Sunday, November 10, 2013

Concert: Voices of Music presents Bach, Biber & Buxtehude (03/09/2013)

St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco

Laura Heimes, soprano
John Thiessen, baroque trumpet
Elizabeth Blumenstock, Lisa Grodin, Kati Kyme, Carla Moore, Maxine Nemerovski, William Skeen and Farley Pearce, baroque strings
David Tayler, archlute and Hanneke van Proosdij baroque organ.

Bach, Biber, and Buxtehude

Biber: Sonata No.4 in C for trumpet and strings, from Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes (1676)
Buxtehude: Herr wenn ich nur Dich hab BuxWV 38
Schmelzer: Sonata No.4 a 6 in A minor, from  Sacro-profanus concentus musicus (1662)
Johann Christoph Bach: Ciaccona: Mein Freund ist mein, from cantata Meine Freundin, du bist schoen

J.S. Bach: Air on the G string
J.S. Bach: Violin Concert in A minor BWV 1041
J.S. Bach: Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen BWV 51

前一天Canconier的音樂會之後,緊接著隔天又有Voices of Music的表演。Voices of Music是舊金山灣區我覺得素質最高的古樂團,之前聽過他們幾場演出,都相當滿意。所以,儘管得一人獨自衝到舊金山,回頭想想還是值得的。


開場的第一首Biber是來自他那套Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes,之前曾介紹過,如需要相關的音樂背景,可前往這兒閱讀。第四號奏鳴曲是有小號編制的,由John Thiessen擔任吹奏巴洛克小號(Baroque trumpet)。巴洛克小號和當時十六十七世紀的自然小號(natural trumpet)還是不大相同,多加了幾個指孔(vent hole),較容易吹出某些在自然小號上特別難吹出的音。音樂會後和Thiessen聊,他說法國有一派的古樂家是推廣自然小號的表演,其挑戰可想而知。

Thiessen將每個音都吹得均勻圓潤,應該是近來聽現場巴洛克小號演奏素質最高的一次。而Elizabeth Blumenstock在一旁強勁犀利的第一小提琴演奏,形成了一種絕佳的對比,讓音樂增添了許多色彩。Voices of Music其餘成員,則是提供了紮實的輔助。

Voices of Music近來大動作,高科技地將他們的表演都用高畫質(HD)錄了下來。這首Biber,也是如此。Youtube連結在下面英文部份之後。

The day after attending Canconier's concert,  I made the spontaneous decision to drive up to San Francisco for another Voices of Music concert.  I have attended their concerts in the past and have always enjoyed them very much.

The concert this evening all consisted of German composers, featuring the three B's :  Buxtehude, Biber, and J.S. Bach.  As I have a slight preference for the lesser known pieces for live performances, I really looked forward to the performances of the first half.

The opening Biber sonata comes from his collection of  Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes,which I've written before in this entry。The 4th sonata played here features a trumpet, played by John Thiessen on the Baroque trumpet.  Small distinction needs to be made between the Baroque trumpet, a 20th century modification of the natural trumpet, which has vent holes that allow certain notes to be played much easier.  John told me after the concert that there is a French school advocating playing on the natural trumpet, a much daunting task.

John Thiessen's playing on the Baroque trumpet was polished, with very round and even intonations on his notes.  It might have been one of the most sound live performances on the instrument I have heard in a while. He's accompanied by Elizabeth Blumenstock, arguably my favorite Baroque violinist in the Bay Area, who shapes her part brilliantly, providing a nice contrast.  The rest of the group also provide solid support.  

Lately Voices of Music has been pretty active recording their performances in HD quality and putting them on youtube.  It's great, since their very performance of the Biber piece is here:

接下來的Buxtehude經文曲是我不熟悉的。這首曲子是建立在頑固低音(ground bass)上,是我最喜歡的一種變奏曲形式。在固定基礎上而產生出的無窮變化,總是能不斷讓我陶醉。而歌詞,選自詩篇(Psalms) 73:25-26,也是相當精簡,和曲式可說是相當完全的組合。女高音Laura Heimes的聲音,清新純淨,含蓄中仍表現出其力度。器樂伴奏,在下面影片中可看見,數字低音有四位音樂家一同合奏,而高音部則有Blumenstock和Carla Moore二女士的小提琴穿插在Heimes的歌聲間。可以說,這算是全場音樂會最美麗的五分鐘吧。

The following Buxtehude motet was an unfamiliar piece.  Built on top of a ground bass, it's got to be one of my favorite musical forms.  The text is originates from Psalms 73:25-26, and the simplicity of the text fits well with music itself.  Laura Heimes's provided a clear and controlled voice, not overpowering yet enough to fill the entire church.  Voices of Music, as seen in the video, has 4 members of the group playing the continuo part, along with Blumenstock and Moore on the violins, whose lines blend in and out with Heime.  This was probably the most beautiful 5 minutes of the concert.

接下來是音樂會名字不是B開頭的作曲家。Schmelzer是巴洛克中期奧地利有名的作曲家,之前也介紹過。這首奏鳴曲,來自他1662年的那一套Sacro-profanus concentus musicus 。和他的晚輩Biber比起來,Schmelzer的音樂給我的感覺稍微鬆散了點,並不是那麼有吸引力。這首我手邊有幾首錄音,所以對音樂也不陌生。Voices of Music的演奏很不錯,在合奏的地方都有足夠的張力。但引人注目的,仍然是Elizabeth Blumenstock的演出。除了她那短暫的獨奏戲份的修飾沒話講,她所散發的能量,同樣也帶領著整團詮釋這首曲子的方向。

The next piece features the only composer whose name does not start with the letter B.  Schmelzer is a semi-household name for the early music listener, and this sonata come from his collection of Sacro-profanus concentus musicus published in 1662.  I have a few recordings of the same piece, so this piece was no stranger to me.  For some reason, I have never found Schmelzer's music to be quite as engaging as the younger contemporary Biber.  That being said, Voices of Music puts in a very solid performance, able to hold the energy and push forward the music their ensemble playing.  For me, Elizabeth's playing shines again.  Besides the obvious fact for her brief solo moment, her energetic playing is pervasive, setting the tone for the group's approach to the piece.    

上半場最後一首是聲樂曲,但實質的主角卻是小提琴。作曲家Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703),是巴哈家族的成員,是J.S. Bach的堂叔,但J.S. Bach第一任妻子Maria Barbara同時也是他的親戚(堂姊),也是Johann Christoph Bach的姪女。Johann Christoph Bach在作曲方面的才華是被肯定的,可說是J.S. Bach之前最有名氣的巴哈成員。J.S. Bach曾在許多場合下表演過其曲子。

這首Mein Freund ist mein(我的情人屬於我),選自他的婚禮清唱劇(wedding cantata) Meine Freundin, du bist schoen 。這首清唱劇雖然是小調,但故事其實是在敘述一對情侶互相示愛,氣氛應當是輕鬆逗趣的。這一段Mein Freund ist mein是女方私底下在講她是多愛她的情人,而且是採我最喜歡的Ciaconna曲式。女高音不斷重覆唱著簡單的主旋律,而小提琴則是一個接一個奏出不同的變奏。小提琴的重則大任,再度交給了Elizabeth Blumenstock,而她的演出自然是極精彩的。這首是整場音樂會給我留下印象最深的曲子。幾個月後買的幾張CD中無意間聽到這一首,真的是讓我喜出望外。可惜的是,Voices of Music目前為止,似乎還沒將這首放到youtube上。

The last piece of the first half is a technically a vocal piece, but the star is undoubtedly the violin.  Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703) was a gifted member of the Bach family.  He was probably the most famous member before J.S. Bach, and J.S. was to perform his works on many occasions.  Johann Christoph and J.S. are first cousins once removed.  However, to make things more interesting, J.S. Bach's first wife Maria Barbara, who was also his second cousin, was the niece of Johann Christoph.  So before things get too confusing, let's come back to the music.

Mein Fruend ist mein (My beloved is mine) comes from the wedding cantata Meine Freundin, du bist schoen.  Although in a minor key, the story is rather lighthearted and mainly is about a couple professing their love for each other.  Mein Fruend ist mein is where the lady is singing to herself in the absence of her lover.  It is written in the Ciaconna form, with the soprano voice repeating the same melody, and the violin playing out one variation after another.  Once again, Elizabeth Blumenstock is given the important role of the violin solo, and her playing is just astounding.  Of all the pieces performed this night, this was arguably the one which left the greatest impression on me.  A few months later, I purchased Musica Antiqua Koln's Bachianas collection, and I couldn't be more delighted when I found out that they had recorded the entire cantata.  Voices of Music has not released their video recording of this on Youtube, so we'll just have to move on to the second half....  

下半場的作曲家是無人不知的J.S. Bach,而且還是他的兩首名曲,G絃上的詠嘆調與A小調小提琴協奏曲。擔任獨奏的,下半場換成Carla Moore女士。對於她的演奏,我一向認為她是再穩健不過的音樂家。不過,該有的都有,卻總是缺少了讓表演與眾不同或是有生命力的最後一絲推進力。表演結束,說不出哪裡不好,卻也講不出哪兒特別讓我有印象。如果要說得更不客氣,就是不知道花這個錢買票值不值得…下面G絃上的詠嘆調的影片,各位可自行下結論。

Three pieces of J.S. Bach are featured in the 2nd half, and it started with two of his most famous pieces, the Air on the G string and the A minor violin concerto.  Playing the solo violin now was Carla Moore.  I have always felt that Moore's playing has always been extremely solid and spot on.  The problem is that, while she does everything right, you feel that it's missing that last extra mile push which makes the performance unique or shine.  It's one of those performances which will likely offend no one but also likely fail to impress anyone.  Of all the millions recordings out there, it's simply not one that will go down as the most memorable one of all ages.  Their recording is posted below, and you can be the judge.    

音樂會的最後一首是陣容最大的,除了有女高音,連小號也回來了。巴哈BWV 51的這首清唱劇Jauchzet Gott in allen Landend (大家齊來歡呼迎接神)的這種器樂編制(女高音,小號,絃樂)雖然當時在德國不大尋常,但在義大利是相當普遍的 (大史卡拉第寫過幾首如此編制的清唱劇)。


John Thiessen小號上的深厚功力,上半場的曲子就見識到了。下半場再聽見他,他的表現仍然沒有令人失望,音音乾淨飽滿滑順。而Laura Heimes柔和的聲音,讓整首音樂在技藝和美感之間取得平衡。就這樣,Voices of Music的音樂會,在一片喜慶聲下結束。

The final piece features the fullest orchestration of the concert.  Joined by the soprano and the trumpet, Bach's BWV 51 cantata was an unusual instrumentation at the time for Germany, although it was fairly common in Italy (Alessandro Scarlatti having written a few cantatas like this).  Judging by the title of the cantata ("Exult in God in all lands"), it is a piece that should be uplifting in character.  And it is, at least for the outer movements.  The quieter, more reflective movements (the recitative and an aria) have the trumpet taking a break, and by the time we reach the aria, only the bass continuo is left accompanying the voice.

Things pick up in the chorale, with violins and continuo creating the 4-part chorale texture.  The cantata ends with the chorale going into the last aria without a break.  A fugue, we are rejoined by the trumpet, with the soprano singing the only text "Hallelujah" in final jubilation.    

Thiessen's playing continues to impress with his smooth and even notes.  Same goes for Heimes, whose suave singing brings about balance between the music's virtuosic nature and beauty.  And it is fitting, that the concert ends in this festive mood.    

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