Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dietrich Becker: Sonatas and Suites (Parnassi Musici)

Dietrich Becker (1623 - 1679) 是十七世紀中,北德重要的作曲家,也是一位高超的小提琴家。很可惜,當其他像Buxethude,Biber, Schmelzer,或是Rosenmueller等作曲家開始得到他應該有重視的時候,Becker仍然很可憐地被冷落在一旁。

Becker是土生土長的漢堡人,但他年輕時曾到鄰近的城市Ahrensburg擔任過風琴師。不過,他二十幾歲起,便決定轉練小提琴。他先後到瑞典還有德國的Celle擔任過宮廷小提琴家,不過1662又回到了漢堡的懷抱,在市立樂團找到了永久的職位。當Johann Schop過逝時,Becker馬上晉升為漢堡市樂團的指揮。Becker在漢堡音樂圈相當活躍,還是令人敬重的漢堡音樂協會Collegium Musicum的成員。定期的聚會,肯定讓Becker增長見聞,使自己音樂點子更成熟。1674年,當Christoph Bernhard離開去德勒斯登的時候,他甚至同時身兼教堂總指揮一職兼了一年。

Becker早期是風琴家,但並沒有任何Becker寫的風琴音樂保存下來。比較奇怪的是,Becker後來是優秀的小提琴家,但他也沒有獨奏小提琴曲子留下來。今天他的曲子,都是室內樂,多為兩支小提琴與數字低音的三重奏鳴曲還有組曲。如同Froberger將Allemande - Courant - Sarabande - Gigue 四個不同國家的舞曲結合成為鍵盤組曲,Becker似乎是第一位將這個模式套到室內樂的作曲家。

這張CD上的曲子,都選自他的Erster Theil zweystimmiger Sonaten and Suiten(第一套 奏鳴曲 + 組曲 二部曲系列)。這一套裡,共有九首奏鳴曲和九首組曲,一首奏鳴曲和一首組曲是配在一塊兒的。奏鳴曲和組曲可以獨立分開演奏,也可以接著表演,形成規模較大的曲子。奏鳴曲,是遵循早期奏鳴曲的單樂章多段的形式,相鄰的兩段通常在速度和性質上有一定的對比。二小提琴的關係,有和諧的平行三度同時移動,也有相互對話較勁的部份,也是當時典型的手法。如要猜Becker是小提琴家,也只能從幾首奏鳴曲快的地方,聽到他加入了一些比較困難的橋段,是要技巧夠的人才能執行的。


因為CD長度有限,所以九個奏鳴曲 - 組曲組只錄了七組,將第四組和第九組給省去了。以Becker受到的知名度,我很懷疑室內樂團Parnassi Musici會不會再回到Becker的曲子,或是可預見的未來,會不會哪個樂團會有興趣製作他的專輯。當初對Dietrich Becker有興趣,是因為他了Elizabeth Blumenstock和其他音樂家的室內樂音樂會。當他們拉到Becker的一首奏鳴曲的時候,立刻引起我的注意,讓我很想去購買他的音樂。Parnassi Musici這張,已經絕版了,當初在網上是近來搶到的二手CD。

老實說,這張是我手邊Parnassi Musici的CD中,最不滿意的。之前有介紹過他們錄Domenico Gallo的三重奏鳴曲,還蠻喜歡的。但這張1997年的錄音,是Parnassi Musici較早的錄音,風格還是偏保守,小提琴音拉得很虛弱,低音也不夠厚實。大部份組曲裡的舞曲,像是參加老人年會,強弱變化太少,而且拉得太規矩,感覺不到年輕的生命力,。奏鳴曲,則很多地方,太隨便就帶過去了。常常慢的部份,許多不和諧音產生的不安和之後化解,沒有好好把握機會強調一下。Parnassi Musici並不是做不出更好的效果,因為像A大調的奏鳴曲和組曲的結尾幾小節裡,還是有證明他們是有實力使音樂變得更精彩,更有可看(聽)性。但多數時候,他們選擇不這樣做,而Becker的音樂,沒辦法被好好襯托出來,聽久了就容易乏味。

Dietrich Becker (1623 - 1679) was an important mid-17th century northern German composer, who was an accomplished violin virtuoso.  Like many German composers of the high Baroque, Becker is one of the many who have been outshone by their more accomplished late Baroque greats such as Handel, Bach, and Telemann.  To add insult to injury, now that his contemporary peers are getting the recognition they deserve (Schmelzer, Biber, Rosenmueller, and Buxtehude), Becker is living in their shadows.   

Becker was born and raised in Hamburg.  He began his musical career as an organist in a nearby town called Ahrensburg, but he later decided to devote himself entirely on the violin, so it seems.  After a few jobs as a court musician in Sweden and Celle, Germany, he returned to his hometown Hamburg.  He fixed a permanent job in the city ensemble and became the music director when Johann Schop died.  He was also a member of the Collegium Musicum, a respected music society in Hamburg.  Frequent meetings, where members discussed and presented their compositions, must have given Becker many ideas for his own compositions.  For a brief time, he also simultaneously held the title as the cathedral music director.

As a young organist, none of Becker's keyboard music survives or is known to exist.  As a violin virtuoso, it may also be surprising to know that there are no known solo violin works of him either.  Instead, all of Becker's output exists in the form of ensemble sonatas.  Occasionally there are more technical passages in there for the violin, and from what I've read, can be rewarding for musicians.  His sonatas are of the early Italian models, comprising of single movement but multiple sections of contrasting moods and tempi. His suites are worth a brief mentioning, as like Froberger who grouped the four national dances of Allemande, Courant, Sarabande, and Gigue into his keyboard suite, Dietrich Becker was apparently the first composer to do this for ensemble sonatas.  He did deviate from this formula once in a while, but he remained true to it for the most part.  

The works are the CD are selected from his published set of chamber works called Erster Theil zweystimmiger Sonaten and Suiten (First Part of Two-Part Sonatas and Suites), a somewhat convoluted title name.  In it comprises of 9 sets of sonata-suite pairs written for 3 voices, mostly for two violins and bass continuo (one is for violin, viola da gamba, and bass continuo).  For each pair, the sonata and suite can be played by itself stand alone, or they can be played together in the sonata-suite order as a longer piece.  While the sonatas have a freer form with more contrapuntal writing, the suites are of fixed dance form of homophonic writing. 

The reason I decided to explore Becker's music is because I attended an early music chamber recital, where Elizabeth Blumenstock and others perform German trio sonatas.  I vividly remember the Becker's sonata to be an awesome piece, and I had it in the back of mind to own some of his music at some point.  This CPO disc seems to be out of print, and I had to get a used copy of it off Amazon. 

Due to the length of the CD, the Parnassi Musici is only able to record 7 out of the 9 sonata - suite pairs, omitting the 4th and 9th pair.  Judging by the obscurity of Becker, I doubt if they will come back and make another recording devoted entirely to his works.  I've reviewed a set of their recording of Domenico Gallo's trio sonatas earlier, which I found to be quite enjoyable.  I cannot say quite the same for this particular recording.  In fact, of all my Parnassi Musici recordings, this is my least favorite one.  It seems that this is one of their early recordings (judging by the recording date, I was still in high school!), where they were still rather conservative in their playing, searching for their own definitive sound in the early music scene.  The violin playing sounds reserved, and the bass is rather thin, not providing enough support. 

Many times, the dances in the suites aren't played with a lot of liveliness in them, a rather lackluster run through.  I was hoping to feel youth and energy, but most times felt like attending a senior citizen bingo game.  The sonatas also suffered from lack of contrast in dynamics or the way they shaped the musical phrase.  The slow sections are often littered with uneasy tension arising from the dissonances, which Parnassi fails to capitalize on.  Instead the suspension and resolution are treated rather too cursory.  Parnassi does have its good moments though, as they display their technical prowess in the more virtuosic sonata passages, showing that they have the ability to make the music sound more interesting.  However, the moments are too brief and too few.

Ultimately, it's a shame, because Becker's music does deserves more recognition.  The nature of his music is pleasant, a little too pleasant perhaps, that requires an extra zest in the performance to give it a push and really make it sound alive.  This disc is good to have solely for Becker's music.  However, there are other fine recordings out there of single Becker sonatas or suites. some from an earlier collection, the Musicalische Frühlings-Früchte (Musical Spring Fruit).  Parnassi Musici's recording, unfortunately does not get my vote to take home the cake.


Mingus said...



你有沒有看到這一套Vivarte/Sony 的發行。相當猶豫要不要買。

有許多我聽大不慣的 Tafelmusik或Bylsma的錄音...。

What do you think?

Deadlockcp said...

疑,我沒有注意到這套耶~~ 我好像沒有特別對上面哪個錄音有特別的興趣。而且,我對Tafelmusik的大致表演,也都覺得普通。手邊有一張他們的Biber的Harmonia artificioso-ariosa,沒什麼特別感覺。雖然音樂本身就不算是Biber最驚豔的,但Tafelmusik的表演isn't doing anything to help.....



D. Becker的音樂好像都是散落在那種合集當中,手邊這張是目前看到整張都錄他的CD。套句orangebach的說法,Parnassi Musici這個錄音對我實在不那麼來電。放到youtube的這幾首,已經是比較滿意的,像是A大調的那首奏鳴曲,最後面的ground bass變奏曲實在很美麗。

Mingus said...



我也有Tafelmusik的Biber的Harmonia artificioso-ariosa,也聽過他們的Bach, Handel,真的讓我對一套收太多此團的大全集無法心動。

對此系列的Schubert, Brahms 也有些怕怕。


Deadlockcp said...

手邊有Weiss的那兩張Lute作品,很久沒有複習了~~ :)

Tafelmusik有一張Geminiani作品二大協奏曲的錄音,倒是我會有興趣買的。不過,就如您所提到的,對他們的演奏存一點質疑。市面上好像只有另一個古樂版,而且已經絕版。和手邊已有的Naxos的那個Capella Istropolitana現代樂器版相比,算是兩害選其輕。當然,說Tafelmusik的是「害」,也有點太超過。但用現代樂器,用太濃厚的音色和現代拉法,來表演大協奏曲,我還真不大能習慣了。這也算是近十年品味的改變。



John Hendron said...

You had me excited about this composer... I agree in the samples, the approach is too conservative.

Deadlockcp said...

MAK recorded a Becker sonata in their Musica Baltica album.

Here's another recording on youtube:

Through my university subscription of the Naxos Music Library, I was able to listen to the entire disc online where the youtube recording comes from. It features another beautiful Becker sonata from his earlier collection of Musicalische Frühlings-Früchte.

Too bad Becker's music is scattered throughout the early music recordings.

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