen Cello Sonatas - from which the music on the present CD comes. That we have this music at all is almost certainly thanks to one of the most remarkable patrons and collectors of the age: Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schonborn (1677-1754).
The Schonborns played an important role in the cultural and political life of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the lands of the Empire. Musically speaking, the most important member of the family (though others made their contributions too) was Rudolf Franz Erwein, who was made a Count in 1701 and was often busy on diplomatic duties. He ruled a small territory from Schloss Wiesentheid near Wurzburg. It was at Schloss Wiesentheid that he assembled a formidable collection of scores - a cellist himself, his collection preserves (sometimes uniquely) works for the instrument by Vivaldi, copies of trio sonatas by Corelli and much, much else. In its present form the collection includes some five hundred manuscripts. Amongst them are the sixteen late sonatas by Caldara, seven of them to be heard here.
By the time that he composed these sonatas - to a commission from Count Rudolf - Caldara had behind him many successful years as, chiefly, a writer of vocal music, and this is surely apparent in the way he uses the cello. There is a deal of arioso writing, especially in the slow movements, one or two of which sound almost as if they were originally imagined as set-piece arias in an opera seria. A number of the quicker movements are technically demanding, full of semiquaver runs. Caldara’s awareness of the galant style is also evident, not least in some of the attractive dances which close more than one of these sonatas (as in the brief ‘allegro stil di minuet’ which forms the final movement of the Sonata in F minor). This is the assured music of an experienced master of his art and these sonatas represent something of a highpoint in Caldara’s purely instrumental writing.
L’aura soave give a largely attractive account of the music. Frezzato’s playing is always idiomatic, has a nice sense of space and is particularly convincing in the slower movements. Just occasionally one might have liked a little more passion in the quicker movements. The continuo work is never less than supportive and apt. The recorded sound is a little on the dry side and sometimes favours the cello excessively.
-- Glyn Pursglove, MusicWeb International
reviewing the original release of the cello sonatas