Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/602

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590

��SONG.

��generally, Stornelli are lively love-songs ; Can- zoni and Canzonette narrative songs, while Canto is a generic term applicable to almost any form. [See STORNELLI.]

For about a century and a half from the latter part of the i7th century to the earlier part of the present century the Canzoni and Canzonette da Camera of Italy exhibited neither merit nor improvement. A few collections were published from time to time, but apparently very slight attention was paid to them. They were mostly of a religious tendency ; not hymns, but Canzoni spirituali e morali, as they were called. Even when the Canzoni Madrigalesche were reduced to two voices (as, for instance, those of Benedetto Marcello, published at Bologna in 1717) they continued to be essentially poly- phonic, one voice imitating the other. How poor and uninteresting was the true monodic Canzone of those days may be learnt from the following example by Gasparini, dating probably about 1 730.

��Andante.

��GASPARINI, 1730.

���tro - vo ri po - so pih

��vunque il pas-so lo ino - TO mi se

��- gul

��1 j-l i 1 (g>

�.

�-ta il do -

�- lor.

� �o^ r

��For many important forms of music, such as the Opera, the Cantata, the Sonata, and the Fugue, etc., we are primarily and especially in- debted to the Italians ; but as regards the mo- dern Artistic Song we owe them little. Just as the ' couplets ' and favourite tunes of the Opera supplied the people with Canti popolari, so did its Arie and Cavatine provide the pieces which the educated classes preferred to hear at con- certs and in drawing-rooms. Until quite a recent date there was no demand for songs pro- per ; few composers, therefore, deemed it worth their while to bestow pains on this kind of work. To write an opera is the natural ambi-

��SONG.

tion of Italian musicians, and short indeed is the list of those who have devoted themselves to other branches of music. In the works of Cima- rosa, Mercadante, Bellini, Donizetti, and other celebrated composers of operas, we find very numerous Ariette, Canzonette, Rondi, Romanze, and Notturni, but none evincing any serious thought or pains. They are too weak to stand the test of time : the popularity they may once have known has been brief and fleeting. An exception, however, must be made in favour of Rossini, some of whose songs are really beautiful.

Among composers of songs in the latter part of the last century, the names of Asioli, Barni, Federici, and Blangini may be mentioned, and Giordani, whose 'Caro mio ben' has been a general favourite. Of those who have lived nearer our own time Gordigiani is undoubtedly the best for simple popular songs. He wrote in the true Italian style, with the utmost fluency, spontaneity and simplicity. Next to him in merit though less well known stands Mari- ani. Injustice would be done to the living composers of songs in Italy, if our estimate of them were founded solely on the songs which have a circulation in England. Men like Tosti, Denza, and others, write, as it were, for the English market; but their work is too trivial to gain anything more than a very transient popularity. Far better writers than these exist in Italy, though they remain unknown beyond the borders of their own country. With few exceptions, however, Italian songs are marked, in a greater or less degree, by the same quali- ties. The voice part is ever paramount in them, and all else is made to yield to it. The beauti- ful quality and wide compass of Italian voices, 1 and the facility with which they execute diffi- cult vocal phrases, tempt the composer to write brilliant and effective passages, where a simple melody would be far more appropriate to the words. The words may indeed give the form to the song, and determine its number of sec- tions and periods, and the music may substan- tially agree with the text, but we miss that delicate, subtle understanding between the poet and the musician which we find in German songs, where the music often acts as an inter- preter to the words, or the sound of a single word gives importance to a note or passage. Again, in Italian songs the accompaniment holds a very subordinate place. Its sole use is to support the voice ; it has rarely any artistic value of its own, and more rarely still does it assist in expressing the poetic intention of the piece.

It would be wrong, however, to apply these criticisms without reserve to all modern Italian composers. Rossini, for instance, knew how to rise above the common defects of his countrymen, and many of the accompaniments to his songs are most interesting. Take, for example, No. 2

��i It is curious to note how limited is the compass of voice for which modern Italian composers write songs intended to circulate and be sung in foreign countries, while the songs that they write for the home market of Italy often exceeds two octaves.

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