The English, historical-instrument, Baroque ensemble La Serenissima (the term was a nickname for the city of Venice) has specialized in somewhat scholarly recordings that nevertheless retain considerable general appeal, and the group does it again with this release. The program offers some lesser-known composers, and some lesser-known pieces by famous composers like the tiny and fascinating Concerto alla rustica for two oboes, bassoon, strings, and continuo, RV 151. What ties the program together formally is that it covers a range of Italian cities that were becoming cultural centers as they declined in political power: not only Venice (Vivaldi, Albinoni, Caldara), but also Padua (Tartini), Bologna (Torelli), and Rome (Corelli). There are several works by composers known only for one or two big hits, and these are especially rewarding. Sample the opening movement of Tartini's Violin Concerto E major, DS 51, with its unusual phrase construction and daringly chromatic cadenza passage: it has the exotic quality for which Tartini became famous, but it does not rely on sheer virtuosity. That work is played by leader Adrian Chandler himself, but he also chooses pieces for a large variety of other solo instruments: the Italian Baroque was about more than the violin. Each work on the album has something to recommend it, and collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017 whose booklet includes footnotes.
This the work was first given in Vienna during Holy Week, 1729, the first of many collaborations between Caldara and Metastasio. Mention of the great librettist provides a prompt that my original review failed to stress the outstanding qualities of the text. Divided into two halves, the first part of the oratorio relates the story of the crucifixion as witnessed through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, John, and Joseph of Arimathea, who respond to the eager questioning of the remorseful Peter. The second part consists of philosophical commentary on the meaning of the crucifixion. Particularly in Part I, Metastasio draws on vivid imagery to convey the full horror of the event. Here, for example, is John describing the nailing to the cross: "… and some hardened, loutish men, sweating as they worked, bathed his face with their foul perspiration."
This series of Italian cantatas by three eminent contemporaries makes for refined and focused listening.
Cencic…marries virtuosity with colour. The result is singing of great reach and range, in which verbal sensitivity and bravura execution are usually put at the service of the music.
This cantata was commissioned by Ruspoli and performed in his palace; it's likely that the cantata performed for the Pope's Christmas celebration the following year was in fact this same composition. It's a joyful, blissful work, full of flowing arias that provide opportunities for great singers, such as the Roman elite supported in numbers, to show off. The four soloists of Aradia Baroque Ensemble (two sopranos, one mezzo, and one tenor) rise brilliantly to the occasion, with beautiful nuanced voices and bravura technique. The large string ensemble, led by Kevin Mallon, supports the four singers as gently yet firmly as a calm sea supports a floating gull.
Early in 1709 Antonio Caldara became maestro di cappella to the Marchese Francesco Maria Ruspoli in Rome. If the appointment brought new stability to his personal life, it also inspired him to remarkable creative effort. The two cantatas recorded here afford only a brief glimpse into a veritable musical treasure chest, the legacy of the seven years he held sway over an array of entertainments given by one of Rome's most lavish patrons of the arts.
Antonio Caldara is one of those composers from Italy whose career brought him to Vienna, where he composed and performed mainly oratorios. He started his career in Venice where he was born in 1670 and where he studied with Giovanni Legrenzi. Being an accomplished cellist he was probably a member of the orchestras of the opera houses in Venice. In the 1690's he published two collections of trio sonatas, which are following the example of Corelli. His first opus, published in Venice in 1693, was again published by Roger in Amsterdam in 1698, a sign of their popularity. The chaconne which concludes his collection of 12 trio sonatas opus 2, could be interpreted as a tribute to Corelli, who also concludes his opus 2 with a chaconne.
This release marks the world-premiere recording and rediscovery of Antonio Caldara’s La Concordia de’ pianeti, a musical serenade of operatic magnitude composed for the court of Austrian Emperor Karl VI, featuring the creme de la creme of the day’s singers, including the legendary castrato Carestini (Franco Fagioli’s part).
Unearthed and edited by Andrea Marcon, the piece offers a series of virtuosic arias, breath-taking cantilenas and ethereal duets performed by some of the finest singers of today.
Franco Fagioli and Daniel Behle, two of today’s hottest vocalists, lead a distinctive cast of early music “shining stars”, including soprano Veronica Cangemi in a welcome return to Deutsche Grammophon / Archiv. The dynamic La Cetra Barockorchester, one of the most coveted period ensembles active today, lends an idiomatic touch to the program.
This is a major new release under the Archiv imprint featuring a world-class cast of singers. The opera is new to the repertoire and the catalogue altogether and has been recorded both in studio conditions and live performances in Dortmund.
The ensemble LA GIOIA ARMONICA was founded by Austrian dulcimer-player Margit Übellacker and German organist and singer Jürgen Banholzer. One of the ensemble's objectives is to explore the baroque repertoire for dulcimer, in particular in connection with the legendary pantaleon. The size of the group varies from dulcimer-organ duet to large chamber-music settings. Th e musicians are all specialised in historically-informed performance practices, and combine broad experience drawn from their involvement in various international ensembles. La Gioia Armonica's debut CD – Cantate, Sonate ed Arie, dedicated to music of Antonio Caldara – was also released by Ramée, and gained various awards, among which the Pizzicato Supersonic Award, Goldberg 5 Stars, and the Prelude Classical Award 2006 for best debut CD. Since then, the ensemble has been invited to perform in Germany and abroad, including at the Halle Händelfestspiele, the Dordrecht Bach Festival, the Middle-Germany Heinrich Schütz Days, the Bottrop Organ Plus Festival, and the Bad Homburg Fugato organ festival.
The historical-instrument ensemble Ars Antiqua Austria under violinist/conductor Gunar Letzbor has specialized in neglected repertory of the eighteenth century, and few composers fit their aims better than Antonio Caldara, a Venetian trained in the grand tradition at St. Mark's cathedral. He had a distinguished career that took him to Mantua, (perhaps) to the then-Austrian court at Barcelona, to Rome, and finally to Vienna itself, where he became vice-kapellmeister under emperor Charles VI. As with other composers in this milieu, most of his production was vocal. The 12 Sinfonie a quattro recorded here are very brief specimens of the kind of sinfonia that served as a curtain raiser for an opera or oratorio, the genre from which the independent symphony ultimately evolved. In this case the sinfonias are taken from oratorios, named in the subtitles of each work. They consist of three or four movements, many of them extremely short but not excluding counterpoint and even little fugal finales. The tone is restrained, in keeping with the religious subject matter, and the texture is pretty constant aside from a few violin solos. Combine that with the technically smooth but rather deadpan readings from Letzbor, a disciple of Reinhard Goebel and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the result, at least for the general listener, is a very subdued hour of music in a program that would unlikely have been performed in its own time.(James Manheim)