This is a collection of Caldara's 'Motetti a due o tre voci op. 4', published in 1715. Interspersed with Caldara's twelve motets we also get a handful of earlier German baroque organ works – a point I will return to in a moment. Caldara's two- and three-voice motets are beautiful works, scored for a variety of voices and continuo. They are performed here variously by sopranos Ingeborg Dalheim and Anna Kellnhofer, countertenors Franz Vitzthum and Alex Potter, tenor Jan Van Elsacker and baritone Florian Götz - taking turns of course, not all at once - and supported by the United Continuo Ensemble very tastefully directed by Thomas C. Boysen.
The motets start typically with a beautiful slow section indulging in delicious harmonies between the voices, followed by a short transition passage and then a concluding section to a faster, more sprightly tempo. The graceful duet and trio writing is rather in the manner of Agostino Steffani's secular duetti da camera, but in Caldara's case these works are shorter, not as highly developed or sophisticated as with Steffani. Caldara's music is extremely expressive and lovely to listen to - and in all cases, whether in duet or trio format, very finely sung here by pure, clear voices. In fact every single one of these works is quite beautiful.
A spanner in the works is thrown, in my view, by the inclusion of organ pieces by Weckmann, Tunder and Sweelinck. All three are fine composers whom I greatly admire, but the problem is that these works, ranging from half a century to a whole century earlier, do not partner Caldara's music at all well. The two threads of music in the programme don't make sense together, and result in a distinctly ill-matched and unnecessary disparity. Since the organ works amount to around twenty minutes of music, this arrangement gets in the way of our enjoyment of Caldara's music. How much better it would have been to include a few other contemporary pieces - perhaps some of Caldara's own many fine instrumental works.
Recorded sound is excellent, as are booklet notes. Latin texts are supplied, but with translations into German only. Despite its drawbacks this disc does bring us some very lovely music, beautifully performed, and Caldara fans will surely appreciate it.