Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/579

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SONATA.

of his numerous works. But the great span of his musical activity, reaching from the times of the Bach family till fairly on in Beethoven's mature years, the changes in the nature of keyed instruments, and the development of their resources which took place during his lifetime, make it inevitable that there should be a marked difference in the appearance and limits of differ- ent members of the collection. However, he is always himself, and though the later works are wider and more richly expressed, they represent the same mental qualities as the earliest. At all times his natural bent is in favour of simplifica- tion, as against the old contrapuntal modes of expression. His easy good-humour speaks best in simple but often ingeniously balanced tunes and subjects, and it is but rare that he has re- course to polyphonic expression or to the kind of idea which calls for it. Partly on this account and partly on account of narrowness of capacity in the instrument to which in solo sonatas he gave most attention, his range of technical resource is not extensive, and he makes but little demand upon his performers. His use of tunes and decisively outlined subjects is one of the most important points in relation to structure at this period. Tunes had existed in connection with words for centuries, and it is to their association with verses balanced by distinct rhythmic grouping of lines, that the sectional tune of instrumental music must ulti- mately be traced. It appears not to be a genuine instrumental product, but an importation ; and the fact that almost all the most distinguished composers were connected with opera establish- ments, just at the time that the tune-element became most marked in instrumental works, supports the inference that the opera was the means through which a popular element ulti- mately passed into the great domain of abstract music. In preceding times the definition of subject by hard outlines and systematic conform- ity to a few normal successions of harmony was not universal ; and the adoption of tunes was rare. In Haydn and Mozart the culmination of regularity in the building of subject is reached. The virtue of this process is that it simplifies the conditions of structure in the whole movement. When a correct system of centralisation is found by which the subject is restrained within the limits which strictly illustrate but one single tonality, the feelings which this suggests to the hearer are such as will be satisfied with equally simple order in all other parts of the complete structure. If the creative power is not suffi- ciently concentrated and disciplined to restrain the direction of its activity within comprehensible bounds, the result can only be to make perfect balance and proportion impossible. Thus if the first section of a movement is so decentralised that its connection with any particular key cannot possibly be followed by the hearer, one of the primary conditions of abstract music has been violated, and the balance of parts rendered un- distinguishable. Yet the subject or section may range broadly in its course, and touch upon many

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��alien tonalities without violating these conditions ; but then the horizon is broadened so as to neces- sitate an equal relative extension in every part of the movement. If a poet sets out with a passage expanded to the full with imagery and implication, in which almost every word is suggestive of wide horizons of thought, and carries inference behind it as complicated as those which lie in simple ex- ternal manifestations of nature, it is useless for him to go back afterwards to a more limited and statuesque mode of expression. Even a person of little cultivation would feel at once the violation of artistic proportion. A relative degree of heat and intensity must be maintained at the risk of the work being as a whole unendurable. But if a more restricted field of imagination be appealed to at the outset, the work may be the more easily and perfectly carried out in simpler and narrower limits. In abstract music, balance, proportion, equality in the range of emotional and structural elements, are some of the most important con- ditions. Not that there is to be equal intensity all through, but that the salient and subordinate parts shall be fairly proportionate ; and this cannot be tested or stated by formulas of science, but only by cultivated artistic instinct. In music the art of expressing an idea within the limits and after the manner necessary for abstract music had to be discovered. The pro- cess of selection from experimental types had brought this to the closest point consistent with completeness in the latter half of the i8th cen- tury. At that time the disposition of the musical mind was specially set upon obviously intel- ligible order and certainty in the structural aspect of works. It was a necessary condition for art to go through ; and though not by any means the sole or supreme condition of excellence, it is not strange that the satisfaction derived from the sense of its achievement should cause people, in social circumstances which were peculiarly fa- vourable, to put disproportionate stress upon it ; and that modern writers who have not been able to keep pace with the inevitable march and change in the conditions of musical utterance should still insist on it as if it were the ultimate aim of art : whereas in fact its prominence in that epoch was a passing phase having considerable dependence upon unique social conditions, and its existence in art at any time is only one of numberless con- stituent elements. The condition of art of that time enabled the greatest composers to express the utmost of their ideas, and to satisfy their audiences, within the limits of a very simple group of harmonies. And this simplified the whole pro- cess of building their works to the utmost. Haydn manipulates the resources which lie within such limits to admiration. Hardly any composer so successfully made uniformity out of compounded diversity on a small scale. He delights in making the separate limbs of a subject of different lengths, and yet, out of their total sum, attaining a perfect and convincing symmetry. The har- monic progression of the subjects is uniformly obedient to the principles of a form which is on a preconceived plan, and without some such device

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