Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/239

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VARIATIONS.

nince composers began to try to treat them in the same style as their sonata movements. They dropped the contrapuntal methods, with the opportunities afforded by them, and as they had not yet developed the art of expressing effective musical ideas in the modern style apart from the regular sonata form, their works of the kind seem, by the side of Bach's, to be sadly lacking in interest. Moreover, the object of writing them was changing. Bach wrote up to the level of his own ideas of art, without thinking what would please the ordinary public ; but the composers of the middle of the iSth century wrote their clavier music chiefly for the use or pleasure of average amateurs, on whom first-rate art would be thrown away ; and aimed at nothing more than respectable workmanship and easy agreeable tunefulness. The public were losing their interest in the rich counter- point and massive nobility of style of the older school, and were setting their affections more and more on tune and simply intelligible form ; and composers were easily led in the same direction. The consequences were happy enough in the end, but in the earlier stages of the new style variation-making appears to have suffered ; and it only regained its position in rare cases, when composers of exceptional genius returned, in spite of the tendency of their time, to the method of building a fair proportion of their variations on the old principles, and found in the harmonic framework equal opportunities to those afforded by the tunes.

How strongly Haydn and Mozart were drawn in the prevailing direction is shown by the number of cases in which they took simple and popular tunes as themes, and by the preponder- ance of the melodic element in their variations. This is even more noticeable in Mozart than in Haydn, who took on the whole a more serious and original view of the form. True, he did not write nearly so many sets as his younger con- temporary, and several that he did write are of the very slightest and most elementary kind witness that which forms the last movement of the Clavier Sonata in Eb, that on a tune in Tempo di Minuetto ' in a sonata in A, and that in a sonata for clavier and violin in C. In these cases he is obviously not exerting himself at all, but merely treating the matter lightly and easily. But when he set about his work seriously, it has far more variety, interest, and many-sided ingenuity than Mozart's. This is the case with several of the sets in the string quartets, and with the remarkable one for clavier alone in F minor, and the beautiful slow move- ment in the Sonata for Clavier and Violin in F. The things most noticeable in these are the re- markable freedom with which he treats his theme, and the original means adopted to combine the sets into complete and coherent wholes. Prob- ably no one except Beethoven, Schumann, and Brahms took a freer view of the limits of fair variation ; the less essential chords and root harmonies of the theme are frequently changed, even without the melody being preserved to

��VARIATIONS.

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��make up for the deviation, and in certain cases whole passages appear to be entirely altered, and to have little if any connection with the theme beyond observance of the length of its prominent periods, and the fact that the final cadences come in the right forms and places. This occurs most naturally in a minor variation of a major theme, or vice versa, where a passage in the relative major is made to correspond to a passage in the dominant key, and the succession of chords is necessarily altered to a different course to make the passage flow back to the principal key at the same place, both in variation and theme. There is an extremely interesting example of such changes in the slow move- ment of the Quartet in Eb, No. 22 Trautwein. The theme is in Bb, and the first variation in Bb minor. The second half of the theme begins in F, and has a whole period of eight bars, closing in that key, before going back to Bb. The corresponding part of the first variation begins with the same notes transferred from first violin to cello, and has the same kind of motion, and similar free contrapuntal imitation ; but it proceeds by a chain of closely interlaced modula- tions through Eb minor and Ab, and closes in Db. And not only that, but the portion which corresponds to the resumption of the principal idea begins in the original key in Db, and only gets home to the principal key for the last phrase of four bars, in which the subject again appears. So that for eleven bars the variation is only con- nected with the theme by the fact that the successive progressions are analogous in major and minor modes, and by a slight similarity in the character of the music. This was a very im- portant position to take up in variation-writing, and by such action Haydn fully established a much broader and freer principle of repre- senting the theme than had been done before. The following examples are respectively the first eight bars of the second half of the theme, and the corresponding portion of the 1st variation:

��Ex. 17.

Theme.

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