Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/510
498 EXTEMPORE PLAYING.
EVANS, Charles Smart, born 1778, was a chorister of the Chapel Royal under Dr. Ayrton. On arriving at manhood he became the possessor of an unusually fine alto voice. On June 14, 1808, he was admitted a gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He was the composer of some anthems (two of them printed), and of many excellent glees and other pieces of vocal harmony, most of which have been published. In 1811 the Glee Club awarded him a prize for his Cheerful Glee, 'Beauties, have you seen a toy,' and in the following year a second for his 'Fill all the glasses.' In 1817 he carried off the prize offered by the Catch Club for the best setting of William Linley's Ode to the Memory of Samuel Webbe, the eminent glee composer. In 1821 he obtained another prize for his glee, 'Great Bacchus.' He also produced several motets for the use of the choir of the Portuguese Ambassador's chapel in South Street, Grosvenor Square (of which he was a member), some of which are printed in Vincent Novello's Collection of Motets. Evans died Jan. 4, 1849.
[ W. H. H. ]
[ M. C. C. ]
EXIMENO, Antonio, Spanish Jesuit, born 1732 at Balbastro in Arragon. Having studied mathematics and music at Salamanca he became professor of both sciences at Segovia. On the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain he settled in Rome, and died there in 1798. His work 'Dell'origine della musica, colla storia del suo progresso, decadenza, e rinovazione' contains the germ of the theories afterwards elaborated by Wagner, and at the time raised a host of polemical writings, to which even Padre Martini contributed his share. He proposed to abolish the strict laws of counterpoint and harmony, and apply the rules of prosody to musical composition. He was the first scientific exponent of the doctrine that the aim of music is to express emotion, and thus exercised considerable influence on musical aesthetics. His contemporaries stigmatised his book as an 'extraordinary romance, in which he seeks to destroy music without being able to reconstruct it'—a verdict which curiously anticipates that often passed upon Wagner in our own day.
[ F. G. ]
EXTEMPORE PLAYING. The art of playing without premeditation, the conception of the music and its rendering being simultaneous. The power of playing extempore evinces a very high degree of musical cultivation, as well as the possession of great natural gifts. Not only must the faculty of musical invention be present, but there must also be a perfect mastery over all mechanical difficulties, that the fingers may be able to render instantaneously what the mind conceives, as well as a thorough knowledge of the rules of harmony, counterpoint, and musical form, that the result may be symmetrical and complete.
This being the case it is not surprising that the greatest extempore players have usually been at the same time the greatest composers, and we find in fact that all the great masters, including Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, have shown much fondness for this form of art, and have even exercised it in public. Mozart improvised in public at the age of 14, as is shown by the programme of a concert given as an exhibition of his powers by the Philharmonic Society of Mantua on Jan. 16, 1770, which included an extempore sonata and fugue for the harpsichord, and a song with harpsichord accompaniment, to be sung to words given by the audience.
These extemporaneous performances were sometimes entirely original, but more frequently consisted of the development (often in the form of a fugue) of a theme given by the listeners, and they not unfrequently took the form of a competition between two players, each giving the other subjects on which to extemporise. Thus when Louis Marchand, banished from France, came to reside in Dresden in 1717 and was about to receive the appointment of organist to the King of Poland, Volumier, the court conductor, fearing Marchand as a rival, invited Bach to appear at a court concert in competition with him. Accordingly, after Marchand had played with great applause a French air with variations, Bach took his place, and extemporised a number of new variations on the same theme, in such a manner as incontestably to prove his superiority.
Sometimes two players would extemporise together, either on one or two pianofortes. This appears to have been done by Mozart and Clementi at Vienna in 1781, and also by Beethoven and Wölffl, who used to meet in 1798 at the house of Freiherr von Wetzlar, and, seated at two pianofortes, give each other themes upon which to extemporise, and, according to Seyfried (Thayer, ii. 27), 'created many a capriccio for four hands, which, if it could have been written down at the moment of its birth, would doubtless have obtained a long existence.'
It is probable that in most of these competitions the competitors were but ill-matched, at least
- The German term is curious—aus dem Stegreife—'from the stirrup.'