Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/424

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412

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��touches and most covert suggestions in the poems which he chose for setting, and selected the musical expression best fitted to their purport. Schubert and Mendelssohn set verses to tunes, Schumann wrote poems to them in music. He was the first who ventured to close on the dominant seventh when his text ended with a query (as in op. 49, no. 3). With him also the vocal part often does not end on the com- mon chord, but the true close is left to the accompaniment, so as to give an effect of vague and undefined feeling. The part filled by the pianoforte in Schumann's songs is a very im- portant one. With Schubert and Mendelssohn we may very properly speak of the pianoforte part as an 'accompaniment,' however rich and independent it occasionally appears. But with Schumann the word is no longer appropriate, the pianoforte asserts its dignity and equality with the voice ; to perform his songs satisfactorily the player must enter fully into the singer's part and the singer into the player's, and they must constantly supplement and fulfil each other. It was evidently of moment in the history of his art that Schumann should have come to the work of writing songs after ten years' experience as a composer for the pianoforte, and after institut- ing an entirely new style of pianoforte music. This style supplied him with an immense variety of delicate and poetic modes and shades of expres- sion, and it is owing to this that he displays such constant novelty in his treatment of the pianoforte part. The forms of phrase which he adopts in his ' accompaniments ' are infinitely various, and always correspond with perfect fitness and in- genuity to the character of the verses. In some cases the pianoforte part is an entirely independent composition, which the voice merely follows with a few declamatory phrases (op. 48, no. 9, ' Das ist ein Floten und Geigen ') ; while in others, in contrast to this, the voice stands almost alone, and the pianoforte begins by throwing in a few soft chords which nevertheless have their due characteristic effect (op. 48, no. 13, <Ich hab' im Traum'). In Schumann's songs the proper function of the pianoforte is to reveal some deep and secret meaning which it is beyond the power of words, even of sung words, to express ; and he always disliked and avoided those repetitions of the words of which other composers have availed themselves in order to fill out in the music the feeling to which the words give rise. When he does repeat he always seems to have a special dramatic end in view rather than a musical one, and often makes the piano supplement the sentiment aroused by the text, while the voice is silent. He is particularly strong in his final sym- phonies, to which he gave a value and import- ance, as an integral portion of the song, which no one before him had ventured to do, often assigning to it a new and independent musical thought of its own. Sometimes he allows the general feeling of the song to reappear in it under quite a new light ; sometimes the musical phrase suggests some final outcome of the words, opening to the fancy a remote perspective in

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which sight is lost (a beautiful example is op. 48, no. 1 6, * Die alten bosen Lieder '). Nay he even continues the poem in music ; of which a striking instance is the close of the 'Frauenliebe und Leben' (op. 42), where by repeating the music of the first song he revives in the fancy of the lonely widow the memory of her early happiness. The realm of feeling revealed to us in Schumann's songs is thoroughly youthful, an unfailing mark of the true lyric ; the sentiment he principally deals with is that of love, which in his hands is especially tender and pure, almost maidenly coy. The set of songs called ' Frauenliebe und Leben' the Love and Life of Woman gives us a deep insight into the most subtle and secret emotions of a pure woman's soul, deeper indeed than could have been expected from any man, and in fact no composer but Schumann would have been capable of it. The author of the words, A. von Chamisso, elegant as his verses are, lags far behind the composer in his rendering. But indeed such depths of feeling can be sounded by music alone.

Schumann also found musical equivalents and shades of colour for Eichendorff 's mystical views of nature; his settings of Eichendorff" s poems may be called absolutely classical, and he is equally at home in dealing with the bubbling freshness or the chivalrous sentiment of the poet. Many of Schumann's fresh and sparkling songs have a touch of the student's joviality, but with- out descending from their high distinction ; never under any circumstances was he trivial. Indeed he had no sympathy with the farcical, though his talent for the humorous is amply proved by his songs. A masterpiece of the kind is the setting of Heine's poem ' Ein Jungling liebt ein Madchen' (op. 48, no. ll), which has been very unneces- sarily objected to. It was principally in dealing with Heine's words that he betrays this sense of humour ; ' Wir sassen am Fischerhause ' (op. 45, no. 3) is an example, and still more ' Es leuchtet meine Liebe' (op. 127, no. 3), where a resem- blance to the scherzo of the A minor String Quartet is very obvious. A thing which may well excite astonishment as apparently quite beside the nature of Schumann's character, is that he could even find characteristic music for Heine's bitterest irony (op. 24, no. 6) ' Warte, warte, wilder Schiffsmann.' But he was through- out and above all romantic.

Schumann's Symphonies may without any injustice be considered as the most important which have been written since Beethoven. Though Mendelssohn excels him in regularity of form, and though Schubert's C major Symphony is quite unique in its wealth of beautiful musical ideas, yet Schumann surpasses both in greatness and force. He is the man, they the youths ; he has the greatest amount of what is demanded by that greatest, most mature, and most important of all forms of instrumental music. He comes near to Beethoven, who it is quite evident was almost the only composer that he ever took as a model. No trace whatever of Haydn or Mozart is to be found in his symphonies, and of Men-

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