Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/299

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I

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

Purcell left no one behind him capable of raising the School to a higher level than it had already attained, or even of worthily supporting it at the point indicated by his own magnificent be- ginning. A period of decadence was, therefore, inevitable ; and no more successes were recorded, after his early death, in 1694, until an unex- pected importation of foreign talent so changed the aspect of affairs that the brightest triumphs of the past were forgotten in the anticipation of a still more splendid future.

XXV. Though THE ITALIAN SCHOOLS or THE i8TH CENTURY are most noticeable for the in- fluence they exercised upon the Opera Buffa, in the earlier stages of its development, they also witnessed a steady advance, in Serious Music of all kinds. In the Sacred Music of Leo and Feo, and still more in that of Marcello and Durante, we find the sober gravity of Carissimi and Alessandro Scarlatti clothed with a grace unknown to any of the Composers of the preced- ing century ; a happy union of the best qualities of the Monodic style with the stronger features of a modified system of Counterpoint, not alto- gether unlike that which was already preparing so great a future for Germany. Leo and Feo both pupils of Pitoni, one of the last survivors of the Polyphonic sera inclined most lovingly to the massive combinations which alone can invest a full Chorus with becoming dignity ; support- ing their Voice Parts by an Instrumental Ac- companiment, equally remarkable for the breadth of its conception, and the purity of its effect. Marcello, caring less for the sublime than the beautiful, engrafted upon the softer graces of the Venetian manner a polished ease entirety his own ; and, never losing sight of the calm sobriety of treatment without which good Sacred Music cannot exist, invented a style too refined, like that of Durante, to become ' old-fashioned,' even in our own day. 1 Nearly all these Composers, ex- cept Durante, wrote for the Theatre, as well as for the Church ; as did also their fellow-countrymen, Porpora, Domenico Scarlatti, Vinci, Jomelli, and many others of less celebrity ; and their united efforts gradually formed a style which found its way into many distant parts of Europe. Increased attention had long been given to the cultivation of the Voice ; and Airs, demanding powers of execution before unnecessary, were now expected, as a matter of course, not only in the Opera, but in the Oratorio. New Divisions were daily invented, for the purpose of exhibiting the dexterity of Singers, who vied with each other in their determination to overcome difficulties before unheard of. Arie di bravura a were gradu ally substituted for the more simple and declama tory Melodies of an earlier period. These Airs, however, were always well constructed, enriched by judiciously arranged Accompaniments, and often full of genuine dramatic fire, as may be seen in the following passage from a once famous but long forgotten example by Vinci.

i One of his melodies, from the 22nd Psalm, sounds perfectly in its place when used notatim by Rossini In his Overture to the 'Siege of Corinth.' a See vol. U. p. 510.

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION. 287

Allegro Andante.

���In an age which boasted sufficient facility of invention to produce such passages as these, and Singers capable of doing them justice, the step from Opera Seria to Opera Buffa was but a short one. It needed only the exuberant spirits of some bright Neapolitan Composer to strike out a new idea worth cultivating, and such a Composer was found in Logroscino. We have already mentioned the radical change effected in the constitution of the Lyric Drama by this talented writer's invention of the Concerted Finale. 8 To that, and to the transcendant genius of Pergolesi, and his successors, Galuppi, Sacchini, Piccinni, Paisiello, and Cimarosa, the Neapolitan and other Italian Schools owe the extraordinary excellence of their Opera Buffa. Equally guiltless of the triviality by which its foreign imitations have been degraded on the one hand, and the heaviness which has oppressed them on the other, the lighter forms of Italian Opera have never lost either the sprightly gaiety or the inde- scribable refinement imparted to them by the Masters who first showed the possibility of pre- senting Comedy, as well as Tragedy, in a Lyric dress : and hence it is that the true Opera Buffa, notwithstanding its extreme, and some- times extravagant lightness, still claims an ar- tistic status which cannot fairly be accorded to the Comic Operas produced in any country north of the Alps.

XXVI. In turning from the Italian to THE GERMAN SCHOOLS or THE iSin CENTURY, one cannot but' be struck by the strange contrasts presented in the history of Sacred Music in the two countries. With Leonardo Leo, the grand Italian style died out. Neither Durante, Per- golesi, nor Jomelli, made any attempt to culti- vate it; and the travesties of Guglielmi corre- spond too closely with the history of his life to conduce to the dignity of Sacred Art. The best period of the grand German style, on the con- trary, was, at this epoch, only just beginning to dawn. It originated, as we have seen, in the days of Michael Prsetorius, with a growing taste for Vocal Music with Instrumental Accompani- ment. The elder Bachs, and their contemporaries, took care that this did not degenerate into the

��3 See vol. 11. p. 514. One of the earliest known Instances of the Introduction of the Concerted Finale into Opera Seria occurs in FaisielloVPlrro.'

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