Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/290

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278 SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION".

XVII. A lony series of progressive triumphs is invariably followed, in the History of Art, by a period of fatal reaction. As a general rule, the seeds of corruption germinate so slowly that their effect is, at first, almost imperceptible. There are, however, exceptions to this law. In the Music Schools of Italy, the inevitable revolution was effected very swiftly. Scarcely had the grave closed over the mortal remains of Palestrina, before the principles upon which he founded his practice were laughed into obli- vion by a band of literary savants, themselves incapable of writing an artistic Bass to a Canto fermo. 1 The most eloquent, if not the earliest advocates of 'reform' were, Vincenzo Galilei, and Giovanni Battista Doni : but it was not to them that Polyphony owed its death-blow. The true Founder of THE SCHOOLS OF THE DECADENCE was Claudio Monteverde, in whose Madrigals the rule which forbids the use of Unprepared Discords in Strict Counterpoint was first openly disregarded. In the next division of our subject, ^e shall have occasion to describe this once cele- brated Composer as a genius of the highest order : but we cannot so speak, here, of the ruthless destroyer of a system which, after so many years of earnest striving for perfection, attained it, at last, in the Later Roman School. It was in building up a new School, on a new founda- tion, that Monteverde showed his greatness, not in his attempts to improve upon the praxis of the Polyphonic Composers. Without good Counter- point, good Polyphony cannot exist: and his Counterpoint, even before he boldly set its laws at defiance, was so defective, that the conclusion that he discarded it, in despair of ever satisfacto- rily mastering its difficulties, is inevitable. It is, indeed, much to be regretted that he did not give up the struggle at an earlier period, and devote to the advancement of Monodia the ener- gies, which, when brought to bear upon the work of his immediate predecessors, were pro- ductive of nothing but evil : for, however grate- fully we may welcome his contributions to the Lyric Drama, we cannot quite so cordially thank him for such attempts to 'rival the harmonies of midnight cats,' as the following passage from his 'Vesperae,' composed for the Cathedral of S. Mark a triumph of cacophony which the Prince of Venosa himself might justly have envied.

��i See MOXCDIA ; MO.NTEVEBDE ; MASS. vol. ii. p. 231.

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

In one country alone did the Period of the Decadence produce fruit worthy of preservation. Its effect upon Venetian Music is shown in these ' Vesperae.' In Rome, it formed so serious an hindrance to productive power, that it con- tributed absolutely nothing to the repertoire of the Pontifical Chapel. But, in England, it gave birth to the Glee, a form of Composition quite distinct from the German Part-Song, and of in- finitely higher interest ; and of so truly national a character, that it hns never, in one single instance, been produced in any other country than our own, or set to other than English words, for which reasons it is doubtful whether full justice could be done to it by any but English Singers. The true relation of the Glee to the older forms of Polyphony will be best un- derstood by comparing the latest English Madri- gals with the works of the earliest Glee writers ; using the Canzonets of such Composers as Dow- land and Ford, as connecting links between the productions of Weelkes, Bateson, and Morley, on the one hand, and those of Battishill, Stevens, and Cooke, on the other. This will show, that, notwithstanding the length of time interposed be- tween the two styles, and the consequent diverg- ence of their tonalities the use of the Antient Modes having died out with the Madrigal the newer form could by no possibility have come into existence except upon the ruins of the older one ; and it is strange that this last remnant of Polyphony should be found in the country which boasts the earliest specimen of the Art that has as yet been brought to light.

With this beautiful creation, the old regime came absolutely to an end: and it now remains for us to trace the rise and progress of the Monodic Schools.

XVIII. THE MONODIO SCHOOL OF FLORENCE presents one of the strangest anomalies to be found in the annals of Art ; inasmuch as it originated in no natural process of development, but owed its existence to a theory, which, though altogether wild and visionary in itself, led to re- sults both practical and enduring, and culminated in the invention of the Lyric Drama. 2 The Founders of the School were Peri and Caccini, with whom its first period expired. Its prin- ciples were so violently opposed to those by which alone the greatest Composers of the two preceding centuries had been guided, that we can only look upon it as an entirely new mani- festation of genius a new beginning, cut off, by an impassable gulf, from all that had previously existed. Its disciples, holding Counterpoint in undisguised contempt, substituted, in its place, a simple form of irregularly-constructed Melody, easy to sing, but stiff and unattractive to the last degree, and supported only by a Thorough- bass, as simple as itself, and, if possible, still more devoid of interest. This, as exemplified in the 'Nuove Musiche' of Caccini, and Peri's ' Euridice,' was a poor exchange, indeed, for the glories of Polyphony. But, the life and soul of the School lay in its declamatory power. By means

2 See vol. il. pp. 497500. Also. MONODIA, PEBI, OACCUH.

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