Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/51

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PROGRAMME-MUSIC.
39
 

les vents se mettent à faire un bruit, le tonnerre gronde do loin et l'orage approche à pas lents.

3. L'orage accompagné des vents murmurans et des plules battans gronde avec toute la force, les sommets des arbres font un murm, et le torrent roule ses eaux avec un bruit épouvantable.

4. L'orage s'appaise peu à peu les nuages se dissipent et le clel devient clair.

5. La Nature transportée de la joie éléve sa voix vers le ciel et rend au créateur les plus vives graces par des chants doux et agréables.

Dediée à Monsieur l'Abbé Vogler Premier Maître de Chapelle Electorate de Palatin-Bavar, par Justin Henri Knecht.

[See Knecht, vol. ii. p. 66.]

In spite of these elaborate promises the symphony, regarded as descriptive music, is a sadly weak affair; its sole merit lying in the originality of its form. In the first movement (G major, Allegretto) instead of the 'working out' section there is an episode, Andante pastorale, D major (a), formed from the first subject (b) by metamorphosis, thus—

{ \time 4/4 \key g \major \relative g' { \repeat volta 2 { g2^"(b)" ~ g8 d b' d, } | d'2 ~ d8 c a fis | g d b' g d'4 } }

{ \time 3/8 \key d \major \relative d'' << { d4^"(a)" a8 | fis'4 d8 | a' g e | d[ cis] } \\ { d,8 d16 a fis'8 | d d16 a fis'8 | e e16 a, g'8 | a,4 } >> }


The Abbé Vogler, to whom this composition is dedicated, was himself a great writer of programme-music, having described in his Organ Concertos such elaborate scenes as the drowning of the Duke Leopold in a storm, the Last Judgement, with graves opening, appearance of the mystic horsemen and choruses of damned and blessed—and a naval battle in the fashion of Dussek and the rest.

Coming now to modern times, we find a perfect mania for giving names to pieces—showing the bias of popular taste. Every concert overture must have a title, whether it be programme-music or not. Every 'drawing-room' piece, every waltz or galop, must have its distinctive name, till we cease to look for much descriptiveness in any music. It cannot be said that all Mendelssohn's overtures are programme-music. The Midsummer Night's Dream, with its tripping elves and braying donkey, certainly is, but the 'Meeresstille,' 'Hebrides,' and 'Melusine' are only pieces which assume a definite colour or character, the same as his 'Italian' and 'Scotch' symphonies. To this perfectly legitimate extent many modern pieces go; and some term like 'tinted music' should be invented for this large class of compositions, which includes the greater part of Schumann's pianoforte works, for instance. The 'Carneval' is decidedly programme-music, so are most of the 'Kinderscenen' and 'Waldscenen'; while others, despite their sometimes extravagant titles, are purely abstract music: for it is well known that Schumann often invented the titles after the pieces were written. Such pieces as the 'Fantasia in C' and the longer 'Novelletten,' from their poetic cast and free form give a decided impression of being intended for descriptive music.

Spohr's Symphony 'Die Weihe der Töne' (The Consecration of Sound) bears some relation to the Pastoral Symphony in its first movement; the imitations of Nature's sounds are perhaps somewhat too realistic for a true work of art, but have certainly conduced to its popularity. For no faults are too grave to be forgiven when a work has true beauty. His 'Seasons' and 'Historical' Symphonies are less characteristic.

Felicien David's wonderful ode-symphonie 'Le Desert' must not be omitted, though it is almost a cantata, like the 'Faust' of Berlioz. Modern dramatic music, in which descriptiveness is carried to an extent that the old masters never dreamed of, forms a class to itself. This is not the place to do more than glance at the wonderful achievements of Weber and Wagner.

Berlioz was one of the greatest champions of programme-music; he wrote nothing that was not directly or indirectly connected with poetical words or ideas; but his love of the weird and terrible has had a lamentable effect in repelling public admiration for such works as the 'Francs Juges' and 'King Lear' overtures. Music which seeks to inspire awe and terror rather than delight can never be popular. This remark applies also to much of Liszt's music. The novelty in construction of the 'Symphonische Dichtungen' would be freely forgiven were simple beauty the result. But such subjects as 'Prometheus' and 'The Battle of the Huns,' when illustrated in a sternly realistic manner, are too repulsive, the latter of these compositions having indeed lately called forth the severe remark from an eminent critic that 'These composers (Liszt etc.) prowl about Golgotha for bones, and, when found, they rattle them together and call the noise music.' But no one can be insensible to the charms of the preludes 'Tasso,' 'Dante,' and 'Faust,' or of some unpretentious pianoforte pieces, such as 'St. François d'Assise prédicant aux oiseaux,' 'Au bord d'une source,' 'Waldesrauschen,' and others.

Sterndale Bennett's charming 'Paradise and the Peri' overture is a good specimen of a work whose intrinsic beauty pulls it through. An unmusical story, illustrated too literally by the music,—yet the result is delightful. Raff, who ought to know public taste as well as any man, has named seven out of his nine symphonies, but they are descriptive in a very unequal degree. The 'Lenore' follows the course of Bürger's well-known ballad, and the 'Im Walde' depicts four scenes of forest life. Others bear the titles of 'The Alps,' 'Spring,' 'Summer,' etc., but are character-music only. Raff, unlike Liszt, remains faithful to classical form in his symphonies, though this brings him into difficulties in the Finale of the 'Forest' symphony, where the shades of evening have to fall and the 'Wild Hunt' to pass, twice over. The same difficulty is felt in Bennett's Overture.

That the taste for 'music that means something' is an increasing, and therefore a sound one, no one can doubt who looks on the enormous mass of modern music which comes under that head. Letting alone the music which is only intended for the uneducated, the extravagant