Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/374

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362

��SCHUBERT.

��a new composer. The writer is evidently writ- ing because what he has to say must come out, even though he may occasionally couch it in the phrases of his predecessors. Beauty and pro- fusion of melody reign throughout. The tone is often plaintive but never obscure, and there is always the irrepressible gaiety of youth and of Schubert's own Viennese nature, ready and will- ing to burst forth. His treatment of particular instruments, especially the wind, is already quite his own a happy conversational way which at a later period becomes highly characteristic. At length, in the B minor Symphony (Oct. 30, 1822), we meet with something which never existed in the world before in orchestral music a new class of thoughts and a new mode of expression which distinguish him entirely from his prede- cessors, characteristics which are fully maintained in the Rosamunde music (Christmas 1823), and culminate in the great C major Symphony (March 1828).

The same general remarks apply to the other instrumental compositions the quartets and PF. sonatas. These often show a close adherence to the style of the old school, but are always effective and individual, and occasionally, like the symphonies, varied by original and charming movements, as the Trio in the Eb Quartet, or the Minuet and Trio in the E major one (op. 125, i and 2), the Sonata in A minor (1817) etc. The visit to Zele'sz in 1824, with its Hungarian experiences, and the pianoforte proclivities of the Esterhazys, seems to have given him a new im- petus in the direction of chamber music. It was the immediate or proximate cause of the ' Grand Duo' that splendid work in which, with Bee- thoven in his eye, Schubert was never more him- self and the Divertissement a la hongroise ; as well as the beautiful and intensely personal String Quartet in A minor, which has been not wrongly said to be the most characteristic work of any composer ; ultimately also of the D minor and G major Quartets, the String Quintet in C, and the three last Sonatas, in all of which the Hungarian element is strongly perceptible all the more strongly because we hardly detect it at all in the songs and vocal works.

Here then, at 1822 in the orchestral works, and 1824 in the chamber music, we may perhaps draw the line between Schubert's mature and imma- ture compositions. The step from the Symphony in C of 1818 to the Unfinished Symphony in B minor, or to the Rosamunde Entracte in the same key, is quite as great as Beethoven's was from No. 2 to the Eroica, or Mendelssohn's from the C minor to the Italian Symphony. All trace of his predecessors is gone, and he stands alone in his own undisguised and pervading personality. All trace of his youth has gone too. Life has become serious, nay cruel; and a deep earnest- ness and pathos animate all his utterances. Simi- larly in the chamber-music, the Octet stands on the line, and all the works which have made their position and are acknowledged as great are on this side of it the Grand Duo, the Diver- tissement Hongroise, the PF. Sonatas in A minor,

��SCHUBERT.

D, and Bb, the Fantasie-Sonata in G ; the Im- promptus and Momens musicals ; the String Quartets in A minor, D minor, and G ; the String Quintet in C ; the Rondo brillant, in short, all the works which the world thinks of when it mentions 'Schubert' (we are speaking now of instrumental music only) are on this side of 1822. On the other side of the line, in both cases, or- chestra and chamber, are a vast number of works full of beauty, interest, and life ; breathing youth in every bar, absolute Schubert in many move- ments or passages, but not completely saturated with him, not of sufficiently independent power to assert their rank with the others, or to com- pensate for the diffuseness and repetition which remained characteristics of their author to the last, but which in the later works are hidden or atoned for by the astonishing force, beauty, romance, and personality inherent in the contents of the music. These early works will always be more than interesting ; and no lover of Schubert but must regard them with the strong affection and fascination which his followers feel for every bar he wrote. But the judgment of the world at large will probably always remain what it now is. He was, as Liszt so finely l said, ' le musicien le plus po&te quejamais' the most poetical mu- sician that ever was ; and the main character- istics of his music will always be its vivid per- sonality, fullness, and poetry. In the case of other great composers, the mechanical skill and ingenuity, the very ease and absence of effort with which many of their effects are produced, or their pieces constructed, is a great element in the pleasure produced by their music. Not so- with Schubert. In listening to him one is never betrayed into exclaiming ' how clever ! ' but very often ' how poetical, how beautiful, how intensely Schubert ! ' The impression produced by his great works is that the means are nothing and the effect everything. Not that he had no technical skill. Counterpoint he was deficient in, but the power of writing whatever he wanted he had absolutely at his fingers' end. No one had ever written more, and the notation of his ideas must have been done without an effort. In the words of Mr. Macfarren, 2 ' the committing his works to paper was a process that accompanied their com- position like the writing of an ordinary letter that is indited at the very paper.' In fact we know, if we had not the manuscripts to prove it, that he wrote with the greatest ease and rapidity, and could keep up a conversation, not only while writing down but while inventing his best works ; that he never hesitated ; very rarely revised it would often have been better if he had ; and never seems to have aimed at making innovations or doing things for effect. For instance, in the number and arrangement of the movements, his symphonies and sonatas never depart from the regular Haydn pattern . They rarely show aesthetic artifices, such as quoting the theme of one move- ment in another movement, or running them into each other ; changing their order, or introducing

1 Liszt's worst enemies will pardon him much for this sentence.

2 Philharmonic programme, May 22, 1871.

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