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Mattheson, Johann

Mattheson, Johann

Mattheson, Johann , famous German composer, music theorist, and lexicographer; b. Hamburg, Sept. 28, 1681; d. there, April 17, 1764. He received a thorough education in the liberal arts at the Johanneum, acquiring proficiency in English, Italian, and French; studied music there with the Kantor, Joachim Gerstenbuttel. He received private musical instruction studying keyboard music and composition with J.N. Hanff; also took singing lessons and learned to play the violin, gamba, oboe, flute, and lute. At a very early age he began to perform as an organist in the churches of Hamburg; also sang in the chorus at the Hamburg Opera. He graduated from the Johanneum in 1693, and concurrently took courses in jurisprudence. He then served as a page at the Hamburg court of Graf von Güldenlöw, who held the title of Vice-König of Norway. He made his debut as a singer in a female role with the Hamburg Opera during its visit to Kiel in 1696; from 1697 to 1705 he was a tenor with the Hamburg Opera, conducted rehearsals, and also composed works for it. He befriended Handel in 1703; together they journeyed to Lübeck to visit Buxtehude, who was about to retire as organist, and to apply for his post. The unwritten requirement for the job was marriage to one of Buxtehude’s five daughters, whose attractions seemed dubious; both Mattheson and Handel declined the opportunity. In 1704 a violent quarrel broke out between Mattheson and Handel during a performance of Mattheson’s opera Cleopatra at the Hamburg Opera. Mattheson sang the principal male role of Antonius while Handel acted as conductor from the keyboard in the capacity of maestro al cembalo. Upon the conclusion of his role on stage, Mattheson asked Handel to let him assume the position at the keyboard, since he was the composer. Handel refused and an altercation ensued. The dispute was finally decided by a duel, during which Mattheson broke his sword on a metal button of Handel’s coat, or so at least the most credible report of the episode went. They were, however, soon reconciled and remained friends. In 1704 Mattheson became the tutor of Cyrill Wich, the son of Sir John Wich, British envoy at Hamburg. In 1706 he became secretary to Sir John; when the younger Wich became ambassador in 1715, he retained Mattheson as secretary, a position he held for most of his life. During this period Mattheson diligently studied English politics, law, and economics, thereby adding to his many other accomplishments. In 1715 he assumed the post of music director of the Hamburg Cathedral. He composed much sacred music for performance there, including many oratorios. In 1719 he also became Kapellmeister to the court of the duke of Holstein. Growing deafness compelled him to resign his post at the Cathedral in 1728. In 1741 he was given the title of legation secretary to the duke of Holstein, and was made counsel in 1744.

Mattheson’s output as a composer was substantial, but little of his music has survived. Of his major compositions, only the MSS of one of his operas, Cleopatra (modern ed., by G. Buelow in Das Erbe deutscher Musik, LXIX, 1975), and one of his oratorios, Das Lied des Lammes (modern ed. by B. Cannon, Madison, Wise, 1971), are extant. The bulk of his MSS, kept in the Hamburg Stadtbibliothek, were destroyed during the hideous “fire- storm” bombing of Hamburg during World War II. However, most of his numerous literary writings are preserved. Outstanding among his books is Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739), an original theoretical treatise on the state of music in his era. Also valuable are his Grosse General-Bass-Schule (1731; based on his earlier work Exemplarische Organisten-Probe, 1719) and Kleine General-Bass-Schule (1735). Of great historical value is his biographical dictionary, Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte. ..(1740), which contains 149 entries. Many of the entries on musicians of his own time were compiled from information provided by the subjects themselves, and several prepared complete autobiographical accounts for his lexicon.

Writings

(all publ, in Hamburg):Das neu-eröffnete Orchestre, oder gründliche Anleitung, wie ein “galant homme” einen vollkommenen Begriff von der Hoheit und Würde der edlen Musik erlangen möge (1713); Das beschützte Orchestre (1717); Exemplarische Organisten-Probe im Artikel vom General-Bass (1719; publ, in an enl. ed. as Grosse-General-Bass-Schule, oder: Der exemplarischen Organisten-Probe zweite, verbesserte und vermehrte Auflage, 1731); Réflexions sur l’éclaircissement d’un problème de musique pratique (1720); Das forschende Orchester (1721); Melo-theta, das ist der grundrichtige, nach jetziger neuesten Manier angeführte Componiste (1721–22); Critica musica (1722–25); Der neue gottingische, aber viel schlechter, als die alten lacedämonischen urtheilende Ephorus (1727); Der musicalische Patriot (1728); De eruditione musica, ad virum plurimum reverendum, amplissimum atque doctissimum, Joannes Christophorum Krüsike (1732); Kleine General-Bass-Schule (1735); Kern melodischer Wissenschaft (1737); Gültige Zeugnisse über die jüngste Matthesonisch- Musicalische Kern-Schrift (1738); Der vollkommene Capellmeister, das ist gründliche Anzeige aller derjenigen Sachen, die einer wissen, können und vollkommen inne haben muss, der eine Capelle mit Ehren und Nützen verstehen will (1739; facsimile reprint, Kassel, 1954; rev. Eng. tr. by E. Harriss, 1980); Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte, woran die tüchtigsten Capellmeister, Componisten, Musikgelehrten, Tonkünstler, etc. Leben, Werke, Verdienste, etc., erscheinen sollen (1740; new ed., with addenda, by M. Schneider, Berlin, 1910); Die neuste Untersuchung der Singspiele, nebst beygefügter musicalischen Geschmacksprobe (1744); Das erläuterte Selah, nebst einigen andern nützlichen Anmerkungen und erbaulichen Gedanken über Lob und Liebe (1745); Behauptung der himmlischen Musik aus den Gründen der Vernunft, Kirchen-Lehre und heiligen Schrift (1747); Matthesons Mithridat wider den Gift einer welschen Satyre, genannt: La Musica (by S. Rosa; 1749); Matthesons bewährte Panacea, als eine Zugabe zu seinem musicalischen Mithridat, erste Dosis (1750); Wahrer Begriff der harmonischen Lebens. Der Panacea zwote Dosis (1750); Sieben Gespräche der Weisheit und Musik samt zwo Beylagen: Als die dritte Dosis der Panacea (1751); Philologisches Tresespiel, als ein kleiner Beytrag zur kritischen Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (1752); Plus ultra, ein Stüchwerk von neuer und mancherley Art (4 vols., 1754, 1755, 1755, 1756); Georg Friederich Händeis Lebensbeschreibung (German tr. of J. Mainwaring’s biography; 1761); etc.

Works

(all Ist perf. in Hamburg unless otherwise given):dramatic: opera:Die Plejades oder Das Sieben-Gestirne (1699); Der edelmüthige Porsenna (1702); Victor, Hertzog der Normannen (pasticcio; Act I by Schiefferdecker; Act 2 by Mattheson; Act 3 by Bronner; 1702); Die unglückselige Cleopatra (1704); Le Retour du siècle d’or (Holstein, 1705); Boris Goudenow (1710); Die geheimen Begebenheiten Henrico IV (1711); he also prepared a German version of Orlandini’s Nero (1723), with additions. oratorios:Die heylsame Geburth und Menschwerdung unsers Herrn und Heylandes Jesu Christi (1715); Die gnädige Sendung Gottes des Heiligen Geistes (1716); Chera, oder Die Leidtragende und getröstete Wittwe zu Nain (1716); Der verlangte und erlangte Heiland (1716); Der Altonaische Hirten-Segen, nebst einer Passions-Andacht über den verlassenen Jesum (1717); Der reformirende Johannes (1717); Der für die Sünde der Welt gemartete und sterbende Jesus (1718); Der aller-erfreulichste Triumph oder Der überwindende Immanuel (1718); Die glücklich-streitende Kirche (1718); Die göttliche Vorsorge über alle Creaturen (1718); Die Frucht des Geistes (1719); Christi Wunder-Wercke bey den Schwachgläubigen (1719); Die durch Christi Auferstehung bestägte Auferstehung aller Todten (1720); Das gröste Kind (1720); Der Blut-rünstige Kelter-Treter und von der Erden erhöhete Menschen-Sohn (1721); Das irrende und wieder zu recht gebrachte Sünde-Schaaf (1721); Die Freudenreiche Geburt und Menschwerdung unsers Herrn und Heilandes Jesu Christi (1721); Der unter den Todten gesuchte, und unter den lebendigen gefundene Sieges-Fürst (1722); Das Grosse in dem Kleinen, oder Gott in den Herzen eines gläubigen Christen (1722); Das Lied des Lammes (1723); Der liebreiche und gedultige David (1723); Der aus dem Löwen-Graben befreyte, himmlische Daniel (1725); Das gottseelige Geheimnis (1725); Der undanckbare Jerobeam (1726); Der gegen seine Brüder barmherzige Joseph (1727); Das durch die Fleischwerdung des ewigen Wortes erfüllte Wort der Verheissung (1727). He also composed his own funeral oratorio, Das fröhliche Sterbelied. instrumental:Sonate à due cembali per il Signore Cyrillo Wich gran virtuoso (1705; ed. by B. Cannon, London, 1960); Suite für 2 Cembali (1705; ed. by B. Cannon, London, 1960); XII sonates à deux et trois flûtes sans basse (publ, in Amsterdam, 1708); Sonate for Harpsichord (1713); Pièces de clavecin en deux volumes (publ, in London, 1714; Ger. ed. as Matthesons Harmonisches Denkmahl, aus zwölff-erwählten Clavier-Suiten (publ, in London, 1714; reprint, 1965); Der brauchbare Virtuoso, welcher sich...mit zwölff neuen Kammer-Sonaten for Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord (1720); Die wol-klingende Finger-Sprache, in zwölff Fugen, mit zwey bis drey Subjecten (1st part, 1735; 2ndpart, 1737; ed. by L. Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Leipzig, 1954).

Bibliography

L. Meinardus, M. und seine Verdienste um die deutsche Tonkunst, in Waldersee’s Sammlung musikalischer Vorträge (Leipzig, 1879); H. Schmidt, j. M.: Ein Förderer der deutschen Tonkunst, im Lichte seiner Werke (diss., Univ. of Munich, 1897); B. Cannon, j. M.:Spectator in Music (New Haven, 1947); W. Braun, j. M. und die Aufklärung (diss., Univ. of Halle, 1952); H. Reddick, j. M.’s Forty-eight Thorough-bass Test-Pieces: Translation and Commentary (diss., Univ. of Mich., 1956); H. Marx, j. M. (Hamburg, 1982); G. Buelow and H. Marx, eds., New M. Studies (Cambridge, 1984).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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