Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/303

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


�SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

posed for the Duke of Chandos in 1720 and 1721, we should feel inclined to say that it had reached its full perfection, but for the still greater degree of sublimity attained in ' Deborah,' in 1733. After this, Handel's genius never flagged. Though his works succeeded each other with astonishing rapidity, no weakness or haste was perceptible in any of them : and, in all his Oratorios, Odes, Anthems, and other choral works, with English words, this massive style was used as the basis of everything. It dif- fered from the method of Seb. Bach, in many essential particulars ; and may easily be distin- guished from that of synchronous Masters by its stupendous breadth, and its scrupulous avoid- ance of harsh collisions. Its grandest effects are almost always produced when the means used seem the most simple: for Handel never wrote a multitude of notes when a few would answer his purpose. And hence it is that his Music bears, towards the greatest monuments of German Art, a relation not unlike that which Lord Prudhoe's Lions bear to those in Trafalgar Square a single touch, in the one, producing the effect which, in the other, cost fifty. Yet the touches were never rough. No less conspicuous than their strength was their unbroken Wohl- Iclang their never-failing pleasantness of sound. Even throughout the part of Polyphemus and, surely, we may look upon that as an extreme case the actual progressions are as smooth as Art can make them; and produce their effect, without the aid of that strange power of draw- ing Harmony out of Discord which forms so prominent a feature in the method of Seb. Bach. It is to the joint effect of this perfect Harmony and gigantic scale, that the style owes the recog- nition it has so long commanded. It is certain that our great-great-grandfathers liked it; and it says much for the audiences of the 1 8th century, that they were able to take pleasure in the un- adorned sublimity of many a grand conception, which can only be made endurable to the general public in the iQth, by the aid of a Regimental Band. 1 No School can possibly be formed, where there are no willing listeners : and, in this case, the genius of the Founder met its complement in the appreciative power of the audiences that gathered around him, at the King's Theatre, and Vauxhall, and the Chapel of the Foundling Hospital. But, as with Lulli in France, so it was with Handel in England. The School died out with the Master. Arne was in earnest, and did his best : yet, how could a man of ordinary stature carry on the work of a giant ? Arnold and the Hayes family were pigmies, even compared with Arne. There was no one else to take the lead in Sacred Music : but the Opera was not altogether neg- lected. In the hands of Storace, Dibdin, Hook,

��> When, during the latter half of the century, some few of Handel'i works were produced at Vienna, it was with Mozart's 'Additional Accompaniments.' Still, it must not be forgotten that these Ac- ompanlments were written under the pressure of a real necessity. There was 113 Organ in the Orchestra; and it was absolutely indis- pensable that the Harmonies should be supported by some Instru- ment possessing both greater volume of tone, and greater sustaining power, than the Pianoforte.

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION. 291

and Shield four talented Composers, whose fresh and graceful Melodies earned for them a vast popularity it assumed a form quite different from that practised in any Continental School, yet by no means destitute of merits. Encumbered with a superfluity of spoken Dialogue, in which nearly the whole of the action was carried on, it contented itself with an artistic status far below that of the German ' Singspiel,' or the French 'Ope'ra Comique': but it yielded to neither in the spontaneity of its conception ; and, if it fell beneath them in breadth of design, it was their equal in freshness of idea and geniality of treat- ment. Its Melodies were essentially English : so much so, that we still cherish many of them, as the happiest and most expressive Ballads we possess. But its one great fault was the almost total absence of dramatic power. Where this is wanting, the Lyric Drama can never achieve real greatness : and, that it was wanting here, must be evident to all who study the period. But for this, it is probable that the School we are describing might have led to something very much better. As it is, it has passed away for ever.

We have dwelt thus long upon the history of the 1 8th century, because it was aa much the 'Golden Age' of Modern Music as the i6th was of Polyphony. It witnessed the early efforts of all the greatest of the Great Masters the bluest blood of Art with one exception only ; and the culminating point in the career of all but two. Its records are those of the brightest triumphs of the later development. No new principles have been discovered since its close ; no new types de- vised; and no new form of expression, save that of ' Romanticism,' conceived. The work of the 1 9th century has been the fuller illustration of truths set forth in the i8th. That work is still in pro- gress ; and we have now to consider its influence upon a few of the leading Schools of Europe.

XXX. One great name connects itself so closely with THE GERM AN SCHOOLS OP THE I9TH CENTURY, and exercises so lordly a dominion over them, that, like the Jupiter of the system, it makes us forget the size of inferior Planets, by the immensity of its own huge mass. Let us try to put away from us all thought of hero-worship, and, with all possible fairness to later authors, consider, not Beethoven's own merits, but his influence upon the School he founded. We shall be able to do this the more satisfactorily, if we go back one generation, and enquire what in- fluence the preceding School had upon him.

Beginners, who find some difficulty in correct- ing Consecutive Fifths, and still more in detect- ing their presence, are never weary of parading Beethoven's 'contempt for rules,' in justification of their own ignorance of the first principles of Art. Yet we possess, even now, no less than 245 of his exercises, written, under Haydn's guidance, 8 on Fux's 'Gradus ad Parnassum,' besides 263, written on Albrechtsberger's ' An- weisung zur Composition,' under the super-

J Many of theae Exercises are written In the old Ecclesiastical Modes, upon the study of which it is clear that Haydn insisted, no less strongly than Fux.

U2

�� �