Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/578

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


566

��SONATA.

��common an ingredient in sonatas as it afterwards became. The last movement l of No. 3 is called an aria ; the arrangement of parts of which, as well as that of the last movement of No. 9, hap- pens to produce a rondo, hitherto an extremely rare feature. His formulation and arrangement of subjects is extremely clear and masterly, and thoroughly in the sonata manner that is, essentially harmonical. In character he leans towards the style of the latter part of the i8th century, but has a grace and sincerity which is thoroughly his own. In a few cases, as in the last movements of the Sonatas in A and D, Nos. 6 and 10, which are probably best known of all, the character assumed is rather of the bustling and hearty type which is suggestive of the influence of Scarlatti. In detail they are not so rich as the best specimens of Emmanuel's, or of Friedemann Bach's workmanship ; but they are thoroughly honest and genuine all through, and thoroughly musical, and show no sign of shuffling or laziness.

The two-movement form of clavier sonata, of which Paradies's are probably the best examples, seems to have been commonly adopted by a num- ber of composers of second and lower rank, from his time till far on in the century. Those of Durante have been already mentioned. All the set of eight, by Domenico Alberti, are also in this form, and so are many by such forgotten contributors as Eoeser and Barthelemon, and some by the once popular Schobert. Alberti is credited with the doubtful honour of having invented a formula of accompaniment which be- came a little too familiar in the course of the century, and is sometimes known as the 'Alberti Bass.' This specimen is from his 2nd Sonata.

��He may not have invented it, but he certainly called as much attention to it as he could, since not one of his eight sonatas is without it, and in some movements it continues almost throughout. The movements approach occasionally to binary form, but are not clearly defined ; the matter is for the most part dull in spirit, and poor in sound ; and the strongest characteristic is the unfortunate one of hitting upon a cheap device, which was much in vogue with later composers of mark, without having arrived at that mastery and definition of form and subject which alone made it endurable. The times were not quite ripe for such usages, and it is fortunate for Para- dies, who was slightly Alberti's junior, that he should have attained to a far better definition of structure without resorting to such cheapening.

There are two other composers of this period who deserve notice for maintaining, even later, some of the dignity and nobility of style which were now falling into neglect, together with clearness of structure and expressiveness of detail. These are Eolle and George Benda. A sonata of the former's in Eb shows a less certain hand

i In some modern reprints of this Sonata the order of the moye- meuts has been reversed.

��SONATA.

in the treatment of form, but at times extraor- dinary gleams of musically poetic feeling. Points in the Adagio are not unworthy of kinship with Beethoven. It contains broad and daring effects of modulation, and noble richness of sentiment and expression, which, by the side of the obvious tendencies of music in these days, is really aston- ishing. The first and last movements are in binary form of the old type, and contain some happy and musical strokes, though not so re- markable as the contents of the slow movement. George Benda was a younger and greater brother of the Franz who has been mentioned in connec- tion with Violin Sonatas. He was one of the last writers who, using the now familiar forms, still retained some of the richness of the earlier manner. There is in his work much in the same tone and style as that of Emmanuel Bach, but also an earnestness and evident willing- ness to get the best out of himself and to deal with things in an original manner, such as was by this time becoming rare. After him, com- posers of anything short of first rank offer little to arrest attention either for individuality in treatment or earnestness of expression. The serious influences which had raised so many of the earlier composers to a point of memorable musical achievement were replaced by associa- tions of far less genuine character, and the ease with which something could be constructed in the now familiar forms of sonata, seduced men into indolent uniformity of structure and commonplace prettiness in matter. Some attained to evident proficiency in the use of instrumental resource, such as Turini ; and some to a touch of genuine though small expressiveness, as Haessler and Grazioli ; for the rest the achievements of Sarti, Sacchini, Schobert, Me"hul, and the otherwise great Cherubini, in the line of sonata, do not offer much that requires notice. They add nothing to the process of development, and some of them are remarkably behindhand in relation to their time, and -both what they say and the manner of it is equally unimportant.

Midway in the crowd comes the conspicuous form of Haydn, who raised upon the increasingly familiar structural basis not only some fresh and notable work of the accepted sonata character, but the great and enduring monument of his sym- phonies and quartets. The latter do not fall within the limits of the present subject, though they are in reality but the great instrumental expansion of this kind of music for solo instruments. An arbitrary restriction has been put upon the mean- ing of the word Sonata, and it is necessary here to abide by it. With Haydn it is rather sonata- form which is important, than the works which fall under the conventional acceptation of- the name. His sonatas are many, but they are of exceedingly diverse value, and very few of really great importance. As is the case with his quartets, some, which internal evidence would be sufficient to mark as early attempts, are curiously innocent and elementary; and even throughout, with a few exceptions, their propor- tionate value is not equal to that of other classes

�� �