Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/311

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SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

necessity of Dramatic Music ; and, that all minor considerations must be sacrificed to it. For this principle Peri fought the Madrigal ists, whose true place was clearly not on the Stage. Through his hearty recognition of this, Monteverde became the most popular Composer in Italy. For the sake of re-habilitating this, Gluck forsook his own people, and taught the Parisians what an Opera ought to be. Truly, the considerations these great men were ready to sacrifice were no mean ones. The Italians immolated Polyphony ; while Gluck risked the reputation of a life-time, by spurning the popular demand for an Opera, in the guise of a Concert of detached and inconsequent Songs. But, even Gluck was not prepared to sacrifice everything. We have already shown that he was not prepared to sacrifice Euphony. 1 Nor was he willing to dispense with definite form except when definite form was manifestly out of place. The dullest hearer must have felt that it was lamentably out of place, when, as in the Operas of Hasse, the Action of the Drama was brought to a dead-lock, in order that its hero might amuse his audience with a brilliant Rondo. But, we cannot feel much respect for critics who tell us that the Action of * Le Nozze di Figaro ' is stopped by ' Non piu andrai,' or that of 'II Don Giovanni,' by 'La ci darem.' It is precisely because such pieces as these carry on the Action of the Drama so delightfully, that they produce so much more effect on the Stage than in the Concert-Room : and, in the case of ' Non piu andi ai,' the Rondo form adds immensely to the dramatic interest of the Song. Why, then, eliminate the Rondo form, after Mozart has shown how much can be done with it ? Why not rather try to write Rondos as good, as beau- tiful, and as dramatic, as his ? We know one man who could write a Rondo worthy to live for ever, if only he chose to throw his heart into the task ; and, unless the experience of all history lies to us, that man will be lovingly remembered, by Senta's Ballad, 'Traft ihr das Sch iff/ ages after his Operas have ceased to be performed in their entirety. If evil combinations, and unconnected arguments, and a weary waste of interminable Recitative, be really necessary to the existence of Dramatic Music so necessary, that genius capable of delighting us with pleasant Harmony, and structural symmetry, and Melodies of acknowledged beauty, must needs deny us these luxuries, in order that the Lyric Drama may rest upon a philosophical basis there are not a few among us quite ready to vote for the retention of the luxuries, even at the cost of leaving the Lyric Dramain the condition to which Mozart and Weber reduced it. Granted that the combinations are not always evil, the argument not always un- connected, the Recitative not always dreary, nor always unrelieved by tuneful episodes and delicious Instrumentation ; still, there must be something radically wrong in a system which admits the introduction of deformity, under any circumstances whatever. Now, deformity the natural antithesis of shapeliness can and often

1 See p. 290 a.

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION. 290

does, co-exist with perfect beauty of constituent parts. Whether these parts be, in themselves, ugly, or beautiful, if they be not fitly joined together, they unite to form a monster. It is only when artistically arranged, that euphonious words are transformed into Poetry, or radiant colours into Painting. We have been told, of late years, that this law does not apply to Music, which must not be clothed in the frigid formality peculiar to the Plastic Arts ; but this reasoning is false, and would degrade Music to the level of a mere sensual enjoyment. If Music is to reach the intellect, it needs the evidence of a pre- conceived and carefully-considered design. The symmetrical form of the Eroica Symphony is as necessary to its perfection, as a work of Art intended to appeal to the understanding through the medium of the ear, as the curves of the Venus of Milo are, to one intended to speak to it through the medium of the eye. Without its curves, the statue would be a shapeless block of marble. Without its plan, the Symphony would be a chain of meaningless Chords. And what is true of the Symphony, is true of all other kinds of Music. If it could really be demonstrated that Music, addressed to the intellect by means of the logical development of a well-considered thesis, was antagonistic to the progress of the Lyric Drama, the demonstration would amount to a positive proof that Music and the Drama were incompatible existences ; and, this once proved, all subsequent attempts to present them in combination would savour, not merely of aesthetic inconsistency, but of treason to Art itself. Some critics, denying the charge of in- consistency, affirm that the antagonism of which they complain is incontestable. But it is not so. Neither in Instrumental nor Dramatic Music is symmetry incompatible with expression. We need not go back to the classical age, for proofs of so manifest a truism ; for, some of the ablest living Composers are proving it, every day. Brahms and Raff are not the only writers who have found full freedom for the inner life of the Imaginative and Romantic Schools, within the limits of strict symphonic propriety. MaxBruch has even gone beyond them, in the same direction. In his Violin Concerto in G minor, dedicated to Joachim, he discusses his Subjects so thoroughly, and with such minute attention to their bearing upon the general design, that his Movements stand forth as a living protest against the crippled invention which mistakes the transposition of some eight or ten inconsequent notes, into so many incongruous keys, for a well ordered and interesting construction. Yet, no one who ha listened to the first two pages of the introductory Allegro will deny its imaginative power. In the domain of Dramatic Music, Bruch manifests as in his Scenic Cantata, ' Odysseus' a closer and more genuine sympathy with the canons laid down by Gluck, than we find in the works of many writers who profess to look upon Gluck himself as a beginner. All that Gluck has claimed, in connection with the Stage, Bruch has here used, apart from it ; and, so well that

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