Born in Venice about 1670 and dying in Vienna in 1736, Antonio Caldara not only had the good fortune to span different geographical musical centres, but also changes in musical style and taste. This programme of his music mainly devoted to the Virgin demonstrates some of these changes. The Venetian polychoral school is admirably represented by the double-choir Magnificat which opens (and also receives its first recording). A 16-part setting of the Crucifixus has more of a dramatic, high baroque sensibility akin to that of Caldara’s almost exact contemporary, Antonio Lotti.
Making their first appearance in the catalogue, two charming concerted works, Ave Maris Stella and Salve Regina demonstrate Caldara’s skill in handling solo voices and smaller forces. Australian-born tenor Robert Macfarlane sings with admirable grace and clarity in the latter while soprano Nathalie Seelig and alto Franziska Markowitsch make a well matched pair in the former. String and continuo accompaniments are both sympathetic and engaging.
The major work is an extended setting of the Stabat Mater. With baroque techniques like descending chromatic bass lines and stark dissonances, Caldara paints a colourful picture of the sorrowing Mary at the foot of the cross. The music is well served by the warm but precise ensemble of the Berlin forces, conducted by Frank Markowitsch. Pity the English translation of the booklet wasn’t edited by a native speaker.