Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/322

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310 SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

scenery of the North, and, in the Finale, to dream of its heroic Legends, with no assistance from the Composer beyond the suggestion of a fitting frame of mind, which we cannot mistake, but which, nevertheless, leaves our fancy unfettered. It is by this fixity of intention, rather than by any more material quality, that we must measure the true value of Cowen's works, which, already very numerous, will, we trust, continue to mul- tiply and advance. 1

Hubert Parry, pursuing the path least likely to lead to evanescent popularity, has published a Pianoforte Trio in E minor, some Sonatas 2 full of earnest thought, and a Grand Duo for two Piano- fortes, in which the twin Instruments are made to ' play up to each other ' by means of a very much greater amount of ingenious Part-writing than one generally expects to find in Composi- tions of this class, while the well-marked character of the Subjects employed enhances its interest as a contribution to our store of advanced Pianoforte Music. He has also written an Overture, a Piano- forte Concerto, and other pieces, which, though several times performed in London, remain still in MS.

Of the works of Henry Smart, Walter Macfar- ren, Hat ton, Goss, Ouseley, Leslie whose Sym- phony in D, entitled ' Chivalry,' has lately been successfully performed and a score of other Composers of the day, we would gladly speak in detail did our space permit. Our object, how- ever, is not to call attention to the productions of individual writers, however excellent and in- teresting they may be in themselves; but, to show, by reference to actual facts, the present position of our English School, as compared with the Schools of other countries. We have proved that its descent is as pure as that of any School in Europe : that we can trace back its pedigree, link by link, from its living representatives, through Sterndale Bennett, Horn, Bishop, Dib- din, Arne, Boyce, Purcell, and the School of the Restoration, to the Polyphonic Composers, Gib- bons, Tallis, Byrd, Whyte, Tye, Edwardes, Fayr- fax, and John of Dunstable, and back, through these, to the oldest Composer of whom the world has any record, that John of Fornsete to whom we owe the most antient example of Polyphonic Composition yet discovered. We have shown and shall presently show more plainly still that, at the present moment, it is more active than it has ever been before ; doing excellent work ; and giving rich promise for the future. There has never been a time at which English Com- posers have more faithfully fulfilled the trust committed to them than now. They have con- ducted us, step by step, to a very high position indeed. We shall be cowards, if we recede from it. In order to prevent such a disaster, we have only to bear the work of our forefathers in mind ; and, so long as this is healthily remembered, we need entertain but little dread of retrogression.

XXXV. Is retrogression then possible, in THE SCHOOLS OP THE FUTURE, after the wonderful advances that have already been made ?

i For list, see vol. i. p. 413. 2 For list, see vol. II. p. 651.

��SCHOOLS OF COMPOSITION.

Undoubtedly it is. By hard work, and con- tinued perseverance, we may postpone its advent to an indefinite date. But, sooner or later, it will certainly come upon us. If the History of Art prove nothing else, it most certainly will never cease to prove this, to the end of time : and we have written to small purpose, if we have failed to establish the fact. After more than two centuries of steady progress, Polyphony attained perfection, in the School of Palestrina ; and, within fifty years after his death, became a thing of the past. In the fourth half-century of its existence, the Monodic School received, at the hands of Rossini, so notable an infusion of German power, that, in its later phases, its essential prin- ciples, scarcely less dead than those of Polyphony, are barely recognisable. Not only have the Poly- odic Schools of Handel and Bach languished, for lack of disciples ; but it is even doubtful whether any Composer of the present day would care to make common cause with them, if he could. The same thing has happened in the case of every direct manifestation of a special form of Art. Is the School of Beethoven which has served, more or less, as the basis of all the best work done during the last fifty years condemned to suffer with the rest? It must so suffer, or contradict the experience of all past history. The question is, not whether it is doomed to extinc- tion for of that we are firmly assured but, whether it has already reached its culminating point. Is room still left for greater work than any that has as yet been accomplished in this direction ? If so, we may hope, that, sooner or later, a Master will arise among us, great enough to accomplish it. If not, the period of decadence cannot be very far distant : for, no School can exist, for any length of time, upon a dead level. If it be not progressing towards greater things, it must be dying out ; and the sooner some new manifestation of genius supersedes it, the better. Let us try to cast aside all prejudice, in either direction ; and dispassionately weigh our chance of advancement on the old lines against that of the discovery of a new path.

The most sanguine believer in progress will scarcely venture to assert that the labours of the last fifty years have effected any improvement in the Symphony, the Quartet, or the Sonata. Yet, the average efficiency of Instrumentalists, of all kinds, and in all countries, is probably greater, at this moment, than it has ever been before. Setting aside Pagamni, as an exceptional phenomenon, rather than a Classical Virtuoso, no greater Violinist than Joachim has ever lived ; nor, bearing his great Concerto and other im- portant works in mind, can we speak lightly of him as a Composer. Except for his unrivalled powers, which admit of no comparison with those of any other Artist, there are many others whom we should thankfully place in the highest rank of all ; and who really are second to him alone. It is doubtful whether the Violoncello was ever played as it is now played by Piatti ; and those who do not remember Dragonetti will be quite prepared to believe the same of Bottesini and

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