Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/242

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230
MASS.
 

of its periods are conducted, it freely uses all the old contrivances of Fugue, and, in the second Agnus Dei, of closely interwoven Canon: but, always, as means towards the attainment of a certain end—never, in place of the end itself. And, this entire subjugation of artistic power to the demands of expression is, perhaps, its most prominent characteristic. It pervades it, throughout, from the first note to the last. Take, for instance, the Christe eleison, in which each Voice, as it enters, seems to plead more earnestly than its predecessor for mercy—

It is impossible, while listening to these touchingly beautiful harmonies, to bestow even a passing thought upon the texture of the parts by which they are produced: yet, the quiet grace of the theme, at (a), and the closeness of the imitation to which it is subjected, evince a command of technical resources which Handel alone could have hidden, with equal success, beneath the appearance of such extreme simplicity. Handel has, indeed, submitted a similar subject to closely analagous treatment—though, in quick time, and with a very different expression—in the opening Tutti of his Organ Concerto in G: and it is interesting to note, that the exquisitely moulded close, at (b), so expressive, when sung with the necessary ritardando, of the confidence of Hope, has been used, by Mendelssohn, interval for interval, in the Chorale, 'Sleepers wake!' from 'Saint Paul,' to express the confidence of Expectation.

<< \time 4/4 \new Staff { \key d \major <<
\new Voice { \relative d' { \stemUp d2 fis | a a | a a | b1^"(b)" | a ~ | a2 r \bar "||" } }
\new Voice { \relative a { \stemDown a2 d | e e | d4 e fis2 | fis e | fis1 ~ fis2 r } } >> }
\new Staff { \clef bass \key d \major << \new Voice { \relative f { \stemUp fis2 b | cis cis | fis4 e d cis | b2. cis4 | d1 ~ d2 r } }
\new Voice { \relative d { \stemDown d2 b | a g' | fis fis | g1 | d ~ d2 r } }
\addlyrics { Wa -- chet auf! ruft uns die Stim -- me. } >> }
>>

We have selected this particular passage for our illustration, principally for the sake of calling attention to these instructive coincidences: but, in truth, every bar of the Mass conceals a miracle of Art. Its subjects, all original, and all of extreme simplicity, are treated with an inexhaustible variety of feeling which shews them, every moment, in some new and beautiful light, Its six voices—Soprano, Alto, two Tenors of exactly equal compass, and two Basses matched with similar nicety—are so artfully grouped as constantly to produce the effect of two or more antiphonal Choirs. Its style is solemn, and devotional, throughout; but, by no means deficient in fire, when the sense of the words demands it. Baini truly calls the Kyrie, devout; the Gloria, animated; the Credo, majestic; the Sanctus, angelic; and, the Agnus Dei, prayerful. Palestrina wrote many more Masses, of the highest degree of excellence; but, none—not even Assumpta est Maria—so nearly approaching perfection, in every respect, as this. He is known to have produced, at the least, ninety-five; of which forty-three were printed during his life-time; and thirty-nine more, within seven years after his death; while thirteen are preserved, in manuscript,[1] among the Archives of the Pontifical Chapel, and in the Vatican Library. The effect produced by these great works upon the prevailing style was all that could be desired. Vittoria, and Anerio, in the great Roman School, Gabrieli, and Croce, in the Venetian, Orlando di Lasso, in the Flemish, and innumerable other Masters, brought forward compositions of unfading interest and beauty. Not the least interesting of these is a Mass, for five voices, in the transposed Æolian Mode, composed by our own great William Byrd, at the time when he was singing, as a Chorister, at Old Saint Paul's. This valuable work was edited, in 1841, for the Musical Antiquarian Society, by Dr. Rimbault, from a copy, believed to be unique, and now safely lodged in the Library of the British Museum. Though composed (if Dr. Rimbault's theory may be accepted, in the absence of a printed date) some years before the Missa Papæ Marcelli, it may fairly lay claim to be classed as a production of the 'Golden Age'; for, it was certainly not printed until after the appearance of Palestrina's Second Book of Masses; moreover, it is entirely free from the vices of the Fourth Epoch, and, notwithstanding a certain irregularity in the formation of some of the Cadences, exhibits unmistakeable traces of the

  1. One of these, Tu es Petrus, was printed, for the first time, in 1869, in Schrem's continuation of Proske's 'Musica Divina' (Ratisbon, Fr. Pustet).