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)
The Venetian-born Antonio Caldara (1670/71- 1736) was the son of Giuseppe Caldara, a violinist, and allegedly a youthful pupil of Giovanni Legrenzi. For more than thirty-five of the forty years of his creative life, vocal music, whether in the shape of cantatas, operas, oratorios or liturgical settings, dominated his output. Yet Caldara's career began with instrumental music and he returned to it, if briefly, within eighteen months of his death…(Brian W. Pritchard)
The Venetian composer Antonio Caldara was one of the most famous musicians of his day. In his operas, oratorios and cantatas he showcased the exceptional talents of his singers and the solo virtuosity of his instrumentalists, while also demonstrating an extraordinary wealth of musical ideas. Valer Sabadus and the ensemble nuono aspetto present a varied selection of Caldara's arias of irresistible beauty and fascination - six of them to be heard for the first time.
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."
Allegri's early Baroque masterpiece Miserere from around 1630 movingly juxtaposes modal chant with tonality, and was so popular that the Vatican refused to allow it to be performed anywhere else - until the 14 year old Mozart broke the Vatican's monopoly by writing it down from memory after attending a performance. Pergolesi's late Baroque masterpiece Stabat Mater for soprano and alto dates from 1736, the year of his death at the age of 26. It was originally written for male voices but since it's hard to find a castrato these days, it's generally performed by two women or by a female soprano and counter-tenor. This performance uses a female alto but in other respects it's very much a period performance - the sound is intimate and the tempos are lively without any sacrifice of spiritual depth. The soloists, soprano Monika Frimmer and alto Gloria Banditelli, sing beautifully without overdoing the vibrato, and their voices are well matched. The disk also contains a brief "Sonata a quattro" by Vivaldi, and another setting of the Stabat Mater, by the late Baroque composer Antonio Caldara from around 1725.(Kenneth Dorter)