Max Emanuel Cencic
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Antonio Galdaza and the secolo d'oro
For Italian music, the Baroque era was a secolo d'oro - a golden age. Music assumed central importance in both the secular and the sacred spheres and lent splendour to the numerous court and church festivities. For private performances, noble families engaged famous singers and instrumentalists, who performed in grand settings while the guests dined sumptuously. Scintillating performances of operas, cantatas and instrumental works reflecting irrepressible joie de vivre convey, to us an idea of the degree to which music was an expression of the Baroque ethos.
One of the most famous and glittering personalities of the time was the composer Antonio Caldara. His eventful career as musician and opera composer took him into the homes of the higher-ranking Italian nobility and he ended his life as deputy kapellmeister to the imperial court in Vienna. Caldara is comparable with Arcangelo Corelli, Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonio Vivaldi in terms of historical significance. Caldara's works were still known and esteemed by Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms and other important composers of subsequent generations, but they fell into ever greater obscurity in the twentieth century. It is only in recent years that a slow but steady revival of Antonio Caldara's music has been taking place.
Youth in Venice, the city of opera
Antonio Caldara was born in about 1670 and spent his youth in Venice, then a centre of composing with a flourishing opera. Caldara grew up in close proximity to this vital music scene, for his father was a violinist at the famous church of San Marco, where Antonio Vivaldi's father likewise played the violin. It is interesting to speculate on the conversations the two men may have had before or after their frequent practice sessions and performances together about their talented sons.
Antonio Caldara, who was to become one of the most important representatives of Venetian opera, was probably a pupil of Giovanni Legrenzi. He initially sang in the choir of San Marco and was later engaged there as a cellist and violinist. He began composing very young and wrote his first opera L'Argene at the age of eighteen. He soon had numerous church and chamber sonatas and solo cantatas to his credit as well, examples from the 1690s being his first published works, the Suonate da chiesa a 3 op. 1 and the Suonate da camera op. 2, both collections of trio sonatas. They reveal how intensively the young composer had involved himself with Corelli's instrumental music, which was highly esteemed for its fine, singing quality. One of the most famous violinists in the time of Corelli and Caldara was Carlo Ambrogio Lonati (1645-C.1713). It is altogether possible that Lonati participated in performances of Caldara's Chamber Sonatas op. 2. Lonati himself composed violin sonatas which are among the most sophisticated Baroque examples of their genre and are still admired for the technical virtuosity they demand. In addition to performing on the violin and composing, Lonati also sang in opera. He worked in the centres of Italian music - serving the courts of the viceroy of Naples and of Christina, the former queen of Sweden in Rome, becoming impresario at the Teatro Falcone in Genoa, collaborating in operas in Milan and composing for the family of the Duke of Mantua, just as Caldara would later".
At the court of Mantua
A notable phase of Caldara's life began in the spring of 1699, when he became maestro di cappella da chiesa e da teatro at the court of Ferdinando Carlo, the last Gonzaga Duke of Mantua, who was known for his extravagant lifestyle and passion for operas produced on a grand scale. Caldara controlled musical events at the court, so that the position was highly attractive at the artistic level. But the duke's over-spending brought him into conflict with France (then involved in the Spanish War of Succession) and the influential imperial court in Vienna and he had to flee Mantua in 1702, seeking refuge at various places in the years that followed. The constantly changing venues at which Caldara's stage works were performed seem to indicate that the duke was accompanied by his maestro di cappella. Caldara left the duke's service in 1707 and set out for Rome ".
Maestro di cappella in the Holy City.
In Rome Caldara rapidly gained a foothold in one of Europe's most fascinating music scenes. The pope, cardinals and noble families like the Ruspolis, Ottobonis, Pamphilis and Colonnas lent a special aristocratic flair to the city, their love of art and wealth creating a flourishing music comm unity whose influence extended to all of Europe. Rome attracted the most important composers, so that Caldara was able to exchange ideas there with the likes of Handel, Pasquini, Cesarini and the Scarlattis. He was influenced in his own composing above all by the music of Alessandro Scarlatti. Caldara was in close contact with Rome's upper classes and composed cantatas, operas and instrumental works for private and official occasions.
In the summer of 1708 Caldara for the first time worked in Barcelona for Charles III, the Habsburg claimant to the disputed Spanish throne who later became Emperor Charles VI. At Charles's wedding with Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Luneburg in Barcelona in 1708, a work by Caldara was almost certainly performed. Though scholars are not in agreement as to which it was, Caldara must have struck the right tone, for he was later highly esteemed by the imperial couple in Vienna, with Charles employing him as deputy kapellmeister in 1717 and commissioning him to compose the wedding operas for his children. But almost ten years were yet to pass before all that happened ".
For the time being, Caldara returned to Rome in the winter of 1708, where he became maestro di cappella to the court of Marchese Francesco Ruspoli the following year. The prince's musical establishment was exemplary, putting at Caldara's disposal a cappella musicale of outstanding musicians and even an architect for the presentation of staged works. These highly favourable working conditions are directly reflected in the more than 200 works Caldara wrote for Ruspoli in that period (1709-1716). The plentiful occasions requiring music at the court included numerous sacred and secular festivals and the convivial conversazioni to which Ruspoli invited friends from the clergy, aristocracy and diplomatic circle each Sunday. The annual requirements for cantatas alone exceeded fifty. It was traditional, for example, to present a pastoral cantata in the splendid park at the end of July. Some of the texts were written by family friends with literary talent, while the performers occasionally even included members of the Ruspoli family. Caldara composed cantatas all through his life, not only because that was what was demanded of a maestro di cappella, but also because the form provided an opportunity to experiment with instrumental and vocal subtleties. The combination of elegant melodic line and passionate expression is characteristic of his composing style. The ever-popular theme of love in all its manifestations is exemplified by the cantatas "Vedo senz' onda il mare", "Sempre mi torna in mente" and "Che speravi semplicetto".
The Ruspoli music scene was both professionally and personally rewarding for Caldara, for it enabled him to meet and fall in love with the contralto Caterina Petrolli, whom he married in May 1711. Caldara's sights were nonetheless set on becoming kapellmeister at the imperial court in Vienna. The opportunity came after his marriage, when the brother of Charles III died and Charles was to succeed him as emperor. Knowing that Charles was well-disposed towards him, Caldara set off with his wife for Vienna, only to find that the vacancies had already been filled. He therefore returned to his position with Ruspoli in 1712. Four years later, Emperor Charles VI at last gave Caldara the coveted post of deputy kapellmeister to the court of Vienna ".
Vienna at last!
Johann Joseph Fux - the most important Baroque composer from the southern German and Austrian region - held the post of first kapellmeister. He and Antonio Caldara formed an outstanding team and exerted great influence on the music-loving court. The combination of the German and Italian traditions had a particularly salutary effect in the field of opera, for which Vienna was now acclaimed throughout Europe. Caldara's working rhythm was determined by the imperial family's festivities throughout Europe. Caldara's working rhythm was determined by the imperial family's festivities and the many secular and sacred festivals, for all of which occasions Caldara composed a large number of operas, oratorios, cantatas, motets, masses, propers and vespers. He had close contact with the imperial family, some of whom often took part in the performances themselves. That was the case with the performance of Caldara's opera Euristeo in 1724, when that "most glorious opera was presented with the utmost magnificence and pomp ". at a specially built theatro in presence of the highest of all imperial monarchs, the most august Leopoldine archduchesses, the august heir to the throne of Lorraine and the highest aristocracy, both local and visiting "., with the august Caroline archduchesses and infantas themselves performing the dances as Maria Theresia and Maria Anna, while the actores, dancers and the whole chorus musicus consisted entirely of the most noble persons." Charles VI himself conducted the performance from the harpsichord.
Caldara's reputation spread from Vienna over all of Central Europe. His compositions were performed at palaces and monasteries in Austria, Bohemia and Moravia, while they also enjoyed great popularity at the court of Augustus the Strong in Dresden. Since Augustus had converted to the Catholic faith, Catholic church music was naturally of central interest at his court. Dresden therefore looked to Vienna, the bastion of Catholic church music, for inspiration. An active exchange came about, with many of Caldara's compositions going to Dresden, from where they influenced the development of Baroque music in the rest of Germany. Antonio Caldara became one of the most important composers in Europe and his memory was honoured in a princely tolling of bells when he died in 1736.
- Dr Ira Schidze-Ardey (translation: J & M Berridge)
Max Emanuel Cencic
Max Emanuel Cencic grew up in a musical family and received voice training at an early age from his mother, an opera singer. After appearing on television at the age of six, he was engaged by the Zagreb State Opera and gave several recitals in the former Yugoslavia and Spain. As a member of the Vienna Boys' Choir, Gencic participated in numerous concert tours in Europe, America and Asia from 1987 to 1992. He sang in the traditional masses at the Hofburg Chapel in Vienna and performed at the Vienna Staatsoper several times. In his choirboy days he worked with conductors like Sir Georg Solti, Nikolaus Hamoncourt, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Ernst Marzendorfer, Horst Stein and Peter Schreier. His training enabled him to retain his soprano register and embark on a career as a male soprano. Working closely with Norman Shetler, Max Emanuel Cencic began his solo career in September 1992 and gave successful lieder recitals in Japan and many parts of Europe between 1992 and 1997. In 1994, for example, he performed together with Angelika Kirchschlager at the Schubertiad in Hohenems and sang Bach cantatas in the same year, accompanied by the Academy of London. He also featured in recordings of Handel's Messiah and of Haydn's Creation, in which he sang the part of Gabriel. In 1995 Cencic gave guest performances at the Holland Festival Oude Muziek in Utrecht and at the Festival de La Chaise-Dieu, together with Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort. Appearances at the Halle Handel Festival followed, where he sang with Axel Kohler and Nancy Argenta under the musical direction of Howard Arman.
In the same period, Max Emanuel Cencic took part in numerous opera productions. In 1995 he sang the role of Cupid in Gluck's Orfeo at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the role of Rinaldo in Galuppi's Il filosofo di campagna with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra under the musical direction of Thomas Hengelbrock at the Sanssouci Schlosstheater in Potsdam and the role of Adrasto in Jommelli's Demo-foonte together with the Stuttgart Baroque Orchestra under the musical direction of Frieder Bemius at the Schwetzingen Festival and the Cremona Music Festival. In 1996 he sang the role of Cupid in Gluck's Orphee et Eurydice with Musica Antiqua Koln under the musical direction of Reinhard Goebel at the Drottningholm Castle Theatre and the title role in Handel's Xerxes at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen - again with Musica Antiqua Koln under the musical direction of Reinhard Goebel. Following a period of absence, in April 2000 Max Emanuel Cencic returned to the music scene as a counter-tenor, giving concerts in Estonia, Slovenia and Austria (in Vienna and at Forchtenstein Castle during the International Haydn Festival). Together with the "ornamente 99" ensemble, in February 2002 he recorded a solo CD with the title Cantate d'amore, featuring cantatas by Domenico Scarlatti, which was released by Capriccio in mid-May 2003. Further Capriccio recordings featuring works of Antonio Vivaldi and Antonio Caldara are to follow. In May 2003 Cencic sang the role of Apollo in a concert performance of Tomaso Albinoni's opera II Nascimento dell'Aurora with the Clemencic Consort under the musical direction of Rene Clemencic at the Festival dell'Aurora in Crotone (Calabria). At the Teatro San Carlo in Naples he sang the role of Cygnus in Orff s Carmina Burana. Cencic himself organized a Fete baroque at the Salvator Hall in Vienna. In August 2003 he gave a recital of Rossini and Mozart arias during the International Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt and sang in Pergolesi's Stabat Mater with the Clemencic Consort in Viterbo.
The production of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea with the orchestra of the Basel Opera under the musical direction of Konrad Junghanel opened at the Basel Opera in November 2003. Max Emanuel Cencic will participate in a production of Vivaldi's opera La fida ninfa at the Sanssouci Festival in the 2004/05 season and is due to sing in other opera productions and make a series of solo appearances in Halle, Potsdam, Essen and Cologne. In November/December 2004, together with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, Max Emanuel Cencic plans to tour the United States and Europe with a newly discovered Vivaldi opera.
Ornamente 99 is a young ensemble which specializes in early music. It was formed in 1999 by Karsten Erik Ose, a recorder player and music historian, and Dorothee Oberlinger, who is likewise a recorder player. The group's debut CD presented English Baroque music for court and theatre under the title "London Musick" (2000). Since then their musical activities have centred around the performance and recording of Baroque music performed on combinations of wind and stringed instruments with special emphasis on the rediscovery and virtuosic interpretation of Baroque ornamentation practice. While Oberlinger and Ose form the hard core of the group on recorders, it goes without saying that ornamente 99 also provides opportunities for solo projects - as in the case with the recording of Antonio Vivaldi's "Concern' per Flauto" with Dorothee Oberlinger (2002), the recording featuring "Cantate d'amore" by Domenico Scarlatti with Max Emanuel Cencic (Capriccio, 2003) and the present CD.
Concert commitments have taken the ensemble to venues like the Rheingau Music Festival, the Stockstadt Festival, the Schwerin Summer Festival, the Herrenhausen Palace Concerts and the "Villa Musica" series at Engers Palace in the Rhineland. The repertoire of ornamente 99 embraces Baroque compositions for forces ranging from chamber to orchestral proportions. Many of their concerts have been recorded by broadcasting corporations such as Westdeutscher Rundfunk (Cologne), DeutschlandRadio (Cologne), Sudwestrundfunk (Baden-Baden) and Osterreichischer Rundfunk (Vienna). Commendatory reviews in impoitant publications and international record awards underline the technical and interpretational excellence which has drawn general attention to ornamente 99 ever since the ensemble's formation in 1999.