Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/438

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422

��WEBER.

��treatment too of songs in dialect, especially those of a humorous or rollicking character, was ex- cellent ; instances are ' Trariro, der Sommer, der ist do,' ' Mein Schatzerl is hubsch,' and I und mein junges Weib.' The form of these songs is most simple, and generally strophical ; the accom paniment frequently for the guitar. This sim- plicity is their greatest merit, and though the taste of the day is unfavourable to simple songs, and Weber's have been cast into the shade by Schubert's and Schumann's magnificent songs with their almost orchestral treatment, they are not lost to the musical world, but bear the stamp of imperishability.

Besides these Lieder Weber composed other songs of a more ambitious character, with PF. accompaniment, each stanza having a different melody. In this branch of composition he is, next to Beethoven, the earliest great master. There is, however, an essential difference between his songs and those not only of Beethoven, but of Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, his being all more or less of a dramatic character. His genius spread its wings best when he had a distinct character, or a sharply-defined situation, to portray. It is a significant fact that some of the most charming of his strophi- cal songs were written for interpolation into plays, ' Ueber die Berge mit Ungestiim/ and ' Lass mich schlummern, Herzlein, schweige,' for instance. It is only by keeping steadfastly in view a certain personage, or picturing a certain scene, that one is fully able to realise the in- tended impression. It is most remarkable to see how much the music assists the imagination in this respect. Take, for instance, Voss's <Kei- gen ' ; in a moment the whole picture of a village fair in full swing rises up before one's mind's eye. The extraordinary flexibility of his musi- cal speech stood Weber in good stead here. Not only did it enable him to adapt his vocal melodies to each rise and fall in the words, but it gave him, to a degree hitherto un- known, the power of choosing the precise notes, or series of notes, vocal and instrumental, fitted to impress on the hearer some mental picture called up by perhaps a single word. A perfect model of composition in this kind is the Lied one of his finest indeed in all respects 'Das Madchen an das erste Schneeglb'ckchen.' Not that Weber ever degenerates into mere declama- tion ; his songs are always good in form, with a flowing, well-connected melody. Well aware of this plasticity he ventured on poems of in- volved construction, by no means easily adapt- able to music. For instance, he managed a triolet (< Kerne Lust ohn' treues Lieben') with great skill, and his are the first completely suc- cessful settings of the sonnet ('Du liebes, holdes, himmelsusses Wesen,' and ' Die Wunde brennt, die bleichen Lippen beben'). Among his characteristic pieces for single voice and PF. may be specified ' Die vier Temperamente,' and, above all, the delicious ' Unbefangenheit ' C Frage mich immer, fragest umsonst '), a aketch of a merry, saucy, roguish, but tender-

��WEBER.

hearted girl, and truly a chef tfceuvre. Thus Weber's vocal compositions contain the two main elements of which German opera is con- stituted the Lied and the dramatic song. These too appear in turn in the ten splendid songs from Korner's Leyer und Schwert,' four of which are for single voice and PF., and six for male chorus unaccompanied. Of the single songs, ' Vater ich rufe dich ' and ' Die Wunde brennt,' are magnificent tone-pictures in Weber's own style. Even in the strophical choruses there are touches of great power. The beginning of 'Du Schwert an meiner Linken' rings like a sword-thrust. ' Liitzow's wilde Jagd ' contains a complete dramatic scene within a single stanza of 21 bars. The horsemen plunge forward out of the forest gloom, rush by in tearing haste, shout one wild hurrah, and are gone. 1

12. It has often been felt as a difficulty that Weber should pass straight from such operas as Silvana and Abu Hassan to a masterpiece like Der Freischiitz. One explanation of this sudden and startling progress may probably be found in the songs which were his main occupation from 1811 to 1817. Another important landmark is the cantata Kampf und Sieg (1815). This is not a cantata in the modern sense i. e. an essentially lyric vocal piece but one rather in the sense of the 1 7th and i8th centuries, when the word signified solo songs representing a specific cha- racter in a specific situation. The only difference was that Weber employed the full resources of solo-singers, chorus, and orchestra. The central idea is the battle of Waterloo, with various episodes grouped round it, and a grand chorus, 'Herr Gott dich loben wir,' as finale. The description of the battle forms what we should now call a grand dramatic scene, an opera finale, only without action. It is led up to by warlike choruses, animating the battalions as they mus- ter to the fight. Even the arming of the Aus- trian troops is indicated by the Austrian Grena- diers' March heard in the distance. A wild march announces the approach of Napoleon's army, while the Germans sing Korner's solemn prayer:

Wle auch die Holle braust, Gott, deine starke Faust Stttrzt das GebSude der Luge. Ftthr uns, Herr Zebaoth, Fiihr uns, dreielnger Gott, Fiihr uns zur Schlacht und zum Siege.

The battle, which then commences, is at first left entirely to the orchestra. The day is going against the Allies. The French tune ' a ira ' is heard shrilling out wildly and triumphantly above the other instruments, while broken eja- culations, such as ' Des Feindes Spott ! ' (' Sport of our foes!') '0 Hollengraun I ' ('0 hor- ror 1 ') Verlasst Du Gott, die Dir vertraun ? ' (' Wilt Thou, God, forsake those who trust in Thee?') burst from the allies scattered about the field. The tumult is just dying away, when lo ! the Prussian horns, first faint in the

i It Is by no means uncommon to hear the last four bars repeated! a fact which shows without explanation how entirely Weber's idea has been misunderstood.

��As rage the powers of hell, God, let Thy mighty hand Falsehood's stronghold o'erthrow. Lead us, Lord God of Hosts Lead us, Thou triune God, Lead us to strife and victory.

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