Monday, May 30, 2011

Mattheson: Der Brauchbare Virtuoso (Op.7) (Trio Corelli)

Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) 是音樂史上的一個傳奇人物。雖然他身在漢堡(Hamburg),也葬在漢堡,中間他的經歷可是相當豐富。雖然他也寫了不少音樂,但今天他留名青史的地方在於,他是當時最量產,也最俱有權威的音樂理論學家與評論家。他著作的二十幾本書,不僅巨細靡遺地記載了當時各地最新的音樂風格與最重要的音樂家。因為他自己是唱歌劇起家的,因此一直主張並維護戲劇化的音樂風格。批評十七世紀的風格為過時,他是算是巴洛克轉型到galant style的重要推手之一。更重要的插曲是,他差點成為殺死韓德爾的千古罪人。要是當時不幸的事情果真發生了,今天也沒有「彌賽亞」這個不朽之作了。

Mattheson於1681出生於漢堡,父親是收稅人。他年紀輕輕就被父母送到當地的Johanneum學校就讀。父母希望他可以受到廣博的教育,以便在日後在漢堡的中上社會有前途。因此,在這段期間,他不但接受了紮實的音樂教育,能夠彈風琴、古中提琴、長笛、小提琴、雙簧管、魯特琴,還練了聲樂,他還私底下有學習英文、義大利文、法文、舞蹈、騎馬、劍術、畫圖、還有數學。當他開始唱歌劇時,他稱之為「音樂大學」裡頭應有盡有,因此從Johanneum結業之後,便沒有再正式求學了。他兒時的歌聲優美到被漢堡的宮廷傳喚進宮當男侍,並常被吩咐要在貴族面前表演。

他成人變聲之後,從原本女高音部調整到男高音部,在漢堡音樂圈內仍然是一位相當成功的音樂家。他當聲樂家的職業生涯,從九歲到二十四歲總共十五年。在他退出歌劇界的前兩年,他認識了韓德爾,兩人立刻成為了非常要好友。經Mattheson的安排,韓德爾在歌劇院找到了小提琴家和大鍵琴師的工作。在1704年,Mattheson擔任自己歌劇「埃及豔后」中男主角馬克.安東尼(Mark Anthony),而指揮則交給彈大鍵琴的韓德爾。有一天晚上,第三幕當馬克.安東尼自殺之後,Mattheson決定回到指揮席,並叫韓德爾讓座。沒想到韓德爾拒絕離開,二人爭執不下,最後韓德爾被賞了耳光。這口氣叫韓德爾怎麼嚥得下去?於是,韓德爾立刻挑戰要用劍決鬥。

韓德爾這個戰書下得真是不要命,因為Mattheson先前在宮中當男侍時,就有和王子的小孩一塊練劍。這時,Mattheson已經是西洋劍的高手了,而韓德爾怎麼握劍都還不大熟悉咧。好在,比鬥時,Mattheson的劍刺到韓德爾時,被鈕扣給彈開,讓韓德爾得以保住小命。神奇的是,二人在幾週後就重修舊好。Mattheson告別聲樂的幾個演出,都是韓德爾歌劇中的角色。

1705年,Mattheson突然放下他音樂家的職業,轉而變成駐漢堡的英國大史兒子Cyril Wich的家教。隔年,因為他的能力實在太好,因此升格成為大史Sir John Wich的祕書。這個工作一做就幾乎做了一輩子。在John Wich過逝之後,子接父職,Mattheson繼續同樣的職位。雖說表面的頭銜是祕書,但他所做的工作遠遠超過一般的祕書。他不僅常常代表Wich出席外交任務,他熟讀英國的法律,政治,還有經濟,使得他變成英國和漢堡之間的貿易專家。於1709年,Mattheson甚至娶了一位英國人Catherine Jennings。

1715年,Mattheson被聘為漢堡大教堂的音樂總監(Cantor / Kantor)。1719年,他同時擔任Holstein宮廷的音樂指揮(Kapellmeister)。不幸的是,1728年,他開始失聰,而1735時他已全聾了。這中間十幾年,Mattheson是個相當量產的作曲家,但大部份的音樂以聲樂為主。而他的音樂專著又多又詳細,而且大多針對當時十八世紀德國巴洛克的曲風。雖然他用的語言艱深,但對於古樂研究有興趣的人,這些可是不可多得的寶庫。

Mattheson於1764逝世於漢堡時,已經是當地的傳奇人物,有上千人參加他的葬禮。Mattheson幾年前就已知道自己來日不多,因此自己送別儀式上的音樂也就自己先行寫好。如此深謀遠慮的作曲家,除了Mattheson之外,史上還有幾人?

Mattheson留下的器樂曲似乎不多。這套1720年出版的作品七奏鳴曲有標題「能用的音樂大師」。那倒底怎樣才是「能用的」呢?在前言中,Mattheson奮力攻擊那些「無用」,或是「有害」的大師。Mattheson寫道,除了人品和行為要好,音樂家的道德標準也要高。最後,Mattheson也說,只研究早期音樂而對當代的音樂毫無感興趣的學者,也是個「無用」的學者。呵,這麼嚴厲的批評,可是罵盡了無數人,今天仍適用~~

這套作品七有十二首奏鳴曲,是給長笛或小提琴以及數字低音演奏的。由於當時義大利式Corelli風的奏鳴曲當道,Mattheson的這奏鳴曲也是以它作為範本,不過教堂奏鳴曲和室內奏鳴曲的分別已不再。當然,寫義式奏鳴曲的德國作曲家大有人在,不過Mattheson在寫作品七時整個大格局的巧思,在這兒還不得不條列式整理一下:

(一)  十二首奏鳴曲共有51樂章,其中26為大調,25為小調。

(二)  第一首和第七首,是唯一沒有吉格(Gigue)舞曲樂章的奏鳴曲,用嘉禾(Gavotte)代替。如將十二首奏鳴曲分成兩半,它們分別為那一半的第一首。

(三)  第六首奏鳴曲的最後一樂章,從第一樂章數過來,剛好是第二十六樂章,可以說是整套的「中心」。它是一首小步舞曲(Menuet),也是整套裡唯一一首小步舞曲。

最後,音樂調性,前六首採大調為主,陽光又歡樂。後六首,以小調為主,陰暗哀愁。到了第十一首奏鳴曲,更是到達了悲傷的最高點,音樂甚至一度完全停滯。第十二首奏鳴曲,音樂浴火重生,同時反樸歸真。開頭樂章,有Alla Corelli的標題,無疑是向這位大師致敬。全部十二首奏鳴曲,如重頭到尾一次聽完,就像是一齣器樂歌劇,也是Mattheson精心的安排。

這張錄音上的音樂家,為丹麥的室內樂團Trio Corelli,由Elisaebeth Zeuthen Schneider擔任小提琴家。市面上別的錄音,似乎都用到長笛,而他們是首次決定用小提琴演奏整套的版本。然後, Viggo Mango以及Ulrik Spang-Hanssen負責擔任奇妙的archlute還有風琴的伴奏群組合。CD冊子上有特別說,這種組合當時在義大利被認為是最有活力的,但沒有大鍵琴,對我卻又少了一些輕盈的感覺。而且,風琴伴奏音在很多音的快樂章時,archlute的聲音甚至幾乎都被蓋過去了。但在慢樂章中,可聽到archlute清楚的撥絃聲,搭配風琴長久不衰的聲音,則真的令人覺得超凡脫俗。

Schneider的演奏方式,製造出乾淨連綿的音色。她的斷句相對較少,而音樂性的表現主要在音強弱的變化。她的琴聲有一絲絲單薄,而且似乎不是場地的問題。Schneider的表演風格和伴奏群的特別音色算是吻合,不無不好,但是Schneider的拉法對我而言還是偏謹慎,太小心翼翼了。可能自己已習慣更為戲劇化的表現手法,所以Trio Corelli的穩健,有時卻略顯平淡。儘管演奏方式少了點個性,但Mattheson的義式奏鳴曲溫和且極容易下嚥,也是對他少數器樂曲下手的好位置。

Johann Mattheson is one of those people whose life you marvel at the more you read about them.  Mainly known as one of the most important and influential music theorist and musicologists of his time, he was also a composer and diplomat.  He is equally known for being Handel's good friend and the same person who almost killed him in a duel. 

Mattheson was born to a father tax collector, and he received a remarkably broad education starting at a very young age in the Johanneum.  In terms of music, he learned how to play the organ, gamba, flute, oboe, lute, and also learned how to sing.   Privately, he also studied Italian, French, English, horse riding, fencing, drawing, dancing and mathematics.  After he started to sing opera, he called it the "musical university," and thus did not continue any formal education after that.  He became a page at the Hamburg court, but his voice was so beautiful and well-known that he was called to play and sing in front of the royal family and guests. 

After his voice changed, his transition from the soprano voice to tenor seemed to go rather smoothly.  He spent 15 years with the Hamburg opera, being one of the most highly acclaimed singers of Hamburg.  During this time, he befriended Handel, becoming best friends with the composer, even helping him land his first job as a violinist and harpsichordist at the opera.  The most famous anecdote of course, was that during one performance, after Mattheson's character Mark Anthony commits suicide on stage, Mattheson decide to retire from the stage and return to conduct the orchestra from the harpsichord position.  Handel, occupying that position, refused to leave.  A heated argument resulted in a duel between the two.  This was basically suicide on Handel's part, since Handel did not know how to fence, but Mattheson, during his period of being a page in the Hamburg court, learned to master the art of fencing.  Luckily, Mattheson's sword hit a button on Handel's coat instead of piercing his body.  Today, we are fortunate to hear great music like "Messiah," thanks to that button.

In 1705, After leaving the Hamburg opera, Mattheson's career took an interesting turn by becoming the tutor of the son of English ambassador to Hamburg.  Because of his competence on the job, he was quickly promoted to being the personal secretary of the ambassador John Wich, and he would continue this position for many year after John's son Cyril took over his dad's office after John's death.  Mattheson's duties with the Wiches overstepped those of any common secretary, as he would officially represent the Wiches on many important diplomatic missions. 

In 1715 he was appointed the cantor of the Hamburg cathedral.  In 1719, he also Kapellmeister to the court of the Duke of Holstein.  However, starting 1728 he started to lose his hearing, and by 1735, he was totally deaf and had to resign from all these musical obligations.  However, during these periods, Mattheson was a fairly prolific composer, mainly of vocal music.  His greatest and most important output today remains the twenty-some books he published on the music theory, style, and history of the German Baroque.  He was a strong advocate of the newer galant style, calling the older style of the 17th century outdated.  He was also a big proponent of adopting a more dramatic style in vocal music, including that in sacred music.   Mattheson passed away in his hometown of Hamburg in 1764.  He was a legend, and thousands came to his funeral.  As his final gesture of incredibility, he even composed the music specifically to be used for his funeral a few years earlier!

The music on this recording, titled Der Brauchbare Virtuoso, meaning "The Usable Virtuoso," consists of twelve sonatas written basically in the Corellian model.  Published as opus 7, Mattheson includes in his preface a lengthy discussion of what it means to be the unusable virtuoso.   These include, musicians with no personal scruples and behave rude and ill-mannered.  He also comments that scholars interested only in music of the past and not of the present are also in this useless category.  Hmm... today that means dissing a significant amount of classically trained musicians!

Much thought was put into carefully crafting this set of chamber sonatas, especially in terms of the overall large structure.  In particular:

(1)  The twelve sonatas contain 51 movements, 26 are in major scale, and 25 in minor.
(2)  The first and seventh sonata, which are the first sonatas in their respective halves, are the only sonatas without a Gigue movement.  Instead, they are replaced with a Gavotte.
(3)  The last movement of the 6th sonata is the 26th movement, if you start counting from the 1st sonata.  It is a Menuet, and the only one in the entire set.  It serves as the center and pivot point of the collection. 

Last but not least, the entire collection follows a sort of operatic story-telling, where the first half of the sonatas are mainly in the major scale, sunny and cheerful.  Moving on the second half, the mood turns cloudy and gloomy.  In the 11th sonata, the music reaches its emotional climax and briefly "dies."  Finally, in the concluding 12th sonata, the smoke clears and music settles, starting with the "Alla Corelli" movement, tribute to the great Italian master.   

The artists Trio Corelli are a Danish early music chamber group, with Elisaebeth Zeuthen Schneider being the solo violinist and the interesting combination of Viggo Mangor on the archlute and Ulrik Spang-Hanssen on the organ.  Mattheson's set can be played on the flute or violin, and other recordings seem to prefer the flute, so this set is the first to be entirely recorded on the violin.  The artists comment that the unusual combination of archlute and organ originated from Italy and was supposed to be the liveliest sound possible.  To me however, this combination seemed a little too austere, and occasionally I longed for the crisp sound of the harpsichord.  For faster passages, with the organ active, the archlute also seems to be drowned out by the organ.  In certain slow movements though, with the right melodic line, the combined effect can be ethereal.   

Schneider's playing style is smooth and continuous, providing less articulations, reminding me a bit like John Holloway, but her violin tone is thinner.  This seems to due to the instrument and not room acoustics, because they made the recording in a church, and the sound is reverberant as is.  Schneider's musicality thus mainly comes from varying the dynamics.  Her overall approach adequately fits the tone quality of the continuo arrangement, and the music making is of course solid, but at times I feel that it is on the careful side.   Preferring a more dramatic style, to me Trio Corelli seemed to take less risks.  While the Corellian sonatas are sweet as is, I was expecting them to push the envelope once in a while, because midway through the discs, the playing can sound a bit monotonous and lacks distinct personality.

In short, Mattheson did not write alot of instrumental music, and this set is a decent entry to Mattheson's music if you aren't quite the big vocal music person like me.    











2 comments:

John Hendron said...

Mattheson was indeed an interesting fellow, and you're right, he seems to be oft-quoted which is a reflection of his well-traveled life. I don't own any Mattheson recordings, so it was a real treat that you included some samples.

I found the playing of this ensemble to be annoying - the continuous waver of vibrato in the violin and the lack of ornamentation left me wanting for more on a quick listen.

However, if this is one of the few recordings of Mattheson's chamber music on record, it might have to suffice.

Bravo on the background information - I learned a lot!

Deadlockcp said...

There is another recording of the same collection on Alpha, by Baroni/Valetti/Skalka/Borner. I don't own that recording (yet), but I found the clips to be immensely enjoyable.

In their rendition, the traverso and the violin taking turns playing the melody, and I like how they phrase the music better as well.

Post a Comment