Sunday, August 10, 2014

Concert: Magnificat and The Whole Noyse (12/20/2013) (A Venetian Christmas Mass)



12/20/2013

First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA

A Venetian Christmas Mass

Introitus Puer natus est nobis
Kyrie elesison a 5, 8 &12  (G. Gabrieli)
Gloria in excelsis Deo a 7 (Monteverdi)
Collecta
Epistulum
in loco Gradual Canzon VIII a 8 (Gabrieli)
Evangelium
Credo a 4 (Monteverdi)
in loco Offertorium Quem vidistis pastores a 14 (Gabrieli)
Praefatio
Sanctus a 12 (Gabrieli)
ad Elevatio O Bone Iesu (Monteverdi)
Pater noster
Agnus Dei a 6 e 7  (Monteverdi)
in loco Communio Canzon XII a 8 (Gabrieli)
Postcommunio
Ite missa est
in loco Deo gratias Omnes gentes (Gabrieli)

Magnficat Ensemble
Clara Rottsolk & Jennifer Paulino, sopranos
Andrew Rader & Clifton Massey, countertenors
Christopher LeCluyse, tenor& deacon
Daniel Hutchings, tenor
Hugh Davies, bass & celebrant
Peter Becker, bass
John Dornenburg, violone
John Lenti, theorbo
Katherine Heater, organ

The Whole Noyse
Stephen Escher & Alexandra Opsahl, cornett
Richard Van Hessel & Ernie Rideout, with Gayle Neumann & Phil Neumann, sackbut
Herbert Myers, curtal

Warren Stewart, director


前晚聽了Voices of Music意猶未盡的晚禱音樂,緊接著第二天晚上我又很熱血地跑回Palo Alto參加另一場Magnificat EnsembleThe Whole Noyse一同舉辦的一場聖誕彌撒音樂。如同PBO的那場Boyce音樂會,這場也是和大鍵琴同學Michael一塊兒參加的。因為提早到Palo Alto,所以剛好有時間在旁邊的California Pizza Kitchen可先吃晚餐。

如同VOM的威尼斯晚禱音樂會,這場也跟威尼斯脫離不了關係。而這場彌撒裡音樂的作曲家,剛好是十六世紀末,十七世紀初西方古典樂發展史最重要的兩位義大利作曲家,Giovanni Gabrieli和Claudio Monteverdi。兩位作曲家都曾在著名的聖馬可(San Marco)大教堂擔任重要的角色。Gabrieli是教堂的風琴師,而Monteverdi是樂團指揮(maestro di capella)。很可惜的是,兩位在聖馬可的任期沒有重疊,因為Monteverdi在1613年才到聖馬可,而Gabrieli在1612年時就已過逝。要是他們當初真的有見到面,那他們之間的音樂又會有怎樣的交流呢?

這場「音樂會」就某方面而言,比Voices of Music那場還要更按照傳統來。首先,整個表演中間沒有休息時間,而是一次跑完,如同教堂儀式一般(只是彌撒的真正時刻應該在早上十點左右)。另外,彌撒音樂各段之間,Magnificat Ensemble也會演奏素歌(plainchant),猶如在聽司儀和牧師在舉行真正的彌撒儀式。

音樂會是在Palo Alto的First United Methodist教堂表演。缺點是,這間教堂場地大,回聲時間長,音樂中的細節容易被模糊掉。而伴奏群的低音提琴,theorbo,curtal,與風琴的聲音也很可惜,時常被人聲,古號,和古長號給蓋過去了。指揮Warren Stewart想要製造出磅礡的氣勢,中間必定得有取捨。

而彌撒的音樂可分成四種類型:(一)素歌(plainchant),(二)Gabrieli的宗教聲樂曲,(三)Gabrieli的器樂曲,(四)Monteverdi的宗教聲樂曲。素歌的部份對我來說最無趣,每次進行到這部份時我頭腦都是呈現放空的狀態。一來,我目前並無宗教信仰,因此祈禱的文字對我的意義並不是那麼大。二來,素歌和今天對音樂的審美觀已有不小的差距了,所以實在是稱不上「好聽」。三來,這些素歌當時是來輔助宗教儀式的,本來就不是給供一般人拿來欣賞用的。

Gabrieli的音樂橫跨文藝復興末期與巴洛克初期,屬於較為「老派」的風格。雖然Gabrieli是開始大量運用應答式(call and response)的作曲家,但他的音樂許多時候仍採和絃式(chordal)的主調織體(homophonic)。一方面Gabrieli要營造出宗教音樂的嚴肅氣氛,但聖馬可教堂同時作為威尼斯共和國的象徵,如此聲勢壯觀的音樂也是為了能展現出國富民強的感覺。我近來開始才比較能調整心態,進入欣賞Gabrieli音樂的模式。儘管如此,Gabrieli的音樂還是容易給人較為莊嚴,無法親近的感覺。

Gabrieli也算是第一位大量寫純器樂曲的作曲家,而且不專指鍵盤獨或是魯特琴獨奏,而是多樂器的合奏曲。在十七世紀初時,古號(cornett)與古長號(sackbut)仍是常見到的樂器,不論是演奏宗教或世俗音樂,都少不了它們。對於吹銅管樂的音樂家,Gabrieli的合奏曲更是他們的古樂曲目的樂土。一般現代的銅管音樂會,也常見到用今天的小號和伸縮號來奏樂Gabrieli的音樂。而這晚表演的兩首canzona,來自Gabrieli過逝後三年(1615)才出版的Canzone e Sonate

The Whole Noyse的團長Stephen Escher與成員們的演奏也都很盡力,只是古號是極為難吹的樂器,難免會吃點小螺絲。一年前有幸聽到Bruce Dickey大師的古號演奏,他同時也是Escher以及Opsahl的老師。縱使名師出高徒,但這晚學生的演出還是有點不夠穩定。

相較於Gabrieli的距離感,Monteverdi的音樂更有戲劇性,也更有親和力。Magnificat Ensemble和The Whole Noyse挑選的音樂,來自Monteverdi人生中期及晚期。這時的Monteverdi已發展出「第二代音樂風格」(seconda pratica,也稱之為stile moderno),有別於舊式保守的曲風。以牧歌和世俗音樂聞名的Monteverdi,會適時將激動風格(stile concitato)的創作手法,搬到宗教音樂。在不失宗教原意的情況下,音樂多了一層人性。這也是為什麼這晚的音樂當中,我比較喜歡Monteverdi的原因。

繼前一晚的VOM,我又再次接觸了有聲樂的宗教音樂會。不同於VOM那場,這場的Magnificat Ensemble和The Whole Noyse,因為要呈現莊嚴肅穆,隆重盛大的氣氛,而少了直接讓我感動的地方。難聽一點的說法是,這場表演有點無趣。放眼望去,四處可見萌生睡意,或難掩無聊之情的
聽眾。坐在我們正後方的一家四口,甚至沒聽到一半,就閃人了。太按照傳統習俗的宗教音樂,果然今天大多數人的接受度並不高。不過換個角度思考,若是將時間倒退四百年,這場彌撒就是歐洲許多老百姓週日的固定活動了。做為二十一世紀人的思維,這還真是不容易想像~~

後記:之前在學校時常遇到的古樂老師John Dornenburg與Herbert Myers,都有參與這次的表演。這次是在學校音樂會之外的正式場合,看到他們同台演出。因為發現從沒和John照過相,所以特地和他留影。手邊也有The Whole Noyse的CD,也找到機會和Stephen Escher拍照。

Stephen Escher, cornettist


Following the evening of great Voices of Music concert, I returned to Palo Alto the following night to attend a concert held jointly by the Magnificat Ensemble and The Whole Noyse. Similar to the Venetian Vespers offered by VOM, here we were treated to a Venetian Mass. Harpsichordist friend Michael joined me in this concert, and with enough time on our hands, we had dinner at the nearby California Pizza Kitchen.

Representing the music for the Venetian Mass are two of the most influential Italian composers of early 17th century, Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi. They both also happened to work at St. Mark's basilica, holding important (but different) posts there. Gabrieli was the church organist, while Monteverdi was the maestro di capella, although they never served together. Monteverdi came to St. Mark's in 1613, while Gabrieli had already died the previous year. There is also no record indicating that the two of them ever met in person. The question begs, who knows what the development of western music might have been had they met during their lifetime?

In many ways, this "concert" was a more faithful reproduction of a Venetian Mass than VOM's, the most obvious one being the absence of an intermission. The other main thing was the inclusion of chants (some quite lengthy) between the parts of the Mass, sung by members of the Magnificat Ensemble. All of this added to the "authenticity" of the performance, if you will.

To just state it from the get-go, my biggest complaint must be the venue of the performance, which was the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto. This used to be the venue for the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and there's a reason why it's not anymore. The hall is just simply too big and the reverb time too long which smears out musical detail. To add insult to injury, the softer continuo instruments of the violone, theorbo, curtal, and chamber organ were also masked out by the voices, cornetts, and sackbuts. I was told later that director Warren Stewart wanted to create a grand magnificent atmosphere, and inevitably compromises had to be made.

The music of this Mass could sorted into 4 main categories: (1) plainchant, (2) Gabrieli sacred vocal music, (3) Gabrieli pure instrumental music, and (4) Monteverdi sacred vocal music. The least rewarding part for me is undoubtedly the chants, where I would just consciously try to space out. For one, I'm not a religious man, and so the texts do not have great significance for me. Secondly, our aesthetics of music have evolved quite a bit over the past few centuries, and I'm not sure I can derive much pleasure from it. Furthermore, these chants are meant to serve in liturgies, and its chief function was never to be musically pleasing.

Gabrieli's music spans the late Renaissance and early Baroque, considered a relatively "older" style of composition. Even though he was one of the first composers to frequently use antiphonal call-and-response techniques, a good portion of his music is strictly chordal. The effect of this is to create a sense of religious solemnity. At the same time, St. Mark's was a symbol of he Venetian Republic, and a majestic display in music also came to demonstrate the wealth and power of the republic itself. It's taken some time, but I have started to come to mentally tune myself to appreciate Gabrieli's music. Despite that, it's hard not to feel that his music can be a tad austere and distant.

Gabrieli is also one of the first composers to prolifically write purely instrumental works, and I don't mean solo works for the keyboard or the lute, but ensemble pieces. Cornetts and sackbuts were popular and standard instruments in the Renaissance and early Baroque, and most period instrument recordings will almost always employ them. Even for modern brass players, Gabrieli's instrumental works are considered a mecca for early brass music, and his music is frequently played in modern brass concerts, on the trumpet and modern trombone, of course. The two canzonas performed this night are from a 1615 posthumous publication titled Canzone e Sonate.

The Whole Noyse, led by cornettist Stephen Escher, play the pieces admirably. The cornett is considered a very difficult instrument to play, and the performances had their rough patches at times. A year ago, I attended a concert where cornett maestro Bruce Dickey performed with VOM in the Bay Area. Dickey also happens to be the teacher of Escher and Opsahl, and while the students eventually become the masters, the playing this evening wasn't quite up to the standard Dickey was able to set.

Compared to Gabrieli, Monteverdi's music was much more dramatic and approachable. The music performed this night were selected from various publications from Monteverdi's mid-to-late career. By then, Monteverdi had already fully developed the seconda pratica style, and he even incorporated stile concitato elements into his sacred music writing. In doing so, the music attained a humanistic feel, yet does not lose its original religious intent. It's for this reason that I enjoyed the Monteverdi pieces over Gabrieli's this evening.

For two nights in a row, I was immersed in sacred music, which would have to count as a first. This Venetian Mass performance failed to move me as much as the VOM did the night before. For all its grandeur and magnificence, sometimes, simply put, it was a little uninteresting. If you looked around, you would have seen many people trying hard to stay awake or hide their wearisome expressions. The family sitting behind us even left before halfway through the performance. Bottom line is, a re-enactment too faithful sometimes may not be the one most readily accepted by today's audience. Which brings me to the last thought: four centuries ago, this would have been the typical Sunday morning of many people in Europe. As someone living in the 21st century, this is something difficult to completely wrap one's head around.    


John Dornenburg, gambaist

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