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 4 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 4 of 194)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


other form of overture. The 'Symphonies' which
had more attractive qualities were played apart
from the operas, in concerts ; and the precedent
being thereby established, the step to writing
independent works on similar lines was but
short ; and it was natural that, as undivided
attention would now be given to them, and
they were no more in a secondary position
in connection with the opera, composers should



SYMPHONY.

take more pains both in the structure and in
the choice of their musical material. The Sym-
phony had however reached a considerable pitch
of development before the emancipation took
place ; and this development was connected with
the progress of certain other musical forms be-
sides the Sonata, already referred to.

It will accordingly be convenient, before pro-
ceeding further with the direct history of the
Symphony, to consider some of the more im-
portant of these early branches of Musical
Art. In the early harmonic times the rela-
tionships of nearly all the different branches
of composition were close. The Symphony
■was related even to the early Madrigals,
through the ' Senate da Chiesa,' which adopted
the Canzona or instrumental version of the
Madrigal as a second movement. It was also
closely related to the early Fantasias, as the
earliest experiments in instrumental music, in
which some of the technical necessities of that
department were grappled with. It was directly
connected with the vocal portions of the early
operas, such as airs and recitatives, and derived
from them many of the mechanical forms of
cadence and harmony which for a long time
were a necessary part of its form. The solo
Clavier Suite had also something to do with
it, but not so much as might be expected. As
has been pointed out elsewhere, the suite-form,
being very simple in its principle, attained to
definition very eaiiy, while the sonata-form,
which characterised the richest period of har-
monic music, was still struggling in elementary
stages. The ultimate basis of the suite-form
is a contrast of dance tunes ; but in the typical
early symphony the dance-tunes are almost in-
variably avoided. When the Symphony was ex-
panded by the addition of the Minuet and Trio,
a bond of connection seemed to be established ;
but still this bond was not at all a vital one, for
the Minuet is one of the least characteristic
elements of the suite-form proper, being clearly
of less ancient lineage and t^'pe than the Alle-
mande, Courante, Sarabande, or Gigue, or even
the Gavotte and Bourree, which were classed
with it, as Intermezzi or Galanterien. The
form of the Clavier Suite movements was in
fact too inelastic to admit of such expansion
and development as was required in the or-
chestr;d works, and the type did not supply the
characteristic technical qualities which would be
of service in their development. The position
of Bach's Orchestral Suites was somewhat dif-
ferent; and it appears that he himself called
them Overtures. Dehn, in his preface to the
first edition printed, says that tlie separate MS.
parts in the Bach archives at Hamburg, from
which he took that in C, have the distinctive
characteristics of the handwriting of John Se-
bastian, and have for title 'Ouverture pour
2 Violons,' etc. ; and that another MS., probably
copied from these, has the title 'Suite pour
Orchestre.' This throws a certain light upon
Bach's position. It is obvious that in several
departments of instrumental music he took the



SYMPHONY.



13



French for his models rather than the Italians.
In the Suite he followed Couperin, and in the
Overture he also followed French models. These
therefore appear .is attempts to develop an in-
dependent orchestral work analogous to the
Symphony, upon the basis of a form which had
the same reason for existence and the same
general purpose as the Italian Overture, but a
distinctly different general outline. Their chief
connection with the actual development of the
modern symphony lies in the treatment of the in-
struments ; for all experiments, even on difl'erent
lines, if they have a common quality or principle,
must react upon one another in those respects.

Another branch of art which had close con-
nection with the early symphonies was the
Concerto. Works under this name were not by
any means invariably meant to be show pieces
for solo instruments, as modern concertos are ;
and sometimes the name was used as almost
synonymous with symphony. The earliest con-
certos seem to have been works in which groups
of 'solo' and 'ripieno' instruments were used,
chiefly to obtain contrasts of fullness of tone.
For instance, a set of six concertos by Alessandro
Scarlatti, for two violins and cello, ' soli,' and
two violins, tenor, and bass, ' ripieni,' present
no distinction of style between one group and
the other. The accompanying instruments for
the most part merely double the solo parts, and
leave ofi" either to lessen the sound here and
there, or because the passages happen to go a
little higher than usual, or to be a little difficult
for the average violin-players of that time. When
the intention is to vary the quality of sound
as well, the element of what is called instru-
mentation is introduced, and this is one of the
earliest phases of that element which can be
traced in music. The order of movements and
the style of them are generally after the manner
of the Senate da Chiesa, and therefore do not
present any close analogy with the subject of
this article. But very soon after the time of
Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti the form of
the Italian overture was adopted for concertos,
and about the same time they began to show
traces of becoming show-pieces for great
performers. Allusions to the performance of
concertos by great violin - players in the
churches form a familiar feature in the musical
literature of the i8th century, and the three-
movement-form (to all intents exactly like that
of the symphonies) seems to have been adopted
early. This evidently points to the fact that
this form appealed to the instincts of com-
posers generally, as the most promising for free
expression of their musical thoughts. It may
seem curious that J.S.Bach, who followed French
models in some important departments of in-
strumental music, should exclusively have fol-
lowed Italian models in this. But in reality
it appears to have been a matter of chance
with him; he always followed the best models
which came to his hand. In this department
the Italians excelled ; and Bach therefore fol-
lowed them, and left the most important early



14



SYMPHONY.



specimens of this kind remaining — almost all in
the three movement-form, which was becoming
the set order for symphonies. Setting aside
those specially imitated from Vivaldi, there are
at least twenty concertos by him for all sorts of
Bolo instruments and combinations of solo instru-
ments in this same form. It cannot therefore
be doubted that some of the development of
the symphony-form took place in this depart-
ment. But Bach never to any noticeable
extent yielded to the tendency to break the
movements up into sections with corresponding
tunes ; and this distinguishes his work in a very
marked manner from that of the generation
of composers who followed him. His art belongs
in reality to a different stratum from that which
produced the greater forms of abstract instru-
mental music. It is probable that his form of art
could not without some modification have pro-
duced the great orchestral symphonies. In order
to get to these, composers had to go to a different,
and for some time a decidedly lower, level. It
was much the same process as had been gone
through before. After Palestrina a backward
move was necessary to make it possible to arrive
at the art of Bach and Handel. After Bach
men had to take up a lower line in order to get
to Beethoven. In the latter case it was neces-
sary to go through the elementary stages of de-
fining the various contrasting sections of a move-
ment, and finding that form of harmonic treat-
ment which admitted the great effects of colour
or varieties of tone in the mass, as well as in the
separate lines of the counterpoint. Bach's position
was so immensely high that several generations
had to pass before men were able to follow on
his lines and adopt his principles in harmonic
music. The generation that followed him showed
scarcely any trace of his influence. Even before
be had passed away the new tendencies of music
were strongly apparent, and much of the ele-
mentary work of the modern sonata form of art
had been done on different lines from his own.

The ' Sinfonia avanti I'Opera ' was clearly by
this time sufficiently independent and complete
to be appreciated without the opera, and without
either name or programme to explain its meaning;
and witliin a very short period the demand for
these sinfonias became very great. Bumey's tours
in search of materials for his History, in France,
Italy, Holland, and Germany, were made in 1 770
and 72, before Haydn had written any of his
greater symphonies, and while Mozart was still
a boy. His allusions to independent 'sympho-
nies' are very frequent. Among those whose
works he mentions with most favour are Sta-
mitz, Emmanuel Bach, Christian Bach, and
Abel. Works of the kind by these composers
and many others of note are to be seen in great
numbers in sets of part -books in the British
Museum. These furnish most excellent mate-
rials for judging of the status of the Symphony
in the early stages of its independent existence.
The two most important points which they
illustrate are the development of instrumentation,
and the definition of form. They appear to



SYMPHONY.

have been generally written in eight parts. Most
of them are scored for two violins, viola, and
bass ; two hautboys, or two flutes, and two
' cors de chasse.' This is the case in the six
symphonies of opus 3 of John Christian Bach ;
the six of Abel's opus 10, the six of Stamitz's
opus 9, opus 13, and opus 16; also in a set
of 'Overtures in 8 parts' by Ame, which must
have been early in the field, as the licence
from George II, printed in full at the beginning
of the first violin part, is dated January 17^7.
The same orchestration is found in many sym-
phonies by Galuppi, Ditters, Schwindl, and others, il
Wagenseil, who must have been the oldest of this 1)
group of composers (having been bom in the 17th I
century, within six years after Handel, Scarlatti, ^1
and Bach), wrote several quite in the characteristic
harmonic style, 'a 4 parties obligees avec Cors n
de Chasse ad libitum.' The treatment of the in-
struments in these early examples is rather crude
and stiff. The violins are almost always playing,
and the hautboys or flutes are only used to rein-
force them at times as the ' ripieni ' instruments
did in the early concertos, while the horns serve
to hold on the harmonies. The first stages of
improvement are noticeable in such details as the
independent treatment of the strings. In the ' sym-
phonies before the opera' the violas were cared
for so little that in many cases * not more than
half-a-dozen bars are Avritten in, all the rest being
merely 'col basso.' As examples of this in works
of more or less illustrious writers may be men-
tioned the 'Sinfonias' to JomeUi's 'Passione' ■
and 'Betulia Liberata,' Sacchini's 'CEdipus,' and
Sarti's ' Giulio Sabino.' One of the many honours
attributed to Stamitz by his admii-ing contempo-
raries was that he made the violas independent of
the basses. This may seem a trivial detail, but it
is only by such details, and the way in which they
struck contemporary writers, that the character
of the gradual progress in instrumental composi-
tion can now be understood.

The general outlines of the form were extremely
regular. The three movements as above described
were almost invariable, the first being a vigorous
broad allegro, the second the sentimental slow
movement, and the third the lively vivace. The
progress of internal structure is at first chiefly
noticeable in the first movement. In the early
examples this is always condensed as much as
possible, the balance of subjects is not very clearly
realisable, and there is hardly ever a double bar
or repeat of the first half of the movement. The
divisions of key, the short ' working-out' portion,
and the recapitulation, are generallj'^ present, but
not pointedly defined. Examples of this condition
of things are supplied by some MS. symphonies
by Paradisi in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cam-
bridge, which in other respects possess excellent
and characteristically modern traits. The first
thing attained seems to have been the relative
definition and balance of the two subjects. In
Stamitz, Abel, J. C. Bach, and Wagenseil, this
is already commonly met with. The following

1 It is notorious that Jlo/art gave fuller parts to the second violin
because of the incompetence of the viola-playeis.



SYMPHONY.

examples from the first movement of the fifth
symphony of Stamitz's opus 9 illustrate both
the style and the degree of contrast between the
two principal subjects,
ist subject.



i:






JJJ ,



^E



=?^



2^=



^



3f=*=«=



Tf^



- * * .J s^-^



JJjJ JjJ«, ^ ^ , ^ ^



-<i^i-i — ^



i



2nd subject. _ , • .«. .^ .«.



£



teFP=g3^^^FF=g=^^£






=t - i



-fi^-^



^



:Ct^



1^:2=



-tpz



:tt=:2=



rhe style is a little heavy, and the motion
3onstrained, but the general character is solid
and dignified. The last movements of this period
ire curiously suggestive of some familiar ex-
imples of a maturer time ; very gay and obvious,
tnd very definite in outline. The following is
vrery characteristic of Abel : —



s ^ t r r P r I .» r r ■ r ^r * \ TtL' «




It is a noticeable fact in connection with
;he genealogy of these -works, that they are
ilmost as frequently entitled ' Overture ' as



SYMPHONY.



15



* Symphony ' ; sometimes the same work is
called by the one name outside and the other in ;
and this is the case also with some of the earlier
and slighter symphonies of Haydn, which must
have made their appearance about this period.
One further point which it is of importance to
note is that in some of Stamitz's symphonies
the complete form of the mature period is found.
One in D is most complete in every respect. The
first movement is Allegro with double bars and
repeats in regular binary form ; the second is an
Andante in G, the third a Minuet and Trio, and
the fourth a Presto. Another in Eb (which is
called no. 7 in the part-books) and another in F
(not definable) have also the Minuet and Trio.
A few others by Schwindl and Ditters have the
same, but it is impossible to get even approxi-
mately to the date of their production, and
therefore little inference can be framed upon the
circumstance, beyond the fact that composers
were beginning to recognise the fourth movement
as a desirable ingredient.

Another composer who precedes Haydn in
time as well as in style is Emmanuel Bach. He
was his senior in years, and began writing sym-
phonies in I74i> when Haydn was only nine
years old. His most important symphonies were
produced in 1776 ; while Haydn's most important
examples were not produced till after 1790. In
style Emmanuel Bach stands singularly alone,
at least in his finest examples. It looks almost
as if he purposely avoided the form which by
1776 must have been familiar to the musical
world. It has been shown that the binary form
was employed by some of his contemporaries in
their orchestral works, but he seems determinedly
to avoid it in the first movements of the works
of that year. His object seems to have been to
produce striking and clearly outlined passages,
and to balance and contrast them one with an-
other according to his fancy, and with little
regard to any systematic distribution of the suc-
cessions of key. The boldest and most striking
subject is the first of the Symphony in D : —




^Ststtt:



rjjj



O — r-iS> S>-









16



SYMPHONY.



The opening passages of that in Eb are hardly
less emphatic. They have little connection with
the tendencies of his contemporaries, but seem
in every respect an experiment on independent
lines, in which the interest depends upon the
vigour of the thoughts and the unexpected
turns of the modulations; and the result is
certainly rather fragmentaiy and disconnected.
The slow movement is commonly connected
•with the first and last either by a special
transitional jiassage, or by a turn of modula-
tion and a half close. It is short and dependent
in its character, but graceful and melodious.
The last is much more systematic in structure
than the first ; sometimes in definite binary
form, as was the case with the early violin sonatas.



SYMPHONY.

In orchestration and general style of expression
these works seem immensely superior to the other
early symphonies which have been described.
They are scored for horns, flutes, oboi, fagotto,
strings, with a figured bass for ' cembalo,' which
in the symphonies previously noticed does not
always appear. There is an abundance of unison
and octave passages for the strings, but there is
also good free writing, and contrasts between
wind and strings ; the wind being occasionally
left quite alone. All the instruments come in
occasionally for special employment, and con-
sidering the proportions of the orchestras of the
time Bach's effects must have been generally clear
and good. The following is a good specimen of
his scoring of an ordinary full passage : —



Corni in E b




It has sometimes been said that Haydn was
chiefly influenced by Emmanuel Bach, and Mozart
by J ohn Christian Bach. At the present time, and
in relation to symphonies, it is easier to understand
the latter case than the former. In both cases
the influence is more likely to be traced in clavier
works than in those for orchestra. For Haydn's
style and treatment of form bear far more re-
semblance to most of the other composers who-e
works have been referred to, than to Emmanuel
Bach. There are certain kinds of forcible ex-
pression and ingenious turns of modulation which
Haydn may have learnt from him ; but their
best orchestral works seem to belong to quite
distinct families. Haydn's first s3'mphony was
written in 1759 for Count Morzin. Like many
other of his early works it does not seem dis-
coverable in print in this country. But it is
said by Pohl,' who must have seen it some-
where in German}', to be ' a small work in three
movements for 2 violins, viola, bass, 2 oboes,
and 2 horns ' ; from which particulars it would

1 Joseph Haydn, vol. 1. 2S4 aS73).



appear to correspond exactly in externals to the
examples above described of Abel's and J. C.
Bach's, etc. In the course of the next few
years he added many more ; most of which appear
to have been slight and of no great historical
importance, while the few which present pecu-
liarities are so far isolated in those respects that
they do not throw much light upon the course of
his development, or upon his share in building up
the art-form of the Symphony. Of such a kind
is the movement (dramatic in character, and in-
cluding long passages of recitative) in the Sym-
phony in C, which he wrote as early as 1 76 1 .^ For,
though this kind of movement is found in instru-
mental works of an earlier period, its appearance
in such a manner in a symphony is too rare to
have any special historical bearings. The course
of his development was gradual and regular. He
seems to have been content with steadily im-
proving the edifice of his predecessors, and with
few exceptions to have followed their lines. A
great deal is frequently attributed to his con-

2 Ibid. 237. 397.



SYMPHONY.

nection with the complete musical establishment
which Prince Esterhazy set up at his great palace
at Esterh^ ; where Haydn certainly had op-
portunities which have been the lot of scarcely
any other composer who ever lived. He is de-
scribed as making experiments in orchestration,
and ringing the bell for the band to come and
try them ; and, though this may not be absolutely
true in fact, there can scarcely be a doubt that
the very great improvements which he effected
in every department of orchestration may to a
great extent be attributed to the facilities for
testing his works which he enjoyed. At the
same time the reaUy important portion of his
compositions were not produced till his patron,
Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy, was dead, and the
musical establishment broken up ; nor, it must
be remembered, tiU after that strange and
mportant episode in Haydn's life, the rapid
Sitting of Mozart across the scene. When
Haydn wrote his first symphony, Mozart was
Dnly three years old; and Mozart died in the very
year in which the famous Salomon concerts in
London, for which Haydn wrote nearly all his
anest symphonies, began. Mozart's work there-
fore comes between Haydn's lighter period and
his greatest achievements ; and his symphonies
ire in some respects prior to Haydn's, and cer-
tainly had efiect upon his later works of all
dnds.

According to Kochel, Mozart wrote altogether

forty-nine symphonies. The first, in Eb, was

written in London in 1764, when he was eight

years old, and only five years after Haydn

.vrote his first. It was on the same pattern as

ihose which have been fully described above, be-

ng in three movements and scored for the usual

set of instruments — namely, two violins, viola,

Dass, two oboes and two horns. Three more

'ollowed in close succession, in one of which

;larinets are introduced instead of oboes, and

bassoon is added to the usual group of

ight instruments. In these works striking

)riginality of purpose or style is hardly to be

ooked for, and it was not for some time that

Mozart's powers in instrumental music reached

V pitch of development which is historically

mportant ; but it is nevertheless astonishing to

ee how early he developed a free and even rich

tyle in managing his orchestral resources. With

egard to the character of these and all but a

lew of the rest, it is necessary to keep in mind

hat a symphony at that time was a very much

» ess important matter than it became fifty years

ater. The manner in which symphonies were

lOured out, in sets of six and otherwise, by

umerous composers during the latter half of

he eighteenth centurj', puts utterly out of the

luestion the loftiness of aim and purpose which

las become a necessity since the early years of

he present century. They were all rather slight

/orks on familiar lines, with which for the time

eing composers and public were alike quite

cc^ontent ; and neither Haydn nor Mozart in

heir early specimens seem to have specially

xerted themselves. The geneial survey of

VOL. IV. PT. 1.



SYMPHONY.



17



Mozart's symphonies presents a certain number
of facts which are worth noting for their
bearing upon the history of this form of art.
The second symphony he wrote had a minuet
and trio; but it is hardly possible that he
can have regarded this as an important point,
since he afterwards wrote seventeen others
without them ; and these spread over the whole
period of his activity, for even in that which he
wrote at Prague in 1786, and which is last but
three in the whole series, the minuet and trio are
absent. Besides this fact, which at once con-
nects them with the examples by other com-
posers previously discussed, there is the yet
more noticeable one that more than twenty of
the series are written for the same peculiar
little group of instruments, viz. the four strings,
a pair of oboes or flutes, and a pair of horns.
Although he used clarinets so early as his third
symphony, he never employed them again till
his thirty-ninth, which was written for Paris,
and is almost more fully scored than any. In
the whole forty-nine, in fact, he only used clari-
nets five times, and in one of these cases (viz.
the well-known G minor) they were added after
he had finished the score. Even bassoons are
not common ; the most frequent addition to the
little nucleus of oboes or flutes and horns being
trumpets and drums. The two which are most
fully scored are the Parisian, in D, just alluded
to, which was written in 1778, and that in Eb,
which was written in Vienna in 1788, and
stands first in the famous triad. These facts
explain to a certain extent how it was possible
to write such an extraordinary number in so
short a space of time. Mozart's most con-
tinuously prolific period in this branch of art



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 4 of 194)