Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/261

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

mirers of Charles Dibdin, 'for the promotion of ballad composition and melody.' In 1827 and 28 a library was formed, and prizes offered for songs; and the prize songs were afterwards published in a volume. In 1833 two prizes of 10 guineas were offered for songs in the style of Arne, Shield, or Dibdin, and gained by Blewitt and Hobbs. In 1837 prizes of 5 guineas for words and 10 guineas for music of a song; which were gained by Wilson and Hobbs for the song 'Send round the wine.' The object of the Club is well described in the following words of Sir H. Bishop in presenting some music to the Library in 1840: 'It is from my perfect oonviction that good and appropriate melody is the chief attribute of excellence in music of every style, from the simple ballad to the most elaborate composition, that I hail the establishment of the Melodists' Club, from its patronage of native genius, and its encouragement of melody, as essentially calculated to aid the cause of the musical art in this country.' The entrance to the Club was 5 guineas, and the annual subscription 8 guineas. Many noblemen and gentlemen supported it, and its professional members embraced Sir George Smart, Braham, Balfe, T. Cooke, Hawes, Sterndale Bennett, and other eminent English musicians. Among the artists who took part in the music in its earlier day were J. B. Cramer, Moscheles, Hummel, Field, Benedict, Lipinski, and many more players of the highest distinction. Mr. T. Cooke was musical director, and Mr. John Parry hon. secretary.

[ C. M. ]

MELODRAMA (Fr. Melodrame). I. A Play—generally, of the Romantic School—in which the dialogue is frequently relieved by Music, sometimes of an incidental, and sometimes of a purely dramatic character.

Such a Play was the Pygmalion of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who has been credited, on the strength of it, with having invented the style. The so-called English Operas, of the older School—The Beggar's Opera, The Iron Chest, The Castle of Andalusia, The Quaker, The English Fleet, No Song no Supper, Guy Mannering, and a hundred others—are all really Melodramas. It is difficult, indeed, in the case of English and German pieces with spoken Dialogue, to say exactly where Melodrama ends, and Opera begins. The line must be drawn, somewhere: but, unless we adopt the substitution of Recitative for Dialogue as a final test, its exact position must always remain more or less doubtful. On the other hand, were we to accept this distinction, we should be compelled to class at least half of the best German Operas as Melodramas—an indignity which was once actually inflicted upon 'Der Freischütz.'

One rarely-failing characteristic of the popular Melodrama of the present day we must not omit to mention. Both in England, and on the Continent, its Music, as a general rule, is so miserably poor, that the piece would be infinitely more entertaining without it. Perhaps, therefore, we may be justified in giving the name of Opera to those pieces in which the Music is the chief attraction, and that of Melodrama, to those in which the predominating interest is centred in the Dialogue.

II. A peculiar kind of dramatic composition, in which the Actor recites his part, in an ordinary speaking voice, while the orchestra plays a more or less elaborate accompaniment, appropriate to the situation, and calculated to bring its salient points into the highest possible relief.

That the true Melodrama originated in Germany is certain: and there can be equally little doubt that the merit of its invention rests—notwithstanding all the arguments that can be adduced in favour of rival claimants—with Georg Benda, who first used it, with striking effect, in his 'Ariadne auf Naxos,' produced, at Gotha, in the year 1774. Since that time it has been employed to far greater advantage in the German Schools of Composition than in any others; and found more favour with German composers than with those of any other country. The finest examples produced since the beginning of the present century are, the Grave-digging Scene, in 'Fidelio'; the Dream, in 'Egmont'; the Incantation Scene, in 'Der Freischütz'; and some Scenes in Mendelssohn's 'Midsummer Night's Dream.' Unhappily, the performance of these finely-conceived movements is not often very satisfactory. The difficulty of modulating the voice judiciously, in music of this description, is, indeed, almost insuperable. The general temptation is, to let it glide, insensibly, into some note sounded by the Orchestra; in which case, the effect produced resembles that of a Recitative, sung hideously out of tune—a perversion of the Composer's meaning, which, in passages like the following is simply intolerable.


<< \new Staff { \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \time 4/4 \key g \major \relative g'' { <g b>16\pp e q e q e q e q8 r r4 | r1 | <fis b>16 d q d q d q d q8 r r4 | r1 | <c e g>16 g q g q g q g q8 r r4 | <c e a>16 a q a q a q a q8 r r4 | <b dis fis>8 r r4 <b dis b'>8 r r4\fermata } }
\new Lyrics { \lyricmode { \markup { \smallCaps Puck. "What hempen homespuns have we swaggering here," }4*7 \markup { }4
 \markup { So near the cradle of our Fairy Queen? }1
 \markup { What a play toward? }1
 \markup { I'll be an auditor }2 \markup { }2
 \markup { An actor too, perhaps, }2 \markup { }2
 \markup { if I see cause. }2 } }
\new Staff { \clef bass \key g \major \clef treble \relative e' { e1\pp\( | g2 b\) | d,1\( | fis2 b\) | c,1 \clef bass f, | b2 r_\fermata } } >>