Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/55

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SYMPHONY.

of abstract music. But on the other hand, as is inevitable from the position he adopted, he was forced at times to assume a theatrical manner, and a style which savours rather of the stage than of the true dramatic essence of the situa- tions he deals with. In the 'Symphonic Fan- tastique,' for instance, which he also called 'Epi- sode de la Vie d'un Artiste,' his management of the programme principle is thorough and well- devised. The notion of the ideal object of the artist's affections being represented by a definite musical figure, called the 'ide'e fixe,' unifying the work throughout by its constant reappear- ance in various aspects and surroundings, is very happy; and the way in which he treats it in several parts of the first movement has some of the characteristic qualities of the best kind of development of ideas and figures, in the purely musical sense; while at the same time he has obtained most successfully the expression of the implied sequence of emotions, and the absorption consequent upon the contemplation of the ' be- loved object.' In the general laying out of the work he maintains certain vague resemblances to the usual symphonic type. The slow intro- duction, and the succeeding Allegro agitato representing his passion, and therefore based to a very great extent on the 'ide'e fixe' are equi- valent to the familiar opening movements of the classical symphonies ; and moreover there is even a vague resemblance in the inner structure of the Allegro to the binary form. The second movement, called' Unbal,' correspondsin position to the time-honoured minuet and trio ; and though the broad outlines are very free there is a certain suggestion of the old inner form in the relative disposition of the valse section and that devoted to the ' ide'e fixe.' In the same way the 'Scene aux Champs' corresponds to the usual slow movement. In the remaining movements the programme element is more conspicuous. A 'Marche au supplice' and a ' Songe d'une nuit de Sabbat' are both of them as fit as possible to excite the composer's love of picturesque and terrible effects, and to lead him to attempt realistic presentation, or even a sort of musical scene-painting, in which some of the character- istics of instrumental music are present, though they are submerged in the general impression by characteristics of the opera. The effect produced is of much the same nature as of that of pas- sages selected from operas played without action in the concert-room. In fact, in his little pre- face, Berlioz seems to imply that this would be a just way to consider the work, and the condensed statement of his view of programme music there given is worth quoting : ' Le compositeur a eu pour but de deVelopper, dans ce qu'elles ont de musical, diffe'rentes situations de la vie d'un artiste. Le plan du drame instrumental, prive du secours de la parole, a besoin d'etre expose d'avance. Le programme (qui est indispensable a 1'intelligence complete du plan dramatique de 1'ouvrage) doit dont etre consider^ comme le texte parle d'un Opera, servant a aiuener des morceaux de musique, dont il motive le caractere et 1'ex-

��SYMPHONY.

��39

��pression.' 1 This is a very important and clear statement of the position, and marks sufficiently the essential difference between the principles of the most advanced writers of programme music, and those adopted by Beethoven. The results are in fact different forms of art. An instrumental drama is a fascinating idea, and might be carried out perfectly within the limits used even by Mozart and Haydn ; but if the programme is in- dispensable to its comprehension those limits have been passed. This does not necessarily make the form of art an illegitimate one; but it is most important to realise that it is on quite a different basis from the type of the instrumental symphony; and this will be better understood by comparing Berlioz's statement with those Symphonies of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, or even of Kaff and Rubinstein, where the adoption of a general and vague title gives the semblance of a similar use of programme. Beethoven liked to have a picture or scene or circumstance in his 2 mind ; but it makes all the difference to the form of art whether the picture or story is the guiding principle in the development of the piece, or whether the development follows the natural implication of the positively musical idea. The mere occurrence, in one of these forms, of a feature which is characteristic of the other, is not sufficient to bridge over the distance between them ; and hence the ' instrumental drama ' or poem, of which Berlioz has given the world its finest examples, must be regarded as distinct from the regular type of the pure instrumental symphony. It might perhaps be fairly regarded as the Celtic counterpart of the essentially Teu- tonic form of art, and as an expression of the Italo-Gallic ideas of instrumental music on lines parallel to the German symphony ; but in reality it is scarcely even an offshoot of the old sym- phonic stem; and it will be far better for the understanding of the subject if the two forms of art are kept as distinct in name as they are in principle.

The only composer of really great mark who has worked on similar lines to Berlioz in modern times is Liszt ; and his adoption of the name 'Symphonic poem' for such compositions suffi- ciently defines their nature without bringing them exactly under the head of symphonies. Of these there are many, constructed on absolutely inde- pendent lines, so as to appear as musical poems or counterparts of actual existing poems, on such subjects as Mazeppa, Prometheus, Orpheus, the battle of the Huns, the ' Preludes ' of Lamartiue, Hamlet, and so forth. [See p. 10 6.] A work which, in name at least, trenches upon the old lines is the 'Faust Symphony,' in which the con- nection with the programme-principle of Berlioz

1 The composer has aimed at developing various situations In the life of an artist, so tar as seemed musically possible. The plan of an instrumental drama, being without words, requires to be explained beforehand. The programme (which is indispensable to the perfect comprehension of the dramatic plan of the work) ought therefore to be considered in the light of the spoken text of an Opera, serving to lead up to the pieces of music, and indicate the character and ex- pression.

2 This important admission was made by Beethoven toNeate: 'I have always a picture in my thoughts when I am composing, and work to it. 1 (Thayer, ill. 343.)

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