There is still much work to be done in creating performing editions of Baroque music originating in Spain (and then going out and performing it...), yet this is just one area of musical life today that Emilio Moreno is contributing to. To follow on from delving into the popular culture of the turn of the 19th century, as epitomized by the tonadilla, which he successfully recreated for Glossa on La Tirana contra Mambrú, Moreno – along with El Concierto Español – turns now to the world of allegorical courtly serenatas as the shifting political national landscapes of the 17th century were disintegrating into the War of the Spanish Succession.
An Italian composer in Antonio Caldara (even if “Italy” was a far-off dream), originally from Venice, resident and working at the court of Mantua before the Duke there fell foul of the designs of the Holy Roman Empire – not Caldara though. Prior to enjoying an extended career at the Imperial Court in Vienna he was called to Barcelona by the pretender to the Spanish crown and there, along with similar artists such as the poet Pietro Pariati, Caldara helped to cement a taste for Italian music in Spain. In the ebb and flow of music history Caldara’s compositional activities for Archduke Charles have been rather overlooked (despite the Venetian composer being a big success in his own time) and therefore Emilio Moreno’s intervention is more than welcome. The serenata’s allegorical tale is played out in arias and secco recitatives for the mythological characters Venus, Juno, Hercules, Paris and Fate, coupled with choral interjections and no less than four pairs of obbligato instruments to complement a string and basso continuo ensemble. Here Emilio Moreno provides a few pointers to the merits of the exciting new release which is Il più bel nome.
How did your interest in performing and recording Antonio Caldara’s Il più bel nome develop?
It started some years back when we decided to include a number of arias from this work at a concert in the summertime Festival de Torroella de Montgrí and we discovered that this music was surprisingly attractive. After a couple of failed attempts to set something up for the whole work the project was left hanging in the air until Oriol Pérez came along, with his interest, generosity and enquiring mind. He is the director of the Centre Robert Gerhard (which is charged with promoting and disseminating Catalonian musical heritage) and he invited us to include Il più bel nome in his 2009-10 concert series, thereby allowing us finally to perform the work. Not only that but we were able to record it, taking advantage of the excellent acoustic of the Auditori Enric Granados in Lérida, which was to become the production location. Il più bel nome is quite simply a masterpiece which is in the same league as any of the better operas by Handel and I am really pleased to have performed it and recorded it; not only for the importance that it holds for Spanish music but because also in this way we are contributing to the rediscovery of a significant element of Caldara’s output – his stage music – which still remains today practically unpublished and unknown everywhere.
Why is this work interesting in the history of music in Spain?
I can say with almost complete certainty that Caldara’s Il più bel nome was the first Italian opera staged in the Iberian Peninsula, to be exact in Barcelona in 1708. It was expressly commissioned from him by the Archduke Carlos who, at that time, was called “Carlos III of Spain”, with a court in Barcelona. As the Austrian pretender to the Spanish throne following the death of Carlos II he was on the opposing side in the War of the Spanish Succession to the Bourbon candidate Felipe V. Il più bel nome is a laudatory serenata to the beauty and goodness of the queen Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (the wife of the Archduke – they married in Barcelona in 1708) and the serenata was premiered – it must have been a stunning and imposing performance – by the remarkable singers and musicians in the service of the Archdukes in the royal palace in Barcelona. Caldara was to write more dramatic works for Barcelona including a Scipione nelle Spagne and in the same way a further serenata was commissioned from Tomaso Albinoni. This work, Il nascimento dell’Aurora, was also first performed in Barcelona in 1708 and it is currently one of our objectives for future projects...
How did you organize a performing group for this work?
The concert and the recording took place on November 4, 2009 in the Auditori Enric Granados in Lérida and we allowed ourselves the following morning to make any small edits needed because of people coughing or other such intrusive noises during the concert. As soloists we were able to have the sopranos María Espada and Raquel Andueza, the mezzo Marianne Beate Kielland, the countertenor Robin Blaze and the tenor Agustín Prunell-Friend – a luxury casting brought together by the excellent judgement and hard work of Miguel Ángel Aguilar and Mónica Hernández. The chorus for the occasion was provided courtesy of the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC). The department of Early Music there is fortunate in having a student choir – directed by Lambert Climent – capable of professional performances of the highest level. As ever, El Concierto Español was formed solely by musicians from Spain or who are resident here, all of whom are enormously involved in the process of rediscovery of the historical Hispanic musical heritage, one fundamental piece of which is without doubt Il più bel nome by Caldara, however Italian may be its composer and its text.
by Mark Wiggins © 2010 MusiContact / Glossa MusicPhotographs by Mónica Hernández