Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/441

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WEBER.

-though Jahns does not agree with me that this is the air of a real Lied, and suspect it to be a setting of Goethe's 'Da droben auf jenem Berge,' but whether Weber's or not we have at present no means of determining. Amongst his chamber-music must not be forgotten six sonatas for PF. and violin, published in 1811. Though of modest dimensions, and occasionally somewhat immature, they contain a host of charming thoughts ; the ideal they aim at is not high, but they form the most delightful drawing-room music possible.

1 8. As the reader will perceive, we do not class Weber's Piano compositions with his chamber- music. Here our verdict must be wholly different. Weber was one of the greatest and most original pianists of his day. After his thorough grounding when a boy he never be- came the pupil of any of the principal virtuosi, and all the finishing part of his education was his own work. He formed himself neither on dementi nor Hummel; indeed, his feeling with regard to the latter was one of decided opposition. After hearing him in Vienna in 1813, he wrote in his diary, 'H\immel improvised dry but correct.' After a concert of Hummers in 1816, Weber wrote that 'Hummel seemed to set the most store on plenty of runs executed with great clearness. Drawing out and developing the higher resources of the instrument, he perhaps undervalues too much.' 1 In private letters he spoke still more openly, saying plainly that ' Hummel had not made a study of the nature of the pianoforte.' This he himself had done most thoroughly, and in consequence obtained a num- ber of effects at once new and thoroughly in accordance with the nature of the instrument. This was the principal cause of the unexpected- ness which was so striking in his playing, besides its brilliancy, fire, and expression. Wide stretches, easy to his long flexible fingers, bold jumps from one part of the keyboard to another, rapid passages of thirds for one hand (the Eb concerto), or of thirds, sixths, and octaves for both, runs with accompanying chords for the same hand (first movement of the sonata in C) such are some of his technical resources, all of real value because used to express really new ideas. His pianoforte style also shows, within reasonable limits, a leaning to the orchestral. For instance, in the finale of the Sonata in D minor he must certainly have had the cello and clarinet in mind when he wrote the cantabile^nd the still more beautiful counter-subject. Again, in the first movement of the Sonata in C his mental ear has evidently been filled with the Bound of the orchestra from bar 4.

The four Sonatas (in C, Ab, D minor, and E minor), are pronounced by Marx to excel in some respects even the sonatas of Beethoven. This is going too far. In perfection of form Weber is always far behind Beethoven, and though his ideas may be equally original, they are far less solid, and not so varied. His sonatas therefore cannot be considered models of the

i Lebensblld, 111. 117.

��WEBER.

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��type, which Beethoven's are in the highest degree. They are rather fantasias in sonata- form, and their very irregularities give them a kind of air of improvisation, which is their chief charm. Ambros says, 'They blossom like an enchanted garden of romance. The paths of such gardens generally lead into a wilderness, where a wealth of gorgeous ideas is crowded together among heterogeneous rou- lades, like delicious fruits among exotic foliage and luxuriant creepers.' The same contrast is discoverable between the sonatas in them- selves. Each has its distinctive character, con- sistently maintained throughout. When we say that no one of Beethoven's sonatas resembles another, we mean something quite different from this. The divergence between his various crea- tions goes far deeper ; with Weber certain favourite phrases are frequently repeated, and his sphere of ideas is far less extensive. His sonatas contrast more in form and colour than in essence ; in each he gives us his whole self, but from a different point of view.

Next to the sonatas in importance are his ten sets of Variations. 2 Weber did not attempt as Bach did in the * Goldberg ' variations, or Bee- thoven in the ' Eroica ' ones, and those on Diabelli's waltz to enlarge the bounds of varia- tion, but clung to the simple old-fashioned form. This makes it all the more wonderful that he could cram so much that was new within such narrow limits. In the invention of new figures and striking harmonies he is inexhaustible, and a main point each has its own distinctive and sharply- defined stamp. His dramatic genius never left him. His variations on ' Vien qua, Doriua bella,' op. 7 ; on ' A peine au sortir de 1'enfance,' op. 28 ; and on ' Scheme Minka,' op. 40, are among the finest specimens of the kind.

His talent shone most conspicuously whenever he had a poetical idea to interpret musically, and nowhere do we see this more clearly than in his two Polonaises, in Eb and E, and above all in his ' Invitation to the Waltz,' known all over the world. The ' Rondo brilliant ' op. 62, and the 'Momento capriccioso,' op. 12, though not unattractive, scarcely come up to the other three pieces. Of pianoforte music for four hands his only examples are op. 3, 10, and 60, con- taining 6, 6, and 8 pieces respectively. Bee- thoven scarcely ever wrote for four hands, and Mozart but seldom. Speaking generally, Schu- bert ranks as the founder of modern four-hand pianoforte music, but before his day Weber had produced his op. 60, a collection of little pieces winch for invention, and fascination of sound, do not yield to Schubert's best work of the kind.

19. Finally Weber takes high rank as a com- poser of Concertos. As a pianist it was of course an object to him to find scope for his own instru- ment with an orchestra. Of his three concertos the one in F minor, op. 79 (Concertstiick) is to this

2 I include the variations for PF. and violin, op. 22. and for FF. aud clarinet, op. 33.

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