Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/233

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Belgian compositions, and it is confided to him to collect the materials for this noble undertaking. The question of the birthplace of the 1 5th-century composer TiNCTORiS, which had been claimed for Nivelles in Brabant, aroused a violent contro- versy. M. Vander Straeten is, however, admitted to be victorious, having adduced proofs that place the locality in West Flanders, and form an im- portant chapter of his fourth volume.

He is an honorary or corresponding member of twelve musical or archaeological societies. His most important published works (to 1885) are ' LaMusique aux Pays-Bas avant le XIX e siecle,' 7 vols. (1867-1885); 'Le Theatre Villageois en Flandre,' 2 vols. (1874 and 1880); 'Les Musiciens ne"erlandais en Italie' (1882); 'Les Musiciens Ne"erlandais en Espagne' (first part, 1885). A complete bibliography of his works to 1877 is appended to an interesting biographical notice, written by M. Charles Meerens, and published at Rome. [A.J.H.]


VARIANTE is the usual expression in Ger- many for varying versions or readings of a piece of music. Thus in the principal editions of Bach's instrumental works, besides the adopted text of a piece, other copies containing various changes are printed in an appendix, and en- titled Varianten. [G.]

VARIATIONS. In the days when modern music was struggling in the earliest stages of its development, when most of the forms of art which are familiar in the present day were either unknown or in their crudest state of infancy, composers who aimed at making works of any size laboured under great disadvantages. They were as fully conscious as composers are now of the necessity of some system of structure or principle of art to unify the whole of each work, and to carry on the interest from moment to moment ; but as they had not discovered any form which could extend for more than a few phrases or periods, their only means of making the music last any length of time was to repeat, and to disguise the repetition and give it fresh interest by artistic devices.

In choral music they took some old familiar piece of plainsong, or a good secular tune, put it into very long notes, and gave it to one of the voices to sing; and then made something ostensibly new upon this basis by winding round it ingenious and elaborate counterpoint for all the other voices. The movement lasted as long as the tune served, and for other movements if the work happened to be a mass, or work neces- sarily divided into separate pieces they either took a new tune and treated it in the same way, or repeated the former one, and sometimes sang it backwards for variety, with new turns of counterpoint each time.

Similarly, in instrumental music, as soon as their art was enough advanced to produce good, clear, and complete dance-tunes and songs, they extended the musical performance by repeating the tunes, with such other touches of fresh



��interest as could be obtained by grace-notes and ornamental passages, and runs inserted in the bass or other parts. In this way the attention of composers came to be very much drawn to the art of varying a given theme, and presenting it in new lights ; and they carried it to a remark- ably advanced stage when scarcely any of the other modern forms of art had passed the period of incubation.

In choral music the art was limited to the practice of using a given tune as the central thread to hold the whole work together ; and it almost died out when maturer principles of structure were discovered ; but in instrumental music it has held its own ever since, and not only plays a part of great importance in the most modern sonatas and symphonies, but has given rise to a special form which has been a great favourite with all the greatest masters, and is known by the name of Variations.

The early masters had different ways of apply- ing the device. One which appears to have been a favourite, was to write only one variation at a time, and to extend the piece by joining a fresh theme to the end of each variation, so that a series of themes and single variations alternated through- out. In order to make the members of the series hang together, the variations to the different themes were often made in similar style ; while the successive themes supplied some little con- trast by bringing different successions of har- mony into prominence. There are several pieces constructed in this fashion by Byrd and Bull and Orlando Gibbons, who were among the ear- liest composers of instrumental music in modern Europe ; rnd they consist chiefly of sets of Pa vans, or Galiards, or neat little tunes like Bull's 'Jewel.' Many are interesting for in- genuity and originality of character, but the form in this shape never rose to any high pitch of artistic excellence. Another form, which will be noticed more fully later on, was to repeat incessantly a short clause of bass progression, with new figures and new turns of counterpoint over it each time ; and another, more closely allied to the modern order of Variations, was a piece constructed upon a theme like Sellenger's Round, which did not come to a complete end, but stopped on the Dominant harmony and so returned upon itself; by which means a con- tinuous flow of successive versions of the theme was obtained, ending with a Coda.

These early masters also produced examples of a far more mature form of regular theme and varia- tions, not unlike thoroughly modern works of the kind ; in which they showed at once a very wide comprehension of the various principles upon which variations can be constructed, and an excellent perception of the more difficult art of varying the styles of the respective members of the series so as to make them set off one another, as well as serve towards the balance and pro- portion of the whole set.

Two of the works which illustrate best the different sides of the question at this early date are Byrd's variations to the secular tune known

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