Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wenzel Matiegka's Grand Sonata I, 1: observations about the exposition, initial observation about Matiegka's appropriation and recomposition of works by Haydn and Mozart

Matiegka's Grand Sonata I was first published in 1808 and is one of my favorites of the early 19th century guitar sonatas.  While the historical and textual case for Matiegka's debt to Haydn could be made on the basis of his Op. 23 sonata alone (which opens with a guitar transcription of the finale from Haydn's B minor piano sonata), the larger case for the extent to which Matiegka appropriated and developed ideas that can be traced to Haydn's work is more readily fleshed out in a pending discussion of Grand Sonata II.  Grand Sonata I is, by far, the better represented of the two grand sonatas in terms of commercial recordings and, of late, a print edition.  I've retained that contested G sharp note in the transition that has been omitted in some performances and a print edition.  I've also added a potentially redundant sharp for an A sharp in the transition you'll get to see soon enough.

This sonata is a lively one and one that has a symphonic scope that is only surpassed, in my personal assessment, by the Grand Sonatas of Sor.  But if Sor is the Beethoven of the guitar, Matiegka is its Haydn, and both Grand Sonatas are works I've come back to and enjoy listening to.  I know that people who don't like Matiegka will probably not be won over to the charms of his music or even believe that Matiegka is, as a composer working within sonata form to develop themes within and across large-scale forms, surpassed Sor.  Sor's reputation is too fixed in the guitarist pantheon for Matiegka's reputation to rise and Matiegka's easily traceable debt to Haydn or Molitor makes him far less of a stand-out genius sort. 

But guitarists should familiarize themselves with Matiegka's work simply because his mastery of sonata form was considerable.  His flexibility of approach to sonata forms is comparable to Sor's but, unlike Sor, Matiegka tends to have substantial development sections.

Perhaps unlike Sor, Matiegka was flamboyant in quotation and transformation of other composers' tunes, particularly Haydn.  In the Grand Sonata I we get a short but still fairly obvious allusion to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. It's not directly quoted but the linear patternin the melody Matiegka uses and particularly the rhythmic contour of phrase 3 make the allusion seem pretty obvious.

You can see for yourself after the break (though you may want to collapse all the menus on the side first.





There's a simpler way to articulate what this theme does.  If you take out the grace notes and other decorations the contours of the theme are much simpler than what is written in the score.


In spite of some of the florid passage work, Matiegka's opening theme is very simple, modular and direct.  In fact it's so predictable that a jaded listener will understandably expect this to be pretty pedestrian going (and depending on what kind of Stravinsky fan you are, it will be but you probably stopped reading as soon as you saw Matiegka in the title if that's the kind of Stravinsky fan you are).

As I blogged about this sonata last year, though, it's not just a matter of how simple or complex an opening gesture is in a piece, there's something to be said for where you go with it.  Matiegka's Grand Sonatas provide interesting case studies of partial recapitulations and other tricks with his Theme 1 materials that, though they may seem slightly odd at first, are within the norms of sonata forms by 18th century standards.  Guitarists may have been late to the sonata forms party but we can see in what they took up that they played a role in preserving as normative options in the guitar literature some conventions (such as incomplete recapitulations) that began to be regarded as abnormal in emerging German theoretical treatments.

Something we're going to see about this modular Theme 1 is that later on, when the recapitulation emerges, Matiegka's going to exploit this modularity to create a disconnect between when Theme 1 starts recapitulation as a theme and when Theme 1 attains arrival at the tonic key.  This kind of disconnect between thematic and tonal resolution is more common than would have been taught in undergraduate level music theory courses and it's one of the ways in which, as Kyle Gann put it at his blog, 18th century music was quirkier and more experimental than it has often been given credit for.

We'll get to that recapitulation soon enough.  On to the rest of the exposition.

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