Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/435

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WEBER.

could desire, and in this respect merits ought to be allowed to counterbalance defects.

The opera contains four principal characters, Adolar and Lysiart, Euryanthe and Eglantine. Eglantine has most vitality, the others being types rather than individuals ; but this would be no defect in Weber's eyes, being, as we have seen, in accordance with his own mode of treating his personages. The poem abounds in opportunities for the descriptive writing in which he so much delighted and excelled. Now we are in a brilliant court, with vic- torious troops of cavaliers marching home from the battle-field, and offering their homage to beautiful ladies, and to love. Then, in a lonely castle-garden, in the silent repose of a summer evening, with a love-lorn maiden pining for her absent knight. Then again in a forest glade with shimmering moonlight, mur- muring waters, and the forsaken one longing for death. Next we witness a savage brawl breaking out between rival knights, and hear the clash of swords as they rush together. And in and out all the time the spirit-world is weaving its invisible threads. Each of these situations Weber could fit with its appro- priate expression, as no one else had ever been able to do before him, for he it was indeed who created the musical language for them. And it is on these situations, so varied, and so well contrasted, but all steeped in glow and fragrance, that the main interest of the opera is concentrated. The characters are not the main attraction, they seem mere condensations of the poetry of the situation, and are carried along by the scene, rather than work it out for themselves. Euryanthe, like all Weber's operas, is an epic procession, an enchanted panorama, represent- ing the life of one special period, that of mediae- val chivalry. Looked at from this point of view it can be thoroughly enjoyed. 1

Euryanthe is Weber's sole grand opera, both because it is without spoken dialogue, and be- cause it is much the fullest and longest. He meant to put his best into it, and he did. ' It is his heart's blood,' says Robert Schumann, 3 ' the very best of which he was capable. The opera cost him a piece of his life, but it has made him immortal. From end to end it is one chain of sparkling gems.' There is no question that Euryanthe is richer, more, varied, deeper, grander, than all the rest of Weber's dramatic works. All that gives distinction to Der Freischutz is found here again ; Lieder at once dignified and easily comprehensible, melodies genuine in feeling and full of fire, orchestral colouring as new as it is charming, instrumen- tation both bold and spirituel, an intuitive grasp of the situation and complete mastery in

i This Goethe did not do ; he says (GesprSche mlt Eckermann, 1. 148): 'Karl Maria von Weber should never have composed Euryanthe ; he ought to have seen at once that It was a bad subject, with which nothing could be done.' After what I have said it Is unnecessary to point out the injustice of this remark. Goethe had not musical Insight enough to understand what it was in the libretto that attracted Weber, against whom moreover he had a prejudice. Still even he allowed ' Der Freischutz ' to be a good subject (Eckermann, 11. 16).

  • Gesammelte Schrilten,' iv. 290.

��WEBER.

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��treating it, such as genius alone is capable of. Only the modes of expression are more refined ; Der Freischutz deals with the simple, hearty life of the peasantry and forest folk, Euryanthe with the highest grades of society. To make this clear compare 'Die Thale dampfen, and ' Was gleicht wohl auf Erden' ; ' Der Mai bririgt frische Blumen dar,' ad 'Wir winden dir den Jungfernkranz ' ; 'Glocklein im Thale,' and ' Und ob die Wolke ' ; Adolar's song ' Unter bluhenden Mandelbaume,' and Max's aria ' Durch die Walder.' Glocklein in Thale ' may be quoted as an example of the most delicious melody shrouded in superb orchestral colouring. It would be impossible to paint both the charac- ter and the situation more vividly. In the scena and cavatina in the 3rd Act, where Euryanthe is abandoned in the wilderness, the colours are mixed quite differently. The long wailing notes of the solo bassoon, and the solitary flute wan- dering aimlessly about, incline one to re-echo Schumann's words, ' What a sound comes from the instruments ! they speak to us from the very depths of all being.' The accompaniment to 'Hier dicht am Quell,* consisting only of the string-quartet and one bassoon, but pro- ducing the most extraordinary effect of sound, is a striking example of what genius can do with small means. Quite different again is the colouring for Euryanthe's narrative in the 1st Act ; four muted solo-violins, whose long sus- tained notes are supported by quivering violins and violas, also muted, with stifled moans from low flutes, suggest a spectral form, only half visible in the moonlight, hovering overhead and muttering words which die away indistinctly on the breeze.

Each of the four principal characters has its own language, to which it adheres strictly throughout the opera, and which is accentuated by the orchestral colouring employed liberally, though not exclusively, for the purpose. As we have previously remarked, one prevailing tone runs through the whole opera, sharply dis- tinguishing it from any other of Weber's.

One point in which the music of Euryanthe is far superior to that of Der Freischutz is in the use of the larger dramatic forms. Here we have grand recitative, full of expression, passion, and movement, such as had come from no German pen since Gluck's ; grand arias, duets, ensemble- pieces, and splendidly constructed finales. The Lied- or cavatina-form is used freely for the parts of Adolar and Euryanthe ; but Lysiart and Eg- lantine never express themselves except in the grand dramatic forms, and the higher the passion rises the more exclusively do these two charac- ters occupy the stage. In this respect the 2nd Act is the climax. Here we have one grand form after another ; Lysiart's scena ed aria, his duet with Eglantine ; Adolar's air, in such wonderful contrast, and the duet with Euryanthe; lastly the finale, in which a perfect tempest of passions seems let loose. The 3rd Act also has dramatic forms of the first order, especially Euryanthe's air, ' Zu ihm, und weilet nicht/ with the chorus

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