Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/429

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Speaking of the music simply as music, though by no means perfect in form, the ideas are abundant and original. The melodies partake of the Volkslied character, there is a riotous fancy combined with the drollest comedy, and a grace peculiarly Weberish, while the instrument- ation is dainty, full of colour, and melodious. Good examples of the first quality are the Huntsman's Chorus (Act i. No. 3), and the Drinking Chorus in the Finale of the same Act ; and of the comedy the whole part of the cowardly bully Krips. His Arietta in Eb, No. 14, is capital, and also interesting as a speci- men of the distinction between Weber's vis comica and Mozart's as shown in the Entfuh- rung and Zauberflote. The dances allotted to Silvana (Nos. I, 8, 12) are most graceful and charming. Another remarkable point in the opera is the musical illustration of pantomime, even in the vocal numbers, a device for connect- ing the music and the action together, which is well known to have been carried to such an extent by Wagner that he is generally considered the in- ventor of it. Weber, however, has in Silvana turned it to account most effectively. A striking example is the scene where Rudolf meets Silvana in the forest. He addresses her in gentle tones, to which she replies only by signs, accompanied by orchestral strains of the most expressive nature, with a great deal of cello-solo. The whole scene is full of genius, and continually suggests a com- parison with Wagner, especially where Rudolf sings, 'Wenn du mich liebtest, o welch' ein Gliick ! lass mich deine? Augen fragen!' while Silvana, to a melting strain from the cello, 'looks at him sweetly and tenderly,' a passage which recalls the first meeting of Siegmunde and Sieg- linde in the Walkiire. Other passages, in which the music follows the action step by step, are to be found in Weber's great operas, especially in Euryanthe. Strange to say, they seem to have attracted little attention, even in the latter case, and have certainly never had their merit acknow- ledged in print. The composer prepared two PF. editions of Silvana, 1 the former of which (1812) is incomplete, and both now very rare. A new one is much wanted, and the full score of this interesting work ought to be published before long.

5. 'Abu Hassan,' the second in the middle group of Weber's operas, was adapted by Hiemer from an Arabian fairy-tale, with occasional remin- iscences of Weisse's Dorfbarbier. 9 The story of this one-act Singspiel is closely connected with

��i Schlesinger. Berlin.

Abu Hassan, a droll favourite of the Caliph of Bagdad, and his wife Fatima, with a greater turn for making verses than for domestic management, have run deeply into debt, and are hard pressed by their creditors. They hit upon the expedient of each giving out the other as dead ; so Fatima goes to the Sultana, and Hassan to the Sultan, to ask for their customary contribution towards the funeral expenses. The plan succeeds, and each returns with a considerable um, which is applied to their most urgent necessities. The Sultan and Sultana, however, fall out as to which of the two It is that has died, and to settle the question, proceed with a number of their court to Abu Hassan's house. Here, after a very droll scene with the supposed defunct couple, the true state of affairs comes to light, and Abu Hassan and Fatima are abundantly provided for, while Omar the money-changer, who has pressed his demands in the hope of extorting concessions from Fatima, receive* due punishment.



��certain experiences of both Weber and Hiemer in Stuttgart. It must have been easy to Weber to find appropriate melodies for a creditor dunning a light-minded impecunious debtor ; and curi- ously enough, the first number of the opera he set was the Creditors' Chorus, 'Geld, Geld, Geld, ich will nicht langer warten ' (August u, 1810). The little piece consisted originally of the Over- ture and eight vocal numbers, the duet 'Thranen sollst du nicht vergiessen * being added in 1812, and the air 'Hier liegt, welch martervolles Loos r in 1823.

The chief reason why this opera is so little known in Germany is that it is so short, barely occupying half an evening; it has, however, been given several times lately. The fun in German comic opera has always been somewhat boisterous ; for more refined comedy we must generally go to the French, but Abu Hassan, is almost the sole German work which pro- duces a hearty laugh, and at the same time charms by its grace and refinement, and by the distinction of its musical expression. Perhaps the best bit is the scene between Abu Hassan and his creditors, but the duet between Omar and Fatima (No. 6), the final terzetto (No. 7), and Fatima's additional air (No. 8), are all of great merit. The last air, it should be borne in mind, was composed twelve years after the rest, and bears the stamp of the matured composer. Various little instances of want of finish appear in the music, but defects of this kind may well be overlooked for the sake of the invention, so spontaneous and spirituel, and the downright hearty fun of the whole, mingled as it is with rare and touching tenderness. 3

6. Between the completion of Abu Hassan and the commencement of Der Freischutz intervene no less than six years a long period in so short a life during which Weber composed no opera. Not that the dramatic impulse had abandoned him. ' I am anxiously looking out for another good libretto,' he writes after the production of Abu Hassan at Munich 'for I cannot get on at all without an opera in hand.' We know he had several projects, and that he had a ' Tann- hauser* in his mind in 1814; but his restless life, and the unsatisfactory nature of his posi- tion at Prague, prevented his bringing anything to maturity. Nevertheless his dramatic powers did not lie absolutely fallow. Six grand Italian arias with orchestra, some with chorus also, composed during this period, though intended for the concert-room, may be classed with his dramatic works, because they presuppose a scene or situation in which some distinct person gives expression to his or her feelings. The same is true of three Italian duets, which mark an important stage in his development, as it was through them that he gained dexterity in handling the larger forms of vocal music. As we have seen, he was somewhat clumsy at this in Silvana. Several of the six concert -arias are of high merit, particularly the one com-

> A complete FF. score is published by Simrock of Bonn (now Berlin).

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