Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/642

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��forte part or to the whole accompaniment ; and he has a further resemblance to Schumann in his thoroughly lyrical temperament. His favourite poets are writers of dreamy, quiet, pensive verse, like Osterwald, Eichendorff, Lenau and Mirza Schaffy ; but he has composed several songs by Heine and Burns. There is not, perhaps, enough of passion in his compositions to carry us away in a transport of enthusiasm, but the refinement of his poetic feeling, and the exquisite finish of his workmanship compel our deliberate and cor- dial admiration.

Very different is the standpoint from which Brahms approaches the Song. It has been said of him that he ' defends his art-principles on the ground of absolute music.' * And this criticism may justly be applied to his songs. No modern composer has ever studied less than he to render each word with literal accuracy; but while he allows himself the amplest liberty in respect of the letter of a song, he is scrupulously ob- servant of its spirit. If we listen, for instance, to any of his fifteen romances from Tieck's Magelone, or to his settings of Daumer's transla- tions of Oriental poems, we shall have no fault to find with his interpretation of the words in the music, as a whole, though in parts it may not correspond to our own preconceived ideas. When quite new to us his songs excite a certain sense of strangeness, but the feeling quickly disappears before the irresistible spell of his strong indivi- duality and concentrated force. To the form of his songs he pays great heed. Some have the same melody and harmony unchanged for every verse, others have a succession of varied melo- dies for the voice and pianoforte part throughout. His accompaniments are among the most difficult and interesting that have ever been written, and need to be studied with as much care as any solo piece. They stand in the same relation to the voice part as the pianoforte part stands to the violin in a sonata written for those two instruments. The accompaniment sometimes leads, sometimes follows the voice ; and again at other times pursues its own independent way. This may be seen for instance in the fine im- passioned song 'Wie soil ich die Freude,' op. 33, no. 6. The task of the singer in Brahms's songs is as hard as that of the player. Sudden changes of key and awkward intervals create difficulties for the voice, and the very length of the songs renders them fatiguing. But with a good singer and a good pianist his songs cannot fail to produce a remarkable effect, though Brahms himself would never stoop to write for mere effect. He is far too high and severe an artist to admit any false or trivial matter into his work; and his noble songs may justly be reckoned among the greatest treasures of modern music.

A composer whom it would be wrong to pass by here without notice is Hugo Bruckler. The elaborate and refined accompaniments to his songs remind us in some respects of Brahms. And his songs of the ' Trompeter von Sakkingen' set, and the posthumous ones edited by Jensen, i See BKAHHS, vol. i. p. 270.


deserve a wider fame, for they are full of in- tellect and beauty. Jensen's own is a better- known name. The melody of his songs is re- markably sweet, and his accompaniments are both rich and interesting. Jensen, however, has been the enemy of his own reputation bv con- stantly choosing to set words which had already been dealt with by greater masters than himself. Had he not thus challenged comparison, the merits of his tender and delicate songs might have been more fully recognised. Herzogenberg belongs to the same group of composers. An- other group has worked more on the lines laid down by Mendelssohn ; and it includes Cursch- mann, Taubert, Franz Lachner, Dorn, Carl Eckert, Julius Rietz, Reinecke, Josephine Lang, and Fanny Hensel. The best work of these writers is unpretending and simple : not that they are themselves deficient in thought or culture, but they attach such a paramount value to purity of form and melodiousness combined, that other high qualities of the song are sparingly introduced.

Consideration is, likewise, due to the manner in which the Song has been treated by Franz Liszt. In such cases as his ' Kennst du das Land?' and 'Ich weiss nicht was soil es be- deuten,' he not only disregards the strophical form, but ignores the metre and rhyme of the verse until the poetry stiffens into prose. In his endeavours to render every word effect- ively and dramatically, form, both of poetry and music, escapes him. Some of these songs are mere recitations ; or the melody is broken up into short phrases with a few chords in the accompaniment as in ' Du bist wie eine Blume/ which contains striking modulations and abrupt transitions. In fact, they produce an effect like that of delicate but unfinished landscape sketches.

  • Es muss ein Wunderbares sein' may be men-

tioned as an example of more regular form. But Liszt has not been allowed to remain alone in his indifference to rule and form: his irregu- larities have been imitated by younger writers of the so-called ' New German School.' When his followers have had real talent and true poetic feeling, as Cornelius 2 and Goetz undoubtedly had, considerable latitude in composition has been shown to be compatible with very good work. Nevertheless, the example set by Liszt is a dangerous one, for, if the high artistic sense be wanting, a scant regard for form very easily degenerates into sheer chaos. If other names of modern contributors to the song in Germany be asked for, the following may be given : Blume, Brah-Muller, Bruch, Ehlert, Gernsheim, Hen- schel, Hiller, Krigar, Lassen, Ludwig, Raff, Ra- mann, Rheinberger, Rontgen, Semon, Urspruch, and Volkmann; but the list is very far from exhausted by the recital of these names. The German Song has, moreover, been enriched by foreigners, such as Niels Gade, Lindblad, Grieg, Dvorak, and, especially, Rubinstein, to whose songs some judges assign a place in the very first rank.

J See his ' Weihnachtsltedor.' op. 8.

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