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By Steve Holtje
"This is repertoire that definitely deserves to be heard and, at Naxos' budget price, is well worth acquiring by lovers of Italian Baroque sacred music and choral-music fans. Each of the choral works is preceded here by an instrumental Sinfonia excerpted from a Caldara oratorio from the same Vienna period. They give the Budapest ensemble Aura Musicale a chance to shine, showing how polished and elegant its playing is. This is some of the most gorgeous string playing the early music movement has produced."
Stabat Mater • Missa
In May 1716 Antonio Caldara left Rome and his post as Maestro di
cappella to the Prince Francesco Maria Ruspoli to become Vizekapellmeister
at the imperial court of Charles VI in Vienna. It was the climax of a
career that had seen Caldara move from his native Venice initially to the
Gonzaga court at Mantua and then on to Ruspoli's palazzo in Rome.
Caldara's first appointment, as Maestro to Ferdinando Carlo, Duke
of Mantua, in the summer of 1699 had followed a decade of freelance activity as
a composer and cellist - itself a period that emerged from his years of
training, some, allegedly, with Giovanni Legrenzi. Unfortunately, his
employment at Mantua was blighted by the wars of the Spanish Succession which
saw the court more often absent than resident in its home state, and it ended
unceremoniously during the Duke's final exile in Venice in 1707.
There followed an eventful eighteen months. Rome, Barcelona and Venice
all welcomed Caldara and his music before he took up his position with Ruspoli
in mid-1709. This offered a secure haven, politically, financially and
artistically; Caldara was absent only once. In 1711 a quest for an imperial
appointment ended in disappointment in Vienna and he returned to his tolerant
patron midway through 1712. Paradoxically, four years later, correspondence
secured the long-sought position when the death of the Kapellmeister Marc'Antonio
Ziani in January 1715 brought a reshuffling of personnel at the Viennese court.
Caldara honed his musical skills with each position. Opera and oratorio
were his main concerns in Venice, although his efforts in smaller forms gave
rise to two sets of trio sonatas, published in 1693 (Op. 1) and 1699
(Op. 3), and a volume of cantatas (Op. 2), also printed in 1699. Operas
dominated Caldara's Mantuan years, reflecting the pleasure-loving Duke's great
passion. A few surviving pieces of church music in ceremonial vein hint at
widening horizons. Ruspoli's demands, however, centred on, the conversazioni
held in his palace each Sunday morning throughout much of the year. These
gatherings of the Roman literati and secular and clerical dignitaries showcased
the talents of his musical ensemble and his maestro. The cantata was the
favoured medium and within seven years Caldara had produced some 200 works.
Yet these experiences, individually or together, could scarcely have
prepared Caldara for Vienna. An array of instrumental and vocal resources,
lavish and talented as befitted the pre-eminent musical establishment of
late-baroque Europe, awaited him, as did the challenge of an extremely onerous
and complex annual round of duties.
The court operated a remarkably full calendar and observed a strict
protocol. The liturgical seasons and feasts as well as the saints' days were
commemorated with music befitting their status. There were lengthy and
brilliant Missae solemnes for the high feasts, more slender Missae
mediocre for the lesser feast days and chaste da cappella settings
for Advent and Lent. New music usually marked the secular Galatäge, the
birth - and namedays of members of the imperial house. An annual carnival opera
was required; four new oratorios graced each Lenten season. Caldara's record
tells its own story - 23 oratorios, 32 operas, numerous feste da camera and
serenatas, more than 100 Masses, scores of psalms, antiphons and offertoriae,
all written within twenty years.
The compositions on this recording belong to the Viennese court's
observance of Lent and Holy Week, although they do not all come from the same
year. The oratorio Gioseffo che interpreta i sogni (‘Joseph
interprets the Dreams’) was performed in the Hofkapelle in 1726; Sant'Elena
al Calvario (‘St Helen at Calvary’) in 1731. An opera or oratorio overture
(Introduzione) might well be recycled as a stand alone 'Sinfonia'
or 'Sonata'; modification of the original was another matter, however. Both our
'Sinfonias' have sprouted additions - and their authorship is in question. In Gioseffo
the new Minuet conclusion avoids the original slow-tempo close which had
led into the first vocal number of the oratorio; the concluding slow-fast pair
of movements attached to Sant'Elena converts the two-movement original
into a balanced, and more practical, four-movement cycle.
The Stabat Mater had its place as the Sequence at Compline on the
four Saturdays in Lent. On these occasions court protocol required extended
settings of the medieval text - an opportunity Caldara appears to have
welcomed. Just under half of the twenty verses are set individually; verses 2-4
are combined, as are verses 5-10 and 16-17, into larger units. In the resulting
twelve-movement structure the choral movements (I, IV, VI, VIII and XI/XII) act
as pillars linked by arching episodes for the soloists. These episodes are gorgeously
coloured whether by differing combinations of the voices, by varied
accompanying instruments or by diverse textures. The choral movements are more
severe. Instruments strictly double the vocal lines; textures, both homophonic
and imitative, are suffused with chromaticisms; note especially the tormented Fac
me tecum (VI), arguably the emotional climax of the work. Only in the
concluding movement (XII) does Caldara allow himself space for contrapuntal
writing. The double fugue is really a coda - the confident rising figure at Paradisi
gloria quells the despairing morietur which closed the previous
movement; its technical mastery and great length is a vision of the safe and
everlasting haven of the soul.
In 1727 Pope Benedict XIII instituted the feast of the Seven Sorrows of
the Virgin Mary (Festum Septem Dolorum Beatae Mariae Virginis) to
be celebrated on the Friday between Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday. On 5th
February 1735 Caldara completed a Missa a 4 Voci concertata con V.V.
[violini] adding 'Dolorosa' alongside the title. To all intents this was a
Mass written especially for the new feast day, and with Easter falling late in
1735 there was good time for the vocal and instrumental parts to be copied and
This extended setting has all the hallmarks of Caldara's late sty1e. The
concluding fugues of the Gloria and Credo as well as the Kyrie
II (returning as the Dona nobis pacem) display his rich and
seemingly effortless counterpoint. His expressive melodic style permeates the
vocal writing and instrumental obbligatos in the duets (Christe eleison;
Gloria: Domine Fili - note the solo bassoon - and Quoniam; and Benedictus)
and the one solo movement (Gloria: 'Domine Deus'). His sense of
structure, more obvious in 'the ritornello-based closed forms of the solo and
duet numbers, is just as secure in those ongoing sections where phrase after
phrase of text is held together by recurrent motives in the accompaniment or by
a moto perpetuo instrumental line (Credo: Et resurrexit). From
the opening Kyrie his intermingling of solo ensemble with chorus has
emotional impact. But most masterly of all, perhaps, are his inspired harmonic
touches that illumine the Qui tollis (Gloria) and the Et
incarnatus and 'Crucifixus' (Credo).
Brian W. Pritchard
Stabat mater dolorosa,
Juxta crucem lacrimosa
Dum pendebat Filius.
At the cross her station keeping
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus at the last.
Cujus animam gementem,
Constristatem et dolentem,
O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Quae moerebat et dolebat,
Pia mater, dum videbat
Nati poenas inclyti.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that mother highly blessed
Of the sole-begotten one!
Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.
Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio
Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?
Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis
Et flagellis subditum.
Vidit suum dulcem Natum
Dum emisit spiritum.
Eiat Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris,
Fac, ut tecum lugeam.
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.
Is there one who would hot weep,
Whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ's dear mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother's pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of his own nation,
Saw him hang in desolation,
'Til his spirit forth he sent.
O thou mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou has felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ my Lord.
Sancta mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.
Holy mother! pierce me through:
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.
Tui nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Poenas mecum divide.
Let me share with thee his pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.
Fac me tecum pie flere,
Donec ego vixero.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
Juxta crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.
By the Cross with thee to stay;
There with thee to weep and pray:
Is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara,
Fac me tecum plangere.
Virgin of all virgins best!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share thy grief divine.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
Passionis fac consortem,
Et plagas recolere.
Fac me plagis vulnerari
Fac me cruce inebriari
Et cruore Filii.
Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul 'til it hath swooned
In his very blood away.
Flammis ne urar succensus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus,
In die judicii.
Be to me, O virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful Judgement day.
Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per matrem me venire
Ad palmam victoriae.
Quando corpus morietur
Christ, when thou shalt call me hence,
Be thy mother my defence,
Be thy Cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
Fac ut animae donetur
May my soul thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with thee.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus
Laudamus te; benedicimus te;
adoramus te; glorificamus te;
gratias agimus tibi
propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, rex caelestis,
Deus pater omnipotens,
Domine fili unigenite, Jesu Christe;
Domine Deus, agnus Dei, filius patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
qui tollis peccata mundi,
suscipe deprecationem nostram;
qui sedes ad dexteram patris,
Quoniam tu solus sanctus,
tu solus Dominus,
tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe,
cum sancto spiritu
in gloria Dei patris. Amen.
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace
to those of goodwill
We praise you; we bless you;
we worship you; we glorify you;
we give thanks to you
for your great glory.
Lord God, heavenly king,
God the father almighty,
O Lord the only son, Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, lamb of God, son of the father,
You take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you sit at the right hand of the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are holy,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the highest, Jesus Christ,
with the holy spirit
in the glory of God the father. Amen.
Credo in unum Deum,
factorem caeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium;
et in unum Dominum
filium Dei unigenitum,
et ex Patre natum ante omnia
Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,
Deum verum de Deo vero;
genitum non factum,
per quem omnia facta sunt;
qui propter nos homines
et propter nostram salutem
descendit de coelis.
Et incarnatus est de spiritu sancto ex Maria virgine,
et homo factus est.
Crucificus etiam pro nobis
sub Pontio Pilato:
passus et sepultus est.
Et resurrexit tertia die
et ascendit in caelum,
sedet ad dexteram patris;
et iterum venturus est cum gloria
judicare vivos et mortuos,
cuius regni non erit finis,
et in spiritum sanctum,
Dominum et vivificantem,
qui ex patre filioque procedit;
qui cum patre et filio
somul adoratur et conglorifactur,
qui locutus est per propheta.
Et unam sanctam catholicam
et apostolicam ecclesiam.
Confiteor unum baptisma
in remissionem peccatorum
et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen
I believe in one God,
the father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
in all things visible and invisible;
and in one Lord
only son of God,
and born of the Father eternally.
God of God, light of light,
true God of true God;
begotten not made,
of one substance with the father,
by whom all things were made;
he who for mankind
and for our salvation
descended from heaven.
And was incarnate by the holy spirit
of the virgin Mary
and was made man.
He was crucified even for us
under Pontius Pilate;
he died and was buried.
And he rose again on the third day
according to the scriptures;
and ascended into heaven,
seated at the right hand of the father;
and again he will come with glory
to judge the living and the dead,
whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the holy spirit,
the Lord and giver of life,
who proceeds from the father and the son:
who with the father and the son
is likewise worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic
and apostolic church.
I acknowledge one baptism
for the remission of sins,
and I look for
the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus
Dominus Dells Saboath;
pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Osanna in excelsis.
Holy, holy, holy
Lord God of Sabaoth;
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Benedictus qui venit
in nomine Domini.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest
qui tollis peccata mundi;
dona no.bis pacem.
Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world;
you take away the sills of the world;
grant us peace.