Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/307

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


nicety, the whole finished up and rounded off with unerring mastery. His harmonies and mo- dulations, though not free from monotony, are sound and natural; simplicity and dignified pathos on the one hand, and elegant vivacity on the other, are the main characteristics of his style. The technical difficulties contained in his works are not great, and in this respect Corelli's merit does not lie in the direction of innovation, but rather of limitation and reform. We have seen how the violin at the beginning of its career simply adopted the style of the vocal music of the period, how later on it took in the orchestra the place of the cornetto, and how, though very gradually, a special violin style began to be formed. Now followed a period of experiments all more or less tending towards the same end a style which should correspond to the nature, ideal and mechanical, of the instrument. In both re- spects, as we have seen, remarkable progress was made ; although exaggeration was not always avoided. The virtuoso par excellence made his appearance even at this early period. Corelli, by talent and character had gained a position of authority with his contemporaries, which has but few parallels in the history of music. This au- thority he used to give an example of artistic purity and simplicity, to found a norm and model of violin-playing which forms the basis of all succeeding legitimate development of this im- portant branch of music.

Before mentioning the most important of Corelli's pupils we have to consider the influence exercised on violin-playing by the Venetian VIVALDI (died 1743). Though by no means an artist of the exalted type of Corelli, his extra- ordinary fertility as a composer for the violin, his ingenuity in making new combinations and devising new effects, and especially his undoubted influence on the further development of the Con- certo-form, give him an important position in the history of violin-playing. While in the Con- certi grossi of Torelli and Corelli the solo-violins are treated very much in the same manner as the orchestral violins the solo-passages being usually accompanied by the bass alone Vivaldi not only gives to the solo-violins entirely distinct passages of a much more brilliant character, but he also adds to his orchestra oboes and horns, which not merely double other parts, but have inde- pendent phrases and passages to perform thereby giving the earliest instance of orchestration as applied to the Concerto.

As an executant the Florentine VERACINI 1 exercised a greater influence than Vivaldi. Owing in great measure to its connexion with the Church, the Italian school of violin-playing had formed a pure and dignified style, which was brought to perfection by Corelli. As far as it went, nothing could be more legitimate and satisfactory in an artistic sense yet there was something wanting, if this severe style was not to lapse into conventionality : the element of hu- man individuality, strong feeling and passion. Some German masters especially Biber were i Francesco Maria (about 1685-1750). See vol. IT. p. 239.



��certainly not devoid of these qualities ; but their efforts were more or less crude, and lacking in the fine sense for beauty of form and sound which alone can produce works of art of a higher rank. Veracini, a man of passionate temperament, threw into his performances and compositions an amount of personal feeling and life, which in his own day brought on him the charge of eccentricity, but which to us ap- pears as one of the earliest manifestations of a style which has made the violin, next to the human voice, the most powerful exponent of musical feeling. His Violin Sonatas are remark- able for boldness of harmonic and melodic treat- ment, and of masterly construction. The demands he makes on execution, especially in the matter of double stops and variety of bowing, are con- siderable. His influence on Tartini after Co- relli the greatest representative of the Italian school we know to have been paramount. [See TABTINI, vol. iv. p. 58.] TARTINI (1692-1770) by a rare combination of artistic qualities of the highest order, wielded for more than half a century an undisputed authority in all matters of violin-playing, not only in Italy, but in Ger- many and France also. He was equally eminent as a performer, teacher, and composer for the violin. Standing, as it were, on the threshold of the modern world of music, he combines with the best characteristics of the old school some of the fundamental elements of modern music. Himself endowed with a powerful individuality, he was one of the first to assert the right of individualism in music. At the same time we must not look in his works for any material change of the traditional forms. His Concertos are laid out on the plan of those of Corelli and Vivaldi, while his Sonatas, whether he calls them da chiesa or da camera, are invariably in the accepted form of the Sonata da chiesa. The Sonata da camera in the proper sense, with its dance forms, he almost entirely abandons. The difference between Tartini's style and Corelli's is not so much one of form as of substance. Many of Tartini's works bear a highly poetical and even dramatic character, qualities which, on the whole, are alien to the beautiful but coldei and more formal style of Corelli. His melodies often have a peculiar charm of dreaminess and melancholy, but a vigorous and manly tone is equally at his command. His subjects, though not inferior to Corelli's in conciseness and clear logical structure, have on the whole more breadth and development. His quick passages are freer from the somewhat exercise-like, dry character of the older school ; they appear to be organically connected with the musical context, and to grow out of it. As an executant Tartini marks a great advance in the use of the bow. While no ma- terial change has been made in the construction of the violin since the beginning of the 1 6th cen- tury, the bow has undergone a series of modifica- tions, and only toward the end of the 1 8th century attained its present form, which combines in such a remarkable degree elasticity with firmness. [See Bow, vol. i. p. 264; TOURTE, vol. iv. p. 155.]

U a

�� �