Born: 1670 in Venice, Italy
Dead: Dec 28, 1736 in Vienna, Austria
Genre: Choral Music, Symphony, Vocal Music, Chamber Music
Caldara was born in Venice around 1670, and died in Vienna in 1736. He was the son of Giuseppe Caldara, a local violinist of no great fame. In his childhood, Caldara was a choirboy at St. Mark's Cathedral and also studied the viol, the cello, and keyboard. He may well have been a pupil of the maestro di cappella of St. Mark's, Giovanni Legrenzi, but this is uncertain. It is likewise uncertain just how much composing Caldara did in his early years, and only a few works survive from this time in his life (these works, interestingly, include the only instrumental chamber music Caldara ever wrote). Caldara likely traveled to Rome towards the end of the seventeenth century, but returned to Venice around 1698.
One year later, Caldara left Venice for Mantua: he was appointed maestro di cappella da chiesa e dal teatro to Ferdinando Carlo, the Duke of Mantua. The Duke had a reputation for a dedication to grandiose opera productions, the cost of which threw the finances of Mantua into disarray. It is difficult to determine exactly what Caldara was doing during the period of his employment with the Duke, for virtually none of his music from this time survives. Caldara remained in the Duke's service until 1707; the Duke died mysteriously the following year.
In 1708, Caldara was in Rome; while there, he composed oratorios and became acquainted with such luminaries as Handel, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, and Antonio Corelli. In this same year, Caldara also composed a number of operas, including Sofonisba. Caldara settled into the musical life of Rome, becoming maestro di cappella to Prince Ruspoli and composing some four operas, nine oratorios, a number of vocal duets and trios, and 150 solo cantatas.
After marrying contralto Caterina Petrolli, Caldara left Rome in 1711, traveling to Vienna and Milan, then returning to Rome to fulfill his duties to the Prince. Between 1711 and 1715, Caldara composed, among other things, a significant collection of two and three voice motets. At the end of 1715, Caldara secured an appointment in Vienna as vice-Kapellmeister under Fux; he left Rome for good in 1716, after composing some cantatas for his former patron, Prince Ruspoli, and settled in Vienna. Once in Vienna, Caldara was faced with a demanding new position in which he was required to compose many large and small scale dramatic works each year, including many operas and oratorios. In addition to his busy schedule, Caldara also accepted outside commissions, composing operas for nobles in Salzburg and Monrovia. He was well-respected and well-paid in Vienna (though he had a reputation for lavish spending), and was able to be active as a composer until his death.
Caldara is chiefly known as a composer of vocal music, and is especially remembered for his operas, many of which are settings of librettos by Zeno and Metasasio. His stylistic development as a composer, however, has been described as a movement from works that are carefully crafted, with attention given to both musical and dramatic elements (his pre-1716 works) to music that becomes increasingly less detailed and texturally thinner (post-1716), reflecting Caldara's pressing schedule in Vienna.
- Alexander Carpenter (All Music Guide)