Sunday, August 3, 2014

Concert: Voices of Music (12/19/2013) (Alessandro Grandi Venetian Christmas Vespers 1630)


All Saint's Episcopal Church, Palo Alto 

Alessandro Grandi Venetian Christmas Vespers 1630

Marini: Sonata in Ecco 
Versicle & Response
Monteverdi & David Tayler: Falsobordone &Ciaccona  
Vesper Service
Psalm I
Grandi: Dixit Dominus
Bunamente: Sonata a tre violini
Psalm II
Grandi: Confitebor tibi Domine
Merula: Hor ch'è tempo di dormire
Psalm III
Grandi: Beatus Vir
Monteverdi: Puer Natus/ Chiome d'oro (contrafacturm by Lawrence Rosenwald)
Psalm IV
Grandi: Laudate pueri
Monteverdi: Ab aeterno ordinata sum
Psalm V
Grandi: Laudate Dominum
Merula: Ciaccona 
Hymn in loco Jesu Redemptor ominium
Frescobaldi:Ave maris stella
Grandi: Magnificat
Marini: Passcaglia
Grandi: O Intemerata
Monteverdi: Cantatae Domino

Laura Heimes & Jennifer Ellis Kampani, sopranos
John Taylor Ward, baritone
Elizabeth Blumenstock, Lisa Grodin, Carla Moore, and William Skeen, baroque strings
Daid Tayler, archlute
Hanneke van Proosdij, organ & recorder 

去聽Voices of Music(VOM)的音樂會有多層面的享受。一來,他們是我認為灣區素質最高的古樂團體。二來,他們常常表演的曲目都相當有意思,許多是連一般對古樂有一定認識的人都沒聽過的。這晚他們將重點放在十七世紀初的義大利作曲家Alessandro Grandi (c1586 –1630)的音樂上。他的音樂我不多也不熟,而市面上的錄音也是寥寥可數。

Grandi出生於威尼斯,父親是一位填塞船縫的工人(caulker)。他自幼便投入音樂,在San Moisè的合唱團唱歌。他後來成為了輔祭(acolyte),並幾年後加入了聖馬可教堂(San Marco)的合唱團。聖馬可教堂是威尼斯當時的宗教和政治中心。年輕的Grandi在這兒繼續和樂團指揮(maestro di capella) Giovanni Croce學習音樂,並極有可能和有名的風琴師Giovanni Gabrieli學過。


十七世紀初,他離開了威尼斯,到了鄰近的Ferrara的幾個教堂和教友會擔任樂團指揮或合唱團團長。在1617年,他再度回到了故鄉,成為了聖馬可教堂主合唱團的成員。一年後,他同時受聘為附近神學院的聲樂老師,並於1620,升到了聖馬可教堂的副樂團指揮,擔任有名的Claudio Monteverdi的副手。

很不幸的是,Monteverdi和Grandi兩人相處並不愉快,許多爭執有名確的文獻記載。Monteverdi似乎一手阻擋了Grandi在聖樂創作並表演大型的宗教音樂。也因為如此,Grandi轉向了較小編制的經文曲(motet)。他是十七世紀發展出競爭風格(concertato style)的重要作曲家之一,而他的音樂直接影響了德國作曲家舒滋(Heinrich Schütz),是日後以巴哈聞名的德國清唱劇的前身。

在1627年,Grandi到了Bergamo擔任Santa Maria Maggiore教堂的樂團指揮一職。Bergamo的音樂傳統同樣相當悠久,而Grandi在這兒終於能夠鴻圖大展了,著手大規模的曲子了。不料,三年後,黑死病襲捲歐洲,Grandi和他的家人全都因此而喪命。

The pleasure derived from attending Voices of Music (VOM) concerts is often two-fold. First of all, in my humble opinion, I consider them to be the finest early music ensemble in the Bay Area. Secondly, they often present interesting relatively unknown (but good) pieces on their program. This concert was no exception, where the music was centered around early 17th century Italian composer Alessandro Grandi. Even though I own recordings which feature a few pieces by him, I was by no means familiar with his music.   

Grandi was born in Venice to a father who was a caulker of ships. His musical life started early, singing at the choir of the church San Moisè. He became an acolyte a few years later and joined the chant choir of the famous St. Mark's basilica. He continued his musical studies with the maestro di capella Giovanni Croce and there's a good chance he also studied with the famous organist Giovanni Gabrieli.

An interesting anecdote involves Grandi and members of the choir moonlighting for other institutions to earn some extra income. This would have been okay had they not double-book themselves and neglect their principal duties at St. Mark's, especially during important festivals. Many of them, including Grandi, were dismissed promptly, but after promising to behave, they were properly reinstated.  

In early 17th century, Grandi left Venice to accept the position of maesto di capella at various religious institutions in nearby Ferrara. By 1617, he was back in Venice, at St. Mark's, being a member of the principal choir. A year later, he was also appointed the official teacher of singing of a local seminary. And by 1620, he was promoted to vice maestro di capella under Claudio Monteverdi.

Unfortunately, Monteverdi and Grandi did not get along very well, a fact that is documented. It seems that Monteverdi prevented Grandi from performing large scale works at St. Mark's. Out of necessity, Grandi turned to writing motets. He would be one of the key figures in developing the concertato style, which would influence Heinrich Schütz and later set the foundation for the German cantata to come.

In 1627, it must seem that Grandi had enough, and he accepted the position of maestro di capella of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore at Bergamo, a city that similarly had a rich musical tradition. Here he would finally be free to compose grander sacred music. Unfortunately, the plague swept through Europe three years later, and Grandi and his whole family were among its victims.

VOM這場音樂會是採天主教晚禱(Vespers)的形式。因為先前對宗教儀式的認識其實並不深,所以VOM節目單的解說提供了不少重要的知識。簡單講,晚禱是時辰禮儀(The Hours)裡面最重要的儀式之一。因為祈禱是在傍晚,故名晚禱。當重要的宗教節日來臨時,晚禱也會變得相對隆重。

晚禱的祈禱文有五篇選自詩篇(Psalms),以及有個聖母讚歌(Magnificat)。不同的宗教慶典, 選的詩篇也會不同。這晚因為接近聖誕節了,所以VOM選擇的詩篇聖歌也參照一般天主教要過聖誕節的傳統。另外,晚禱開始前,有個Versicle(短詩)和Response宣告晚禱儀式的開始。而在Magnificat之前,也會有一首聖歌(Hymn)。Magnificat結束後,還有個Collect(集禱經)以及最終的Dismissal(散會)。還有,在各詩篇中間,還有簡短的Antiphon(對經,或輪唱詩歌)。

VOM將晚禱的音樂,做出了少許的調整。最明顯的是,他們將平常給合唱團歌頌的Antiphon,換成了其他的經文曲或是器樂曲。他們這樣做並不是亂來,而是有根據的,因為這種做法早在十六世紀時就有了。不僅如此,VOM還自行改編了一些曲子。例如,Versicle和Response的音樂,就是團長David Tayler根據Luca Marenzio的牧歌以及Monteverdi的二重唱Zefiro Torna改編的。難怪聽到頑固低音時,就覺得這首似曾相似,果然如此!(以下的影片是VOM不同場的演出。)

The concert followed a Vespers service, more specifically a First Vespers on Christmas Eve. I have been ignorant to the specifics of religious rituals, and thus the program notes VOM provided turned out to be quite informative. The Vespers are one of the most important prayer services of the canonical hours, hence one of the Major Hours taking place in the evening. Before an important feast, two services are held, the First Vespers the evening before the feast, and the Second Vespers the late afternoon of the feast. 

The bulk of the Vespers service involves reciting five Psalms, chosen according to the feast (here it would be Christmas), and a Magnificat. There is a Versicle and Response signaling the start of the service. Similarly, after the Magnificat is a Collect and a Dismissal, the latter's title self-explanatory. After the fifth Psalm and before the Magnificat, there is also another Hymn that is sung. Lastly, in between the Psalms, Hymn, and Magnificat are short Antiphons, customarily chanted by the church's choir.

VOM put some touches of their own to this Vespers concert program. The most noticeable one is the substitution of the Antiphons with other sacred music or instrumental pieces, a practice that VOM states started as far back as the 16th century. Similarly, the Hymn is substituted out for a Frescobaldi organ piece. However, VOM goes beyond just substituting with existing compositions. In fact, the Versicle and Response is an arrangement of director David Tayler based on a falsobordone of a Luca Marenzio madrigal and also Monteverdi's chamber duet Zefiro Torna. Upon hearing the first notes of the ground bass, I had that déjà vu moment, which was subsequently confirmed. (The clip below is VOM's recording from a different performance of the same program.)

另一個改編是一首contrafactum(舊曲填新詞),將Monteverdi第七冊牧歌裡的Chiome d'oro填上新的詞。提供新的拉丁文宗教歌詞的,是衛斯理學院的教授Lawrence Rosenwald。

Another arrangement was a contrafactum (new texts to existing music) on Monteverdi's Chiome d'oro from his Seventh Book of Madrigals. Lawrence Rosenwald, professor at Wellesley College, provided the new Latin religious texts. 

Grandi和同時期的重要的作曲家,如Gabrieli和Monteverdi,最大的不同地方在於他深厚的歌者背景。Gabrieli本身是風琴家, 而Monteverdi雖然也是聲樂家出生,但他後來是小提琴家。因此,Grandi對於音樂要如何表達文字的內容和意境,有更深一層的體悟。他的音樂通常旋律簡易,聲部層次感清晰,沒有像Gabrieli或是Monteverdi過於複雜的結構和層次感。

VOM找來的聲樂家有之前參加VOM音樂會聽過的Laura Heimes,女高音Jennifer Ellis Kampani,以及男中音John Taylor Ward。二位女高音對於音色的控制都非常漂亮,和聲時融合地更是美。Heimes給我的感覺厚渾一些,而Kampani則是透澈點。而Ward是位音樂類型表演範圍極廣泛的聲樂家,從古樂到現代樂,甚至流行樂和美國民間音樂(folk music)都有參與過。他的古樂聲音清楚且靈活,和二位女高音一塊唱的時候,既不會被蓋過,也不會壓過她們,拿捏適當。

Grandi's main difference from the other greats of his time, most notably G. Gabrieli and Monteverdi, was his long tenure as a singer. Gabrieli was an organist, and while Monteverdi started out as a singer himself, he was later a violinist. Therefore, Grandi arguably had a deeper understanding of how to bring out the content and affect of the words set to music. His music is characterized by simple but effective melodies and clear textures, avoiding complex structures and textures seen in works by other composers.

The vocalists joining forces with the VOM instrumentalists include Laura Heimes (whom I've had the pleasure of hearing in a previous VOM concert), soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and baritone John Taylor Ward. Both sopranos have superb control of their voices, and when singing together is something of great beauty. Heimes had maybe a slightly "meatier" voice but only bit a hair's-breadth. Ward turns out to be a rather versatile singer, participating in genres ranging from early music to contemporary music, and even on to popular music and American folk music. His early music voice was flexible and clear, and when singing with the sopranos never felt overpowering nor being overpowered.

我平常接觸器樂曲較多,因此對Antiphon的音樂其實是比較熟悉的。Marini那首三小提琴奏鳴,因為譜上的回聲效果,讓聽現場表演有一定的趣味。VOM在Palo Alto的演出裡,Moore女士擔任主奏小提琴,而Blumenstock和Grodin則是站在教堂左右兩側當「回聲小提琴」。同是三小提琴奏鳴曲,Buonamente那首典型許多。VOM表演這首時剛開始情況有點不大穩,但漸入佳境,到最後的高潮時,更是精彩至極。


My unfamiliarity with vocal music (getting better though) also meant that I knew the instrumental Antiphons well (some by heart). The Marini sonata is always a fun piece to hear live because of the nature of the music. In this Palo Alto performance, VOM had Moore play the main violin in the center, while Blumenstock and Grodin stood to the far left and right of the church playing the echo violins. The Buonamente sonata, a piece also written for three violins, was a more typical early Baroque piece. VOM's playing started out a bit scratchy, but they really got it together, especially the climax right before the end of the piece.

The Merula Ciaccona was an uplifting piece to start with, and Blumenstock and Hanneke (recorder) gave it added vibrancy. In stark contrast, the Marini Passacaglia was filled with sorrow or solemn, depending on perspective. If you are of the opinion of the latter, it certainly would be fitting for a religious setting.

Elizabeth Blumenstock rehearsing during intermission

不過這場音樂會給我印象最深的,卻是Merula的Hor ch'è tempo di dormire。Merula是十七世紀最前衛的作曲家之一,而這首canzonetta足以證明一切。這首長約九分鐘的曲子建立在僅兩個和絃的頑固低音之上,是聖母瑪利亞為嬰兒耶穌唱的搖籃曲。她預知兒子未來將會受苦受難,而心中萬分不捨。歌曲大部份的文字敘述生動,音樂情緒激動,一方面描繪耶穌被虐待血淋淋的畫面,同時也刻畫出母親心如刀割的感覺。不過曲子收尾前,轉為平靜安祥。瑪利亞對耶穌日後的遭遇雖無能為力,此刻唯一能做的,就是好好哄他睡去。Kampani女士強有力的演出,配上William Skeen和David Tayler的伴奏,完全深深地將我給迷住了。

The piece that left the biggest impression on me was none other than the Merula canzonetta Hor ch'è tempo di dormire. A rather long piece of approximately nine minutes, the music is built on top of a repeating bassline of only two chords in the form of a lullaby sung by the Virgin Mary to baby Jesus. Having a vision of what is to come, Mary describes in great vivid detail the tortures that Jesus will eventually face. For the most part, the music is emotionally powerful, depicting Jesus's sufferings and at the same time, a heartbroken mother. Towards the end though, the music switches mood to one of serenity. Despite being powerless over her son's fate, all she can do at the moment is to help him fall asleep. Kampani's haunting rendition of the piece, with William Skeen and David Tayler on the continuo, is a performance beyond description of words, and it left me completely mesmerized.  

最終首的Dismissal,VOM選擇了Monteverdi的Cantate Domino,是最靠近Grandi風格的一首。兩人生前有什麼恩恩怨怨,今天留給我們後人的只有美麗的音樂。

For their concluding piece, VOM selected a Monteverdi Cantate Domino, which is supposed to be closest to Grandi in style. Despite it being very ugly between the two men during their lifetimes, a contemporary summed it up best: "From ..  their illustrious discord was born sweet consonance" and we are fortunate to have both of their music with us centuries later.

後記:這場音樂會在我心中佔有特別的位置。除了曲目特別,表演傑出之外,這場音樂會我有幸認識年輕的大提琴家Marylin Winkle。她後來邀我參加平常週末她會一同練琴的業餘古樂團,讓我接觸到了幾位在舊金山南灣志同道合的樂友們,有機會一起玩古樂,是個意外又值得的收穫。

Epilogue: This VOM concert does hold a special place for me. Besides featuring a great program and a wonderful performance from VOM, I had the pleasure of meeting young cellist Marylin Winkle. She subsequently invited me to join an amateur group she plays with on weekends. Because of this, I have gotten to meet other amateur early musicians in the South Bay and have the opportunity to make music on a regular basis. I am thankful for that. 

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