Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/48

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32 SYMPHONY.

obvious trace either in the ideas themselves, or in the manner of expression of the Mozartian in- fluence which is so noticeable in the symphony of six years earlier. And considering that the composer was still but 21, the maturity of style and judgment is relatively quite as remarkable as the facility and mastery shown in the work of his 1 5th year. The orchestration is quite characteristic and free ; and in some cases, as in part of the second movement, singularly happy. The principle of programme here assumed seems to have been maintained by him thenceforward ; for his other symphonies, though it is not so stated in the published scores, are known to have been recognised by him as the results of his impressions of Italy and Scotland. The first of them followed very soon after the Re- formation Symphony. In the next year after the completion of that work he mentioned the new symphony in a letter to his sister as far ad- vanced ; and said it was ' the gayest thing he had ever done.' He was in Rome at the time, and it appears most probable that the first and last movements were written there. Of the slow movement he wrote that he had not found anything exactly right, ' and would put it off till he went to Naples, hoping to find something to inspire him there.' But in the result it is dif- ficult to imagine that Naples can have had much share. Of the third movement there is a tradition that it was imported from an earlier work ; and it certainly has a consider- able flavour of Mozart, though coupled with traits characteristic of Mendelssohn in perfect maturity, and is at least well worthy of its position ; and even if parts of it, as is possible, appeared in an earlier work, the excellences of the Trio, and the admirable effect of the final Coda which is based on it, point to considerable rewriting and reconstruction at a mature period. The actual structure of the movements is based upon familiar principles, though not without certain idiosyncrasies : as for instance the appear- ance of a new prominent feature in the working- out portion, and the freedom of the recapitula- tion in the first movement. In the last move- ment, called Saltarello, he seems to have given a more free rein to his fancy in portraying some scene of unconstrained Italian gaiety to which he was a witness ; and though there is an un- derlying consistency in the usual distribution of keys, the external balance of subjects is not so obvious. The last movement is hence the only one which seems to depend to any extent upon the programme idea; in all other respects the symphony belongs to the ' classical ' order. Indeed such a programme as the pur- pose to reproduce impressions of particular countries is far too vague to lend itself to ex- act and definite musical portrayal of external ideas, such as might take the place of the usual outlines of structure. In fact it could lead to little more than consistency of style, which would be equally helpful to the composer and the audience ; and it may well have served as an excuse for a certain laxity and profusion

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in the succession of the ideas, instead of that difficult process of concentrating and making relevant the whole of each movement upon the basis of a few definite and typical subjects. The characteristics of the work are for the most part fresh and genial spontaneity. The scoring is of course admirable and clear, without presenting any very marked features; and it is at the same time independent and well proportioned in distribution of the various qualities of sound, and in fitness to the subject matter.

In orchestral effects the later symphony the Scotch, in A minor is more remarkable. The impressions which Mendelssohn received in Scotland may naturally have suggested more striking points of local colour ; and the manner in which it is distributed from first page to last serves to very good purpose in unifying the impression of the whole. The effects are almost invariably obtained either by using close har- monies low in the scale of the respective in- struments, or by extensively doubling tunes and figures in a similar manner, and in a sombre part of the scale of the instruments ; giving an effect of heaviness and darkness which were pos- sibly Mendelssohn's principal feelings about the grandeur and uncertain climate of Scotland. Thus in the opening phrase for wind instru- ments they are crowded in the harmonies almost as thick as they will endure. In the statement of the first principal subject again the clarinet in its darkest region doubles the tune of the violins an octave lower. The use of the whole mass of the strings in three octaves, with the wind filling the harmonies in rhythmic chords, which has so fine and striking an effect at the be- ginning of the 'working out' and in the coda, has the same basis : and the same effect is obtained by similar means here and there in the Scherzo; as for instance where the slightly transformed version of the principal subject is introduced by the wind in the Coda. The same qualities are frequently noticeable in the Slow movement and again in the coda of the last movement. As in the previous symphony, the structure is quite in accordance with familiar principles. If anything, the work errs rather on the side of squareness and obviousness in the outlines both of ideas and structure; as may be readily perceived by comparing the construction of the opening tune of the intro- duction with any of Beethoven's introductions (either that of the D or Bb or A Symphonies, or his overtures) : or even the introduction to Mozart's Prague Symphony. And the im- pression is not lessened by the obviousness of the manner in which the succeeding recita- tive passages for violins are introduced; nor by the squareness and tune-like qualities of the first subject of the first movement, nor by the way in which the square tune pattern of the scherzo is reiterated. In the manipulation of the fa- miliar distribution of periods and phrases, how- ever, he used a certain amount of consideration. For example, the persistence of the rhythmic figure of the first subject of the first allegro,

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