Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/637
��harmonised, and a syllable is given to each note : they should therefore be declaimed rather than sung. The structure is similar in Gellext's sacred songs, op. 48, except in the ' Busslied,' where there is a fuller development of the accompani- ent. Of Beethoven's early songs the best known
>bably is 'Adelaide,' and it is written in a larger
m than those already referred to. Its form may be termed the scena-form. In it both voice and accompaniment are made to give exact expression to every word of the poem, and changes of tempo and key impart to it a dramatic cast. But our chief interest lies in Beethoven's lyric songs. He set six songs of Goethe's as op. 75, and three as op. 83. There is much in the style and spirit of these lyrics which might have tempted him to use either the scena or the cantata-form ; but the strophical division corresponds so well with their general character that he could not dis- regard it. He left it therefore to the instru- mental part to satisfy their dramatic require- ments. In Mignon's song, ' Kennst du das Land,' each stanza has the same beautiful me- lody, and the accompaniment alone varies. In other cases, as in Goethe's ' Trocknet nicht' (Wonne der Wehmuth), the melody is a mere recitation, and all the importance of the song belongs to its accompaniment. In Jeitteles' Liederkreis, ' An die feme Geliebte,' op. 98, the unity which makes the cycle is wholly the work of the composer, and not of the poet. It is Beethoven who binds the songs together by short instrumental interludes, which modulate so as to introduce the key of the next song, and by weaving the melody of the first song into the last. Most of the songs of this beautiful cycle are strophical, but with great variety of accompani- ment, and the just balance of the vocal and instrumental parts equally contributes to the faithful expression of lyric thought and feeling. In songs which had more of the aria form Bee- thoven was less successful. In short, the principal result produced by him with regard to the song was the enlargement of the part sustained by the pianoforte. He taught the instrument, as it were, to give conscious and intelligent utterance to the poetic intentions of the words. His lyric genius rose to its loftiest heights in his instrumental works : and here again its full perfection must be looked for in the slow movements of his orchestral and chamber compositions.
Spohr also wrote lyric songs, a task for which his romantic and contemplative nature well fitted him. But his songs are marred by excessive elaboration of minutiae, and in the profusion of details clearness of outline is lost, and form itself disappears. Again, his modulations, or rather transitions, though never wantonly introduced, are so frequent as to be wearisome. Of all his songs 'Der Bleicherin Nachtlied' and 'Der Rosenstrauch ' are freest from these faults, and they are his best.
A greater influence was exercised upon the Song by Carl Maria von Weber. He published two books of Volkslieder, op. 54 and op. 64, with new melodies, of which the best-known are VOL. ill. FT. 5.
�� ��' Wenn ich ein Vdglein war ' and ' Mein Schat- zerl ist hiibsch.' Of his other songs the most celebrated are the cradle-song ' Schlaf Herzens- sb'hnchen ' and the ' Leyer und Schwert ' songs (for instance, 'Das Volk steht auf and 'Du Schwert an meiner Linken'), and these songs deserve their celebrity. Others indeed, such as ' Ein steter Kampf,' are not so well known nor heard so often as they ought to be. Weber's fame as a song-writer has perhaps suffered some- what, like Mozart's, from the circumstance that many of his best songs are in his operas ; and it has been partially eclipsed by the supreme ex- cellence of one or two composers who were imme- diately subsequent to him. It was also unlucky for him that he wrote most of his accompaniments for the guitar. But in the solos and choruses of ' Preciosa,' ' Der Freischiitz,' and ' Euryanthe ' there are romantic melodies of unfailing charm to the German people. ' They are filled,' says Reissmann, 'with the new spirit awakened in Germany by the War of Liberation the spirit which inspired the lays of Arndt, Schenkendorf, Ruckert, and Korner. The dreamy tenderness of the old Volkslieder was united by Weber to the eager adventurous spirit of a modern time. His conceptions are never of great intellectual depth, nor are his forms remarkably developed, but the entrainante expression with which he writes gives his compositions an irresistible fresh- ness, even after the lapse of half a century.' 1
Incidental reference has already been made more than once to Goethe, but a few words must be added on the obligations of the Song to him. The fine outburst of lyric song which enriched the music of Germany in his lifetime was very largely due to him. The strong but polished rhythm and the full melody of his verse were an incentive and inspiration to composers. Reichardt was the first to make it a systematic study to set Goethe's lyrics to music. Some of them were set by him as early as 1780; but in 1793 he published a separate collection entitled ' Goethe's lyrische Gedichte,' and containing thirty poems. In 1809 he issued a more complete collection, under the title of 'Goethe's Lieder, Oden, Balladen, und Romanzen mit Musik, v. J. Fr. Reichardt.' So long as Reichardt merely declaimed the words in melody, or otherwise made the music conscien- tiously subordinate to the verse, he was success- ful; but he failed whenever he allowed himself to think less of the words and more of the tune. Goethe's words were, in short, a sure guide for a talent like his. In the genuine volksthiimliches Lied he did not shine ; he spared no endeavour to catch the exact spirit of popular poetry, but in his intent pursuit of it he lost that natural spontaneity of melody which the volksthiimliches Lied requires. Reichardt was not a great master, but he may claim the honour of having struck the true key-note of lyrical songs: and greater artists than himself immediately followed in his foot-
i Sec Keissmann, p. 167. It la worth while to note that Weber him- self says. In his literary works, that ' strict truth In declamation Is the first and foremost requisite of vocal music . . . any vocal music that alters or effaces the poet's meaning and intention is a failure.'