Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/292

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


280 SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

��> etc.

��Scarcely less talented than Scarlatti himself was Francesco de' Kossi, aCanon of Bari,whose Operas, 'II Sejano moderno della Tracia,' 'Clorilda,' ' La pena degl' occhi,' and 'Mitrane,' met with great success, in the latter half of the I7th century. ' Mitrane' contains a Scena, 'Ah, rendimi quel core,' far in advance of its age, and even now a great favourite with Contralto Singers equal to its demands. 1 Fr. de' Rossi also wrote much excellent Sacred Music ; though, in this he was excelled by Alessandro Stradella, who was cer- tainly a Neapolitan by birth, if not by residence. 2 The earnest labours of these able men prepared the way for still greater work in the future. Not only were Artists alive to the importance of the Musical Drama ; but, the people themselves were taught to love it, until it became as dear to them as the fun of the Carnival. And when, in later years, a race of Composers arose, who appealed directly to their sympathies, the Sovereignty of Art was gradually transferred from Venice to Naples, which, in the next century, became a more important centre of production than the City of the Doges.

XXII. The services rendered to the cause of Art by the Polyphonic Schools of Germany seem very poor indeed, compared with the work wrought, at a later period, in her Schools of In- strumental Music, which speedily rose to emin- ence, after the death of Hans Leo Hasler, of whose long-felt influence we have already spoken in Section XIII of the present Article.

The most noticeable feature in THE GERMAN SCHOOLS OF THE I7TH CENTURY was the great prominence given to the Organ, in all their pro- ductions. After the Reformation, the Choral was always supported by an Organ Accom- paniment ; and the mechanism of the Instrument attained, in Germany, a degree of perfection else- where unknown, except perhaps in Venice. But the Organ was not employed alone. The ' Syn- tagma musicum ' of Michael Praetorius, printed in 161 2-18, contains descriptions, and engravings, of

  • all manner of Instruments ' in common use at

the time it was written ; and thus throws much valuable light, not only upon the progress of Instrumental Music among the author's own countrymen, but, upon the Orchestras employed by the Composers of the Monodic School in Italy. Praetorius himself was an ardent sup- porter of the rising School, and enriched it with A long list of Compositions, most of which are now utterly unknown ; partly, no doubt, on ac- count of the extreme rarity of the original

See SCENA, IV, vol. iii. p. 240.

2 See vol. ii. pp. 504-505, and 537-538.

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

editions, which have never been reprinted ; but more, it is to be feared, because critical writers, even in Germany, have been too much blinded by the splendid achievements of Graun, and the Bach family, to give due attention to the period which prepared the way even for Seb. Bach himself. Yet, the annals of this period account for facts in the history of to-day, which, without their help, would be inexplicable. It has long been assumed that Melody and Har- mony, form the distinguishing characteristics of Italian and German Music, respectively ; and, that this circumstance is to be accounted for by the light and careless nature of the Italians, and the studious habits of the Germans. There may be a certain amount of surface truth involved in the idea : but we, who live in the century which produced an Italian Baini, and a German Offen- bach both types of tolerably large classes can scarcely be persuaded to receive it uncondition- ally. The difference between German and Italian Music is traceable, step by step, to a far more definite and satisfactory origin than this. In- toxicated with the prejudices of the Renaissance, the leaders of the Florentine Monodic School held Counterpoint in equal hatred and contempt ; not from any logical objection to its laws which they never troubled themselves to learn but, because the Art was unknown to Classical Antiquity They therefore determined to reject, entirely, the experience of the Masters who preceded them, and to build their style upon a new foun- dation, which demanded nothing beyond a Melody, more or less expressive, supported by a more or less simple Accompaniment ; and this principle has been accepted, as the basis of the Italian style, from their day to ours. But, no such principle was ever accepted in Germany. The lithe motion of Hasler's contrapuntal invo- lutions was as much appreciated, in Vienna, as in Nuremberg : and, when the progress of Instru- mental Music demanded still greater freedom, the laws of Counterpoint were modified to suit the exigencies of the occasion ; the antient Modes were abandoned in favour of more modern tonal- ities ; and just so much innovation as was found absolutely necessary was freely permitted, while everything in the older system not essentially incompatible with the change of circumstances was thankfully retained, not from respect for its antiquity, but from sincere conviction of its last- ing value. Unlike Peri, and Monteverde, the German Masters destroyed nothing. They were content to work on, upon the old foundations ; in- troducing, from time to time, whatever changes the spirit of the age dictated, and wholly undis- turbed by that visionary restoration of Hellenic Tragedy which formed the mainspring of the Italian revolution. And thus it happened, that the Strict Counterpoint of the i6th century gave place to the modern system of Part- writing, which has, ever since, formed the true strength, not only of every German School, but every German Com- poser, from Bach to Brahms ; while, by confining its attention entirely to Melody, thepedantry of the Renaissance gave birth, in Italy, to another style,

�� �