Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/430

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414

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��posed for Prince Frederic of Gotha, ' Signor, se padre sei,' the scena ed aria for Atalia, ' Mi- sera me,' and the scena ed aria for Mdhul's 'Helene,' 'Ah, se Edmondo fosse 1'uccisor.' The cause of the neglect of Weber's concert- arias at the present day can only be that the grand style of concert-singing is almost uni- versally superseded by ballads, which are really unsuited to the concert-room. The three duets with PF. accompaniment are also worthy of notice, as showing Weber's perfect familiarity with the Italian style, while retaining intact his German individuality, a combination which gives them a special interest. One 'Si il mio ben, cor mio tu sei ' was originally composed for 2 altos, with clarinet obligate, and an accompani- ment of string quartet and 2 horns. It was performed at Weber's concert in Darmstadt in 1811, when he writes to Gottfried Weber, 'a duet so confoundedly Italian in style that it might be Farinelli's ; however it pleased them infernally.' This is, however, unjust to him- self, for though here and there the Italian cast of melody is obvious, the main body is tho- roughly Weberish. The allegro with its con- trasting subjects, one sustained and flowing, and the other light, graceful, and piquaM, recalls the duet between Agatha and Aennchen in Freischiitz.

Besides his Italian compositions, among which we may include 3 canzonets for single voice and PF., Weber exercised his dramatic vein twice between 1811 and 1817, in the composition of Lieder, and in his cantata * Kampf und Sieg ' (1815). These important works are of course only indirectly dramatic. They will be noticed later on.

7. With Der Freischiitz Weber laid the found- ation of German romantic opera. To explain this statement we must first define precisely what we mean by the term 'romantic.' Ori- ginally borrowed from the Spanish and French mediaeval chronicles of chivalry, the word pri- marily denoted anything marvellous, surpris- ing, knight- errant-like, or fantastic. Operas were often founded on stories of this kind in the i8th century, the first being a libretto called 'Lisouart und Dariolette,' adapted by Schiebler from Favart, and set by J. A. Hiller (Hamburg 1766). The French taste for fairy tales and eastern stories penetrated to Germany, and such subjects were used in opera. Thus the story of Zemire and Azor was set in 1775, and that of Oberon's Magic Horn in 1790. The Zauberflote too, as is well known, was founded on an eastern fairy tale, and that chef-d'ceuvre made fairy -operas a recognised fashion. All these, from the nature of their subjects, might be called romantic operas, and indeed were so at the time. Weber himself speaks of Mozart, Cherubini, and even Beethoven as romantic com- posers, but this was not in the sense in which* the word has been used since his time in Ger- many. The fairy and magic operas, of which Vienna was the head-quarters, were popular be- cause their sensational plots and elaborate

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scenery delighted a people as simple as a set of grown-up children. They were, in fact, pretty fantastic trifles, and Mozart, though he intro- duced serious tones in them, did not alter their essential character. The romantic opera, in the present restricted sense of the word, differs from these earlier fairy operas in that what- ever is introduced of the marvellous, whether narrative, legend, or fairy-tale, is treated se- riously, and not as a mere matter of amusement. The ultimate cause of this change of ideas was the entire transformation of the intellectual life of Germany during the end of the i8th and begin- ning of the ipth centuries. After its long state of dependence on foreign countries the mind of Germany awoke to consciousness, began to know something of its own history, its legends and myths, its natural language and customs, and to prize them as precious heirlooms. It again grasped the peculiar almost pantheistic rela- tions with nature, which distinguished the Teutonic from the classic and Latin peoples. This change of ideas was greatly accelerated by the gradual transference of the predominating influence in music from the lively light-hearted South Germans, to the more serious and thought- ful inhabitants of North Germany. Lastly individual composers, Weber among them, came under the influence of the poets of the romantic school. As these latter, breaking away from the classicalism of Goethe and Schiller, sought their ideals of beauty in national art, history, and myth, primarily German, and afterwards Indian, Italian, Spanish, French, or English, so the composers of the romantic school also found an attraction in the same class of subjects partly because of their very unfamiliarity. Thus, con- sciously or unconsciously, they applied to music the dictum of Novalis with regard to romantic poetry that it was the art of surprising in a pleasing manner.

Subjects for romantic opera require a certain expansiveness of the imagination ; a capacity of soaring beyond the commonplace events of daily life. Presupposing also, as they do, a healthy, and not over-refined taste, they accommodate themselves with ease to the manners and speech of the people. This is how it happens that other elements of the German popular plays the comic and amusing which have no in- herent connection with the serious conception of a romantic subject, find a place in romantic opera. Again, in contradistinction to the antique-classical drama, which revealed to the spectators an ideal world without restrictions of time or space, romantic subjects laid the utmost stress on peculiarities of race or epoch, social relations or distinctions. Thus it fol- lowed that there were in romantic opera four principal elements the imaginative, the na- tional, the comic, and the realistic. The fusing of these elements by means of the imagination into one whole is what constitutes German romanticism. The music destined to correspond with this ideal should be bright, highly-coloured, and varied, full of sharp contrasts, subjective

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