Category: 2/2021

WAR AND PEACE: BIOGRAPHICAL MILESTONES

Abstract: The article is the first attempt to provide a comprehensive exploration of the creation of Prokofiev’s epic opera War and Peace. In particular, the article focuses on the preconditions of the concept, compositional stages, structural principles of writing a huge piece of music, approaches to its dramaturgic interpretation as well as the recreation of stage life of the opera and the analysis of its perception by critics. Chronologically, the history of the creation covers almost 12 years (1941–1953), which is a record period in Prokofiev’s biography. In total, War and Peace underwent five editions. The article analyses the conditions which made the production of this timely work so much anticipated by Russian public impossible in Russia. War and Peace was a unique operatic composition created by a world-famous composer, however, it did not mean the opera would easily reach its audience. Leo Tolstoy is one of Russia’s patriotic classics, which means that any interpreter of his work is supposed to follow the ideological triad of “nationalism, optimism, and realism”. In addition, the plot centered around the Patriotic War of 1812 at the height of the Patriotic War of the 1940s had to be even more patriotic in its nature. In view of the above, Prokofiev was forced to transform the composition for a lyric chamber theater into a grandiose national and historical epic. It is hardly possible to say whether his attempt was a success, since he deliberately did not canonize any of the resulting redactions for future performances. Two world premieres of War and Peace took place in Prague on June 25, 1948 (first stage redaction) and in Florence on May 26, 1953 (second stage redaction, a one-evening version). Five of the nine Prokofiev’s opera premieres were held abroad. Against the disappointing statistics, these five performances stand out as a symbol of freedom of musical creativity and a memorial to the defeated aspirations of a genius. Download the article

HAYDN, MOZART AND PLEYEL: RIVALRY AND INTERINFLUENCES

Abstract: Ignaz Pleyel was one of the talented and extraordinarily popular composers of his time. At least twice in his life he could instill a sense of rivalry in his eminent contemporaries—Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This gave birth to several most interesting instrumental works of the 18th century, i.e., the “Haydn” Quartets by Mozart and the Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major by Haydn. Mark Evan Bonds has convincingly shown that the “forefather” of the genre was not the only person involved in the three out of six Mozart’s quartets dedicated to Haydn. When composing his works, Mozart made himself familiar with Pleyel’s Quartets Oр. 1 written according to the model of Haydn’s works. Mozart, to all appearances, decided to surpass Pleyel. Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major was composed during the creative competition with Pleyel in London. It was organized by rival impresarios Johann Peter Salomon and Wilhelm Kramer. The composition was Haydn’s answer to similar works by his ex-pupil Pleyel—Sinfonia Concertante in F major and Sinfonia Concertante in A major. However, where Mozart was an absolute winner leaving behind not entirely independent quartet experiments of his rival, the competition between Haydn and Pleyel ended in a “draw”. The London concert symphonies of both composers are marked by the maturity of style, beautiful melodism, compositional creativity as well as the harmonic balance of virtuosic solo parts and orchestral monumentalism. Pleyel was instrumental in the very existence of certain works by Mozart and Haydn. However, both of them also influenced his style. This is especially true of Pleyel’s interpretation of the sonata form. In the first quartets he relied on Haydn’s model with the variant transformation of the main theme, then, however, he resorts to Mozart’s model with its thematic plurality, combinatorics, and thematic and structural parallels with the Italian opera arias. Pleyel’s symphonies concertante are the extreme of similarity to Mozart’s form. Download the article

The final of the singspiel Doktor and Apotheker by Dittersdorf and the tradition of the opera buffa

Abstract: Doktor and Apotheker, a singspiel by Dittersdorf, is one of the most successful and popular operas of the 18th century. Many researchers claim that the reason for its popularity is the “chain finale” that was first introduced by the composer. During the theatre reformation under the reign of Joseph II, German opera did not have its own models of final scenes to complete the acts. Dittersdorf was one of the pioneer composers who first applied Italian models to a singspiel. The finale is one of the central scenes in opera buffa demonstrating sophisticated dramatic situations and original music solutions. The article compares the final of the first act of Doktor and Apotheker and central finals of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro as well as Dittersdorf’s Italian opera Democrito Corretto. The detailed analysis of the dramatic line, the structure of final scenes and means of expression shows that the opera embraces Italian traditions on different levels: from plots and characters to specific musical means. All of them make an organic contribution to the traditions of singspiel. Dittersdorf’s new approach to the opera finale laid the foundation for future generations of Austrian and German composers. Download the article

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s clavier fantasies: A creative dialogue with the father

Abstract: W.F. Bach was greatly influenced by the personality and style of his great father — Johann Sebastian Bach. As the first teacher of clavier and composition, his father remained Friedemann’s main mentor throughout his life. For him, his father’s music was the highest artistic reference point. W.F. Bach’s woks have numerous quotations and allusions to J. S. Bach’s compositions. These borrowings did not go unnoticed by the composers’ contemporaries. According to the musicologist T. Frumkis, the composer was following his father’s footsteps as a slave. At the same time, an 18th century music theorist F.W. Marpurg in his Legende Einiger Musikheiligen reported on Friedemann’s cases of plagiarism. However, it seems that in most cases such quotes in Friedman’s music do not indicate the lack of one’s own imagination or attempts of blind copying. They are more about an original creative reinterpretation of the borrowed material. The article explores the series of W. F. Bach’s polyaffective (the term by Y. S. Bocharov) clavier fantasies: F. 16, F. 18, F. 19 and F. 21. They are marked by the biggest number of citations from J. S. Bach’s music. These compositions, to some extent, can be considered as free “fantasia on themes” originally written by Sebastian Bach. The borrowings manifest themselves in motifs, phrases, textured drawings, development techniques, and even compositional principles. At the same time, the quotations are surrounded by W. F. Bach’s original compositional material and placed in new structural conditions. This creates the conditions for creative dialogues with J. S. Bach. They are of different quality and emotional mood and range from a heart-to-heart talk to a heated debate. Download the article

COUNTERPOINT BATTLES IN THE 18TH CENTURY NAPLES: AN ATTEMPT OF HISTORICAL RECONSTRUCTION

Abstract: The article examines an underscrutinised polyphonic tradition formed in the 18th century Naples. This period is often associated with the heyday of Naples opera. Its development was driven by the opening of four conservatories, which produced highly qualified composers and singers. The 18th century opera of Italian composers stands high on the research agenda in the history of music, however, the unique counterpoint tradition formed within the Neapolitan conservatories is still in oblivion. The mid-18th century witnessed the emergence of two irreconcilable parties: the Leists (followers of Leonardo Leo) and the Durantists (followers of Francesco Durante). References to the century-long struggle of two educational schools are found in a range of Italian and European sources. However, they either say nothing about the origins of the conflict or report controversial information. The study of the origins of the conflict that evolved from simple competition to theoretical controversy shows that the main reason for the discord between the Leists and the Durantists was counterpoint—the discipline that completed the course of studying composition in the Neapolitan conservatories. Two different approaches to teaching not only testify to the birth of a unique polyphonic tradition in southern Italy, but also become an expression of a stylistic change in the mid-18th century European music. Download the article