LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: La passione di Gesù Cristo signor nostro
PERFORMER: Patricia Petibon, Francesca Pedaci (soprano), Laura Polverelli (contralto), Sergio Foresti (bass); Athestis Chorus, Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45325 2
Caldara’s dramatic music seems eminently worth revival. This Passion joins one other oratorio in the catalogue (Maddalena, on Harmonia Mundi) from the 43 he wrote. There are 90 operas, too, not one recorded. Caldara is an appealing melodist, no mean contrapuntist, and a vivid crafter of expressive lines – Mary Magdalene’s outpouring of her own sorrow (her first aria) is quite heart-rending, her description later of Mary’s staccato sobs no less moving. Joseph of Arimathea’s simile aria paints the anger of the restless sea in surging strings, while, a surprise saved until the middle of Part 2, an obbligato trombone duets intriguingly with the soprano of St John.
Though the first performance, in Vienna in 1730, was lavishly staged, the Passion drama is static – four characters meditate throughout on the agony of the crucifixion and the hope of resurrection. Metastasio’s text is vivid, sometimes graphically gory, in the descriptive recitative.
In this rare and precious glimpse of Caldara’s poignant and colourful music, Foresti is a fine bass, Polverelli’s richly female contralto less convincing as Peter, originally a castrato role. Petibon (Magdalena) is endearing if occasionally hard-edged, a quality emphasised by some oppressive recorded sound. The choral texture is rather dense, the orchestral playing crisp and stylish. George Pratt