Saturday, January 16, 2010

Schmelzer: Sonatae unarum fidium (John Holloway)

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer(c1620 - 1680)是17世紀中在德語系國家中相當重要的音樂家。雖然他早期的生平多不可考,不過許多文獻都指出他在1635就已在統治Holy Roman Empire(神聖羅馬帝國)的Habsburg王朝的宮廷禮拜教堂(court chapel)下當樂手。儘管1643的正式婚姻文件記載他為cornett(早期像小喇叭的樂器)的演奏家,他最終是以高超小提琴家的名氣傳播至整歐 洲。


Habsburg王朝底下的幾位皇帝不但非常愛好音樂,常常招攬各地最好的音樂家來持續發展宮廷內的音樂文化, 他們自己本身也都是業餘的作曲家。Schmelzer也在1649年,正式被聘為宮廷樂團的小提琴。接下來的十年,他不但大量為宮廷創作音樂,也得到未來 皇帝Leopold一世的賞識。除了有幸參加Leopold在1658年的加冕式,他並在1671晉升為宮廷的副音樂指揮(vice- Kapellmeister)。由於總指揮Giovanni Felice Sances年事已高,身體多病,因此說Schmelzer在這幾年是實質上負責宮廷裡一切的音樂安排也不為過。Leopold皇帝對Schmelzer 的厚愛,更在1673將他封為貴族,子孫之後都享有加上的von Ehrenruef名稱。

總指揮Sances於 1679過逝,使Schmelzer正式成為宮廷的Kapellmeister。可惜再度襲捲歐洲的黑死病瘟疫,立刻掃至Habsburg的奧地利。雖然 Schmelzer隨著貴族們暫時逃到布拉格避難,但他最終難逃瘟疫的魔掌。在接掌Kapellmeister不到一年,他於1680年初在Prague 病逝。

Schmelzer雖然在宮廷作曲數十年,不過他最重要的成就,是將當時小提琴的高超的演奏技巧,在德語系的國家中發展。當時所謂的Stylus Fantasticus (Fantastic Style)(奇異風格),是源自義大利,之後再往北傳至德語系的國家。他的音樂風格,直接影響了之後將這風格發揚光大的Biber。這張CD所收錄他於 1664出版的六首小提琴奏鳴曲,據說是第一位德國作曲家所出版的小提琴奏鳴曲集。當時所謂的奏鳴曲多為單樂章,而且多半有個反覆的bassline,在 上面做主題與變奏。Schmelzer這些奏鳴曲也多走這樣的風格。在Biber的Mystery Sonatas出版之前,這一套可能是德語系小提琴音樂的指標。

CD的第一軌收錄另一位作曲家Bertali的一首 Chaconne。Bertali同是在Habsburg宮廷的義大利音樂家,也是Schmelzer的前輩。他這一首Chaconne的 bassline除了強有力的節奏以外,音樂的變化也相當豐富,有時甚至比Schmelzer所寫的那六首奏鳴曲還要多。很諷刺地,這一首可能還是這張 CD上我印象最深,也是我喜歡的一首。

關於錄音本身,John Holloway對這樣曲風的音樂並不陌生。他早在1990年初期就有錄Biber的Mystery Sonatas以及Buxtehude的室內樂。因此,這些音樂的,他是駕輕就熟。他的風格是很英式的,所以就算他的技巧那麼精湛,許多節奏上還是採取比 四平八穩的表演方式。他在樂句的處理上選擇斷句較少,走平順的拉法。但音樂性質本身,再加上他的小提琴的音色非常甜美,使得整體的感覺相當悅耳。

最 後,也是最重要的,他在數字低音上,選擇風琴和大鍵琴同時一起彈奏。風琴神聖莊嚴的感覺,以及大鍵琴清晰的穿透力,讓音樂有昇華的效果,但又不失世俗的感 覺。這種非常特別的組合,也算是這一張CD的一大賣點之一,是一個有創意,但不完全背離傳統的表演。其中第二、第四、還有第五首奏鳴曲是我相當喜歡的。

Schmelzer was a an important figure in the mid 17th century German-Austrian music scene by bringing high level of violin playing, the "Fantastic Style," to the German-speaking countries from Italian-speaking ones.    His music was to influence Biber, whose music has gained a very large following in the past decade.  This set of 6 violin sonatas, titled Sonatae unarum fidium, was the first set of such sonatas published by a German composer. 

A nice addition is the first track of this CD, which is a Chaconne by Antonio Bertali.  This is perhaps his most famous piece, which has gained a minor reputation among early music enthusiasts.  Employing variations upon a steady bassline, this Chaconne is beautiful, and Holloway's treatment gives the piece a divine quality.


I first encountered the same Schmelzer's music on a different CD played by Odile Edouard.  The music captivated me so much that when John Holloway's recording came out, I decided to purchase that version as well.  Edouard does a fine job, but the interesting coupling of Schmelzer's violin sonatas and Kerll's organ works made that recording of the set incomplete by just one sonata!

While Edouard's choice of continuo is a single organ, giving the music a more solemn feel,  Holloway, on the other hand, decides to adopt a very very unconventional bass continuo combination of both the harpsichord and organ playing simultaneously.  The effect is profoundly rich while managing to retain the earthiness of the music.

Holloway is technically flawless, and he plays the music so effortless that the music can sound deceptively simple.  However, Holloway has a tendency to go with more stable tempi, unlike some of the other German or Italian violinists.  Holloway's phrasing also tends to be smoother, with less articulation.  For this Fantastic Style music in general, his approach works well (like his recordings of Buxtehude's chamber music).  Probably not inventive as some may wish, the elegance of his playing his unmatched.



7 comments:

John Hendron said...

When I queue this recording, it's the Bertali that I often aim my attention to. I like the sound and the energy in this piece. For a more daring interpretation, try Rare Fruits Council. I recently picked up an entire Bertali CD by Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, which includes yet another rendition of the Chaconne.

My favorite is a shortened version by Christina Pluhar's ensemble, L'Arpeggiata.

Deadlockcp said...

Hi John,
I do have the Rare Fruits Council recording, which I also enjoy very much.

I also recently have a recording on Naxos that has another version of the Chaconne. I enjoy other pieces on that recording more than their version of Bertali's Chaconne.

John Hendron said...

speaking of comparisons, I have the Koopman/Volume 1 recording of Bach cantatas which contains BWV 150. It's "light," but nothing like the more recent version in a 3-cantata single CD by Akademia. BWV 150 has become a favorite of mine... do you happen to have it?

Deadlockcp said...

Hi John,
I am way out of my league here in vocal music. I listen to what I can, but I'm no close to being any skilled listener, let alone expert. I think I might have a recording from the Teldec set of the Bach 2000, although I'm not sure.

I suppose given that there is so much vocal music in the Baroque era, I should really pay more attention. I guess I spend enough time trying to get a hold of the instrumental music available.

Deadlockcp said...

Hi John,
Went digging into my collection of Bach's vocal works.

My version of BWV 150 is by Leonhardt and the Leonhardt Consort on Teldec. Have you heard this version by the grand maestro?

Anonymous said...

Version of Schmelzer's Fidium by Edouard(Odile) is far superior than Holloway.Since I heard this one I've never gone back to Holloway.Her violine is close to being overpowered by the church organ but she doesn't allow it.This Cd is still available out of Canada thru ArkivRecords or from Switzerland.

Deadlockcp said...

Yes, I have both the Edouard's disc, as well as the Andrew Manze's version. I have to agree that in terms of artistic playing and inventiveness, they offer more.

There was a time when I really liked Holloway's intonation and playing. It's not that I dislike it now, but I think there are more exciting interpretations out there that I have since preferred more.

Edouard's playing is very good. It was a little unnerving when I first got the music years ago, with only the organ. Her violin sound is also on the thin side. This could be how it was recorded, b/c another Edouard recording of mine also shows this.

Manze's recording is a bit more balanced IMO. Nigel North on the theorbo also adds to a neat effect on the continuo.

Post a Comment