are highly comic, that Schumann, in the 'Faschingsschwank aus Wien' hit upon a decidedly humorous idea when he made the rhythm of the first movement suggest, first his favourite 'Grossvatertanz' and then the prohibited 'Marseillaise'; let us also admit that Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette is comical music, even apart from its 'programme,' still our collection of humorous specimens is not a large one. We must fall back upon that extensive class of music in which the humour is suggested—if not entirely possessed—by the words or ideas allied thereto. Many early examples of this kind will be found in the article on Programme Music. Such phrases as
do not appear particularly droll by themselves, but when we know that they are intended to represent the mewing of a cat and the clucking of a hen we smile—perhaps. The humour of comic opera consists either in the rapid articulation of syllables on successive notes known as 'patter' or in the deliberate setting of nonsense to serious music. The so-called comic cantatas of Bach might be sung to serious words without any incongruity being apparent, although his 'Capriccio on the departure of a brother,' with its picture of the lamentation of the friends who tell the traveller of the dangers of his way, is one of the best musical jokes, ancient or modern. Mozart affords us in his operas many specimens of music which is at least thoroughly in keeping with the humour of the words, if not inherently humorous. Decidedly his best efforts of this kind are to be found in 'Die Zauberflöte.' In the operas-bouffes of Offenbach a decided feeling for musical humour was sometimes exhibited; for instance when Barbe Bleue relates the death of his wife to a pathetic-sounding air which, as he quickly recovers from his grief, he sings faster and faster till it becomes a merry quadrille-tune. The snoring chorus in Orphée, the toothache song in 'La Princesse de Trebizonde,' and many others, are singularly characteristic. Of the same class of humour as this might be mentioned an idea in Smetana's light opera 'The Two Widows,' which consists in making one of the characters stammer all the time he sings. This is funny enough, but unfortunately, in real life, the most inveterate stammerer loses his affliction the moment he sings. In the comic operas of Sir Arthur Sullivan, delightful as they are, the humour is quite inseparable from the words. Change these and all is lost. Almost the only instance of musical humour in opera, where the humour emanates from the music independently of the words, are to be found, where they would scarcely be looked for, in two of the later works of Wagner. In 'Siegfried' the whole of Mime's music is eminently characteristic, but in Act II, Sc. 3, when the dwarf comes wheedlingly to Siegfried he has the following expressive subject in the orchestra:
His murderous intentions having been revealed by the forest-bird, the theme appropriated to the latter is woven into Mime's music as if in mockery:
Again, a little later, when Siegfried deals the dwarf his merited fate, the brother Alberich, watching from a cleft in the rock, utters a peal of laughter to the 'smith-motive'
as if to say 'He will never wield the hammer again!' In the 'Meistersinger' we find many admirable specimens of musical drollery, such as the illustrative accompaniment of David's absurd catalogue of 'Tones,' the way in which the orchestra pokes fun at Beckmesser both in his serenade and in his version of Walther's song, but most especially in that remarkable scene of the 3rd Act (unfortunately reduced to a few bars in performance) where Beckmesser enters alone in silent perturbation and the orchestra interprets the current of his thoughts. This is a piece of musical humour absolutely without parallel.Lest we should be deemed to have forgotten them, we will mention in conclusion Haydn's 'Farewell Symphony,' the 'Musical Joke' or 'Peasants' Symphony' of Mozart, and the 'Wuth über einen verlornen Groschen' of Beethoven, but whatever humour there may be in either of these compositions certainly does not reside in the music.
[ F. C. ]
HURDY GURDY. P. 759a, l. 20, When in the key of C, the lowest drone is tenor C. The lowest drones are called Bourdons, the next higher open string is the Mouche. The Trompette which is again higher, a copper string next the two melody-strings, may be tuned as indicated and used at pleasure.
[ A. J. H. ]