Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/21

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INTERMEZZO.
9
 

whether Tragedy, Comedy, or Serious Opera—to depend upon its own resources, while the Intermezzo, with its once disconnected links united in unbroken sequence, was performed as a separate work, in one Act. This revolution was effected chiefly by the genius of a young composer, whose untimely death, considered in relation to its influence upon the Lyric Drama, can never be sufficiently deplored. From beginning to end, the narrative of Pergolesi's Art-life is identified with the ultimate fate of the Intermezzo. His first important composition—a Sacred Drama, called San Guglielmo d'Aquitania—was diversified by Intermezzi, of a playful character, introduced between its principal divisions. His greatest triumph—La Serva Padrona—was, itself, an Intermezzo, pur et simple. This delightful work—the whole interest of which is centred in two characters, whose voices are accompanied only by a stringed band—was first produced, in Italy, between the Acts of another piece, in the year 1734 [App. p.685 "1731"]. Its success was unbounded. It soon found its way to every Capital in Europe; and, everywhere but in France, was received with acclamation. The French, however, were slow to appreciate it at its true value. Its first performance in Paris, Oct. 4, 1746, was little short of a failure: but when, Aug. 1, 1752, it was played between the Acts of Lulli's Acis et Galathée, it originated a feud between the 'Lullistes' and the 'Bouffonnistes,' scarcely less bitter than that which raged, at a later period, between the rival followers of Gluck and Piccinni. National vanity forbade the recognition of the Italian style: national good taste forbade its rejection. Rousseau, with characteristic impetuosity, threw himself into the thick of the fray; fought desperately on the Italian side; declared French Opera impossible; and stultified his own arguments by the immediate production of a French Intermède the well-known Devin du Village. Long after this, the controversy raged, with unabated fury: but, in spite of the worst its enemies could do, La Serva Padrona exercised a salutary and lasting effect upon French dramatic music—indeed, upon dramatic music everywhere. In 1750 it met with an enthusiastic reception in England. Its success was as lasting as it was brilliant: and, almost to our own day, it has kept its place upon the stage, not between the Acts of a Serious Opera, but as an independent piece; marking the critical period at which the history of the Intermezzo merges, permanently, into that of the Opera Buffa, its legitimate heir. [See Opera Buffa.]

The anomalous character of this sweeping change became at once apparent. It was as necessary as ever, that, on certain occasions, some sort of entertainment should be given between the Acts of serious pieces. The Intermezzo having so far outgrown its original intention as to be utterly useless for this purpose, something else must needs be found to supply its place. The Dance was unanimously accepted as a substitute; and soon became exceedingly popular. And thus arose a new species of Interlude, which at no time, perhaps, attained a greater degree of perfection, than under the 'Lumley Management' at Her Majesty's Theatre, where, night after night, a Ballet Divertissement, with Cerito, or Carlotta Grisi, for its principal attraction, was given between the Acts of a Grand Opera, sung by Grisi, Persiani, Rubini, Tamburini, and Lablache; the long line of successes culminating in that memorable Pas de Quatre, which, danced by Taglioni, Fanny Elsler, Carlotta Grisi, and Cerito, is still regarded as one of the greatest triumphs of Terpsichorean Art on record.

Instrumental music is frequently played, in Germany, after the manner of an Intermezzo. The noble Entr'actes composed by Beethoven, for Schiller's 'Egmont,' by Schubert for 'Rosamunde,' and by Mendelssohn, for Shakspeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' are familiar to every one. These, of course, can only be presented in association with the great works they were originally designed to illustrate. But, less appropriate music, good enough of its kind, though intended for other purposes, was, at one time, by no means uncommon. We once heard Vieuxtemps play a Violin Concerto between the Acts of an Opera, at Leipzig, in the days when the Orchestra was under the masterly direction of Ferdinand David: and, in the year 1845, Alboni (then unknown in England) sang several of her favourite Songs, in the same pretty little Theatre, between the Acts of a play. Such performances as these may, naturally enough, be repeated, at any time. But, with our present ideas of Art, anything like a revival of the Intermezzo, in its older form, would manifestly be impossible. We may learn much from its history, which is both instructive, and entertaining: but, for all practical purposes, we must be content to leave it in the obscurity to which, since the production of La Serva Padrona, it has been not unprofitably consigned.

II. The word is also used for a short movement, serving as a connecting-link between the larger divisions of a Sonata, Symphony, or other great work, whether instrumental, or vocal; as in No. 4 of Schumann's 'Faschingsschwank aus Wien' (op. 26). The beautiful Intermezzo which, under the name of 'Introduzione,' lends so charming a grace to Beethoven's 'Waldstein Sonata' (op. 53) is said to be an after-thought, inserted in place of the well-known 'Andante in F' (op. 35), which, after due consideration, the great Composer rejected, as too long for the position he originally intended it to occupy. The term is however used for larger movements:—as by Mendelssohn for the 3rd movement in his F minor Quartet (op. 2), or for the 'grand adagio' which, under the name of 'Nachruf,' he specially composed in memory of his friend Ritz, and inserted in his Quintet, op. 18, in lieu of the previous Minuet (Letter, Feb. 21, 1832); or for the Entracte expressive of Hermia's search for Lysander in the Midsummer Night's Dream music. The 2nd movement of Goetz's Symphony, virtually a Scherzo, is entitled Intermezzo.