Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/45

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SYMPHONY.

duced only two years after Schubert's great Symphony in C, namely in 1830. His Italian Symphony followed in the next year ; and Stern- dale Bennett's in G minor, in 1834.

The dates and history of Spohr's productions are even more striking, as he was actually a contemporary of Beethoven's, and senior to Schubert, while in all respects in which his style is characteristic it represents quite a later genera- tion. His first Symphony (in Eb) was composed in 1811, before Beethoven's 7th, 8th, and Qth, and when he himself was 27 years old. This was followed by several others, which are not without merit, though not of sufficient histo- rical importance to require special consideration. The symphony of his which is best known at the present day is that called the ' Weihe der Tone,' which at one time enjoyed great celebrity. The history of this work is as follows. He in- tended first to set a poem of the same name by his friend PfeifFer. He began the setting in 1832, but finding it unsatisfactory he aban- doned the idea of using the words except as a programme ; in which form they are appended to the score. The full description and purpose of the work as expressed on the title is ' Characteristisches Tongemalde in Form einer Sinfonie, nach einen Gedicht von Carl Pfeiffer'; and a printed notice from the com- poser is appended to the score directing that the poem is to be either printed or recited aloud whenever the symphony is to be performed. Each movement also has its title, like the Pas- toral of Beethoven; but it differs from that work not only in its less substantial interest, but also in a much more marked departure from the ordinary principles of form, and the style of the successive movements.

The earlier part of the work corresponds fairly well with the usual principles of structure. It opens with a short Largo of vague character, passing into the Allegro, which is a continuous movement of the usual description, in a sweet, but rather tame style. The next movement might be taken to stand for the usual slow movement, as it begins Andantino ; but the development is original, as it is broken up by several changes of tempo and time-signatures, and is evidently based upon a programme, for which its title supplies an explanation. The next movement again might be taken as an alternative to the Minuet and Trio, being marked ' Tempo di Marcia,' which would suggest the same general outline of form. But the development is again independent, and must be supposed to follow its title. From this point all connection with the usual outlines ceases. There is an Andante maestoso, based upon an Ambrosianischer Lobgesang, a Larghetto containing a second hymn-tune, and a short Allegretto in simple primary form to conclude with. From this description it will be obvious that the work is an example of thoroughgoing

  • programme music.' It is clearly based rather on

the musical portrayal of a succession of ideas in themselves independent of music, than upon the treatment of principles of abstract form, and ideas

��SYMPHONY. 29

intrinsically musical. It derives from this fact a historical importance which its musical qualities taken alone would not warrant, as it is one of the very first German examples of its kind pos- sessing any high artistic excellences of treatment, expression, and orchestration. It contains a plentiful supply of Spohr's characteristic faults, and is for the most part superficial, and deficient in warmth of feeling and nobility of thought; but it has also a fair share of his good traits delicacy and clearness of orchestration, and a certain amount of poetical sentiment. Its suc- cess was considerable, and this, rather than any abstract theorising upon the tendencies of modern music, led him to several further experi- ments in the same line. The symphony (in C minor) which followed the ' Weihe der Tone ' was on the old lines, and does not require much notice. It contains experiments in unifying the work by unusual references to subjects, as in the first movement, where conspicuous reference is made in the middle part of the Allegro to the charac- teristic feature of the slow introduction; and in the last, where the same subject is somewhat transformed, and reappears in a different time as a prominent feature of the second section. In the next symphony, and in the 7th and gth, Spohr again tried experiments in pro- gramme. Two of these are such curiosities as to deserve description. The 6th, op. 116, in G, is called ' Historische Symphonic,' and the four movements are supposed to be illus- trations of four distinct musical periods. The first is called the Period of Handel and Bach, and dated 1720; the second, the Period of Haydn and Mozart, and dated 1780 (i.e. before any of the greatest instrumental works of either Haydn or Mozart were produced); the third is the Period of Beethoven, and dated 1810; and the fourth, ' Allerneueste Periocle,' and dated 1840. This last title seems to imply that Spohr regarded himself as belonging to a different generation from Beethoven. The first period is represented by an introductory Largo in contra- puntal style, and an Allegro movement, part after the manner of the old Canzonas, and part a Pastorale, introduced for contrast. The style has scarcely the least affinity to Bach, but the Handelian character is extremely easy to imitate, and hence in some respects it justifies its title fairly well. The slow movement which follows has good qualities and graceful points. It has more the flavour of Mozart than Haydn, and this is enhanced by the Mozartian turns and figures which are introduced. One which is very conspicuous is the short figure:

���which is found in several places in Mozart's works. The second subject moreover is only an ingenious alteration of the second subject in the slow movement of Mozart's Prague Sym- phony in D :

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