Page:Romain Rolland Handel.djvu/67
are sketches of genius with strange weaknesses. He produced many hastily finished operas with singular awkwardnesses in the manner of treating the instruments and the voice,—ill-fitting cadences, monotonous rhythms, a spoilt harmonic tissue, and, finally, in his larger pieces and those of grander scale, there is a lack of breath, a sort of physical exhaustion, which prevents him reaching the end of his superb ideas. But it is necessary to take him for what he is, one of the most poetic figures in music—smiling, yet a little elegiac—a miniature Mozart eternally convalescent. Nothing vulgar, nothing brutal, ever enters his music. Captivating melodies, coming straight from the heart, where the purest of English souls mirrors itself. Full of delicate harmonies, of caressing dissonances, a taste for the clashing of sevenths and seconds, of incessant poising between the major and minor, and with delicate and varied nuances of a pale tint, vague and slightly blurred, like the springtime sun piercing through a light mist. He only wrote one real opera, the admirable Dido and Æneas, of 1680. His other dramatic works, very numerous, were music for the stage, and the most beautiful type of this kind is that which he wrote for Dryden's King Arthur in 1691. This music is nearly all episodical. One cannot remove it without causing the essential action to suffer. The English taste was impatient
- See the Prelude or the Dance in Dioclesian and the overture to Bonduca.
- English art has never produced anything more worthy of being placed side by side with the masterpieces of the Italian art than the scene of Dido's death.