Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/48

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36
ADDITIONAL ACCOMPANIMENTS.
 

the works of Bach, in which, though no obsolete instruments are employed, and though everything is perfectly practicable, the effect, if played as written, will in our modern orchestras altogether differ from that designed by the composer. From a letter written by Bach in 1730[1] we know exactly the strength of the band for which he wrote. Besides the wind instruments, it contained only two or at most three first and as many second violins, two first and two second violas, two violoncellos and one double-bass, thirteen strings in all. Against so small a force the solo passages for the wind instruments would stand out with a prominence which in our modern orchestras, often containing from fifty to sixty strings, would no longer exist; and as all the parts in Bach's music are almost invariably of equal importance, it follows that the wind parts must be strengthened if the balance of tone is to be preserved. This is especially the case in the choruses. It would be impossible, without quoting an entire page of one of Bach's scores, to give an extract clearly showing this point. Those who are familiar with his works will recall many passages of the kind. One of the best known, as well as one of the most striking examples is in the short chorus 'Lass ihn kreuzigen' in the 'Passion according to Matthew.' Here an important counterpoint is given to the flutes above the voices and stringed instruments. With a very small band and chorus this counterpoint would doubtless be heard, but with our large vocal and instrumental forces it must inevitably be lost altogether. Franz, in his edition of the 'Passion,' has reinforced the flutes by the upper notes of the clarinets, which possess a great similarity of tone, and at the same time by their more incisive quality make themselves distinctly heard above the other instruments.

8. In Handel's orchestra the organ was almost invariably used in the choruses to support the voices, and give fullness and richness to the general body of tone. Hence in Mozart's arrangements, which were written for performance without an organ, he has supplied the place of that instrument by additional wind parts. In many of the choruses of the 'Messiah' (e.g. 'And the glory of the Lord,' 'Behold the Lamb of God,' 'But thanks be to God,' etc.) the wind instruments simply fill in the harmony as it may fairly be conjectured the organ would do. Moreover, our ears are so accustomed to a rich and sonorous instrumentation, that this music if played only with strings and oboes, or sometimes with strings alone, would sound so thin as to be distasteful. Hence no reasonable objection can be made to the filling up of the harmony, if it be done with taste and contain nothing inconsistent with the spirit of the original.

9. There yet remains to notice one of the most interesting points connected with our present subject. It not seldom happens that in additional accompaniments new matter is introduced for which no warrant can be found in the original. Sometimes the composer's idea is modified, sometimes it is added to. Mozart's scores of Handel are full of examples of this kind; on the other hand Franz, the most conscientious of arrangers, seldom allows himself the least liberty in this respect. It is impossible to lay down any absolute rule in this matter; the only test is success. Few people, for instance, would object to the wonderfully beautiful wind parts which Mozart has added to 'The people that walked in darkness,' though it must be admitted that they are by no means Handelian in character. It is, so to speak, Mozart's gloss or commentary on Handel's music; and one can almost fancy that could Handel himself have heard it he would have pardoned the liberty taken with his music for the sake of the charming effect of the additions. So again with the trumpets and drums which Mozart has introduced in the song 'Why do the nations.' No doubt Handel could have used them had he been so disposed; but it was not the custom of his age to employ them in the accompaniments to songs, and here again the excellence of the effect is its justification. On the same ground may be defended the giving of Handel's violin part to a flute in the air 'How beautiful are the feet,' though it is equally impossible to approve of the change Mozart has made in the air and chorus 'The trumpet's loud clangour' in the 'Ode to St. Cecilia's Day,' in, which he has given a great portion of the important trumpet part (which is imperatively called for by the words) to the flute and oboe in unison! The passages above referred to from the 'Messiah' are so well known as to render quotation superfluous; but two less familiar examples of happily introduced additional matter from the 'Ode to St. Cecilia's Day' will be interesting. In the first of these,

{ \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \time 4/4 \key a \major << \relative c' { c4^\markup { \smaller { \italic Viol. 1, 2 } } r cis r | d r dis r | e }
\new Staff { \clef bass \key a \major \relative a { a8^\markup { \smaller \italic Bassi } e a, a' g e a, g' | fis d b b' a fis b, a' | g4 } } >> }

from the song 'Sharp violins proclaim,' it will be seen that Handel has written merely violins and basses. The dissonances which Mozart has added in the viola part,

{ \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \time 4/4 \key a \major << \relative c' { c4^\markup { \smaller { \italic Viol. 1, 2 } } r cis r | d r dis r | e }
\new Staff { \clef alto \key a \major \relative e { e8^\markup { \smaller \italic Viola } bes'4( a8) r bes4( a8) | r c4( b8) r c4( b8) | b4 } }
\new Staff { \clef bass \key a \major \relative a { a8^\markup { \smaller \italic Bassi } e a, a' g e a, g' | fis d b b' a fis b, a' | g4 } } >> }

are of the most excellent effect, well suited

  1. See Bitter. 'Johann Sebastian Bach,' ii. 15-22.