Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/162
��yearnings to escape from it, which pursued so many of the finest minds of the generations to which they belonged. To men thus predisposed, it was a relief and delight to live in an ideal world as remote as possible from the real one. Some took refuge in mediaeval legends, where no border divided the natural from the supernatural, where the transition from the one to the other was as delicate and yet as real as that in the passage quoted from Beethoven's Overture, and where nothing could be incongruous or im- probable ; some in the charms and solitudes of nature ; and others in the contemplation of peace and beatitude beyond the grave. But in all there was the same impatience of the material and mundane conditions of their existence, the same longing to dwell in the midst of scenes and images which mortals could but dimly see through the glass of religious or poetic imagination. As might have been expected of works produced under such influ- ences, indistinctness of outline was a common attribute of compositions of the romantic school. The hard, clear lines of reality were seldom met with in them, and the cold analysis of pure reason was perpetually eluded. It was equally natural that the creations of minds withdrawn from contact with the actual world and wrapt in the folds of their own fancies, should vividly reflect the moods and phases of feeling out of which they sprang that they should be, in short, intensely subjective. Nor was it sur- prising that when impatience of reality, indis- tinctness of outline, and excessive subjectivity co-existed, the pleasures of imagination sometimes took a morbid hue. Such conditions of origin as we have been describing could not fail to affect the forms of composition. It was not that the romanticists deliberately rejected or even undervalued classic models, but that, borne onward by the impulse to give free expression to their own individuality, they did not suffer themselves to be bound by forms, however excellent, which they felt to be inadequate for their purpose. Had the leaders of the romantic school been men of less genius, this tendency might have degene- rated into disregard of form ; but happily in them liberty did not beget license, and the art of music was enriched by the addition of new forms. 'The extremes,' says Goethe, speaking of the romantic school of literature, ' will disap- pear, and at length the great advantage will remain that a wider and more varied subject- matter, together with a freer form, will be attained.' Goethe's anticipations were equally applicable to music.
Among masters of the romantic school, Weber stands second to none. In youth he surrendered himself to the fascination of literary romanticism, and this early bias of his mind was confirmed in later years by constant intercourse at Dresden with Holtei, Tieck, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and other men of the same cast of thought. How ex- clusively the subjects of Weber's operas were selected from romantic literature, and how the 'Romantic Opera,' of which Germany has so
much reason to be proud, owed to him its origin and highest development, although the names of Spohr, 1 Marschner, Lindpaintner, and others are justly associated with it, are points on which we need not linger, as they are fully discussed in the article on OPERA. Neither is it necessary to repeat what has been said in the article on ORCHESTRATION of the romantic effects which Weber could produce in his instru- mentation. Never, even in the least of his pianoforte works, did he cease to be romantic.
Though Weber holds the first place in the opera of the romantic school, he was excelled in other branches of composition by his contem- porary, Franz Schubert. Pure and classic as was the form of Schubert's symphonies and sonatas, the very essence of romanticism is dis- closed in them by sudden transitions from one key to another (as in the first movement of the A minor Sonata, op. 143), and by the unexpected modulations in his exquisite harmony. That wealth of melody, in which he is perhaps with- out a rival, was the gift of romanticism. It gave him also a certain indefiniteness and, as it were, indivisibility of ideas, which some critics j have judged to be a failing, but which were in fact the secret of his strength, because they en- abled him to repeat and develope, to change and then again resume his beautiful motifs in long and rich progression, without pause and without satiety. None have known, as he knew, how to elicit almost human sounds from a single instru- ment as for instance, in the well-known passage for the horn in the second movement of the C major Symphony, of which Schumann said that
- it seems to have come to us from another world.'
Many glorious passages might be pointed out in this Symphony, the romanticism of which it would be difficult to surpass; for instance, the second subject in the first movement, the beginning of the working out in the Finale, etc. etc. And the complete success with which he produced entirely novel effects from the whole orchestra is the more astonishing when we remember that few of his orchestral works were ever performed in his lifetime. In ' Song ' Schu- bert stands alone, while Schumann and Robert Franz come nearest to him. Even from boyhood he had steeped his soul in romantic poetry ; and so expressive was the music of his songs that they required no words to reveal their deeply romantic character. Few were the thoughts or feelings which Schubert's genius was unable to express in music. 'He was' (to quote Schumann again) ' the deadly enemy of all Philistinism, and after Beethoven the greatest master who made music his vocation in the noblest sense of the word.'
Schumann's own enmity to Philistinism was not less deadly than that of Schubert, and -ro- manticism was its root in both men. So strongly did Schumann resent the popularity of Herz, Hunten, and other Philistines, whose works were in vogue about the year 1830, that he founded
i Spohr's-clahn to priority of invention of the Romantic opera Is discussed in OPERA, vo' "