George Grove.

A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

. (page 102 of 194)
Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 102 of 194)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I sublime, moods.^ Puck's invocation of the
•its, the roar of the tempest — the most powerful
resentation of a storm in music excepting Bee-
ven's in the Pastoral Symphony — the magnifi-
t picture in Reiza's grand scena of the gradual
Tiing of the waves beneath the rays of the
iing sun ; lastly, the finale, with the mermaids'
nldering song, and the elves dancing in the
Dnlight on the strand, — these are musical
isures which have not yet been exhausted,
ndelssohn, Gade, Bennett, drew the inspira-
1 for their romantic scenes of a similar kind
n ' Oberon,' but none of them have attained

depth or the individuality of their prototype,
sn Schumann trod in his footsteps in isolated
sages of ' Paradise and the Peri,' the ballad
om Pagen und der Konigstochter,' and ' Man-
1.' Of German opera composers I say nothing ;
ir imitation of him is patent.
Chrough the hazy atmosphere of this land
sprites and fairies, we discern the outlined
tures of two contrasting races and countries —
;stern chivalry and Oriental life. In the
lie of the 1st Act, the opening of the 2nd,
I the dance of slaves in the 3rd, we have,
itched by a master-hand, the dullness, in-
aess, and yet imaginativeness of the Oriental
position. The melody sung by the guard of
I harem in the ist Act is Arabian, that

the 3rd Act at the commencement of the
ice of Almanzor's slaves, Turkish, both used
.h great skill to give a local colouring. From
I mass of these stupid, indolent, sensual Orien-
8, Reiza and Fatima stand out with all the
later charm. They seem in a sense the em-
liment of all that is beautiful in the East,
i their connection with the Prankish knights
ms a link between the East and West. The
lliant and energetic knights form the strong-

Uay not the elves and sprites be iatended for persODlflcations of
forces of nature ?

est contrast to the Orientals. This is suggested
with irresistible force in the Allegro of the
overture, and further emphasised in the body of
the opera, in Huon's grand air in Eb ('I revel
in hope ') and the splendid march at the close.
In Euryanthe Weber had already shown his
gift for the chevalresque, but it comes out here
with a difference. 'In Oberon,' as Rochlitz
well puts it, 'the leading characteristics are gen-
tleness, friendly feeling, and cheerfulness, with
no lack of energy, spirit, or movement. The
general impression is not exciting, agitating,
disturbing, but elevating, soothing, and calming.'
Had Weber been permitted to complete the
German revision, it might possibly have been the
crown of all his operas ? As it is, its immortality
is assured.^

II. Next after Weber's operas come into con-
sideration his Lieder, the Lied-form playing, as
was natural with a German, so important a part
in his operas. His Lieder bear unmistakable
traces of that dramatic element which runs
through everything he wrote. He left 78 Ger-
man Lieder for single voice with PF. or guitar
accompaniment, besides two or three Italian
canzonets, a French romance, and a song from
Lalla Rookh, ' From Chindara's warbling fount
I come,' his last composition, with the accom-
paniment merely sketched in.^ We do not
include his 10 Scotch airs arranged with accom-
paniment for PF., flute, violin, and cello. Among
the part-songs should be singled out 16 Lieder
for men's voices, and 3 V^olkslieder for 2 voices
with accompaniment.

The poets from whom Weber took his words
are Matthison, Herder, Burger, Voss, Kotzebue,
Tieck, Scheidtendorf, and Korner. Of these,
with the exception of Korner, be set but one or
two, sometimes only one, poem apiece. Goethe's
name does not appear at all, which, considering
the antipathy between the two, may not have
been accidental. Unknown or unimportant
writers of verse, such as Muchler, Gubitz, Kan-
negiesser, occur pretty frequently. The greater
part of the verses composed by him, and the
finest, are Volkslieder,

It was at the suggestion of Vogler that
Weber first made a study of the songs of the
people, and this study, added to his own in-
tuitive perception of what was intrinsically
good and individual in popular music, enabled
him to hit off the characteristic tone of the
Volkslied as nobody had done before. 'Mein
Schatz ist auf die Wanderschaft hin,' ' Herzchen,
mein Schatzchen, bist tausendmal niein,' ' Wenn
ich ein Voglein war,' 'Ich hab' mir eins erwalilet,'
'0 Berlin, ich muss dich lassen,' "Sis nichts
mit den alten Weibern,' are songs in which every
variety of feeling is expressed with a freshness
and originality rarely met with. His musical

2 Tlie full score has been published in an tdilion de luxe by

Schlesinger of Berlin.

a Schlesinger of Berlin has published a complete edition in 2 vols,
of Weber's songs. Two or three unimportant ones fur single voice
are omitted, but the 2-part songs, Italian duets, numerous choruses
for men's voices (arranged), part-songs for various voices witli
accompaniments, bring up the number lo 100.



treatment too of songs in dialect, especially those
of a humorous or rollicking character, was ex-
cellent ; instances are ' Trariro, der Sommer, der
ist do,' ' Mein Schatzerl is hiibsch,' and ' I und
mein j tinges Weib.' The form of these songs is
most simple, and generally strophical ; the accom-
paniment frequently for the guitar. This sim-
plicity is their greatest merit, and though the
taste of the day is unfavourable to simple simgs,
and Weber's have been cast into the shade by
Schubert's and Schumann's magnificent songs
with their almost orchestral treatment, they arc-
not lost to the musical world, but bear the stamp
of imperishability.

Besides these Lieder Weber composed other
Bongs of a more ambitious character, with PF.
accompaniment, each stanza having a different
melody. In this branch of composition lie is,
next to Beethoven, the earliest great master.
There is, however, an essential difference between
his songs and those not only of Beethoven, but
of Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, his
being all more or less of a dramatic character.
His genius spread its wings best when he
had a distinct character, or a sharply-defined
Bituation, to portray. It is a significant fact
that some of the most charming of his strophi-
cal songs were written for interpolation into
plays, ' Ueber die Berge mit Ungestiim,' and
' Lass micli schlummern, Herzlein, schweige,' for
instance. It is only by keeping steadfastly in
view a certain personage, or picturing a certain
scene, that one is fully able to realise the in-
tended impression. It is most remarkable to see
how much the music assists the imagination in
this respect. Take, for instance, Voss's ' Rei-
gen ' ; in a moment the whole picture of a village
fair in full swing rises up before one's mind's
eye. The extraordinary flexibility of his musi-
cal speech stood Weber in good stead here.
Not only did it enable him to adapt his vocal
melodies to each rise and fall in the words,
but it gave him, to a degree hitherto un-
known, the power of choosing the precise notes,
or series of notes, vocal and instrumental, fitted
to impress on the hearer some mental picture
called up by perhaps a single word. A perfect
model of composition in this kind is the Lied —
one of his finest indeed in all respects — ' Das
Madchen an das erste Schneeglockchen.' Not
that Weber ever degenerates into mere declama-
tion ; his songs are always good in form, wiih
a flowing, well-connected melody. Well aware
of this plasticity he ventured on poems of in-
volved construction, by no means easily adapt-
able to music. For instance, he managed a
triolet (' Keine Lust ohn' treues Lieben') with
great skill, and his are the first completely suc-
cessful settings of the sonnet ('Du liebes,
holdes, himmelsiisses Wesen,' and ' Die Wunde
brennt, die bleichen Lippen beben '). Among
his characteristic pieces for single voice and
PF. may be specified ' Die vier Temperamente,'
and, above all, the delicious ' Unbefangenheit '
(,' Frage mich immer, fragest umsonst '), a
aketch of a merry, saucy, roguish, but tender-


hearted girl, and truly a chef d'osuvre. T.\
Weber's vocal compositions contain the l|
main elements of which German opera is cl
stituted — the Lied and the dramatic so
Tliese too appear in turn in the ten splen
songs from Korner's ' Leyer und Schwert,' f
of which are for single voice and PF., and
for male chorus unaccompanied. Of the sin
Slings, ' Vater ich rufe dich' and 'Die Wui
brennt,' are magnificent tone-pictures in Web«
own style. Even in the strophical choruses th
are touches of great power. The beginning
' Du Schwert an meiner Linken ' rings lik«
sword-thrust. ' Liitzow's wilde Jagd ' conta
a complete dramatic scene within a single sUu
of 21 bars. The horsemen plunge forward i
of the forest gloom, rush by in tearing hat
shout one wild hurrah, and are gone.*

12. It has often been felt as a diflficulty tl
Weber should pass straight from such operas
Silvana and Abu Hassan to a masterpiece likel
Freischiitz. One explanation of this sudden a
startling progress may probably be found in !
songs which were his main occupation from if
to I Si 7. Another important landmark is 1
cantata Kampf und Sieg (18 15). This is no
cantata in the modern sense — i. e. an essentia
lyric vocal piece — but one rather in the sense
the 17th and i8th centuries, when the w(
signified solo songs representing a specific cl
racter in a specific situation. The only dift'erei
was that Weber employed the full resources
solo-singers, chorus, and orchestra. The cent
idea is the battle of Waterloo, with varic
episodes grouped round it, and a grand chor
' Herr Gott dich loben wir,' as finale. I
description of the battle forms what we shoi
now call a grand dramatic scene, an opera fina
only without action. It is led up to by warli
choruses, animating the battalions as they irn
ter to the fight. Even the arming of the Ai
trian troops is indicated by the Austrian Grei
diei's' March heard in the distance. A w
march announces the approach of Napoleo
army, while the Germans sing Korner's solei
prayer :—

Wie auch die HOlIe braust,
Golt. deiiie starke Faust
Stiirzt das (iebiiude der Luge.
Fuhr uns. Herr Zebaoth.
Fiihr uns dreieiuger Gott,

As rage the powers of hell,
God. let Thy miglity band
Falsehood s stronghold o'erthi
Lead us. Lord God of Hosts
Lead us, Thou triune God.

Fuhr uns zur Schlacht und zum Lead us to strife and victoij.

The battle, which then commences, is at fi
left entirely to the orchestra. The day is goi
against the Allies. The French tune ' Ca ii
is heard shriUing out wildly and triumphan
above the other instruments, while broken e
culations, such as 'Dei Feindes Spott ! ' (' Spi
of our foes 1 ') '0 HoUengraun ! ' (' h(
lor!') 'Verlasst Du Gott, die Dir vertraun
(' Wilt Thou, God, forsake those who trust
Thee?') burst from the allies scattered abC;
the field. The tumult is just dying aws
when lo ! the Prussian horns, first faint in i

1 It Is by no means uncommon to hear the last four bars repeat
a lact which shows without eiplanatiun how entirely Weber's i
has been misunderstood.


»nce, then louder and louder ; the Chorus



nf Windes Flageln
>reDets von deu UJigela
le F^ur eiulanft!
le Fahnen wal en,
le HSruer schallen.

On wings of the wind
Down from the hills
It rushes along the plaint
The baiin rs wave.
The trumpets blare.

then bursts into the air of Weber's Lied,
itzows wilde Jagd,' to the words

O Hlmmelslust nach Todesdrang,

Das ist I'reussens mutbiger SchlachtgesangI

O heavenly joy from deadly pain,
Tis Prussia s rousing batile-songl

his passage, and the redoubled violence with
ch the onslauglit is renewed, produce a
natic effect of the strongest kind. From this
it the voices are employed continually. Tlie

ira,' at first so loud and bold, is now, as it
e, hustled and put down by the rest of the
lestra; it is at length wholly sdenced, the
my flies with the v.ctors at his heels, till at

' God save the King ! ' ' peals solemnly forth
a the orchestra, and the colossal tone-
,ure is at an end. The same dramatic treat-
it may be discerned in all the episodical
;es, especially the orchestral introduction,
ch is not an abstract piece of music, but
atended as a picture of the state of mind of

nations, who, after a brief foretaste of peace,

again plunged into the horrors of war by
poleoii's letum from Elba. 'The introduc-
i is of a rugged, stormy, mournful, angry
•it, broken in its accents; rising in force
ards the end, and dying in dry, hard, sullen
»kes.' So says Weber in his explanatory
ice written for the first performance at
igue.'' The clnsing chorus alone is wholly
ic in character ; tliough not absolutely free
n technical imper lections, it is full of fire
I inspiration, and contains some grand pas-
es. The cantata however as a whole too far
;eeds oplinary limits to take its due place in

concert-room. There is in it a certain contra-
tion of styles. Although at first frequently
•formed, and never failing to make a great
pressioD, it has gradually slipped out of the
sical world, now that tiie events which gave

birth are less vividly remembered. The
eyer und Schwert ' choruses are stiU in full
i, because they are in all respects true to their
icies. And yet the enthusiasm for liberty,
th all its impetuosity and all its pathos, is
pressed quite as forcibly in the cantata. Its
pularity may be less great, but it is an even
)re valuable |jiece of evidence for thd history of
eber's devehipment as a dramatic composer.
13. Between 1810 and 1815 Weber wrote six
^nd Concert-airs with Italian words, and these
K) have their share in explaining the extraor-
lary maturity of ' Der Freischiitz.' Several are
high artistic merit, notably the fonrth ('Si-nor,
pjidre sei '), composed in 1 8 1 2 for Prince Frede-

The Volkshymne ' Her dir Im Siec^eskranz ' Is sung to this air in
■many, and Weber evidently liad the words in bis mind here. He
d the same tune fur the finale to the Jubel-ouverture. [See GOD
•RTHE King vol. i. p. 607 .i.J
Keprinted complete in the ' Lebeusbild,' ili. 94.

ric of Gotha.' It is written for tenor and double
chorus, and is in factagrand dramatic scena. None
of these Italian airs however come np to a Ger-
man scena written in 181 8 for insertion in Che-
rubini's ' Lodoiska.' It was "ntf-nded for Frau
Milder-Hauptmann, then in Berlin, and was tc
be the 1st number in the 2nd act. It is a work of
the first rank, and of itself proves that the
creator of 'Der Freischiitz' had now attained
his full stature. How it comes to be now wholly
forgotten it is cUfiBcult to understand.

14. Among Weber's remaining vocal composi-
tions we have still some Cantatas and the two
Masses to consider. 'Der Erste Ton' (1818),
words by Eochlitz, must be mentioned among the
cantatas, although the term scarcely applies to it.
The greater part of the poem is declaimed to an
orchestral accompaniment, but a 4-part chorus is
introduced near the end. The form is peculiar
and new. It cannot be called a melodrama, be-
cause the poem is nan'ative and not dramatic.
The nearest approach to it is in some of the
descriptive recitatives in Haydn's oratorios. The
descriptive part of the music shows already,
though indistinctly, that plasticity which he was
presently to make use of in such an incomparable
way. The closing chorus does not satisfy the
requirements of art, and Weber himself spoke
of it as 'rough' part- writing. Another h^mn
of Rochlitz's, ' In seiner Ordnung schafft der
Herr,' is a fine work of art. It was composed in
1S12, and dedicated to the ' Musik-GestUschaft'
of Zurich, which had elected him an honorary
member. At first the composer has evidently had
a difficulty in warming to his work, on account
of the half-dogmatic, half-descriptive nature of
the words ; and the hearer, though occasionally in-
terested, is not carried away by the earlier move-
ments. The introduction of the chorale ' Drum
lerne still dich fassen ' (to the tune of ' O Haupt
voU Blut und Wunden ') is scarcely to be jus-
tified on aesthetic grounds. But then comes
the chorus ' Gelobt sei Gott,' and aU that has
hitherto failed to please is forgotten, and the
hearer swept away in the rushing torrent of
loamy music. The fugue of this chorus, 'Im
Wettersturm, im Wogendrang,' is a character-
piece of the first rank. To criticise each detail of
this polyphonic movement would be pedantic ; it
is a work of genius, and its flashing enthusiasm
bears comparison, at a distance of course, to cer-
tain parts of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.*

Of the six occasional cantatas composed for
the Court of Saxony, the Jubel-Cantata, written
for the 50th anniversary of Friedrich August's
accession (1818) is the most important, both in
size and matter. The four choral movements,
Nos. 1,4, 7, and 9 are ripe examples of Welier's
talent for delineating a specihc situation, and
make one regret that the work as a whole, from
the circumstances of its origin, is unavailable
for general use. It is essentially a Saxon, nay,
almost a Dresden composition, and no sympa-
tliy is now felt for Friedrich August. Wendt'a

» Op. 53, Schlesinger. Berlin, vocal score.

4 Score, parts, and FIT. score, published by Schlesinger of Berlin.



attempt to turn it into a harvest cantata proved
fairly successful in one or two cases, especially
Nos. 4 and 7 ; but the music is, as a rule, too
closely wedded to the words to be divorced from
them, unless at great sacrifice.*

15. As to Weber's Masses, those acquainted
with the state of Catholic church-music at the
beginning of the 19th century will not expect
to find them written in a pure church-stylo.
Church music of this description is now almost
a thing of the past ; in the great centres it is en-
tirely tabooed in favour of the music of the
1 6th and i6th centuries. Under these circum-
.stances Weber's masses have little prospect of
revival. They are probably never heard except
in the Hoflvirche of Dresden, and rarely there,
and are bound to succumb to the fate wliich has
overtaken those of Haydn, Mozart, and Hummel.
Fine music they contain in abundance. As
previously mentioned, they were produced within
a short time of each other, in 1818 and 1819.
After Weber's fashion they contrast sharply
with each other, while each has one prevailing
tone running consistently tl)rough to the end.
1 81 8 being the 50th year of the king's reign, he
gave to the Eb mass a tone of solemnity and
splendour noticeable specially in the Saiictus.
That in G, being for a family festival, is quite
idyllic in character. ' I mean to keep before
myself,' he wrote to Eochlitz, ' the idea of
a happy family party kneeling in prayer, and
rejoicing before the Lord as His children.' It is
worth while to examine the mass, and see liow
this idea is worked out. The Kyrie, Sanetus
(with an exquisite Benedictus), and Agnus Dei,
are delightful music. Occasional suggestions of
well-known passages in his operas jar on a
modern ear, but a composer is scarcely to be
blamed for retaining his identity, even in a mass.
His love of contrast, and habit of never remain-
ing long occupied with one musical idea, give
these pieces a somewhat restless and piecemeal
effect, and for this reason those who were accus-
tomed to Haydn's and Mozart's masses felt these
too 'secular.'^

16. When a youth of twenty Weber wrote
two Symphonies, clever and to a certain ex-
tent interesting, but parti-coloured and with-
out form. The indications they gave of his
future position as an orchestral composer were
very inadequate, and in later years they by no
means satisfied himself. Of wholly differeut
import are his ten overtures, Peter Schmoll
(remodelled 1807 as 'Grande Ouverture h, plu-
sieur.s instruments'), Eiibezahl (remodelled 1811
as ' Ouverture zum Beherrscher der Geister,'
'Ruler of the Spirits'), 'Ouverture Chinesa '
(remodelled 1819 for Turandot), Silvana, Abu
Hassan, Jubelouverture, Freischiitz, Preciosa,
Euryanthe, and Oberon. Of these, Peter
Schmoll and Silvana are unimportant and
immature. In Turandot the local colouring

1 The score, with the two sets of words, and preceded by the Jubel-
Ouveiture. is published by Schlesinger (Berlin). A full analysis
with ample quotations is given in the 'Monthly Musical Record,' ls73.

2 The score of the Eb mass was published by Richault (Paris), that
of the one in (; by Haslinger (Vienna, tdilion de luxe).


furnished by a Chinese air is pushed into i
extreme which becomes ugly- The reuiainii
.'ieven are amongst the finest, and exceptli
perhaps Riibezahl and Abu Hassan, the mo
popular pieces in the world. They hold a midd
position between simple introductions and a1
stract orchestral works, sounding equally well )
the concert-room and the theatre. This the
share with the overtures of Mozart and Chen
bini, while much of the effect of Beethoven's, an
the whole of the efifect of Schumann's Geneves
and Manfred is lost when played on the stagi
There are, however, important dififerences of sty
between these overtures and those of Mozart an
Cherubini. This is not so much because Webf
constructed them out of the materials of the open
though some have with great injustice gone f
far as to maintain that they are mere elegai
potpourris. Each is a complete conception, an
— some unimportant passages apart — carved ot
of one block. That what looks like mosaic ma
have been constructed organically is proved b
Cherubini's ' Anacreon ' overture, in which —
little-known fact — there is not a single bar'nt
contained in the opera. W^eber's natural way(
working was not to develop continuously, butt
proceed from one strong contrast to anothei
His musical ideas are seldom adapted for th(
matic treatment, being always full of meanini
but with few capacities of development. Th
instant one idea is given out decisively it call
up another absolutely opposed to it. Illui
trations of this may be found in the openill)
of the Riibezahl overture, as well as in tb
Eb movement of the Allegro in that to 'De
Freischiitz.' This method of progression b;
continual contrasts is undoubtedly the sign
manual of Weber's dramatic genius; and to i
his works owe as much of their stimulating eP
and fascination, as they do to the variety, ten
derness, and brilliancy of the instrumentation,

17. This explains why Weber produced 6
little chamber-music. The quiet thoughtfulnes!
the refinements of instrumental polyphony, th
patient unravelling and metamorphosing of
subject, which are the essence of this branch
art, were not congenial to one who liked to h
up and away. He did not write a single 8trin|
quartet; and his PF. quartet, string quinte
with clarinet, and trio for PF., cello, and flute.are
for him, unimportant compositions, and no
always in the true chamber-music style. Jahn
appositely observes that the trio is pastoral ii
character, and the last three movements almoff
dramatic. By this he means not so much tha'
the composer had in his mind specific figures 0;
scenes, but that the subjects are almost lik»
spoken phrases, and the contrasts singularlj
life-like. Many movements of Beethoven 1
chamber-music were inspired by some definit(
poetical idea (as the aciagios of the quarteti
in F major (No. i) and E minor), but thest
are all genuine chamber-music. The thin
movement of the trio, headed ' Schafers-Klage
(Shepherd's Lament), is a series of clever varia
tions on a simple melody of eight bars. I believf




lOugh Jabns does not agree with me — that
is the air of a real Lied, and suspect it to be
jtting of Goethe's ' Da droben auf jenem
»e,' but whether Weber's or not we have at
ent no means of determining. Amongst his
nber-music must not be forgotten six sonatas
PF. and violin, published in 1811. Though
lodest dimensions, and occasionally somewhat
ature, they contain a host of charming
ghts ; the ideal they aim at is not high,
they form the most delightful drawing-roum
LC possible.

I. As the reader will perceive, we do not class
ler's Piano compositions with his chamber-
ic. Hei-e our verdict must be wholly
rent. Weber was one of the greatest and
; original pianists of his day. After his
ough grounding when a boy he never be-
j the pupil of any of the principal virtuosi,
all the finishing part of his education was
)wn work. He formed himself neither on
lenti nor Hummel; indeed, his feeling with
rd to the latter was one of decided opposition,
r hearing him in Vienna in 1S13, he wrote

Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 102 of 194)