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

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last movement, which might be an idealif
national or rather barbaric dance-movement, a
which sets the crown fitly upon one of 1
most characteristic of Beethoven's works. 1
Symphony in F, which follows immediately
op. 93, is again of a totally difl^erent characi
It is of specially small proportions, and has rat]
the character of a return to the old conditi
of the Symphony, with all the advantages of E
thoven's mature powers both in the developm
and choice of ideas, and in the treatment of
orchestra. Beethoven himself, in a letter to S;
mon, described it as 'eine kleine Symphonic:
F,' as distinguished from the previous one, wl(
he called ' Grosse Symphonic in A, eine mei
vorzliglichsten.' It has more fun and light-hei
edness in it than any of the others, but no o\
specially distinctive external characteristics,
cept the substitution of the graceful and hun
ous 'Allegretto scherzando' in the place of
slow movement, and a return to tlie Terap(
Menuetto for the scherzo. After this came &{
a long pause, as the greatest of all sympho
did not make its appearance till 1824. During
time however, it is probable that symphonic w
was not out of his mind, for it is certain that
preparations for putting this symphony dowi

1 Beethoven's own view of it may be readjust below.



i



SYMPHONY.

paper spread over several years. Of the intro-
duction of voices into this form of composition,
which is its strongest external characteristic,
Beethoven had made a previous experiment in
the Choral Fantasia; and he himself spoke of
the symphony as 'in the style of the Choral
Fantasia, but on a far larger scale.' The scale is
indeed immensely lai-ger, not only in length but
in style, and the increase in this respect applies
to it equallj' in comparison with all the sym-
phonies that went before. The first movement is
throughout the most concentrated example of
the qualities which distinguish Beethoven and
the new phase upon which music entered with
iiim, from all the composers of the previous half
' ?entury. The other movements are not less
" 3haracteristic of him in their particular ways.
' The second is the largest example of the typical
'' icherzo which first made its appearance for tlie
' orchestra in the Eroica ; and the supreme slow

* novement (the Theme with variations) is the
I" inest orchestral example of that special type

* )f slow movement ; though in other depart-
'' nents of art he had previously illustrated it
!* n a manner little less noble and deeply ex-
\ iressive in the slow movements of the Bb Trio
'■ ind the Bb Sonata (op. io6). These movements

* ill have reference, more or less intelligible ac-
™ wording to the organisation and sympathies of
' ;he hearer, to the Finale of the Symphony, which
'"consists of a setting of Schiller's ode 'An die
'I Freude.' Its development into such enormous
1' proportions is of a piece with the tendency shown
' n Beethoven's previous symphonies, and in some
n )f his sonatas also, to supplant the conventional
'■* .ype of gay last movement by something which
1 ihall be a logical or poetical outcome of the
' )receding movements, and shall in some way
5* :lench them, or crown them with its weight

* md power. The introduction of words moreover
' fives a new force to the definite interpretation of
T- he whole as a single organism, developed as a
y )oem might be in relation to definite and co-
*' lerent ideas. The dramatic and human elements
lu vhich Beethoven introduced into his instru-

* nental music to a degree before undreamed of,
B ind here their fullest expression ; and most of
he forms of music are called in to convey his
'fl deas. The first movement of the symphony is
Si n binary form ; the second in scherzo, or ideal-
lie sed minuet and trio form ; the third in the form
ji f theme and variations. Then follows the curious
lei >assage of instrumental recitative, of which so
MJtiany people guessed the meaning even befoi-e it

iras defined by the publication of the extracts

sjrom the MS. sketch-books in tlie Berlin Library;

ffl^hen the entry of the noble tune, the theme of the

ntire Finale, introduced contrapuntally in a man-

ler which has a clear analogy to fugal treatment ;

nd followed by the choral part, which treats

he theme in the form of variations apportioned

o the several verses of the poem, and carries

he sentiment to the extremest pitch of exult-

tion expressible by the human voice. The

ll|tistrumental forces employed are the fullest ; in-

luding, with the usual complement, four horns.



SYMPHONY.



27



three trombones in the scherzo and finale, and
contrafagotto, triangle, cymbals, and big drum in
the finale. The choral forces include four solo
voices and full chorus, and the sentiment ex-
pressed is proportionate to the forces employed.

In Beethoven's hands the Symphony has asain
undergone a change of status. Haydn and Mo-
zart, as above pointed out, ennobled and en-
riched the form in the structural sense. They
took up the work when there was little more
expected of the orchestra than would have been
expected of a harpsichord, and when the object
of the piece was slight and almost momentary
entertainment. They left it one of the most im-
portant branches of instrumental music, though
still to a great extent dependent on formal per-
fection and somewhat obvious artistic manage-
ment for its interest. Their office was in fact to
perfect the form, and Beethoven's to use it. But
the very use of it brought about a new ratio
between its various elements. In his work first
clearly appears a proportion between the forces
employed and the nobility and depth and general
importance of the musical ideas. In his hands
the greatest and most pliable means available
for the composer could be no longer fit for light-
ness and triviality, but only for ideal emotions of
an adequate standard. It is true that earlier com-
posers saw the advantage of adopting a breadth of
style and largeness of sentiment when writing for
the orchestra ; but this mostly resulted in posi-
tive dullness. It seems as if it could only be
when the circumstances of history had undergone
a violent change that human sentiment could
reach that pitch of comprehensiveness which in
Beethoven's work raised the Symphony to the
highest pitch of earnest poetic feeling : and the
history of his development is chiefly the coor-
dination of all the component elements ; the pro-
portioning of the expression and style to the
means ; the expansion of the form to the require-
ments of the expression ; the making of the or-
chestration perfectly free, but perfectly just in
every detail of expression, and perfectly balanced
in itself; and the eradication of all traces of
conventionalism both in the details and in the
principal outlines, and also to a great extent in
the treatment of the instruments. It is chiefly
through Beethoven's work that the symphony
now stands at the head of all musical forms what-
ever; and though other composers may here-
after misuse and degrade it as they have degraded
the opera, the cantata, the oratorio, the mass,
and such other forms as have equal possibilities
with the symphony, his works of this kind stand
at such an elevation of human sympathy and
emotion, and at such a pitch of individuality and
power, in expression and technical mastery, that
it is scarcely likely that any branch of musical
art will ever show anything to surpass them.

It might seem almost superfluous to trace the
history of Symphony further after Beethoven,
Nothing since his time has shown, nor in the
changing conditions of the history of the race is
it likely anything should show, any approach
to the vitality and depth of his work. But it



28



SYMPHONY.



is just these changing conditions that leave a
little opening for composers to tread the same
path with him. In the millions of the human
species there are endless varieties of mental and
emotional qualities grouped in different indi-
viduals, and different bands or sets of men ; and
the many-sided qualities of artistic work, even
far below the highest standard, find their ex-
cuse and explanation in the various groups and
types of mind whose artistic desires they satisfy.
Those who are most highly organised in such
respects find their naost perfect and most sus-
tained gratification in Beethoven's works ; but
others who feel less deeply, or are less wide in
their sympathies, or have fewer or different
opportunities of cultivating their tastes in such
a musical direction, need musical food more in
accordance with their mental and emotional or-
ganisation. Moreover, there is always room to
treat an accepted form in the mode chavacter-
istic of the periotl. Beethoven's period was much
more like ours than that of Haydn and Mozart,
but yet it is not so like that a work expressed
entirely in his manner would not be an anachron-
ism. Each successive generation takes some
colour from the combination of work and changes
in all previous generations; in unequal quantities
proportioned to its amount of sympathy with
particular peiiods. By the side of Beethoven
there were other composers, working either on
parallel lines or in a different manner on the
same lines. The succeeding generations were
influenced by them as well as by him ; and
they have introduced some elements into sym-
phony which are at least not prominent in his.
One of the contemporary composers who had
most influence on the later generation was
Weber; but his influence is derived Irom other
departments, and in that of Symphony his contri-
bution is next to nothing — two only, so slight
and unimportant, as probably to have had no
influence at all.

Another composer's symphonies did not have
much immediate influence, chiefly because they
were not performed ; what they will have in the
future remains to be seen.^ In delightfulness,
Schubert's two best works in this department
stand almost alone ; and their qualities are
unique. In his earlier works of the kind there is
an analogy to Beethoven's early works. Writing
for the orchestra seemed to paralyse his par-
ticular individuality; and for some time after
he had written some of his finest and most
original songs, he continued to write sym-
phonies, which were chiefly a mild reflex of
Haydn and Mozart, or at most of the early
style of Beethoven. His first attempt was made
in 1813, the last page being dated October 28 of
that year, when he was yet only sixteen years
old — one year after Beethoven's Symphonies
in A and F, and more than ten years before the
great D minor. In the five following years he
wrote five more, the best of which is 'No. 4, the
Tragic, in C minor : the Andante especially being

1 As we write, the announcement appears of a complete edition of
fchubert's woilcs, published and JIS.. by BreitkopI i Hiirtel.



SYMPHONY.

very fine and interesting, and containing many
characteristic traits of the master. But none of the
early works approach in interest or original beauty
to the unfinished one in B minor, and the very
long and vigorous one in C major; the first com-
posed in 1822, before Beethoven's No. 9, and the
second in 1828, after it. In these two he seems to
have struck out a real independent symphony-
style for himself, thoroughly individual in every
respect, both of idea, form, and orchestration
They show singularly little of the influence
of Beethoven, or Mozart, or Haydn, or any
of the composers he must have been familiar
with in his early days at the Konvict ; but the
same spirit as is met with in his songs and piano
forte pieces, and the best specimens of his cham^
ber music. The first movement of the B minor
is entirely unlike any other syra phonic first move-
ment that ever was composed before. It seem?
to come direct from the heart, and to have thf
personality of the composer in it to a most un^
usual degree. The orchestral forces used are the
usual ones, but in the management of them there
are numbers of effects which are perfectly new
in this department of art, indicating the tend
ency of the time towards direct consideration o
what is called 'colour' in orchestral combinations
and its employment with the view of enhancing
the degree of actual sensuous enjoyment of s
refined kind, to some extent independent o
the subjects and figures. Schubert's mature or
chestral works are however too few to give an
strong indication of this in his own person; an(
what is commonly felt is the supreme attractive
ness of the ideas and general style. As classica
models of form none of Schubert's instruments
works take the highest rank; and it follow
that no compositions by any writer which hav
taken such hold upon the musicians of the pre
sent time, depend so much upon their intrinsi
musical qualities as his do. They are therefor
in a sense the extremest examples that can I
given of the degree in which the status of sue'
music altered in about thirty years. In the epoc
of Mozart and Haydn, the formal elements absii
lutely predominated in importance. This was tl
case in 1795. The balance was so complete])
altered in the course of Beethoven's lifetime, th;!
by 1824 the phenomenon is presented of works i;
the highest line of musical composition depem ■
ing on the predominating element of the actu '
musical sentiment. It must be confessed th'
Schubert's position in art is unique ; but
the same time no man of mark can be qui
unrepresentative of his time, and Schubert ■
this way represents the extraordinary degr
in which the attention of musical people ai
the intention of composers in the early yea
of the present century was directed to t'
actual material of music in its expressive sen!
as distinguished from the e.xternal or structui:
aspect.

The relation of the dates at which more or h
well-known symphonies made their appearar
about this time is curious and not uninstructi'
Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony was p:



SYMPHONY.

iuced only two years after Schubert's great
Symphony in C, namely in 1830. His Italian
Symphony followed in the next year ; and Stem-
iale Bennett's in Gr minor, in 1S34.

The dates and history of Spolir's productions
\re even more striking, as he was actually a
contemporary of Beethoven's, and senior to
Schubert, while in all respects in which his style
s characteristic it represents quite a later genera-
tion. His first Symphony (in Eb) was composed
^n 181 1, before Beethoven's 7th, 8th, and Qth,
ind when he himself was 27 years old. This
was followed by several others, which are not
without merit, though not of sufficient histo-
cical importance to require special consideration.
rhe symphony of his which is best known at
;lie present day is that called the ' Weihe der
Tone,' which at one time enjoyed great celebrity.
The history of this work is as follows. He in-
.ended first to set a poem of the same name
jy his friend Pfeiffer. He began the setting
n 1832, but finding it unsatisfactory he aban-
,{loned the idea of using the words except
a programme ; in which form they are
)| appended to the score. The full description
ind purpose of the work as expressed on the
iitle is ' Characteristisches Tongemalde in Form
] 3iner Sinfonie, nach einen Gedicht von Carl
Pfeiffer'; and a printed notice from the com-
aoser is appended to the score directing that
ihe poem is to be either printed or recited
; iloud whenever the symphony is to be performed.
Each movement also has its title, like the Pas-
toral of Beethoven ; but it differs from that
j] work not only in its less substantial interest, but
f, ilso in a much more marked departure from the
fj jrdinary principles of form, and the style of the
^ iuccessive movements.

j The earlier part of the work con-esponds fairly

j( well with the usual principles of structure. It

[n Dpens with a short Largo of vague character,

(j passing into the AUegro, which is a continuous

(j movement of the usual description, in a sweet

jj but rather tame style. The next movement might

I be taken to stand for the usual slow movement,

j as it begins Andantino ; but the development is

Driginal, as it is broken up by several changes of

tempo and time-signatures, and is evidently based

^ upon a programme, for which its title supplies

in explanation. The next movement again might

be taken as an alternative to the Minuet and

' Trio, being marked ' Tempo di Marcia,' which

i would suggest the same general outline of form,

'But the development is again independent, and

must be supposed to follow its title. From this

point all connection with the usual outlines

ceases. There is an Andante maestoso, based

J jpon an Ambrosianischer Lobgesang, a Larghetto

l^ontaining a second hymn-tune, and a short

^Allegretto in simple primary form to conclude

"rith. From this description it will be obvious

jihat the work is an example of thoroughgoing

^■■programme music' It is clearly based rather on

_,!,he musical portrayal of a succession of ideas in

■ iiemselves independent of music, than upon the

a-eatment of principles of abstract form, and ideas



SYMPHONY.



29



intrinsically musical. It derives from this fact a
historical importance which its musical qualities
taken alone would not warrant, as it is one of
the very first German examples of its kind pos-
sessing any high artistic excellences of treatment,
expression, and orchestration. It contains a
plentiful supply of Spohr's characteristic faults,
and is for the most part superficial, and deficient
in warmth of feeling and nobility of thought;
but it has also a fair share of his good traits —
delicacy and clearness of orchestration, and a
certain amount of poetical sentiment. Its suc-
cess was considerable, and this, rather than
any abstract theorising upon the tendencies of
modern music, led him to several further experi-
ments in the same line. The symphony (in C
minor) which followed the 'Weihe der Tone' was
on the old lines, and does not require much notice.
It contains experiments in unifying the work by
unusual references to subjects, as in the first
movement, where conspicuous reference is made
in the middle part of the Allegro to the char.ic-
teristic feature of the slow introduction ; and in
the last, where the same subject is somewhat
transformed, and reappears in a different time
as a prominent feature of the second section.
In the next symphony, and in the 7th and
9th, Spohr again tried experiments in pro-
gramme. Two of these are such curiosities as
to deserve description. The 6th, op. 116, in
G, is called ' Historische Symphonic,' and
the four movements are supposed to be illus-
trations of four distinct musical periods. The
first is called the Period of Handel and Bach,
and dated 1720; the second, the Period of
Haydn and Mozart, and dated 1780 {i.e. before
any of the greatest instrumental works of either
Haydn or Mozart were produced); the third is
the Period of Beethoven, and dated 18 10; and
the fourth, ' Allerneueste Periode,' and dated
1840. This last title seems to imply that Spohr
regarded himself as belonging to a different
generation from Beethoven. The first period is
represented by an introductory Largo in contra-
puntal style, and an Allegro movement, part
after the manner of the old Canzonas, and part
a Pastorale, introduced for contrast. The st3de
has scarcely the least affinity to Bach, but the
Handelian character is extremely easy to imitate,
and hence in some respects it justifies its title
fairly well. The slow movement which follows
has good qualities and graceful points. It has
more the flavour of Mozart than Haydn, and
this is enhanced by the Mozartian turns and
figures which are introduced. One which is very
conspicuous is the short figure: —




which is found in several places in Mozart's
works. The second subject moreover is only an
ingenious alteration of the second subject in
the slow movement of Mozart's Prague Sym-
phony in D : —



30



ffi



SYMPHONY.

J s rr-i I



^S^^^^P^s




Nevertheless, tlie whole effect of the move-
ment is not what its title implies. The scoring
is fuller, and the inner parts richer and fi'eer in
their motion than in the prototypes, and the
harmonization is more chromatic, after Spohr's
manner. The Scherzo professes to be in Bee-
thoven's style, and some of his characteristic
devices of harmony and rhythm and treatment of
instruments are fairly well imitated {e.g. the
drums in G, D, and £b), though in a manner
which shows they were but half understood.
Curiously enough, one of the most marked figures
does not come from Beethoven, but from Mozart's
G minor Symphony : —



The last movement, representing the then
' latest period,' has of course no names appended.
Spohr probably did not intend to imitate any one,
but was satisfied to write in his own manner, of
which the movement is not a highly satisfactory
example. It is perhaps rather to the composer's
credit that his own characteristics should peep out
at allcomers in all the movements, but the result
can hardly be called an artistic success. However,
the experiment deserves to be recorded and de-
scribed, as unique among works by composers of
such standing and ability as Spohr; and the more
so as it is not likely to be often heard in future.
His next Symphony (No. 7, in C major, op. 1 2 1) is
in many respects as great a curiosity of a totally
different description. It is called ' Irdisches und
Gottliches in Menschenleben,' and is a doulile
symphony in three movements for two orches-
tras. The first movement is called 'Kinderwelt,'
the second 'Zeit der Leidenschaften,' and the
last (Presto) ' Endlicher Sieg des Gottlichen.'
In the first two the second orchestra, which is
the fuller of the two, is little more than an
accompaniment to the first. In the last it has
a good deal of work to do, uttering chiefly vehe-
ment and bustling passages in contrast with
quiet and sober passages by the first orchestra ;
until near the end, when it appears to be sub-
dued into consonance with the first orchestra.
The idea seems to be to depict the divine and
the worldly qualities more or less by the two
orchestras ; the divine being given to the smaller
orchestra of solo instruments, and the worldly to
the fuller orchestra. The treatment of the instru-
mental forces is on the whole very simple ; and no
very extraordinary effects seem to be aimed at,

Spohr wrote yet another programme sym-
phony after this (No. 9, in B, op. 143) called
'Die Jahreszeiten,' in which Winter and Spring
are joined to make Part I, and Summer and
Autumn to make Part II. The work ap-



SYMPHONY.

preaches more nearly to the ordinary outlines ol
the Symphony than his previous experiments ia!
programme, and does not seem to demand so'
much detailed description. In fact, but for his
having been so early in the field as a writer of
thoroughgoing programme-music, Spohr's position
in the histoiy of the Symphony would not be an
important one ; and it is worthy of remark that
his being so at all appears to have been an
accident. The ' Weihe der Tone' would not
have been a programme symphony but for the
fact that Pfeiffer's poem did not turn out to be
very suitable for a musical setting. It is not
likely that the work would have attained such
popularity as it did but for its programme ; but
after so good a result in relation to the public,
it was natural that Spohr should try further
experiments on the same lines; and hence he
became one of the earliest representatives of
artistic speculation in a direction which has
become one of the most conspicuous subjects of
discussion among modem musical philosophers.
As far as intrinsic qualities are concerned it is
remarkable how very little influence he has had
upon the subsequent history of the Symphony,
considering the reputation he enjoyed in his life-
time. His greatest excellence was his treatment
of his orchestra, which was delicate, refined, and
extremely clear ; but it must be confessed that ho
erred on the side natural to the virtuoso violinist,
and was too fond of bringing his first violins into
prominence. His ideas and style generally were
not robust or noble enough to stand the test of
time. His melodies are not broad or strong ; his
harmonisation, though very chromatic to look at,
is not radically free and vigorous; and his rhythm,
though sometimes complicated and ingenious, is
neither forcible nor rich in variety. None of
his works however can be said to be without their
good points, and the singularity of his attempts
at programme-music give them an interest which



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 7 of 194)