1902 Encyclopedia > Music > History of Music: Classical and Romantic Eras; Later Opera and Oratorio; Alfred Day's Theories.

Music
(Part 5)




SECTION I: HISTORY OF MUSIC (cont.)

Classical and Romantic Eras; Later Opera and Oratorio; Alfred Day's Theories.


Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) was a Bohemian by birth, and a wanderer by habit. He was a grand reformer, or rather restorer, of dramatico-musical art, yes, a prophet, for he not only revived the principles enunciated in Florence on the threshold of the 17th century, which had been superseded by the vocalisms that had usurped the throne of truth, but he fully forestalled by this revival all that is good in what is nowadays denoted by the cant term "music of the future." As was the wont of his age, Gluck went to extend his art experience, perhaps to complete his education, to Italy, and there produced so many meritorious works in the style of the time as to establish a high reputation. This led to his engagement to write for the Italian Opera in London, whither he came in 1746. The work he composed for this occasion and one he then reproduced met with small favour, and a "pasticcio" from his previous works, Piramo e Tisbe, had no better fortune. The failure brought the conviction that, whatever the abstract merit of music, a piece that was appropriate to one character in one situation could not be fitted to another personage under different circumstances, and that admired pieces culled from different works could not be concocted into a whole with appearance of unity. Gluck therefore resolved to abandon the prevailing customs in writing for the stage, and to devise a system of dramatic composition wherein the musical design should grow out of the action of the scene, being ever dependent upon and illustrative of it, and yet being always a design faithful t the principles of what may be named musical architecture. As did Monteverde and his contemporaries, so did this composer aim to distinguish his dramatic persons by assigning music of different character to each; he required that the overture should announce the cast of feeling and thought that was to pervade the work, and he strive to make the whole of the music appropriate to the individuals, to the situations in which they were concerned, and to the words they uttered. He did not reject t the essential of rhythmical melody, which is ever necessary to a musical work, and which stands in relation to passages of pure declamation as metaphor to poetical speech stands in relation to circumstantial statement. An orator will pause in the disclosure of facts to enforce them by the mention of a similitude, or brighten them by reflexions from his own mind, and it is an application of the same art when a character in a drama stays to comments on the scene in which he is involved, and show in words the passion that is seething in his heart. Analogous to this is the occasional arrest of intercourse between the musical persons for the expression of the feeling by which one is swayed, and such is a song in an opera during which, if the action be stagnant, the character more than elsewhere proves its vitality. Plan in a musical work consists (1) in uniform or contrasted rhythm, (2) in the relationship and enchainment of keys, (3) in the development and elaboration of phrases, and (4) in their occasional recurrence. Some plans have by frequent appropriation become to a great extent conventional, and their philosophic basis accounts for an justifies the fact that much music is framed upon them; it is the special province, however, of the writer for voices and still more so of the writer for the stage, to ignore convention, though never to neglect design, and to construct his plans according to the situations they are to dill and to the materials with which he has to work. For sixteen years Gluck pondered the prevalent improprieties and the possible proprieties of dramatic art, and prepared himself by technical study and polite convention to strike the blow which was to effect a revolution, the while, strange to say, he wrote several operas in his old style for production in different towns of Italy, Germany, and other countries. At length in 1762 what he meant to be the representative work of his then matured principle, Orfeo ed Euridice, appeared in Vienna and made strong impression. Some lighter pieces filled the interim between this, which without exaggeration may be regarded as an event in musical history, and the production in the same city of Alceste (1767). The opera was published, as also was Paride ed Elena (1769), each with a statement of the artist’s views; and these two essay have since been regarded as constituting a grammar of dramatic music. Gluck was not content with the Viennese reception of the works on his new model, and was less so with the accessories that city afforded for giving theatrical effect to his compositions. He went, therefore, to Paris, wrote music to an adaptation of Racine’s Iphigénie en Aulide, which fulfils his purpose in a higher degree than his previous pieces, and brought it out with extraordinary success. Orphée (1774), Alceste (1776) (both rearranged from the Italian versions), Armide (1776), and lastly Iphigénie en Tauride (1779) rose each to a loftier level, and met just acceptance.

It must be owned that other forces concurred with musical merit in Gluck’s Parisian triumphs. He had taught singing to Marie Antoinette before she became dauphiness, and she now was an ardent partisan of her former instructor. Mme. Du Barry held a rival court to that of the young princess, her jealously of whom and of her state was evinced b y every possible means. Accordingly she invited to Paris Nicola Piccini (1728-1800), and strove to establish him in opposition to the German master. His Roland set to a liberetto by Marmontel was brought out in 1777, anticipating the subject of Gluck’s Armide; it was followed by other French operas, and the contest ended with the production of his Iphigénie en Tauride (1781), subsequently to that with the same title, the masterpiece of his opponent. This musical warfare, much resembled that of some forty years earlier between Handel and Buononcini in London, when the king headed the partians of the German and the Prince of Wales those of the Italian artist; but the Parisian feud was waged with far the greater violence, for, not only were the courts of the two ladies involved in it, but every literatist of note sided with one or the other faction, and hurled poems, or pamphlets, or essays, or critiques at his antagonists, that were crammed with remorseless invective. It pretended to be a dispute as to national style, but was a quarrel between two leaders of fashion. Piccini’s music is marked by the melodious grace for which his country claims pre-eminence, Gluck’s by the graver thought by which the Teutonic muse is more distinguished. Gluck, however, was not profound, he was no contrapuntist, and his often grand and always expressive harmony sprang more from intuition than knowledge; Piccini had dramatic power, and he advanced greatly Logroscino’s invention of continuous concerted music conformable to the business of the scene, but applied this only to comic operas, and so turned it to no account in his compositions for Paris. His most successful production, La buona Figliula (1760), passed from its birthplace, Rome, to every Europe capital, and is not even now forgotten.

The origin, development, and supreme importance of the symphony next claim our attention. The term is and always has been used in Italy to define the instrumental preface, which elsewhere is called an overture, to a long vocal work, Handel and others, early in the 18th century, defined by it an instrumental piece incidental to such a work, generally depicting some supposed action, such as a battle, or a multitudinous entry. The term is also applied to the prelude and interludes in a single vocal piece of however small extent. Its significance is far more comprehensive in the application not to be described. Its nearest analogy among earlier compositions is to what of old was called a concerto, and the two names, derived respectively from Greek and Latin, have at root the same meaning. Like the antecedent concerto, the symphony is a composition, consisting of several movements of self-complete divisions, for a full band; unlike its predecessor, the plan of at least its first movement has in the course of years been so distinctly organized that musicians shrink from applying the definition symphony to any work wherein there is not the aim to fulfil this design. At first the term was loosely employed, for even so late as Haydn’s visits to London in 1791 and 1794 the symphonies he wrote for first performance there were sometimes announced as such, sometimes as overtures, and sometimes as "full pieces." Its structural requirements especially connect it with works for the chamber, which, if for one or two solo instruments, are styled sonatas, if for three or four or more , trios or quartets, or what not, according to the number of parts they comprise. The word "plan," always used by that distinguished teacher Cipriani Potter (1792-1871) as meaning musical design, happily, because positively, expresses the arrangement of ideas according to a purpose, to which, being intangible and invisible, the word "form" is but metaphorically applicable. Sebastian Bach, Corelli earlier, and Purcell before them, designated compositions as sonatas which, however, are not modeled on the plan of the modern symphony.1 Bach in some of his later preludes and in other instances has the incipient germ from which the plan has been evolved, and sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1683-1757) comprise movements wherein it is more developed.

These musicians were by no means the first, however, to strike the vein of ore for which divination seems to have been carefully in search long prior to their labours. This justifies the belief that its source is in nature, that is was discovered, not created, by man’s genius; and the work of successive generations of artists has been to rear and mature that which, having once been found, is the heirloom of the present and the future. The practice of all ages proves common consent that a musical composition must begin and end in one and the same key, and this statement refers not more to our own time than to that of the ancients, whose modes are comparable though not identical with the keys of modern establishment. Continuance of one key throughout a piece of considerable length would be monotonous; to relieve this, modulation is effected into other keys in the course of a composition. To obtain tonal variety without violence, the choice of alternative keys must be made first and chiefly form those which have the nearest tonal relationship to the primary key. After the harmonic 8th (which is a miniature of the 1st) the harmonic 5th is next in prominence, form this note a chord rises as complete as that of the generator, from this chord a second key proceeds by natural evolution; the note, the chord, the key, are each named the dominant, since dominating, commanding, or defining the tonality of the fundamental note. The key of the dominant is hence the one most often chosen for the principal alternative to the primary key if the latter be major; but the key of the 3d and that if the 6th are occasionally selected instead by a further application of the harmonic system. If the primary key be minor, the choice of the chief alternative key is often made in the contrary direction; the tonic itself is assumed to be a harmonic 3d or else a 6th, and the chief modulation is made to the key at one of these intervals below the original keynote, having reference to the submediant or the mediant as the source whence the minor form of a key is derived. Besides the chief alternative, other keys, more or less frequent, more or less remote, according to the greater or less length of a piece, are also employed in the course of a composition. The distribution of keys constitutes the ground-plan and the elevation of a musical structure; the style of harmony, whether diatonic or chromatic, whether contrapuntal or massive, is its material; the ideas, or subjects, or themes, or phrases, or figures, or – as of late they have been whimsically named – motives, stand for the ornamentation, such as portico, frieze, statuary, and carving, which are sometimes essential in a design. This, then, is a brief summary of the plan of the first movement of a symphony – a first subject in the primary key, which consists of a single idea, or of a several connected by tonal identity though melodically distinct; a second subject in the chief alternative key, which also may be onefold or manifold in its matter; and these first and second subjects complete the first part. Thus far has been but a simple statement of ideas, which is here followed by a working of the same matter, drawing form it what varieties of expression it may yield through compression or expansion by means of nay or every resource of the musician’s art; the second part is aptly often named the free fantasia, because unrestricted to a fixed course of modulation, the composer’s creative power being at full liberty as to course of keys and manner of development; then for the first time the music reverts to the primary key for a retrospect of the entire matter of the first part, with, however, all that belongs to the second subject transposed from the chief alternative key into that which is the origin and centre whence all the modulations radiate; lastly, there is often, but by no means always, a coda, which is a summing up of the whole argument, or a valediction to the hearer. The first movement, always cast in this mould, is succeeded generally by one in a slow tempo, sometimes planned like a first allegro, sometimes otherwise, according to outlines that cannot here be detailed, and this exhibits the sentiment of the artist, as did the preceding his scholarship and ingenuity. The follows generally (again one must say, for there is no necessary prescription) a movement of lighter character than either of the foregoing, sometimes having the musical shape of a dance such as the minuet, sometimes having an arbitrary plan which still is based upon harmonic, and therefore natural, and consequently philosophical, principles. To conclude, there is a movement that is sometimes constructed like the first and is sometimes as complicated, but in other instances has an arbitrary design. Such is the highest class of musical composition: firstly, because it is wholly musical, springing entirely from the artist’s imagination without the prompting of words, needing no words to express its meaning to the auditor, being in itself poetry; secondly, because it may comprise every means within the author’s power to wield melody, -- counterpoint, harmony, modulation, -- all that but for the symphony would be special to the fugue, orchestration, and above all, the arrangement of ideas in a consistent logical method with reference to principles that are the very foundation of art. Let it be hoped that this outline of the elements, essence, and plan of the symphony justifies the use of the words supreme importance in reference to the class of composition at the outset of these remarks.





Haydn (1732-1809) is commonly styled the father of the symphony. If truly, then Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (1714-1788). The second of the many sons of the great Sebastian, stands as grandfather in the genealogy of that species of music; and its remoter ancestry may be traced to all but forgotten men in whose works is certainly a forecast of the plan above described. C.P.E. Bach wrote 18 symphonies, and upon these and upon the instrumental chamber music of the same author, Haydn avowedly modeled the plan of his compositions. The earlier writer had not the profundity of his father, nor the grace of Haydn, but his music represents the transition from one to another use in instrumental writing, and it fixed the plan which, however it may be expanded, can never be disestablished from the canons of art. Haydn produced the marvellous number of 125 symphonies (some of them, indeed, were overtures for theatrical use), besides 77 quartets for bowed instruments (the last one unfinished), 52 pianoforte sonatas, and pieces that are almost countless for various combinations of instruments; and in these one knows not whether to wonder more at the infinite fluency of melody or at the artistic mastery. In summing up the enormous amount of his works regard must also be given to his 3 oratories, his 14 masses, his operas, and his many detached pieces for one and several voices, and then it is hard to believe that all this can have been accomplished in a single life.

Next in chronology as a symphonist stands Mozart (1756-1791). Particular comparison must be made of these dates with those of Haydn, as illustrating the relation of the mighty musicians to each other, and the influence each may be supposed to have exercised on his friend – for warmest friends they were and truest estimators of each other’s powers. If the young Mozart profited by Haydn’s example, as doubtless he did, the old Haydn learned greatly from Mozart’s, for there is so obvious a rise in the character of his music from the beginning to the end of his long career as shows that he was under a continuous course of self-schooling. It is because his was self-schooling, and because he seems to have had no distinct principle of harmony, but to have experimental without infallible success on every unusual combination he wrote, and because likewise in orchestration his writing often appears to have been tentative rather than proving intuition of an effect and a means for its production – it is for these reasons, in spite of his prodigious command of counterpoint, that he may without disrespect be classed after the man whom circumstances compel us to regard as his rival. Mozart wrote 49 symphonies, some of them in the tenderest years of childhood, and repeated the design in many chamber works for several or for a single instrument. These differ in merit, mainly, it may be assumed, because some were written to meet the exigencies and the limitations of particular occasions; but, every one compelling admiration, the last three are conspicuous among the music of all time for the excellence of each and for their difference in character from one another, and these were composed in less than nine weeks, between 26th June and 10th August 1788,during which interval several other lesser and larger pieces also were produced, some for voices and some for instruments. The symphony in E flat, No. 46, is notable for sweetness and playful grace; that in G minor, No. 47, is a torrent of passionate fervour; and that in C, No. 48 (in England named Jupiter), is a combination that has never been surpassed of all the means possible to a musician. In the final movement of this last, a fugue is wrought on the symphonic plan, which is also the case in the overture to the author’s latest opera, Die Zauberflöte, a completer fusion than has elsewhere been made of two most distinguishable art-forms, and the formalism is hidden under the beauty of the ideas.

History now steps on to the great name of Beethoven (1770-1827), who in his 9 symphonies, his 6 concertos (which are pieces on the plan with the addition of a part for a solo instrument), and his priceless bequest of chamber music commands the world’s adoration. It is the shallow practice of the present day to depreciate his two great predecessors, especially Mozart, in his favour; but comparative criticism is to ill purpose if it can only exalt one master by the dethronement of another. Beethoven enlarged the symphony, in some respects changed its character and perhaps advanced its consideration; above all, after writing for a while in the idiom of those two masters, he stamped his own individuality upon music. One finds, however, a prototype for each thing critics describe as particularly Beethovenish in the writings of Mozart, so that the manifest originality of the later musician lies in the new aspect given by happy expansion to prior existences more than in the creation of new forms of thought. Though he often strove at fugal excellence, he was a child at counterpoint as compared with the two adults who preceded him, and he lost rather than gained fluency in this branch of art as his life proceeded. The ideas of a great artist bear the impress of his age, which is remarkably the case with the musical thoughts of Beethoven, and as his age was nearer to our own, so is his frame of mind more congenial with that of present hearers than are those of Haydn an Mozart. The figure may be reversed; the individuality of an artist is the matrix in which the feelings and thoughts of his age, and still more of the age that next follows him, are moulded, but there must be affinity of temperament between the one and the many for this interchange of impressions to be possible. We of to-day have Beethoven and the consequences of Beethoven, and the influences of these have been active in the interval between our time and the period previous to the French Revolution; and the political, moral and artistic changes that have been wrought by the ones upon the many a much as by the many on the ones indispose us to the recognition of the beautiful under its earlier aspect. Let us delight in Beethoven – who can fail? – but let us also love Mozart and revere Haydn. Two points are notable in Beethoven’s instrumental music – (1) the linking together of the several movements of a work which usually are separated by an interval of silence; but such union is in some of Mozart’s early symphonies and some also of Emanuel Bach’s; (2) the expression of feelings excited by subjects external to the music and entitling works accordingly, as Sinfonia Pastorale, and sonata, Les Adieux, l’Absence, et le Retour; but Dietrich Buxtehude of Lübeck had a century earlier produced seven pieces characteristic of the seven planets, and Vivaldi had represented the four seasons in as many concertos, to say nothing of the chaos which opens Haydn’s Creation. Beethoven’s professed purpose in this last particular was to give utterance to impressions rather than to present pictures, and such is the legitimate scope of music, which is not an imitative but an expressive art.

Next in time came Spohr (1784-1859), whose deliciously-phrased rich-tones symphonies have lost regard in late years, but not beauty. Of his seven symphonies, four bear titles which refer them to an objective purpose; but they are still subjective, for the personality of the writer is expressed in every bar. Mendelssohn (1809-1847) did less but achieved more than Spohr; far less numerous, his instrumental writings for the concert-room and for the chamber have vitality and permanence which are not in those of the other master; they belong as much to hereafter as to now, while those of Spohr are already of the past. Mendelssohn too made musical pictures, owning that "as Beethoven had opened the road it was impossible not to follows;" his two finest symphonies, those in A and in A minor, represent though not so entitled by him, his impressions of Italy and Scotland, and his characteristic overtures are translations into sound of the poems after which they are named. He also, in more than one instance, joined the several movements of a work, and he employed other devices – his own by felicity of appropriation more than by first use – for enforcing the relationship of the several portions of a musical structure. Schumann (1810-1856) has suffered through the persistence of his partisans in comparing him with another instead of displaying and extolling his own merit. Party spirit and the opposition it kindles has passed, and the delicacy, often subtle in its refinement, the grace, the deep feeling, the ingenuity, but rarely grandeur, that mark his symphonic and chamber music, are now fully perceived. Johannes Brahms is a living worker in this class of art who has already planted his foot in the future and given warrant for transmitting to the coming generation the great model he received from the past, which, because of the masterpieces that have been cast in it, justly bears the name of classical. Cherubini (1760-1842) is the one Italian known to have written as symphony, and this work gives small reason for regret that it stands thus alone; he arranged the same as a violin quartet and wrote two original pieces of this class. Méhul (1763-1817) is the French representative of the symphonic art best known and best esteemed.

The Englishmen who have best succeeded in this highest form of music are Dr Crotch (1775-1847), Cipriani Potter, J. Henry Griesbach (1798-1875), Henry Westrop (1812-1879), and Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875). The last-named cannot be passed with a mere mention. The wide recognition of Bennett’s genius at home and in Germany distinguished him; far more so does the quite individual charm of his music, and most of all does the tender age at which he wrote his best works and the facility with which he produced them. Three of his pianoforte concertos, one of his symphonies, and four of his concert overtures may be cited as representative pieces, wherein sometimes the plan, always the phraseology, and, in those for the pianoforte, the treatment of the instruments are peculiar to the author in sweetness and elegance; the eternal riddle of the beautiful is propounded in every cadence, and still defies analysis, still remains unsolved. As living writers in this department, Aguilar, Banister, J.F. Barnett, Cowen, Davenport, Walter Macfarren, Hubert Parry, Prout, Stanford, Stephens and Sullivan must be named.

To have spoken of orchestral music compels notice of instrumentation as an element of the art that has high significance. It is analogous to colouring with the painter, being extra to the composition or plan of his work, but essential in vivifying and varying its effect. Its root is the appropriation of passages to the capabilities of instruments for which they are designed, and this is planted in the earliest as much as the latest essays in composition. Its trunk and branches are the combinations of voices and instruments of the same or different qualities of tine, so as to give greatest prominence to the chiefest parts in a musical texture, so as to produce effects of sound which cannot be yielded by the means separately used, but are liable to infinite diversity from the manifold compounded in which they are clustered, and most of all, so as to secure distinctness of every part in the complex woof which strikes the ear of onefold. Instrumentation may be styled the chemistry of sound. Which by the synthesis of distinct tones produced new organisms; it is the blending of any of rays of the musical prism which produces previously unheard colours. Mozart was the first to evince the very fine sense which perceives the parity and disparity of qualities, how some sounds will mix with and some will penetrate through others, how some instruments by pouring forth a stream of harmony may enrich or nourish a melody that floats on its surface in another quality of tone. Prior musicians had used instruments in alternation for variety of effect, or in combination for the sake of loudness; but it was Mozart that both originated and perfected instrumentation as above described, and it has been practised with more or less success in so far as his principles have been fulfilled, with more or less failure in so far as his principles have been abandoned. In two centuries instruments have undergone large modification, and their treatment has been modified accordingly. Writing for the harpsichord is widely different from that for the pianoforte, which also has been changed in character from generation to generation of composers, not only because of improvements in the manufacture of the instrument, but because of enlarged insight into its capabilities; hence the music of Emanuel Bach, Mozart, Dussek, Beethoven, Clementi, Cramer, Hummel, Moscheles, John Field, C.M. von Weber, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Thalberg, Sterndale Bennett, and Anton Rubinstein forms a continuous scale of development in aptitude and diversity. The transformation of the viol of various sizes into the violin, violoncello, and double bass of present use is a subject for special history, but its course is inseparably associated with the names of the great Cremonese manufacturers, Andrea Amati (1540), his two sons and his grandson, the family Guanarius, and Straduarius, who all practised their craft as an art more than as a trade, setting each the stamp of his own genius on the instruments he produced and leaving models that have never yet been equaled. The extended resources of bowel instruments have made wholly through extended skill of executants, e4specially of Viotti, Rudolphe Kreutzer, Rode, Baillot, Paganini, Spohr, De Beriot, Molique, Ernst, Blagrove, Sivori, Sainton, Vieuxtemps, Joachim, and Carrodus on the violin; and of Dragonettin and Bottesini on the double bass. The entire construction of flutes and reed instruments was changed by Theobald Boehm (1794-1881), and all makers now work upon his principle. Facilities have been increased on each of these classes of instruments, but on horns and trumpets modern use has in some respects diminished them; that is, employing only notes of the harmonic scale, players of the time of Purcell, Handel, and Bach practised so constantly in the upper register that they easily produced the 12th harmonic and above this sometimes notes up to the 18th, and these they executed with volubility akin to that displayed on fingered instruments; it is now the custom to exercise the lips on the lower notes and on longer continued sounds, and hence the passages written by the elder masters are difficult to the verge of the impossible to present practitioners, and a totally different character distinguished modern form earlier music for brass instruments. On the other hand, Charles Joseph Sax (1791-1865), and far more his still living son Adolphe, have devised such systematic changes in the fabrication of all brass instruments as to give them an entirely new place in the orchestral category; by means of the pistons of their sax-horns, cornets, and the like, these instruments yields the complete chromatic scale, which, superficially, appears to be an advantage; but, save for military bands, the alternation is a serious evil and has an incalculably pernicious effect upon the orchestration of the day. This strong but careful statement is justified by the beautiful effects in music written earlier than the use of valves, from the characterization, firstly, of particular keys in a musical composition; secondly, of certain chords in the keys; and thirdly, of special notes in each of these chords through appropriation to them of selected sounds from the limited harmonic series, whereas composers who apply Sax’s invention to orchestral use reduce the band to a one-toned machine that has the same quality throughout its range. Let proof be drawn form example; in the andante in A flat in Beethoven’s symphony in C minor, the horns and trumpets are crooked in C, they can therefore be used but for peculiar notes in the primary key of the piece, but they give especial tone to the key of C, into which the music thrice modulates, that distinguished it from the entire context; in the finale of the same master’s symphony in F the return to the primary key from the remote tonality of F sharp minor is marked by the tone of the F trumpet, whose keynote is the enharmonic of the E sharp of the foregoing harmony; and yet again, in the "dona nobis" of the same master’s mass in D, the phrases for the trumpets in B flat are distinguished from what surrounds by the tone and the key, and thus give technical significance to the author’s purpose, "a prayer for peace in the midst of war." Inability to resist the temptation of the semitonic scale, and so to use ‘sounding brass" as freely as instruments of more delicate tone and greater natural volubility, is exemplified in the writings of many a living musician, and regretted by many of his admirers.

A class of opera, defined in French as opera comique, dates ostensibly from 1715. The definition is unsound, because, whatever the subjects of the first pieces so styled, it is often applied to works of a romantic, serious, or even tragic nature. The separation of this from the grand opera lies in the latter having music throughout, its rhythmical pieces being divided by accompanied recitative, while the opera comique consists of music interspersed with spoken dialogue. The distinction arose from what was considered an infringement of the patent of the Parisian Opera House by a company who performed musical pieces at the Théâtre de la Foire, and an agreement between the two establishment was authorized at the date above cited to the effect that the assumed intruder must have speaking in every piece it presented. The name of Rameau is the earliest of note among composers of this class of work, and his success in L’Endriaque (1721) and L’Enrolement d’Arlequin (1726), which were comical enough in plot to sanction the definition, procured hearing for his larger and graver dramatic efforts. Most conspicuous of those who later have gained fame as composers of opera comique are Monsigny, Dalayrac, Grétry, Méhul, Boieldieu, the profound Cherubini, Halévy, Auber, Ambroise Thomas, and Gounod, many of whom also produced masterly pieces in the other class of opera. The singspiel is the German parallel to the opera comique, and its examples comprise some of the greatest works that adorn the lyric stage. Among these are the Entführung aus dem Serail and the Zauberflöte of Mozart, the Fidelio of Beethoven, which stands above comparison with all dramatic music save only the Figaro and the Don Giovanni of Mozart, and suffers not in being placed side by side with these prodigies of genius and mastery, the Faust and the Zemira und Azor of Spohr, the Freischütz of C.M. von Weber, and Heimkehr aus der Fremde of Mendelssohn. It was a novelty of Webe to break from set forms in his dramatic monologues and frame from the promptings of the situation a special plan for each, which has frequent variations of tempo but always coherence of key, and which never fails to manifest a conceived and fulfilled design; and this successful innovation, as much as their musical merit, gives historical importance to his works for the stage. Spohr, with Jessonda (1823), was the first to appropriate continuous music with full orchestra to the German stage, and he wrote in the journals to defend his innovation, which had been preceded in Italy by Rossini with Otello, wherein the "recitative parlante" was for the first time in that country discarded. Spoken dramas profusely interspersed with music and called operas have had vogue in England since the time of Purcell, whose genius was cramped by the literary conceit that music was unfit for expression of human feelings on the stage. The principle was superseded, but the form resulting from it was preserved in the ballad operas, which from 1727 for more than a century were the sole vehicles for music in our theatres; but these had the speciality that for the most part their music consists of the popularities of the day and rarely includes original composition. Dr Arne, Stephen Storace, Shield, Dibdin, and Sir H. R. Bishop wrote all the music for pieces of this class, and the last appropriated, or modified, or restored to its pristine form the glee in his dramatic works, and by specimens of this he is and will be chiefly remembered. In 1834 a new impulse was given to English opera by the warm welcome of John Barnett’s Mountain Sylph, which, though it has speaking, is far more essentially musical in structure than its predecessors, and it has been followed by many a work of merit by the same hand, by Balfe, E.J. Loder, Wallance, and others, several of these being wholly lyrical, according to the requirements of French grand opera.

Side by side with the activity in other countries just reviewed was the progress of opera in Italy. Important contributors to this were Giovanni Paesiello (1741-1815) and Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), who both wrote extensively, succeeded greatly, and impressed the art with their specialities. Of vastly greater consequence in the future was Mozart, who produced many Italian operas, and, of all musicians that have ever composed for the theatre, brought dramatic music the most nearly to perfection in fitness to the scene, delineation of character, and technical design. The name of Rossini (1792-1868) is conspicuous in the history of opera from the once universal fashion of admire his writings, from the new manner of vocal flourishes he introduced, which strongly tended to revive the inconsistencies against which Gluck had striven, from the ardent imitators who at the time of his triumphs emulated his peculiarities, from his entire change of style in his later productions, and from his all but ceasing to produce during nearly forty years. The languishing Bellini (1802-1835) and the spirited and far more prolific Donizetty (1796-1848) proved their artistic strength by avoiding the Rossini idiom, but neither can be accredited with asserting a style. Giuseppe Verdi has proved melodie creativeness equal to either of theirs, with a stronger power of characterization and a better regard for the exigencies of the scene.





A new species of composition has sprung into being within these thirty years, which in France is defined as opera bouffe, and in England as comic opera, but is totally distinct from the opera buffa of Italy or the opera comique of France, while less unlike the intermezzo of Italian use in the 18th century. It may be described as burlesque, sometimes of stories that have held mankind’s respect for ages, sometimes of modern social absurdities, but having the ridiculous for its main quality, and extravagant in every essential. It consists of an intermixture of lightest and most frivolous music with spoken dialogue, and depends as much on its literary sprightliness as on its musical tunefulness, for success. It may be said to have been originated by Offenbach (1819-1882) of Cologne, who settled in Paris when young, where in 1855 to engaged a theatre for the production of his lyrical caricatures, initiated them with Les Deux Aveugles, and wrote in all sixty-nine pieces. He had several imitators in the country of his adoption, and is represented in English by Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Operatic history may be epitomized in a few sentences. The Greek tragedy was essentially lyrical, and it portrayed the characters and the incidents with which all who witnessed were intimate. It fell asleep with the other forms of classic art, to be awakened at the end of the 16th century; but those who aimed at restoring it to the active world chose subjects from the antique which stirred the wonder more than the sympathy of their audiences. Regard for the gods and heroes of ancient myths, or for the figures of mediaeval chivalry, who were little less outside general familiarity, long gave an artificial air to theatrical writing. It was the comic branch of opera that first broke form the trammels of the pedagogue, and in representing people of its own time applied the grandest attribute of music – the expression of passions common to us all under circumstances experienced by us all in phraseology familiar to us all. In the pieces for the Countess and the Count in Figaro Mozart rose to earnestness, and in those for Donna Anna, Ottavio, and the Commandant in Don Giovanni still higher to the grandest tragedy, and always on the lips of persons in a period so near to our own that we recognize our own feelings in their utterances. The preternatural is also shown to be within the range of this art in the music of the Statue in Don Giovanni, which may confidently be compared for effect with the ghost scenes in Hamlet, in answer to those who raise quarrelsome questions as to the relative power of music and speech to embody analogous situations. All musicians since Mozart have chosen subjects, however serious, from modern history or from still later modern life, and the preternatural has exercised the imagination of Spohr, Weber, Marschnerm and Barnett, to whom Mendelssohn must be added on account of the fragments of Loreley.

During the last thirty years Richard Wagner (1813-1883) has striven to revolutionize the lyrical drama by his polemical writing, by his compositions for the theatre, of which he is the twofold author of words and notes, and by his extraordinary means of bringing these conspicuously before the public. His principles were all gathered from antecedent reformers; their application was his own. His works of art are, by himself and his supporters, professed to be neither dramas nor music, but this cannot exempt them from dramatic and musical censure. The very remarkable commotion he has made in the world of art might be compared with that excited by the rivalry between Buononcini and Handel in London and that between Piccini and Gluck in Paris, but that these were in each instance the contention between one musician and another, whereas in the present case it is the opposition of one writer to all the musicians in the world, save the few members of the profession who, believing in the man, his doctrine, an his power to apply it, undertake propagandism as a duty, and endeavour to make proselytes to their faith. Wagner’s recent death had left judgment free as to his theoretical and practical merit; a few years will determine the permanence or evanescence of his productions, and an article on his name in the present work may be written far enough from now to chronicle the result.

Within the present century the oratorio has undergone large modification, somewhat in structure and more in style. Haydn’s Creation is planned on the model of the several settings of music to the recitation of the Divine passion which were frequent from the date of the Reformation till the 18th century was one-third advanced. Its text consists of a Bible narrative to be defined as poetry. The work was said to have been suggested to the composer by his hearing some of Handel’s oratories during his two visits to England, but it differs in character as widely from these as was natural in coming from a musician whose genius, however great, was wholly unlike that of his predecessor. The Seasons, by the same master, has a secular subject which is secularly treated, and in this, equally with the other, the manner of the author, as evinced in his instrumental music, is ever apparent. Beethoven’s Mount of Olives is in dramatic form, though changed into narrative in several English versions. The portions of this that have most interest are those which are the least sacred -- for instances, the chorus of the soldiers who come to seek and then to arrest the Accused of Iscariot. The Deluge, by Schneider, is also a drama by a modern hand. It and the Moses of Marx have sent only the reputation of their esteem into England. Spohr’s three oratories –especially Die letzten Dinge, known here as the Last Judgment – bear so strongly the impress of his speciality in the constant prevalence of the chromatic element throughout them, and in the rich but always transparent orchestration, and they were so largely imitated by contemporaries, that they may be said to have opened an epoch which, however, was early closed. Far more important in themselves and in their influence are the two works of the class by Mendelssohn, with which may be associated the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the invention of printing. In these the dramatic, the narrative, and the didactic elements all appear, the first so conspicuously and so grandly in consonance with the spirit of the time that it specially distinguished the works as they do the master who, through them, holds a rank in England as a sacred writer all but parallel to that of Handel. The influence of Mendelssohn’s oratories is obvious in the works of other musicians, and public approval attests it to be an influence for good. Compositions styled oratories have been produced by Liszt and Gounod which seem to aim largely at novelty, but a future generation must judge whether they have struck the mark. In England, Crotch’s Palestine emulated Handelian precedent, and stood for long alone as a native production. Many years later Sir Sterndale Bennett’s Woman of Samaria won wider sympathy. The living writers who have courted and gained fame in England by longer or shorter oratories are J.F. Barnett, Sir J. Benedict, Sir M. Costa, and Sir A. Sullivan.

With some pleasure and some regret must be mentioned the active exertions of John Curwen (1816-1880), a Non-conformist minister, with a large staff of adherents, in the promulgation of a professedly new musical system under the title of "Tonis Sol-fa": Pleasure, because of the wide extension of musical study resulting form his indefatigable zeal; regret, because perhaps a larger and certainly a better result would have rewarded like energy in the propagation of musical knowledge in the shape that has grown into maturity through eight centuries, and possesses the whole world’s acceptance. He who is honoured as the founder of the system professed to have derived it from Miss Glover of Norwich, whose method he bit modified and expanded; but hers was based upon the ancient gamut already described, omitting the constant recital of the alphabetical name of each note, together with the arbitrary syllable that indicates its key relationship, and omitting too the recital of two or more of these syllables when the same note is common to as many keys, as "C, Fa, Ut," meaning that the note C is the subdominant of G and the tonic of C. The notes are represented by the initials of the seven syllables still used in Italy and France as the fixed names of the seven notes; but in "Tonic Sol-fa" the seven letters refer to key relationship and not to pitch. Further, the system has a wholly different terminology from that in universal use. It would be uncandid not to state that many men of greatest eminence outside the musical profession and many musicians support the system; here may only its bare principles be stated and not its merits discussed. A somewhat analogous action has, at the same time, been busy with regard to musical notation in France. Emile Chevé (1804), a surgeon in the French marine service, having married Nanine, the sister of Aimé Paris, learned from her the views of her brother (who had adopted them from Galin) as to another new system of musical notation, and he, Chevé, in 1844 applied himself to its dissemination. The system bears the name of "Galin-Paris-Chevé," and, like the other, refers the notes to key relationship and not to pitch, but employs the first seven numerals as their symbols. This invention, if so it may be called, was strongly discouraged by the most esteemed musicians of Paris, but its advocates persevere in its propagation.

As a summary of all the precept and example that has been cited in this survey of the centuries let the writer state his convictions on musical theory, which are, that the Treatise on Harmony (1845) by Alfred Day (1810-1849) comprehends whatever is practically available, and reconciles the previously apparent discrepancies between principle and use. The laws of the primitive diatonic style had never been repealed; the discovery by Noble and Pigot of generated harmonies had been held as belonging to science and not pertaining to art; composers had employed what may be classed as natural in distinction from arbitrary combinations, but each only on the prompting of his own genius and only with the justification of their effect. The author now cited was the first to classify the ancient, strict, uniform, diatonic, contrapuntal style, apart from the modern, free, exceptive, chromatic, massive style, to separate the principles that guide the one form the laws that control the other, and to place a subject that is at once sublime and beautiful in a light of unfailing clearness. He showed that one or another beautiful chord and the progressions thence were not capricious violations of rule, permissible to genius though unallowable to ordinary writers; he showed that such things were acceptable not only because great masters had written them, and so small musicians might repeat the trespass; he proved this by demonstrating the self-perfection of the ancient canon and the also perfect modern system that rests on a basis totally distinct form that of the other. He classed diatonic harmony, with its uniform treatment of all the notes in a key, into concords which include not the 4th from the bass, and three species of discords, namely, passing notes of several varieties, suspensions resolved on a note of the harmony in which they are discordant, and essential or elemental discords resolved with the progression of the whole chord to a chord whose root is at a 4th above the root of the discord. In this style discordant notes have identical treatment according to the number of their interval (as 7th and 9th), unaffected by its quality (as major or minor). He traced all the notes of the scale available in the diatonic style to the tonic, the 5th below it, and the 5th above it, as their roots, having thus a minor tone between the dominant and submediant in the major form of a key. Present composers with ability for its production may, by observance of this ancient canon, make music in the style of the 16th century with as good likelihood of beauty as had the great masters of that period but without imitating them, since working by their method and nor necessarily by their example. Day showed that peculiar treatment of certain notes of the diatonic scale, together with the inclusion of the chromatic elements which has crept into use during the later centuries, constitutes a style totally distinct from the other, and justly to be called exceptional. The basis of this system is the derivation of harmonics from specified fundamental notes or generators in every key. Thus exceptionally the 4th above the bass is a concord, when it is the root inverted above the 5th in the triads of the tonic, the subdominant, and the dominant. Thus exceptionally the 3d in the dominant triad has peculiar poignancy to which modern ears are sensitive, and the dominant triad is imitable on the supertonic by employment of its chromatic major 3d that has the same special character as the 3d of the dominant. Thus exceptionally the 7th may be added to the dominant triad. This combination may also be imitated on the supertonic, and the addition likewise of a chromatic minor 7th to the tonic triad makes another chord consisting of the same intervals as the dominant 7th namely, perfect 5th, major 3d, and minor 7th, the last two being at a diminished 5th asunder. Again exceptionally the minor or the major 9th may be added to each of these chords of the 7th, the 11th to the chords of the 9th, and the minor or major 13th to the chords of the 11th, beyond which the ascent by 3ds proceeds no more, as the 15th is the double octave of the root. The 8th, 11th, and 13th are susceptible of resolution each on a note of its own chord, which is not so with the 3d and 7th; or they may, like the 3d and 7th, be resolved on some note of another chord when the entire harmony changes. The chords of the 9th, still less of the 11th, and of the 13th least, rarely appear complete, the root being frequently, and other notes occasionally, omitted. In this style the discordant notes (3d, 7th, minor or major 9th, 11th, and minor or major 13th) are identical in quality to whichever of the three roots they belongs; but they vary in treatment according to their source; and in these two specialities they are distinguished form diatonic discords. Broadly it may be stated, but subject to amplification, that the natural resolution of dominant discords is upon the tonic concord, that the natural resolution of supertonic discords is either upon a tonic concord or upon a dominant discord, and that the natural resolution of tonic discords is either upon a dominant discord or upon a supertonic discord, the several elements of each harmony proceeding variously according to what note must follow it in the ensuing chord. The term fundamental discords is aptly applied to these which are traced to their harmonic generator, and their pertinence to one key is established by their all being resolvable on chords peculiar to the same tonality. The theory steps a degree further in proving that the harmony of the augmented 6th ______ with its several varieties of accompaniment consists of the primary and secondary harmonies of a common generator, and that the dominant and tonic are the notes in any key whence this harmony is derived, yielding respectively the augmented 6th on the minor 6th of the chromatic scale, and the augmented 6th on the minor 2d. The bold ventures of Mouton, repeated by Monteverde and defended by the latter against the fierce disputation of the orthodox, is theoretically justified in this system on the principle of natural harmonies first enunciated in Oxford, and the ingenious searchings after truth by Rameau are shown in this system to have been on a false track and so to have passed round instead of to their mark. Day’s Treatise, on its appearance, was denounced by the chief musicians in London, and a single believer for some time alone maintained and taught its enlightened views. These have now the acquiescence of many more musicians than originally opposed them, they are upheld by several eloquent supporters, and they are widely disseminated throughout England. They have not yet been promulgated beyond that country; but the advance they have made there in thirty-eight years may be taken as augury of their admission elsewhere when time and circumstance may be opportune for their presentation.

Music, in the modern special sense of the word, was with the early Greeks regulated declamation to the accompaniment of instruments with stretched strings that were plucked or struck. With the Greeks it was also produced from pipes of metal or wood or horn, with reeds or without, as signals or incentives in war and for domestic amusement. Far later, and in imperial Rome, it acquired a more definite form of what is now called melody. The transition of its principles from those which ruled in the classic ages to those which had been slowly developed in the course of after centuries is veiled with a mist like that which obscures the setting of paganism and the dawning of Christianity. Many fallacies are still entertained as to the dated organization of music in the church, and none greater than its ascription to St Ambrose and St Gregory, and the credit given to Guido for the enunciation of its rules. From the end of the 10th century music was in England in advance of other nations until its rise in Flanders in 15th, when still our forefathers kept abreast of their contemporaries. Throughout the ecclesiastical reign of scholarship, the untutored people had a music of their own, which in its tonal and rhythmical affinity to that of later date commands present sympathy, and which, throughout the North, having the element of harmony or the combination of sounds, was the foundation of all to which science and art have together attained. The Flemings planted schools in Rome, Naples, and Venice, and the rise of the art in Germany was due to their influence. Adopted from the people by the church, the art of harmony was reduced to a system under the name of counterpoint. Its artificial ordinances were broken through at the end of the 16th century, against violent opposition but with permanent success. Coincident with this innovation of principles was another innovation in the form of applying them, which was intended as a revival of antique use, but which issued, working together with the first-named change, in the establishment of the modern in music; these two were the discovery of fundamental discords and originating of free musical recitation. The acoustical phenomenon whereon fundamental discords are grounded was first perceived in England, and this in the last quarter of the 17th century. Empirical rules drawn from the tentative practices of great musicians were from time to time enunciated; but no theory till that described in the last foregoing paragraph probed the natural principles upon which, unknowingly, masters have wrought, nor distinguished between these and the ingenious artifices whereby in former times musical etymology and syntax were regulated. The development of plan or design in musical composition has been the fruition of the last two centuries, and, in spite of all dispute as to its paramount necessity, hope points to its as the everlasting standard of genuineness in art.

To distinguished allusions to the present time in comparison with former dates throughout this article, and to mark the period to which its narration reached, statement must be made that it is completed in 1883. (G. A. M.)


Footnotes

95-1 The earliest use that has been traced of the term sonata or suonata is in its application to some pieces for the organ by the uncle and nephew Gabrieli, who wrote in Venice towards the end of the 16th century. They form portions of larger works of which the rest is vocal; they are brief, solemn, and slow, and are seemingly designed to pour sound in long continuance or in large masses. Similar pieces by early German masters have the same definition, and the next generation extended the plan by appending a quick movement.


Read the rest of this article:
Music - Table of Contents




Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries