Today Antonio Caldara is not a name many would recognise let alone regard as one of the 'great' composers of the Baroque, yet during his own lifetime and long after his death he was held in high esteem by composers and theoreticians alike.
J.S.Bach, for example is known to have made a copy of a Magnificat by Caldara to which he added a two-violin accompaniment to the "Suscepit Israel" section. According to Mattheson, Telemann in his early years took Caldara as a model for his church and instrumental music. Haydn, who was taken to Vienna by Georg Reutter, one of Caldara's pupils, sang many of his sacred works when he was a choirboy at St. Stephens and possessed copies of two of Caldara's Masses. Mozart made use of some of Caldara's six hundred canons in KV555, 557 and 562. Beethoven copied several contrapuntal examples by Caldara from a publication by his teacher Albrechtsberger and Brahms is known to have possessed a copy of some of Caldara's canons.
Born in Venice in 1670, he moved to Mantua in 1699,where succeeded Marc Antonio Ziani as maestro di capella at the Gonzaga court of Ferdinando Carlo, Duke of Mantua. In 1707 he travelled to Rome.
It was from the Vatican that the demand for sacred music in a historically antiquated style (prima prattica) spread throughout the Catholic world as the style synonymous with sacredness. Indeed sacred music was particularly well supported in Rome by the great aristocratic families of this period as the heads of the Colonna, Pamphili and Ottobini families were after all Cardinals. Cardinals Ottoboni and Pamphili and Prince Ruspoli also held weekly 'conversazioni' where invited guests could gather for informal conversation, games and to hear new music, usually in the form of cantatas or serenades. It is not to difficult to imagine that many composers, vocalists and instrumentalists were required to meet the musical demands of the city and we find many important composers of Baroque music in Rome at this time, namely George Frederick Handel, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Cesarini, Bernardo Pasquini, Arcangelo Corelli, Stradella, Alessandro Melani, Ercole Bernabei and Foggia.
By July 1st 1709 Caldara had secured the position of maestro di capella to Prince Francesco Maria Ruspoli. From his compositional output during the next seven years it is clear that Caldara's muse flourished in this stable environment and he composed mainly secular works including 150 solo cantatas, over 50 duets, four operas and nine oratorios.