Monday, October 10, 2011

Leo: Six Cello Concerti (Bylsma/Tafelmusik/Lamon)

Leonardo Leo (1694–1744) 是晚期巴洛克義大利的作曲家,在拿坡里重要的音樂家和老師。他尤以歌劇見長,但也留下少數的器樂曲。

Leo出生於San Vito degli Schiavoni(今San Vito dei Normanni),並於十五歲時來到拿坡里,就讀San Maria della Pietà dei Turchini音樂院。學成之後,他先後在總督禮拜堂擔任風琴師以及其他貴族的樂團總指揮。

他在20歲就寫好了他第一齣歌劇,而且從1720開始,委託他寫歌劇的邀約從來沒斷過。有時候,這些委託來自其他城市(米蘭,波隆那),甚至其他國家(西班牙)。他在拿坡里的歌劇作曲家地位,曾一度受到Vinci還有Hasse的威脅,但當Vinci過逝以及Hasse離去之後,Leo又成為拿坡里歌劇作曲家的第一人。另外,他寫的幾齣神劇,也讓他的聲望變得更高。

除了作曲,他也是拿坡里重要的音樂老師之一。拿坡里的音樂院文化是全世界最早的,有四所有名的音樂院。Leo是兩間的primo maestro(第一大師),而Durante是另外兩間的老師。Leo和Francesco Durante二人是當時拿坡里兩大音樂學派的大頭,存在強烈的競爭關係,各有擁護和支持者。「挺Leo」派的,主張較精確的對位精神,而「挺Durante」則強調更自然,以旋律和聲主導。雖然可以說Leo這樣的曲風偏傳統保守些,但不代表Leo不注重或寫不出漂亮的旋律,而是恰恰相反。

Leo留下的純器樂曲並不多,但似乎好像是目前錄得最多的曲子。 其中,他寫了一首給四小提琴的協奏曲,為巴洛克時期此編制的少數曲子之一。但今天市面上Leo錄音最多的,莫過於這六首大提琴協奏曲。這些協奏曲大約是在1737到1738年之間完成的,並獻給Domenico Marzio Caraffa,當時Maddaloni的公爵。Caraffa是個愛好音樂的貴族,更是位業餘的大提琴家。同為拿坡里樂派但名聲更響亮的Pergolesi,也曾為Caraffa寫過大提琴的奏鳴曲。六首協奏曲裡,第六首的正式名稱為Sinfonia concertata(交響協奏曲),為日後古典時期常見到曲式。不知道Leo是不是第一位開始使用這標題的作曲家,但肯定是最早的之一。

六首協奏曲的調性剛好有對稱,三首是大調,三首是小調。這些協奏曲,除了第二首之外,都是「慢–快–慢–快」四樂章,保留了傳統的sonata die chiesa(教堂奏鳴曲)形式。因此,最諷刺的是,這些協奏曲最大的特色,是在於它的風格正站在時間的尖端。如果沒有仔細看Leo的生平,聽到這些協奏曲的某些地方,甚至可能會認為它們的寫作時間更靠近海頓的年代。和Leo其他較為保守的音樂相比,這些協奏曲寫得實在是很前衛,直逼日後古典樂派的風格。有在留意我文章的人也知道,古典時期的音樂不見得是我的菜。Leo的協奏曲,我只能說,欣賞與接受程度頂多六七成。如果要看出Leo巴洛克時期的影子,只要聽聽第二首協奏曲的第四樂章,或第六首的第二樂章的賦格,要不然有些慢樂章,也有韋瓦第的影子。倒底Leo是發自內心,還是迫於迎合聽眾的口味,而改變曲風,今也不得而知了。不過,這種在兩種風格下交戰的作曲家,音樂著實有趣,也是音樂上時代巨輪不停轉動的最佳見證。

位於加拿大多倫多的巴洛克團Tafelmusik以及巴洛克大提琴Anner Bylsma都是古樂的常客。Tafelmusik是早一代的古樂團,也是80年代古樂運動開始盛行時重要的一份子。 他們的表演屬穩健安全,保守點的風格。因此最適合他們的音樂是巴洛克晚期的協奏曲的類型。但對於早期的巴洛克音樂,他們平鋪直敘的方式不夠生動,容易讓音樂聽起來單調。Bylsma,則是巴洛克大提琴的大老,甚至有被譽為「巴洛克大提琴界的羅斯托波維奇」,也是第一位用巴洛克大提琴完整地錄整套巴哈大提琴無伴奏組曲的音樂家。Bylsma的拉法很有意識地修飾樂句,避免像主流音樂家習慣性地喜歡將音連在一塊。另外,Bylsma使用的是巴洛克大提琴的腸絃,除了本身音比較柔,他下弓的力道也較小,是以弓輕輕擁抱親吻著絃,而不是強吻熊抱。習慣大提琴浪漫的拉法,說不定較難以接受這種薄一點的音色。再者,Bylsma與新一代更帶勁,更有火花的巴洛克大提琴家也不同;不需要刻意的大動作,彷彿只需袖子輕輕一揮,音樂便已完整地呈現在眼前。

Tafelmusik和Bylsma一塊合作的大致結果是受肯定的。就算不一定會令你拍案叫絕,但是個紮紮實實的表演,更是Leo這六首大提琴協奏曲的好入門錄音。如果晚期巴洛克/早期古典的曲子是您的菜,那這張CD更是不容錯過的。

Leonardo Leo was a prominent Neapolitan composer of the late Baroque.  During his lifetime, he was known as one of the great opera composers, in addition to being an important teacher.  However, today he's known mainly for the few instrumental works that he composed, where none has been recorded more than this set of 6 cello concertos.

Leo was born in San Vito degli Schiavoni (now San Vito dei Normanni), and he went to Naples at the young age of 15, where he studied at the San Maria della Pietà dei Turchini conservatory. Upon finishing his studies, he immediately was appointed the organist to the viceroy's chapel and the maestro di cappella of other Neapolitan aristocrats.  He published his first opera at 20, and starting 1720, commissions for his operas never ceased.   The commissions not only came from his home town, but other Italian towns (Milan and Bologna) and countries (Spain).  Even though his dominance of the serious opera genre was momentarily threatened by Hasse and Vinci, the departure of the former and the death of latter propelled Leo back to the leading musical figure of Naples.  Later, Leo ventured into oratorios, which further cemented his reputation.    

Besides composing, Leo was also one of the most respected teachers in Naples, holding teaching posts at 2 of the 4 main conservatories in Naples.  Francesco Durante was the other leading music instructor, teaching at the other 2 conservatories.  Thus, a fierce rivalry started between the supporters of the Leo school (called the Leisti) and those of Durante (the Durantisi).  The supporters of the former championed the methodical approach of counterpoint, whereas those of the latter emphasized a more natural and instinctive approach, allowing melody to flow freely.  Therefore, one might be inclined to think that Leo was old-fashioned and was not capable of writing beautiful melodies.  Nothing could be further from the truth, as Leo had the natural gift for melody, and counterpoint only provided a more solid ground for the music to be built on top of.  

These 6 cello concertos were written for Domenico Marzio Caraffa, the Duke of Maddaloni, between 1737 and 1738.  He was a music-loving aristocrat and an amateur cellist, whom Pergolesi also wrote a cello sinfonia (sonata) for.  The sixth concerto has the formal title of Sinfonia concertata, a title which is associated most with the early Classical period.  While I cannot be positive that Leo was the first to use this term, he must have been among the earliest.  Of the six concertos, 3 are written in major scale and 3 are written in the minor scale.  Besides the 2nd concerto, which contains 5 movements, the rest follow a four-movement, "slow - fast - slow - fast" sonata da chiesa design.    

Ironically then, it is the style of the music itself that makes Leo's concertos so surprising.  While it's true that he throws in a few fugal movements, and some of his slow movements are reminiscent of Vivaldi, many other parts may have you fooled into thinking it was a contemporary of Haydn.  Through these concertos then, one can truly appreciate how avant-garde Leo was for his time.  Unfortunately, the early classical era is one of my least favorite musical periods (at the time of writing), and as revolutionary as Leo was, I cannot say that I obtain as much personal gratification from these pieces.  From a historical perspective though, it's always interesting to study the music of composers in the transitional period.  It is as if they were torn between two big forces, evidence of the forever-changing music landscape.    

Tafelmusik and Bylsma are well-established in the world of period performances.  Tafelmusik was founded in 1979, representing the generation of the 80s where period performance practices were really beginning to take off.  Their playing is characterized by their precise intonation and solid performance, sometimes on the careful side, more in line with the British groups such as the English Concert and Academy of Ancient Music.  They sound more convincing for the later Baroque concertos and early Classical pieces, where the right balance is struck between their period gestures, ensemble playing, and music style.  For the mid-Baroque pieces, their playing is a little too rigid which lacks the spontaneity needed to make the music more engaging.   Leo's music falls into the category where they do a decent job in supporting the soloist.

Anner Bylsma is one of the pioneers of the Baroque cello, even honored by some as the "Rostropovich of the Baroque cello."  He was the first musician to record all Bach cello suites on the Baroque cello, and he did that twice too.   His playing is consciously articulate to avoid slurs that occupy the modern cellist.  His intonation is also decidedly lighter, much like the bow lightly hugging and caressing the string.  This is a big leap for those used to the lush and powerful sound of the modern cello.  After all, the cello's full Italian name was the violoncello, or the "small violone."  Belonging to an older generation, Bylsma also does not push the music as much as the younger Baroque cellists say, Ophelie Gaillard, or Bruno Cocset (who incidentally took masterclasses with Bylsma).  It is a reading where the music-making is effortless yet well thought-out.

In short, this disc is a good solid partnership and recording of Leo's cello concertos.  If late Baroque and early Classical is your thing, surely not to be missed.




2 comments:

John Hendron said...

Thanks for including the samples.

Not too excited by this one. Performances don't dance enough for me, and the acoustics are a tad too live.

Deadlockcp said...

I hear ya....

The cello really was a young instrument, and that makes Vivaldi, Tartini, and Leo the earliest composers that wrote cello concertos, Leo's idiom definitely more forward-looking.

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