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Dutch baritone.

Career Summary

After studies in Cologne and Munich, Messchaert returned to Holland in 1881, where he taught at the Amsterdam Conservatory. A frequent collaborator with pianist Julius Röntgen, Messchaert toured prolifically, establishing a reputation as one of Europe's most sought-after singers of Lieder and oratorio. He moved to Germany (Wiesbaden) in 1900, and thereafter held various conservatory appointments, ultimately attaining the post of professor at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Messchaert's interpretations were later set down in two volumes: F. Martiensen, ed., Auswahl von Messchaerts Schubert-Repertoire, mit seinen Vortragsanweisungen (Mainz: Schott, 1928).

Messchaert and Schenker

Schenker first reported, with great enthusiasm, on Messchaert's singing in the Berlin weekly Die Zeit (1896; repr. in Federhofer 1990). A mutually admiring relationship developed, and Messchaert engaged Schenker as his accompanist during a tour of the Habsburg Empire in January and February 1899 (schedule preserved as OJ 35/5, 48‒49, 52‒55).

Schenker held Messchaert in the highest regard, as evinced in several of his published works, e.g.:

Kontrapunkt I (1910), p. 129, Eng. trans. pp. 91: "Why is [the typical pianist of the day] not eager, like a violinist or singer who follows a good tradition (Joachim or Messchaert, for example) to rise to the full measure of Bach's art of expression?"

Tonwille, Heft 6 (1923), p. 41, Eng. trans. II, pp. 35-6: "Permit me, in this connection, to remember, alongside that great poet and great composer [Goethe and Schubert], the great singer Johannes Messchaert, recently deceased, who in his interpretation of "Meeresstille" achieved the corresponding effect by elongating the notes in so utterly peaceful a way that they sounded like messages emerging from the silence rather than notes issuing from the human breast. Only at the word "ungeheurn" [immense] did any tone creep into the voice, swelling almost imperceptibly, as far as "ungeheure Weite" [immense distance], but pulling back immediataely. The effect was to render the silence at the end all the more fearful and believable."

However, Schenker saw a dark side to Messchaert's character, viz. his diary for January 23, 1908: "Messchaert in Vienna. And again I must withhold from him the honor of a visit by me ‒ he is and always will be an incorrigibly thick-skinned person, who is able to sing even to a Kahn or Weingartner. ‒ Bad and good are of equal worth to him. The fact that, despite this, he is still the greatest singer may no longer be surprising: it is clear that such contrived (geartete) artistry does itself permit criminal activity as a sideline! For only at levels of artistry such as for example those of a Goethe, Schiller, Haydn, Bach, Handel, and Brahms is perfection of the aristocratic mentality now at last organically integrated!" — And yet a month later he praised Messchaert's singing in Haydn's Creation as "incomparable in every respect, in depth of performance, in strength and freedom of the beat at one and the same time" (diary, March 29, 1908).

Correspondence with Schenker

Correspondence from Messchaert to Schenker survives as OJ 12/54 (1896-1901: 11 items). Other materials survive as OJ 35/5 (concert programs and tour itineraries), OJ 59/11, 70/27 (Messchaert/Violin correspondence), and 72/10 (portrait).

Sources:

  • Federhofer, Hellmut, Heinrich Schenker nach Tagebüchern und Briefen ... (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1985), pp. 18-19, 178-80
  • Federhofer, Hellmut, Heinrich Schenker als Essayist und Kritiker ... (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1990), pp. 318-19
  • NGDM2 (2001 and online)
  • MGG

Contributors:

  • Ian Bent and Kevin Karnes

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Correspondence

Diaries

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