Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/587

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SONATA.

sight of his work, can be little more than commentary. It may be seen, without much effort, that mankind does not achieve more than one supreme triumph on the same lines of art. When the conditions of development are ful- filled the climax is reached, but there is not more than one climax to each crescendo. The con- ditions of human life change ceaselessly, and with them the phenomena of art, which are their counterpart. The characteristics of the .art of any age are the fruit of the immediate past, as much as are the emotional and intel- lectual conditions of that age. They are its signs, and it is impossible to produce in a suc- ceeding age a perfect work of art in the same terms as those which are the direct fruit of a different and earlier group of causes ; and it is partly for this reason that attempts to return to earlier conditions of art, which leave out the essential characteristics of contemporary feeling, invariably ring false.

The time produced other real men besides Beethoven, though not of his stamp. Weber and Schubert were both of the genuine modern type, genuinely musical through and through, though neither of them was a born writer of sonatas as Beethoven was. Beethoven possessed, together with the supremest gift of ideas, a power of prolonged concentration, and the cer- tainty of self-mastery. This neither Weber nor Schubert possessed. Beethoven could direct his thought with infallible certainty ; in Weber and Schubert the thought was often too much their master, and they both required, to keep them perfectly certain in the direction of their original musical matter, the guiding principle of a con- sciously realised dramatic or lyrical conception, which was generally supplied to them from without. As should be obvious from the above survey of the process of sonata development, the absolute mastery of the structural outlines, the sureness of foot of the strong man moving, unaided, but direct in his path, amidst the conflicting suggestions of his inspiration, is indispensable to the achievement of great and genuine sonatas. The more elaborate the art of expression be- comes, the more difficult the success. Beethoven probably stood just at the point where the ex- tremest elaboration and the most perfect mastery of combination on a large scale were possible. He himself supplied suggestion for yet further elaboration, and the result is that the works of his successors are neither so concentrated nor so well in hand as his. Weber was nearest in point of time, but his actual mastery of the art of composition was never very certain nor thoroughly regulated, though his musical in- stincts were almost marvellous. He had one great advantage, which was that he was a great pianist, and had the gift to extend the resources of the instrument by the invention of new and characteristic effects ; and he was tolerably suc- cessful in avoiding the common trap of letting effect stand for substance. Another advantage was his supreme gift of melody. His tunes are for the most part of the old order, but infused

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��with new life and heat by a breath from the genius of the people. His two best sonatas, in Ab and D minor, are rich in thought, forcible, and genuinely full of expression. He always adopts the plan of four movements, and disposes them in the same order as Beethoven did. His treatment of form is also full and free, and he often imports some individuality into it. As simple instances may be taken the use of the introductory phrase in the first movement of the Sonata in C, in the body of the movement ; the rondo structure of the slow movements, especi- ally in the Sonata in D minor, which has a short introduction, and elaborate variations in the place of exact returns of the subject ; and the interspersion of subjects in the first movement of the Sonata in E minor, op. 70, so as to knit the two sections of the first half doubly together. An essentially modern trait is his love of completing the cycle of the movement by bringing in a last allusion to the opening features of the whole movement at the end, generally with some new element of expression or vivacity. Specially noticeable in this respect are the first and last (the ' Moto perpetuo') of the C major, the last of the Ab, and the first and last in both the D minor and E minor Sonatas. Weber had an exceptional instinct for dance- rhythms, and this comes out very remarkably in some of the minuets and trios, and in the last movement of the E minor.

As a whole the Weber group is a decidedly important item in pianoforte literature, instinct with romantic qualities, and aiming at elaborate expressiveness, as is illustrated by the numerous directions in the Ab Sonata, such as 'con anima,' 'con duolo,' 'con passione,' 'con molt' affetto,* and so forth. These savour to a certain extent of the opera, and require a good deal of art and musical sense in the variation of time and the phrasing to give them due effect; and in this they show some kinship to the ornamental adagios of the times previous to Beethoven, though dictated by more genuinely musical feelings.

Schubert's sonatas do not show any operatic traits of the old manner, but there is plenty in them which may be called dramatic in a modern sense. His instincts were of a preemi- nently modern type, and the fertility of his ideas in their superabundance clearly made the self- restraint necessary for sonata-writing a matter of some difficulty. He was tempted to give liberty to the rush of thought which possessed him, and the result is sometimes delightful, but sometimes also bewildering. There are move- ments and even groups of them which are of the supremest beauty, but hardly any one sonata which is completely satisfactory throughout. His treatment of form is often daring even to rash- ness, and yet from the point of view of principle offers but little to remark, though in detail some perfectly magical feats of harmonic pro- gression and strokes of modulation have had a good deal of influence upon great composers of later times. The point which he serves to

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