Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/249

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MATERNA.
237
MATHESON.

Friedrich, a popular German actor, and together with him was engaged at the suburban Karls theater, Vienna, where she sang for some time in operetta. But her qualifications for the higher lyrical walks could not long remain undiscovered, and in 1869 she made her debut at the Imperial Opera House as Selika in the 'Africaine,' with signal success, at once winning for herself the high position she has since maintained among opera-singers of the German school. With a soprano voice of unusual volume, compass, and sustaining power, a fine stage presence, and much musical and dramatic intelligence, Frau Materna leaves nothing to be desired in certain rôles. At the Wagner Festival at Baireuth, 1876, she may be said to have earned a world-wide reputation by her really magnificent impersonation of Brunnhilde in the Niebelungen Trilogy, an exceptional part for which she was exceptionally qualified, and in which she is unlikely to meet with a rival. She sang in England with great success at the Wagner concerts at the Albert Hall in 1877. [App. p.715 "she sang the part of Kundry at the first performance of 'Parsifal,' July 28, 1882."]

[ B. T. ]

MATHER, Samuel, son of William Mather (born 1756, organist of St. Paul's church, Sheffield, from 1788 to his death in 1808), was born in 1783. In 1799 he was appointed organist of St. James's church, Sheffield, and in 1808 succeeded his father at St. Paul's. In 1805 he was chosen bandmaster of the Sheffield Volunteers. In 1806 he was engaged in establishing the Yorkshire Amateur Concerts, which were for many years given triennially at that town, Leeds and York alternately, and in 1814 established the Yorkshire Choral Concert. He composed both sacred and secular music, and edited a book of psalm and hymn tunes. He died in 1824.

[ W. H. H. ]

MATHESON [App. p.715 "the name should be spelt Mattheson throughout"], Johann, German musician and writer, born Sept. 28, 1681, at Hamburg, son of a clerk of excise; as a child showed striking symptoms of versatility, which his parents carefully cultivated. Besides the ordinary education he studied music, and at nine years could play the harpsichord and organ, sing and compose. His ability and versatility were truly extraordinary, and recal those of the 'admirable Crichton.' A good classical scholar and a proficient in modern languages, a student of law and political science, a fine player both on harpsichord and organ, and thoroughly skilled in theory, an elegant dancer, a master of fence, and a cultivated man of the world. The first step in his changeful career was his appearance in 1697 as a singer in the Hamburg opera, then in its most flourishing condition. In 1699 he produced his first opera, 'Die Pleysden,' siuging his part on the stage, and then sitting down at the harpsichord to conduct the orchestra. To this period belongs his acquaintance with Handel, who came to Hamburg in 1703. Matheson tells us that he recognised Handel's genius immediately, that they became at once attached, and that their friendship continued, with occasional breaks caused by Matheson's vanity, during the whole time of Handel's stay in Hamburg (1709). He claims to have done Handel an important service by introducing him to the musical world of Hamburg, at that time very celebrated; but he acknowledges that he picked up from him many a 'contrapuntal device.' Handel's 'Nero' (1705) was the last opera in which Matheson appeared; he then retired from the stage, and declined more than one organist's post which was offered to him. He became tutor to the son of the English envoy, and in 1706 was made secretary of legation. His post was one of labour and responsibility, but he still continued to teach, conduct, compose, and write on musical subjects. In 1715 he was appointed Cantor and Canon of the cathedral; and took an active part in the development of the Church-cantata, so soon after carried to its highest pitch by J. S. Bach. [See Kirchencantaten.] This was the result of an attempt, made more particularly by the Hamburg composers, to vary the monotony of congregational singing by the introduction of airs, duets, choruses, etc., and was considered by the orthodox an impious and sacrilegious innovation. Matheson supported this 'adapted dramatic' style, as it was called, both as a composer and as a pamphleteer; and even ventured on a further innovation, by introducing female singers into church.

In 1719 he received from the Duke of Holstein the title of Court- Capellmeister. In 1728 he was attacked with deafness, which obliged hirn to resign his post at the cathedral. Thenceforward he occupied himself chiefly with writing, and died at an advanced age in 1764 [App. p.715 "April 17"]. He is said to have resolved to publish a work for every year of his life, and this aim he more than accomplished, for when he died at 83, his printed works amounted to 88, besides a still larger number of completed MSS.

None of his compositions have survived. With all his cleverness and knowledge he had no real genius; his vocal music was overburdened with declamatory passages—a fault easily explained by his own experience on the stage, but one which is often detrimental and must have been very incongruous in church music. He composed 24 oratorios and cantatas; 8 operas; sonatas for flute and violin; suites for clavier; arias; pièces de circonstance for weddings, funerals, etc. A 'Passions-Cantate' to words by Brockes deserves attention, not for its intrinsic value, but because the poem was set by nearly all the great composers of the day, including Reiser and Matheson, Telemann and Handel.

His books are of far greater value than his compositions. In these, notwithstanding a peculiar self-satisfied loquacity, he shows himself a ready and skilful champion for earnestness and dignity in art, for progress, and for solidity of attainment in the practical part of music. In both branches, theoretical and practical, he attacked and demolished much that was antiquated, furnishing at the same time a great deal that was new and instructive, and bequeathing to posterity a mine of historical material. He also found time for much other literary work, especially translations (chiefly from English works on politics and jurisprudence),