Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/140

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128
LIBRETTO.
L'HOMME ARMÉ.

In the edition of 1570 it stands in triple time; and, in order to make it correspond with that of 1599, it is necessary to transcribe, and re-bar it, placing four minims in a measure, instead of six: when it will be found, not only that the number of bars comes right in the end, but, that every important cadence falls as exactly into the place demanded for it by the rhythm of the piece as it does in the original copy. It is said that Palestrina himself confided this curious secret to one of his disciples, who, five years after his death, superintended the publication of the Venetian edition. If it be asked, why, after having crushed the vain pedants of his day by the 'Missa Papae Marcelli,' the 'Princeps Musicae' should, himself, have condescended to invent conceits as quaint as theirs, we can only state our conviction, that he felt bound, in honour, not only to shew how easily he could beat them with their own weapons, but to compel those very weapons to minister to his own intense religious fervour, and passionate love of artistic beauty. For examples of the music our space compels us to refer the student to Dr. Burney's MS. already mentioned.

The last 'Missa L'Homme Armé' of any importance is that written, for twelve Voices, by Carissimi: this, however, can scarcely be considered as a fair example of the style; for, long before its production, the laws of Counterpoint had ceased to command either the obedience, or the respect, indispensable to success in the Polyphonic Schools of Art.

The original and excessively rare editions of Josquin's two Masses, and that by Pierre de la Rue, are preserved in the Library of the British Museum, together with Zacconi's excerpts from Palestrina, and Dr. Burney's MS. score, which will be found among his 'Musical Extracts.'

None of these works, we believe, have ever been published in a modern form.

II. The title is also attached to another melody, quite distinct from the foregoing—a French Dance Tune, said to date from the 15th century, and printed, with sacred words, by Jan Fruytiers, in his 'Ecclesiasticus,' published, at Antwerp, 1565. The Tune, as there given, is as follows:—

{ \time 4/2 \relative d'' { \set suggestAccidentals = ##t \repeat volta 2 { d1 e2 d | c b c a | a c b a | a g a1 } \repeat volta 2 { a2 a a g | a b c a | bes a g f | g e f1 } \repeat volta 2 { f2 d f d | f g a1 | c2. b4 a2 g | f g e d } \repeat volta 2 { d f e d | f g a1 | a4 b c d f2 e | d cis d\breve*1/2 } } }

It will be seen, that, though strictly Dorian in its tonality, this interesting melody exceeds the compass of the First Mode by two degrees. The regularity of its phrasing savours rather of the 16th than the 15th century. Possibly Fruytiers may have modified it, to suit his own purposes. Instances, however, are not wanting, of very regular phrases, in very antient melodies: as, for instance, in the delightful little Romance, 'L'autrier par la matinée,' by Thibaut, King of Navarre (ob. 1254), quoted by Dr. Burney, ii. p. 300, the rhythm of which is scarcely less distinctly marked than that of Fruytiers' adaptation.

[ W. S. R. ]

LIBRETTO is the diminutive form of the Italian word libro, and therefore literally means 'little book.' But this original significance it has lost, and the term is used in Italian, as well as in other languages, in the technical sense of book of an opera. Its form and essential difference from spoken comedy or tragedy will best be explained by a short historic survey of its origin and development. In the most primitive form of opera, as it arose in Florence in the 16th century, that difference was comparatively trifling, the libretto in those days consisting mainly of spoken dialogue with a few interspersed songs and choral pieces. But the rapid rise of music and the simultaneous decline of poetry in Italy soon changed matters. Certain musical forms, such as the aria and the various species of concerted music, were bodily transferred to the opera, and the poet had to adapt his plot to the exigencies of the superior art. Thus he was obliged not only to provide primo uomo and prima donna with a befitting duet in a convenient place, but other characters had also to be introduced to complete the quartet or the sestet, as the case might be, and, in addition to this, the chorus had to come in at the end of the act to do duty in the inevitable finale. However legitimate these demands may appear to the musician, it is obvious that they are fatal to dramatic consistency, and thus the poet, and unfortunately the public also, had to submit to the inevitable, the former by penning and the latter by serenely accepting the specimens of operatic poetry with which we are all but too well acquainted. The most perfect indifference to the dramatic part of the entertainment can alone explain the favour with which such profoundly inane productions as 'Ernani,' or 'Un Ballo in Maschera' as transmogrified by the Italian censorship, are received by English audiences. That this condition of things should in its turn detrimentally react on music is not a matter for surprise; for singers naturally would take little trouble to pronounce words which nobody cared to listen to, and with the proper declamation of the words intelligent musical phrasing is inseparably connected. In the Italian school, where vocalisation, was carried to the highest pitch of perfection, the libretto accordingly sank to the lowest level. In France, on the other hand, where the declamatory principle prevailed, and where dramatic instinct is part of the character of the nation, a certain regard for story and dialogue was never lost, and the libretti of Lully's and Rameau's, and after them of Gluck's operas, share the classic dignity, although not the genius, of Corneille and Racine. In the same sense the marvellous skill and savoir faire of the contemporary French stage is equally represented in the lyrical drama, in more than one instance supplied by the same