Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/431

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SCHUMANN.

weakens the effect of the climaxes, and with them, that of the whole. As in the formation of the libretto Schumann took 'Euryanthe' as his model, so, as a musician, he intended to carry out Weber's intentions still farther, and to write, not an opera in the old-fashioned ordinary sense, but a music-drama, which should be purely national. At the time when ' Genoveva' was written, lie was utterly opposed to Italian music, not in the way we should have expected him to be, but exactly as Weber was opposed to it in his time. 'Let me alone with your canary-bird music and your tunes out of the waste-paper basket,' he once said angrily to Weber's son, who was speaking to him of Cimarosa's 'MatrimonioSegreto.' But although he may not have succeeded in pro- ducing a masterpiece of German opera, we may appreciate with gratitude the many beauties of the music, the noble sentiment pervading the whole, and the constant artistic feeling, directed only to what is true and genuine. After the experiments of the last ten years in Germany, it seems not unlikely that ' Genoveva ' will yet attain to a settled position on the stage. And well does it deserve this place. The finest part of the work is the overture, a masterpiece in its kind, and worthy to rank with the classical models.

The music to Byron's 'Manfred' (op. 115) con- sists of an overture, an entr'acte, melodramas, and several solos and choruses. Byron expressly de- sired the assistance of music for his work, though not so much of it as Schumann has given. Schu- mann inserted all the instrumental pieces in the work, with the exception of the tunes on the shep- herd's pipe in the first act ; also the requiem heard at Manfred's death, sounding from the convent church . On the other hand, it is remarkable that he left the song of 'The captive usurper' in Act ii. Scene iv. without music. The whole work consists of 1 6 numbers, including the overture ; this Schu- mann composed first of all, and probably without intending to write music for the drama itself. Even here he does not evince any special gift for drama- tic writing. In the present day Byron's drama is frequently performed upon the stage with Schu- mann's music, and its effectiveness can thus be tested. The music hardly ever serves to intensify the dramatic effects, and yet this is all that is necessary in a drama. It appears rather to be the outcome of the impression produced on Schu- mann by Byron's poem. There is one peculiarity about the Manfred music. On the stage it loses a great part of its effect, just as, in my opinion, the poem loses half its fantastic and weird magic by being dressed in the clumsy and palpable illusions of a scenic representation. The over- ture is a piece of music of the most serious cha- racter, and much more fitted for concert per- formance than for assembling an audience in a theatre. This is still more true of all the other pieces, so delicate in construction and subtle in feeling, the closing requiem by no means ex- cluded. And yet in the concert-room the music does not make its due effect ; partly because the hearer is withdrawn from the influence of the action, which is indispensable to the full under-

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��standing of the whole work ; and also because in the melodramas the spoken words and the music which accompanies them disturb one another more than when performed on the stage. From these remarks it might be imagined that the Manfred music is an inferior work ; but strange to say such is by no means the case. It is a splendid creation, and one of Schumann's most inspired productions. It hovers between the stage and the concert-room ; and, paradoxical as it may seem, the deepest impression is produced by reading the score, picturing in one's mind the action and the spoken dialogue, and allowing the music to sink deep into the ears of one's mind. Perhaps the most striking parts of it all are the melodramas, and among them the deeply touching speech of Manfred to Astarte ; and these all stand out with a peculiar purity and unity, when read as just described. They are in a manner improvements upon those highly poetic piano pieces of Schumann's with superscriptions ; and we ought to think of the words when hearing the piece. In this music, if nowhere else, is revealed Schumann's character- istic struggle after the inward, to the disregard of the outward, and we see how diametrically opposed to his nature was the realisation of dramatic effects where all is put into visible and tangible form. But he devoted himself to the composition of the Manfred music just as if he had been fitted for it by nature. The poet and the composer seem to have been des- tined for one another as truly as in the case of the Faust music, but in a different way. Byron had no idea of stage representation in writing Manfred ; he only wished his poem to be read. Its romantic sublimity of thought, spurning all firm foothold or support on the earth, could only find its due completion in music such as this, which satisfies the requirements of neither stage nor concert -room. That a work of art, mighty and instinct with life, can be produced with a sublime disdain of all limits set by circumstance, provided only genius is at work upon it, is amply proved by Byron and Schumann in this their joint production. It has been already remarked more than once that the gloomy, melancholy, and passionate intensity of strife in Byron's Manfred, heightened by contrast with the splendid descrip- tions of nature, corresponded to the conditions of Schumann's spirit at the time when the music was written. And indeed a deep sympathy speaks in every bar. But there was in Schumann a long- ing for peace and reconciliation, which is wanting in Byron. This comes out very plainly in different passages in the music, of which the most striking is the ' Requiem' at the close, which sheds over the whole work a gentle gleam of glory. If we were to go into details, we should neither know where to begin nor to end.

In January 1851 Schumann wrote to a friend, 'It must always be the artist's highest aim to ap- ply his powers to sacred music. But in youth we are firmly rooted to the earth by all our joys and sorrows ; it is only with advancing age that the branches stretch higher, and so I hope that

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