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Wenzeslaus MATIEGKA (1773-1830)
Notturno, op.21 in G major [32:24]
Serenade, op.26 in C major [28:44]
Karl Kaiser (flute); Petra Müllejans (viola); Sonja Prunnbauer (guitar)
rec. Nachtmusik, Konzert im Kloster, Wallfahrtskirche Mariae Krönung, Oberried,
25 September, 2005. DDD
cpo 777 190-2 [61:16]

Wenzeslaus Matiegka is an interesting minor figure in the landscape of German romanticism, of interest both for the best of his own music and for his contacts with more famous figures. He was born in Bohemia to a family of musicians and, after some early training as a chorister, as a young man he studied law in Prague. He continued to study music too, and in 1800 took himself to Vienna, determined to make music his life. Initially he worked as a teacher of piano and guitar. He wrote some forty works for solo guitar as well as duos, and trios such as the two recorded here. In 1817 he was appointed director of the choir at the church of Saint Leopold in the Viennese suburb of Leopoldstadt, and wrote some music for the church, but he seems to have lost this post only some six or seven years later. His last years were, it seems, spent in some considerable poverty as he struggled to support his wife and six children.
Matiegka arranged Beethoven’s Opus 8 Serenade (written for violin, viol and cello) as a trio for violin, viola and guitar. His own work also interested more famous composers – Schubert arranged Matiegka’s Opus 21 Nocturne as a quartet, adding a cello part.

The Romantic movement’s desire to distance itself from all that it disliked about the Enlightenment might almost be symbolised in its attraction, not to light and clarity, but to darkness and shadows, to the softer comforts (and occasional fears) of the night. Novalis spoke for many romantic artists in the first of his six Hymns to the Night (1800) when he declared: “Aside I turn to the holy, unspeakable, mysterious Night”. Just as Keats was to affirm that “tender is the night” and to luxuriate in a night-world of “verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways”, so the romantic composers turned time and again to the articulation of night – as Karl Kaiser observes in his interesting essay in the booklet of this CD, “the romantic vital consciousness is reflected in the night and its artistic reception; it withdraws from clear, bright palpability and surrenders to nocturnal suspense”.

Even if it is not yet fully developed, such a fascination clearly underlies the two extended suites by Matiegka recorded here in utterly sympathetic performances by Kaiser and his two colleagues. Played on instruments of the period, or copies thereof, and clearly, but warmly recorded, this makes an excellent introduction to Matiegka’s chamber music.   The Nocturne contains some attractively poetic writing, not least in the second movement menuetto, a kind of shadowy version of the dance, more like something that Titania and her fairies might have danced to in the woods of A Midsummer Night’s Dream than something to which human aristocrats might dance in the court or the ballroom. Much of Matiegka’s writing has real charm, a graceful, unforced lyricism and intimacy – in part, of course, a product of the instrumentation. There is a particular ‘romantic’ charm to the zingara that functions as the fourth movement of the Nocturne; Matiegka’s treatment of the ‘gipsy’ idiom should appeal to any listener who has enjoyed, say, Haydn’s Eight Zingarese (Hob.IX:28). In between these two slightly ‘exotic’ movements comes a beautiful slow movement, every bit as patetico as its designation (lento e patetico) promises.

It is not hard to see why Matiegka’s music attracted Schubert. This may be music without great pretensions, but it clearly achieves all that it sets out to do and makes for very pleasant, relatively undemanding listening. It captures to perfection a particular early romantic sensibility, melancholy yet sweet.   The Serenade is enjoyable too, perhaps most attractive in its central scherzo (there are three movements, as against the five of the Notturno). Karl Kaiser describes it well when he says of it that it scurries along “elfin, fleeting, restless and not properly defined. The two outer movements perhaps go on a little longer than they need to, but there is much that is charming and elegantly expressive. Matiegka’s almost exact contemporary Coleridge declared, in ‘Lines on an Autumnal Evening’, that he aspired “to soothe my Love with shadows of delight”; this is music that does just that.   There’s no need for anyone to redraw their musical maps. Matiegka is not a neglected genius; knowledge of his music is not an essential part of a musical education. But he is an interesting, distinctive musical personality and anyone interested in the Austrian context of greater and bigger musical names than his should certainly give this CD a listen. The unusual combination of instruments gives a particular quality of freshness to these two suites, and the outstanding musicianship of all involved ensures that as persuasive a case is made for Matiegka as one could very well imagine being made.
Glyn Pursglove


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