Such are a few of the characteristics of a native minstrelsy second to none in the annals of aboriginal art. But the lines of demarcation by which national peculiarities were preserved are being daily obliterated: steam has worked many wonders, of which this is not the least remarkable. Ireland at the present day differs but little from England, Wales, or Scotland. The tunes whistled in the Irish streets are not the melodies to which Moore in 1808 supplied words, but 'The March of the Men of Harlech,' 'Mandolinata,' and 'Stride la vampa' from Verdi's 'Trovatore.' The terrible famine of 1847, followed as it was by fever and a gigantic emigration that laid whole districts waste, could not fail to produce sweeping artistic as well as social changes. Much of the antient music must have perished with the population. Petrie's volume probably represents the last comprehensive effort to collect the aboriginal strains of Irish music: although given to the world in 1855, it embraced the labours of many previous years.
It remains but to notice the various collections of Irish music. These are—
- Burke Thumoth, cir. 1720.
- Neal of Christ-church Yard, 1721.
- Bunting's, first 1796, second 1809, third 1840.
- Francis Holden (cited by Geo. Petrie). 1806.
- Moore, with Stevenson, and subsequently Sir H. Bishop; ten numbers and supplement, 1808–1834.
- John Mulholland of Belfast, 1810.
- G. Thomson (Beethoven's accompaniments), 1814.
- Fitzsimons and John Smith, 1816.
- Hon. Geo. O'Callaghan with Stevenson, 1821–2.
- 'The Citizen' magazine, 1840.
- Horncastle, London, 1844.
- O'Daly, 'Poets and Poetry of Munster,' 1853.
- G. Petrie, in connection with the 'Society for the Preservation of Irish Music,' 1855. Of this valuable work but 1 vol. and part of a second appeared.
- Molloy, 1874.
- Joyce, 1875.
- Hoffmann, 1877.
Dance tunes only.
- R. M. Levey, 1858–78.
- P. Hughes, 1860.
Of these, few are reliable as authorities, save those of Petrie and Bunting, both honoured names in the annals of Irish music. It is to a Mr. Geo. Thomson, of the Trustees' Office, Edinburgh, who was much interested in national airs from 1792–1820, especially those of Scotland, and engaged Pleyel, Kozeluch, Haydn, Beethoven, Hummel, and Weber, as arrangers of them, that we owe the Irish music arranged by Beethoven between the years 1810 and 1819. Among 16 national airs, with variations, as duets for violin (or flute) and piano (op. 105, 107), are 3 Irish melodies—'The last rose' (a very incorrect version of the air), 'While History's Muse,' and 'O had we some bright little isle.' Although interesting in their way, these little works of Beethoven are very inferior to his Vocal Collections. Of these '12 Irish airs with accompaniments of piano, violin, and cello' (obbligato), were published in 1855 by Artaria & Co. of Vienna, as proprietors of Beethoven's MS. It is likely that Messrs. Power, owners of Moore's copyright lines, refused Mr. Thomson permission to publish them along with Beethoven's arrangements, for in the new edition of Breitkopf & Härtel, of which they form No. 258, the melodies are adapted to verses (some comic, and of extreme vulgarity) by Joanna Baillie and others; three are arranged as vocal duets; two have a choral refrain. Another collection of 25 Irish airs forms No. 261 of Breitkopf & Härtel's edition; they are arranged in similar form and are equal in excellence; some are found in Moore, others are of doubtful authenticity: of the air called 'Garryone,' Beethoven has different arrangements in each. That whoever furnished the great musician with the text of the airs must have been careless or incompetent, will be evident by a comparison of the air 'Colleen dhas,' as found in No. 9 of Artaria's edition, with that already given in this article: not only is the scale destroyed and the air deprived of its pathetic peculiarity, but whole strains are omitted altogether. (The air is here transposed for the sake of comparison.)
Some Irish airs among others arranged by Beethoven, appear in No. 259 of Breitkopf & Härtel's edition, and No. 262 consists of 20 of them alone.
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- Which, nevertheless, failed to move the heart of his royal master the king of Poland, who laughingly replied to the composer's request for an increase of salary—
'A little Finch (Fink) within its cage
Sings all the year, nor asks for wage.'