Sunday, July 10, 2011

Purcell: 12 Sonatas in 3 Parts (London Baroque)

之前已寫過有關William Williams的音樂,不過真正該致敬的,是 Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) (普賽爾) ,英國出過最偉大的作曲家之一。在他短短的36年的人生中,寫了無數的宗教音樂,世俗聲樂,以及在擔任宮廷音樂家時為讚美君主和聖人的頌歌(ode)和慶祝君主歸來的歡迎曲(welcome songs)。他的純器樂曲,雖然數量較少,但一來保留舊式英國文藝復興的風格,二來引進法國和義大利較新的音樂語言,融合成為獨特的英國巴洛克曲風。在普賽爾過逝後,得等到十九,二十世紀的艾爾加,英國才又有搬得上國際舞台的作曲家。這中間,英國雖然有些自己的小作曲家,但儼然如音樂沙漠一般。

普賽爾出生於倫敦這個國際都市,就在西敏寺(Westminster Abbey)旁,並在他短暫的人生當中,沒離開過倫敦的四週。他還是小孩的時候,就是皇家禮拜堂(Chapel Royal)唱詩班的成員,但他變聲之後,轉為西敏寺的樂器管理員和風琴調音師。當他的前輩Matthe Locke過逝後,他被聘為宮廷的作曲家,同時任Chapel Royal的風琴師。年紀輕輕二十幾歲的普賽爾,在倫敦的音樂圈就頗有知名度了。

之前歷經內戰的英國,音樂文化幾乎完全消失,直到Restoration(王政復辟),Charles二世1651年登基後,才開始再度重視藝文活動。普賽爾在宮中的創作多為上述的大型頌歌,歡迎歌,以及宗教音樂。Charles二世過逝後,英國又陷入短暫的混亂局面,先是James二世被國會罷免驅逐出境,王位被女兒Mary及丈夫William取代,是英國史上罕見的雙國王制(coregency),被歷史學家稱為William and Mary。普賽爾這時在宮中的職位越來越不受重視,讓他轉向戲劇音樂(theater music),作為戲劇開頭,結尾,以及間奏用的音樂。1695年,普賽爾有為瑪利皇后的葬禮創作部份的音樂,而自己在幾個月後就猝死了。他被葬在西敏寺的風琴旁。

普賽爾被後來的英國人視為國寶級作曲家。布列頓(Britten)有名的「青少年管絃樂入門」一曲,是根據普賽爾戲劇音樂Abdelazer中的一段旋律。甚至有英國搖滾歌手,也承認年輕時受到普賽爾音樂的影響。

英國當時的音樂,開始引進法國宮廷由盧利(Lully)的組曲文化。普賽爾許多音樂,都有名顯法國音樂的影響:他戲劇音樂和鍵盤曲,有法國序曲,前奏曲,以及各式舞曲。這時義大利音樂並不是完全沒被重視到。普賽爾於1683年出版的這十二首三聲部奏鳴曲,就是這類型的曲子。在前言中,普賽爾提到他「嘗試正確地模仿那些義大利大師們,呈現音樂中的莊嚴感,引導為新的主流。因為,我們應該開始厭倦了那些法國輕浮的音樂。」

普賽爾的這些三聲部奏鳴曲,效法的並不是當時最新潮,而是舊派些的義式奏鳴曲。今天我們熟悉的三重奏鳴曲,主要是為兩把小提琴及數字低音。但在更早期的奏鳴曲中,還有另一個獨立的低音聲部,通常給viola da gamba,和高音部並駕齊驅。從普賽爾的譜中可名顯看出,他是採用老派的那套。他奏鳴曲中的數字低音,沒被他算為其中一個聲部。另一個證據,為許多奏鳴曲的樂章標示中出現的canzona,在當時義大利已經成為過時的音樂形式了,但被普賽爾繼續延用。

普賽爾之所以會和義大利音樂會產生興趣,很有可能來自於他對對位音樂的熱愛。這些奏鳴曲中,除了引進義大利的賦格式對位,也聽得出consort music的傳統,在別的時候各聲部也都在進行密切的對話。這些聲部交錯,和聲演進的同時,不和諧音相當多,當時歐洲大陸的作曲家視為過時的,但在英國島嶼上卻仍廣泛被採用。

普賽爾的這張專輯,是我大學認真接觸他的音樂時買的第一張CD。當初第一次聽到的時候,感覺實在是太另類了,因為音樂語言似乎很熟悉,但認真聽又不全是這麼一回事。那種不和諧成份比例太大,與一般預期的音樂動向不同,而且常常是無預警下出現。這些奏鳴曲雖有分段落,但實為單樂章。段落有節拍上和節奏的變化,但英式風格很難讓情緒有所大起伏,並時時處於一種淡淡的哀傷。就算音樂有點起色,好像動起來了,也會被一個不和諧的和聲給制止住,也是造成這種音樂的旋律感不足的主因。因此,這種音樂聽的當下有它的美感,但無法和我產生深刻的共鳴,留下生動的回憶。

London Baroque是古樂室內樂的老大哥,錄了普賽爾重要的幾套室內樂,包括這張1993年的三聲部奏鳴曲。London Baroque演奏方式相當直接,速度偏快,聲音乾淨,力道深厚。如果整體詮釋算有點保守,他們的拉法仍具有一定的生命力。普賽爾的這些奏鳴曲,再怎樣也無法弄得活力充沛,但London Baroque的洗練風格,足夠了~~

Henry Purcell was one of the greatest English composers to have ever lived.  Today, he is still held in high esteem by the British.  Between him and Elgar, there was practically a large void in English composers of the international caliber.

This disc is my first serious trip into the world of Purcell's music.  The only previous piece I remember listening to was this Trumpet Tune in D, in one of those "Intro to Classical music" CDs my parents bought when I was in grade school.  Turns out, the piece wasn't by Purcell, but by this other second-rate composer Jeremiah Clarke.      

The recording comprises of the 12 sonatas in 3 parts, published in 1683.  Purcell's other music is heavily influenced by the French, including overtures and dance forms.  Here, Purcell presents a conscious effort to compose in the Italian trio sonata fashion.  In a preface, he writes that he "has faithfully endeavour'd a just imitation of the most fam'd Italian masters; principally to bring the Seriousness and gravity of that sort of musick into vogue, and reputation among our Country-man, whose humour, 'tis time now, should begin to loathe the levity and balladry of our [French] neighbours."  That's some big switching of sides we are talking about here.

Purcell's so-called Italian masters did not refer to the latest up-to-date Corellian trio sonata models, but instead the older ones the likes of Legrenzi or Colista.  The main difference is that while the newer ones commonly involve 2 violins with a simpler bass continuo, the older ones have an extra active bass line that is on equal terms with the violins.  Therefore, Purcells sonatas are scored for 2 violins, viola da gamba, and continuo.  He does not count the continuo as a "real part."  Further evidence that Purcell was using an older style was the labeling of certain sections of the sonatas "canzona," a very outdated musical form in the European continent at the time. 

Purcell taking up an interest in Italian music can be explained by his immense love for counterpoint, and these sonatas contain loads of that.  Besides dense contrapuntal writing that orignates from English consort music, Purcell also introduces the Italian fugal style, where a single motif enters via one part and is expanded to all the other parts, employing all the techniques of fugal writing.  Purcell was a very good composer of counterpoint, and it certainly shows in these pieces.

What makes these pieces unmistakably English is the abundance of dissonance and harmonic progression, which the Italian composers of Purcell's time had already long given up by then.  This music is certainly unique, as the flow of the music is against your common expectations, if you are listening this to the first time.  Certainly, when I first encountered this, it confounded me quite a bit, which was also part of its attraction.  Unfortunately for me, music like this never builds enough emotion to go anywhere.  Just when you think that it starts going, the momentum is interrupted by a dissonant chord, and this practically happens all the time.  The feel I get is a widespread sense of melancholy and sadness in the music.  It's rich-sounding music that nonetheless gives you some hard time recalling it after you are finished listening to it.

London Baroque an established experienced English chamber music ensemble, which I reviewed earlier in the Pachelbel recording.  Their approach to the music is more or less straightforward and direct.  They play at brisker tempi, with a clean sound and strong bowing.  While they are a bit conservative by not showing flexibility in phrase turns as much as the younger musicians, Purcell's music itself is enough to provide the twists and turns.  London Baroque's performance gives enough vitality to the music, which is not a simple thing to do for this type of music.  Before a knockout recording comes along, this remains a top choice for this music. 










2 comments:

John Hendron said...

I own the 3-part and 4-part sonatas both by Christopher Hogwood; one recording features Beznosiuk and Podger; the other I believe Huggett or Mackintosh (it's an older AAM release). I find the music a tad melancholy. I prefer the violins to the reading on viols by Phantasm, who got quite a bit of recognition for their Fantasias album on Simax.

Without listening to LB, my guess is they'd have a solid performance, likely with tempi on par or faster with AAM.

Deadlockcp said...

yeah... there's something about the pervasive sadness in English Baroque music. I've sampled through some of AAM's recording, which I don't own, and they are actually comparable in terms of tempi. I have another powerful, more full-blooded reading of the Sonata in 4 Parts by the Locke Consort.

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