Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/440

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424

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��attempt to turn it into a harvest cantata proved fairly successful in one or two cases, especially Nos. 4 and 7 ; but the music is, as a rule, too closely wedded to the words to be divorced from them, unless at great sacrifice. 1

15. As to Weber's Masses, those acquainted with the state of Catholic church-music at the beginning of the I9th century will not expect to find them written in a pure church-style. Church music of this description is now almost a thing of the past ; in the great centres it is en- tirely tabooed in favour of the music of the 1 5th and i6th centuries. Under these circum- stances Weber's masses have little prospect of revival. They are probably never heard except in the Hofkirche of Dresden, and rarely there, and are bound to succumb to the fate which has overtaken those of Haydn, Mozart, and Hummel. Fine music they contain in abundance. As previously mentioned, they were produced within a short time of each other, in 1818 and 1819. After Weber's fashion they contrast sharply with each other, while each has one prevailing tone running consistently through to the end. 1818 being the 5Oth year of the king's reign, he gave to the Eb mass a tone of solemnity and splendour noticeable specially in the Sanctus. That in G, being for a family festival, is quite idyllic in character. * I mean to keep before myself,' he wrote to Rorblitz, 'the idea of a happy family party kneeling in prayer, and rejoicing before the Lord as His children.' It is worth while to examine the mass, and see how this idea is worked out. The Kyrie, Sanctus (with an exquisite Benedictus), and Agnus Dei, are delightful music. Occasional suggestions of well-known passages in his operas jar on a modern ear, but a composer is scarcely to be blamed for retaining his identity, even in a mass. His love of contrast, and habit of never remain- ing long occupied with one musical idea, give these pieces a somewhat restless and piecemeal effect, and for this reason those who were accus- tomed to Haydn's and Mozart's masses felt these too 'secular.' 3

1 6. When a youth of twenty Weber wrote two Symphonies, clever and to a certain ex- tent interesting, but parti-coloured and with- out form. The indications they gave of his future position as an orchestral composer were very inadequate, and in later years they by no means satisfied himself. Of wholly different import are his ten overtures, Peter Schmoll (remodelled 1807 as ' Grande Ouverture a plu- Bieurs instruments'), Rubezahl (remodelled 1811 as 'Ouverture zum Beherrscher der Geister,' 'Ruler of the Spirits'), 'Ouverture Chinesa' (remodelled 1819 for Turandot), Silvana, Abu Hassan, Jubelouverture, Freischiitz, Preciosa, Euryanthe, and Oberon. Of these, Peter Schmoll and Silvana are unimportant and immature. In Turandot the local colouring

1 The score, with the two sets of words, and preceded by the Jubel- Ouverture. is published by Schlesinger (Berlin). A full analysis with ample quotations is given in the ' Monthly Musical Record/ 1873.

2 The score of the Eb mass was published by Eichault (Paris), that of the one in G by Hasllnger (Vienna, edition de luxe).

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furnished by a Chinese air is pushed into an extreme which becomes ugly. The remaining seven are amongst the finest, and excepting perhaps Rubezahl and Abu Hassan, the most popular pieces in the world. They hold a middle position between simple introductions and ab- stract orchestral works, sounding equally well in the concert-room and the theatre. This they share with the overtures of Mozart and Cheru- bini, while much of the effect of Beethoven's, and the whole of the effect of Schumann's Genoveva and Manfred is lost when played on the stage. There are, however, important differences of style between these overtures and those of Mozart and Cherubini. This is not so much because Weber constructed them out of the materials of the opera, though some have with great injustice gone so far as to maintain that they are mere elegant potpourris. Each is a complete conception, and some unimportant passages apart carved out of one block. That what looks like mosaic may have been constructed organically is proved by Cherubini's 'Anacreon* overture, in which a little-known fact there is not a single bar not contained in the opera. Weber's natural way of working was not to develop continuously, but to proceed from one strong contrast to another. His musical ideas are seldom adapted for the- matic treatment, being always full of meaning, but with few capacities of development. The instant one idea is given out decisively it calls up another absolutely opposed to it. Illus- trations of this may be found in the opening of the Rubezahl overture, as well as in the Eb movement of the Allegro in that to ' Der Freischiitz.' This method of progression by continual contrasts is undoubtedly the sign- manual of Weber's dramatic genius; and to it his works owe as much of their stimulating effect and fascination, as they do to the variety, ten- derness, and brilliancy of the instrumentation.

17. This explains why Weber produced so little chamber-music. The quiet thoughtfulness, the refinements of instrumental polyphony, the patient unravelling and metamorphosing of a subject, which are the essence of this branch of art, were not congenial to one who liked to be up and away. He did not write a single string quartet; and his PF. quartet, string quintet with clarinet, and trio for PF., cello, and flute, are, for him, unimportant compositions, and not always in the true chamber-music style. Jahns appositely observes that the trio is pastoral in character, and the last three movements almost dramatic. By this he means not so much that the composer had in his mind specific figures or scenes, but that the subjects are almost like spoken phrases, and the contrasts singularly life-like. Many movements of Beethoven's chamber-music were inspired by some definite poetical idea (as the adagios of the quartets in F major (No. i) and E minor), but these are all genuine chamber-music. The third movement of the trio, headed ' Schafers-Klage ' (Shepherd's Lament), is a series of clever varia- tions on a simple melody of eight bars. I believe

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