Thursday, March 22, 2012

Concert: Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir (03/10/2012)

Zellerbach Hall
03/10/2012

J.S. Bach: Mass in B minor BWV 232

Amsterdam Baroque Orchesta + Choir
Ton Koopman, conductor

看到Koopman領軍的Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir的心情有點複雜。一來,這是古樂演奏界的大老。但二來,他們演奏的居然是巴哈的B小調彌撒,可是一首鉅作,而且又是莊嚴的宗教音樂。二者因素考慮下,覺得Koopman難得來灣區,不好好見識一下,以後說不定真的就沒機會了。因此,最後還是決定殺上去Koopman老的音樂會。

不同於其他在Berkeley的古樂音樂會,這場是在他們主要的大表演廳Zellerbach Hall。這也意謂著,票價會相當昂貴。好在,早上看網頁,發現沒賣的票還很多,所以九成的機率是會有rush ticket。下午打電話的時候,果然發現會售rush tickets,並且在音樂會開始前一個小時開始賣,票價$20,如果是Berkeley的學生,甚至只要$10。 音樂會半小時前趕到售票處,果然還有票,而且還坐到前面第三排說,真是賺到了。普通這個位子的價位,起碼是要上百。

巴哈的B小調彌撒總長差不多兩小時;參加這場音樂會,需要一點毅力和決心。這是西方音樂裡最有名,最重要的作品之一,所以關於音樂本身,勿需再多作介紹。至於表演本身,Koopman表演這些聲樂作品的理念是反對一人一聲部(one voice per part)的方式,採比較大的合唱編制,一聲部有四到六人。而樂團的部份,則是典型的巴洛克樂團的大小。台上有兩個小風琴(positive organ),一個是樂團的數字低音手表演的,另一個是Koopman在音樂有獨唱的地方時,會親自坐下來彈的,是上面照片可以清楚看到的。

Koopman帶的Amsterdam Baroque的演奏方式,和我之前的印象基本差不多。演奏速度,較傳統的現代樂器的樂團快,不過詮釋方法算謹慎。這跟他個奔人放的風格有所不同。(我老師形容他為「一團能量」)。樂句修飾的方式,有古樂演奏法的基本講究,不過採中庸之道。當然,對於巴哈這首曲子的莊嚴性,要有這樣的音樂見解,也無不可。只是,聲樂家獨唱和獨奏樂器合奏的片段,性質較像室內樂,音樂有更多可以操作的空間。

Zellerbach那麼大的音樂廳用古樂器樂表演的一大問題,就是這些古樂器的音量明顯不足。現代音樂廳的設計,吸音的材質都是針對現代的樂器,因此古 樂器的聲音相對地,就被吃掉更多。我以直在想,坐在二樓最上面的觀眾,到底能聽到什麼?除了失去了聲音的清晰度,還少了音量。再加上Koopman採用大 的聲樂編制,使得器樂聲更容易被蓋過去。如何取得適當的平衡,這一向是演奏這首彌撒的一大難題。

不過,不得不稱讚的是Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra音樂家的整體素質,特別是他們的管樂部份。Philharmonia Baroque的絃樂家的程度,如果真要說不及Amsterdam Baroque,也沒有相差太遠。但是,Philharmonia Baroque的管樂,一向是他們的一大敗筆。Amsterdam Baroque,則是完全在另一個等級。他們吹長笛,雙簧管,巴洛克小號(baroque trumpet),以及自然號(natural horn),水準都比Philharmonia Baroque的來好得太多。(其實長笛的部份,會和PBO表演的Stephen Schultz其實也是相當厲害的)。那些吹巴洛克小號的三位音樂家對於音準的拿捏,音量的控制,不得打從心裡佩服。話說,這些巴洛克小號,不是真正當初巴洛克時期的自然小號(natural trumpet),是二十世紀的產物,在於還是加了幾個指孔,方便吹出更準確的音。

獨唱的聲樂家裡,四位的表現都不錯。真要挑,就是女低音的中氣比較不足,聲音無法有效傳出來。除此之外,他們的歌聲是清晰而不渾厚的古樂唱腔,有效於營造一種脫俗的氣氛。

表演結束,Koopman和Amsterdam Baroque獲得滿堂喝彩的起立式鼓掌。能夠演奏整首曲子,總是給予一定肯定的。雖然平常聲樂不是我主要的菜,但來聽這場音樂會之前,惡補了一下這首曲子。音樂會當晚,也更深刻地體會它,在腦中植入了更深刻的印象。

音樂會後,Koopman先生有答應和樂迷一塊兒見面,簽CD。在古樂界如此有份量的巨星,最後留下來和他見面的,包括我在內,居然只有三位。畢竟這些古樂音樂家的知名度,遠沒有像那些正統的古典音樂家來得高。身為「古樂追星族」,這又是一次難忘的體驗  ^_^

Ton Koopman


Arguably one of the early music movement's greats, the chance to hear and see Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir was too hard to give up.  Although, their program of the night was the epic Bach's Mass in B minor, which always makes you consider twice before seriously deciding to go. The other deterrent was, the concert was played at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, which isn't usually friendly for the period ensemble sound.  Most of the early music performances are always at the First Congregational Church, a smaller venue with more reverberation.  Zellerbach is much larger and size, and period instruments really don't stand too much chance in here.  It would seem however, that such a performance would only be fitting for a large hall that could fit a large audience.

One of the other drawbacks for me is that the Zellerbach concerts are considerably much more pricey.  Luckily, on the morning of the day of the concert, there seemed to be quite a few tickets left.  That only means one thing: rush tickets.  They announce availability of these tickets 3 hours prior to the concert, and when I called it, it was confirmed.  Rush tickets go on sale 1 hour prior to the concert, and when I arrive 30 min prior, I was able to sit in the 3rd row from the stage at $20.  Gamble paid off in the end.

Bach's epic piece probably needs no introduction, so I'll cut directly to their performance.  When it comes down to performing Bach's choral works, Koopman is a strong opponent of the one-voice-per-part (OVPP) arrangement of the chorus, as suggested (and recorded) by scholar Joshua Rifkin in the 1980s.  Therefore, Koopman often has 4-6 people singing the part, and the Amsterdam Baroque Choir had about 25 members on stage.  The orchestra was about the typical size you'd get from the average period ensemble, and there were two positive organs, one for the orchestra's continuo player, and one for Mr. Koopman, who would sit down and take over for the more intimate vocal soloist pieces. 

The playing was good, as you come to expect of Amsterdam Baroque.  Everything was well shaped, but it was more on the solid side.  Given the nature of the music, I wouldn't say their performance was dazzling.  However, for the more intimate moments that featured just the vocal and instrumental soloists, I felt the instrumentalists could have made things more interesting with just a bit more drive.  Credit where credit's due, the wind players were of such high caliber that it really left PBO's wind players in the dust.  (Although, Stephen Schultz who plays with the PBO, is an exceptional flautist)  There was simply no comparison.  The ability to hear the baroque trumpet and natural horn played at this level was just great.  I use the term baroque trumpet, because unlike the actual natural trumpet, these 20th century inventions have a vent hole to aid in cleaner and more precise intonations. 

As I commented earlier, the sound from the period instruments naturally suffered in Zellerbach.  The instruments were generally soft and did not have enough volume to fill the whole hall.  I was fortunate enough to be sitting really close, but I can only imagine what the poor folks would have heard (or not heard) in the top balcony.  They would be losing both clarity and volume.  Add to the fact the choir was of a significant force, the string instruments were easily drowned out for louder passages.

Of the vocal soloists, all of them sang well and articulated in the period singing style.  Mr. Klaus Mertens, who sang in most of Koopman's Bach recordings, sang the bass part.  He seems to be the permanent fixture among the soloists.   If there were any quibbles, it would have been that the alto voice had a weaker voice which did not project and carry across as much as the others.  

Koopman and the orchestra + choir received a standing ovation for their performance.  How could they not?  Any performance of this scale and quality is entitled to one.  Religious works generally are not my cup of tea, but I had spent the past few days getting acquainted with the piece.  Coming to the concert and hearing it live was then, the ultimate culmination of experiencing the music.

After the concert, Mr. Koopman agreed to stay after and sign CDs.  As big as his name is in the early music scene, only 3 people (including me) showed up.  I thought there'd be more than that, but I can't complain for the fact that I met him up close and personal :)   One more off the checklist.

2 comments:

John Hendron said...

That man lives Bach. I think he must channel his spirit. I doubt you've stood next to anyone quite as great in the early music world. Another golden opportunity.

Deadlockcp said...

agreed.. as Leonhardt has passed away :(

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