accent on the second syllable of the words 'Augen,' 'taugen,' and 'holden,' all of which (as those who know German will be aware) are accented on the first syllable.
[First two notes of bars 2 & 3 amended per correction given in App. p.517]
Ths charm of the music makes the hearer overlook the absurdity of the mispronunciation; but it none the less exists, and is referred to not in depreciation of Weber, but as by no means a solitary instance of the want of attention which even the greatest masters have sometimes given to this point. Two short examples of a somewhat similar character are here given from Handel's 'Messiah' and 'Deborah.'
In the former of these extracts the accent on the second syllable of the word 'chastisement' may not improbably have been caused by Handel's imperfect acquaintance with our language; but in the chorus from 'Deborah,' in which the pronunciation of the last word according to the musical accents will be vīctŏriōus, it is simply the result of indifference or inattention, as is shown by the fact that in other parts of the same piece the word is set correctly.
Closely connected with the present subject, and therefore appropriately to be treated here, is that of Inflexion. Just as in speaking we not only accent certain words, but raise the voice in uttering them, so in vocal music, especially in that depicting emotion, the rising and falling of the melody should correspond as far as possible to the rising and falling of the voice in the correct and intelligent reading of the text. It is particularly in the setting of recitative that opportunity is afforded for this, and such well-known examples as Handel's 'Thy rebuke hath broken his heart' in the 'Messiah,' or 'Deeper and deeper still' in 'Jephtha,' or the great recitative of Donna Anna in the first act of 'Don Giovanni' may be studied with advantage by those who would learn how inflexion may be combined with accent as a means of musical expression. But, though peculiarly adapted to recitative, it is also frequently met with in songs. Two extracts from Schubert are here given. In asking a question we naturally raise the voice at the end of the sentence; and the following quotation will furnish an example of what may be called the interrogatory accent.
32. Schubert, 'Schöne Müllerin,' No. 8.
The passage next to be quoted illustrates what may rather be termed the declamatory accent.
33. 'Winterreise,' No. 21.
The word 'matt' is here the emphatic word of the line; but the truthful expression of the music is the result less of its being set on the accented part of the bar than of the rising inflexion upon the word, which gives it the character of a cry of anguish. That this is the case will be seen at once if C is substituted for F. The accent is unchanged, but all the force of the passage is gone.
What has just been said leads naturally to the last point on which it is needful to touch—the great importance of attention to the accents and inflexions in translating the words of vocal music from one language to another. It is generally difficult, often quite impossible, to preserve them entirely; and this is the reason why no good music can ever produce its full effect when sung in a language other than that to which it was composed. Perhaps few better translations exist than that of the German text to which, Mendelssohn composed his 'Elijah'; yet even here passages may be quoted in which the composer's meaning is unavoidably sacrificed, as for example the following—
The word 'rhythm' is sometimes inaccurately used as synonymous with accent. The former properly refers not to the beats within a bar but to the recurrence of regular periods containing
Here the different construction of the English and German languages made it impossible to preserve in the translation the emphasis on the word 'mich' at the beginning of the second bar. The adapter was forced to substitute another accented word, and he has done so with much tact; but the exact force of Mendelssohn's idea is lost. In this and many similar cases all that is possible is an approximation to the composer's idea; the more nearly this can be attained, the less the music will suffer.