Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/319

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because, like all the other good things in ' H. M. S. Pinafore,' it is so set to Music that the Singer has no choice but to turn it into fun. And it is exactly the same with 'Patience,' and ' Cox and Box.' Their Music overflows with witty passages; passages which would make the words sound witty, were they ever so tame. The fun of very clever people is always the richest fun of all. Its refinement is a thousand times more telling than the coarser utterances of ordinary humour. And so it has always been with the greatest Masters of Opera buffa. Paisi- ello and Cimarosa are accepted as Classical Com- posers; yet their sprightliness exceeds that of all the farce-writers that ever existed. Arthur Sullivan has made every one in London laugh ; yet, the predominating quality in the Music of ' H.M.S. Pinafore ' is reverence for Art con- scientious observance of its laws, in little things. It may sound absurd to say so : but, no one who takes the trouble to examine the Score can deny the fact.

It is said that the Composer of these popular Operettas is contemplating a Serious Opera, planned upon an extensive scale. It is to be hoped that the report may prove true ; for, with his great reputation, he can hardly fail to obtain a hearing, though there is not much hope, in England, for aspirants of lesser celebrity. That Stanford's ' Veiled Prophet ' should have been performed, for the first time, at Hanover, in the form of a German translation, is a reproach to our national taste. Had the work proceeded from an untried hand, managers might have been forgiven for refusing to risk the production of a piece demanding such costly scenic preparation. But Stanford's name was not unknown; and 'The Veiled Prophet' proved to be something better than a poor commonplace imitation of foreign models. Though original, in the best sense of the word, it never descends to eccentricity. While giving free expression to any amount of necessary dramatic colouring, the Composer never forgets that there is another side to the question that even dramatic colouring must conform to laws which have been ordained in order that Art may never degrade herself by the presentation of that which is hideous, or even unlovely. This wholesome restraint is exemplified, in a very re- markable way, in the Music allotted toMokanna. The temptation to represent physical ugliness by ugly progressions would have been too strong for many a young Composer to resist ; yet, here, with no suspicion of such revolting symbolism, we are still made to realise the horror of the Scene in its fullest significance. There is a determined cha- racter about the Watchman's Song which stamps it, throughout, as an original inspiration. The same may be said of the Music designed to accompany the rising of the magic moon ; while the more regularly developed Movements such as the Duet between Zelica and Azim, in the Second Act show evidence of a preconceived design, which greatly augments the musical in- terest of the piece. Judged as a whole, the Opera takes rank as a legitimate product of the Romantic

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School, original enough to claim our hearty re- cognition, on its own merits, yet obedient enough to scholastic law to show that its author has not neglected the study of classical models.

Want of space compels us to pass over the Dramatic Works of Cowen, and Alfred Cellier, and many another rising Artist, without detailed notice ; but, with so many young Composers in the full strength of their artistic life, and so many clever librettists ready to cast in their lot with them, we cannot but think that there is good hope for the future of English Opera.

During the earlier decads of the I9th century, England did but little for Sacred Music. In one important point, however, she was faithful to tradition. She alone kept alive that love fo* Handel which was elsewhere absolutely extinct. The Csecilian Society, and, after it, the Sacred Harmonic Society, did more good than could have been achieved by any number of lukewarm Com- posers. It is not too much to say that some of the finest Music we possess must have been delivered over to oblivion, had it not been kept before the world by these two Associations, until its beauties were recognised elsewhere, and Germany began that splendid edition of Handel's works, which ought, years ago. to have been printed in London. All honour to Dr. Chrysander for his labour of love ! But we must not forget that the English were the first to promote, in one way, the work which Germany is now promoting in another; for it is to the enterprise of London publishers that we owe those octavo editions of Handel's Ora- torios, the cheapness of which places them in the hands of every one, while their enormous circulation shows how wonderfully the taste for good Music must be on the increase. Moreover, the weakness, which, fifty or sixty years ago, lowered the tone of English Sacred Music so deplorably, has given place to a more promising power of healthy production. There can be no doubt that this reaction is mainly traceable to the first performance, in 1846, of Mendelssohn's 'Elijah,' an event which impressed the British public with a deeper reverence for the higher branches of Art than it had previously enter- tained. The audiences assembling at Exeter Hall knew some dozen Oratorios the finest in the world and honestly appreciated them. But, they did not care to hear anything they did not know. They were afraid to pass judgment on Music with which they were not familiar, lest, by criticising it too favourably, they should com- promise their taste. The appearance of ' Elijah' 5ut an end to this unsatisfactory state of things, 'he Oratorio proved to be superb ; and no one was afraid to acknowledge it. The reaction was complete. The eyes of a large section of the Musical public were opened ; and many who had never before entertained the idea of such a ques- tion, began to ask whether the creative faculty might not still be found within the pale of the English School. It was found ; and, one by one, works were produced, quite strong enough to give fair promise of the ultimate formation of a new School of English Oratorio. To Sterndale X2

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