Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/142

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��who did not comprehend the meaning of the slightest motion of his hand. And hence it was that, during the course of his long career, he was able to modify and almost revolutionise the method of procedure to which he owed his earliest successes. Beginning with the com- paratively small Orchestra of Her Majesty's Theatre, as it existed years ago, he gradually extended his sway, until he brought under command the vast body of 4000 performers as- sembled at the Handel Festivals at the Crystal Palace. As the number of performers increased, he found it necessary to invent new methods of beating Time for them ; and, for a long period, used an uninterrupted succession of consecutive down-beats with a freedom which no previous Conductor had ever attempted. By using down- beats with one hand, simultaneously with the orthodox form in the other, he once succeeded, at the Crystal Palace, in keeping under command the two sides of a Double Chorus, when every one present capable of understanding the gravity of the situation believed an ignoble crash to be inevitable. And, at the Festival of 1883, his talented successor, Mr. Manns, succeeded, by nearly similar means, in maintaining order under circumstances of unexampled difficulty, caused by the sudden illness of the veteran chief whose place he was called upon to occupy without due time for preparation. In such cases as these the Conductor's left hand is an engine of almost un- limited power, and, even in ordinary conducting, it may be made extremely useful. It may beat four in a bar, or, in unequal combinations, even three, while the right hand beats two ; or the reverse. For the purpose of emphasising the meaning of the right hand.its action is invaluable. And it may be made the index of a hundred shades of delicate expression. Experienced players display a wonderful instinct for the interpretation of the slightest action on the part of an experienced Conductor. An intelligent wave of the baton will often ensure an effective sforzando, even if it be not marked in the copies. A succession of beats, beginning quietly, and gradually extending to the broadest sweeps the baton can execute, will ensure a powerful crescendo, and the opposite pro- cess, an equally effective diminuendo, unnoticed by the transcriber. Even a glance of the eye will enable a careless player to take up a point correctly, after he has accidentally lost his place a very common incident, since too many players trust to each other for counting silent bars, and consequently re-enter with an indecision which energy on the part of the Conductor can alone correct.

It still remains to speak of one of the most important duties of a Conductor that of start- ing his Orchestra. And here an old-fashioned scruple frequently causes great uncertainty. Many Conductors think it beneath their dignity to start with a preliminary beat : and many more players think themselves insulted when such a beat is given for their assistance. Yet the value of the expedient is so great, that it is mad- ness to sacrifice it for the sake of idle prejudice.


No doubt good Conductors and good Orchestras can start well enough without it, in all ordinary cases ; but it is never safe to despise legitimate help, and never disgraceful to accept it. A very fine Orchestra, playing Beethoven's Sym- phony in C minor for the first time under a Conductor with whose 'reading' of the work they were unacquainted, would probably escape a vulgar crash at starting, even without a pre- liminary beat; but they would certainly play the first bar very badly : whereas, with such a beat to guide them, they would run no risk at all. For one preliminary beat suffices to indicate to a cultivated Musician the exact 'rate of speed at which the Conductor intends to take the Move- ment he is starting, and enables him to fulfil his chiefs intention with absolute certainty. [W.S.R.]

TIME-SIGNATUKE (Lat. Signum Modi, vel Temporis,velProlationis; Germ. Taktzeicheri). A Sign placed after the Clef and the Sharps or Flats which determine the Signature of the Key, in order to give notice of the Rhythm in which a Composition is written.

Our present Time-signatures are directly de- scended from forms invented in the Middle Ages. Mediaeval Composers used the Circle the most perfect of figures to denote Perfect (or, as we should now say, Triple) Rhythm ; and the Semi- circle for Imperfect or Duple forms. The Sig- natures used to distinguish the Greater and Lesser Modes, 1 Perfect or Imperfect Signa Modi, Modal Signs were usually preceded by a group of Rests, 2 showing the number of Longs to which a Large was equal in the Greater Mode, and the number of Breves which equalled the Long in the Lesser one that is to say, three for the Perfect forms, and two for the Imperfect. Sometimes these Rests were figured once only : sometimes they were twice repeated. The fol- lowing forms were most commonly used :

Greater Mode Perfect.

��Greater Mode Imperfect, or

���Lesser Mode Imperfect.


��Combinations of the Greater and Lesser Modes, when both were Perfect, were indicated by a Point of Perfection, placed in the centre of the Circle, as at (a) in the following example. When the Greater Mode was Perfect, and the Lesser Imperfect, the Point was omitted, as at (i).

i See MODE.

> The reader must be careful to observe tbe position of these Rests ; because it is only when they precede the Circle or Semicircle, that they are used as signs. When they follow it, they must be counted as marks of silence.

�� �