Signor Caldara

The Mocenigo-Sanguinazzi-Obizzi-Habsburg collection called Estenschiche Musikalien is to be found in the Austrian National Library. This Italian music collection from the first half of the 18th century is related to Venice and the surrounding regions and includes, among others, manuscripts of Violin Sonatas composed by Antonio Caldara. Ms. Sosnowska have recently discovered these unknown works written by the Italian Master who worked in the Viennese Court between 1717-1636. Jolanta Sosnowska has also made the world premiere recording of the Sonatas.
The partitures of the Sonatas in the Estensische Musikalien colletion originate from two different copyists, one of them is the dilettante Nicolò Sanguinazzi (sonatas in F minor and F major), the other is the anonymous copyist of the six violin sonatas. Sanguinazzi copied the music into a score, while the anonymous copyist copied out parts only. Sanguinazzi’s score contains no Figured Bass, while the anonymous cello part is completely figured, as was the standard practice, when a keyboard instrument would have been in use. Both these sources are very different in a stylistic sense. While the two single sonatas have 5 movements and share similarities with Antonio Vivaldi’s concerto type: ritornellos in the main keys alternating with figurative and virtuosic violin solos. The bass accompaniment with its short repetitive notes already anticipates a later musical era. The style of the other six three–movement sonatas is more orientated towards the earlier Arcangelo Corelli and Vivaldi’s early violin sonatas opus 2.
One finds the violin and cello alternating and imitating each other’s motives. In Sonata 6 though, the cello is purely used as a harmonic continuo instrument. The last Presto–Finale is reminiscent of Corelli’s trio sonata structure with its continuously running bass line and dissonant ligaturas in double stops in the violin.
In an attempt to date these eight pieces, the forementioned date of origin of the Estensische Sammlung is of some help. In relation to the fact that only a few pure instrumental works by Caldara have been handed down, it gives one the impression that he didn’t compose more for this genre in Vienna from 1716 onwards. Due to the distinctly different stylistic alignment of the two individual sonatas, one could even imagine that they come from a later composer. The possible incorrect attribution to Caldara would find numerous parallels in this collection, especially to well-known composers such as Vivaldi.

In order to remain in the probable chronological order, the six „Sonate da Camera Del Sig.r Antonio Caldara a Violino, e Violonzello“ should be considered first. All start with a slow Preludio, are consistently in the respective basic key and consist of three movements – with the exception of the strikingly short No. 4.
In contrast to Caldara’s Trio–Sonatas opus 2 from 1699 and Vivaldi’s violin sonatas opus 2 (a printed version exists in the Estensische Sammlung), the Preludios are followed by – although not described as dance movements – two fast movements with repeated sections containing in part dance rhythms: as Gigues in 12/8 meter (sonatas 1, 3, and 6) or Correntes (sonatas 3 and 5).
As previously stated, there is to be found much imitation between the violin and cello in Nos. 1 to 5. This use of motifs and recurring ideas leads the cello into higher regions of the tenor clef. In general, the harmonic movement is rapid and the bass line is therefore constantly modulating. This corresponds to the Italian style of Corelli (1653–1713) to around the period of Vivaldi (1678–1741), therefore also of Caldara. This tradition continues in the north, from Germany to England, and to Bach and Handel. Vivaldi’s compositions take a transitional direction: in examining the style of the later Italian composers (the generation born between the late 1680s to 1700 and later) one finds a development away from the gradual “walking” bass towards slower harmonic changes. The movement of the bass line is more rhythmically concentrated. This leads to the repeated “drum basses” which are also typical of the early Viennese classical period. Precisely in this development are to be found the two individual sonatas in F major and the highly affective key of F minor, the latter being unusual for the violin. Both these sonatas have five movements, starting with cantabile introductions, followed by two extensive Allegro movements, which are separated by short Largo transitions, and end with a short simple final movement. The first Allegro movements are clearly a showcase reminiscent of Vivaldi’s preferred Ritornello form, as seen in his concerti. The movements begin with a memorable rhythmical Ritornello. It is followed by virtuosic, modulating sections. The Ritornello then “returns” between these sections and makes use of different keys. The violin figures in these episodes are, similar to those in Caldara’s six earlier sonatas, very clearly in the style of Vivaldi’s violin compositions, including his already mentioned opus 2 from 1709, typically with arpeggios and in pendulum motion. In contrast, in the Largos one can find uninhibited, rapid upward and downward scales. This brings to mind the written-out ornaments in the slow movements of Corelli’s Violin Sonatas opus 5, as brought to us by later composers such as Francesco Geminiani (1687– 1762). Imitations between violin and bass as in the earlier six violin sonatas are rarely to be found here; homophony prevails.