and form which characterises his compositions, as well as for the extensive range of his knowledge in musical matters generally. He completed his education in counterpoint and composition under Hauptmann and Richter at Leipsic between the years 1861 and 1864, and lived during some years subsequently, alternately at Paris and at St. Petersburg. He has acquired a reputation among book-collectors as the possessor of one of the finest private libraries of works upon music in Europe. Among his printed compositions the following should be noted: op. 2, Sonata in B minor for pianoforte and violoncello; op. 10, Trio in F sharp minor for piano and strings; op. 12, Fest-Polonaise for two pianofortes; Passatempo for piano à quatre mains. [App. p.524 "See also ii. 735 b."]
[ E. D. ]
ASCANIO IN ALBA. A 'theatrical serenade' in two acts (overture and twenty-four numbers), composed by Mozart at Milan, Sept. 1771, for the betrothal of the Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Maria of Modena. First performance, Oct. 17, 1771 (Köchel, No. 111).
ASCENDING SCALE. It is a peculiarity of the minor scale adopted in modern music, that its form is frequently varied by accidental chromatic alterations, to satisfy what are assumed to be the requirements of the ear; and as these alterations most commonly take place in ascending passages, it is usual, in elementary works, to give different forms of the minor scale, for ascending and descending.
For example, the normal form of the scale of A minor is
and in descending, as here shown, the progressions seem natural and proper.
But if the motion take place in the reverse direction, thus—
it is said that the succession of the upper notes in approaching the key note A, do not give the idea which ought to correspond to our modern tonality. It is argued that the penultimate note, or seventh, being the leading or sensible note of the key, ought to be only a semitone distant from it, as is customary in all well-defined keys; and that, in fact, unless this is done, the tonality is not properly determined. This reason has led to the accidental sharpening of the seventh in ascending, thus—
But here there is another thing objected to; namely, the wide interval of three semitones (an augmented second) between the sixth and the seventh, F♮ and G♯, which it is said is abrupt and unnatural, and this has led to the sharpening of the sixth also, thus—
to make the progression more smooth and regular. This is the succession of notes usually given as the ascending minor scale.
The first alteration—namely, the sharpening of the leading note—is no doubt required if the perfect modern tonality is to be preserved, for no doubt an ascending passage, thus—
would give rather the impression of the key of C or of F than that of A.
But the necessity for sharpening the sixth is by no means so obvious; it may no doubt be smoother, but the interval of the augmented second is one so familiar in modern music, as to form no imperative reason for the change. Hence this rule is frequently disregarded, and the form marked No. 2 is very commonly used, both for ascending and descending.
We may instance the fine unison passage in the last movement of Schumann's Symphony, No. 1:—
where not only does the peculiar rhythm give a most striking original effect to the common succession of notes, but the strong attention drawn to the objectionable augmented interval, shows how effectively genius may set at nought commonplace ideas as to musical propriety.
[ W. P. ]
ASCHER, Joseph, was born in London, 1831, and died there 1869 [App. p.524 "June 20"]. A fashionable pianist, and composer of drawing-room pieces. He was taught by Moscheles, and followed his master to the Conservatorium at Leipzig. His successful career began in Paris, where he was nominated court pianist to the Empress Eugenie, an honour which appears to convey considerable business advantage in the fashionable world, and is accordingly a coveted title.His compositions amount to above a hundred salon pieces—mazurkas, gallops, nocturnes, études, transcriptions, etc.—well written and effective, of moderate difficulty, and rarely if ever without a certain elegant grace and finish. Among the best are 'La perle du Nord' and 'Dozia,' both mazurkas, and 'Les gouttes d'eau,' an étude. Ascher believed in himself, and in his earlier compositions at least, offered his best; but the dissipated habits he gradually fell into ruined both his health and his taste.
[ E. D. ]