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Home » Composers » German Composers » Mattheson

Johann Mattheson (1681-1764)

Video: Johann Mattheson, Cleopatra (Death scene, Hamburg, 1704). Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano. Jeanne Lamon, Tafelmusik.

20 June 2005: Review of the June 19 performance of Boris Goudenow at the BEMF.

Update 13 June 2005: The libretto of Mattheson's Boris Goudenow with English translation is available on the archive of the Boston Early Music Festival website in MS Word Doc format. The German/Italian text is right-aligned, making it difficult to read, but you can easily left-align the entire text with Edit / Select All, then Format / Paragraph / Alignment: Left. There are several misalignments of text with translation, which can be corrected by adding or deleting lines of space.

A Mattheson revival may finally be underway, starting with two different productions of Boris Goudenow, composed by Mattheson in 1710 but never staged for political reasons. The opera was performed for the first time ever in Hamburg in January 2005. (Details). In June, the Boston Early Music Festival presented an historically-staged version with HIP costumes (65!), sets, ballet, and gesture.

Other Mattheson works performed at the BEMF included the serenata Die Keusche Liebe (Chaste Love) together with highlights of past BEMF opera productions; music for one and two harpsichords by Team Mattheson; a Magnificat for double choir, trumpets and strings; and Italian cantatas in a program by Tragicomedia entitled "Dueling Cantatas: The Italian Cantata in the hands of Mattheson and Handel", during with the duel between Handel and Matteson was staged. Mattheson's Cleopatra (1704), the opera that gave rise to the duel, was performed in Hamburg in October 2006 at the Bucerius Kunst Forum under the direction of Rudolf Kelber with the Cythara-Ensemble. Interesting symposia at the 2005 BEMF included "Rediscovering Boris Goudenow: Performance and Production Issues in German Baroque Opera" on 17 June and "Performing Baroque Music According to Mattheson" on 18 June.

That Mattheson's music deserves to be revived is obvious from the few available recordings. The one major Mattheson work on disk, his Brockes Passion, is in essence a pastoral, emphasizing the cheerful rather than the bleak aspects of the passion text. Mattheson (or the conductor? ) turns the final two chorales into a minuet with obligato glockenspiel, interrupted by one of the most heroic arias in the passion. There are three other movements with glockenspiel accompaniment and one with musette (added by the conductor?). Mattheson's musical style seems closest to Keiser (of known composers), but looks forward with extensive use of accompanied recitative and ariosi. In contrast, Telemann's great Brockes Passion consists largely of heroic arias for a cast of star opera singers, separated by secco recitative.

From Nicola Heine's liner notes for the cpo Christmas Oratorio / Magnificat CD:

"... his [Mattheson's] decision to hire female singers to perform at the Hamburger Dom, a decision first implemented over Christmas in 1715, was met with vigorous criticism and scorn. Mattheson comments on this in the Vollkommener Capellmeister [1739]: 'I know how much effort and aggravation it cost me to introduce female singers to the church here. At first I was requested to at all costs place them so that no one could see them; but in the end no one could see or hear enough of them.'"


Johann Mattheson. Christmas Oratorio: Die heilsame Geburt (Hamburg 1715) / Magnificat (1716-18). cpo 777 274-2 (1 CD, November 2010). Details. Michael Alexander Willens, Die Kölner Akademie. Nicki Kennedy, soprano 1; Anna Crookes, soprano 2; Ursula Eittinger, contralto 1; Dorothee Merkel, contralto 2; Andreas Post, tenor 1; Sven Hansen, tenor 2; Stephan MacLeod, bass 1; Johannes Gsänger, bass 2. This is another exceptional recording of previously unknown works by Mattheson that I highly recommend. Female singers performed at the Hamburger Dom for the first time in this Christmas oratorio. US | UK | FR | DE | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson. Das grösste Kind (Christmas Oratorio, Hamburg 1720). cpo 777 455-2 (1 CD, November 2009). Michael Alexander Willens, Die Kölner Akademie, Chor der Kölner Akademie. Susanne Rydén, soprano; Nele Gramss, soprano; Anne Schmid, contralto; Gerd Türk, tenor; Thilo Dahlmann, baritone; Wolf Matthias Friedrich, bass. This is the best Mattheson recording to date that I have heard. It's a OVPP performance of a festive oratorio with trumpets, horns and timpani on the same libretto as Keiser's Dialogus von der Geburt Christi. For a refreshing change, the only keyboard continuo instrument is the harpsichord, consistent with the score which is marked "cembalo". US | UK | FR | DE | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson. Der liebreiche und geduldige David (Hamburg 1723). cpo 777 360-2 (1 CD, May 2009). Michael Alexander Willens, Die Kölner Akademie, Chor der Kölner Akademie. Nicki Kennedy, soprano; Ursula Ettinger, contralto; Max Ciolek, tenor; Christian Hilz, bass; Raimonds Spogis, bass. This is a fine recording of a worthwhile work featuring mostly short movements. US | UK | FR | DE | CA | JP
Handel. 9 German Arias; Johann Mattheson, 3 German Arias. Carus 83.426 (1 CD, August 2008). Details. Monika Mauch, soprano. Rien Voskuilen, L'arpa festante. While there are other fine recordings of the Handel German arias (eg, Emma Kirkby), this one is essential for the Mattheson arias. US | UK | FR | DE | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson. Harmony's Monument - 12 Suites of 1714. Soundboard Records SBCD 208 (1 CD, 2008). Colin Booth, harpsichord.
Johann Mattheson. Suites from Pièces de Clavecin (London 1714). Ramée RAM 0605 (1 CD, January 2007). Cristiano Holtz, harpsichord. US | UK | FR | DE | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson. Complete Harpsichord Music. Forthcoming on 4 CDs. Team Mattheson: Matilda Burkas & William Carragan, harpsichords.
Don Quichotte in Hamburg. Raumklang RK 2502 (1 CD, October 2005). Details. Overtures by Telemann, Mattheson & Conti. Elbipolis Barockorchester Hamburg. US | UK | FR | DE | CA | JP
Hamburg 1734. Harmonia Mundi HMC 901898 (1 CD, November 2005). Keyboard works by Handel, J.A. Reinken, Telemann, Buxtehude, Mattheson, Georg Böhm, Matthias Weckmann & Scheidemann. Andreas Staier, harpsichord by Anthony Sidey after Hass. US | UK | DE | FR | CA | JP
Johann Matteson. Der Brauchbare Virtuoso. NCA 60143 (2 CDs 2005). Details. Trio Corelli. US | UK | DE | FR | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson. Brockes-Passion: Der für die Sünde der Welt gemartete und sterbende Jesus. Cavalli Records CCD 401 (3 CDs 1996). Marie Theres Brand, Accademia filarmonica Köln, Motettenchor Speyer. Mechthild Bach & Dorothee Wolgemuth, sopranos; Kai Wessel, countertenor; Wilfried Jochens & Gerd Türk, tenors; Ekkehard Abele, bass. US | UK | DE | FR | CA 
Cleopatra. Arias from C.H. Graun's Cleopatra e Cesare, Hasse's Marc'Antonio e Cleopatra, Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto & Mattheson's Cleopatra. CBC Records SMD 5233 (1 CD, October 2004). Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano. Jean Lamon, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. US | UK | DE | FR | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson. Der Brauchbare Virtuoso. Alpha 035 (2 CDs 2002). 12 sonatas for violin or flute with continuo. Details. Diana Baroni, traverso; Pablo Valetti, violin; Petr Skalka, cello; Dirk Börner, harpsichord. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Johann Mattheson. Les doits parlans: Die wohlklingende Fingersprache (1735). Aeolus AE-10161 (1 CD 2001). Details. Gerd Zacher. 1714 Balthasar König Organ at St. Leodegar, Niederehe. US | UK | DE | FR | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Christoph Schaffrath & Johann Ludwig Krebs. A Duoi Cembali: German music for 2 harpsichords. Harmonia Mundi (1 CD 1998). Alessandro de Marchi & Attilio Cremonesi, harpsichords. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Johann Mattheson, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach & Johann Ludwig Krebs. Works for 2 harpsichords. Globe 5179 (1 CD 1998). Richard Egarr & Patrick Ayrton, harpsichords. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Johann Matteson. Der Brauchbare Virtuoso - 12 Kammer-Sonaten. Kontrapunkt 32060/61 (2 CDs 1993). Jesper Christensen, harpsichord; Toke Lund Christensen, flute. US | UK | DE | FR | CA | JP
Johann Mattheson. Die wohlklingende Fingersprache (1735). Trevak TRE 40001 (1 CD 1991). Vladimir Ruso, harpsichord. US | UK | DE | FR | CA


Rita Steblin. A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. Chapter 4: "Johann Mattheson and the Early Eighteenth-Century German Approach to Key Characteristics" with English translation of Mattheson's key characteristics. 420 pages. University of Rochester Press, 2nd edition 2002. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
George J. Buelow & Hans Joachim Marx (eds.) New Mattheson Studies. 512 pages. Cambridge University Press, 1984. US | UK | DE | FR | CA


Mattheson's key descriptions from Das Neu-eröffnete Orchestre (1713) [translated into French]

Excerpts from Das Neu-eröffnete Orchestre (1713)

Excerpts from Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739)

Mattheson, Johann (1681-1764) by Julie Anne Sadie in Companion to Baroque Music (London 1990).

The rediscovery of Mattheson's Boris Goudenow by Paul O'Dette & Stephen Stubbs.

Sheet Music

Edition Musiklandschaften - Here you can obtain Mattheson scores edited by Johannes Pausch & Steffen Voss, including Boris Goudenow, Der reformierende Johannes (1717), Der siegende Gideon (1717), and Christi Wunderwerke bey den Schwach=Gläubigen (1719).

Ortus-Musikverlag - Source for Mattheson scores edited by Hansjörg Drauschke, including Henrico IV (1711) and Der edelmütige Porsenna (1702), Mattheson's earliest opera.

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