Amandine Beyer & Leila Schayegh violin, Jonathan Pešek violoncello, Jörg-Andreas Böttcher harpsichord/organ and Matthias Spaeter “liuto attiorbato”
This fine recording combines four sonatas from Caldara’s op. 1 trios (1693) with five from his op. 2 of six years later. Broadly speaking, each of the four movement works (except op. 2/12 which – in a direct reference to Corelli – is a chaconne) from the first set are cast in the “da chiesa” style, while the others consist of a Preludio and a sequence of “dances”. He may only have 23 when his name first appeared in print, but he had definitely mastered the Roman trio sonata medium, and indeed was prepared to embellish it by liberating the role of the violoncello. The performers take this fact and the knowledge that the composer was – amongst other things – a reputed master of the instrument as justification for improvised links between sections by the cellist; while that may or may not actually have been the case, I doubt that 17th-century players spent enough time rehearsing to make decisions about when one musician would take on that responsibility, and when another – here the plucker is, for my tastes at least, a little invasive. In fact, the booklet notes discuss the fact that there are four books for each set, but with slightly different designations of the two bass part; for op. 1 one is for cello, the other for organ (and yet the latter role is played on harpsichord and lute!), while the plucker’s presence is fully justified in op. 2 by the lable “Tiorba o Violone”, while the other is “Basso continuo”. So much for my gripe about the scoring… The playing is absolutely first rate, and the recorded sound perfect – each of the individual parts can clearly be heard, and the balance between treble and bass is well handled. The violinists, of course, are excellent – they toss Caldara’s melodies back and forth with gusto, and their ornaments flow naturally from the composer’s elegant lines. I doubt my wish would come true, but I would love a companion disc with the missing sonatas!