Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Becoming a Complete Kapellmeister: Haydn and Mattheson's der Vollkommene Capellmeister

Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Becoming a Complete Kapellmeister: Haydn and Mattheson's der Vollkommene Capellmeister

Article excerpt

In their biographies of Haydn both Georg August Griesinger and Albert Christoph Dies draw attention to Mattheson's Der vollkommene Capellmeister as a treatise that the composer read in his youth, and both link it with the contemporaneous study of a second treatise, Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum. Griesinger places detailed study during Haydn's years as a choirboy in St Stephen's, writing succinctly 'He also came to know Mattheson's Der vollkommene Capellmeister and Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum ...'1 Dies placed the reading of both treatises slightly later, the early to mid-1750s, when Haydn was in his early twenties and, as is often the case, this author gives more information: 'He found the exercises in this book nothing new for him, certainly, but good. The worked-out examples, however, were dry and tasteless. Haydn undertook for practice the task of working out all the examples in this book. He kept the whole skeleton, even the same number of notes, and invented new melodies to it'.2 At his death Haydn's library contained both the Fux and the Mattheson3 and it is reasonable to assume that he had owned the treatises throughout his adult life. Fux's celebrated treatise, Gradus ad Parnassum, has always attracted the sympathetic attention of commentators: it was the product of Haydn's environment as a youth, sacred musical life in the imperial-royal city of Vienna, written by a venerated figure whose music he would have sung on countless occasions and who had taught many individuals that were, in their turn, prominent in Austrian musical life. Fux's legacy as a theoretician and pedagogue lasted well into the nineteenth century, and Haydn was typical of many in using it in his own teaching, to the extent that he wrote annotations in his own copy.4 Mattheson's treatise, on the other hand, was the product of a completely different part of the Holy Roman Empire, the free imperial city of Hamburg in Germany, the northern Baroque musical tradition of Bach, Buxtehude and Telemann, and, in sacred music, the demands of the Lutheran liturgy rather than those of the Catholic liturgy. Given this background and the dismissive remarks that Dies made, it is not surprising that Der vollkommene Capellmeister has often been ignored by Haydn scholarship and, by implication, regarded as peripheral to the composer's development. Only in the area of music rhetoric has scholarship sought persuasive links between Mattheson and Haydn.5

But a sympathetic reading of Mattheson's treatise reveals several, further characteristics that chime with Haydn's outlook and even if some of them reflect wider musical and social values their articulation in a volume that aimed to be the comprehensive guide for any aspiring Kapellmeister would have provided a constant source of re-assurance as well as opinion for someone who had a highly developed sense of duty. This essay will look at some of these characteristics before, in the final section, considering how a re-evaluation of Mattheson's importance might challenge certain standard outlooks in Haydn biography.

Mattheson's treatise first appeared in Hamburg in 1739, a year before Haydn moved to Vienna from Hainburg. It was readily available in Vienna, the first known advertisement being in 1744, placed by the bookseller Peter Monath who sold it from his house in the Tuchlauben.6 The first edition consisted of 484 closely printed pages followed by an index of 15 pages, two pages of corrigenda, a postscriptum of two pages, and a catalogue of Mattheson's printed works, mainly prose but some music, too. Mattheson's first treatise on music had dated from 1713 and Der vollkommene Capellmeister was clearly regarded by the author as a summation of a lifetime of experience and reflection.7 It consists of 50 chapters separated into three parts. Part 1 is devoted to the general musical knowledge required by any self-respecting Kapellmeister, Part 2 gives detailed observations on melody which Mattheson regarded as the basis of good composition, and Part 3 is devoted to harmony or, as he puts it, 'the Combination of Different Melodies' ('von der Zusammenfaßung verschiedener Melodien'). …

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