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Antonio Caldara

Antonio Caldara

(c.1670 – 1736)


Today Antonio Caldara is not a name many would recognise let alone regard as one of the 'great' composers of the Baroque, yet during his own lifetime and long after his death he was held in high esteem by composers and theoreticians alike. Johann Sebastian Bach, for example is known to have made a copy of a Magnificat by Caldara to which he added a two-violin accompaniment to the "Suscepit Israel" section. According to Mattheson, Georg Philipp Telemann in his early years took Caldara as a model for his church and instrumental music. Franz Joseph Haydn, who was taken to Vienna by Georg Reutter, one of Caldara's pupils, sang many of his sacred works when he was a choirboy at St. Stephens and possessed copies of two of Caldara's Masses. Wolfgang Mozart made use of some of Caldara's six hundred canons in KV555, 557 and 562. Ludwig van Beethoven copied several contrapuntal examples by Caldara from a publication by his teacher Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and Johannes Brahms is known to have possessed a copy of some of Caldara's canons. 1

Charles Avison named Caldara along with Arcangelo Corelli, Alessandro Scarlatti and George Frideric Handel as the composers …

"… whose works have been thoroughly proved and have stood the never failing test of time."

Charles Burney wrote in his famous History of Music "Caldara was one of the greatest professors both for the Church and the stage that Italy can boast" and "there is no composer of oratorios anterior to Handel of whose choruses I have any great expectations, except Caldara."2

One of the main beliefs and subjects of much discussion during the Baroque period was that the power of music lay in its ability to express the emotional content of text. Johann David Heinichen in the Einleitung of his Thorough Bass treatise as late as 1728 worried that composers were still poorly prepared to compose music of affective emphasis:

"What a bottomless ocean we still have before us merely in the expression of words and the affections. And how delighted is our ear, if we perceive in a well written church composition or other music how a skilled composer has attempted here and there to move the emotions of an audience through his refined and text-related musical expression, and in this way successfully finds the true purpose of music". 3

The Venetian Antonio Caldara's success in his own lifetime stemmed from his undoubted mastery in the creation of vocal music which achieved this aim through subtlety, refinement and polish. Ultimately this led to his appointment as Vice Kapellmeister at the Imperial court in Vienna of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.

Perhaps it is not altogether surprising that today Caldara's music should be experiencing something of a renaissance more than 250 years after his death. To quote a recent article by Jamie James "When the ruling modernist orthodoxy holds that unless the listener suffers and stares glumly into the far corner of the room praying for the assault on the senses to end (soon)…. it can't be high art", 4 music which can communicate and move the emotions is certain to appeal to many! I am sure that this and the broadening of our musical horizons with respect to the Baroque period by an increasing number of 'enlightened' performers epitomised by René Jacobs' interpretation of Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo which recently won a Gramophone award combined with the work of many diligent musicologists who have painstakingly researched Caldara's lifetime and musical legacy will ensure that his music lives on.


Venice and the Early Years

It is entirely fitting that Antonio Caldara, whose compositional oeuvre was so completely dominated by vocal music should be born in Venice. At the time of his birth Venice was one of the most important cities of the Baroque period and the centre of the development of opera since the opening of its first public opera house, the Teatro S Cassiano in 1637. To date no birth or baptismal records have been found to establish the exact date of Caldara's birth, however from his death certificate in 1736 he is recorded as being 66 years of age and so we can surmise that he was born in 1670.

Antonio Caldara's father Giuseppe was a violinist and was surely responsible for his son's earliest musical training which continued when he became a choirboy at the Basilica of San Marco. At St Marks he received training both as a contralto and as a cellist and if our estimate of his birthdate is correct he made a favourable impression at an early age! From the Decreti e terminazioni in the Procuratoria de supra of the Venetian State Archice for 1694 Caldara is called musico contralto but in separate payments his name also appears as a player of the viola da spalla (1688), viola (1695) and violoncino (1694) 5 Caldara is named in a list of founding members of the Guild of St Cecilia in 1687. 6 The guild's charter states that one of its major functions was the provision of adequate musical honours for its patron on her feast day. Quite separately Caldara also belonged to an instrumentalists guild, the arte di sonodori. 7 Whilst at first it seems unlikely that the membership lists for this guild should be discovered amongst the naval records of the Venetian State Archive, we now know that the Venetian craft guilds served both as conscription agencies for the Armada and revenue agencies for the Republic. Caldara's first opera L' Argene was produced at the small Teatro ai Saloni in 1689, and between 1685 and 1700 he was hired on a regular basis as contralto at San Marco, receiving a salary increase in 1698.

Throughout the 1690's Caldara was establishing his reputation as a composer and continuing to work as a freelance musician. The only known published instrumental chamber music by him, two collections of twelve trio sonatas modelled on Corelli were published in 1693 and 1699 as Opus 1 Sonata da chiesa and Opus 2 Sonata da camera. Also in 1699 Caldara's Opus 3, a set of twelve cantatas was published. 8 Interestingly Antonio Vivaldi's father Giovanni Battista was a violinist in a string trio that was formed at San Marco in 1689 and as Giuseppe Caldara was temporarily engaged as a theorbo player at San Marco between 1693 and 1694 is it fanciful to imagine the fathers of two of the most gifted composers of the Baroque playing together and discussing their young son's musical futures?

Opera was the obvious genre to impress in Venice and Caldara had two further operas Il Tirsi and La promessa serbata produced between 1696 and 1699. Between 1697 and 1698 performances of Caldara's earliest oratorios, of which he was to compose forty in his lifetime, took place. The oratorio was at that time a relatively new genre having come to Venice about 1667 and the performances took place between November and the following Lent. Initially it was the Oratorians at S Maria della Consolazione (the Fava) who supported the oratorio with works by Giovanni Legrenzi maestro di cappella at St Marks dominating the repertoire. When performances at the Fava came to a halt in 1679 the ospedali, particularly the Incurabili under the direction of the maestro di coro Carlo Pallovicino took up the cause until the late 1680's. In 1696, the first of a new series of seasons took place at the Fava and Caldara's earliest known oratorio Il Trionfo della continenza was performed during this season followed by Il ricco epulone in the third season in 1698. Was Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo performed in the second season?

Whilst no documentary evidence exists to support the theory that Caldara was a pupil of Giovanni Legrenzi during his time in Venice, it is clear that his musical training, his experience of performances in the innovative musical climate of Venice and the composition of music in three of the genres that were to dominate his compositional output i.e. opera, oratorio and cantata provided Caldara with a sound basis for his future musical career.


In 1699 Caldara succeeded Marc' Antonio Ziani as maestro di capella da chiesa e da teatro at the Gonzaga court of Ferdinando Carlo, Duke of Mantua. 9 This was a position which Claudio Monteverdi had held 90 years previously. Ziani had succeeded in gaining an appointment as Vicekapellmeister to the Hapsburg emperor Leopold I in Vienna. How did Caldara come to the attention of the Duke, who had a reputation for a dissolute lifestyle and a passion for operatic productions on the grandest scale which eventually brought Mantua to its knees financially? Surely he was aware of Caldara's operas produced in Venice? Or was Caldara recommended to him by Ziani, who was a fellow founding member of the Guild of St Cecilia with Caldara in 1687?

The period between 1700 and 1707 whilst Caldara was in the service of the Duke of Mantua is the least well known of his entire musical career. This can be explained by the political turmoil in which the Duke was embroiled during this period. The Duke as a supporter of the Bourbons during the Spanish War of Succession was forced to flee Mantua for Casale in 1702. His shortlived return to Mantua late in 1705 lasted only until early 1707 before a final exile in Venice. Little of Caldara's music survives this period and as a consequence it has been difficult for musicologists to trace his exact whereabouts. However, opera libretti (only one opera score, the Opera pastorale from 1701 survives) enable the movements of the court to be reconstructed and we find performances in Casale, Venice and Genoa. Did he accompany the Duke on his trip to Paris in the summer of 1704? In any event Caldara left the employment of the Duke (who was to die in mysterious circumstances in July 1708) late in 1707 and travelled to Rome. This was probably as a result of the decree in November 1707 from Emperor Joseph I that all those employed at the court in exile should sever their connections forthwith or face the consequences of confiscation of private property!


The fact that several cultural and political centres in Italy had lavishly supported the arts since the Renaissance explains in part the remarkable outpouring of musical activity which emerged from Italy and spread across Europe during the Baroque period. Rome was without equal in this era of patronage and it was the diversity of this patronage from the Pope and the Sacred College of the Vatican, more than 80 churches, the various confraternities, the extraordinarily wealthy noble families, particularly the Ottoboni, Pamphili, Colonna and Ruspoli families to the exiled royalty such as Queen Christine of Sweden and Queen Maria Casimira of Poland that contributed to the dazzling superabundant musical culture of the city.

It was from the Vatican that the demand for sacred music in a historically antiquated style (prima prattica) spread throughout the Catholic world as the style synonymous with sacredness. Indeed sacred music was particularly well supported in Rome by the great aristocratic families of this period as the heads of the Colonna, Pamphili and Ottobini families were after all Cardinals. Cardinals Ottoboni and Pamphili and Prince Ruspoli also held weekly 'conversazioni' where invited guests could gather for informal conversation, games and to hear new music, usually in the form of cantatas or serenades. It is not to difficult to imagine that many composers, vocalists and instrumentalists were required to meet the musical demands of the city and we find many important composers of Baroque music in Rome at this time, namely Georg Frederick Handel, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Cesarini, Bernardo Pasquini, Arcangelo Corelli, Stradella, Alessandro Melani, Ercole Bernabei and Foggia. It is inconceivable that Caldara did not come into contact with some of these composers. Indeed both Corelli who served as orchestra director between 1690 and 1714 and Alessandro Scarlatti were employed by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, who lavishly financed musical events in his Pallazzo della Cancelleria as well as writing many libretti for opera and oratorios. It is surely a tribute to Caldara's reputation that so soon after his arrival in Rome that during Lent 1708 his oratorio Il martirio di S Caterina should be performed in the Cancelleria palace of Cardinal Ottoboni. The following description of a performance of Alessandro Scarlatti's oratorio Il regno di Maria Vergine assunta in cielo in 1705 whilst performed being performed outdoors gives a 'flavour' of the performances.

"the orchestra, under the direction of Corelli, consisted of more than one hundred stringed instruments, plus trumpets and others, and the four best voices of the city sang the oratorio … for this important occasion a stage was erected on one side of the courtyard and was elaborately designed with balustrades, staircases, large twisted columns, and painted scenes representing the virtues; in the centre, at an opening in the front balustrade, was a platform for the singers. The audience was seated in open carriages that had previously been aligned so closely together that they touched one another. The most illustrious personages of Rome and environs attended the performances. Prior to the beginning of the oratorio on the first evening, a bell was wrung, after which Pope Clement XI led the audience in devotions that included the Ave Maria, the Gloria Patri and a prayer by the pontiff. At the end of the first part of the oratorio and throughout the second part, sumptuous refreshments were served."10

It is at this point in Caldara's life that he took what can only be described, with hindsight, as an inspired decision! Since 1701 French allied parts of Italy had been in conflict with the Hapsburgs in what we now know as the War of the Spanish Succession. In May 1708, with the Hapsburg armies virtually knocking at the gates of Rome Caldara left the city and travelled to Spain and the court in Barcelona of Charles III, the younger brother of Hapsburg Emperor Joseph I and claimant to the disputed throne of Spain. On the 2nd August there was a performance of probably the first Italian opera in Spain, Caldara's componimento da camera per musica, Il piu bel nome with a libretto by Pariati as part of the festivities celebrating Charles' marriage to Elisabeth Christine of Braunschweig. Thus in a period of four months Caldara's music had come to the attention of the two patrons who would employ him for the rest of his life, namely Charles III of Spain (later to become Emperor Charles VI) and Francesco Maria Ruspoli!! Did Caldara compose Il nome piu glorioso, performed on 4th November 1709 Charles III nameday and the opera Atenaide in collaboration with Gasparini and Fiore before returning to Venice for a performance of his opera Sofonisba at the Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo during the autumn of 1708?

Return to Rome

Early in 1709 Caldara returned to Rome and by July 1st of that year had secured the position of maestro di capella to Francesco Maria Ruspoli, Prince of Cerveteri. From his compositional output during the next seven years it is clear that Caldara's muse flourished in this more stable environment and he composed mainly secular works including 150 solo cantatas, over 50 duets, four operas and nine oratorios.

Caldara was to find musical practices in Rome to be very different to those of his native Venice. 11 As a result of a papal ban on public opera performance private oratorios and semi – private performance replaced public opera and the grand spectacles of public worship at San Marco. Whilst Venice was dominated by few institutions and fixed feasts, musical performance in Rome was more diverse. The emphasis on soloistic performance was well established in all genres, instrumentally as in Corelli's violin sonatas or Pasquini's harpsichord works and vocally in the form of solo cantatas enabling the virtuosity of the soloist to become the focal point. String music was preferred instrumentally and string orchestras were often larger than the string and wind ensembles of Venice, the doubling of the string parts being a common practice. Examples of this include a concerto by Corelli performed in the Palazzo Pamphili in 1689 by an orchestra of 76 stringed instruments and two trumpets and an alfresco performance of a cantata given at the Palazzo Ruspoli in August 1694 involving 36 violins, 5 violas, 25 cellos and double basses and a lute. Ruspoli's musical establishment during the time of Caldara's service included the names of 25 violinists, 6 violists, 5 cellists, three double-bassists and 7 oboists. Many of these musicians were however 'casual' engagements augmenting the regular capella when required.

In 1713 Caldara was selected to provide the music for a cantata which was traditionally performed after the Christmas Eve Vesper service in the Palazzo Apostolico for the Pope and his invited guests. The number of performers taking part in this performance of Cantata Per la Notte de SSmo Natale were 48, divided into two ensembles. A concertino of two violins, cello, double bass, lute and harpsichord and a concerto grosso of 42 performers including 12 first and second violins, 6 violas and 12 basses (cellos and double basses). Brian Pritchard plausibly suggests that Caldara's 1712 commission of Vaticini di Pace12 for Ruspoli which was performed in the Palazzo Bonelli in imitation of papal tradition assisted Caldara in securing the 1713 commission and that additionally Ruspoli in choosing Paolo Gini's text for Vaticini di Pace was attempting to heal the longstanding rift between Pope Clement XI and Charles VI, the Pope having withheld papal recognition of Charles VI as Holy Roman Emperor and Defender of the Faith.

Francesco Maria Ruspoli or 'Olinto' to give him his Arcadian name was a member of the Arcadian circle which placed great emphasis on literature and literary abilities. Ruspoli was exceptionally well served not only by his maestro di capella who composed many solo cantatas to Arcadian texts but also by his vocalists who included the virtuoso Margarita Durastanti and from 1709, the alto Caterina Petrolli who in May 1711 became Caldara's wife. It is easy to imagine Caldara performing on the cello accompanying his wife's dazzling embellishment of the melodic line of one of his cantatas! Cantatas in which the music exudes suavity, subtlety and polish, the very essence of refinement.

First trip to Vienna

Only a week after their marriage Caldara and his new wife left Rome on hearing that the Emperor Joseph I had died. In June Caldara took part in a musical festival in Novara featuring the primi virtuosi d' Itaglia before travelling to Milan to await the arrival of his former patron Charles III of Spain who would become Joseph I 's successor. By 1712 we find Caldara in Vienna and in May his first daughter Sophia Jacobina Maria was born. Caldara must have been supremely confident of gaining an appointment at the Viennese court as we find Sophia's baptismal certificate describes her father as Magister Capellae Augustissimi Imperatoris! Caldara's hopes were dashed when Ziani was promoted to Kapellmeister and JJ Fux was appointed Vice Kapellmeister (the first Austrian to attain this position). As consolation, Caldara did have some success in arranging a performance of his oratorio Santa Francesca Romana which took place in the Imperial chapel followed in 1713 by La Maddalena and in 1714 by Santa Flavia Domitilla.

Caldara travelled back to Rome to resume his duties for Ruspoli visiting Salzburg and Albano, the summer retreat of the Pope on the journey. His second daughter Francesca Isobella Giovanna was born in Rome in January 1714. Between November 1713 and July 1714 musical events were disrupted by the Ruspoli's move to a new palace and by August 1714 Caldara had completed a specific project – the composition of twelve Motets for solo voice and continuo which were dedicated to Pietro Ottoboni. These Motets were published the following year by G A Silvani in Bologna as Motteti a due, e tre Voci….Opera Quarta and represent the only sacred music published during Caldara's lifetime. Caldara's notice to the reader stated that his occupations and travels had kept him from publication but he promised further publications in the future. Unfortunately this was a promise he did not keep as this was the last published work in his lifetime. We are left with many questions regarding this publication – did Ottoboni commission the works? or if he did not, perhaps he offered to defray the publishing costs? Whatever the unanswered questions the Motets attained widespread recognition. Charles Avison in 'An Essay in Musical Expression' of 1735 said they were noble and full of pathos. Manuscript copies of individual motets as well as of the entire set circulated widely and throughout the 19th century individual motets appeared in printed anthologies of sacred music.

Viennese Court

In January 1715 Caldara learned that Ziani had died in Vienna. J.J. Fux succeeded Ziani as Kapellmeister and Caldara's petition for employment to Charles VI was successful and he was appointed Vice Kapellmeister, succeeding Ziani as he had 16 years previously in Mantua. This was the position which Caldara had been attempting to secure since his journey to Spain in 1708 and one he was to retain for the rest of his life.

Caldara entered the service of the Viennese court during a period of unknown peace and security which had lasted since the defeat of the Turks in 1683. 13 Vienna flourished and the Emperors Joseph I and Charles VI presided over a true Blütezeit or cultural blossoming. The rebuilding of the city after the ravages inflicted by the Turks to designs by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach's and JL von Hildebrand was epitomised by Von Erlach's Karlskirche, commissioned by the Emperor following the plague of 1713. The twin pillars incorporated into the facade of the Karlskirche, named after S Charles Borromaeus, who was Charles' patron saint, represented visually Charles VI's personal motto Fortudine & Constantia. These developments in the architectural façade of Vienna were mirrored in the arts, with paintings, sculpture and music which projected the 'Imperial style' or Reichstil to the world.

Vienna Hofkapelle

Both Emperor Joseph I and Charles VI were able musicians as well as vigourous supporters of Italian culture. They were also keenly aware of the importance of music in enhancing the prestige and power of the Holy Roman Empire. The size and constitution of the Hofkapelle can be said to reflect the status and requirements of music making at court as well as the taste of the Emperors themselves.

As in Venice Caldara's service at Vienna coincided with the peak years of the musical establishment with which he was associated. From 1700 until Caldara's appointment in 1716 the Vienna Hofkapelle had increased in size from 40 to 64 members, the first decade of the century seeing the string section increase from 23 to 36. The most striking change in the composition of the Hofkapelle however coincided with Charles' succession in 1711 when the number of trumpets was doubled to 14. The trumpeters and timpanists formed a separate body, the Musikalische Trompeter und Höor-Pauker. After Caldara's appointment the size of the Hofkapelle continued to increase, reaching a peak in 1721 of 84 members. The violin section showing the greatest increase from 22 to 30. Of particular interest compared to German Hofkapellen of this period is the complete absence of flutes in Vienna, an instrument which had been included in the Dresden Hofkapelle as early as 1709.

Learned counterpoint had traditionally been an intellectual interest of the Viennese Emperors and the contrapuntal writing by the court composers Ziani, Fux and Caldara in particular created an exciting, energetic style which aurally projected the splendour, majesty and might of the Hapsburg Empire. Of particular importance in projecting the Imperial style was the use of trumpet and timpani choirs either within the instrumental ensemble or providing Intraden or fanfares before, during or after liturgical services or processions. A Peter Brown suggests that the employment of double choirs of trumpets and timpani in Imperial music represented visually by the separation of each choir as well as aurally Charles VI's personal motto Fortitudine & Constantia. 13 This motto became associated with Hercules' Spanish labour which Hercules commemorated by establishing two great rock pillars on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar and so Charles' motto was customarily depicted by two pillars and is epitomised in the two pillars included in the facade of the Karlskirche.

Perhaps the clearest musical example is the overture to the work which bears the motto as its title, Fux's festival opera Costanza e Fortezza performed, under Caldara's direction as Fux was ill, during the celebrations in Prague marking the coronation of Charles VI and his Empress as King and Queen of Bohemia in 1723. Johannes Joachim Quantz who was a performer at these celebrations witnessed this performance and gave the following observation.

"The concertante effects and interweaving of the violins with one another, which occurred in the ritornellos, although it consisted for the most part of passages which on paper may here and there have looked quite stiff and dry, nevertheless had, in the open air and with such lavish resources, a very good effect, indeed perhaps better than a more 'galant' [style of ] melody ornamented with many decorative figures and quick notes would have had in the circumstances…"14

Less obvious, but no less significant is the reservation almost without exception of the double trumpet choir scoring for the operas celebrating the Emperor's name day, perhaps the most important day in the court calender. (S. Charles Borromaeus was Charles' patron saint hence the Emperor's name day feast was November 4th.)

As early as Leopold I's reign a strict musical protocol of activities for the Imperial celebrations was established. Music can be seen as fundamental in setting the character and type of events, whether for court or liturgical celebrations. A consequence of this, in stark contrast to Caldara's Mantuan years, is that more documentary evidence is available for musicologists to study for this period. Sources for musicologists include from 1715, the court calenders of varying detail including such diverse information as every anniversary imaginable i.e. birthdays and namedays of the Imperial family, the days of the saints, long range weather forecasts and the phases of the moon. 15 Also the official court newspaper, the Wienerishces Diarium, produced for the educated classes, included details of special guests, the music performed as well as the composer and librettist for each celebration reported (with the exception of church festivals). 16 Kilian Reinhardt's Rubriche Generali dated 1727 provides us with an indispensable guide to the musical requirements of the events of the annual cycle. 17 The Rubriche was divided into two parts: the liturgical feasts (Festtage der Heiligen) and the court feasts (Hof-Feste). Whilst these feasts were separated, they were in fact closely bound to each other and court feasts should not be seen as purely secular in nature.

"Hof-Feste: the court feasts were further subdivided into three levels, namely the highest feasts were the Gala-Tage which included the birth and the namedays as well as the betrothals and weddings of the Emperor, the Empress and their family. The next level was the Toison-Feste, celebrated by members of the Order of the Golden Fleece drawn from the Viennese nobility. The lowest level was the Gewöhnliche Andachten und Solennitaten celebrating saints days, in addition to processions to and devotions in various Viennese churches."
"Festtage der Heiligen: The liturgical feasts were also further subdivided into three levels. The Toison Feste was accorded the highest rank, these included the Marian and Apostolic feasts (the first Vesper Service and High Mass) which with the exception of those during Spring and summer were also attended by the members of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The next level was the Pontifical feasts including the remaining high feast days, first and second Vespers and Compline on the eve of certain feasts as well as the celebrations on Good Friday, during Holy Week and marriages and baptisms. The third level included celebrations of Mass and Vespers for the remaining Sundays and the more austere services during Advent and Lent."

As in Rome Caldara clearly relished the stability of his position and commenced in earnest composition to meet the court's voracious appetite! – operas for the Gala-Tage, oratorios for the Imperial Chapel as well as liturgical music. For Vienna alone Caldara composed thirty – four operas and twenty-five oratorios! To date a precise count of his church compositions has not been made; however his settings of the Ordinary of the Mass alone amount to more than one hundred with twice as many settings of Psalm and miscellaneous liturgical texts to his credit. 18 Caldara's settings of the Ordinary of the Mass, in accordance with court protocol fall into three categories. Missae solemne, which were reserved for high feast days. These large scale works utilised the full resources of the Hofkapelle, protocol demanding 'a solemn setting with trumpets and timpani' eg Missa Laetare. Missae ordinariae for the lesser feast days were of smaller dimensions and with less demanding vocal and instrumental writing, and finally there were the da capella masses in stile antico, in which instruments doubled the vocal lines; these masses were associated with Advent and Lent.

If Ziani and Fux established and defined the musical style at Vienna, clearly Caldara's influence was significant and stemmed from his immense output. He provided the bulk of the Hofkapelle's repertoire, particularly in the 1720's due to Kapellmeister Fux's failing health. Charles VI ranked him above all others and by 1729 his salary was higher than that of Kapellmeister Fux. Indeed Predieri who succeeded Caldara as Vice Kapellmeister in 1739 wrote to Padre Martini that the Emperor had highly praised some of his madrigals "which astounded everyone, since it was generally believed that, after Caldara, no composer could ever satisfy him ."

Caldara's influence also extended to the Dresden Court of Augustus the Strong. When Augustus the Strong converted to catholicism in 1697 to serve his political ambitions no tradition of Catholic church music existed in Dresden. The establishment of this repertoire from 'scratch' exceeded the capabilities of the composers J. D. Heinichen and Jan Dismas Zelenka and in consequence it became necessary for works by 'outside' composers to be incorporated into the repertoire. Where better to seek such music than in Vienna with its tradition of Catholic church music. Indeed the courts of Vienna and and Dresden were linked not only by Catholicism but also in 1719 by the marriage of the Archduchess Maria Josepha to the Kurprinz Freidrich Augustus. J D Zelenka travelled to Vienna in 1715 and 1717 to study with Kapellmeister Fux and to acquire copies of church music suitable for performance in Dresden. Of the more than fifty Caldara items which can now be found in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek including Caldara's only set of madrigals, are a group of manuscripts of church music. 19 We may assume that Zelenka either secured these latter compositions at this time or in 1723 when he was in Prague at the same time as Caldara for the festivities celebrating the coronation of Charles VI as King of Bohemia. Of particular interest to musicologists are the 'revisions' carried out at Dresden to adapt these compositions for performance. In some cases these far exceed the normal practice of adaptation for local circumstances.

Caldara remained active until shortly before his death on the 28th December 1736, four years before Charles VI's death and what was to be the end of a truly remarkable cultural period in Viennese history.



This series of webpages is dedicated to Brian Pritchard. Without Brian's enthusiasm, assistance, attention to detail and generosity these webpages would not have been produced.

~ Copyright © 1998 by David Charlton or David Black. If you have any comments, additions or questions we would be really pleased to hear from you!

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