Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/246

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234

��MASS.

��by the standard of Fra Angelico. The two works ' are not even coincident in intention for, it is almost impossible to believe that the one we are | now considering can ever have been seriously intended for use as a Church Service. Unfitted for that purpose, as much by its excessive length, as by the exuberant elaboration of its style, and the overwhelming difficulty of its execution, it can only be consistently regarded as an Oratorio so regarded, it may be safely trusted to hold its own, side by side with the greatest works of the kind that have ever been produced, in any country, or in any age. [See ORATORIO.] Its masterly and exhaustively developed Fugues ; its dignified Choruses, relieved by Airs, and Duets, of infinite grace and beauty ; the richness of its instrumentation, achieved by means which most modern composers would reject as utterly inade- quate to the least ambitious of their requirements ; above all, the colossal proportions of its design these, and a hundred other characteristics into which we have not space to enter, entitle it to rank as one of the finest works, if not the very finest, that the great Cantor of the Thomas-Schule has left, as memorials of a genius as vast as it was original. Whether we criticise it as a work of Art, of Learning, or of Imagination, we find it equally worthy of our respect. It is, moreover, extremely interesting, as an historical monument, from the fact, that, in the opening of its Credo, it exhibits one of the most remarkable examples on record of the treatment of an antient Canto fermo with modern harmonies, and an elaborate orchestral accompaniment. [See INTONATION.] Bach often shewed but little sympathy with the traditions of the Past. But, in this, as in innumerable other instances, he proved his power of compelling everything he touched to obey the dictates of his indomitable will.

While the great German composer was thus patiently working out his hereditary trust, the disciples of the Italian School were entering upon a Ninth Epoch the last which it will be our duty to consider, since its creative energy is, probably, not yet exhausted under very different condi- tions, and influenced by principles which led to very different results. If we have found it neces- sary to criticise Bach's wonderful production as an Oratorio, still more necessary is it, that we should describe the Masses of this later period as Sacred Cantatas. Originating, beyond all doubt, with Durante ; treated with infinite tenderness by Pergolesi and Jomelli ; endowed with a wealth of graces by the genius of Haydn and Mozart ; and still farther intensified by the imaginative power of Beethoven and Cherubini ; their style has steadily kept pace, step by step, with the progress of modern music ; borrowing elasticity from the freedom of its melodies, and richness from the variety of its instrumentation ; clothing itself in new and unexpected forms of beauty, at every turn ; yet, never aiming at the expression of a higher kind of beauty than that pertaining to earthly things, or venturing to utter the lan- guage of devotion in preference to that of passion. In the Masses of this sera we first find the indi-

��MASS.

viduality of the Composer entirely dominating over that of the School if, indeed, a School can be said to exist, at all, in an age in which every Composer is left free to follow the dictates of his own unfettered taste. It is impossible to avoid recognising, in Haydn's Masses, the well-known features of ' The Creation ' and ' The Seasons ' ; or, in those of Mozart, the characteristic features of his most delightful Operas. Who, but the Composer of 'Dove sono i bei momenti,' or, the Finales to Don Giovanni, and the Flauto Magico, could ever have imagined the Agnus Dei of the First Mass, or the Gloria of the Second ? Still more striking is the identity of thought which assimilates Beethoven's Missa solemnis to some of the greatest of his ssecular works ; notwith- standing their singular freedom from all trace of mannerism. Mozart makes himself known by the refinement of his delicious phrases : Bee- thoven, by the depth of his dramatic instinct a talent which he never turned to such good account as when working in the absence of stage acces- sories. We are all familiar with that touching episode in the ' Battle Symphony,' wherein the one solitary Fifer strives to rally his scattered comrades by playing Malbrook sen va-t-en guerre a feat, which, by reason of the thirst and ex- haustion consequent upon his wound, he can only accomplish in a minor key. No less touching, though infinitely more terrible, is that wonderful passage of Drums and Trumpets, in the Dona nobis pacem of the Mass in D, intended to bring the blessings of Peace into the strongest possible relief, by contrasting them with the horrors of War. Allegro as sat.

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