Saturday, July 30, 2011

Buxtehude: Seven Trio Sonatas Op.2 (Holloway/Linden/Mortensen)

Dietrich Buxtehude (c1637–1707) 是十七世紀北歐最重要的巴洛克作曲家之一。今天他主要的貢獻來自於他的風琴曲,是巴哈之前最重要的代表。今天的風琴音樂會中,咱Buxtehude或許是第二常被演奏的作曲家吧。Buxtehude可以說是影響巴哈最深的音樂家之一。在1705,年僅20歲的巴哈為了親耳可以聽到Buxtehude表演風琴,特地從Arnstadt步行了250公里,到Buxtehude位於的Lübeck,並在那兒待了三個月,耳濡目染。

其實要來一睹大師風采的,並不是只有巴哈一人。兩年前年輕的韓德爾還有Johann Mattheson(對於他的生平,請詳見)一塊兒到Lübeck,並都有意要接Buxtehude在Marienkirche教堂風琴師一職。當時Lübeck這個職位,在北歐的音樂圈內是非常尊貴的殊榮。只是,當時有傳統,要接風琴師的職位,就得娶他未嫁的女兒為妻。Anna Margreta Buxtehude足足大韓德爾有十歲,也較Mattheson年長六歲。我猜可能相貌也是非常普通,因為二人後來都婉拒了。後來Dietrich Buxtehude過逝的時候,風琴師一職由他的助理J.C. Schieferdecker接任,同時也和Anne Margreta成了親。

Buxtehude在1668年起就開始擔任起了Lübeck的風琴師,直到1707年過逝,有近四十年之久。不過,今天他大部份的創作,包括他的清唱劇,風琴作品,以及其他器樂曲,其實都和他工作職責無關。也就是說,這些音樂不是為別的場合,就是以純粹想要產生藝術的心態而寫。其實想想,這也不意外。一位音樂家,總希望在離開人世間,可以將自己的音樂理念給紀錄下來。

這張CD上的七首作品二奏鳴曲,是Buxtehude晚年所出版的器樂曲。這些「三重奏鳴曲」的編制和義大利的大大不同。與其雙小提琴和數字低音,Buxtehude的作品二奏鳴曲,採小提琴,古中提琴,以及數字低音,在當時德奧比較常會見到的編制,但整體而言算是較罕見的。雖說是三重奏鳴曲,但由於古中提琴的音域和數字低音的重疊性高,所以許多時候數字低音是減化的古中提琴聲部,實質上倒更像二重奏鳴曲。

另外,當時在義大利,奏鳴曲已經逐漸標準化,成為慢-快-慢-快的四樂章架構。Buxtehude,則完全沒有選擇順著這種趨勢。他的奏鳴曲,與其說樂章,不如說段落,因為有些地方段落間並沒有正式的結束線,而是連貫在一塊兒的。Buxtehude的作品二奏鳴曲,少則五段,多則八段,分明是不按理出牌。但,別因為這樣就認為他的作品創作是雜亂無章。仔細聽Buxtehude的曲子,其實背後有精心的設計,使得曲子有漂亮的整體性。

在這兒要再講個有趣的小故事。幾年前在學校有音樂系的學弟妹公演一首Buxtehude的奏鳴曲。但因為他的音樂段落式的分法,讓觀眾許多時候以為已結束了,就在那兒鼓掌,拍完才發現居然音樂沒結束。這種情況發生了四五次,到了最後幾次台下的觀眾反而開始自己笑起來了。一直到拉小提琴的學妹終於將弓拿離開琴,像觀眾鞠躬時,大家才晃然大悟:「音樂終於結束了!」,換得更熱烈的掌聲。

Buxtehude的奏鳴曲最常見到的幾個手法為(一)仿即興的段落,傳承了「奇異風格」(Stylus Fantasticus)的精神,形式自由,沒有任何拘束,(二)對位的段落,更是德奧音樂優良的傳統,以及(三)頑固低音的運用,在規律中求變化。Buxtehude將三者的結合實在完美,聲音層次與節奏不斷地在改變,雖然驚喜連連,但也維持著音樂的和諧感。Buxtehude的奏鳴曲,很快就成為我最喜歡的室內樂曲目之一。

在這兒特別挑Buxtehude的作品二介紹,是因為在寫這篇文章時,作品一市面上的錄音還不少, 除了有這張CD的Holloway原班人馬,尚有HM的Manfredo Kraemer,Music & Arts的L'Estravagante,Hyperion的Convivum,Centaur的Bostom Museum Trio,還有Chandos的Purcell Quartet等。可是作品二,卻還沒有很多樂團有錄。不知道比例懸殊的原因,但作品二吸引人的程度,不亞於作品一。其中,第五首奏鳴曲,有小提琴和古中提琴有自己的solo部份,穿插於合奏的段落間,是我最喜歡的一首。第二首奏鳴曲,有一段充滿著憧憬的主題旋律與變奏。第三首是長的一首,將Buxtehude全部的手法都用上了,最後的gigue(吉格),是作品二唯一正式標名的舞曲樂章。

John Holloway和Lars Ulrik Mortensen,對於Stylus Fantasticus的曲風不陌生,因為兩人之前在Schmelzer小提琴奏鳴曲的專輯就合作過。John Holloway,更是演奏過Biber的Mystery Sonatas,對於這方面的曲子更是專家。如同我對John Holloway的期待, 他的小提琴音色飽滿溫暖,拉法平順,句法修飾不像新生代的小提琴家斷句那麼刻意,弓下得那麼重。他的一貫風格是「讓音樂自己說話」。有時候,當曲子本身不是特別突出的時候,Holloway的詮釋會讓音樂顯得沒有起色。不過,Buxtehude作曲優秀,加上他的音樂本身就很有戲劇性,因此Holloway團隊的表演,選擇的演奏速度,和音樂是一拍即合。

Jaap ted Linden也是古中提琴的大師,不過錄音比重或是樂器本身的原故,所以聲音較為輕,常常被Holloway宏亮的琴聲所蓋過去。在許多地方,如果不認真去聽,很容易就錯過了。而且Linden的拉法也和Holloway一樣,易採滑順的詮釋,所以這種情況下gamba線更容易糊掉。

近來,我偏好外向點的表演風格。有時,這是在刺激和甜美之間做的取捨。大部份,刺激佔上風,但對於Buxtehude的這些奏鳴曲,我卻嚮往甜美的音色。於是,我選擇並欣賞Holloway的演奏。對早期巴洛克曲目有興趣的朋友們,這張是不可錯過的錄音。

Buxtehude is today most famously known for being the great old keyboard master that young J.S. Bach traveled 400 miles by foot just so he could hear him play live.   Bach stayed in Lübeck for nearly 3 months and in order to learn "one thing or another about his art."  Two years prior, Handel and Mattheson also made a journey up to Lübeck, where they expressed interest in succeeding Buxtehude as the organist to the prestigious church Marienkirche.  However, there was the added condition that whoever was to replace the current organist was to marry the organist's daughter, Anne Margreta.  She must have been old and ugly, as both Handel and Mattheson quickly refused the offer.  Luckily, Buxtehude's assistant organist for quite some time J.C. Schieferdecker succeeded him upon his death, and he married Anne Margreta a few months after.

Buxtehude is known as being one of the great Northern German composers of the mid-Baroque era, especially in the development of the keyboard music genre.  His organ music represents a crowning achievement of the German tradition before of course, the even greater J.S..  He was also probably the first composer who developed the cantata, a form of which J.S. Bach was to really mature.

His chamber music output is relatively small and all took place when Buxtehude was quite old.  It is said that most of Buxtehude's compositions, including his vocal compositions, were non-work-related.  Lübeck was a very musically cultured city, and Buxtehude and must have on many occasions written music for other use.  He published two sets (Op.1 and Op.2) of trio sonatas in the 1690s, and these pieces could have easily been performed by professionals or amateurs in town. 

These Op.2 sonatas are titled trio sonatas, but their instrumentation differ from the Italian models of two violins and continuo, instead adopting the Northern German practice of the violin, viola da gamba, and continuo.  This was preferred because of the contrast in tone color between the instruments.  Also, the viola da gamba's versatile range, meant that it could go in and out of the continuo, creating different textures.  Unfortunately, this also means that more often times than not, the music is more a duo sonata than a true trio sonata, with the bass continuo becoming a simplified version of the gamba line. 

One thing about these sonatas is their unpredictability.  While the Italian sonatas at the time started to adopt the standard slow-fast-slow-fast four movement structure, Buxtehude's sonatas do not follow this trend.  His sonatas follow those of the older type, where the music is divided into multiple contrasting sections, and the music is to be played more or less non-stop.  I remember a few years ago when a few of my friends performed a Buxtehude sonata on campus.  Due to the sectioned nature of Buxtehude's music, there were multiple instances where the audience thought that the music had ended and started applauding, only to find there was more to come.  This happened at least 4 or 5 times during the piece, where you could eventually start hearing laughter coming from the audience.  When the music did come to an end, my friends were treated to a louder and much deserved applause. 

Coming back to the music, Buxtehude's sections range from 5 to 8 in this set.  (There are as many as 14 sections in his earlier Op.1)  He contrasts them with sections of (1) free improvisatory nature, in the spirit of Stylus Fantasticus, (2) fugal counterpoint, or (3) ostinato bass.  The unpredictability of which one is coming really adds to the freshness in his music.  The seemingly haphazard arrangement also reveals a deeper thematic unity and coherence.  More importantly, the music is always balanced, melodiously and harmonically pleasing.   Of the 7 sonatas, the 5th sonata captured my attention the best, where the violin and gamba are each given their solo section, and the sections where they come together are simply ethereal for me.  The other ones are just as gratifying in other respects.    

Holloway and Mortensen are no strangers to Stylus Fantasticus, with an earlier recording of Schmelzer's violin sonatas.   Holloway, of course is known for his good recording of Biber's Mystery Sonatas.  Holloway, as I expected, adopts less of the "devilish" but more "angelic," if you may call it, approach to the music in general.  He doesn't shape the music as much as you would expect some of the more animated violinists out there.  Instead, he goes for a smoother intonation and musical line, playing each note fuller, closer to its written value, and he is aided by his warm violin tone.  There are some who aren't a big fan of his violin sound, but for me it's the biggest attraction.  The only issue is if I would prefer his violin sound and style on the music in question. 

I would call Holloway's general playing as "Let the music do the talking."  In cases where the music itself is not interesting, this approach can sometimes tank.  However, with Biber and Buxtehude's Stylus Fantasticus, their music is full of drama and surprises that Holloway's style works very well here.  The only other problem I might have is the balance of the gamba.  Linden's instrument sounds a bit soft, and passages where everyone is playing together, it's hard to hear the gamba clearly.  Linden, who isn't known for being an exciting player, has a style similar to Holloway, and this can further drown out the sound of the gamba.  

Buxtehude's Op.2 is not as readily recorded as his earlier Op.1.  At the time of writing, the only complete recordings I can find are this one and another by the Italian group L'Estravagante.  L'Estravagante is what I would categorize as the more extroverted style, and I have come to prefer more extroverted styles of playing as of late.  This usually means a trade-off between excitement and sweetness.  However, I see in Buxtehude's music the possibility of a more meditative approach, the sweet and smoother texture.  With Holloway, you won't be hearing virtuoso fireworks, but a beautiful ever-changing sonic landscape, reminiscent of Bertali.  Recommended recording on this set of hidden mid-Baroque gems.  








3 comments:

John Hendron said...

My favorite Buxtehude instrumental sonata is the one in B-flat major, from his op. 1 collection (also listed as BuxWV 273 with the same opening movement). I have the luxury of comparing your ensemble here, led by John Holloway, with that of the Ensemble Baroque de Limoges under Christophe Coin, and the complete opus 1 with Manfredo Kraemer and company on HMundi.

I enjoyed all three discs, but comparing this this one sonata in common, the order I listed them is the progression I prefer; Holloway "last," and Kraemer "first." Needless to say, Capriccio Stravagante has a nice release on DHM called Abendmusik which is really good, and I have the aforementioned op. 2 release by L'Estravagante.

Stefano Montanari is quite an expressive player; the opener to the G-minor from the op. 2 collection is a toe-tapper. He's a pro at the Italian style, and his instrument in this case has a very Italian sound. I much prefer it to the sound of Holloway's Amati copy, which on its own may be fine, but the da Capo/Naxos recordings are a bit too reverbrent to serve the violin sound well (it does far better to warm up the gamba for Jaap her Linden).

I found Buxtehude's opus 2 wasn't as great as his opus 1 for me... the L'estravagante may have a better violinist on record, and a nicer recorded sound, but the gamba playing isn't always sitting well with me.

If you can want an introduction to Buxtehude's chamber music for strings, the recordings by Holloway aren't a bad deal. They just miss the ultimate warmth a few other players here or there missed under their seats in terms of energy... and who is to say which one is more authentic.

Deadlockcp said...

yeah, I see what you mean....

My endeavor into the Buxtehude Op.1, however, was a different route. My first recording I owned was by the Locatelli Trio / Convivum by Mrs. Wallfisch. It was a solid recording (of course) that kind of lacked spirit of any kind. The music was interesting, but I just couldn't get into it. It wasn't until I got the Holloway recording where I actually felt like I could be listening to interesting music AND enjoy it at the same time.

The Kraemer recording is re-released by HM on a budget price. I have previously heard clips (I believe you sent it to me years ago) and am more than pleased. Thanks again..

John Hendron said...

I thought of Buxtehude yesterday perusing a chocolate shop, where they had chocolate from Lübeck.

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