Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/533
has invested with powerful interest a figure which at first sight would seem altogether deficient in character.
As clear an instance as could be given of the breaking up of a subject into its constituent figures for the purpose of development, is the treatment of the first subject of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, which he breaks up into three figures corresponding to the first three bars. As an example of his treatment of (a) may be taken—
(b) is twice repeated no less than thirty-six times successively in the development of the movement; and (c) appears at the close as follows:—
Examples of this kind of treatment of the figures contained in subjects are very numerous in classical instrumental music, in various degrees of refinement and ingenuity; as in the 1st movement of Mozart's G minor Symphony; in the same movement of Beethoven's 8th Symphony; and in a large number of Bach's fugues, as for instance Nos. 2, 7, 16, of the Wohltemperirte Klavier. The beautiful little musical poem, the 18th fugue of that series, contains as happy a specimen of this device as could be cited.
In music of an ideally high order, everything should be recognisable as having a meaning; or, in other words, every part of the music should be capable of being analysed into figures, so that even the most insignificant instrument in the orchestra should not be merely making sounds to fill up the mass of the harmony, but should be playing something which is worth playing in itself. It is of course impossible for any but the highest genius to carry this out consistently, but in proportion as music approaches to this ideal, it is of a high order as a work of art, and in the measure in which it recedes from it, it approaches more nearly to the mass of base, slovenly, or false contrivances which lie at the other extreme, and are not works of art at all. This will be very well recognised by a comparison of Schubert a method of treating the accompaniment of his songs and the method adopted in the large proportion of the thousands of 'popular' songs which annually make their appearance in this country. For even when the figure is as simple as in 'Wohin,' 'Mein,' or 'Ave Maria,' the figure is there, and is clearly recognised, and is as different from mere sound or stuffing to support the voice as a living creature is from dead and inert clay.
Bach and Beethoven were the great masters in the use of figures, and both were content at times to make a short figure of three or four notes the basis of a whole movement. As examples of this may be quoted the truly famous rhythmic figure of the C minor Symphony (d), the figure of the Scherzo of the 9th Symphony (e), and the figure of the first movement of the last Sonata, in C minor (f). As a beautiful example from Bach may be quoted the Adagio from the Toccata in D minor (g), but it must be said that examples in his works are almost innumerable, and will meet the student at every turn.
A very peculiar use which Bach occasionally makes of figures, is to use one as the bond of connection running through a whole movement by constant repetition, as in Prelude No. 10 of the Wohltemperirte Klavier, and in the slow movement of the Italian Concerto, where it serves as accompaniment to an impassioned recitative. In this case the figure is not identical on each repetition, but is freely modified, in such a way however that it is always recognised as the same, partly by the rhythm and partly by the relative positions of the successive notes. This manner of modifying a given figure shows a tendency in the direction of a mode of treatment which has become a feature in modern music: namely, the practice of transforming figures in order to show different aspects of the same thought, or to establish a connection between one thought and another by bringing out the characteristics they possess in common. As a simple specimen of this kind of transformation, may be quoted a passage from the first movement of Brahms's P.F. Quintet in F minor. The figure stands at first as at (h), then by transposition as at (i). Its first stage of transformation is (j); further (k) (l) (m) are progressive modifications towards the stage (n),
which, having been repeated twice in different