Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/239

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BENNETT.
227
 


or in the following highly characteristic passage from the same movement—

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\new Staff { \clef bass \key aes \major \relative a { aes4 r \clef treble aes8 aes' ges ees | aes,4 r \clef bass r8 des( aes f | aes,4) r r8 f''( des aes | aes,4 ) r r8 f''( des aes | aes,4 r g''8 ees des aes | g' ees des aes g' r r4 | aes,,4 r \clef treble <aes' des g> r | r r2 r4 | } } >> }

Passages of this class, which abound in these compositions, and the adequate and precise execution of which is by no means easy, illustrate the peculiarly hard bright glitter of effect which characterises Bennett's bravura passages for the piano, and which brings out in such high relief the qualities which are special to the instrument. Speaking more generally, his pianoforte works are characterised by an entire disdain of the more commonplace sources of effect; they are never noisy or showy, and there is not a careless note in them; the strict and fixed attention of both player and listener is demanded in order to realise the intention of music addressed mainly to the intellect and the critical faculty, never to the mere sense of hearing. As a whole, Bennett's pianoforte music is remarkably difficult in proportion to the number of notes used, from that delicate exactitude of writing which demands that every note should have its full value, as well as from the peculiar way in which his passages often lie for the hand, and which demands the greatest evenness of finger-power. Hence his works are not popular in the present day with amateurs, who prefer what will enable them to produce more thrilling effects with less trouble; but their value as studies and models for a pure style is hardly to be surpassed. Compared with the writings of Beethoven, or even of lesser composers who, following in his steps, have transferred the symphonic style to the piano, such works as those of Bennett have of course a very limited range, nor have they the glow and intensity which Chopin, for example, was able to infuse into what is equally a pure pianoforte style; but as specimens of absolutely finished productions entirely within the special range of the piano, they will always have the highest artistic interest and value; an appreciation of then- real merit being almost a test of true critical perception.

Looking at the works of Bennett more generally, it may be observed that they show remarkable evidence of his apparently intuitive insight into problems and theories in regard to musical construction which have only been definitely recognised and tabulated by theorists since he began to write. When the school of composers who tumble notes into our ears in heaps, any way, have had their day, and it is again recognised that musical composition is a most subtle and recondite art, and not a mere method of jumbling sounds together to signify this or that arbitrarily chosen idea, it is probable that Bennett will receive much higher credit than has yet been accorded to him as an advanced thinker in music. The theory which connects every sound in the scale of a key with that key, making them all essential to its tonality, and the harmonic relations which are thereby shown to be logically consistent though little practised hitherto, received continual practical illustration in the works of Bennett, whose peculiar intellectually constructed harmonies and progressions are among the causes alike of his interest for musicians and his disfavour with the less instructed amateur population, whom they not unnaturally puzzle. A great English musical critic has pointed out, in a note on the 'Wood Nymphs' Overture (in the Philharmonic programme of March 22, 1871), the passage where 'the so-called chord of the diminished 7th from F sharp, with intervening silences, is heard on the unaccented second and fourth beats of the bar, and then an unaccompanied D, thrice sounded, asserts itself as the root of the chord,' thus presenting, adds Mr. Macfarren, 'a harmonic fact in an aspect as unquestionable as, at the time of writing, it was new.' But Bennett's music is full of such suggestions of the more extended modern view of the statics of harmony, the rather noteworthy as it does not appear that he made it the subject of any definite or deliberate theorising, or was indebted for his suggestions of this kind to anything more than his own intuitive insight into the more subtle harmonic relations. It is the frequent use of what may be termed perhaps (borrowing an expression from colour) the 'secondary' rather than the 'primary' relations of harmony—the constant appeal to the logic rather than the mere sensuous hearing of the ear—which gives to his music that