The Genre and Form of the Cantata “The Serdar” by Vlastimir Nikolovski

/, Sound, Blesok no. 10-11/The Genre and Form of the Cantata “The Serdar” by Vlastimir Nikolovski

The Genre and Form of the Cantata “The Serdar” by Vlastimir Nikolovski

The voluminous creative opus of the prominent Macedonian composer and pedagogue Vlastimir Nikolovski encompasses almost all genres and forms characteristic for the professional compositional creation of the second half of the XX century. In the course of his prolific creative life the author was drawn with equal intensity to large, massive, voluminous as well as to plastic, mobile, character-driven and as to the timbre in a refine manner combined performing compositions. Equally characteristic to his creative profile is the interest for the instrumental color and the constant returning to the national folkloristic and church coloration and manner in the vocational opus. The author has addressed the genres of the vocal-instrumental music not just once. Within each of them he created works that have assured for themselves place as representative creations in the national compositional treasury – “To Clement”, “To Cyril”, “Insubordination”, the cantatas “ Sun column”, “Piquancy”, “The Serdar”, “Antiliturgy”, the vocal cycles “Through the roads” and “Satyr 2” the fifth symphony, the many choral compositions, the cycles and songs for man and female voices accompanied by piano. In all of them the rich poetic and dramatic line of his many-sided talent is expressed as well as his faculty for deep feeling and theatricalising of the poetic text, for empathy with its dramaturgic line, which stands out clearly in his not yet published poetic work, prose texts and drawings. Among the fundamental works from the huge vocal creation by Vlastimir Nikolovski and within the whole vocal instrumental music of the Macedonian compositional school belongs his cantata “The Serdar” inspired by the most significant work of one of the founder of the Macedonian poetry Grigor Prlicev – the moving literary poem “The Serdar” with the libretto by Gorgi Stalev. This music by Vlastimir Nikolovski is prominent with its deep tragicalness, lamented tonus, expressive coloration, impressiveness of the music characters who at one time very vividly follows the line of the dramatic development of the touching verses and at others they comment musically.
These properties are felt already at the first listening to the tape of this work whose concert performance unfortunately is remembered only by a few lucky ones. Nevertheless what has been written on “The Serdar” does not correspond to the expressed impressions, and that was one of the reasons for the author of these lines to pay an attention to some aspects of the genre and form of this work.

* * * * *

It seems at first sight that there are not specific reasons for dwelling on the problem of the genre. The author under the name of the work wrote – cantata and with that the question of this field of our intention seems answered. But if the intrinsic instability of the cantata genre and the possibilities for mutual interaction of signs of different genres in the same work are taken into consideration and after more profound knowledge of the music of the concrete cantata some elements appear that suggest that the genre of the work is one complex and perspective question for scientific exploration. Since its exploitation in the frames of one review seems little possible we will be satisfied just with the delineating of the principal aspects of the problem. In the polysemic classification of the genres under cantata usually is meant a composition for chorus, chorus and soloists, or soloists and orchestra, with small proportions and homogeneity of the content, without dramatic elaboration of the fable, in one or in a cycle of several staves. The cantata has not established specific structural and stable genre characteristics and consequently in the compositional practice a multitude of different structural solutions motivated by different artistic tasks can be met. In the music of the XX century along with the cantatas in which the lyric element and the modesty of the volume (The first cantata by Anton Vebern, Rubiat by Sofia Gubaydulina) are dominant, also appeared cantatas close to the monumentality of the oratorio (“Alexander Nevsky” by Sergey Prokofiev), as well as cantatas which replaced the singing principal with the recitative (The survivor of Warsaw by Arnold Schenberg). That’s why, in search of the representatives of the genre of the cantata, lacking more stable signs, often that which is not rather than that which is characteristic is assigned as a pillar of the genre– noted are the absence of the acting personas, the absence of the dramatic action, the generality of the literary text. The problem of classifying the genres is a field where many prominent Russian theorists, among whom the names of Boris Asafjev, Viktor Zukerman, Eugenie Nazaikinsky, Arnold Sohor, Mark Aranovski can be particularly singled out, left their marks. In the reviewing the genre characteristics of the cantata “The Serdar’ we will stick to the typology of the structures of the genre by Mark Aranovski in his text “The structure of the music genre and the contemporary situation in the music”, regarding it as methodologically more completed. The cantata “The Serdar” by Vlastimir Nikolovski is a work where the action is mainly presented by personas: the mother of the serdar (soldier)– solo alt; Gegata – solo baritone; the people – mixed chorus or through imitation of the actionng and in some less extent through the voice of the author, of the poet and sometimes the men chorus through whom can be known the relation of the poet to the action. This renders the belonging of “The Serdar” to the dramatic as well as to the lyric kind. It is understood that real stage and stage action does not exist and is not provided for in the score, but musically can be identified supposed, imagined scenes – psychological effect of imagining a scene and scenic action which are born in the same way as in a concert performance of the operas. Such scenes are the lamentation of the women chorus in the first stave (absence of a text, it is sung with the “woe” exclamation helps even more for the visualization of the imagined scene of the people’s grief); the Neda’s telling of the dream and the mourning for the dead body of Serdar; the oath of the Gegi and the dialogue with Neda in the third stave. The story of the Gega for the tragic event although he narrates and comments the subject nevertheless it stays in the frames of drammatic kind because the Gega is one of the acting persons – participant in the battle that he talks about.
The belonging of “The Serdar” in the lyric kind is reflected in the fugato of the men chorus in the first stave – that is the voice of the poet, non-participant in the event, a voice that describes the grief of the people. It is interesting that with the simultaneous sounding of the male and female chorus the double layering is created in the narration of the action – the dramatic and the lyric kind act simultaneously. The poetic voice in the second and the third stave is given to the recitationist, or more precisely to the narrator – the rhythmics and the intonation of the reading have been written down correctly – the lyric principal is given in his primal, poetic, and not musical form. The poetic voice can be heard for the last time in the coda given in harmonious choral chanting. Regardless of the poetic text we find the musical lyric principal, the composer’s comment on the action, in the introductions of all three staves. Grieving in the first, pastorally– fantastic in the second and energetic in the third it leaves an impression on whole tonus of each of the staves. Interesting is the simultaneous sounding of the poetic and of the compositor’s comment on the action in the second stave – The grieving march. An attention deserves the episode of the battle in the third stave where for a longer time the music principal has overtaken the primate of the poetic, but here with dramatic sign. It has to be underlined that the belonging of “The Serdar” to the dramatic and lyric artistic kind provides for the composition not only traits of cantata, but of the oratorio as well. It is generally accepted that the thin, fluid boundary between these two genres is based upon the predominance of the lyric principal in the cantata and the dramatic in the oratorio – dramatic but without the real scene (the roots for the scenic character of the oratorio should be looked for in the opera which has been created approximately at the same time). The volume as a criterion for discerning of these two genres seems less valid, particularly in the music of the XX century when works of the same genre have differences in their duration, as symphony for example. Just to remember the symphony op. 21 by Anton Webern and the ones by Dmitry Shostakovic. So during the defining of the participating genres in “The Serdar” an action is discovered where the cantata and oratorio are equally represented. Classified under the second way – the kind of the employed sound source “The Serdar” by Vlastimir Nikolovski belongs to the genre of vocal– instrumental works for chorus, soloists, narrator and symphonic orchestra with triple composition, large group of diverse percussion instruments with specified and unspecified altitude and obligatory piano – a composition typical for the vocal– instrumental music of the XX century by the volume and by the ways of the sound– drawing. Speaking about the sound source the essential thing is the way of the sound -drawing – in “The Serdar” we meet sprechistimme, parlando, singing with mouth closed, natural, non-imposed fashion of singing in the vocal part and frulato, flatterzung in trumpet, sordines in chorines and trombones, flageolets of the all instruments of the string corpus – sound-drawing that gives to sound a coloration that is characteristic for this century. The sound style here is a representative for the genre and for the style on the level of the epoch. Applying the third way of classification from the scheme by Aranovski – a classification according to the aim of the performance of the work we will notice that the music of “The Serdar does not accompany actions beyond the music, but it is a music in itself, music for listening, although in its developing uses the ritualistic Macedonian folk genre – a lament, that is, it includes music that accompanies the funeral ritual. In that way the applied lament genre put in the context of a musical genre intended for listening becomes a music symbol through in the best and most adequate way is reflected the subject of the poetic text by Prlicev. The Macedonian national thematic of the poetic text has found its complete reflection in Macedonian folkloristic musical genre included in a professional, compositional work. This exquisite union of Macedonian national traits into two art genres, in one syncretic whole is the basis for the artistic and national value of the cantata “The Serdar”. Apart from the lament in the partitura is included another musical symbol from the category of the applied music – the funeral march – that enables a communication with the large auditors educated in the tradition of the European applied music. The parallel use of the lament and the grieving march assures a national and universal civilization belonging to the work. In this way the work is put forward as an example for a balancing of the national and universal, an example that enables recognition of the national composition school in the frames of the international musical aesthetic currents. The last, forth way of classification by Aranovski is based on the thesis that the music form is “a representative in relation to a class of phenomena” and that the type of the work corresponds to the type of the contents which is given in the type of the structure, i.e. the genre has structural-semantic invariant. Examining the structure of “The Serdar”by Vlastimir Nikolovski from that point of view we notice coinciding with the traditional structural-semantic invariant typical for the cantata during its whole line of development since the 17century onwards – structure cyclic or in one stave, predominance of the repetitive, polyphonic and recitative forms – marked by the individual style of Nikolovski. The forms of the staves of the cantata are reflections of the overemphatic predominance by the structures of the poetic text which lead to the expanding and ruling of the recitative parts comparing to their participation in the genre’s invariant. This dislocating of the balance of the recitative and the singing speaks for the work’s approaching to the dramatic musical genres, above all to the oratorio. The pure musical form-creating instruments appear in the parts where the action evolves by the sounding of the orchestra, and also by the chorus in the neutral syllable (woe) – The imitation in the fugato in the first stave, the repetition of the theme of the lament in the next two staves and the repetition of the introduction in the first stave.

2018-08-21T17:23:57+00:00 October 1st, 1999|Categories: Reviews, Sound, Blesok no. 10-11|0 Comments