Marshall possesses a number of compositions of an obscure but original-minded composer of this time (though perhaps a Prince), Signor Sampieri. He appears to have been a pianoforte teacher who sought to make his compositions interesting to his pupils by means of programmes, and even by illustrations placed among the notes. One of his pieces is 'A Grand Series of Musical Compositions expressing Various Motions of the Sea.' Here we have 'Promenade, Calm, Storm, Distress of the Passengers, Vessel nearly lost,' etc. Another is modestly entitled 'A Novel, Sublime, and Celestial, Piece of Music called Night; Divided into 5 Parts, viz. Evening, Midnight, Aurora, Daylight, and The Rising of the Sun.' On the cover is given 'A short Account how this Piece is to be played. As it is supposed the Day is more Chearful than the Night, in consequence of which, the Evening, begins by a piece of Serious Music.—Midnight, by simple and innocent, at the same time shewing the Horror & Dead of the Night. Aurora, by a Mild encreasing swelling or crescendo Music, to shew the gradual approach of the Day. Daylight, by a Gay & pleasing Movement, the Rising of the Sun, concludes by an animating & lively Rondo, & as the Sun advance into the Centre of the Globe, the more the Music is animating, and finishes the Piece.'
In this composition occur some imitations of birds. That of the Thrush is not bad:
The Blackbird and the Goldfinch are less happily copied. Other works of this composer bear the titles of 'The Elysian Fields,' 'The Progress of Nature in various departments,' 'New Grand Pastorale and Rondo with imitation of the bagpipes'; and there is a curiously illustrated piece descriptive of a Country Fair, and all the amusements therein.
Coming now to Beethoven, we have his own authority for the fact, that when composing he had always a picture in his mind, to which he worked. But in two instances only has he described at all in detail what the picture was. These two works, the Pastoral and the Battle Symphonies, are of vastly different calibre. The former, without in the slightest degree departing from orthodox form, is a splendid precedent for programme-music. In this, as in most works of the higher kind of programme-music, the composer seeks less to imitate the actual sounds of nature than to evoke the same feelings as are caused by the contemplation of a fair landscape, etc. And with such consummate skill is this intention wrought out that few people will be found to agree with a writer in the 'Encyclopædia Britannica ' (former edition) who declares that if this symphony were played to one ignorant of the composer's intention the hearer would not be able to find out the programme for himself. But even were this the case—as it undoubtedly is with many other pieces—it would be no argument against programme-music, which never professes to propound conundrums. It may be worth mentioning that the Pastoral Symphony has actually been 'illustrated' by scenes, ballet and pantomime action in theatres. This was done at a festival of the Künstler Liedertafel of Düsseldorf in 1863 'by a series of living and moving tableaux in which the situations described by the Tone-poem are scenically and pantomimically illustrated.' A similar entertainment was given by Howard Glover in London the same and following year.
Another interesting fact concerning the Pastoral Symphony is the identity of its programme with that of the 'Portrait Musical de la Nature' of Knecht, described below. The similarity however does not extend to the music, in which there is not a trace of resemblance. Mention has elsewhere been made of an anticipation of the Storm music in the 'Prometheus' ballet music, which is interesting to note. Some description of the little-known 'Battle Symphony' may not be out of place here. It is in two parts; the first begins with 'English drums and trumpets' followed by 'Rule Britannia,' then come 'French drums and trumpets' followed by 'Malbrook.' More trumpets to give the signal for the assault on either side, and the battle is represented by an Allegro movement of an impetuous character. Cannon of course are imitated—Storming March—Presto—and the tumult increases. Then Malbrook is played slowly and in a minor key, clearly, if somewhat inadequately, depicting the defeat of the French. This ends the 1st part. Part 2 is entitled 'Victory Symphony' and consists of an Allegro con brio followed by 'God save the King'—a melody, it may be remarked, which Beethoven greatly admired. The Allegro is resumed, and then the anthem is worked up in a spirited fugato to conclude.
Of the other works of Beethoven which are considered as programme, or at least characteristic music, a list has been already given at p. 206b of vol. i. It is sufficient here to remark that the 'Eroica' Symphony only strives to produce a general impression of grandeur and heroism, and the 'Pathetic' and 'Farewell' Sonatas do but pourtray states of feeling, ideas which music is peculiarly fitted to convey. The title 'Wuth über den verlorenen Groschen,' etc., given by Beethoven to a Rondo (op. 129) is a mere joke.
Knecht's Symphony here demands a more detailed notice than has yet been given it. The title-page runs as follows—
Le Portrait Musical de la Nature, ou Grande Simphonie … (For ordinary orchestra minus clarinets.) Laquelle va exprimer par le moyen des sons:
1. Une belle Contrée ou le Solell luit, les doux Zephirs voltigent, les Buisseaux traversent le vallon, les oiseaux gazouillent, un torrent tombe du haut en murmurant, le berger siffle, les moutons sautent, et la bergere fait entendre sa douce voix.2. Le ciel commence a deveuir soudain et sombre, tout le voisinage a de la peine de respirer et s'effraye, les nuages noirs montent,
- In a conversation with Neate, in the fields near Baden (Thayer, iii. 343). 'Ich habe immer ein Gemälde in meinen Gedanken, wenn ich am componiren bin, und arbeite nach demselben.'
- See 'Beethoven im Malkasten' by Jahn, 'Gesam. Aufsäzte.'