Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/47

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SYMPHONY.

abrogated in England by Spohr, possibly because he was not a clavier but a violin player. In Germany it was evidently discontinued some time earlier. The most distinguished composers of sym- phonies who wrote at the same time as Spohr, were entirely independent of him. The first of these is Mendelssohn, whose earliest symphonies even overlap Beethoven, and whose better-known works of the kind, as before mentioned, begin about the same time as Spohr's best examples, and extend over nearly the same period as his later ones. The earliest which survives in print is that in C minor dedicated to the Lon- don Philharmonic Society. This work was really his thirteenth symphony, and was finished on March 31, 1824, when he was only fifteen years old, in the very year that Beethoven's Choral Symphony was first performed. The work is more historically than musically in- teresting. It shows, as might be expected, how much stronger the mechanical side of Mendels- sohn's artistic nature was, even as a boy, than his poetical side. Technically the work is extra- ordinarily mature. It evinces not only a perfect and complete facility in laying the outline and carrying out the details of form, but also the acutest sense of the balance and proportion of tone of the orchestra. The limits of the attempt are not extensive, and the absence of strong feeling or aspiration in the boy facilitated the execution. The predominant influence is clearly that of Mozart. Not only the treatment of the lower and subordinate parts of the harmony, but the distribution arid management of the different sections and even the ideas are like. There is scarcely a trace of the influence of Beethoven, and not much of the features afterwards characteristic of the composer himself. The most individual movements are the slow movement and the trio. The former is tolerably free from the influence of the artificial and mannered slow movements of the Haydn and Mozart style, and at the same tune does not derive its inspiration from Beetho- ven: it contains some very free experiments in modulation, enharmonic and otherwise, a few characteristic figures similar to some which he made use of later in his career, and passages of melody clearly predicting the composer of the Lieder ohne Worte and the short slow- movements of the organ sonatas. The Trio is long and very original in intention, the chief feature being ingenious treatment of arpeggios for the strings in many parts. The other move- ments are for the most part formal. The Minuet is extraordinarily like that of Mozart's Gr minor Symphony, not only in accent and style, but in the manner in which the strings and the wind are grouped and balanced, especially in the short passage for wind alone which occurs towards the end of each half of the movement. It was possibly owing to this circumstance that Men- delssohn substituted for it the orchestral arrange- ment of the Scherzo of his Octet when the work was performed later in his life. In the last movement the most characteristic passage is the second subject, with the short chords of pizzicato

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��strings, and the tune for the clarinet which conies after the completion of the first period by strings alone. He used the same device more than once later, and managed it more satis- factorily. But it is just such suggestions of the working of the musical spirit in the man which make an early work interesting.

His next symphony happened to illustrate the supposed tendency of the age towards pro- gramme. It was intended for the tercentenary festival of the Augsburg Protestant Confession in 1830, though owing to political circumstances its performance was deferred till later. He evi- dently had not made up his mind what to call it till some time after it was finished, as he wrote to his sister and suggested Confession Symphony, or Symphony for a Church Festival, as alternative names. But it is quite evident nevertheless that he must have had some sort of programme in his mind, and a purpose to illustrate the conflict between the old and new forms of the faith, and the circumstances and attributes which belonged to them. The actual form of the work is as nearly as possible what is called perfectly orthodox. The slow in- troduction, the regular legitimate allegro, the simple pretty scherzo and trio, the short but com- pletely balanced slow movement, and the regular last movement preceded by a second slow in- troduction, present very little that is out of the way in point of structure ; and hence the work is less dependent upon its programme than some of the examples by Spohr above described. But nevertheless the programme can be clearly seen to have suggested much of the detail of treatment and development in a perfectly con- sistent and natural manner. The external traits which obviously strike attention are two ; first, the now well-known passage which is used in the Catholic Church at Dresden for the Amen, and which Wagner has since adopted as one of the most conspicuous religious motives of the Parsifal; and secondly, the use of Luther's famous hymn, ' Ein' feste Burg,' in the latter part of the work. The Amen makes its appearance in the latter part of the opening Andante, and is clearly meant to typify the old church ; and its recurrence at the end of the working out in the first movement, before the recapitulation, is possibly meant to imply that the old church still holds its own: while in the latter portion of the work the typical hymn- tune, introduced softly by the flute and by degrees taking possession of the whole orchestra, may be taken to represent the successful spread of the Protestant ideas, just as its final utterance fortissimo at the end of all, does the establishment of men's right to work out their own salvation in their own way. There are various other details which clearly have purpose in relation to the programme, and show clearly that the com- poser was keeping the possible succession of events and circumstances in his mind throughout. The actual treatment is a very considerable advance upon the Symphony in C minor. The whole work is thoroughly Mendelssohnian. There is no

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