Greek Music of the Early Nineteenth Century:
Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros and his Early Works
Nineteenth-century Greek music, especially that of the first half of the century, is a part of the music history of that country that has until recently been neglected. Owing to specific historical reasons, the musical production of this era is completely unknown to the public, despite the fact that during that period an important musical development took place. This development resulted to the creation of the so-called Ionian School, which may be considered to be the first indigenous musical movement in European prototypes. This school was one of the principal factors that shaped the musical reality of nineteenth-century Greece.
The centre of this musical development was Corfu. Certain historical conditions and geopolitical reasons prevented Corfu, as well as the rest of the Ionian Islands, from being under Ottoman occupation, which did not happen with the rest of Greece.1 As early as the twelfth century, the islands were successively in Frankish, Venetian, French, Russian and British hands, with the Venetian presence being the longest. More precisely, the period between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century marked the end of over four hundred years of Venetian domination (1386-1797, with the fall of Venetian Democracy during the Italian Campaign of Napoleon) and the beginning of a politically unstable period. This ended in 1815, when the Ionian Islands were recognised as a semi-independent state ‘under the immediate and exclusive protection of the King of Great Britain’ (1815-1864).2
This ‘privilege’ of constant ‘Western’ domination for over five centuries was decisive to the further development of the islands. In comparison to the rest of Greece, the Ionian Islands had the opportunity to be connected with all the cultural and social developments of Europe and this led to the creation of a cultural and social reality similar to that of Europe, and especially of Italy.3 On Corfu in particular, four centuries of uninterrupted Venetian presence, and the fact that the island was the central administrative point of the archipelago, created conditions that enabled, among others, important cultural activities.
The most significant factor from the musical point of view was the conversion of the Loggia (club of the Venetian nobility) of the city of Corfu into a theatre (the ‘Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo’) in 1720.4 Initially, theatrical performances took place inside it, but in 1733 an opera was produced there, the earliest known opera to be produced on the island, and in Greece as a whole.5 According to the sources that are accessible today, opera performances were resumed on a frequent basis during the 1770s, and from that point on there was an ‘invasion’ of Italian melodrama on the island.6 The nature of the opera production and its social significance are beyond the scope of this article; however, it should be pointed out that the impresario played a crucial role and that, despite being an important centre, opera staging on Corfu had a provincial character.
‘San Giacomo’ retained its central cultural and social position throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, there was no performance of an indigenous composer’s work until 1791, when Stefanos Pogiagos’s Gli amanti confusi, ossia Il bruto fortunato was performed.7 (Unfortunately, this work is now considered lost.) After that, there seems to have been a quiet period, and the next musical works by a Corfiot composer that are to be found are those of Nikolaos Mantzaros in 1815. In fact, according to the sources, from 1799 until 1815 there seems to have been no musical activity in the theatre at all, a claim that has however been debated in recent years.8
Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros (1795-1872) was of noble descent. The Halikiopoulos family was one of the oldest aristocratic families on the island with Greek roots. As a member of the local nobility, Nikolaos acquired a very good education, which included tuition in music. He began learning with his mother and continued his studies with the brothers Stefanos and Ieronymos Pogiagos, who taught him piano and violin respectively. He commenced his studies of harmony and counterpoint with S. M. Marchigiano; however, he acquired very good knowledge of advanced music theory under the Italian theorist Barbati, who, together with Stefanos Pogiagos, was considered to be one of the leading music educators of Corfu in that era. In 1821, Mantzaros met the famous Neapolitan composer Niccolò Zingarelli during the latter’s stay in Corfu, and this event had a great effect on the course of his life and work. Mantzaros, who had already undertaken studies in music with Barbati (1813), felt that he should resume them with Zingarelli in Naples. Naples, after all, was considered as the major centre of composers’ training in the period, at least for the Italian peninsula.9 Despite being married, in 1823 Mantzaros left his homeland and travelled to Italy. Eventually he reached Naples, where he studied composition, in an era in which he could come in contact with several Italian composers, such as Donizetti and Mercadante. He stayed there until 1826 and is reported to have left very good impressions.10 After his ‘Naples years’ Mantzaros returned in Corfu, where he continued to compose, but also dedicated himself to the free musical tuition (piano, harmony, counterpoint, composition and instrumentation) of his compatriots until his death.11
Mantzaros’s contribution to the musical development both of Corfu and of Greece in general has only recently started to be acknowledged. He was the author of several theoretical works, among them one method of harmony and one of counterpoint. Apart from that, the great number of composers, performers and music teachers who were his students, and his active involvement in the foundation of the Philharmonic Society of Corfu (despite the fact that ultimately, his expectations for the Society met with only limited success) also testify to his historical importance. It is also indicative of Mantzaros’s musicianship that in 1835 Zingarelli wanted him to be his successor as director of the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella in Naples.12
However, few people acknowledge Mantzaros as a music educator, and even fewer remember him as a composer. His only musical piece that is widely known is the beginning of the first part of the 1829 setting of Imnos is tin Eleftherian [Hymn to the Liberty]. This work, originally for four-part male choir with piano accompaniment, is based on the poetry of Dionysios Solomos, and its first 24 bars have been the official national anthem of Greece since 1865. Mantzaros, however, produced compositions that predate that work, and indeed were written prior to his time in Naples.
These pieces, composed between 1815 and 1821, are vocal music with orchestral accompaniment, composed especially for the needs of the theatre of ‘San Giacomo’, and they constitute the earliest extant musical works of their kind in the history of modern Greek music. They can be divided into three main categories: i) arias and duets, ii) cantatas, and iii) operas. (The latter category includes only one work, the one-act comic opera (azione comica d’ un atto solo) Don Crepuscolo (1815)).13 Due to limitations of space, this article will not consider the four cantatas (L’aurora (1818), Ulisse agli Elisi (1820), Il gratitudine (1821), Cantata con cori) and the opera Don Crepuscolo, as they constitute two special categories that call for separate, thorough treatment. Scope permits me only to consider the arias and the duet that Mantzaros composed in that period, whose titles are as follows:14
The above pieces have reached us in the form of (autograph) scores, possibly in the hand of the composer himself, and are currently held in the Archive of the Benakis Museum in Athens.16 Aside to their musical value, they yield much information regarding the teaching of music during that period in Corfu and the level that a musician could acquire there, as well as details regarding the function of the theatre and the orchestral forces that could be employed therein.
- Sono inquieto e agitato Scene and aria (1815)
- Bella speme lusinghera Aria and recitativo (1815)
- Come augellin che canta Aria (1815)
- Si, ti credo amato bene Duet (1818)
- Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille (no date)15
These pieces are composed on the prototypes of the vocal operatic tradition of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The harmonic and melodic texture associates them with the Italian tradition; however, a Mozartian character is also evident, especially in the melody.17 Of particular importance is the treatment of harmony in the pieces, since one can observe some interesting chromatic elements, such as diminished and augmented dominant chords, unexpected dissonances and key modulations, which emphasize the dramatic character of the lyrics.18 Moreover, rhythmic figures and stereotypical melodic and rhythmic motifs prefigure the later style of the composer.
The subjects of the lyrics of these pieces derive from ancient times and from standard love-based themes, whereas the language used is Italian. The aria Sono inquieto e agitato has Scipio as the hero, whereas the love pledge of the soprano in Come augellin che canta is addressed to Thyrsis. Of particular interest is the Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille, for which Mantzaros takes as the subject an incident from Homer’s epic Ilias, in which the dead Patrocle appears in the dream of Achilles and foretells the latter’s death. Similar thematology can also be found in the cantatas. However, there is no indication of the exact provenance of the lyrics, either in the score or in other sources. The use of such thematic material can be attributed to the interest of the local society in Ancient Greece – which may also be related to the (sometimes) arrogant behaviour of the Venetians towards the local nobility. On the other hand, one should keep in mind that interest in the ancient times may be found all over Europe well before and during that period.
One more important element of the scores is their orchestration. The orchestra that is usually employed for their performance is characteristic of the period (two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two French horns, two trumpets, trombone, timpani, strings). However, the use of the English horn (in Bella speme lusinghera and Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille) is notable, for it reveals a composer with a strong knowledge of orchestration. Mantzaros employs the English horn in three ways: as a bass instrument in a section comprising two oboes and English horn;19 by doubling the melody at the octave; and as solo instrument (Ex.1). The English horn was commonly used in Italian opera of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but it was extremely rare in French and German orchestras before the nineteenth century.20 It is for this reason that the use of the English horn in these pieces is considered to be one of the earliest.21
Example 1: English Horn: Bella speme lusinghera, Largetto cantabile, bars 1-4. (Note the use of the bass clef.)
Moreover, the use of the basset horn (Corno di bassetto) in the duet Si, ti credo amato bene is an unexpected occurrence. The basset horn, a kind of tenor clarinet, was rarely used by that time. Its employment could be justified as an influence that Mantzaros received from his teachers, but it seems that its use is also related to the Masonic symbolism possessed by this instrument.22 Mantzaros had not used this instrument before and was not to use it after that work, so its existence and its dominant place in the orchestration must have been something more than musical necessity (Ex. 2a). After all, Masonism was prevalent in the local society and people of the higher social classes were assumed to be Masons. The use of basset horn in the duet is considered to indicate that in the year of composition (1818), Mantzaros became a member of the Masonic Lodge of Corfu.23 Masonic symbolism can also be found in other works of the same period. In Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille, for instance, the key is E flat and the use of clarinet and English horn at important points of the composition is evident.24
The instrumentation also reveals details regarding the number of musicians that the theatre could employ. Since Mantzaros composed his works especially for ‘San Giacomo’, he should have based his music on the number of performers that could definitely have been available. Furthermore, it would not be incorrect to claim that information regarding the technical abilities of those performers might also be retrieved from the scores. The technical demands made on the woodwind section are especially notable, with some passages requiring efficient flexibility (Exx. 2a and 2b). Unfortunately, the absence of greater resources prevents further investigation of this particular issue.25
Example 2a: Basset horn, Si, ti credo amato bene, Andantino ma poco, bars 1-3.
Example 2b: English Horn: Bella speme lusinghera, Larghetto cantabile, bars 26-29.
Furthermore, the covers of the autograph scores provide other details (apart from the title and the name of the composer) regarding the works, including dates and occasions of performance. The majority of the pieces were dedicated to certain singers who were part of the operatic troupe of the theatre in the particular season (for example, Sono inquieto e agitato, dedicated to the baritone Luigi Simoni (Carnival 1815)). Moreover, they were typically composed for certain occasions; for example, the aria Bella speme lusinghera was composed for the benefit concert of the tenor Rafaelo Recupito. The existence of benefit concerts indicates that ‘San Giacomo’ followed the European theatrical prototypes of the period.
These discoveries demonstrate that Mantzaros, from his early twenties, was acknowledged as the predominant figure of the musical life of Corfu. The composition of musical pieces by an indigenous composer could also have been expected to bring more people into the theatre, especially when this composer was a member of one of the island’s most prominent families. After all, as might be expected, it was precisely these families that constituted the regular audience of ‘San Giacomo’. The administrative position that Mantzaros’s father, Iakovos, had during this early period of the British Protection should also be taken into consideration.26
Nevertheless, none of the above decreases the artistic importance of these works and the musical personality of Mantzaros. From his early years, the composer started developing a personal compositional style out of the musical prototypes of his era, a style that was to be further nourished in the multifarious environment of Naples. However, it seems that Mantzaros stopped composing works for orchestra, and works that called for orchestral contributions, after the 1830s, and paid more attention to vocal composition (aside to the poetry of Solomos, he also set to music poems by Petrarch, Vittorelli, Tommaseo etc.) and, of course, on the musical education of his homeland.27 For all these years, his early compositions have been neglected, but a planned critical edition is progressing successfully, and will hopefully bring about the reassessment of the significance of Nikolaos Mantzaros to the history of Greek music.
Baroutas, Kostas, I mousiki zoi stin Athina to 19o aiona [Musical Life in Athens during the 19th Century] (Athens, Philippos Nakas, 1992)
Fessa-Emmanouil, Eleni, I arhitektoniki tou neoellinikou thetrou 1720-1940 [The Architecture of the Modern Greek Theatre 1720-1940], 2 vols. (Athens, 1994)
Finkelman, Michael, ‘Oboe: Tenor Oboes: English Horn’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xviii, 282-284
Hansell, Sven, ‘Hasse, Adolf Johann’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 4 vols. (London, Macmillan, 1992), ii, 657-664
Hill, Cecil and Cotte, Roger J. V., ‘Masonic Music’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xvi, 39-42
Kardamis, Kostas, ‘Apokatastasi kai kritiki ekdosi tou ergou tou Nikolaou Halikiopoulou Mantzarou Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille’ [‘Restoration and Critical Edition of the Work of Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros’s Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille’], dissertation, Department of Music, Ionian University (Corfu, 2000)
Koukou, Eleni, Istoria ton Eptanison [The history of the Seven (Ionian) Islands] (Athens, Papadimas, 1999)
Leotsakos, George, ‘Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros (1795-1872)’, in Musikologia 5-6 (1987), 228-27
Leotsakos, George, ‘Corfu’, in S. Sadie (ed.), in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 4 vols. (London, Macmillan, 1992), i, 949-950
Leotsakos, George, ‘Corfu’, in S. Sadie (ed.), in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), vi, 464
Leotsakos, George, ‘Italy as Alma Mater of the 19th Century Greek Music’, in Mediterraneo Musica (Palermo, 1995), 66-76
Leotsakos, George, ‘Greece: Art Music since 1770’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), x, 349-353
Leotsakos, George, ‘Mantzaros, Nikolaos Halikiopoulos’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xviii, 787-788
Mavromoustakos, Platonas, ‘Apo ton Arlekino stin Loengrin. To theatro San Giakomo kai I theatriki zoi tis Kerkyras’ [From Harlequin to Lohengrin. The Theatre of San Giacomo and the Theatrical Life of Corfu], in Corfu: History, Urban Life and Architecture 14th-19th century (Corfu, 1994), 71-78
Mavromustakos, Platonas, ‘To italiko melodrama sto thèatro San Giacomo tis Kèrkyras (1733-1798)’ [Italian opera in the theatre San Giacomo of Corfu (1733-1798)], in Parabaseis (1995)
Motsenigos, Spyridon, Neoelliniki Moussiki, symvoli is tin istorian tis [Modern Greek Music, a Contribution to its History] (Athens, 1958)
Rostagno, Antonio, ‘Italy: 18th century’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xii, 645-652
Shackleton, Nicholas, ‘Basset Horn’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), ii, 867-869
Vrokinis, Lavrentios, Peri tis ikodomisis tis en kerkyraiko asti stoas (Loggia) kai tis is theatron metatropis autis 1633-1799 [On the Edifice of the Arcade (Loggia) in the city of Corfu and its conversion into theatre 1663-1799] (Corfu, 1901)
Xanthoudakis, Haris, ‘Ta neanika erga tou Mantzarou’ [The Early Musical Works of Mantzaros], programme notes (Corfu, Municipality Theatre, 18/11/1995), 5-7
Xanthoudakis, Haris, ‘Mikro hronico mias megalis paradosis’ [A Short Chronicle of a Great Tradition’, in Kerkyra, Mères Moussikis (Corfu, 1997)
Xanthoudakis, Haris, ‘Neoelliniki entehni moussiki’ [Modern Greek Art Music], in Ekpaideutiki Elliniki Enkyklopaideia [Educational Greek Encyclopaedia] (Athens, Ekdotiki Athinon, 1999), xxviii, 245-250
Xanthoudakis, Haris, ‘Proepanastatiko melodrama’ [Opera before the (1821) Revolution], in Elliniko melodrama 1888-1940 [Greek Opera 1888-1940], in Kathimerini tis Kyriakis (‘Epta Imeres’), 4 April 1999, 3-5
General National Archives of Corfu
Archives of Benakis’s Museum (Athens)
1 The historical details in the above text are drawn from Eleni Koukou’s Istoria ton Eptanison [The history of the Seven (Ionian) Islands] (Athens, Papadimas, 1999). Back
2 Treaty of Paris, Article II (17/11/1815). Back
3 As it might have been expected, this connection concerned those social classes that had economical independence, namely the aristocratic and later the wealthy middle classes. Back
4 George Leotsakos, ‘Corfu’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 4 vols. (London, Macmillan, 1992), i, 949. See further, Lavrentios Vrokinis, Peri tis ikodomisis tis en kerkyraiko asti stoas (Loggia) kai tis is theatron metatropis autis 1633-1799 [On the Edifice of the Arcade (Loggia) in the city of Corfu and its conversion into theatre 1663-1799] (Corfu, 1901) and Eleni Fessa-Emmanouil, I arhitektoniki tou neoellinikou thetrou 1720-1940 [The Architecture of the Modern Greek Theatre 1720-1940], 2 vols. (Athens, 1994), i, 37-40. Back
5 The title of this opera was Gerone, tiranno di Siracusa (Platonas Mavromustakos, ‘To italiko melodrama sto thèatro San Giacomo tis Kèrkyras (1733-1798)’ [Italian opera in the theatre San Giacomo of Corfu (1733-1798)], in Parabaseis (1995), 160). The libretto of the work was by A. Aurelli, and the music was possibly that of Johann Adolf Hasse. The opera was first performed in Naples in 1727 (Sven Hansell, ‘Hasse, Adolf Johann’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 4 vols. (London, Macmillan, 1992), ii, 661. Back
6 Leotsakos, ‘Corfu’ (1992), 949. Back
7 Mavromoustakos, ‘To italiko melodrama sto San Giacomo’, 182. Back
8 Recent archival research has demonstrated that the theatre was active at least after 1804, and that musical (though not necessarily operatic) performances should have taken place from at least 1813. Back
9 Antonio Rostagno, ‘Italy: 18th century’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xii, 646-647. Back
10 Spyridon Motsenigos, Neoelliniki Moussiki, symvoli is tin istorian tis [Modern Greek Music, a Contribution to its History], (Athens, 1958), 99-103. Back
11 Regarding Mantzaros’s selfless dedication, one should not forget that he was of noble blood, and that any kind of financial benefit from work would therefore be opprobrium for him. It is significant that he signed his early works as ‘dilettante Corcirese’. His invaluable contribution secured his status as the founder of the Ionian School. Back
12 George Leotsakos, ‘Mantzaros, Nikolaos Halikiopoulos’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xviii, 787. Leotsakos draws on Motsenigos, Neoelliniki Moussiki, 102-103, where Zingarelli’s letter (12 July 1835) is quoted. Back
13 Some sources report one more operatic work of Mantzaros, Mastigoforos Aeas [Ajax furiens]. See Kostas Baroutas, I mousiki zoi stin Athina to 19o aiona [Musical Life in Athens during the 19th Century] (Athens, Philippos Nakas, 1992), 17, which refers to the newspaper of Athens, O Ellinikos paratiritis, No. 33 (18 September 1842). See further, Leotsakos, ‘Mantzaros’ (2001), 788. Back
14 Aria Greca, another piece that belongs to this category, is also excluded from this article, since it was composed in 1827 (after the Mantzaros’s ‘Naples period’). Correspondingly, its style is different to that of other pieces of this category, and its Greek lyrics lend it particular importance. Back
15 Despite the absence of a date or dedication, this work is categorised with the composer’s early works, since its compositional elements and technique, as well as the paper and the ink of the autograph, match that of the rest of his works dated to this period. See Kostas Kardamis’s dissertation ‘Apokatastasi kai kritiki ekdosi tou ergou tou Nikolaou Halikiopoulou Mantzarou Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille’ [Restoration and Critical Edition of the Work of Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros’s Aria cantata dall’ ombra di Patroclo nell sogno di Achille], Department of Music, Ionian University (Corfu, 2000), iii. Back
16 See further, Leotsakos, ‘Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros (1795-1872)’, in Musikologia 5-6 (1987), 233-239. The knowledge and evaluation of these (and other) works were made possible by the research of the musicologist George Leotsakos. The Music Department of the Ionian University presented some of these compositions in a concert that took place on 18 November 1995 in Corfu. Back
17 Leotsakos, ‘Mantzaros’ (2001), 788. See also Haris Xanthoudakis, ‘Ta neanika erga tou Mantzarou’ [The Early Musical Works of Mantzaros], programme notes (Corfu, Municipality Theatre, 18/11/1995), 5-7. Back
18 Xanthoudakis, ‘Ta neanika erga tou Mantzarou’, 6. Back
19 This use resembles that of the Trio, Op. 87, for two oboes and English horn, by Ludwig van Beethoven. Back
20 Michael Finkelman, ‘Oboe: Tenor Oboes: English Horn’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xviii, 284. Back
21 Leotsakos, ‘Mantzaros ’ (1987), 235. Back
22 Cecil Hill and Roger J. V. Cotte, ‘Masonic Music’, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols. (London, Macmillan, 2001), xvi, 39-42. Back
23 Xanthoudakis, ‘Ta neanika erga tou Mantzarou’, 7. Back
24 For additional details on Masonic symbolism , see Hill and Cotte, ‘Masonic Music’, 39-41. Back
25 The archives of ‘San Giacomo’ were destroyed in 1943, during a German air raid. Back
26 On the office of Mantzaros’s father, see Leotsakos, ‘Mantzaros’ (2001), 787. Many sources held in the National Archives of Corfu (especially those of the period 1815-1817) are also of relevance. Back
27 Leotsakos, ‘Mantzaros’ (2001), 788. Back