1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Music
MUSIC.—The Greek μουσική (sc. τέχνη), from which this word is derived, was used very widely to embrace all those arts over which the Nine Muses (Μοῦσαι) were held to preside. Contrasted with γυμναστική (gymnastic) it included those branches of education concerned with the development of the mind as opposed to the body. Thus such widely different arts and sciences as mathematics, astronomy, poetry and literature generally, and even reading and writing would all fall under μουσική, besides the singing and setting of lyric poetry. On the educational value of music in the formation of character the philosophers laid chief stress, and this biased their aesthetic analysis. Ἁρμονία (harmony), or ἁρμονική (sc. τεχνή), rather than μουσική, was the name given by the Greeks to the art of arranging sounds for the purpose of creating a definite aesthetic impression, with which this article deals.
1. Introduction.—As a mature and independent art music is unknown except in the modern forms realized by Western civilization; ancient music, and the non-European music of the present day, being (with insignificant exceptions of a character which confirms the generalization) invariably an adjunct of poetry or dance, in so far as it is recognizable as an art at all. The modern art of music is in a unique position; for, while its language has been wholly created by art, this language is yet so perfectly organized as to be in itself natural; so that though the music of one age or style may be at first unintelligible to a listener who is accustomed to another style, and though the listener may help himself by acquiring information as to the characteristics and meaning of the new style, he will best learn to understand it by merely divesting his mind of prejudices and allowing the music to make itself intelligible by its own self-consistency. The understanding of music thus finally depends neither upon technical knowledge nor upon convention, but upon the listener’s immediate and familiar experience of, it; an experience which technical knowledge and custom can of course aid him to acquire more rapidly, as they strengthen his memory and enable him to fix impressions by naming them.
Beyond certain elementary facts of acoustics (see Sound), modern music shows no direct connexion with nature independently of art; indeed, it is already art that determines the selection of these elementary acoustic facts, just as in painting art determines the selection of those facts that come under the cognizance of optics. In music, however, the purely acoustic principles are incomparably fewer and simpler than the optical principles of painting, and their artistic interaction transforms them into something no less remote from the laboratory experiments of acoustic science than from the unorganized sounds of nature. The result is that while the ordinary non-artistic experiences of sight afford so much material for plastic art that the vulgar conception of good painting is that it is deceptively like nature, the ordinary non-artistic experience of sound has so little in common with music that musical realism is, with rare though popular exceptions, generally regarded as an eccentricity.
This contrast between music and plastic art may be partly explained by the mental work undergone, during the earliest infancy both of the race and of the individual, in interpreting sensations of space. When a baby learns the shape of objects by taking them in his hands, and gradually advances to the discovery that his toes belong to him, he goes through an amount of work that is quite forgotten by the adult, and its complexity and difficulty has perhaps only been fully realized through the experience of persons who have been born blind but have acquired sight at a mature age by an operation. Such work gives the facts of normal adult vision an amount of organic principle that makes them admirable raw material for art. The power of distinguishing sensations of sound is associated with no such mental skill, and is no more complex than the power of distinguishing colours. On the other hand, sound is the principal medium by which most of the higher animals both express and excite emotion; and hence, though until codified into human speech it does not give any raw material for art, yet so powerful are its primitive effects that music (in the bird-song sense of sound indulged in for its own attractiveness) is as long prior to language as the brilliant colours of animals and flowers are prior to painting (see Song). Again, sound as a warning or a menace is eminently important in the history of the instinct of self-preservation; and, above all, its production is instantaneous and instinctive.
All these facts, while they tend to make musical expression an early phenomenon in the history of life, are extremely unfavourable to the early development of musical art. They invested the first musical attempts with a mysterious power over listener and musician, by re-awakening instincts more powerful, because more ancient and necessary, than any that could ever have been appealed to by so deliberate a process as that of drawing on a flat surface a series of lines calculated to remind the eye of the appearance of solid objects in space. It is hardly surprising that music long remained as imperfect as its legendary powers were portentous, even in the hands of so supremely artistic a race as that of classical Greece; and whatever wonder this backwardness might still arouse in us vanishes when we realize the extreme difficulty of the process by which the principles of the modern art were established.
2. Non-harmonic and Greek Music.—Archaic music is of two kinds—the unwritten, or spontaneous, and the recorded, or scientific. The earliest musical art-problems were far too difficult for conscious analysis, but by no means always beyond the reach of a lucky hit from an inspired singer; and thus folk music often shows real beauty where the more systematic music of the time is merely arbitrary. Moreover, folk-music and the present music of barbarous and civilized non-European races furnish the study of musical origins with material analogous to that given by the present manners and customs of different races in the study of social evolution and ancient history. We may mention as examples the accurate comparison of the musical scales of non-European races undertaken by A. J. Ellis (On the Musical Scales of Various Nations, 1885); the parallel researches and acute and cautious reasoning of his friend and collaborator, A. J. Hipkins (Dorian and Phrygian reconsidered from a Non-harmonic Point of View, 1902); and, perhaps most of all, the study of Japanese music, with its remarkable if uncertain signs of the beginning of a harmonic tendency, its logical coherence, and its affinity to Western scales, points in which it seems to show a great advance upon the Chinese music from which most of it is derived (Music and Musical Instruments of Japan, by J. F. Piggott, 1893). The reader will find detailed accounts of ancient Greek music in the article on that subject in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (new ed., ii. 223) and in Monro’s Modes of Ancient Greek Music (Clarendon Press, 1894), while both the Greek music itself, and the steps by which it passed through Graeco-Roman and early Christian phases to become the foundation of the modern art, are traced as clearly as is consistent with accuracy in The Oxford History of Music, vol. i., by Professor Wooldridge. Sir Hubert Parry’s Evolution of the Art of Music (“International Scientific Series,” originally published under the title of The Art of Music) presents the main lines of the evolution of modern musical ideas in the clearest and most readable form yet attained.
Sir Hubert Parry illustrates in this work the artificiality of our modern musical conceptions by the word “cadence,” which to a modern musician belies its etymology, since it normally means for him no “falling” close but a pair of final chords rising from dominant to tonic. Moreover, in consequence of our harmonic notions we think of scales as constructed from the bottom upwards; and even in the above-mentioned article in Grove’s Dictionary all the Greek scales are, from sheer force of habit, written upwards. But the ancient and, almost universally, the primitive idea of music is like that of speech, in which most inflections are in fact cadences, while rising inflexions express less usual sentiments, such as surprise or interrogation. Again, our modern musical idea of “high” and “low” is probably derived from a sense of greater and less vocal effort; and it has been much stimulated by our harmonic sense, which has necessitated a range of sounds incomparably greater than those employed in any non-harmonic system. The Greeks derived their use of the terms from the position of notes on their instruments; and the Greek hypatē was what we should call the lowest note of the mode, while netē was the highest. Sir George Macfarren has pointed out (Ency. Brit., 9th ed., art. “Music”) that Boethius (c. A.D. 500) already fell into the trap and turned the Greek modes upside down.
Another radical though less grotesque misconception was also already well exploded by Macfarren; but it still frequently survives at the present day, since the study of non-harmonic scales is, with the best of intentions, apt rather to encourage than to dispel it. The more we realize the importance of differences in position of intervals of various sizes, as producing differences of character in scales, the more irresistible is the temptation to regard the ancient Greek modes as differing from each other in this way. And the temptation becomes greater instead of less when we have succeeded in thinking away our modern harmonic notions. Modern harmonization enormously increases the differences of expression between modes of which the melodic intervals are different, but it does this in a fashion that draws the attention almost entirely away from these differences of interval; and without harmony we find it extremely difficult to distinguish one mode from another, unless it be by this different arrangement of intervals. Nevertheless, all the evidence irresistibly tends to the conclusion that while the three Greek genera—diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic—were scales differing in intervals, the Greek modes were a series of scales identical in arrangement of interval, and differing, like our modern keys, only in pitch. The three genera were applied to all these modes or keys, and we have no difficulty in understanding their modifying effects. But the only clue we have to the mental process by which in a preharmonic age different characteristics can be ascribed to scales identical in all but pitch, is to be found in the limited compass of Greek musical sounds, corresponding as it does to the evident sensitiveness of the Greek ear to differences in vocal effort. We have only to observe the compass of the Greek scale to see that in the most esteemed modes it is much more the compass of speaking than of singing voices. Modern singing is normally at a much higher pitch than that of the speaking voice, but there is no natural reason, outside the peculiar nature of modern music, why this should be so. It is highly probable that all modern singing would strike a classical Greek ear as an outcry; and in any case such variations of pitch as are inconsiderable in modern singing are extremely emphatic in the speaking voice, so that they might well make all the difference to an ear unaccustomed to organized sound beyond the speaking compass. Again, much that Aristoxenus and other ancient authorities say of the character of the modes (or keys) tends to confirm the view that that character depends upon the position of the mese or keynote within the general compass. Thus Aristotle (Politics, v. (viii.) 7, 1342 b. 20) states that certain low-pitched modes suit the voices of old men, and thus we may conjecture that even the position of tones and semitones might in the Dorian and Phrygian modes bring the bolder portion of the scale in all three genera into the best regions of the average young voice, while the Ionian and Lydian might lead the voice to dwell more upon semitones and enharmonic intervals, and so account for the heroic character of the former and the sensual character of the latter (Plato, Republic, 398 to 400).
Of the Greek genera, the chromatic and enharmonic (especially the latter) show very clearly the origin of so many primitive scales in the interval of the downward fourth. That interval (e.g. from C to G) is believed to be the earliest melodic relationship which the ear learnt to fix; and most of the primitive scales were formed by the accretion of auxiliary notes at the bottom of this interval, and the addition of a similar interval, with similar accretions, below the former. In this way a pentatonic scale, like that of so many Scotch melodies, can easily be formed (thus, C, A, G; F, D, C); and though some primitive scales seem to have been on the nucleus of the rising fifth, while the Siamese now use two scales of which not a single note within the octave can be accounted for by any known principle, still we may consider that for general historic purposes the above example is typical. The Greeks divided their downward fourth into four notes, called a tetrachord; and by an elaborate system of linking tetrachords together they gave their scale a compass of two octaves. The enharmonic tetrachord, being the most ancient, gathered the lower three notes very closely to the bottom, leaving the second note no less than a major third from the top, thus—C, A♭, G′, G; (where G′ stands for a note between A♭ and G). The chromatic tetrachord was C, B♭♭, A♭, G; and the diatonic tetrachord was C, B♭, A♭, G. It is this last that has become the foundation of modern music, and the Greeks themselves soon preferred it to the other genera and found a scientific basis for it. In the first place they noticed that its notes (and, less easily, the notes of the chromatic scale) could be connected by a series of those intervals which they recognized as concordant. These were, the fourth; its converse, or inversion, the fifth; and the octave. The notes of the enharmonic tetrachord could not be connected by any such series. In the articles on Harmony and Sound account is given of the historic and scientific foundations of the modern conception of concord; and although this harmonic conception applies to simultaneous notes, while the Greeks concerned themselves only with successive notes, it is nevertheless permissible to regard the Greek sense of concord in successive notes as containing the germ of our harmonic sense. The stability of the diatonic scale was assured as early as the 6th century B.C. when Pythagoras discovered (if he did not learn from Egypt or India) the extremely simple mathematical proportions of its intervals. And this discovery was of unique importance, as fixing the intervals by a criterion that could never be obscured by the changes of taste and custom otherwise inevitable in music that has no conscious harmonic principles to guide it. At the same time, the foundation of a music as yet immature and ancillary to drama, on an acoustic science ancillary to a priori mathematics, was not without disadvantage to the art; and it is arguable that the great difficulty with which during the medieval beginnings of modern harmony the concords of the third and sixth were rationalized may have been increased by the fact that the Pythagorean system left these intervals considerably out of tune. In preharmonic times mathematics could not direct even the most observant ear to the study of those phenomena of upper partials of which Helmholtz, in 1863, was the first to explain the significance; and thus though the Greeks knew the difference between a major and minor tone, on which half the question depended, they could not possibly arrive at the modern reasons for adding both kinds of tone in order to make the major third. (See Sound.)
Here we must digress in order to illustrate what is implied by our modern harmonic sense; for the difference that this makes to our whole musical consciousness is by no means universally realized. Music, as we now understand it, expresses itself in the interaction of three elements—rhythm, melody and harmony. The first two are obviously as ancient as human consciousness itself. Without the third a musical art of permanent value and intelligibility has not been known to attain independent existence. With harmony music assumes the existence of a kind of space in three dimensions, none of which can subsist without at least implying the others. When we hear an unaccompanied melody we cannot help interpreting it in the light of its most probable harmonies. Hence, when it does not .imply consistent harmonies it seems to us quaint or strange; because, unless it is very remote from our harmonic conceptions, it at least implies at any given moment some simple harmony which in the next moment it contradicts. Thus our inferences as to the expression intended by music that has not come under European influence are unsafe, and the pleasure we take in such music is capricious. The effort of thinking away our harmonic preconceptions is probably the most violent piece of mental gymnastics in all artistic experience, and furnishes much excuse for a sceptical attitude as to the artistic value of preharmonic music, which has at all events never become even partially independent of poetry and dance. Thus the rhythm of classical Greek music seems to have been entirely identical with that of verse, and its beauty and expression appreciated in virtue of that identity. From the modern musical point of view the rhythm of words is limited to a merely monotonous uniformity of flow, with minute undulations which are musically chaotic (see Rhythm). The example of Greek tragedy, with the reports of its all-pervading music (in many cases, as in that of Aeschylus, composed by the dramatist himself) could not fail to fire the imaginations of modern pioneers and reformers of opera; and Monteverde, Gluck and Wagner convinced themselves and their contemporaries that their work was, amongst other things, a revival of Greek tragedy. But all that is known of Greek music shows that it represents no such modern ideas, as far as their really musical aspect is concerned. It represents, rather, an organization of the rise and fall of the voice, no doubt as elaborate and artistic as the organization of verse, no doubt powerful in heightening the emotional and dramatic effect of words and action, but in no way essential to the understanding or the organization of the works which it adorned. The classical Greek preference for the diatonic scale indicates a latent harmonic sense and also that temperance which is at the foundation of the general Greek sense of beauty; but, beyond this and similar generalities, all the research in the world will not enable us to understand the Greek musician’s mind. Non-harmonic music is a world of two dimensions, and we must now inquire how men came to rise from this “flatland” to the solid world of sound in which Palestrina, Bach, Beethoven and Wagner live.
3. Harmonic Origins.—Although the simultaneous blending of different sounds was never seriously contemplated by the Greeks, yet in classical times they were fond of singing with high and low voices in octaves. This was called magadizing, from the name of an instrument on which playing in octaves was rendered easy by means of a bridge that divided the strings at two-thirds of their length. While the practice was esteemed for the beauty of the blending of different voices, it was tolerated only because of the peculiar effect of identity furnished by the different notes of the octave, and no other interval was so used by the Greeks. In the article on Harmony the degrees of identity-in-difference which characterize the simpler harmonic intervals are analysed, and the main steps are indicated by which the more complicated medieval magadizing uses of the fourth and fifth (the symphonia, diaphonia or organum of Hucbald) gave way (partly by their own interchange and partly through experiments in the introduction of ornaments and variety) to the modern conception of harmony as consisting of voices or parts that move independently to the exclusion of such parallel motion. In The Oxford History of Music, vols. i. and ii., will be found abundant examples of every stage, of the process, which begins with the organum or diaphony that prevailed until the death of Guido of Arezzo (about 1050) and passes through the discant, or measured music, of the 13th century, in which rhythm is first organized on a sufficiently firm basis to enable voices to sing contrasted rhythms simultaneously, while the new harmonic criterion of the independence of parts more and more displaces and shows its opposition to the old criterion of parallelism.
The most extraordinary example of these conflicting principles is the famous rota “Sumer is icumen in,” a 13th-century round in four parts on a canonic ground-bass in two. Recent researches have brought to light a number of works in the forms of motet, conductus, rondel (neither the later rondo nor the round, but a kind of triple counterpoint), which show that “Sumer is icumen in” contains no unique technical feature; but no work within two centuries of its date attains a style so nearly intelligible to modern ears. Its richness and firmness of harmony are such that the frequent use of consecutive fifths and octaves, in strict accordance with 13th-century principles, has to our ears all the effect of a series of grammatical blunders, so sharply does it contrast with the smooth counterpoint of the rest. In what light this smooth counterpoint struck contemporaries, or how its author (who may or may not be the writer of the Reading MS., John of Fornsete) arrived at it, is not clear, though W. S. Rockstro’s amusing article, “Sumer is icumen in,” in Grove’s Dictionary, is very plausible. All that we know is that music in England in the 13th century must have been at a comparatively high state of development; and we may also conjecture that the tuneful character of this wonderful rota has something in common with the unwritten but famous songs of the aristocratic troubadours, or trouvères, of the 12th and 13th centuries, who, while disdaining to practise the art of accompaniment or the art of scientific and written music, undoubtedly set the fashion in melody, and, being themselves poets as well as singers, formed the current notions as to the relations between musical and poetic rhythm. The music of Adam de la Hale, surnamed Le Bossu d’Arras (c. 1230–1288), shows the transformation of the troubadour into the learned musician; and, nearly a century later, the more ambitious efforts of a greater French poet (like his contemporary Petrarca, one of Chaucer’s models in poetic technique), Guillaume de Machault (fl. 1350), mark a further technical advance, though they are not appreciably more intelligible to the modern ear.
In the next century we find an Englishman, John Dunstable, who had as early as 1437 acquired a European reputation; while his works were so soon lost sight of that until recently he was almost a legendary character, sometimes revered as the “inventor” of counterpoint, and once or twice even identified with St Dunstan! Recently a great deal of his work has come to light, and it shows us (especially when taken in connexion with the fact that the early Netherlandish master, G. Dufay, did not die until 1474, twenty-one years after Dunstable) that English counterpoint was fully capable of showing the composers of the Netherlands the path by which they were to reach the art of the “Golden age.” In such examples of Dunstable’s work as that appended to the article “Dunstable” in Grove’s Dictionary (new ed., i. 744) we see music approaching a style more or less consistently intelligible to a modern ear; and in English Carols of the 15th Century (1891) several two-part compositions of the period, in a style resembling Dunstable’s, have been made accessible to modern readers and filled out into four-part music by the editor “in accordance with the rules of the time.” And though it may be doubted whether Mr Rockstro’s skill would not have been held in the 15th century to savour overmuch of the Black Art, still the success of his attempt shows that the musical conceptions he is dealing with are no longer radically different from those of our modern musical consciousness.
4. The Golden Age.—The struggle towards the realization of mature musical art seems incredibly slow when we do not realize its difficulty, and wonderfully rapid as soon as we attempt to imagine the effort of first forming those harmonic conceptions which are second nature to us. Even at the time of Dunstable and Dufay the development of the contrapuntal idea of independence of parts had not yet so transformed the harmonic consciousness that the ancient parallelisms or consecutive fourths and fifths that were the backbone of discant could be seen in their true light as contradictory to the contrapuntal method. By the beginning of the 16th century, however, the laws of counterpoint were substantially fixed; practice was for a while imperfect, and aims still uncertain, but skill was increasing and soon became marvellous; and in 16th-century music we leave the archaic world altogether. Henceforth music may show various phenomena of crudeness, decadence and transition, but its transition-periods will always derive light from the past, whatever the darkness of the future.
In the best music of the 16th century we have no need of research or mental gymnastics, beyond what is necessary in all art to secure intelligent presentation and attention. Its materials show us the “three dimensions” of music in their simplest state of perfect balance. Rhythm, emancipated from the tyranny of verse, is free to co-ordinate and contrast a multitude of melodies which by the very independence of their flow produce a mass of harmony that passes from concord to concord through ordered varieties of transitional discord. The criterion of discord is no longer that of mere harshness, but is modified by the conception of the simplicity or remoteness of the steps by which the flux of independent simultaneous melodies passes from one concord, or point of repose, to another. When the music reaches a climax, or its final conclusion, the point of repose is, of course, greatly emphasized. It is accordingly the “cadences” or full closes of 16th-century music that show the greatest resemblance to the harmonic ideas of the present day; and it is also at these points that certain notes were most frequently raised so as to modify the ecclesiastical modes which are derived more or less directly from the melodic diatonic scale of the Greeks, and misnamed, according to inevitable medieval misconceptions, after the Greek modes.
In other passages our modern ears, when unaccustomed to the style, feel that the harmony is strange and lacking in definite direction; and we are apt to form the hasty conclusion that the mode is an archaic survival. A more familiar acquaintance with the art soon shows that its shifting and vague modulations are no mere survival of a scale inadequate for any but melodic purposes, but the natural result of a state of things in which only two species of chord are available as points of repose at all. If no successions of such chords were given prominence, except those that define key according to modern notions based upon a much greater variety of harmony, the resulting monotony and triviality would be intolerable. Moreover, there is in this music just as much and no more of formal antithesis and sequence as its harmony will suffice to hold together. Lastly, we shall find, on comparing the masterpieces of the period with works of inferior rank, that in the masterpieces the most archaic modal features are expressive, varied and beautiful; while in the inferior works they are often avoided in favour of ordinary modern ideas, and, when they occur, are always accidental and monotonous, although in strict conformity with the rules of the time. The consistent limitations of harmony, form and rhythm have the further consequence that the only artistic music possible within them is purely vocal. The use of instruments is little more than a necessary evil for the support of voices in case of insufficient opportunity for practice; and although the origins of instrumental music are already of some artistic interest in the 16th century, we must leave them out of our account if our object is to present mature artistic ideas in proper proportions.
The principles of 16th-century art-forms are discussed in more detail in the article on Contrapuntal Forms. Here we will treat the formal criteria on a general basis; especially as with art on such simple principles the distinction between one art-form and another is apt to be either too external or too subtle for stability. With music there is a stronger probability than in any other art that merely mechanical devices will be self-evident, and thus they may become either dangerous or effective. With the masters of the Netherlands they speedily became both. Two adjacent groups of illustrations in Burney’s History of Music will show on the one hand the astonishing way in which early polyphonic composers learnt to “dance in fetters,” and, on the other hand, the expressive power that they attained by that discipline. Burney quotes from the venerable 15th-century master Okeghem, or Okenheim, some canons so designed as to be singable in all modes. They are by no means extreme cases of the ingenuity which Okenheim and his pupils often employed; but though they are not very valuable artistically (and are not even correctly deciphered by Burney) they prove that mechanical principles may be a help rather than a hindrance to the attainment of a smooth and plastic style. Burney most appropriately follows them with Josquin Des Près’s wonderful Deploration de Jehan Okenheim, in which the tenor sings the plain chant of the Requiem a degree below its proper pitch, while the other voices sing a pastoral dirge in French. The device of transposing the plain chant a note lower, and making the tenor sing it in that position throughout the whole piece, is obviously as mechanical as any form of acrostic: but it is happily calculated to impress our ears, even though, unlike Josquin’s contemporaries, most of us are not familiar with the plain chant in its normal position; because it alters the position of all the semitones and gives the chant a plaintive minor character which is no less impressive in itself than as a contrast to the orthodox form. And the harmonic superstructure is as fine an instance of the expressive possibilities of the church modes at their apogee from modern tonality as could be found anywhere. A still nobler example, which we may perhaps acclaim as the earliest really sublime masterpiece in music, is Josquin’s Miserere, which is accessible in a modern edition. In this monumental work one of the tenor parts is called Vagans, because it sings the burden Miserere mei Deus at regular intervals, in an almost monotonous wailing figure, wandering through each successive degree of the scale throughout the composition. The effect, aided as it is by consummate rhetorical power in every detail of the surrounding mass of harmony and counterpoint, is extremely expressive; and the device lends itself to every shade of feeling in the works of the greatest of all Netherland masters, Orlando di Lasso. Palestrina is less fond of it. Like all more obvious formal devices it is crowded out of his Roman art by the exquisite subtlety of his sense of proportion, and the exalted spirituality of his style which, while it allows him to set the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in the Lamentations of Jeremiah in much the same spirit as that in which they would be treated in an illuminated Bible, forbids him to stimulate a sense of form that might distract the mind from the sense of mystery and awe proper to objects of devout contemplation. Yet in one of his greatest motets, Tribularer si nescirem, the burden of Josquin’s Miserere appears with the same treatment and purpose as in its prototype.
But with the lesser Flemish masters, and sometimes with the greatest, such mechanical principles often became not only inexpressive but absolutely destructive to musical effect. The ingenuity necessary to make the stubborn material of music plastic was not so easily attainable as the ingenuity necessary to turn music into a mathematical game; and when Palestrina was in his prime the inferior composers so outnumbered the masters to whom music was a devout language, and so degraded the art, not only by ousting genuine musical expression but by foisting secular tunes and words into the church services, that one of the minor questions with which the Council of Trent was concerned was whether polyphonic church music should be totally abolished with other abuses, or whether it was capable of reform. Legendary history relates that Palestrina submitted for judgment three masses of which the Missa papae Marcelli proved to be so sublime that it was henceforth accepted as the ideal church music (see Palestrina). This tale is difficult to reconcile with the chronology of Palestrina’s works, but there is no doubt that Palestrina was officially recognized by the Church as a bulwark against bad taste. But we must not allow this to mislead us as to the value of church music before Palestrina. Nor must we follow the example of Baini, who, in his detestation of what he is pleased to call fiammingo squalore, views with uncritical suspicion any work in which Palestrina does not confine himself to strictly Italian methods of expression. A notion still prevails that Josquin represents counterpoint in an anatomical perfection into which Palestrina was the first to breathe life and soul. This gives an altogether inadequate idea of 16th-century music. Palestrina brought the century to a glorious close and is undoubtedly its greatest master, but he is primus inter pares; and in every part of Europe music was represented, even before the middle of the century, by masters who have every claim to immortality that sincerity of aim, completeness of range, and depth and perfection of style can give. It has been rightly called the golden age of music, and our chronological table at the end of this article gives but an inadequate idea of the number of its masters whom no lover of music ought to neglect. It is not exclusively an age of church music. It is also the age of madrigals, both secular and spiritual; and, small as was its range of expression, there has been no period in musical art when the distinctions between secular and ecclesiastical style were more accurately maintained by the great masters, as is abundantly shown by the test cases in which masses of the best period have been based on secular themes. (See Madrigal.)
5. The Monodic Revolution and its Results.—Like all golden ages, that of music vanished at the first appearance of a knowledge beyond its limitations. The first and simplest realization of mature art is widespread and nourishes a veritable army of great men; its masterpieces are innumerable, and its organization is so complete that no narrowness or specialization can be felt in the nature of its limitations. Yet these are exceedingly close, and the most modest attempt to widen them may have disastrous results. Many experiments were tried before Palestrina’s death and throughout the century, notably by the elder and younger Gabrieli. Perhaps Palestrina himself is the only great composer of the time who never violates the principles of his art. Orlando di Lasso, unlike Palestrina, wrote almost as much secular as sacred music, and in his youth indulged in many eccentricities in a chromatic style which he afterwards learnt to detest. But if experiments are to revolutionize art it is necessary that their novelty shall already embody some artistic principle of coherence. No such principle will avail to connect the Phrygian mode with a chord containing A♯; and, however proud the youthful Orlando di Lasso may be at being the first to write A♯, neither his early chromatic experiments nor those of Cipriano di Rore, which he admired so much, left a mark on musical history. They appealed to nothing deeper than a desire for sensational variety of harmony; and, while they carried the successions of chords far beyond the limits of the modes, they brought no new elements into the chords themselves.
By the beginning of the 17th century the true revolutionary principles were vigorously at work, and the powerful genius of Monteverde speedily made it impossible for men of impressionable artistic temper to continue to work in the old style when such vast new regions of thought lay open to them. In the year of Palestrina’s death, 1594, Monteverde published, in his third book of madrigals, works in which without going irrevocably beyond the letter of 16th-century law he showed far more zeal for emotional expression than sense of euphony. In 1599 he published madrigals in which his means of expression involve harmonic principles altogether incompatible with 16th-century ideas. But he soon ceased to place confidence in the madrigal as an adequate art-form for his new ideals of expression, and he found an unlimited field in musical drama. Dramatic music received its first stimulus from a group of Florentine dilettanti, who aspired amongst other things to revive the ideals of Greek tragedy. Under their auspices the first true opera ever performed in public, Jacopo Peri’s Euridice, appeared in 1600. Monteverde found the conditions of dramatic music more favourable to his experiments than those of choral music, in which both voices and ears are at their highest sensibility to discord. Instruments do not blend like voices; and players, producing their notes by more mechanical means, have not the singer’s difficulty in making combinations which the ear does not readily understand.
The one difficulty of the new art was fatal: there were no limitations. When Monteverde introduced his unprepared discords, the effect upon musical style was like that of introducing modern metaphors into classical Greek. There were no harmonic principles to control the new material, except those which just sufficed to hold together the pure 16th-century style; and that style depended on an exquisite continuity of flow which was incompatible with any rigidity either of harmony or rhythm. Accordingly there were also no rhythmic principles to hold Monteverde’s work together, except such as could be borrowed from types of secular and popular music that had hitherto been beneath serious attention. If the 17th century seems almost devoid of great musical names it is not for want of incessant musical activity. The task of organizing new resources into a consistent language was too gigantic to be accomplished within three generations. Its fascinating dramatic suggestiveness and incalculable range disguised for those who first undertook it the fact that the new art was as difficult and elementary in its beginnings as the very beginning of harmony itself in the 13th and 14th centuries. And the most beautiful compositions at the beginning of the 17th century are rather those which show the decadence of 16th-century art than those in which the new principles were most consistently adopted. Thus the madrigals of Monteverde, though often dull and always rough, contain more music than his operas. On the other hand, almost until the middle of the 17th century great men were not wanting who still carried on the pure polyphonic style. Their asceticism denotes a spirit less comprehensive than that of the great artists for whom the golden age was a natural environment; but in parts of the world where the new influences did not yet prevail even this is not the case, and a composer like Orlando Gibbons, who died in 1625, is well worthy to be ranked with the great Italian and Flemish masters of the preceding century.
But the main task of composers of the 17th century lay elsewhere; and if the result of their steady attention to it was trivial in comparison with the glories of the past, it at least led to the glories of the greater world organized by Bach and Handel. The early monodists, Monteverde and his fellows, directed attention to the right quarter in attempting to express emotion by means of single voices supported by instruments; but the formless declamation of their dramatic writings soon proved too monotonous for permanent interest, and such method as it showed became permanent only by being codified into the formulas of recitative, which are, for the most part, very happy idealizations of speech-cadence, and which accordingly survive as dramatic elements in music at the present day, though, like all rhetorical figures, they have often lost meaning from careless use. It was all very well to revolutionize current conceptions of harmony, so that chords were no longer considered, as in the days of pure polyphony, to be the result of so many independent melodies. But in art, as elsewhere, new thought eventually shows itself as an addition to, not a substitute for, the wisdom of ages. Moreover, it is a mistake, though one endorsed by high authorities, to suppose that the 16th-century composers did not appreciate the beauty of successions of chords apart from polyphonic design. On the contrary, Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso themselves are the greatest masters the world has ever seen of a style which depends wholly on the beauty of masses of harmony, entirely devoid of polyphonic detail, and held together by a delicately balanced rhythm in which obvious symmetry is as carefully avoided as it is in the successions of chords themselves. Nevertheless, the monody of the 17th century is radically different in principle, not only because chords are used which were an outrage on 16th-century ears, but because the fundamental idea is that of a solo voice declaiming phrases of paramount emotional interest, and supported by instruments that play such chords as will heighten the poignancy of the voice. And the first advance made on this chaotic monody consisted, not in the reintroduction of vitality into the texture of the harmonies, but in giving formal symmetry and balance to the vocal surface. This involved the strengthening of the harmonic system, so that it could carry the new discords as parts of an intelligible scheme, and not merely as uncontrollable expressions of emotion. In other words, the chief energies of the successors of the monodists were devoted to the establishment of the modern key-system; a system in comparison with which the subtle variety of modal concord sounded vague and ill-balanced, until the new key-system itself was so safely established that Bach and Beethoven could once more appreciate and use essentially modal successions of chords in their true meaning.
The second advance of the monodic movement was in the cultivation of the solo voice. This developed together with the cultivation of the violin, the most capable and expressive of the instruments used to support it. Monteverde already knew how to make interesting experiments with violins, such as directing them to play pizzicato, and accompanying an excited description of a duel by rapidly repeated strokes on a major chord, followed by sustained dying harmonies in the minor. By the middle of the century violin music is fairly common, and the distinction between Sonata da chiesa and Sonata da camera appears (see Sonata). But the cultivation of instrumental technique had also a great effect on that of the voice; and Italian vocal technique soon developed into a monstrosity that so corrupted musical taste as not only to blind the contemporaries of Bach and Handel to the greatness of their choral art, but, in Handel’s case, actually to swamp a great deal of his best work. The balance between a solo voice and a group of instruments was, however, successfully cultivated together with the modern key-system and melodic form; with the result that the classical aria, a highly effective art-form, took shape. This, while it totally destroyed the dramatic character of opera for the next hundred years, yet did good service in furnishing a reasonably effective means of musical expression which could encourage composers and listeners to continue cultivating the art until the day of small things was past. The operatic aria, as matured by Alessandro Scarlatti, is at its worst a fine opportunity for a gorgeously dressed singer to display feats of vocal gymnastics, either on a concert platform, or in scenery worthy of the Drury Lane pantomime. At its best it is a beautiful means of expression for the devout fervour of Bach and Handel. At all times it paralyses dramatic action, and no more ironic revenge has ever overtaken iconoclastic reformers than the historic development by which the purely dramatic declamation of the monodists settled down into a series of about thirty successive displays of vocalization, designed on rigidly musical conventions, and produced under spectacular conditions by artificial sopranos as the highest ideal of music-drama.
The principal new art-forms of the 17th century are then, firstly, the aria (not the opera, which was merely a spectacular condition under which people consented to listen to some thirty arias in succession); and, secondly, the polyphonic instrumental forms, of which those of the suite or sonata da camera were mainly derived from the necessity for ballet music in the opera (and hence greatly stimulated by the taste of the French court under Louis XIV.), while those of the sonata da chiesa were also inspired by a renaissance of interest in polyphonic texture. The sonata da chiesa soon settled into a conventionality only less inert than that of the aria because violin technique had wider possibilities than vocal; but when Lulli settled in France and raised to a higher level of effect the operatic style suggested by Cambert, he brought with him just enough of the new instrumental polyphony to make his typical form of French overture (with its slow introduction in dotted rhythm, and its quasi-fugal allegro) worthy of the important place it occupies in Bach’s and Handel’s art.
Meanwhile great though subordinate activity was also shown in the evolution of a new choral music dependent upon an instrumental accompaniment of more complex function than that of mere support. This, in the hands of the Neapolitan masters, was destined to lead straight to the early choral music of Mozart and Haydn, both of whom, especially Mozart, subsequently learnt its greater possibilities from the study of Handel. But the most striking choral art of the time came from the Germans, who never showed that thoughtless acquiescence in the easiest means of effect which was already the bane of Italian art. Consequently, while the German output of the 17th century fails to show that rapid attainment of modest maturity which gives much Italian music of the period a permanent if slight artistic value, there is, in spite of much harshness, a stream of noble polyphonic effort in both organ and choral music in Germany from the time of H. Schütz (who was born in 1585 and who was a great friend and admirer of Monteverde) to that of Bach and Handel just a century later. Nor was Germany inactive in the dramatic line, and the 17th-century Italian efforts in comic opera, which are so interesting and so unjustly neglected by historians, found a parallel, before Handel’s maturity, in the work of R. Keiser, and may be traced through him in Handel’s first opera, Almira.
The best proof of the insufficiency of 17th-century resources is to be found in the almost tragic blending of genius and failure shown by our English church music of the Restoration. The works of Pelham Humfrey and Blow already show the qualities which with Purcell seem at almost any given moment to amount to those of the highest genius, while hardly a single work has any coherence as a whole. The patchiness of Purcell’s music was, no doubt, increased by the influence of French taste then predominant at court. When Pelham Humfrey was sixteen, King Charles II., as Sir Hubert Parry remarks, “achieved the characteristic and subtle stroke of humour of sending him over to France to study the methods of the most celebrated composer of theatrical music of the time in order to learn how to compose English church music.” Yet it is impossible to see how such ideas as Purcell’s could have been presented in more than French continuity of flow by means of any designs less powerful than those of Bach and Handel. Purcell’s ideas are, like those of all great artists, at least sixty years in advance of the normal intellect of the time. But they are unfortunately equally in advance of the only technical resources then conceivable; and Purcell, though one of the greatest contrapuntists that ever lived, is probably the only instance in music of a man of really high genius born out of due time. Musical talent was certainly as common in the 17th century as at any other time; and if we ask why, unless we are justified in counting Purcell as a tragic exception, the whole century shows not one name in the first artistic rank, the answer must be that, after all, artistic talent is far more common than the interaction of environment and character necessary to direct it to perfect artistic results.
6. Bach and Handel.—It was not until the 18th century had begun that two men of the highest genius could find in music a worthy expression of their grasp of life. Bach and Handel were born within a month of each other, in 1685, and in the same part of Saxony. Both inherited the tradition of polyphonic effort that the German organists and choral writers had steadily maintained throughout the 17th century; and both profited by the Italian methods that were penetrating Germany. In Bach’s case it was the Italian art-forms that appealed to his sense of design. Their style did not affect him, but he saw every possibility which the forms contained, and studied them the more assiduously because they were not, like polyphonic texture, his birthright. In recitative his own distinctively German style attained an intensity and freedom of expression which is one of the most moving things in art. Nevertheless, if he handled recitative in his own way it was not for want of acquaintance with the Italian formulas, nor even because he despised them; for in his only two extant Italian works the scraps of recitative are strictly in accordance with Italian convention, and the arias show (when we allow for their family likeness with Bach’s normal style) the most careful modelling upon Italian forms. Again, as is well known, Bach arranged with copious additions and alterations many concertos by Vivaldi (together with some which though passing under Vivaldi’s name are really by German contemporaries); and, while thus taking every opportunity of assimilating Italian influences in instrumental as well as in vocal music, he was no less alive to the importance of the French overture and suite forms. Moreover, he is very clear as to where his ideas come from, and extremely careful to maintain every art-form in its integrity. Yet his style remains his own throughout, and the first impression of its resemblance to that of his German contemporaries diminishes the more the period is studied. Bach’s art thus forms one of the most perfectly systematic and complete records a life’s work has ever achieved. His art-forms might be arranged in a sort of biological scheme, and their interaction and genealogy has a clearness which might almost be an object of envy to men of science even if Bach had not demonstrated every detail of it by those wonderful rewritings of his own works which we have described elsewhere (see Bach).
Handel’s methods were as different from Bach’s as his circumstances. He soon left Germany and, while he never betrayed his birthright as a great choral writer, he quickly absorbed the Italian style so thoroughly as to become practically an Italian. He also adopted the Italian forms, but not, like Bach, from any profound sense of their possible place in artistic system. To him they were effective, and that was all. He did not trouble himself about the permanent idea that might underlie an art-form and typify its expression. He has no notion of a form as anything higher than a rough means of holding music together and maintaining its flow; but he and Bach, alone among their contemporaries, have an unfailing sense of all that is necessary to secure this end. They worked from opposite points of view: Bach develops his art from within, until its detail, like that of Beethoven’s last works, becomes dazzling with the glory of the whole design; Handel at his best is inspired by a magnificent scheme, in the execution of which he need condescend to finish of detail only so long as his inspiration does not hasten to the next design. Nevertheless it is to the immense sweep and breadth of Handel’s choral style, and its emotional force, that all subsequent composers owe their first access to the larger and less mechanical resources of music. (See Handel.)
7. The Symphonic Classes.—After the death of Bach and Handel another change of view, like that Copernican revolution for which Kant sighed in philosophy, was necessary for the further development of music. Once again it consisted in an inversion of the relation between form and texture. But, whereas at the beginning of the 17th century the revolution consisted mainly in directing attention to chords as, so to speak, harmonic lumps, instead of moments in a flux of simultaneous melodies; in the later half of the 18th century the revolution concerned the larger musical outlines, and was not complicated by the discovery of new harmonic resources. On the contrary, it led to an extreme simplicity of harmony. The art of Bach and Handel had given perfect vitality to the forms developed in the 18th century, but chiefly by means of the reinfusion of polyphonic life. The formal aspects (that is, those that decree the shapes of aria and suite-movement and the balance and contrasts of such choruses as are not fugues) are, after all, of secondary importance; the real centre of Bach’s and Handel’s technical and intellectual activity is the polyphony; and the more the external shape occupies the foreground the more the work assumes the character of light music. In the article Sonata Forms we show how this state of things was altered, and attention is there drawn to the dramatic power of a music in which the form is technically prior to the texture. And it is not difficult to understand that Gluck’s reform of opera would have been a sheer impossibility if he had not dealt with music in the sonata style, which is capable of changing its character as it unfolds its designs.
The new period of transition was neither so long nor so interesting as that of the 17th century. The contrast between the squalid beginnings of the new art and the glories of Bach and Handel is almost as great as that between the monodists and Palestrina, but it appeals far less to our sympathies, because it seems like a contrast between noble sincerity and idle elegance. The new art seems so easy-going and empty that it conceals from us the necessity of the sympathetic historical insight for which the painful experiments of the monodists almost seem to cry aloud. And its boldest rhetorical experiments, such as the fantasias of Philipp Emanuel Bach, show a security of harmony which, together with the very vividness of their realization of modern ideas, must appear to a modern listener more like the hollow rhetoric of a decadent than the prophetic inspiration of a pioneer. And, just as in the 17th century, so in the time before Haydn and Mozart, the work that is most valuable artistically tends to be that which is of less importance historically. The cultivation of the shape of music at the expense of its texture was destined to lead to greater things than polyphonic art had ever dreamt of; but no living art could be achieved until the texture was brought once more into vital, if subordinate, relation to the shape. Thus, far more interesting artistically than the epoch-making earlier pianoforte works of Philipp Emanuel Bach are his historically less fruitful oratorios, and his symphonies, and the rich polyphonic modifications of the new principles in the best works of his elder brother Friedemann. Yet the transition-period is hardly second in historic importance to that of the 17th century; and we may gather from it even more direct hints as to the meaning of the tendencies of our own day.
As in the 17th century, so in the 18th the composers and critics of Haydn’s youth, not knowing what to make of the new tendencies, and conscious rather of the difference between new and old ideas than of the true nature of either, took refuge in speculations about the emotional and external expression of music; and when artistic power and balance fail it is very convenient to go outside the limits of the art and explain failure away by external ideas. Fortunately the external ideas were capable of serious organic function through the medium of opera, and in that art-form music was passing out of the hands of Italians and assuming artistic and dramatic life under Gluck. The metaphysical and literary speculation which overwhelmed musical criticism at this time, and which produced paper warfares and musical party-feuds such as that between the Gluckists and the Piccinists, at all events had this advantage over the Wagnerian and anti-Wagnerian controversies of the last generation and the disputes about the legitimate function of instrumental music at the present day—that it was speculation applied exclusively to an art-form in which literary questions were directly concerned, an art-form which moreover had up to that time been the grave of all the music composers chose to put into it. But as soon as music once more attained to consistent principles all these discussions became but a memory. If Gluck’s music had not been more musical as well as more dramatic than Piccini’s, all its foreshadowing of Wagnerian principles would have availed it no more than it availed Monteverde.
When the new art found symphonic expression in Haydn and Mozart, it became music pure and simple, and yet had no more difficulty than painting or poetry in dealing with external ideas, when these were naturally brought into it by the human voice or the conditions of dramatic action. It had once more become an art which need reject or accept nothing on artificial or extraneous grounds. Beethoven soon showed how gigantic the scale and range of the sonata style could be, and how tremendous was its effect on the possibilities of vocal music, both dramatic and choral. No revolution was needed to accomplish this. The style was perfectly formed, and for the first and so far the only time in musical history a mature art of small range opened out into an equally perfect one of gigantic range, without a moment of decadence or destruction. The chief glory of the art that culminates in Beethoven is, of course, the instrumental music, all of which comes under the head of the sonata-forms (q.v.).
Meanwhile Mozart raised comic opera, both Italian and German, to a height which has never since been approached within the classical limits, and from which the operas of Rossini and his successors show a decadence so deplorable that if “classical music” means “high art” we must say that classical opera buffa begins and ends in Mozart. But Gluck, finding his dramatic ideas encouraged by the eminent theatrical sensibilities of the French, had already given French opera a stimulus towards the expression of tragic emotion which made the classics of the French operatic school well worthy to inspire Beethoven to his one noble operatic effort and Weber to the greatest works of his life. Cherubini, though no more a Frenchman than Gluck, was Gluck’s successor in the French classical school of dramatic music. His operas, like his church music, account for Beethoven’s touching estimation of him as the greatest composer of the time. In them his melodies, elsewhere curiously cold and prosaic, glow with the warmth of a true classic; and his tact in developing, accelerating and suspending a dramatic climax is second only to Mozart’s. Scarcely inferior to Cherubini in mastery and dignity, far more lovable in temperament, and weakened only by inequality of invention, Méhul deserves a far higher place in musical history than is generally accorded him. His most famous work, Joseph, is of more historical importance than his others, but it is by no means his best from a purely musical point of view, though its Biblical subject impelled Méhul to make extremely successful experiments in “local colour” which had probably considerable influence upon Weber, whose admiration of the work was boundless. One thing is certain, that the romantic opera of Weber owes much of its inspiration to the opéra comique of these masters.
8. From Beethoven to Wagner.—After Beethoven comes what is commonly though vaguely described as the “romantic” movement. In its essentials it amounts to little more than this, that musicians found new and prouder titles for a very ancient and universal division of parties. The one party set up a convenient scheme of form based upon the average procedure of all the writers of sonatas except Haydn and Beethoven, which scheme they chose to call classical; while the other party devoted itself to the search for new materials and new means of expression. The classicists, if so they may be called, did not quite approve of Beethoven; and while there is much justification for the charge that has been brought against them of reducing the sonata-form to a kind of game, they have for that very reason no real claim to be considered inheritors of classical traditions. The true classical method is that in which matter and form are so united that it is impossible to say which is prior to the other. The pseudo-classics are the artists who set up a form conveniently like the average classical form, and fill it with something conveniently like the average classical matter, with just such difference as will seem like an advance in brilliance and range. The romanticists are the artists who realize such a difference between their matter and that of previous art as impels them to find new forms for it, or at all events to alter the old forms considerably. But if they are successful the difference between their work and that of the true classics becomes merely external; they are classics in a new art-form. As, however, this is as rare as true classical art is at the best of times, romanticism tends to mean little more than the difference between an unstable artist who cannot master his material and an artist who can, whether on the pseudo-classical or the true classical plane. The term “romantic opera” has helped us to regard Weber as a romanticist in that sphere, but when we call his instrumental works “romantic” the term ceases to have really valuable meaning. As applied to pieces like the Concertstück, the Invitation à la danse, and other pieces of which the external subject is known either from Weber’s letters or from the titles of the pieces themselves, the term means simply “programme-music” such as we have seen to be characteristic of any stage in which the art is imperfectly mastered. Weber’s programme-music shows no advance on Beethoven in the illustrative resources of the art; and the application of the term “romantic” to his interesting and in many places beautiful pianoforte sonatas has no definite ground except the brilliance of his pianoforte technique and the helplessness in matters of design (and occasionally even of harmony) that drives him to violent and operatic outbreaks.
Schubert also lends some colour to the opposition between romantic and classical by his weakness in large instrumental designs, but his sense of form was too vital for his defective training to warp his mind from the true classical spirit; and the new elements he introduced into instrumental music, though not ratified by concentration and unity of design, were almost always the fruits of true inspiration and never mere struggles to escape from a difficulty. His talent for purely instrumental music was incomparably higher than Weber’s, while that for stage-drama, as shown in the most ambitious of his numerous operas, Fierrabras, was almost nil. But he is the first and perhaps the greatest classical song writer. It was Beethoven’s work on a larger scale that so increased the possibilities of handling remote harmonic sequences and rich instrumental and rhythmic effects as to prepare for Schubert a world in which music, no less than literature, was full of suggestions for that concentrated expression of a single emotion which distinguishes true lyric art. And, whatever the defects of Schubert’s treatment of larger forms, his construction of small forms which can be compassed by a single melody or group of melodies is unsurpassable and is truly classical in spirit and result.
Schumann had neither Schubert’s native talent for larger form nor the irresponsible spirit which allowed Schubert to handle it uncritically. Nor had he the astounding lightness of touch and perfect balance of style with which Chopin controlled the most wayward imagination that has ever found expression in the pianoforte lyric. But he had a deep sense of melodic beauty, a mastery of polyphonic expression which for all its unorthodox tendency was second only to that of the greatest classics, and an epigrammatic fancy which enabled him to devise highly artistic forms of music never since imitated with success though often unintelligently copied. In his songs and pianoforte lyrics his romantic ideas found perfectly mature expression. Throughout his life he was inspired by a deep reverence which, while it prevented him from attempting to handle classical forms with a technique which he felt to be inadequate, at the same time impelled him as he grew older to devise forms on a large scale externally resembling them. The German lyric poetry, which he so perfectly set to music, strengthened him in his tendency to present his materials in an epigrammatic and antithetic manner; and, when he took to writing orchestral and chamber music, the extension of the principles of this style to the designing of large spaces in rigid sequence furnished him with a means of attaining great dignity and weight of climax in a form which, though neither classical nor strictly natural, was at all events more true in its relationship to his matter than that of the pseudo-classics such as Hummel or even Spohr. Towards the end of his short life, before darkness settled upon his mind, he rose perhaps to his greatest height as regards solemnity of inspiration, though none of his later works can compare with his early lyrics for artistic perfection. Be this as it may, his last choral works, especially the latter parts of Faust (which, unlike the first part, was written before his powers failed), show that the sense of beauty and polyphonic life with which he began his career was always increasing; and if he was led to substitute an artificial and ascetic for a natural and classical solution of the difficulties of the larger art-forms it was only because of his insight into artistic ideals which he felt to be beyond his attainment. He shared with Mendelssohn the inevitable misunderstanding of those contemporaries who grouped all music under one or other of the two heads, Classical and Romantic.
There is good reason to believe that Mendelssohn died before he had more than begun to show his power, though this may be denied by critics who have not thought of comparing Handel’s career up to the age at which Mendelssohn’s ceased. And his mastery, resting, like Handel’s, on the experience of a boyhood comparable only to Mozart’s, was far too easy to induce him as a critic to reconcile the idea of high talent with distressing intellectual and technical failure. This same mastery also tended to discredit his own work, both as performer and composer, in the estimation of those whose experience encouraged them to hope that imperfection and over-excitement were infallible signs of genius. And as his facility actually did co-operate with the tendencies of the times to deflect much of his work into pseudo-classical channels, while nevertheless his independence of form and style kept him at all times at a higher level of interest and variety than any mere pseudo-classic, it is not to be wondered that his reputation became a formidable object of jealousy to those apostles of new ideas who felt that their own works were not likely to make way against academic opposition unless they called journalism to their aid.
Nothing has more confused, hindered and embittered the careers of Wagner and Liszt and their disciples than the paper warfare which they did everything in their power to encourage. No doubt it had a useful purpose, and, as nothing affords a greater field for intrigue than the production of operas, it is at least possible that the gigantic and unprecedentedly expensive works of Wagner might not even at the present day have obtained a hearing if Wagner himself had been a tactful and reticent man and his partisans had all been discreet lovers and practisers of art. As to Wagner’s achievement there is now no important difference of opinion. It has survived all attacks as the most monumental result music has achieved with the aid of other arts. Its antecedents must be sought in many very remote regions. The rediscovery, by Mendelssohn, of the choral works of Bach, after a century of oblivion, revealed the possibilities of polyphonic expression in a grandeur which even Handel rarely suggested; and inspired Mendelssohn with important ideas in the designing of oratorios as wholes. The complete fusion of polyphonic method with external and harmonic design had, under the same stimulus, been carried a step further than Beethoven by means of Schumann’s more concentrated harmonic and lyric expression. That wildest of all romanticists, Berlioz, though he had less polyphonic sense than any composer who ever before or since attained distinction, nevertheless revealed important new possibilities in his unique imagination in orchestral colour. The breaking down of the barriers that check continuity in classical opera was already indicated by Weber, in whose Euryanthe the movements frequently run one into the other, while at least twenty different themes are discoverable in the opera, recurring, like the Wagnerian leit-motif, in apt transformation and logical association with definite incidents and persons.
But many things undreamed of by Weber were necessary to complete the breakdown of the classical barriers; for the whole pace of musical motion had to be emancipated from the influence of instrumental ideas. This was the most colossal reformation ever attempted by a man of real artistic balance; and even the undoubted, though unpolished, dramatic genius shown in Wagner’s libretti (the first in which a great composer and dramatist are one) is but a small thing in comparison with the musical problems which Wagner overcomes with a success immeasurably outweighing any defects his less perfect literary mastery allowed to remain in his dramatic structure and poetic diction. Apart from the squabbles of Wagnerian and anti-Wagnerian journalism, the chief difficulty of his supporters and antagonists really lay in this question of the pace of the music and the consequent breadth of harmony and design. The opening of the Walküre, in which, before the curtain rises, the sound of driving rain is reproduced by very simple sequences that take sixteen long bars to move a single step, does not, as instrumental music, compare favourably for terseness and variety with the first twenty bars of the thunderstorm in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, where at least four different incidents faithfully portray not only the first drops of rain and the distant thunder, but all the feelings of depression and apprehension which they inspire, besides carrying the listener rapidly through three different keys in chromatic sequence. But Beethoven’s storm is idealized, in its whole rise and fall, within a space of five minutes. Wagner’s task is to select five real minutes near the end of the storm and to treat them with no greater variety than the action of the drama demands. When we have learnt to dissociate our minds from irrelevant ideas of an earlier instrumental art, we find that Wagner’s broad spaces contain all that is necessary. Art on a large scale will always seem to have empty spaces, so long as we expect to find in it the kind of detail appropriate to art on a smaller scale.
Wagner’s new harmonic resources are of similar and more complex but not less legitimate origin. In Der fliegende Holländer they are, like his wider rhythmic sweep, imperfectly digested; in fact, much of his work before the Meistersinger is, in patches, debased by the influence of Meyerbeer. But in his later works the more closely his harmonic language is studied the more conclusively does it show itself to be a logical and mastered thing. His treatment of key is, of course, adapted to a state of things in which the designs are far too long for the mind to attach any importance to the works ending in the key in which it began. To compare Wagner’s key-system with that of a symphony is like comparing the perspective and composition of a panorama with the perspective and composition of an easel picture. Indeed the differences are precisely analogous in the two cases; and Wagner’s sense of harmony and key turns out on investigation to be the classical sense truly adapted to its new conditions. For this very reason it is in detail quite irrelevant to symphonic art; and there was nothing anti-Wagnerian in the reasons why Brahms had so little to do with it in his music, although every circumstance of the personal controversies and thinly disguised persecutions of Brahms’s youth were enough to give any upholder of classical symphonic art a rooted prejudice to everything bearing the name of “romantic.”
Side by side with Wagner many enthusiasts place Liszt; and it is indisputable that Liszt had in mind a larger and slower flow of musical sequence closely akin to Wagner’s, and, no doubt, partly independent of it; and moreover, that one of Liszt’s aims was to apply this to instrumental music. Also his mastery and poetic power as a pianoforte player were faithfully reflected in his later treatment of the orchestra, and ensured an extraordinary rhetorical plausibility for anything he chose to say. But neither the princely magnanimity of his personal character, which showed itself in his generosity alike to struggling artists and to his opponents, nor the great stimulus he gave (both by his compositions and his unceasing personal efforts and encouragement) to new musical ideas on romantic lines, ought at this time of day to blind us to the hollowness and essential vulgarity of his style. These unfortunate qualities did not secure for his compositions immediate popular acceptance; for they were outweighed by the true novelty of his aims. But recently they have given his symphonic poems an attractiveness which, while it has galvanized a belated interest in those works, has made many critics blind to their historical importance as the foundation of new forms which have undergone a development of sensational brilliance under Richard Strauss.
Meanwhile the party politics of modern music did much to distract public attention from the works of Brahms, who carried on the true classical method of the sonata-forms in his orchestral and chamber music, while he was no less great and original as a writer of songs and choral music of all kinds. He also developed the pianoforte lyric and widened its range. Without losing its characteristic unity it assumed a freedom and largeness of expression hitherto only attained in sonatas. Hence, however, Brahms’s work, like Bach’s, seemed, from its continuity with the classical forms, to look backward rather than forward. Indeed Brahms’s reputation is in many quarters that of an academic reactionary; just as Bach’s was, even at a time when the word “academic” was held to be rather a title of honour than of reproach. When the contemporary standpoints of criticism are established by the production of works of art in which the new elements shall no longer be at war with one another and with the whole, perhaps it will be recognized once more that the idea of progress has no value as a critical standard unless it is strictly applied to that principle by which every work of art must differ in every part of its form from every other work, precisely as far as its material differs and no further. Then, perhaps, as the conservative Bach after a hundred years of neglect revealed himself as the most profoundly modern force in the music of the 19th century, while that of his gifted and progressive sons became a forgotten fashion as soon as their goal was attained by greater masters, so may the musical epoch that seems now to have closed be remembered by posterity as the age, not of Wagner and the pioneer Liszt, but the age of Wagner and Brahms.
It will also in all probability be remembered as the age in which the performer ceased to be necessarily the intellectual inferior of the composer and musical scholar. With the exception of Wagner and Berlioz every great composer, since Palestrina sang in the papal choir, has paid his way as a performer; but Joseph Joachim was the first who threw the whole mind of a great composer into the career of an interpreter; and the example set by him, Bülow, Clara Schumann and Jenny Lind, though followed by very few other artists, sufficed to dispel for ever the old association of the musical performer with the mountebank.
Joachim’s influence on Brahms was incalculable. The two composers met at the time when new musical tendencies were beginning to arouse violent controversy. At the age of twenty-one Joachim had produced in his Hungarian Concerto a work of high classical mastery and great nobility, and his technique in form and texture was then considerably in advance of Brahms’s. For some years Joachim and Brahms interchanged contrapuntal exercises, and many of the greatest and most perfect of Brahms’s earlier works owe much to Joachim’s criticism. Yet it is impossible to regret that Joachim did not himself carry on as a composer the work he so nobly began, when we realize the enormous influence of his playing in the history of modern music. By it we have become familiar with a standard of truthfulness in performance which all the generous efforts of Wagner and Liszt could hardly have rendered independent of their own special propaganda. And by it the record of classical music has been made a matter of genuine public knowledge, with a unique freedom from those popularizing tendencies which invest vulgar error with the authority of academic truth.
In this respect there is a real change in the nature of modern musical culture. No serious composer at the present day would dedicate a great work to an artist who, like F. Clément, for whom Beethoven wrote his Violin Concerto, would perform the work in two portions and between them play a sonata for the violin on one string with the violin upside down. But it is hardly true that Wagner and Liszt produced a real alteration in the standard of general culture among musicians. Their work, especially Wagner’s, appealed, like Gluck’s, to many specific literary and philosophical interests, and they themselves were brilliant talkers; but music will always remain the most self-centred of the arts, and men of true culture will measure the depth and range of the musician’s mind by the spontaneity and truthfulness of his musical expression rather than by his volubility on other subjects. The greatest musicians have not often been masters of more than one language; but they have always been men of true culture. Their humanity has been illuminated by the constant presence of ideals which their artistic mastery keeps in touch with reality.
Pythagoras, c. 582–500 B.C. Determines the ratios of the diatonic scale.
Aristoxenus, fl. 320 B.C. Our chief authority on classical Greek music.
St Ambrose. Arranges the Ambrosian tones of church music, A.D. 384.
Discantus positio vulgaris. An anonymous treatise written before 1150; is said to contain the earliest rules for “measured music,” i.e. for music in which different voices can sing different rhythms.
The Reading MS., c. 1240 (British Museum, MS. Harl., 978, fol. 11 b.), contains the rota “Sumer is icumen in.”
Walter Odington, fl. 1280. English writer on music, and composer.
|Adam de la Hale, 1230–1288
|Connecting-links between the troubadours
|Machault, fl. 1350
|and the archaic contrapuntists.
John Dunstable, died 1453. English contrapuntal composer.
G. Dufay, died 1474. Netherland contrapuntal composer.
(These two are the principal founders of artistic counterpoint.)
Josquin Des Près, 1445–1521. The first great composer.
Masters of the Golden Age
[In the following list when a name is not qualified as “church composer” or “madrigalist,” the composer is equally great in both lines; but the qualification must not be taken as exclusive.]
J. Arcadelt, c. 1514–1560. Madrigalist.
Clemens non Papa, died before 1558.
Orlando di Lasso, born between 1520 and 1530; died 1594.
Jan P. Sweelinck, 1562–1621. Organist, theorist and church composer.
E. Genet, surnamed Carpentrasso, fl. 1520. Church composer.
C. Goudimel. Killed in the massacre of Lyons, 1572.
Palestrina, c. 1525–1594.
L. Marenzio, c. 1560; died 1599.
Anerio, Felice c. 1560–1630, and G. Francesco, c. 1567–1620, brothers. Church composers.
|C. Morales, 1512–1553
|Exclusively church composers
|F. Guerrero, c. 1528–1599
|T. L. de Victoria or Vittoria, fl. 1580
T. Tallis, c. 1515; died 1585. Church composer.
W. Byrd, 1542 or 1543–1623. Greatest as church composer.
J. Wilbye, fl. 1600. Madrigalist.
T. Morley, fl. 1590. Theorist and madrigalist.
Orlando Gibbons, 1583–1625.
J. Handl, or Gallus, c. 1550–1591.
Hans Leo Hasler or Hassler, 1564–1612. Church composer.
G. Aichinger, c. 1565–1628. Church composer.
Peri’s Euridice, 1600. The first opera.
Monteverde, 1567–1643. Great pioneer of modern harmony.
The Renaissance of Texture
G. Frescobaldi, 1583–1644. Organ composer.
J. B. Lulli, 1633–1687. The first classic of French opera.
H. Purcell, c. 1658; died 1695.
J. P. Rameau, 1683–1764. French opera writer, harpsichordist and theorist.
D. Buxtehude, 1637–1707.
J. S. Bach, 1685–1750.
G. F. Handel, 1685–1759.
The Sonata Epoch
F. J. Haydn, 1732–1809.
W. A. Mozart, 1756–1791.
Cherubini, 1760–1842. A classic of French opera and of church music.
The Lyric and Dramatic or “Romantic” Period
[In this list the only qualifications given are those of which the complex conditions of modern art make definition easy as well as desirable; and, as throughout this table, the definitions must not be taken as exclusive. The choice of names is, however, guided by the different developments represented: thus accounting for glaring omissions and artistic disproportions.]
Weber, 1786–1826. Master of romantic opera.
Schubert, 1797–1828. The classic of song.
Chopin, 1809–1849. Composer of pianoforte lyrics.
Berlioz, 1803–1869. Master of impressionist orchestration.
Wagner, 1813–1883. Achieves absolute union of music with drama.
Liszt, 1811–1886. Pianoforte virtuoso and pioneer of the symphonic poem.
Bruckner, 1824–1896. The symphonist of the Wagnerian party.
Brahms, 1833–1897. Classical symphonic and lyric composer.
Richard Strauss, 1864– Development of the symphonic poem. (D. F. T.)
Under separate biographical headings, the work of the chief modern composers in different countries is dealt with; and here it will be sufficient to indicate the general current of the art, and to mention some of the more prominent among recent composers.
Germany.—On the death of Brahms, the great German composers seemed, at the close of the 19th century, to have left no successor. Such merely epigonal figures as A. Bungert (b. 1846) and Cyrill Kistler (1848–1907) could not be regarded as important; and E. Humperdinck’s (b. 1854) striking success with Hänsel und Gretel (1893) was a solitary triumph in a limited genre. The outstanding figure, at the opening of the 20th century, was Richard Strauss (q.v.); but it was not so much now in composition, as in the high excellence of executive art, that Germany still kept up her hegemony in European music, by her schools, her great conductors and instrumentalists, and her devotion as a nation to the production of musical works.
France.—From the earliest days of their music, the French have had the enviable power of assimilating the great innovations which were originated in other countries, without losing their habit of warmly appreciating that which their own countrymen produce. That which happened with the Netherlandish composers of the 16th century, and with Lulli in the 17th, was repeated, more or less exactly, with Rossini in the early part of the 19th century and with Wagner at its close. During the last quarter of the 19th century all that is represented by the once-adored name of Gounod was discarded in favour of a style as different as possible from his. The change was mainly due to the Belgian musician, César Auguste Franck (1822–1890), who established a kind of informal school of symphonic and orchestral composition, as opposed to the conventional methods pursued at the Paris Conservatoire. Massenet was left as almost the only representative of the older school, and from Edouard Lalo (1823–1892) to G. Charpentier (b. 1860), all the younger composers of France adopted the newer style. With these may be mentioned Alfred Bruneau (b. 1857), and Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845). Camille Saint-Saiëns (b. 1835), however, remained the chief representative of the sound school of composition, if only by reason of his greater command of resources of every kind and his success in all forms of music. Among the newer school of composers the most original unquestionably was Debussy (q.v.), and among others may be mentioned Ernest Reyer (b. 1823), the author of some ambitious and sterling operas; F. L. V. de Joncières (b. 1839), an enthusiastic follower of Wagner, and a composer of merit; Emanuel Chabrier (1841–1894), a man of extraordinary gift, who wrote one of the finest opéras comiques of modern times, Le Roi malgré lui (1887); Charles Marie Widor (b. 1845), an earnest musician of great accomplishment; and Vincent d’Indy (b. 1851), a strongly original writer, alike in dramatic, orchestral and chamber compositions. In the class of lighter music, which yet lies above the level of opéra bouffe, mention must be made of Léo Delibes (1836–1891) and André Messager (b. 1855). In describing the state of music in France, it would be wrong to pass over the work done by the great conductors of various popular orchestral concerts, such as Jules E. Pasdeloup (1819–1887), Chas. Lamoureux (1834–1899), and Judas [Édouard] Colonne (b. 1838).
Italy.—In Italy during the last quarter of the 19th century many important changes took place. The later development in the style of Verdi (q.v.) was only completed in Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893), while his last composition, the four beautiful sacred vocal works, show how very far he had advanced in reverence, solidity of style and impressiveness, from the time when he wrote his earlier operas. And Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele had an immense influence on modern Italian music. Among the writers of “absolute” music the most illustrious are G. Sgambati (b. 1843) and G. Martucci (b. 1856), the latter’s symphony in D minor being a fine work. Meanwhile a younger operatic school was growing up, of which the first production was the Flora mirabilis of Spiro Samara (b. 1861), given in 1886. Its culmination was in the Cavalleria rusticana (1890) of Pietro Mascagni (b. 1863), the Pagliacci (1892) of R. Leoncavallo (b. 1858), and the operas of Giacomo Puccini (b. 1858), notably Le Villi (1884), Manon Lescaut (1893), La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), and Madama Butterfly (1904). The oratorios of Don Lorenzo Perosi (b. 1872) had an interesting influence on the church music of Italy (see Palestrina).
Russia.—The new Russian school of music originated with M. A. Balakirev (b. 1836), who was instrumental in founding the Free School of Music at St Petersburg, and who introduced the music of Berlioz and Liszt into Russia; he instilled the principles of “advanced” music into A. P. Borodin (1834–1887), C. A. Cui (b. 1835), M. P. Moussorgsky (1839–1881), and N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), all of whom, as usual with Russian composers, were, strictly speaking, amateurs in music, having some other profession in the absence of any possible opportunity for making money out of music in Russia. The most remarkable man among their contemporaries was undoubtedly Tschaikovsky (q.v.). A. Liadov (b. 1855) excels as a writer for the pianoforte, and A. Glazounov (b. 1865) has composed a number of fine orchestral works.
United States.—Of the older American composers, only John Knowles Paine (d. 1906) and Dudley Buck (d. 1909), both born in 1839, and Benjamin Johnson Lang (1837–1909), need be mentioned. Paine, professor of music at Harvard University, and composer of oratorios, orchestral music, &c., ranks with the advanced school of romantic composers. Dudley Buck was one of the first American composers whose names were known in Europe; and if his numerous cantatas and church music do not reach a very high standard according to modern ideas, he did much to conquer the general apathy with regard to the existence of original music in the States. Lang, prominent as organist and conductor, also became distinguished as a composer. George Whitefield Chadwick (b. 1854) has produced many orchestral and vocal works of original merit. Though the works of Clayton Johns (b. 1857) are less ambitious, they have won more popularity in Europe, and his songs, like those of Arthur Foote (b. 1853), Reginald De Koven (b. 1859), and Ethelbert Nevin (1862–1901), are widely known. Edward Alexander McDowell (q.v.) may be regarded as the most original modern American composer. Walter Johannes Damrosch (b. 1862), the eminent conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra, and of various operatic undertakings, has established his position as an original and poetic composer, not only by his opera, The Scarlet Letter, but by such songs as the intensely dramatic “Danny Deever.” Dr Horatio William Parker’s (b. 1863) oratorio settings of the hymn “Hora novissima” and of “The Wanderer’s Psalm” are deservedly popular. Their masterly workmanship and his power of expression in sacred music mark him as a distinct personality. Numerous orchestral as well as vocal works have not been heard out of America, but a group of songs, newly set to the words of familiar old English ditties, have obtained great success. Mrs H. H. A. Beach, the youngest of the prominent composers of the United States and an accomplished pianist, has attained a high reputation as a writer in all the more ambitious forms of music. Many of her songs and anthems have obtained wide popularity. The achievements of the United States are, however, less marked in the production of new composers than in the attention which has been paid to musical education and appreciation generally. Henry E. Krehbiel (b. 1854), the well-known critic, was especially prominent in drawing American attention to Wagner and Brahms. The New York Opera has been made a centre for the finest artists of the day, and the symphony concerts at Boston and Chicago have been unrivalled for excellence. It is worthy of note that no country has produced a greater number of the most eminent of recent singers. Mesdames E. Eames, Nordica, Minnie Hauck, Susan Strong, Suzanne Adams, Sybil Sanderson, Esther Palliser, Evangeline Florence, and very many more among leading sopranos, with Messrs E. E. Oudin, D. Bispham and Denis O’Sullivan, to name but three out of the host of excellent male artists, proved the natural ability of the Americans in vocal music; and it might also be said that the more notable English-speaking pupils of the various excellent French schools of voice-production are American with hardly an exception.
United Kingdom.—English music requires more detailed notice, if only because of the striking change in the national feeling with regard to it. The nation had been accustomed for so long to consider music as an exotic, that, notwithstanding the glories of the older schools of English music, the amount of attention paid to everything that came from abroad, and the rich treasures of traditional and distinctively English music scattered through the country, the majority of educated people adhered to the common belief that England was not a musical country. The beauty and the enormous quantity of traditional Irish music, the enthusiasm created in Scotland by trumpery songs written in what was supposed to be an imitation of the Scottish style, the existence of the Welsh Eisteddfodau, were admitted facts; but England was supposed to have had no share in these gifts of nature or art, and the vogue of foreign music, from Italian opera to classical symphonies, was held as evidence of her poverty, instead of being partly the reason of the national sterility. In the successive periods during which the music of Handel and Mendelssohn respectively had been held as all-sufficient for right-thinking musicians, success could only be attained, if at all, by those English musicians who deliberately set themselves to copy the style of these great masters; the few men who had the determination to resist the popular movement were either confined, like the Wesleys, to one branch of music in which some originality of thought was still allowed, that of the Church, or, like Henry Hugo Pierson in the days of the Mendelssohn worship, were driven to seek abroad the recognition they could not obtain at home. For a time it seemed as if the great vogue of Gounod would exalt him into a third artistic despot; but no native composer had even the energy to imitate his Faust; and, by the date of The Redemption (1882) and Mors et vita (1885), a renaissance of English music had already begun.
For a generation up to the ’eighties the affairs of foreign opera in England were rather depressing; the rival houses presided over by the impresarios Frederick Gye (1810–1878) and Colonel J. H. Mapleson (1828–1901) had been going from bad to worse; the traditions of what were called “the palmy days” had been forgotten, and with the retirement of Christine Nilsson in 1881, and the death of Therese J. A. Tietjens in 1877, the race of the great queens of song seemed to have come to an end. It is true that Mme Patti was in the plenitude of her fame and powers, but the number of her impersonations, perfect as they were, was so small that she alone could not support the weight of an opera season, and her terms made it impossible for any manager to make both ends meet unless the rest of the company were chosen on the principle enunciated by the husband of Mme Catalani, “Ma femme et quatre ou cinq poupées.” Mme Albani (b. 1851) had made her name famous, but the most important part of her, artistic career was yet to come. She had already brought Tannhäuser and Lohengrin into notice, but in Italian versions, as was then usual; and the great vogue of Wagner’s operas did not begin until the series of Wagner concerts given at the Royal Albert Hall in 1877 with the object of collecting funds for the preservation of the Bayreuth scheme, which after the production of the Nibelungen trilogy in 1876 had become involved in serious financial difficulties. The two seasons of German opera at Drury Lane under Dr Hans Richter (b. 1843) in 1882 and 1884, and the production of the trilogy at Her Majesty’s in 1882, under Angelo Neumann’s managership, first taught stay-at-home Englishmen what Wagner really was, and an Italian opera as such (i.e. with Italian as the exclusive language employed and the old “star” system in full swing) ceased to exist as a regular institution a few years after that. The revival of public interest in the opera only took place after Mr (afterwards Sir) Augustus Harris (1852–1896) had started his series of operas at Drury Lane in 1887. In the following season Harris took Covent Garden, and since that time the opera has been restored to greater public favour than it ever enjoyed, at all events since the days of Jenny Lind. The clever manager saw that the public was tired of operas arranged to suit the views of the prima donna and no one else, and he cast the works he produced, among which were Un Ballo in maschera and Les Huguenots, with due attention to every part. The brothers Jean and Édouard de Reszké, both of whom had appeared in London before—the former as a baritone and the latter during the seasons 1880–1884—were even stronger attractions to the musical public of the time than the various leading sopranos, among whom were Mme Albani, Miss M. Macintyre, Mme Melba, Frau Sucher and Mme Nordica, during the earlier seasons, and Mme Eames, Mlle Ravogli, MM. Lassalle and P. H. Plançon, and many other Parisian favourites later. As time went on, the excellent custom obtained of giving each work in the language in which it was written, and among the distinguished German artists who were added to the company were Frau M. Ternina, Frau E. Schumann-Heink, Frau Lilli Lehmann and many more. Since Harris’s death in 1896 the traditions started by him were on the whole well maintained, and as a sign of the difference between the present and the former position of English composers, it may be mentioned that two operas by F. H. Cowen, Signa and Harold, and two by Stanford, The Veiled Prophet and Much Ado about Nothing, were produced. To Signor Lago, a manager of more enterprise than good fortune, belongs the credit of reviving Gluck’s Orfeo (with the masterly impersonation of the principal character by Mlle Giulia Ravogli), and of bringing out Cavalleria rusticana, Tschaikovsky’s Eugen Onegin and other works.
If it be just to name one institution and one man as the creator of such an atmosphere as allowed the genius of English composers to flourish, then that honour must be paid to the Crystal Palace and August Manns, the conductor of its Saturday concerts. At first engaged as sub-conductor, under a certain Schallehn, at the building which was the lasting result of the Great Exhibition of 1851, he became director of the music in 1855; so for the better part of half a century his influence was exerted on behalf of the best music of all schools, and especially in favour of anything of English growth. Through evil report and good report he supported his convictions, and for many years he introduced one English composer after another to a fame which they would have found it hard to gain without his help and that of Sir George Grove, his loyal supporter. In 1862, when Arthur Sullivan had just returned from his studies in Leipzig, his Tempest music was produced at the Crystal Palace, and it is beyond question that it was this success and that of the succeeding works from the same hand which first showed Englishmen that music worth listening to might be produced by an English hand. Sullivan reached the highest point of his achievement in The Golden Legend (1886), his most important contribution to the music of the renaissance. An important part of the Crystal Palace music was that the concerts did not follow, but led, popular taste; the works of Schubert, Schumann and many other great masters were given constantly, and the whole repertory of classical music was gone through, so that a constant attendant at these concerts would have become acquainted with the whole range of the best class of music. From 1859 onwards the classical chamber-music could be heard at the Popular Concerts started by Arthur Chappell, and for many years their repertory was not less catholic than that of the Crystal Palace undertaking; that in later times the habit increased to a lamentable extent of choosing only the “favourite” (i.e. hackneyed) works of the great masters does not lessen the educational value of the older concerts. The lovers of the newer developments of music were always more fully satisfied at the concerts of the Musical Union, a body founded by John Ella in 1844, which lasted until 1880. From 1879 onwards the visits of Hans Richter, the conductor, were a feature of the musical season, and the importance of his work, not only in spreading a love of Wagner’s music, but in regard to every other branch of the best orchestral music, cannot be exaggerated. Like the popular concerts, the Richter concerts somewhat fell away in later years from their original purpose, and their managers were led by the popularity of certain pieces to give too little variety. The importance of Richter’s work was in bringing forward the finest English music in the years when the masters of the renaissance were young and untried. Here were to be heard the orchestral works of Sir Hubert Parry, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir A. Campbell Mackenzie and Dr F. H. Cowen; and the names of these composers were thus brought into notice much more effectually than could have been the case in other surroundings. Meanwhile outside London the work of the renaissance was being carried on, notably at Cambridge, where by the amalgamation of various smaller societies with the University Musical Society, Stanford created in 1875 a splendid institution which did much to foster a love of the best music for many years; and at Oxford, where private meetings in the rooms of Hubert Parry brought about the institution of the Musical Club, which has borne fruit in many ways, though only in the direction of chamber-music. The Bach Choir, founded by Mr Arthur Duke Coleridge in 1875, and conducted for the first ten years of its existence by Mr Otto Goldschmidt and subsequently by Professor Stanford, worked on purely uncommercial lines ever since its foundation, and besides many important works of Bach, it brought forward most important compositions by Englishmen, and had a prominent share in the work of the renaissance. Parry’s earlier compositions had a certain austerity in them which, while it commanded the homage of the cultivated few, prevented their obtaining wide popularity; and it was not until the date of his choral setting of Milton’s Ode at a Solemn Musick that he found his true vein. In this and its many successors, produced at the autumn festivals, though very rarely given in London, there was a nobility of utterance, a sublimity of conception, a mastery of resource, that far surpass anything accomplished in England since the days of Purcell; while his “Symphonic Variations” for orchestra, and at least two of his symphonies, exhibit his command of the modern modifications of classical forms in great perfection. Like Parry, Stanford first caught the ear of the public at large with a choral work, the stirring ballad-setting of Tennyson’s Revenge; and in all his earlier and later works alike, which include compositions in every form, he shows himself a supreme master of effect; in dramatic or lyrical handling of voices, in orchestral and chamber-music, his sense of beauty is unfailing, and while his ideas have real distinction, his treatment of them is nearly always the chief interest of his works. The work of the musical renaissance has been more beneficially fostered by these two masters than by any other individuals, through the medium of the Royal College of Music. In 1876 the National Training School of Music was opened with Sullivan as principal; he was succeeded by Sir John Stainer in 1881, and the circumstance that such artists as Mr Eugen d’Albert and Mr Frederic Cliffe received there the foundation of their musical education is the only important fact connected with the institution, which in 1882 was succeeded by the Royal College of Music, under the directorship of Sir George Grove, and with Parry and Stanford as professors of composition. In 1894 Parry succeeded to the directorship, and before and after this date work of the best educational kind was done in all branches of the art, but most of all in the important branch of composition. Mackenzie’s place among the masters of the renaissance is assured by his romantic compositions for orchestra—such as La Belle dame sans merci and the two “Scottish Rhapsodies”; some of his choral works, such as the oratorios, show some tendency to fall back into the conventionalities from which the renaissance movement was an effort to escape; but in The Cottar’s Saturday Night; The Story of Sayid; Veni, Creator Spiritus, and many other things, not excepting the opera Colomba or the witty “Britannia” overture, he shows no lack of spontaneity or power. As principal of the Royal Academy of Music (he succeeded Macfarren in 1888) he revived the former glories of the school, and the excellent plan by which it and the Royal College unite their forces in the examinations of the Associated Board is largely due to his initiative. The opera just mentioned was the first of the modern series of English operas brought out from 1883 onwards by the Carl Rosa company during its tenure of Drury Lane Theatre: at the time it seemed as though English opera had a chance of getting permanently established, but the enterprise, being a purely private and individual one, failed to have a lasting effect upon the art of the country, and after the production of two operas by Mackenzie, two by Arthur Goring Thomas, one by F. Corder, two by Cowen and one by Stanford, the artistic work of the company grew gradually less and less important. In spite of the strong influence of French ideals and methods, the music of Arthur Goring Thomas was remarkable for individuality and charm; in any other country his beautiful opera Esmeralda would have formed part of the regular repertory; and his orchestral suites, cantatas and a multitude of graceful and original songs, remain as evidence that if his career had been prolonged, the art of England might have been enriched by some masterpiece it would not willingly have let die. After a youth of extraordinary precocity, and a number of variously successful attempts in the more ambitious and more serious branches of the art, Cowen found his chief success in the treatment of fanciful or fairy subjects, whether in cantatas or orchestral works; here he is without a rival, and his ideas are uniformly graceful, excellently treated and wonderfully effective. His second tenure of the post of conductor of the Philharmonic Society showed him to be a highly accomplished conductor.
In regard to English opera two more undertakings deserve to be recorded. In 1891 the Royal English Opera House was opened with Sullivan’s Ivanhoe, a work written especially for the occasion; the absence of anything like a repertory, and the retention of this one work in the bills for a period far longer than its attractions could warrant, brought the inevitable result, and shortly after the production of a charming French comic opera the theatre was turned into the Palace Music Hall. The charming and thoroughly characteristic Shamus O’Brien of Stanford was successfully produced in 1896 at the Opéra Comique theatre. This work brought into public prominence the conductor Mr Henry J. Wood (b. 1870), who exercised a powerful influence on the art of the country by means of his orchestra, which was constantly to be heard at the Queen’s Hall, and which attained, by continual performance together, a degree of perfection before unknown in England. It achieved an important work in bringing music within the reach of all classes at the Promenade Concerts given through each summer, as well as by means of the Symphony Concerts at other seasons.
The movement thus started by Mr Wood increased and spread remarkably in later years. His training of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra was characterized by a thoroughness and severity previously unknown in English orchestras. This was partly made possible by the admirable business organization which fostered the movement in its earlier years; so many concerts were guaranteed that it was possible to give the players engagements which included a large amount of rehearsing. The result was soon apparent, not only in the raising of the standard of orchestral playing, but also in the higher and more intelligent standard of criticism to which performances were subjected both by experts and by the general public. The public taste in London for symphonic music grew so rapidly as to encourage the establishment of other bodies of players, until in 1910 there were five first-class professional orchestras giving concerts regularly in London—the Philharmonic Society, the Queen’s Hall Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra (described by Dr Hans Richter as “the finest orchestra in the world”), the New Symphony Orchestra under Mr Landon Ronald (b. 1873), a composer and conductor of striking ability, and Mr Thomas Beecham’s Orchestra. Mr Beecham, who had come rapidly to the front as a musical enthusiast and conductor, paid special attention to the work of British composers. Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Edinburgh, had their own orchestras; and it might be said that the whole of the United Kingdom was now permeated with a taste for and a knowledge of orchestral music. The effect of this development has influenced the whole of the musical life of England. The symphony and the symphonic poem have taken the place so long held by the oratorio in popular taste; and English composers of any merit or ability find it possible to get a hearing for orchestral work which at the end of the 19th century would have had to remain unperformed and unheard. The result has been the rapid development of a school of English orchestral composers—a school of considerable achievement and still greater promise.
The new school of English writers contains many names of skilled composers. Sir Edward Elgar established his reputation by his vigorous Caractacus and the grandiose imaginings of his Dream of Gerontius, as by orchestral and chamber compositions of decided merit and individuality, and by being the composer of a symphony which attained greater and wider fame than any similar work since the symphonies of Tschaikovsky. Mr Edward German (b. 1862) won great success as a writer of incidental music for plays, and in various lighter forms of music, for which his great skill in orchestration and his knowledge of effect stand him in good stead. The quality of Mr Frederic Cliffe’s orchestral works is extremely high. Dr Arthur Somervell (b. 1863), who succeeded Stainer as musical adviser to the Board of Education, first came into prominence as a composer of a number of charming songs, notably a fine song-cycle from Tennyson’s Maud, but his Mass and various orchestral works and cantatas and pianoforte pieces show his conspicuous ability in other forms. Various compositions written by Mr Hamish MacCunn (b. 1868), while still a student at the Royal College of Music, were received with acclamation; but his later work was not of equal value, though his operas Jeanie Deans and Diarmid were successful. Mr Granville Bantock (b. 1868), an ardent supporter of the most advanced music, has written many fine things for orchestra, and Mr William Wallace (b. 1861), in various orchestral pieces played at the Crystal Palace and elsewhere, and in such things as his “Freebooter” songs, has shown strong individuality and imagination. Mr Arthur Hinton (b. 1869) has produced things of fanciful beauty and quaint originality. Miss Ethel M. Smyth, whose Mass was given at the Royal Albert Hall in most favourable conditions, had her opera Fantasio produced at Weimar and Carlsruhe, and Der Wald at Covent Garden. Miss Maud Valerie White’s graceful and expressive songs brought her compositions into wide popularity; and Mme Liza Lehmann made a new reputation by her cycles of songs after her retirement from the profession of a singer. The first part of Mr S. Coleridge-Taylor’s (b. 1875) Hiawatha scenes was performed while he was still a student at the Royal College, and so great was its popularity that the third part of the trilogy was commissioned for performance by the Royal Choral Society. Mr Cyril Scott is a composer who aims high, though with a somewhat strained originality. Dr H. Walford Davies (b. 1869) and W. Y. Hurlstone (1876–1906) excel in the serious kind of chamber-music and use the classic forms with notable skill; and Mr R. Vaughan Williams, in his songs and other works, has shown perhaps the most conspicuous talent among all of the younger school.
English executive musicians have never suffered from foreign competition in the same degree as English composers, and the success of such singers as Miss Anna Williams, Miss Macintyre, Miss Marie Brema, Miss Clara Butt, Miss Agnes Nicholls, Messrs Santley, Edward Lloyd, Ben Davies, Plunket Greene and Ffrangcon Davies; or of such pianists as Miss Fanny Davies and Mr Leonard Borwick, is but a continuance of the tradition of British excellence.
The scientific study of the music of the past has more and more decidedly taken its place as a branch of musical education; the learned writings of W. S. Rockstro (1823–1895), many of them made public first in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Grove’s Dictionary of Music, made the subject clear to many who had been groping in the dark before; and the actual performance of old music has been undertaken not only by the Bach Choir, but by the Magpie Madrigal Society under Mr Lionel Benson’s able direction. In vocal and instrumental music alike the musical side of the International Exhibition of 1885 did excellent work in its historical concerts; and in that branch of archaeology which is concerned with the structure and restoration of old musical instruments, important work has been done by Mr A. J. Hipkins (1826–1903; so long connected with the firm of Broadwood), the Rev. F. W. Galpin, Arnold Dolmetsch and others. The formation of the Folk-Song Society in 1899 drew attention to the importance and extent of English traditional music, and did much to popularize it with singers of the present day.
Bibliography.—Among encyclopaedic dictionaries of music Sir George Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1878–1889; new ed. by J. A. Fuller Maitland, 1904–1908), takes the first place among publications in English, while Robert Eitner’s (d. 1905) monumental Quellenlexikon (1900–1904), in German, is an authority of the first rank. Among other modern works of value on various accounts may be mentioned F. J. Fétis’s Biographie universelle des musiciens (2nd ed., 1860–1865; supplement by A. Pougin, 1878); G. Schilling’s Encyklopädie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaft (1835–1838); Mendel and Reissmann’s Musikalisches Conversations-lexikon (2nd ed., 1883); H. Riemann’s Musik-lexikon (5th ed., 1900; also an Eng. trans., with additions, by J. S. Shedlock); the American Cyclopaedia of Music and Musicians (1889–1891); and the Oxford History of Music (1901–1905). The literature of music generally is enormous, but the following selected list of works on various aspects may be useful:—
Aesthetics, Theory, &c.—H. Ehrlich, Die Musik-Aesthetik in ihrer Entwickelung von Kant bis auf die Gegenwart (Leipzig, 1882); E. Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music (London, 1891); R. Wallaschek, Aesthetik der Tonkunst (Stuttgart, 1886); R. Pohl, Die Höhenzüge der musikalischen Entwickelung (Leipzig, 1888); A. Schnez, Die Geheimnisse der Tonkunst (Stuttgart, 1891); J. A. Zahm, Sound and Music (Chicago, 1892); C. Bellaique, Psychologie musicale (Paris, 1893); W. Pole, Philosophy of Music (vol. xi. of the English and Foreign Philosophical Library, 1895); M. Seybel, Schopenhauers Metaphysik der Musik (Leipzig, 1895); L. Lacombe, Philosophie et musique (Paris, 1896); Sir C. H. H. Parry, The Evolution of the Art of Music (London, 1897); H. Riemann, Präludien und Studien (Frankfort, 1896); Geschichte der Musiktheorie im IX.–XIX. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1898); Systematische Modulationslehre (Hamburg, 1887); J. C. Lobe, Lehrbuch der musikalischen Komposition (Leipzig, 1884); A. B. Marx, Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition (Leipzig, 1887, 1890); M. L. C. Cherubini, Theorie des Kontrapunktes und der Fuge (Cologne, 1896); Sir J. F. Bridge and F. J. Sawyer, A Course of Harmony (London, 1899); E. Prout, Counterpoint (London, 1890); Double Counterpoint and Canon (London, 1893); Musical Form (London, 1893); Applied Forms (London, 1895); B. Widmann, Die strengen Formen der Musik (Leipzig, 1882); S. Jadassohn, Die Formen in den Werken der Tonkunst (Leipzig, 1885); M. Steinitzer, Psychologische Wirkungen der musikalischen Formen (Munich, 1885); J. Combarieu, Théorie du rhythme dans la composition moderne d’après la doctrine antique (Paris, 1897); P. Goetschius, Homophonic Forms of Musical Composition (New York, 1898); William Wallace, The Threshold of Music (1907).
English Music.—W. Nagel, Geschichte der Musik in England (Strassburg, 1894); H. Davey, History of English Music (London, 1895); F. J. Crowest, The Story of British Music (London, 1896); S. Vautyn, L’Évolution de la musique en Angleterre (Brussels, 1900); Ernest Walker, English Music (1907).
America.—W. S. B. Mathews, A Hundred Years of Music in America (Chicago, 1889); L. C. Elson, The National Music of America and its Sources (Boston, 1900); T. Baker, Über die Musik der nord-amerikanischen Wilden (Leipzig, 1882).
France.—H. Laroix, La Musique française (Paris, 1891); N. M. Schletterer, Studien zur Geschichte der französischen Musik (Berlin, 1884–1885); T. Galino, La Musique française au moyen âge (Leipzig, 1890); A. Cognard, De la Musique en France depuis Rameau (Paris, 1891); G. Servières, La Musique française moderne (Paris, 1897).
Germany.—W. Baeumker, Geschichte der Tonkunst in Deutschland bis zur Reformation (Freiburg, 1881); O. Ebben, Der volksthümliche deutsche Männergesang (Tübingen, 1887); L. Meinardus, Die deutsche Tonkunst; A. Soubies, Histoire de la musique allemande (Paris, 1896).
Italy.—O. Chilesotti, I nostri maestri del passato (Milan, 1882); V. Lee, Il Settecento in Italia (Milan, 1881); G. Masutto, I Maestri di musica italiani del secolo XIX. (Venice, 1882).
Russia.—A. Soubies, Histoire de la musique en Russie (Paris, 1898).
Scandinavia.—A. Grönvoed, Norske Musikere (Christiania, 1883); C. Valentin, Studien über die schwedischen Volksmelodien (Leipzig, 1885).
Spain.—J. F. Riaño, Notes on Early Spanish Music (London, 1887); J. Tort y Daniel, Noticia musical del “Lied” ó Canço catalana (Barcelona, 1892); A. Soubies, Hist. de la mus. en Espagne (1899).
Switzerland.—A. Niggli, La Musique dans la Suisse allemande (1900); F. Held, La Musique dans la Suisse romande (1900); A. Soubies, Hist. de la mus. dans la Suisse (1899).
Church Music.—F. L. Humphreys, The Evolution of Church Music (New York, 1898); E. L. Taunton, History of Church Music (London, 1887); A. Morsch, Der italienische Kirchengesang bis Palestrina (Berlin, 1887); G. Masutto, Della Musica sacra in Italia, (Venice, 1889); G. Félix, Palestrina et la musique sacrée (Bruges, 1895); R. v. Liliencron, Liturgisch-musikalische Geschichte der evangelischen Gottesdienste (Schleswig, 1893).
Instruments (see also the separate articles on each).—L. Arrigoni, Organografia ossia descrizione degli instrumenti musicali antichi (Milan, 1881); F. Boudoin, La Musique historique (Paris, 1886); A. Jacquot, Étude de l’art instrumental. Dictionnaire des instruments de musique (Paris, 1886); H. Boddington, Catalogue of Musical Instruments illustrative of the History of the Pianoforte (Manchester 1888); M. E. Brown, Musical Instruments and their Homes (New York, 1888); A. J. Hipkins, Musical Instruments: Historic, Rare and Unique (Edinburgh, 1888); W. Lynd, Account of Ancient Musical Instruments and their Development (London, 1897); J. Weiss, Die musikalischen Instrumente in den heiligen Schriften des Alten Testaments (Graz, 1895); E. Travers, Les Instruments de musique au xivᵉ. siècle (Paris, 1882); E. A. v. Hasselt, L’Anatomie des instruments de musique (Brussels, 1899); E. W. Verney, Siamese Musical Instruments (London, 1888); C. R. Day, Music and Musical Instruments of Southern India (London, 1891); D. G. Brinton Native American Stringed Musical Instruments (1897); J. Ruehlmann, Die Geschichte der Bogeninstrumente (Brunswick, 1882) F. di Caffarelli, Gli Strumenti ad arco e la musica da camera (Milan 1894); Kathleen Schlesinger, Instruments of the Orchestra (1910).
Conducting.—W. R. Wagner, On Conducting (London, 1887); M. Kufferath, L’Art de diriger l’orchestre (Paris, 1891); F. Weingartner, Über das Dirigiren (Berlin, 1896).
Biography.—F. Hueffer, The Great Musicians (London, 1881–1884); F. Clément, Les Grands musiciens (Paris, 1882); C. E. Bourne, The Great Composers (London, 1887); G. T. Ferris, Great Musical Composers; Sir C. H. H. Parry, Studies of Great Composers (London, 1887); A. A. Ernouf, Compositeurs célèbres (Paris, 1888); F. J. Bennassi-Desplantes, Les Musiciens célèbres (Limoges, 1889); A. Haunedruche, Les Musiciens et compositeurs français (Paris, 1890); N. H. Dole, A Score of Famous Composers (New York, 1891); L. T. Morris, Famous Musical Composers (London, 1891); H. de Brémont, The World of Music (London, 1892); J. K. Paine, Famous Composers and their Works (Boston, 1892–1893); E. Polko, Meister der Tonkunst (Wiesbaden, 1897); R. F. Sharp, Makers of Music (London, 1898); L. Nohl, Mosaik Denksteine aus dem Leben berühmter Tonkünstler (Leipzig, 1899); T. Baker, A Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (New York, 1900); M. Charles, Zeitgenössische Tondichter (Leipzig, 1888); A. Jullien, Musiciens d’aujourd’hui (Paris, 1892).
- Thus Chinese and Japanese art has attained high organization without the aid of a veracious perspective; while, on the other hand, its carefully formulated decorative principles, though not realistic, certainly rest on an optical and physiological basis. Again, many modern impressionists justify their methods by an appeal to phenomena of complementary colour which earlier artists possibly did not perceive and certainly did not select as artistic materials.
- It is worth adding that in the 16th century the great contrapuntal composer Costanzo Porta had been led by doubts on the subject to the wonderful conclusion that ancient Greek music was polyphonic, and so constructed as to be invertible; in illustration of which theory he and Vincentino composed four-part motets in each of the Greek genera (diatonic, chromatic and enharmonic), Porta’s being constructed like the 12th and 13th fugues in Bach’s Kunst der Fuge so as to be equally euphonious when sung upside down! (See Hawkins’s History of Music, i. 112.)
- The technical nature of the subject forbids us to discuss the origin and characteristics of the great Ambrosian and Gregorian collections of melodic church music on which nearly all medieval and 16th-century polyphony was based, and from which the ecclesiastical modes were derived. Professor Wooldridge in The Oxford History of Music, i. 20–44, has shown the continuity of this early Christian music with the Graeco-Roman music, and the origin of its modes in the Ptolemaic modification (c. A.D. 150) of the Greek diatonic scale; while a recent defence of the ecclesiastical tradition of a revision by St Gregory will be found in the article on “Gregorian music” in Grove’s Dictionary (new ed.), ii. 235.
- The correct version will be found in The Oxford History of Music, ii. 215.
- The “invention” of recitative is frequently ascribed to this or that monodist, with as little room for dispute as when we ascribe the invention of clothes to Adam and Eve. All monody was recitative, if only from inability to organize melodies.
- We must remember in this connexion that the term opéra comique means simply opera with spoken dialogue, and has nothing to do with the comic idea.