Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/545

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of Mendelssohn's early works were published (posthumously) with very late opus-numbers. Several mistakes have occurred in the numbering of Beethoven's works in various editions: for instance, the three pianoforte sonatas (op. 31) have often been called 'op. 29,' which is the number of the String Quintet in C, and the last four of the so-called 'posthumous' quartets have been numbered in two different ways. The proper numbering is as follows: the A minor Quartet should be op. 130, not 132; that in B♭ major, op. 131, not 130; that in C♯ minor, op. 132, not 131, and that in F major, op. 133, not 135.

ORATORIO (Lat. Oratorium; Ital. Dramma sacra per Musica, Oratorio; Germ. Oratorium). A Sacred Poem, usually of a dramatic character, sung throughout by Solo Voices and Chorus, to the accompaniment of a full Orchestra, but—at least in modern times—without the assistance of Scenery, Dresses, or Action.

The dramatic instinct is so deeply implanted in the human mind, that it would be as hopeless to search for the earliest manifestation of its presence as for the origin of language. We have already endeavoured to trace back the history of the Opera to the infancy of Greek Tragedy. But, it is clear that dramatic performances must have had an incalculably earlier as well as an infinitely ruder origin than that; and equally certain that they have been used from tune immemorial as a means of inculcating moral and religious truth, and instructing the masses in historical and legendary lore which it would have been difficult to impress upon them by the mere force of verbal description. That they were so used in the Middle Ages is proved by abundant evidence. The Mysteries, Moralities, and Miracle Plays, which in the 13th and 14th centuries were so extensively popular throughout the whole of Europe, did more towards familiarising the multitude with the great events of Scripture History than could have been effected by any amount of simple narrative; and it is to these primitive performances, rude though they were, that we must look for the origin of that grand artistic creation—the noblest ever yet conceived with Music for its basis—which still serves to invest the Sacred Story with a living interest which we cannot but regard as a valuable help to the realisation of its inner meaning, and to impress upon our minds a more elevated Ideal than we could ver hope to reach without the aid of Song.

It is impossible to say when, where, or by whom, the first dramatic representation of a Scene from Holy Writ was attempted. One of the oldest examples of which we have any certain record is the 'Festum Asinorum,' celebrated at Beauvais and Sens, in the 12th century, and long remembered in connection with a famous Carol called the 'Prosa de Asino,' the Melody of which will be found at page 462a of the present volume. But it was not only in France that such representations found favour in the sight of the people. William Fitz Stephen mentions a Monk of Canterbury who wrote many Miracle-Plays during the reign of King Henry II, and died in 1191; and we know, from other sources, that an English audience was always ready to greet entertainments of this description with a hearty welcome. The Clergy also took them under their especial protection, and retained their interest in them for so long a period, that, in 1378 the Choristers of S. Paul's performed them regularly, under careful ecclesiastical superintendence. In other countries they attained an equal degree of popularity, but at a somewhat later date. In Italy, for instance, we hear of a 'Commedia Spirituale' performed for the first time at Padua in 1243, and another at Friuli in 1298; while 'Geistliche Schauspiele' first became common in Germany and Bohemia about the year 1322.

The subjects of these primitive pieces were chosen for the purpose of illustrating certain incidents selected from the history of the Old and New Testaments, the lives of celebrated Saints, or the meaning of Allegorical Conceits, intended to enforce important lessons in Religion and Morality. For instance, 'Il Conversione di S. Paolo' was sung in Rome in 1440, and 'Abram et Isaac suo Figluolo' at Florence in 1449. Traces are also found of 'Abel e Caino' (1554), 'Sansone' (1554), 'Abram et Sara' (1556), 'Il Figluolo Prodigo' (1565), an allegorical piece, called 'La Commedia Spirituale dell' Anima,' printed at Siena, without date (and not to be confounded with a very interesting work bearing a somewhat similar title, to be mentioned presently), and many different settings of the history of the Passion of our Lord. This last was always a very favourite subject; and the music adapted to it, combining some of the more prominent characteristics of Ecclesiastical Plain Chaunt with the freedom of the sæcular Chanson was certainly not wanting in solemnity. Particular care was always taken with that part of the Sacred Narrative which described the grief of Our Lady at the Crucifixion; and we find frequent instances of the 'Lamentation' of Mary, or of S. Mary Magdalene, or of The Three Maries, treated, in several different languages, in no unworthy manner. The following is from a MS. of the 14th century, formerly used at the Abbey of Origny Saint Benoit, but now preserved in the Library at S. Quentin.

Les Trois Maries.

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \relative g' { \cadenzaOn g1 a\breve( g1) a b a b c a g g a\breve( g1) a b a b c b a g \bar "" g b d e d c b a b c\breve b1( a g) g a( b c) b\breve( a1 b) g g a b\breve g1 a g }
\addlyrics { Nous a -- vons per -- du nos -- tre con -- fort Ihe -- sum Chris -- tum tres tout plain de dou -- cour. Il es -- tait blaus et plain de bon -- ne a -- mour he -- __ _ las mout _ nous a -- moit li -- vrais. } }

No great improvement seems to have been made in the style of these performances after the 14th century; indeed, so many abuses crept into them that they were frequently prohibited