Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/407

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CONSTRUCTION.
395
CONTRALTO.

music connected with words the definiteness of construction must yield to the order of the language, and be dependent on what it expresses for the chief part of its effect; but in instrumental music it would be impossible for the mind to receive a satisfactory impression from a work which was purely continuous, and had no such connection between its parts as should enable the hearer to refer from one part to another, and thereby assist his attention. The only manner in which the sense of proportion and plan, which is so important in works of art, can be introduced into music is by repetition of parts which shall be distinctly recognised by the rhythm and order of succession of their notes, and are called the subjects. And the construction of a fine movement is like that of a grand building, in which the main subjects are the great pillars upon which the whole edifice rests, and all the smaller details of ornamentation are not just an irregular medley of ill-assorted beauties, but being reintroduced here and there, either simply or disguised with graceful devices, give that unity and completeness to the general effect which the absence of plan can never produce. As instrumental music grows older new plans of construction are frequently invented, especially in small lyrical pieces, which imitate more or less the character of songs, or represent some fixed and definite idea or emotion, according to the supposed order or progress of which the piece is constructed. In small pieces for single instruments originality of plan is generally an advantage; but in large forms of instrumental composition it is most desirable for the general plan to be to a certain extent familiar, though it is on the other hand undesirable that it should be very obvious. The former strains the attention too heavily, the latter engages it too slightly. An account of the plans most generally used for such large instrumental works as symphonies, concertos, overtures, sonatas, etc., will be found under the article FORM.

CONTI, Francesco Bartolomeo, eminent theorbist and dramatic composer, born at Florence Jan. 20, 1681, appointed court- theorbist at Vienna in 1701. He resigned in 1705, but was reappointed theorbist in 1708, with the additional post in 1713 of court-composer. From this time he devoted himself with marked success to the composition of operas, especially the higher kind of comic operas. His best work was the tragi-comic opera 'Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena,' which is a model of its kind for the clear delineation of each separate character. It was performed first at the Carnaval of 1719 in Vienna, and afterwards (1722) at Hamburg, in German. His first opera, 'Clotilde' (Vienna, 1706), was produced in London (1709), and the songs published separately by Walsh. Conti's cantatas and oratorios are solid and thoughtful. Von Köchel (J. J. Fux: Vienna, 1872) gives a catalogue of all his works performed in Vienna between 1706 and 1732. They comprise 16 grand operas, 13 serenades or 'Feste teatrali,' and 9 oratorios, the scores of which are to be found almost entire in the Imperial library and in the archives of the 'Gesellschaft der Musik-freunde' at Vienna. Mattheson, in his 'Vollkommene Kapellmeister' (1739 p. 40), casts a grave slur on Conti's character through a confusion between him and his son Ignaz. The mistake was corrected by Quantz in Marpurg's 'Kritische Beiträge' [App. p.597 "Historish-kritische"] (1754, vol. i. p. 219), and by Gerber in his 'Neues Lexicon,' but Fétis maintained the authenticity of the anecdote in the 'Révue musicale' (1827, No. 3), and even repeated it in his 'Biographie Universelle' after the real facts had been made known by Molitor in the 'Allg. musik. Zeitung' (1838, p. 153). Conti died in Vienna July 3O, 1732. Mendel, in his 'Mus. Conv. Lexicon,' states that he was promoted to the post of court chapel-master, but this is incorrect, as he was still court-composer at the time of his death. The younger Conti, Ignaz, whom Fétis is uncertain whether to call the son or the brother of Francesco, was really his son, born in 1699. He held the post of 'Hof-scholar' [App. p.597 "Hof-compositeur"] up to the time of his death, March 28, 1759, and composed several serenades and oratorios which bear no traces of his father's ability.

[ C. F. P. ]

CONTI. See Gizziello.

CONTINUO. The short for Basso Continuo, which see.

CONTRABASSO, the Italian for Double Bass.

CONTRABASS POSAUNE. See Trombone.

CONTRABASS TUBA. See Bombardon.

CONTRA-FAGOTTO, the ordinary name in orchestral scores for the Double Bassoon. See scores of Beethoven's Symphonies 5 and 9, Brahms's Variations on a theme of Haydn's, etc.

CONTRALTO. The lowest of the three principal varieties of the female voice (the two others being soprano and mezzo soprano), and that to which in choral music the part next above (contra, or counter to) the alto is assigned. [Alto.] The culture and employment, as a solo instrument, of the female contralto voice, like that of its correlative the bass, is comparatively modern, and even yet not universal. By the opera composers of France and Germany it has been, and still continues to be, but rarely employed. In his adaptation for the French Theatre of his Italian 'Orfeo,' originally composed (1762) for a contralto, Gluck transposed and otherwise re-cast the music of the title-character for a tenor. It is to Rossini and his Italian contemporaries that this voice owes its present very important status. In few of their operas is it unemployed. In the choral music however of the composers of all nations it has now definitively taken its place—till lately monopolised, in England especially, by the male counter-tenor, a voice of somewhat different compass and altogether different quality. [Alto.] In extent the contralto voice sometimes exceeds every other, male or female. Like the bass it has a third register, but far more frequently and successfully brought under control. A contralto has been known to possess an available compass