Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/258

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.



��and might as well have been termed a Gavotte. There is another Scherzo among the doubtful works beginning thus :

���Many of the Gigues are far more frolicsome than these would-be jests. In Peters's edition of Scar- latti's Clavecin pieces, will be found a piece with the following theme for principal subject, which the editor, von Billow, has entitled a Scherzo :


��The initial figure of this theme, treated in free imitation, runs through the movement. As a similar phrase forms so distinctive a feature of the Scherzo to Beethoven's ;th Symphony it is not unfair to compare the two, and remark the differ- ence between a merely bright little piece with no particular qualities, and a true Scherzo which fills the heart with lively and delightful thoughts. In the same volume will be found a Capriccio (No. 4) which is a real Scherzo in all but name.

Coming now to the period of the Symphony it may be as well to remind the reader of a fact which will be more enlarged upon under that heading, namely, that the presence of the Minuet or Scherzo in works of the symphonic class, is a matter of natural selection, or survival of the fittest. In the old Suites the Minuet, being of rather shorter rhythm than the other dances, was seized upon, perhaps unconsciously, by the great masters who tied themselves down to the old form, and was exaggerated out of all recogni- tion for the sake of contrast. The actual Minuet, as danced from the i6th century up to the present day (if any one still learns it), is in the time of that famous specimen in Mozart's Don Juan, or say M. M. J = 80. Yet even in the Suites of Bach one finds quick and slow Minuets, neither having any regard to the requirements of the dance. When we come to Haydn thfe term Minuet ceases to have any meaning ; the stateliness and char- acter of the dance are quite gone, and what we should call a Waltz appears. But with the true instinct of an artist, Haydn felt that in a work containing such heavy subtleties (for even Haydn was deemed heavy and subtle once) as the ordinary first movement and slow movement, a piece of far lighter character was imperatively demanded. So lighter and quicker and more sportive grew the Minuets, till Beethoven crowned the incongruous fashion with the 'Minuet' of his ist Symphony. It should be mentioned, however, that Mozart never departed nearly so far from the true Minuet as Haydn, whose gaiety of musical thought drove him into really inventing the Scherzo, though he did not use the name. The Minuets of many of the String Quartets of Haydn exhibit indeed those quaint and fanciful


devices of unexpected reiteration, surprises of rhythm, and abrupt terminations, which are the leading characteristics of the Scherzo, and are completely opposed to the spirit of the true Minuet. One which begins and ends each part with these bars


��rrr rrr

8ve basso.

��is a strong instance in point.

Beethoven quickly gave the Scherzo the per- manent position in the Symphony which it now occupies. He also settled its form and character. As to form, why, the old Minuet and Trio was as good a skeleton as any other ; for what matters the shape of the bones when we are dazzled by the form which covers them? It is a good answer to those who consider the classical forms worn out and irksome to the flow of inspira- tion to point out that in the Scherzo, where full rein is given to the individual caprice of the musician, there is as much attention given to construction as anywhere. In fact, either the bold and masculine First-movement form, or its sister, the weaker and more feminine Rondo form must be the backbone of every piece of music with any pretensions to the name. But, lest the light and airy character of the Scherzo should be spoilt by the obtrusion of the ma- chinery, the greater composers have sought to obscure the form artistically by several devices, the most frequent and obvious being the humor- ous persistent dwelling on some one phrase generally the leading feature of the first subject and introducing it in and out of season, mixed up with any or all of the other subjects. Wit- ness the Scherzo of Beethoven's Qth Symphony, quoted below, where the opening phrase is used as an accompaniment to the 2nd subject indeed as a persistent ' motto ' throughout. Apart from this there is not the slightest departure from rigid First-movement form in this great movement.

The Trio, which is a relic of the Minuet and takes the position of third subject or middle sec- tion in a Rondo, survives because of the natu- rally felt want of a contrast to the rapid rhythm of the Scherzo. Many modern composers affect to dispense with it, but there is usually a central section answering to it, even though it be not divided off from the rest by a double bar. Men- delssohn has been the most successful in writing Scherzos without Trios. The main idea was to have a movement in extremely short and marked rhythm, for which purpose triple time is of course the best. In the Pianoforte Sonatas the Scherzo to that in Eb (Op. 31, No. 3) is the only instance where Beethoven has employed 2-4. The Trios to the Scherzos of the Pasto- ral and Choral Symphonies are 2-4 and Q for special reasons of effect and contrast. It may be worth noticing that Beethoven invariably writes 3-4 even where 6-8 or 3-8 could equally well have been employed. This is no doubt in order that the written notes should appeal to the

�� �