Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/69

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ALPHABET.
57
ALTO.

the musical signs in use in his day amounted to no fewer than 1240, and it appears probable that even this number was afterwards exceeded.

The Romans, who borrowed the Greek scale, and gave Latin names to each of its fifteen sounds, did not adopt this complicated system, but employed instead the first fifteen letters of their alphabet, A to P, and later still, Gregory the Great, who was chosen pope A.D. 590, discovering that the second half of the scale, H to P, was but a repetition of the first, A to H, abolished the last eight letters and used the first seven over again, expressing the lower octave by capitals and the upper by small letters.[1]

So far the original compass of the Greek scale was preserved, and thus A was naturally applied to the first and at that time lowest note, but about the beginning of the 10th century a new note was introduced, situated one degree below the lowest A, and called (it is difficult to say why) after the Greek letter gamma[2] and written Γ. To this others were from time to time added until the lower C was reached, in the early part of the 16th century, by Lazarino. Thus the modern scale was established, and A, originally the first, became the sixth degree.

In Germany the same system was originally adopted, but when accidentals were invented, and it became customary to sing in certain cases B♭ instead of B♮, the square shape of the natural soon became transformed into the letter H, which was applied to the note B♮ (the original B), while the rounder form of the flat received the name of B, a distinction which remains in force to the present day. (See Accidentals.)

[ F. T. ]

ALSAGER, Thomas Massa, born 1779, died 1846, one of the family of Alsager, of Alsager, Cheshire. He was for many years a proprietor and one of the leading men in the management of 'The Times,' being especially concerned in all that related to music and the collection of mercantile and foreign news. The professionally trained musical critic, added at his suggestion to the staff of 'The Times,' was the first employed on any daily paper. He was the intimate friend of Lamb, the Burneys, Wordsworth, Talfourd, Leigh Hunt, Mendelssohn, Moscheles, and many other celebrities. But what entitles him to mention here was his intense devotion to music, to which he gave all the leisure he could spare from a busy life. His practical ability in music was very great, and it is a fact that he could perform on all the instruments in the orchestra. The frequent private concerts given by the 'Queen-Square Select Society' at his residence in London will long be remembered by his many musical friends, and were the means of introducing to this country many works and foreign musicians. There Sivori for the first time attempted quartett playing, and there on March 28, 1834, took place the first performance in England of Cherubini's 'Requiem,' principal soprano Mrs. H. R. Bishop ; first violin M. Spagnoletti. In 1843 the society held a special musical festival in honour of Spohr, who himself led three pieces. One object of the society was to establish a taste for Beethoven's chamber music, by performing it in the most perfect manner attainable. It was divided into two classes, one called the pianoforte and the other the violin class, and separate evenings were devoted to each kind of composition, special attention being bestowed on those least known to the public. These resulted in the series of chamber concerts given publicly in Harley Street in 1845 and 1846, and called the 'Beethoven Quartett Society,' the whole being due to the enthusiasm, knowledge, and munificence of Mr. Alsager. [App. p.521 "See also iii. 182 b, and 534."]

ALT. The notes in the octave above the treble stave, beginning with the G, are said to be in alt, and those in the next octave in altissimo.

ALTENBURG, Johann Ernst, a famous trumpet-player, born 1734 at Weissenfels, and son of Johann Caspar, also an excellent master of the same instrument. The father served in several campaigns, and was in action at Malplaquet. After leaving the army he travelled much in Europe, and was admired wherever he came, and so successful that he was able to refuse an offer from Frederic Augustus of Poland to enter his service with a salary of 600 thalers. He died in 1761. His son—more celebrated than the father—after completing his education, adopted the military career, and was a field trumpeter in the army during the Seven Years' War. After the peace of Hubertsburg he became organist at Bitterfeld. He was the author of a book entitled 'Versuch einer Anleitung zur heroischer musikalischen Trompetkunst' (Halle, 1795), which, though poor in style, is so complete in its treatment of the subject, as to be of the greatest interest in relation to trumpet music.

[ F. G. ]

ALTHORN, an instrument of the Saxhorn family, usually standing in E♭ or F. It is exclusively used in military music, and often replaces the French horn, for which however it is a poor substitute as regards tone. It is much easier to learn than the horn, and presents greater facility in rapid melodic passages. The least objectionable way of introducing it into the reed band is to associate a pair of these instruments with two French horns, reserving characteristic holding notes for the latter. In the brass band, where variety of timbre is less attainable, it answers its purpose well, and can better be played on horseback, from its upright bell. The name is also given to the saxhorn in B♭, but this is best distinguished as the Baritone. The scale and compass of this and the other Saxhorns are given under that word.

[ W. H. S. ]

ALTO (from the Latin altus, high, far removed). The male voice of the highest pitch,

  1. This system of Pope Gregory forms the so-called basis of the German Tablatur, in which the octave from the C next below the bass stave to C second space is callee the great octave, and is indicated by capitals; the octave next above is known as the small octave, and is expressed by small letters; and all succeeding octaves are called once-marked, twice-marked octaves, etc,. and the letters representing them have one, two, or more horizontal lines drawn above them, thus: C D … c d … [c d … c d … c d] …, etc.
  2. The addition of the Γ is by some attributed to Guido d' Aresso; but he speaks of it in his 'Micrologus' (A.D. 1024) as being already in use.