WORKS: Morte e sepoltura di Christo
PERFORMER: Maria Grazia Schiavo, Silvia Frigato, Martina Belli, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani, Ugo Guagliardo; Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 923403
Antonio Caldara’s arrival at the Habsburg court in 1716 heralded a new era for oratorio. Drawing on the daring approaches he’d absorbed in Mantua and Rome, and on the first-rate performers he found in Vienna, Caldara began composing oratorios of unmatched complexity. Among these were experiments in ‘sepulchre’ oratorio, Lenten works in which singers took on roles of witnesses to the Crucifixion, and reflected through music their inner turmoil on seeing Christ’s deposed body.
In this premiere recording, Fabio Biondi brings us what may well be the composer’s sacred masterpiece, Morte e sepoltura di Christo. Caldara’s music plumbs the depth of our common anguish that ‘the divine mover … [can] be brought to such horror’. As the characters find meaning in Christ’s suffering, Caldara’s glorious euphony restores hope. In this two-hour work we find a surprising richness of Baroque musical forms, from overture to fugue, aria, recitative, motet and sonata di chiesa. Biondi is a bold guide. Sensitive to Caldara’s idioms, he treats counterpoint severely and arias fulsomely, letting us hear how Caldara generates contrasting moods. And Biondi himself plays solo violin interpolations with exquisite delicacy.
Soprano Maria Grazia Schiavo, illuminates the character of Maria Maddalena with pathos. Her aria ‘Lasciami, eterno amante’, with its delicately entwined vocal-chalumeau lines, alone makes this disc worth buying. Only tenor Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani lets the ensemble down by swelling indiscriminately on lines, but these excesses don’t compromise Biondi’s profound expression, not just of Caldara’s score, but also of human suffering.