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Who is Padre Martini?
Padre Martini or… the Dictator of Music, the Padre di tutti i Maestri or the Father of Music, as many musicians called him in the 18th century.
While many may have a general idea of the importance and of the great influence exerted by the Music School of Naples in the 18th century, few have a right perception of the far greater importance of the Music School of Bologna… greater importance, because most of the greatest composers of the 18th century studied music composition in Bologna and created and cultivated professional connections with the masters in Bologna and with one master of composition, in particular: Padre Martini. Sometimes still remembered as the teacher of Mozart, Padre Martini was considered, in reality, the greatest music authority in Europe and among his pupils there are the children of J.S.Bach and from his teaching tradition famous international composers such as Cherubini and Rossini spread the light of music throughout Europe, the World and the centuries.
Bologna: the factory of musical geniuses of the 18th & the 19th century from Mozart to Rossini, Donizetti and Respighi
Once upon a time there was a factory of musical geniuses and that was the city of Bologna, where many great composers received their music instruction in composition at the highest levels.
Among them, Mozart himself, J.C. Bach, Jommelli, Myslivecek, Sarti (then teacher of the great Cherubini), Vogler (then fundamental music theorist and teacher of von Weber and Meyerbeer) up to Gioacchino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti (both pupils of Stanislao Mattei, the devote pupil, official successor and close friend of Padre Martini) and Ottorino Respighi.
The Martinians: more than 100 pupils for Padre Martini
Padre Martini was considered the most important teacher in music composition in Europe, a learned music historian and musicologist (who had studied almost all the treatises by Guido d’Arezzo) and the greatest master in the art of the counterpoint.
For these reasons Padre Martini was particularly sought after as a teacher of music composition and regarded somehow as the teacher of the teachers in music.
Padre Martini had ca. more than 100 pupils from almost any country of Europe and among them some of the most famous composers and music teachers and theorists in the history of music:
• W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
• S. Mattei (1750-1825 Italian; official successor of Padre Martini and teacher of G. Rossini and G. Donizetti)
• J.C. Bach (1735-1782 German based in London, England; son of J.S. Bach, teacher and model of Mozart)
• J. Myslivecek (1737-1781 Bohemian; teacher, mentor and model of Mozart)
• G.J. Vogler (1749-1819 German; a rebel pupil of Padre Martini, important music theorist, teacher and mentor of von Weber and Meyerbeer; and through Meyerbeer Vogler’s teachings reached, in part, Wagner)
• N. Jommelli (1714-1771 Italian; one the most famous and most gifted pupils of Padre Martini, but with some criticism on Padre Martini’s very strict treatment of polyphonic music; Mozart and his father Leopold met him in 1763; Jommelli exerted a great influence on Stamitz, Wagenseil and von Dittersdorf)
• G. Sarti (1729-1802 Italian; friend of Mozart and teacher of the greatL. Cherubini, who managed to solve all the extra-difficult enigma canons composed by Padre Martini)
• A.E.M. Grétry (1741-1813 Belgian)
• M. Berezovsky (1745-1777 Ukrainian)
• G.B. Cirri (1724-1808 Italian; famous cellist, he played cello during the same concerts given by 8-year-old Mozart in London)
• G.M.G. Cambini (1746?-1825? Italian; probably pupil of Padre Martini, in Florence founded a quartet with Boccherini in 1767 and in Paris worked with Gossec and had a not happy encounter with Mozart in 1778)
• F.L. Gassmann (1729-1774 Bohemian; then friend and close collaborator of Gluck and teacher and mentor of A. Salieri)
• V. Righini (1756-1812 Italian; collaborator of Salieri at Vienna Court since 1780, he followed then the path of the strict Gluckian, so to say, nakedstyle like Salieri instead of that enriched by the art of counterpoint; in 1786 helped Salieri, while Salieri was in Paris; Da Ponte and Mozart disliked Righini and for Mozart he was fairly good at writing music, but he was a «great thief» and incapable of well hiding what stolen)
Among the friends, correspondents and admirers of Padre Martini we find the composers Gluck (who was, instead, pupil of G.B. Sammartini in Milan and whose works, beside their long lasting friendship, were not always fully appreciated by Padre Martini and his collaborators), von Dittersdorf,Hasse and the violin virtuoso Lolli.
According to someone, after 1776, also the composer Martín y Soler(1754-1806 Spanish) studied composition with Padre Martini. However, such assertion must be considered rather speculation and not fact, since this period spent in Bologna, studying with Padre Martini, is not clearly demonstrated (see Waisman, Madrid 2007).
Mozart, during his life, maintained, in most cases, an open and friendly behaviour towards all the direct and orthodox pupils of Padre Martini. For this reason, he cultivated, when possible, the friendship of composers such as J.C. Bach, Myslivecek and Sarti (he celebrated, by quoting his opera in his Don Giovanni).
Gluck, Dittersdorf & Padre Martini
On April-May 1763 von Dittersdorf and Gluck reached Bologna for the premiere of Gluck’s Il Trionfo di Clelia for the inauguration of the new opera theatre of Bologna.
On this occasion, Gluck and von Dittersdorf made the acquaintance of both Farinelli and Padre Martini. von Dittersdorf (being a great virtuoso violinist) had the possibility of playing in some public performances in Bologna and, at the same time, of attending, with Gluck, the marvelous performance of some polyphonic music written by Padre Martini. The famous lively account of von Dittersdorf, left in his autobiography, gives an idea of the sincere admiration that both Gluck and von Dittersdorf cultivated towards the art of Padre Martini and this became the basis for a personal friendship.
Here the beautiful account by von Dittersdorf with a lively portrait of old master (Bologna, May 1763):
«Another of our visits was to Padre Martino, the world-renowned dictator of classical music. Ha was nearly as old as Farinelli, and they were bosom friends. Gluck, too, had known him for years, and never passed through Bologna without paying his respects to the “Padre di tutti i Maestri”, as all Kapellmeisters call him to this day.
[…] We were just setting out for the coffee-house, on the afternoon of that very day, when Padre Martino paid us his return visit. He seized the opportunity of asking me to play a concerto in his church, at a great function which was impending. Of course I was to be paid for it… would I be content with the ordinary fee of twelve double ducats? I said I would only play on condition that I was not paid. What I prized, beyond money, was the honour of being selected to play by“the Father of Music”. The good old man thanked me for my“pretty way of thinking of him”, as he called it, and after another half-hour’s conversation, he went away as he came, leaning on the arm of a lay brother, and supported by a stick.
It was soon the talk of all Bologna, that I had been invited by Padre Martino to assist at the grand ceremony, on the first day of the festival “per la visita della Madonna di San Lucca”, and everyone knew that I had refused to be paid, and had promised my services solely for the honour of God.
The day approached for the opening of the festival, which was to be inaugurated by the procession of the miracle-working portrait of the Madonna, said to have been painted by St. Luke. The fête lasted for three days. We went to church to hear Vespers,… the music by Padre Martino. What a gulf between that and Mazzoni’s work! I have never heard sacred music so majestic, so lofty, and so touching!Even Caldara’s composition is far inferior to it. In one Psalm… I think a Magnificat… the Amen was an eight-part fugue, a marvel of artistic elaboration. The effect made by that glorious fugue may be imagined, for the band consisted of one hundred and sixty people, and the chorus was eighty strong.
On the following morning, Gluck and I called on the venerable musician, who had asked us to drink chocolate with him. We were full of admiration for his fine music, i.e., the Vespers which we had heard.
“I think it probable,” said he, “that yesterday’s Vespers and to-day’s High Mass will be my Swan Song, for I am conscious already that my powers, physical and mental, are beginning to fail.”
We expressed our regret that we might, perhaps, never have another opportunity of hearing the eight-part fugue.
“I’ll set that right,” answered the kindly old man. “I will make the fugue do duty for the Amen in the Credo; they are both in the same key, and so far your wishes shall be gratified.”
I did my very best with my concerto, which I played very successfully in the Garduale, for I had carefully prepared myself for it a week before. Soon after I had finished my concerto, I went with Gluck into the body of the church, to hear the Credo and the Amen at a distance. That day, we discovered all sorts of beauties in the eight-part fugue, which had escaped us the day before. We returned home in a high state of exaltation, and sat down to dinner. Afterwards, our landlord came in, bringing with him a good-sized paper parcel with a seal on it, and said:
“Padre Martino sends you both a few pounds of chocolate.”
He had written on the packet with a very shaky pen: “12 libre per il mio caro amico, il Cavagliere Gluck, e 12 libre per il mio caro figliuolo, il Signor Carlo Ditters.”»
1770: Mozart meets Padre Martini
In 1770 Mozart and his father Leopold meet Padre Martini in Bologna.
Thanks to a long stay in Bologna in the summer 1770, Mozart could study music and composition with Padre Martini and with Myslivecek and on 9 October 1770 Mozart passed the examination at the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna and officially became Magister Compositor Accademico Filarmonico di Bologna.
Mozart & Bologna: cover-up or not cover.up?
Since in the archive of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, there are different copies of the exercise that Mozart had to solve, one in the handwriting of Padre Martini and one in the handwriting of Mozart, there were some speculations by various scholars that Padre Martini covered up the mistakes written by Mozart during the examination.
Nonetheless, since Mozart, just 14 years old, passed the examination at the Accademia of Bologna with a «considering the circumstances, sufficient» degree (that’s to say what appears to be a «C-»), other scholars, in conclusion, just think that there was not any kind of cover-up by Padre Martini. The 2 different exercises, in fact, were simply due to the fact that, after the judgement of «sufficient», Padre Martini just solved the composition and showed how a correct exercise had to be written to obtain a judgement «full marks» and then obliged Mozart to rewrite the new correct exercise written by him.
Anyhow, this point is still very controversial, because we don’t know exactly which final version was given to the judges: Mozart’s own one or the copy of Martini’s work?…
This piece is Quaerite primum regnum Dei K. 86.
Here a bizarre video highlighting the mistakes of Mozart and then featuring the correct work by Martini.
Padre Martini vs. Padre Vallotti? Vogler’s own revolution
Thanks to the studies of F.K. Grave and M.G. Grave, we have some important details on how also the composer G.J. Vogler spent some time in Bologna, studying composition with Padre Martini.
However, Vogler was dissatisfied with Padre Martini’s approach to music composition, strictly linked to Fux and without any interest in research. So Vogler decided to move to Padua and to study composition and musical theory with Padre Vallotti (more revolutionary and inquisitive in his studies than Padre Martini), becoming thus somehow his successor.
De facto, we know that Padre Martini did not appreciate either Tartini (the long time collaborator of Padre Vallotti) or Rameau, considering Rameau’s theory «probably» good for the theatre music and all that music that is not Sacred Music, but not good for the Sacred Music. Moreover, Padre Martini considered Rameau’s theory, in general, a form of «destructive music method».
This transition of Vogler from Padre Martini (Bologna) to Padre Vallotti (Padua), well documented also through some letters written by Mozart, then proved to be particular crucial for the difficult steps of the career of Mozart in Mannheim in 1777 and 1778.
Despite what happened with Vogler, it seems that Padre Martini and Padre Vallotti admired each other and, when Padre Vallotti died, Padre Martini became the musical heir of Padre Vallotti.
Mozart, Padre Martini & the Mannheim Affair (1777-1778)
It is well known, how Mozart, in 1777 and 1778, tried to build a solid musical career in Mannheim, but had to face a strong position held by Vogler there and other difficulties. Despite the enthusiasm and interest of Leopold for the theoretical work of Vogler, Mozart never managed to find a path of dialogue and collaboration with Vogler and one of the reasons for this (according to Mozart’s letters) was the atmosphere of criticism and reciprocal accusation existing between Vogler and Padre Martini.
Despite the presence of Vogler in Mannheim, Mozart and Leopold tried to have the support and the recommendations of Padre Martini for the Court of Mannheim, but the whole scheme miserably failed, even though Padre Martini wrote many letters to the opera singer Raaff, as a possible supporter of Mozart at the Court of Mannheim.
After some time, in what seems to appear a sort of intrigue of some kind, Mozart will discover that all the letters written and sent by Padre Martini from Bologna to Raaff and to the Court the Mannheim just disappeared somehow and somewhere and just never reached their intended destination.
Moreover, it is fact that Padre Martini, in Bologna, in the years 1777 and 1778 was in a very difficult situation in his own town and didn’t have that particular musical and professional prestige he had in 1770 any more, due to a series of serious quarrels with the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, which led him, in the end, to an official act of resignation from the Accademia (29 December 1781).
So the Mannheim scheme of Mozart in the autumn 1777 began under bad auspices and his most revered master and teacher, Padre Martini, who was himself in troubles in his own town, de facto, could not do anything to support his pupil and his steps of career in Mannheim and to avoid all the intrigues behind the possibility of a solid position at the German Court.
K. 222: Padre Martini praises Mozart’s sacred music
On Sunday 5 March 1775 a particular sacred music work by Mozart was performed at the Munich Court Chapel. It’s the K. 222 Offertorium de tempore “Misericordias Domini”.
On 4 September 1776 Mozart sent this motet to Padre Martini at Bologna. Padre Martini praised the work by Mozart highly and asked Mozart to receive a painted portrait of Mozart: the importance of this request is due to the fact that Padre Martini, as historian of music, had the habit of collecting the portraits of the people he considered great and important.
Here the original letter sent by Padre Martini to Mozart from Bologna on 18 December 1776 with a technical judgement of Mozart’s work.
«Together with your most kind letter, which reached me by way of Trent, I received the Motet… It was with pleasure that I studied it from beginning to end, and I can tell you in all sincerity that I was singularly pleased with it, finding in it all that is required by Modern Music: good harmony, mature modulation, a moderate pace in the violins, a natural connexion of the parts and good taste. I am delighted with it and rejoice that since I had the pleasure of hearing you at Bologna on the harpsichord you have made great stride in composition, which must be pursued ever more by practice, for Music is of such nature as to call for great exercise and study as long as one lives.»
This piece by Mozart is famous also for featuring a few sections of a choral melody similar to the one used by Beethoven for his 9th Symphony. Nonetheless, it is sure that Beethoven for his symphony was influenced also by other works which featured music elements similar to that used by Mozart (see Cannabich and others).
Padre Martini and a portrait of Mozart
Only on 22 December 1777 Leopold managed to have a painted portrait of Wolfgang ready to be sent to Padre Martini at Bologna.
It is still one of the best portrait of Wolfgang we have today, a work of a Salzburg painter.
The original portrait of Mozart (1777) for Padre Martini is today in theMuseo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna.
The legacy of Padre Martini
The legacy of Padre Martini was already important in the 18th century, since his teachings were widely spread by his favourite pupil Stanislao Mattei at Bologna, who became the teacher of composition of another two among the greatest composers in history: G. Rossini and G. Donizetti.
Moreover, Padre Martini, beside the famous portraits, left to Bologna an amazing library with very important and extremely rare books on music history, music theory and thousands of music scores. Already Burney in 1770s had the possibility to visit the library of Padre Martini, which had already more than 17.000 books and works of any kind on music. The library of Padre Martini is now at the Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna.
Recently (since 2007) the efforts of Sugar Suvini-Zerboni, Sony and the Accademia degli Astrusi has been making the works by Padre Martini available again, through new printed editions of his works and DVDs.
So far one of the best CD Albums available is the one released by L’arpa festante & l’Ensemble Cantissimo (Ars Musici):
WORKS BY PADRE MARTINI
Various works by Padre Martini are available at IMSLP:
Giovanni Battista Martini: Scores
A) Theory works, letters and other works:
• Attestati in difesa del Sig. D. Jacopo Antonio Arrighi, maestri di cappella della Cattedrale di Cremona (1746)
• Regola agli organisti per accompagnare il canto fermo (1756)
• Storia della Musica 3 voll. (1757-61, 1770, 1781)
• Onomasticum (1763)
• Dissertatio de usu progressionis geometricae in musica (1767)
• Compendio della teoria de’ numeri per uso del musico (1769)
• Esemplare ossia saggio fondamentale pratico di contrappunto sopra il canto fermo 2 voll. (1774-75)
• Lettere del Sig. Francesco Maria Zanotti, del padre G.M., min. con., del padre Giovenale Sacchi (1782)
B) Compositions by Padre Martini:
• Opera Theatre:
• Azione Teatrale (Intermezzo: 1726)
• La Dirindina (Intermezzo: 1731)
• L’impresario delle Canarie (Intermezzo: 1744)
• Il maestro di musica (Intermezzo: 1746)
• Don Chisciotte (Intermezzo: 1746)
• various pieces of music for the theatre
• L’assunzione di Salomone al trono d’Israello (1734)
• S. Pietro (1738)
• S. Pietro (1739)
• Il sagrificio d’Abramo (sketches)
• Deposizione della Croce (lost)
• Sacred Music:
• 12 Masses 4 v. with instruments
• 1 Requiem
• 2 Masses 8 v. with instruments
• 3 Masses 4 v. capp.
• 1 and 1 Missa pro defunctis with organ
• 3 Masses 8 v. capp.
• 1 Messa de’ Morti with organ
• 5 Masses Brevi 8 v. with instruments
• 7 Masses unfin. 2-3 v. capp.
• 3 Kyrie
• 2 Gloria
• 12 Credo
• 40 sections of Proprium Missae with instruments
• 101 Introitus
• 25 Graduali
• 26 Offertorium
• 32 Communiones capp.
• music for funerals and the Holy Week (54 Responsoria Hebdomadae Sanctae)
• 198 Psalms with instruments (of which 51 with double choir)
• 26 Magnificat
• 5 Nunc dimittis
• vespri, notturni, mattutini, inni, sequenze, antifone, litanie, mottetti
• 2 Te Deum
• 1 Requiem
• 9 Cantate spirituali a solo with instruments
• 1 Litaniae atque Antiphonae 4 v. cum organo et Instrum. ad lib. op. I (1734)
• Works for Orchestra:
• various symphonies
• concerto vl., ob., vcl. and strings
• 6 concertos harpsichord and strings
• concerto vl. and strings
• concerto vcl. and strings
• concerto piano and strings
• Chamber Music:
• sonatas vcl.
• sonatas 2 fl.
• sonatas vl. and 4 tr.
• various arias, cantatas and canons
• 12 Sonate d’intavolatura per l’organo e il cembalo (1742)
• 6 Sonate per l’organo e il cembalo (1747)
• Duetti da camera a diverse voci (1763)
• 52 canons 2-4 v.
Rebekka Maeder: Official Sites
Rebekka Maeder Official Site: Rebekka Maeder
Rebekka Maeder: Rebekka Maeder (LinkedIn)
Rebekka Maeder: Rebekka Maeder (Facebook)
Rebekka Maeder: Novocanto Ensemble
Rebekka Maeder: Novocanto Ensemble (Facebook)
Rebekka Maeder Coloratura Soprano:
10-11-18 June 2017: Haydn – St.Cecilia Mass
8 July 2017: Mozart – Così Fan Tutte
16-17 September 2017: Mozart program concert
4-5 November 2017: Schubert Mass in E Flat (Bern)
1. International Soprano with a vast and varied repertoire (from Bach, Handel up to Mendelsshon, Offenbach, Ravel and Leonard Bernstein), through the years you have been building a really impressive Mozartian repertoire: 5 Mozart’s operas, 8 masses, Davidde penitente and many other Sacred Music Works by him. What attracted and what attracts you the most in Mozart’s music? What Mozartian opera character do you like the most of those you have interpreted? And why? What Sacred music Vocal part do you like the most of the many Mozartian Sacred Works you have interpreted? And why?
The compositions of Mozart are simply the product of an unrivalled genius.
He knew exactly how to deal with the human voice… how he had to write for each character in order to make it possible for the singer to show all the colours and all that necessary diversification that not only effectively builds the character but also makes the character well defined and interesting. Moreover, the orchestration is written by Mozart in a very clever way, so that it never arrives to an excess of demand from the singer. Personally, I do really love the elegance of Mozart’s melodies and how he musically builds up the characters in his Operas.
The characters in Mozart’s operas, which I have interpreted so far, with the exception of the Queen of the Night, show some similarities: young, adult ladies of nobility, confronted with the themes of love, loyalty and betrayal.
Mozart’s operas are mostly about the emotional entanglements with which the aristocratic population has to deal with in everyday’s life: love and fidelity, desire and adventure, power and resignation.
Therefore, a decision about my favourite Mozartian character is not easy at all… you see, it much depends on the profundity of a character and on the actual musical part, as well.
Of course, the Queen of the Night (The Magic Flute) has such a special value and such an intrinsic charm of its own: the great concentration of emotions, the high drama and also the vocal technical challenge… And all this must happen on stage and in music in a very short time… she has 3 shows in the whole opera: 2 arias of approx. 4min each and an ensemble at the end. Within these short periods, all these characterizing factors must perfectly emerge from your interpretation. This challenge is always a motive of great enchantment and it is always such a great joy to accomplish your performance of this character.
On the other hand, the Queen of the Night, as a drama character, has not an actual evolution nor a distinct development within the opera. If we consider this point of view, I must say I do prefer the character of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Such character really leaves enough room for the development of the various different facets, not only on a theatrical level but also, and principally, on a pure musical level.
In the field of sacred music, I love the Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor in a special manner.
The enchanting Soprano solo Et incarnatus est represents a great and, at the same time, a marvellous challenge to the singer, when you are demanded to completely merge intimacy and virtuosity through your own performance.
Moreover, in general, the Mass itself is a very delightful masterpiece for the soprano. There are even two of them, who are also ingeniously combined firstly in a duetto, and then with the tenor in a terzetto.
This mass is so marvellously permeated with an outstanding dimension of love and spirituality (and all this with a stylistic variety that is, at the same time, so harmoniously forged into an art product of such a pure and elevated unity), that it deeply touches the audience as well as the interpreter.
Rebekka Maeder sings Mozart, Mass in C Minor K427, Et incarnatus est.
Rebekka Maeder sings Mozart, The Magic Flute, Der Hölle Rache.
2. In your Repertoire you have also many works by Joseph Haydn: The Creation, The Seasons and 5 Masses. What kind of interest led you to his music? What are your considerations on Haydn’s vocal parts in his masses and in his oratorios?
Haydn’s music is a great playing field for me as a singer!
I love his strong, sometimes even impetuous temperament, the freshness and playfulness of his compositions.
Sometimes arias are written in a way, that really recalls the Lied or Song technique, and can have a very catchy, almost folkish tone, but then… they can be highly virtuosic again.
His musical talent can achieve also such striking high levels of pictorial dimension.
An extraordinary example of this is his work The Creation in which his compositional mastery really stands out in all its glorious might… just not to mention that magnificent musical conception of chaos at the very beginning of his work.
Haydn really manages to break the rigid forms of baroque oratorios… and in such a pioneering way!
In The Creation he also shows his great talent in tone painting!
Each voice of nature finds its clear imitation in the sounds of the orchestra and also in the vocal parts: from the rays of the sun to the foaming waves of the sea, to the lions and the doves, etc.
All this is so so extremely interesting, if we consider the form of art itself!
3. In your repertoire, apart from Handel’s works and Beethoven’s works, you have many important composers of the second half of the 18th century/beginning 19th century. Among them we remember Mozart’s friend and mentor Josef Myslivecek, Mozart’s and Haydn’s great pupil Hummel with his masses, the brother of Haydn and Mozart’s friend M. Haydn and also Gossec. What can you tell us about your interest in these composers and in their music? What led you to add them to your repertoire and which one of them do you consider the most interesting composer?
My musical interest is concentrated mainly on the epochs of classical music and romanticism.
As a freelance musician I have free choice on the works I sing, of course. I can decide whether the work or the composer irritates me or not.
Nevertheless, usually the theatres and conductors are those who make their first choice, as far as the composer and the work are concerned… and this gives me the lucky opportunity to know and sing music works, which I just did not know.
Moreover, it is fundamental to me also to decide whether the piece fits my voice or not.
In general, however, I think it is important to have as much diversification as possible in my choices and not to limit myself to interpreting only the great and well-known composers and works.
This alone arouses my interest, especially when we are considering composers of these epochs and when such composers, like Myslivecek, are also well associated with Mozart. This connection, not only in terms of teachers and pupils, but also friendships and competitions, often has a great influence on the composer’s musical work.
For me, it is in this very moment that music shows one of its most beautiful aspects: it unites people and people learn and grow together: the creators, the performers and the audience.
To explore what influences can be found in the music of Myslivecek, Hummel, Michael Haydn and Gossec has been and is of great interest to me.
And it is always exciting to discover how differently the composers have treated the human voice in their works.
Since these composers are very different one from the other, frankly I cannot say which one of them I consider the most interesting. You see, an important attitude for me is not to evaluate everything in life in a too sharp manner. It’s not just about what is now more meaningful and important, more intelligent, more virtuous, or more perfect. People are not perfect, in any respect. So I just try to grasp what I find in music, in terms of what is offered to be grasped, and I try to give it that meaning, the music itself wants and tries to express: sometimes this is really very much and of a complex nature, sometimes it is just simple and even, so to speak, casual.
In any case, I must say that, in particular, the works Abramo and Isacco by Myslivecek and also Gossec’s Grande messe des morts have been particularly touching to me.
4. This year 2017 you are presenting Haydn’s St.Cecilia Mass (June), Mozart’s Così fan tutte (May-July), a full Mozartian program (September) and a Schubert Mass in November plus masses by Mozart (April) and Scarlatti (March) and Schumann and Mendelssohn. You also collaborate with various projects and ensembles and you are also a regular guest at various Music Festivals. So what can you tell us about your current and future projects? And what your suggestions to young singers who want to build a repertoire on MozartEra music?
I like the diversity and the constant new discoveries in the field of music.
I do not have to move across all the epochs, but I choose, where my voice and my heart lead me mostly.
I enjoy being able to make opera and operetta and sacred music with choir and orchestra, as well as chamber music.
Of course, concerts such as Haydn’s Cäcilienmesse, the Mendelssohn concerts in May and the Schubert Mass in November are impressive sonorous experiences, as they can fill a concert hall or a large church with a large orchestra and choir.
To make music with so many people is also a great accomplishment and it is also always so exciting to work with the different levels of the choirs… I mean, to work with professional musicians is an utterly different experience from working with non-professional choirs and often, when church music is involved, both experiences just incredibly meet each other.
Moreover the audience itself can be also so heterogeneous and of such a different nature. And this is a real challenge for the musician: to reach people, whether they are familiar with classical music or not.
And such considerations led me to work in projects like the Cosi fan tutte I’m presenting again in July: a chamber music version of the beautiful opera, tailored for the operatic lover as well as for the eyes and ears that are not familiar with the opera yet. The recitatives were replaced by the narrator Uwe Schönbeck, an outstanding and well-known actor in Switzerland and formerly a great and experienced singer who leads the audience through the opera and thus connects the musical numbers. This makes the opera much slimmer and more intelligible and it can also be easily financed and this in favour of smaller stages (a major subject in modern times not to be underestimated) and finally free the untrained listener from the fear of a visit at the opera house.
This variety of different works and performance platforms also offers great space for young singers to get acquainted with the repertoire of this time.
The vocal and artistic development of each young singer has its own pace and should be well reconciled with its possibilities. It must not be conducive to singing the most difficult and most complex works and roles too early and also the performance pressure should be handled with care.
So many young talents disappear, just because of a too much, so to say, because of too big stages and of a too heavy repertoire, which was forced.
Having a good mentor (or even several ones) who always has an eye and an ear on the singer is more than advisable. He can give good advice in the choice of roles and, above all, the necessary technical level. Internal and external growth should go hand in hand.
In contrast to later composers of the romantic period such as Strauss, Dvorak, Mahler, Verdi, Wagner, etc., the composers of the classical period seduce far less to an uncultivated and impetuous handling of the voices. The forms are more regular, the voice is somewhat less endangered.
Among the numerous works of classical music, however, there are also immense differences in the demands on the human voice. For example, it is advisable to choose, as a young soprano, the lighter voice parts (with Zerlina instead of Donna Elvira or with Blonde instead of Constanze), even if the voice shows already the potential for great drama.
Admittedly, sometimes the outside world does not seem to give a choice, but ultimately everyone decides more and more on his own voice.
If you are over-estimated it is actually easier to react, you can always cancel a job offer.
If a singer assumes too much too early, his ego is too great, or he has not dealt well enough with the part to be sung and has underestimated it (here an experienced consultant would be important).
If the singer does not take the step to accept or to apply for a role, although he is able to do so vocally, the ego, i.e. the inner growth, was not ready yet.
If one is underestimated, i.e. not being heard, this can have a reason which can be found in the very singer… the interior does not want to show itself, although it could. It is always a fundamental matter of balance.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
Don Giovanni and The Creation.
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
I think Louis Spohr (1784-1859) is a very interesting composer.
Next year, one of his works The Saviour’s Last Hours will be performed.
Spohr is anything but unknown, his works range from opera, operetta, oratorios, drama music, songs, symphonies, chamber music to numerous violin concertos, however, despite the quantity and the quality of his works, he is rarely found in the concert or in opera agenda.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency, especially thanks to your special experience as a MozartEra musician, performer and connoisseur.
For instance, Gossec’s Grande messe des morts or Hummel’s Mass in D Minor.
8. Do you have in mind a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
For me, reading books is not the first choice when it comes to understanding the music.
I rather try to see how a composer has written the music; how he wrote my vocal parts and how he orchestrated them.
When I read books, I rather choose biographies or, even better, letters from the composers or from his contemporaries, as is in the case of Mozart.
Mozart’s letters are really wonderful to get an authentic impression of his world… They say a lot about the spirit of his time and about his own character.
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
BBC has produced a good number of interesting documentaries on Mozart; e.g. the chapter A Passion for the Stage from The Genius of Mozart (BBC Documentary).
And Amadeus is also a nice movie to get an impression of that time.
10. Name a place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music.
Vienna is such a great place!
You cannot get around this city (fortunately), if you have to deal with the music of this century.
I have been there several times for masterclasses and sightseeing!
Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property.
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use
|5 Viola & Harpsichord/Piano
4 Sonatas Op. 5 & Sonata
in E Flat Major
for viola & piano by J.B.Vanhal.
Vanhal was a friend of Mozart
|6 Flute & Piano Sonatas
World Premiere with 6 sonatas
for flute & piano by J.B.Vanhal.
Vanhal was a friend of Mozart
|230th Le Nozze di Figaro
Pisaroni Karg Yoncheva Hampson
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
(Release July 2016)
Kenneth Woods: Official Links
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Kenneth Woods: CD Elgar Piano Quintet – Sea Pictures Top 10 Best Seller
Kenneth Woods: CD Hans Gal & Mozart Piano Concertos
Kenneth Woods: Next Concert: Haydn & Mozart (11 December 2016)
Kenneth Woods: Next Concert: Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven (21 December 2016)
1. Your recent CD Elgar: Orchestrated By Donald Fraser, Piano Quintet, Sea Pictures reached the Amazon Best Seller Top 10 last June! In his youth, in 1870s, Elgar himself arranged many works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven for quintet and wrote his Harmony Music and Shed Pieces, which had a strong, yet personal, Mozartian writing, do you think that the influence of those composers on his music still emerges from his later works? And if yes, how?
Elgar is an interesting figure, because his own compositional voice is so strong and so consistent across his entire maturity. Composers like Shostakovich or Beethoven, or even Mozart, went through huge changes of style in their careers, while the differences between early Elgar and late Elgar are pretty small. The only composer I can think of who has such a consistent and recognizable voice is Brahms. Elgar’s voice was so strong, that even his orchestrations of other composers sound like Elgar.
This means it’s quite hard to spot the influence of other composers in Elgar’s music. His knowledge of Brahms, Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann, Mozart, Haydn and Bach (I’d say those are the composers who shaped his language and technique the most) is so deeply assimilated and integrated into his own musical world that one almost never thinks «Oh, that sounds a bit like…».
What Elgar ultimately learned from the Austro-German masters is a multi-layered approach to motivic development. There are thematic connections in his music that are very obvious, and there are those that are almost undetectable. In a piece like the Piano Quintet, there are obvious moments of cyclical structure, where whole themes return at the end of the piece which we know from the beginning and which are easy for anyone to spot, and then are tiny, microscopic relationships of intervals and ideas that are very important to the musical logic, which one can only really dig out with lots of analysis while looking at the score.
Haydn and Schumann were the greatest masters of this kind of layering, but Mozart excelled at it too.
2. You are a well known promoter of Haydn’s music, also through your own blog A View from the Podium, what are your considerations on your activity on Haydn and on the importance of building a wider knowledge of his music, still, unfortunately, a bit neglected? In September you have conducted the beautiful Symphony no. 80 by Haydn, what have been your thoughts, while preparing your performance? Written in 1784, 2 years before Mozart’s Prague K504 and 1 after Linz, do you think this Symphony by Haydn somehow influenced Mozart’s late symphonic writing?
I think there are two main reasons why Haydn’s music is still mostly misunderstood or underappreciated by the general public. First, I think he’s been very badly served by performers and writers who have tried to tame him as both a human being and a musician. The banal image of the benevolent Papa Haydn is only a tiny portion of a complex and fascinating personality – he was a man of tremendous temperament, great tenacity, capable of great anger and passion, and someone who took great personal and professional risks throughout his career. He must have been a genius at dealing with people – think of what it took to keep that incredible orchestra together at Esterháza with all those great artists and strong personalities. The musical manifestation of this problem is that we keep Haydn’s music behind glass. Too many Haydn performances are too bland – everything is made polite and genteel. I think his music is overflowing with madness and genius. It’s not just gently witty.
Of course, Haydn, even well performed and well curated, asks a lot of listeners. It’s very sophisticated and endlessly modern music.
But I’ve found that if you strip away all the accrued politeness and gentility that has become attached to his music and play it with real commitment and total abandon, audiences hear it and are just stunned.
As far as Haydn’s influence on Mozart, it’s not an easy thing to describe in a few words. They were writing during an era in which the language of music was as standardized and codified as pretty much any time I can think of – the only parallels I can think of are movements in popular music, where certain formulae completely dominate the discourse for a while, like doo-wop, rockabilly or ragtime. Mozart and Haydn were fairly unique in taking a system of stock musical gestures and using them to create incredibly expressive and completely radical music. Both of them understood the power of expectation – how to create it and how to undermine it. Haydn provided the structural framework for Mozart by creating or perfecting the forms in which Mozart would excel: sonata form, the string quartet and the symphony.
But by the time you get to Mozart’s earliest mature symphonies like 25 or 29, you can see he’s a totally different character than Haydn. There’s a melodic brilliance and emotional directness one almost never finds in Haydn, but it lacks Haydn’s wildness and technical genius.
What’s touching is that they clearly understood and loved each other’s music without any hint of jealousy or condescension.
HAYDN & A VIEW FROM THE PODIUM (by Kenneth Woods)
• Haydn’s Music- Bathed in Fire and Blood
• Haydn in The Oregonian
• Haydn the Yurodivy
• Reading Haydn from Beginning to End
• Haydn- more talented than Mozart
• Haydn- smarter than Brahms
• Controversy over Haydn and magic with Schumann
• RCCO- Schubert and Haydn
• Haydn the Subversive
• Podcast- The “true” story of Haydn 59
• Listen Again- Haydn Trumpet Concerto
• Haydn- More fun than Mahler!
• More Haydn
• Haydn’s on- let’s cancel the concert and rehearse
3. You have published also a really beautiful series of CDs with music by the Austrian-British composer Hans Gál. Among them, Gál’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra and, in the same album, Mozart’s Piano Concerto K482: what led you to create this special combination? You have in your repertoire also a few rare works from 18th/19th century like the Harmoniemusik after Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Figaro by Triebensee and Wendt: do you think this special charming type of works, which had also a specific social value when written, should receive more attention in Concert Seasons, in order to enrich them?
Gál is a special case.
Throughout the decade or so I’ve been working on his music with the Gál Society, one thing I got from them was their deep conviction that his music shouldn’t be assessed too much in terms of his biography.
There has been a lot of long-overdue interest in composers like Gál, whose lives were disrupted (or worse) by the Nazis. It’s important that we let their music be assessed on merit, and not presented with too much special pleading because of their personal tragedies.
With that in mind, we’ve always coupled his works (with a few exceptions, like our disc of string trios by Gál and Krása) alongside works from the Austro-German tradition that he saw himself belonging to. Generationally, he was closer (by far) to Mozart and Schubert than I am to Shostakovich or Mahler.
Hopefully placing his music next to Mozart’s helps us to better understand both composers.
As for the Harmoniemusiks– I think they’re wonderful!
I’m a great fan of arrangements in general. Mozart was, too!
Audiences love these arrangements, and it’s wonderful that one can showcase one’s woodwind section using some of the greatest music ever written.
Orchestras don’t feature their wind sections enough!
4. When you work with the orchestra, preparing a new series of concerts, what are your pieces of advice and tips to the musicians on approaching Mozart and on approaching Haydn?
On a technical level, I don’t think musicians think as deeply about meter and metric structure as they perhaps should in Baroque and Classical repertoire!
Understanding all the nuances of different kinds of impulses and strong and weak beats and bars is absolutely essential for giving this repertoire the right sense of variety and elegance. When you work with a good orchestra over time, you try to develop a shared understanding about how meter works in Mozart and Haydn (and Bach and Handel).
On a more spiritual level, Classical repertoire seems to bring out musicians’ worst tendencies to imitate other people’s performances and mannerisms. The HIP movement has made the problem even more common… it’s become shorthand for a set of performance habits which are mostly the result of a very contemporary aesthetic.
If I’m feeling naughty, I occasionally point out that the aesthetics of Ikea furniture and many period instrument recordings are basically the same. It’s all about clean lines, bright textures, standardized approaches. I would hope the study of performance practice would lead us to be more questioning and more radical, not to simply recycle the interpretations of a conspicuously brilliant generation of other conductors, whose aesthetics were obviously shaped by the British Cathedral choral tradition as much as anything else.
Why do so many performers ignore or downplay Haydn’s use of fortissimo… a dynamic he uses very sparingly? Why do so many performers end every phrase in Mozart with a diminuendo, even when it precedes a subito piano? Surely these kinds of habits are very destructive to the music… it robs it of drama, intensity, contrast and expression.
I felt like I started to blossom as a Haydn interpreter when I freed myself of any worry about whether other people would approve of what I was up to, or whether anyone else had done it before the way I thought it should go.
You’ve got to be honest with yourself about what you find in the score and try to be true to what you learn from it. Once an orchestra feels free to try different things, to make different, more dangerous sounds, everyone’s creativity and energy starts to flow.
Mozart and Haydn come to life when the performers are letting themselves really give their all to the music, instead of trying to imitate the sound of historic instruments, or conform to some emasculated idea of this music being terribly prim and proper.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
Mozart… It has to be the Requiem, which is a work I’ve been immersed in most of my life!
Haydn… It’s harder to pick one piece with him than perhaps any other composer, as there are so many works of such staggering originality and beauty, and whatever Haydn symphony I’ve just played always seems the most miraculous. If I had to pick one work, maybe the Oxford Symphony (no. 92): it’s a work particularly close to my heart and a piece I learned a great deal from studying.
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
I was always fond of his Cello Concerto and it, and his other music, seem due for a re-appraisal.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
Any Haydn symphony before no. 92 that doesn’t have a nickname!
8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
Maynard Solomon’s biography of Mozart is both an impressive piece of scholarship and a touchingly human piece of writing.
I find it very moving.
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
Malcolm Bilson’s documentary Knowing the Score is a great, compact introduction to the world of performance practice.
10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
HAYDN, MOZART & BEETHOVEN IN VIENNA
Haydn’s final Vienna home, here Creation & Seasons were written.
Mozart’s only surviving Vienna home (1784-1787). Here the Piano Concertos K.466, K.467, K.482, K.488, K.491, the Haydn Quartets, Davidde Penitente & Nozze di Figaro were written.
• Beethoven’s Eroicahaus
Here Eroica was written.
• Beethoven’s Pasqualatihaus
Here 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th & Fidelio were written.
• Beethoven’s Wohnung Heiligenstadt
Here 1802 works (ie. Tempest, The Hunt, Eroica Variations, Kreutzer) were written.
Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property.
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.