Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/787

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


formance of the work in France was at Lyons, on Jan. 15, 1885, when it was received with marked success. On June 12, 1885, * Sigurd' was performed at the Grand Opera in Paris, but , at the general rehearsal the directors thought fit to make curtailments in the score, and the com- poser retired, protesting against the proceeding, and yet unwilling to withdraw a work, on which so much trouble and expense had been bestowed, on the eve of its production. He threatened never to set foot in the opera-house until his score should have been restored to ita original integrity, and in this he has kept his word. The public, less exacting than the composer, received the opera, which in many passages must have considerably surprised them, with increasing sympathy, and its success was all the more re- markable as it was entirely unassisted either by the composer, who appeared to take no interest in its fate, or by the directors, who would not have been sorry had it failed. The qualities which are most prominent in 'Sigurd' are the individual charm of its musical ideas, the exact agreement between the words and the music, vain repetitions and conventional formulas being generally absent ; and lastly, the richness and colouring of the instrumentation, the style of which was greatly influenced by Eeyer's favourite masters, Weber and Berlioz, and in places by Wagner. No charge of plagiarism from the last- named composer is intended to be suggested, nor could such a charge be substantiated. It is true that the subjects of 'Sigurd' and the 'King des Nibelungen ' are identical, but this is a mere coincidence. The plot of the libretto, which was written by Du Locle and A. Blau, is taken from the Nibelungen N6t, the source that inspired Wagner, who, however, went further back and took his subject direct from the Eddas, moulding it after his own conception. In 1868 the libretto of Wagner's trilogy had been published for 15 years, but it was completely unknown in France, and when the trilogy was produced in 1876, Eeyer's score was nearly finished and ready for production. Eeyer was decorated with the Legion d'Honneur in August 1862, after the successful performance of 'La Statue' at the Lyrique, and was raised to the rank of an officer in Jan. 1886, after that of ' Sigurd/ the success of which has had the important result of deciding him to write a new grand opera on Flaubert's * Salammbd.' He is now editor of the musical portion of the 'Journal des De"bats.' having succeeded d'Ortigue, who followed Ber- lioz. (The sentence in lines 1-5 from bottom of page 122 a, is thus to be corrected.) He has collected his most important articles and pub- lished them under the title of 'Notes de Musique' (Paris, Charpentier, 1875). In both literature and composition he is the disciple and admirer of Berlioz. It is curious that M. Eeyer, having succeeded F. David at the Institut (1876), who himself succeeded Berlioz in 1869, should thus occupy the positions, both in music and literature, of the master whose legitimate successor he may well claim to be. [A.J.]



��EHAPSODY. The Greek Ehapsodist (*Po^- was a professional reciter or chaunter of epic poetry. 'Pcuf/ydia is the Greek title of each book of the Homeric poems, the first book of the Iliad being 'Paiftyoia A, and so forth. The Ehapsody was the song of the Rhapsode; a sequel of Rhapsodies when sung in succession or written down so as to form a series constituted an epic poem, and when a long poem was chanted in sections at different times and by different singers it was said to be rhapsodized. The usual derivation of 'Pai//y8ta is /JaTmu = I sew, and ySri = song, ode.

Musicians might speak, in Hamlet's phrase, of a * rhapsody of words,' or of tunes that is to say, of a string of melodies arranged with a view to effective performance in public, but without regular dependence of one part upon another. Such a description would seem to apply pretty closely to Liszt's fifteen Rhapsodies Hongroises, and to his ' Eeminiscences d'Espagne ' (a fantasia on two Spanish tunes, Les Folies d'Espagne and La Jota Arragonesa, 1844-45) which, in 1863, he republished as a ' Ehapsodie Espagnole.' The history of the latter piece is similar to that of the Hungarian rhapsodies portions of which were originally published under the title of ' Melodies Hongroises Ungarische National-melodien ' short transcriptions of Hungarian tunes as they are played by the wandering bands of Gipsies, the national musicians of Hungary. The prototype of these ' melodies' in all probability was Schubert's 'Divertissement a la Hongroise,'in G minor, op- 54 a piece Liszt has always been fond of, and of which he has produced several versions as of the whole for pianoforte solo, and of the march in C minor for orchestra. 1 Liszt's ten sets of ' Melodies Hongroises' date from 1839 * J ^47 5 ^ e T 5 8O ~ called Rhapsodies Hongroises from 1853 to 1854.

In 1859 Liszt published a book in French, ' Des Bohdmiens et de leur Musique en Hongrie' a late and overgrown preface, as he confesses, to the Ehapsodies. In this brilliant, though at intervals somewhat meretricious work, 2 an effort is made to claim for the set of Ehapsodies the dig- nity of an Hungarian Epic sui generis. P. 344 : 'Alors nous acquimes la conviction que ces morceaux de'tache's, ces melodies disjointes et e*parses e*taient des parties disse'mine'es, e'miette'es, e'parpille'es d'un grand tout ; . . . et pourrait e*tre considers comme une sorte d'e'pope'e nationale, epopee bohtmienne,ch3Mt6e dans une langue et dans une forme inusite'es,' etc. P. 346 : ' Par le mot de Rliapsodie, nous avons voulu designer 1'e'le'ment fantastiquement ipique que nous avons cru y reconnaitre.' ' Les Ehapsodies, nous ont toujours semble' faire partie d'un cycle poetique,' etc. Be this as it may, the term ' Ehapsodie ' remains as one of Liszt's many happy hits in the way of musical nomenclature, witness 'Poemes Symphoniques ' (Sinfonische Dichtungen), 'Par- titions de Piano,' 'Paraphrases de Concert,' 'Fan- taisies Dramatiques,' etc.

1 He played his version of the march In London, April, 1886.

2 Like Liszt's 'Chopin,' this book Is on good authority reported to be the joint production of himself and certain lady-friends.

�� �