Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/638

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��steps . Nothing that he ever wrote is better than his witting of Tieck's ' Lied der Nacht,' and in this song he clearly shows himself to be the fore- runner of Schubert, Schumann, and Mendels- sohn. A younger contemporary, Zelter, also made a reputation by setting Goethe's words to music. Zelter was himself a friend of Goethe's ; and so great an admirer was the poet of Zelter's music for his own songs, that he preferred it to the Bettings of Reichardt, preferring Reichardt's set- tings to those of Beethoven and Schubert, and perhaps those of Eberwein to either of the three. Through some strange obliquity of taste or judg- ment, Goethe, as is well known, never recognised the merits of these two very great composers. Zelter, however, was a writer of considerable talent, and advanced beyond his predecessors in harmonic colouring and consistency of style. His early songs were strophical, without variety or ornamentation of melody, except sometimes in the last stanza : but in later years he recom- posed some of these early songs with such dif- ferent treatment that he seems occasionally to be the precursor of the so-called 'durchkomponirtes Lied ' in which every stanza has different music. Another of this group of writers, Ludwig Berger, worked on the same lines as Reichardt. But his excessive attention to the declamatory part of the Song has a tendency to break up the melody and destroy its consecutive unity. On the other hand, his pianoforte accompaniments are remark- ably good. Without overpowering the melody they have a singular power of expression. His song 'Trost in Thranen,' op. 33, no. 3, may be cited as an illustration. Bernhard Klein may also be mentioned as a writer of music to Goethe's eongs. His style was not unlike Zelter's ; but he aimed at vocal brilliancy, and was somewhat negligent of the instrumental part.

If the general results of the period through which we have just passed be regarded as a whole, it will be seen that the various conditions requisite for the perfection of the Song had matured. The foundations and all the main parts of the structure had been built ; it re- mained only to crown the edifice. Starting from the volksthiimliches Lied, the Berlin composers had demonstrated the necessity of full attention to the words. Mozart and Weber had given it a home in the opera. Mozart and Beethoven had developed its instrumental and dramatic elements ; and had, further, shown that the interest of the Song is attenuated by extension into the larger scena-form. Nothing therefore of precept or example was wanting by which genius might be taught how to make the compact form of the Song a perfect vehicle of lyrical expression. The hour was ripe for the man ; and the hour and the man met when Schubert arose.

This wonderful man, the greatest of song-writers, has been BO fully and appreciatively treated in other pages of this Dictionary 1 that it would be superfluous to do more here than examine the development of the Song under him. So fertile

1 The reader should also consult Reissmann's ' Das deutsche Lied in seiner hlstorischen Entwlckluug,' and his ' Ges. d. deutscb. Liedes.'

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was his genius that we have more than 600 of his songs, and their variety is as remarkable as their number. There was scarcely a branch of the subject to which he did not turn his hand, and nihil tetigit quod non ornavit. He was master of the Song in every stage whether it were the Volkslied, or the Ode, or the volksthumliches Lied, or the pure lyric song, or the Ballade andRomanze. And his preeminent success was largely due to his complete recognition of the principle that in the. Song intellect should be the servant of feeling rather than its master.

The essence of true Song, as Schubert clearly saw, is deep, concentrated emotion, enthralling words and music alike, and suffusing them with its own hues. Full of poetry himself, he could enter into the very heart and mind of the poet, and write, as it were, with his own identity merged in another's. So wide was the range of his sym- pathetic intuition that he took songs of different kinds from all the great German poets, and widely as their styles varied, so did his treatment. Some demanded a simple strophic form; some a change of melody for every stanza ; and others an elaborate or dramatic accompaniment. But whatever the words might call for, that Schubert gave them with unerring instinct.

His best compositions are lyrical, and the most perfect are the songs which he wrote to Goethe's words. If Schubert had a fault as a song- writer, it was his 'love of extension'; and from this temptation he was guarded by the concise and compact form of Goethe's songs. These lyrics are, therefore, his masterpieces, and it is scarcely pos- sible to conceive higher excellence than is dis- played in his 'Gretchen am Spinnrad,' the ' Wanderer's Nachtlied,' the songs from ' West- b'stlicher Divan,' and 'Wilhelm Meister.' 2 In these songs, beauty and finish are bestowed with so even a hand, both on the voice -part and on the accompaniment, that it would be impossible to say that either takes precedence of the other. In the songs which he wrote to Schiller's words, especially in the earlier ones, the accompaniment is more important than the voice-part. This how- ever is demanded by the dramatic form of ballads like 'DerTaucher' and 'RitterToggenburg.' And Schubert perceived that a somewhat similar kind of setting was appropriate to antique, mytho- logical, or legendary songs, such as Schiller's ' Dithyrambe' and ' Gruppe aus dem Tartarus,' Mayrhofer's Memnon ' and ' Der entsiihnte Orest,' Goethe's ' Schwager Kronos,' ' Ganymed,' ' Grenzen der Menschheit,' and some of Ossian's songs. These last are also noticeable as an illustra- tion of his practice of writing songs in sets. Some of these sets had been written as cyclic poems by their authors, and to this category belonged the 'Miillerlieder' and the ' Winterreise' : others such as the Ossian Songs, and Walter Scott's poems were made cyclic by Schubert's hand- ling of them. He did not join and weld together

2 Reissmann, in his Gesch. d. deutsch. Liedes,' p. 220, compares the handling of Goethe's songs by the Berlin composers with Schubert'i handling of them, and conclusively shows the great superiority of tht

latter.

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