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From Popular to Esoteric: Nikolaos Mantzaros and the Development of his Career as a Composer

  • Kostas Kardamis (a1)

Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros (1795–1872) was a noble from Corfu and is better known today as the composer of the Greek national anthem. However, recent research has proved his importance as a teacher and as one of the most learned composers of his generation, renowned, in Italy and France as well as Greece.

The aim of this article is to present Mantzaros’ developing relationship as dilettante composer to the emerging European nineteenth-century music and aesthetics, as featured through his existing works and writings. In his early works (1815–27) Mantzaros demonstrates a remarkable creative assimilation of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century operatic idioms, whereas his aristocratic social status allowed him an eclectic relationship with music in general. From the late 1820s, Mantzaros also began setting Greek poetry to music, in this way offering a viable solution to the demand for ‘national music’.

From the mid-1830s onwards, Mantzaros’ already existing interest in Romantic idealism was broadened, affecting his work and thoughts. He stopped composing opera-related works and demonstrated a dual attitude towards music. On the one hand he continued composing popular music for the needs of his social circle, but on the other he developed an esoteric creative relationship with music. The latter led him as early as the 1840s to denounce the ‘extremities of Romanticism’ and to seek the musical expression of the sublime through the creative use of ‘the noble art of counterpoint’. This way he attempted to propose a re-evaluation of nineteenth-century trends through an eclectic neoclassicism, without neglecting the importance of subjective inspiration and genius.

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1 The changing attitudes towards Mantzaros during the last decades are illustrated in a lively way by the entries regarding the composer in the 1980 and 2001 editions of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (NGD). See Papaioannou, John G., ‘Mantzaros [Halikiopoulos] Nikolaos’ in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 1st ed. (London: Macmillan Publishers, 1980): vol. 11, 635636 and Leotsakos, George, ‘Mantzaros, Nikolaos Halikiopoulos’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001): vol. 15, 787788.

2 Between 1829 and 1830 Mantzaros set to music Dionysios Solomos’ Hymn to the Liberty, a poem of 158 stanzas, the first two of which, with the music of this early setting (since at least three were to follow) became, in July 1865, the official anthem of the Greek Kingdom.

3 From 1386 to 1797 Corfu was under Venetian administration, followed by the Napoleonic Republic of France. From 1800 to 1807 the Ionian Islands, under the protection of Russia, became the first neohellenic state, but from 1807 until 1814 the Napoleonic French transformed them into a satellite of France. Napoleon's final fall in 1814 heralded the arrival of the British administration, which was to rule for 50 years. In 1864 the Ionian Islands were annexed to the Greek Kingdom.

4 Kardamis, Kostas, ‘The Music of the Ionian Islands’ in Ionian Islands: History and Culture (Athens: Region of Ionian Islands, 2007): 186203 and 356–65.

5 Several archival sources refer to Mantzaros’ ‘European fame’. See Rangaves, Alexandros R., Memoirs (Athens: Vivliorama, 1999): vol. iii, 133, who emphasizes that Mantzaros’ fame in Italy was so influential that ‘his opinion regarding harmony was sought by Verdi and other illustrious composers, who often sent him their works’. Moreover, in 1856 Niccolò Tommaseo made explicit reference to Mantzaros, ‘student of the great and good Zingarelli’, and his authorative opinion on music, see Niccolò Tommaseo, Belleza e Civiltà o Delle arti del Bello Sensibile, (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1856): 110. See also Niccoló Tommaseo, ‘Italia, Grecia, Illirio, le Isole Jonie, la Corsica e la Dalmazia: Industria e Arti Gentili’, La rivista contemporanea IV, vol. 8 (Torino, 1856): 1–6 (p. 6). See Benaki Museum Historical Archives (Athens), Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros Archive (BM/NMA), Scores 407, 3, for a record of a discussion on versification between Tommaseo and Mantzaros; Gerolamo Alessandro Biaggi, Della Musica Religiosa e Delle Questioni Inerenti (Milano: Lucca, 1856): 168.

6 Namely, Secretary of the General Attorney of the Ionian Islands (1818–32) and Secretary of the President of the Ionian Senate (1833–56). See Kardamis, Kostas, Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros: ‘Enotita mesa stin pollaplotita’ [Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros: ‘Unity within Variety’] (Corfu: Society of Corfu Studies, 2008): 41, 58.

7 Kardamis, Kostas, ‘O “prosolomikos” Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros kai to ergo tou’ [‘The “pre-Solomian” Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros and his Work’] (PhD diss., Ionian University, Corfu, 2006): 63–74.

8 Sartori, Claudio, I libretti italiani a stampa dalle origini al 1800, 7 vols (Cuneo: Bertola & Locatelli, 1990): iii, 107.

9 General State Archives – Archives of Corfu [GSA-AC], Ionian Senate/Imperial French 16, 190 (25 Aug. 1810, no. 185) and GSA-AC, Ionian State 50, 46 (23 Oct. 1826).

10 Sartori, I libretti italiani, iii: 226 and GSA-AC, Executive Police 1547, no. 2365 (25 Dec. 1810).

11 Kardamis, ‘O “prosolomikos” Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros’, 122–5.

12 Bacciagaluppi, Claudio, ‘ “Primo violoncello al cembalo”: L'accompagnamento del recitativo semplice nell’ Ottocento’, Rivista Italiana di Musicologia XLI-2006/I, 101134: esp. pp. 105–6.

13 The most complete collection of such libretti is held by the Corfu Reading Society.

14 The earliest are: Sono inquieto ed agitato (1815, aria for baritone), Bella speme lusinghiera (1815, aria for tenor), Come augellin che canta (1815, aria for soprano), L'aurora (1818, ‘cantata’ for soprano, lyrics by Metastasio), Si ti credo amato bene (1818, duet for soprano and tenor). Even Don Crepuscolo (1815), which is described as ‘azione comica d'un atto solo’, is an operatic work (in its broader sense) partially based on Marcelo Bernardini's ‘farsetta’ Le donne bisbetiche, that demands only a baritone as singing voice, while the other participants hold the scenic action with pantomime.

15 Some of these compositions by Mantzaros have been recorded in Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros: Early Works (Ionian University/Music Department, 2005, IU005). The earliest of them have been published in Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros 1795–1872: Early Works for Voice and Orchestra I: Three Arias of 1815’, ed. Irmgard Lerch Kalavrytinos, Monuments of Neo-Hellenic Music (Corfu: Ionian University/Department of Music/Hellenic Music Research Lab, 2006).

16 Rice, Albert R.From the Clarinet d'Amour to the Contra Bass: A History of Large Size Clarinets (1740–1860), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 190191.

17 A concert performance only with keyboard accompaniment of L'ignanno felice in 1816 featuring the young Giovanni Battista Verger is the earliest case of a possible (but still not fully documented) presentation of a Rossinian opera in Corfu (see, GSA-AC, Executive Police 59). Nonetheless, the 1818 contract for Corfu's theatre stated explicitly that two of the six operas to be presented must be by Rossini (GSA-AC, Ionian State 6, f. 5 (2 Jun. 1818): 2r).

18 These works were: Ulisse agli Elisi (1820, for soprano and tenor), La gratitudine (1821, for soprano), Cantata con cori (1824, for soprano), Minerva nell'isola di Corfú (1827, for mezzo).

19 Kendrick, Tertius T.C., The Ionian Islands: Manners and Customs (London, 1822): 262.

20 If nothing else, the accounts by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travellers strengthened this ‘neoclassical’ approach. See Williams, H.W., Travels in Italy, Greece and the Ionian Islands, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Constable and Co., 1820): ii, 168; Müller, Christian, Voyage en Grèce et dans les Iles Ioniennes (Paris: Persan et Ce, 1822): 297298; Descrizione dell’ Isola e Città di Corfù (Corfù: Stamperia del Governo, 1823): 9–12; Willis, N.P., Pencillings by the Way (London: Bohn, 1846): ii, 178, 182–4; Buchon, Alexandre, Voyage dans l’ Eubee les Iles Ioniennes et les Cyclades en 1841 (Paris: Émile-Paul Éditeur, 1911): 135136.

21 See Dahlhaus, Carl, Nineteenth-Century Music, trans. J. Bradford Robinson, (Berkley: University of California Press, 1989): 96111.

22 Padovan, Domenico, ‘Poche parole sopra i scritti del Cav. Nicoló C. [alichiopulo] Manzaro’ [‘Some Words Regarding the Writings of the Knight Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros’], I Foni (Corfu's newspaper) 361 (12 Apr. 1872): 2–3. Mantzaros was decorated with the silver cross of the Order of the Saviour by King Otto of Greece in 1845 and promoted to the golden cross in 1865 by King George I (Kardamis, Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros, 74–5).

23 Kardamis, ‘O “prosolomikos” Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros’, 172–3, 380–91.

24 Padovan, ‘Poche parole’, 2–3.

25 Kardamis, ‘O “prosolomikos” Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros’, 111–14, 263, 378, 395.

26 Some anecdotal information on this issue is given by Spyridon Motsenigos, Neoelleniki Moussiki: Symvoli eis tin istorian tis [Neohellenic Music: A Contribution to its History] (Athens, 1958): 100–103.

27 ‘Neue musikalishe Untersuchungsreise in Italien’, Allgemeine Musikalishe Zeitung 21 (25 May 1836): 333. The article on an 1834 trip in Italy, where Mantzaros is included among the leading representatives of classical Italian music, and especially that of Naples. See also ‘New Travels of Musical Research through Italy’, Musical World 23 (19 Aug. 1836): 151–4, for an English translation of the same article.

28 Severiano Fogacci, ‘Corcira: Stato dell’ Incivilimento de’ Corciresi dopo i bei secoli della Grecia sino al finire del secolo passato’ [Corcira [i.e. Corfu's name during antiquity]: State of Civilization of the Corcyreans After the Beautiful Centuries [i.e. Antiquity] of Greece until the End of the Previous Century], Album Jonio XVI (1 Sep. 1842): 133–5 (p. 135). See also, the Greek translation of an 1835 letter by Zingarelli, published in Freiderikos Alvanas, ‘Nikolaos o Mantzaros’, Attikon Emerologion (Athens: 1873): 239–52 (p. 242). Zingarelli's statement to Mantzaros that ‘I cannot find anyone else to succeed me … because any other will corrupt … the Neapolitan style’, might also suggest Zingarelli's views about Gaetano Donizetti. The latter taught composition in the Conservatory of Naples from 1834 and would become its temporary director in 1837, after Zingarelli's passing (William Ashbrook, Donizetti and his Operas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984): 84, 118.

29 Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music, 15–26.

30 This aria is also included in the CD Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros: Early Works.

31 Kimbell, David, Italian Opera (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 391.

32 Fubini, Enrico, Il pensiero musicale del Romanticismo [The Musical Thought of Romanticism] (Torino: EDT, 2005): 2138, Stewart Allit, John, J.S. Mayr: Father of the 19th Century Italian Music (Longmead: Element Books Ltd, 1989): 36.

33 Gazzetta degli Stati Uniti delle Isole Jonie 475 (22 Jan.–3 Feb. 1827): 3.

34 The verses are written in the Latin alphabet, in order to facilitate the singer. Similar practices for similar instances were frequent in the Ionian Islands throughout the nineteenth century. The score belongs today to BM/NMA 505. Regarding Nannucci's contribution, see Xanthoudakis, Haris, ‘O poietis tis Aria Greca’ [‘The Poet of Aria Greca], Moussikos Loghos 7 (Summer 2006): 3057.

35 Aria Greca is also included in the CD Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros: Early Works.

36 Nonetheless, one cannot avoid observing certain similarities to the ‘Finale Ultimo’ in Act I of Rossini's Semiramide, which had been performed in Corfu earlier that year and in which Pinotti sung the role of Arsace (Gazzetta degli Stati Uniti delle Isole Jonie 458 (25 Sep.–7 Oct. 1826): 3). Mantzaros probably used these reminiscences from Semiramide to facilitate Pinotti singing in Greek.

37 This also justifies Mantzaros’ negative reaction towards Andreas Kalvos’ poetry, which was characterized by the use of ancient Greek. See Deviazis, Spyridon, ‘Andreas Kalvos’, Akritas 27 (November 1905): 291292.

38 The earliest full-scale opera in Greek was Spyridon Xyndas’ O ypopsifios [The Parliamentary Candidate], premiered in Corfu in September 1867.

39 Padovan, ‘Poche parole’, 2–3.

40 The manuscript of the Orthodox Mass belongs to the Music Archive of the Corfu Philharmonic Society.

41 In this respect the numerous settings of Petrarch's sonnet Levommi il mio pensier, constitute a good example and they can also be connected to the increasing, and often distorting, Romantic re-evaluation of Medieval and Renaissance times. For these settings, see BM/NMA 505, 3, 15 and 3, 16: pp. 198–227, in which the diversity of styles varies from ‘lieder-like’ to fugal. Of those settings, only the one dedicated to his pupil Domenikos Padovás around 1840 has been published posthumously under the title Pensieri Musicali sulle parole di Sonetto di Messer Petrarca Levommi il mio pensier in parte ov'era (Firenze, Roma: Venturini, [c. 1884]).

42 The manuscript belongs to the Corfu Philharmonic Society. An autograph manuscript by Mantzaros, which contains six of these airs (as well as other ‘folklike’ vocal compositions) explicitly for male choir, belongs to the Bulgari family in Corfu.

43 See Biblioteca Italiana o sia Giornale di Letteratura, Scienze ed Arti, vol. 8, Jul.–Sep. 1823 (Milano: 1823): 110. It should be noted that one of these sinfonias is a piano reduction of the orchestral overture of Mantzaros’ 1820 cantata Ulisse e Nausicaa agli Elisi.

44 [Ieronimos Markos Padovàs], Critical Observations on the Sketches of Corfu (Corfu, 1835): 72.

45 Dodici fughe scritte per quattro e cinque voci [Twelve Fugues Written for Four or Five Voices] (Naples: Negri, 1826) and Canone all'undecisima sopra basso e soprano (BM/NMA 505, 3, 16, pp. 314–19).

46 Rapporto del Cav. N. Calichiopulo Manzaro, Presidente della Musica della Società Filarmonica in Corfù, relativo al dono di alcune opera di Monsigny e Grétry [Report of the Knight Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros, President of Music of the Philharmonic Society in Corfu, Regarding a Donation of Some Operas of Monsigny and Grétry] (Corfu: 1851): 11. This was Mantzaros’ report regarding the artistic qualities of certain operas by Monsigny and Grétry, donated to the Philharmonic Society by the French patron Jules Lardin in 1849.

47 Regaldi, Giuseppe, Canti e prose (Torino, 1862): 418.

48 Dodici fughe, [ii].

49 Rapporto, 8.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid., 8. See also the favourable review of the critic Girolamo Alessandro Biaggi for Mantzaros’ Rapporto (see, L'Italia Musicale VI, 32 (22 Apr. 1854): 125–6), as well as the warm letter that Mantzaros sent to Biaggi on the occasion of the publication of the latter's book entitled Della Musica Religiosa e Delle Questioni Inerenti (Milan: Lucca, 1856) (see Archive of Corfu Philharmonic Society (CPS/A), Correspondence II, 1341, Mantzaros to Biaggi, 20 Jul. 1857).

52 Rapporto, 8. Mantzaros used the same words in 1848 to describe the ‘type of the fantastic creatures’ of the poet Dionysios Solomos, see Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros, Cenni sul Conte Solomos [Thoughts on Count Solomos], manuscript currently in Solomos Museum of Zakynthos.

53 Rapporto, 9–12. Mantzaros’ extensive knowledge of Monsigny and Grétry, however, is of particular importance, since this suggests the broadening of those factors that could influence the ideas and the experiences of a Greek nineteenth-century musician, especially in the Ionian Islands, whose reliance upon Italian melodrama was taken for granted until recently. The same applies regarding the reference to Mozart (whose Don Giovanni was among the scores that Mantzaros had in his library, see CPS/A, Proceedings 1842–8, 323, 6 May 1845) and Weber.

54 Rapporto, 9.

55 Ibid., 7.

56 Ibid., 10.

57 Spyridon Zampelios, Pothen i koini leksis ‘Tradoudo’ [What Are the Origins of the Common Word ‘to Sing’?] (Athens, 1859): 74.

58 Vrailas-Armenis, Petros, ‘Peri moussikis’ [‘On Music’], in Corpus Philosophorum Græcorum Recentiorum, ed. E. Moutsopoulos, I/4 (Athens: 1973): 319–345. Mantzaros was among the audience of Vrailas’ lectures and the latter attended the composer's lectures on harmony. Mantzaros also appears in the chapter on music in Konstantinos Stratoulis, Dokimion Kallilogias itoi Stoixeia Esthitikis [Essay on Beauty, Namely Elements of Aesthetics] (Zakynthos, 1856): 264.

59 Letter from Mantzaros to Jules Lardin dated 6 Dec. 1851 (private archive).

60 The manuscript is in the British Library, Royal Music Library, RM18a3.

61 Rapporto, 23.

62 One cannot fail to observe that philosophers, such as Tieck and E.T.A. Hoffmann, also considered the vocal music of Palestrina as a kind of ‘absolute music’, which expresses the sublime [see Garratt, James, Palestrina and the German Romantic Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002): esp. 52–7]. The style alla Palestrina retained a central role in the mature compositions of Mantzaros.

63 Cenni sul Conte Solomos.

64 This is how Placido Mandanici, a contemporary of Mantzaros, described the fugue in Fedele Fenaroli, Partimenti e regole musicali, ed. P. Mandanici (Naples: Clausetti, ∼1850): 89.

65 For a detailed account and comment, see Brovas, Dimitris, ‘I fuga kai i simasia tis gia ton Nikolao Halikiopoulo Mantzaro mesa apo to Rapporto tou’ [‘The Fugue and its Importance for Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros through his Rapporto], Moussikos Loghos 7 (Summer 2006): 5992.

66 Rapporto, 28–31.

67 Mantzaros’ relation to operatic developments, as well as his knowledge of music theory, might have facilitated his views regarding evolutionism in harmony as demonstrated in a practical way in his Opera sulle Cadenze ossia Dizionario delle Modulazioni, cominciando dalle più semplice e naturale e progredendo gratatamente fino alla più astuta e complicata contenento quello che fù fatto, quello che si fa al presente, e quello che si potra fare in avvenire [On the Cadences or Dictionary of Modulations, Beginning with the most Simple and Natural, and Progressing Gradually until the most Astute and Complicated containing those that have been Created, those that are Created in the Present and those that will be Created in the Future], BM/NMA 505, 9, 37–40.

68 For example, Mantzaros’, Decifrazione del V e VI Libro de’ Partimenti di [Fedele] Fenaroli (Library of the Ionian University), or the Studio Pratico dell'Armonia (BM/NMA 505, 5, 22 and 23, as well as 6/24 and 25.

69 Preamble to an unpublished analytical report (Mantzaros’ manuscript, currently in the Ghele Archive, Athens). Similar views are expressed in 1810 by Alessandro Barca in ‘Rapporto sullo stato della musica nel Regno d’ Italia’, in Biografie di scrittori e artisti musicali bergamasci nativi od oriundi di Giovanni Simone Mayr [Biographies of Native or Foreign Writers and Musical Artists of Bergamo by Giovanni Simone Mayr], facsimile edition (Bologna: Forni, 1969): 33–46 (pp. 35–6).

70 This justifies the fact that Mantzaros in 1826 found ‘several mistakes’ in Francesco Durante's eight-part Messa de’ morti (Rapporto, 20). The combination of the rigorous style with innovative elements in compositions that nominally belonged to stile antico, characterized Durante and could confuse Mantzaros. Mantzaros also echoes, in his observations on the ‘mixed style’, the long-established polemics against the amalgamation of sacred music with elements deriving from secular or theatrical genres.

71 Gmeinwieser, Siegfried, ‘Cecilian Movement’, New Grove Dictionary (2001), vol. 5, 333334, Costa, Eugenio, ‘Movimento Ceciliano’, Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti (Turin: UTET, 1984), iii, 259–60. See also, Garratt, James, ‘Prophets looking Backwards: German Romantic Historicism and the Representation of Renaissance Music’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 125 (2000), 164204: esp. 171–87 and Janz, Bernard, ‘Legende und Wirklichkeit: Die Kompositionen Giuseppe Bainis und die Tradition des Palestrina-Stils in der päpstlichen Kapelle’, in Palestrina und die Kirchenmusik im 19. Jahrhundert, ed. Winfried Kirsch, 3 vols (Kassel: Gustav Bosse Verlag, 1989–99): iii, 13–32.

72 Padovan, ‘Poche parole’, 2. The known parts of the Messa a Quattro voci con cori a piena orchestra (currently in private archive) particularly demonstrate the differences between stile antico and ‘mixed style’.

73 For a detailed presentation of the period, see Calligas, Eleni, ‘The “Rizopastai” (Radical Unionists): Politics and Nationalism in the British Protectorate of the Ionian Islands, 1815–64’ (PhD diss., University of London, 1994).

74 In 1861 Petros Vrailas described Mantzaros as living ‘in the heights of the theory of the Good’, something that did not prevent him from ‘supervising and directing even the elementary lessons’ and ‘revealing and teaching the most mysterious laws of artistic creation’; see O Paratiritis (Corfu's newspaper) IV–182 (16–28 Sep. 1861): 2–3. It is also indicative that after 1826 Mantzaros did not permit any of his music to be published, despite the pressure by publishers like Francesco Lucca (see BM/NMA 505, 10, 73 (Francesco Lucca to Mantzaros: letter dated 21 Jul. 1855).

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