Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/300

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238 SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

weakness inseparable from unrelieved Monodia. Bearing in mind the lessons imported from Venice by Hasler, they fully appreciated the grandeur of effect producible by the simulta- neous motion of a multiplicity of independent Parts; and having learned by experience the secret of accommodating that motion to the vary- ing character of the Instruments they employed, and of justly balancing against each other their masses of Vocal and Instrumental Harmony, they succeeded, within a very short space of time, in laying the foundations of a School the essential features of which have lasted to the present day.

Passing from the works of this transitional period to those produced but a very few years later, we find the more prominent features of the style exhibited, in fullest perfection, in the Com- positions of two writers who are sometimes erro- neously supposed to have invented it. Sebastian Bach, and Henrich Graun, having passed their infancy among the earlier Masters of this new Polyodic School, 1 had learned its secrets so thoroughly, that, on thei rarrival at an age which enabled them to think for themselves, they found no difficulty in turning them to such account as had never before been contemplated. Among these secrets were two, of greater importance than the rest, which seem simple enough, to us, though their development into fixed principles was a slow one.

(1) That Voices, supported by Instrumental Accompaniment, can sing many Intervals which cannot be safely entrusted to them without the aid of, at least, a Thorough-Bass.

(2) That there are, nevertheless, certain Inter- vals, which do not produce a good effect, without some kind of Instrumental Accompaniment, even though sung by Voices capable of taking them in tune, without adventitious aid.

No doubt, these two truisms as we should now call them had been impressed upon Seb. Bach's mind, from the days of his youth. At any rate, he made such good use of them, that the Diminished Fourth became as practicable and as plastic in his hands, as the Minor Sixth in those of Palestrina. His successors have ad- mitted their validity, also ; but not in an equal degree. No objection has ever been raised against the first law : but, neglect of the second has led to the manifest inferiority of the German Part- Song to the English Glee.

Seb. Bach wrote comparatively little Ssecular Music, of any kind, and none for the Theatre. Graun wrote many Operas, both German and

i The terms ' Polyodic' and 'Polyphonic.' though etymologically almost interchangeable, are not so in their technical sense. At the beginning of the present century, all Music, whether Vocal or Instru- mental, in which the Interest was not confined to a single Part, was called ' Polyodic.' The word 'Polyphonic' is of much more recent origin ; and is applied exclusively to Vocal Music, without Accom- paniment, written in Strict Counterpoint, in which the Melody Is equally distributed between all the Parts. No less important is the technical distinction between the terms 'Monodic' and 'Homo- phonic'; the former being correctly applicable only to Vocal, or Instrumental Music, in which the Melody is confined to a single Part ; and the latter, to Vocal Music, without Accompaniment, written In Strict Counterpoint of the First Order Note against Note. A care- ful use of the terms Homophonia, Polyphonia, Monodia, and Poly- odia, is a great desideratum in musical criticism.

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

Italian. Most of these were successful: but, long before his time, the German Opera had alread}' been established, on a firm basis, at Hamburg, by Reinhard Keiser, an account of whose work will be found at pp. 507-8 of our second volume, with some mention of that effected by Matthe- son, and other writers who flourished at the beginning of the century. After their disap- pearance, the farther development of Serious Opera in Germany depended almost entirely on the exertions of the indefatigable Graun ; for Hasse, though he was born in North Germany, and attained his high reputation in Dresden, was as much a disciple of the Neapolitan School as Durante, or Porpora ; while Gluck, though equally devoted to the Italian School in early life, achieved his greatest triumph in that of France. Meanwhile, a distinct School of Comic Opera was established, at Leipzig, by Adain Hiller; the originator of that peculiar form of ' Singspiel,' with spoken Dialogue, which repre- sents the German idea of the Musical Drama as distinctly as the 'Dramma per la musica' does the Italian. [Vol. ii. p. 519.]

And no less rich was the Germany of the i8th century in her Instrumental than in her Vocal Schools. The long line of Bachs handed down their victories over the difficulties of the Organ, from father to son, until Johann Sebastian played as no man had ever played before him, brought the Instrumental Fugue to a degree of perfection which has never since been equalled, and dowered, not only the Organ and Harpsichord, but many a Stringed and Wind Instrument also, to say nothing of the full Orchestra, with a whole library of Compositions, the worth of which has not even yet been fully appreciated. No man then living was able to compete on equal terms with the author of these stupendous works ; yet there was no dearth of gifted writers, whose readiness to build upon the foundation provided for them by his marvellous industry led to very important results. Johann Christian Bach carried on his father's work, in London, with earnestness, and success. Carl Philipp Emanuel followed it up, still more effectively, in Berlin, and Hamburg ; and, by his refined style of playing, no less than by his delightful Compositions, raised the repu- tation of his favourite Instrument, the Harpsi- chord, to very nearly the highest point it was destined to attain, before the career of the fine old Clavicembalo' was abruptly terminated by the irresistible attractions of the newly-invented Piano-Forte. And thus arose a style of Music, so well adapted to the capabilities of the Key- board, that we, with the Piano-forte within our reach, are thankful to return to it, and, wearied with the frivolities of a too facile execution, to refresh our ears with passages designed rather to please than to astonish.

XXVII. But, during the second half of the century, the remembrance of all these Masters was completely swept away by the rising fame of Haydn and Mozart two giants, who placed be- tween THE SCHOOL OF VIENNA and that of the Bachs a fathomless abyss which no amount of

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