John Alexander Fuller-Maitland Sir George Grove.

A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) online

. (page 6 of 194)
Online LibraryJohn Alexander Fuller-Maitland Sir George GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) → online text (page 6 of 194)
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happened to be specially available. He did
this by taking a separate piece of paper and
rearranging the oboe parts, sometimes combining
the instruments and sometimes distributing the
parts between the two, with due regard to their
characteristic styles of utterance.

The last of Mozart's symphonies has so obvi-
ous and distinctive a character throughout, that
popular estimation has accepted the definite
name ' Jupiter ' as conveying the prevalent feel-
ing about it. In this there is far less human
sentiment than in the G minor. In fact, Mozart
appears to have aimed at something lofty and
self-contained, and therefore precluding the shade
of sadness which is an element almost indis-
pensable to strong human sympathy. When he
descends from this distant height, he assumes a
cheerful and sometimes playful vein, as in the
second principal subject of the first movement,
and in the subsidiary or cadence subject that fol-
lows it. This may not be altogether in accord-
ance with what is popularly meant by the name
'Jupiter,' though that deity appears to hsre
been capable of a good deal of levity in his time ;
but it has the virtue of supplying admirable con-
trast to the main subjects of the section ; and it
is so far in consonance with them that there is
no actual reversal of feeling in passing from one
to the other. The slow movement has an appro-
priate dignity which keeps it in character, and
reaches, in parts, a considerable degree of
passion, which brings it nearer to human sym-
pathy than the other movements. The Minuet
and the Trio again show cheerful serenity, and
the last movement, with its elaborate fugal treat-
ment, has a vigorous austerity, which is an ex-
cellent balance to the character of the first
movement. The scoring, especially in the first
and last movements, is fuller than is usual with
Mozart, and produces effects of strong and clear
sound ; and it is also admirably in character with
the spirit of dignity and loftiness which seems to
be aimed at in the greater portion of the musksl
subjects and figures. In these later symphonies
Mozart certainly reached a far higher pitch of
art in the department of instrumental music than
any hitherto arrived at. The characteristics of
his attainments may be described as a freedom
of style in the ideas, freedom in the treatment
of the various parts of the score, and indepen-
dence and appropriateness of expression in the
management of the various groups of instruments
employed. In comparison with the works of his
predecessors, and with his own and Haydn's



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SYMPHONY.

earlier compositions there is throughout * most
remarkable advance in vitality. The distribu-
tion of certain cadences and passages of tutti
still sppear to modern ears formal; but compared
with the immature formalism of expression,
even in principal ideas, which was prevalent
twenty or even ten yean earlier, the improve-
ment is immense. In such structural elements
as the development of the ideas, the concise and
energetic flow of the music, the distribution and
contrast of instrumental tone, and the balance
and proportion of sound, these works are gene-
rally held to reach a pitch almost unsurpassable
from the point of view of technical criticism.
Mount's intelligence and taste, dealing with
thoughts as yet undisturbed by strong or pas-
sionate emotion, attained a degree of perfection in
the senseof pure and directly intelligible artwhich
later times can scarcely hope to see approached.
Haydn's symphonies up to this time cannot
be said to equal Mozart's m any respect ; though
they show a considerable improvement on the
style of treatment and expression in the * Trailer '
or the ' Farewell ' Symphonies. Of those which
are better known of about this date are 'La
Poole* and 'Letter Y,' which were written
(both for Paris) in 1786 and 1787. • Letter Q,'
or the 'Oxford' Symphony, which was per-
formed when Haydn received the degree of
Doctor of Music from that university, dates
from 1788, the same year as Mozart's great
triad. 'Letter Y' and 'Letter Q' are in his
mature style, and thoroughly characteristic in
every respect. The orchestration is clear and
fresh, though not so sympathetic uor so elastic
in ita variety as Mozart's ; and the ideas, with
all their geniality and directness, are not up to
his own highest standard. It is the last twelve,
which were written for Salomon after 1790,
which have really fixed Haydn's high position
as a composer of symphonies ; these became so
popular as practically to supersede the numer-
ous works of all his predecessors and con tempo-
raries except Mozart, to the extent of causing
them to be almost completely forgotten. This is
owing partly to the high pitch of technical skill
which he attained, partly to the freshness and
geniality of his ideas, and partly to the vigour
and daring of harmonic progr essi on which he
manifested. He and Mozart together enriched
this branch of art to an extraordinary degree,
and towards the end of their lives began to
introduce Car deeper feeling and earnestness
into the style than had been customary in early
works of the class. The average orchestra had
increased in size, and at the same time had
gained a better balance of its component ele-
ments. Instead of the customary little group
of strings and four wind instruments, it had
come to comprise, besides the strings, 2 flutes,
2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, and
drams. To these were occasionally added 2 clari-
nets, as in Haydn's three last (the two in
D minor and one in Eb). and in one move-
ment of the Military Symphony. Neither
Mozart nor Haydn ever used trombones in



SYMPHONY.



21



symphonies; but uncommon instruments were
sometimes employed, as in the 'Military,' in
which Haydn used a big drum, a triangle and
cymbals. In his latest symphonies Haydn's
treatment of his orchestra agrees in general with
the description already given of Mozart's. The
bass has attained a free motion of its own; the
violas rarely cling in a dependent manner to it,
but have their own individual work to do, and
the same applies to the second violins, which no
longer so often appear merely 'col imo.' The wind
instruments fill up and sustain the harmonies
as completely as in former days ; but they oeaoe
merely to hold lone notes without characteristic
features, or slavishly to follow the string parts
whenever something livelier is required. They
may still play a great deal that is mere doubling,
but there is generally method in it; and the
musical ideas they express are in a great measure
proportioned to their characters and style of
utterance. Haydn was rather fond of long
passages for wind alone, as in the slow movement
of the Oxford Symphony, the opening passage of,
the first allegro of the Military Symphony, and
the ' working out ' of the Symphony in C, no. 1
of the Salomon set. Solos in a tune-form for
wind instruments are also rather more common
than in Mozart's works, and in many respects the
various elements whioh go to make up the whole ,
are less assimilated than they are by Mozart.
Tbe tunes are generally more definite in their
outlines, and stand in less close relation with their
context. It appears as if Haydn always re-
tained to the last a strong sympathy with simple
people's-tunes ; the character of his minuets
and trios, and especially of his finales, is some-
times strongly defined in this respect; but his way
of expressing them within the limits he chose is
extraordinarily finished and acute. It is possible
that, as before suggested, he got his taste for but-
prises in harmonic progression from C. P. E. Bach.
His instinct for such things, considering the age
he lived in, was very remarkable. The passage
on the next page, from his Symphony in C, just
referred to, illustrates several of the above points
at once.

The period of Haydn and Mozart is in every
respect the principal crisis in the history of the
Symphony. When they came upon the scene,
it was not regarded as a very important form
of art. In the good musical centres of those
times—and there were many — there was a great
demand for symphonies ; but the bands for which
they were written were small, and appear from
the most natural inferences not to have been very
efficient or well organised. The standard of
performance was evidently rough, nod composers
could neither expect much attention to pianos
and fortes, nor any ability to grapple with tech-
nical difficulties among the players of bass in-
struments or violas. Tbe audiences were critical
in the one sense of requiring good healthy work-
manship in the writing of the pieces — in fact
much better than they would demand in the
present day ; but with regard to deep meaning,
refinement, poetical intention, or originality, they



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appear to have cared very little. They wanted
to be healthily pleased and entertained, not
stirred with deep emotion; and the purposes
of composers in those days were consequently
not exalted to any high pitch, but were limited to
a simple and unpretentious supply, in accordance
with demand and opportunity. Haydn was
influenced by these considerations till the last.
Tliere is always more fun and gaiety in his music
than pensiveness or serious reflection. But in
developing the technical part of expression, in
proportioning the means to the end, and in
organising the forces of the orchestra, what he
did was of the utmost importance. It is, how-
ever, impossible to apportion the value of the
work of the two masters. Haydn did a great
deal of important and substantial work before
Mozart came into prominence in the same field.
But after the first great mark had been made
by the Paris Symphony, Mozart seemed to rush
to his culmination ; and in the last four of his
works reached a style which appears richer,
more sympathetic, and more complete than any-
thing Haydn could attain to. Then, again, when



he had passed away, Haydn produced his greatest
works. Each composer had his distinctive char'
acteristics, and each is delightful in bis own
way; but Haydn would probably not have
reached his highest development without the
influence of his more richly gifted contempo-
rary ; and Mozart for his part was undoubtedly
very much under the influence of Haydn at an
important part of his career. The best that
can be said by way of distinguishing their re-
spective shares in the result is that Mozart's but
symphonies introduced an intrinsically musical
element which had before been wanting, and
showed a supreme perfection of actual art in
their structure ; while Haydn in the long series
of his works cultivated and refined his own
powers to such an extent that when his last
symphonies had made their appearance, the
status of the symphony was raised beyond the
possibility of a return to the old level In
tact he gave this branch of art a stability and
breadth which served as the basis upon which
the art of succeeding generations appears to
rest ; and the simplicity and clearness of bis style



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SYMPHONY.

and structural principles supplied an intelligible
model for his successors to follow.

One of the most important of the contem-
poraries of Haydn and Mozart in this depart-
ment of art was F. J. Gosseo. He was born in
J 73S> one year after Haydn, and lived like
him to a good old age. His chief claim to re-
membrance is the good work which he did in im-
proving the standard of taste for instrumental
music in France. According to Fe*tis such things
as instrumental symphonies were absolutely un-
known in Paris before 1 754, in which year Gosseo
published his first, five years before Haydn's
first attempt. Gossec's work was carried on
most effectually by his founding, in 1770, the
•Concert des Amateurs,' for whom he wrote
bis most important works. He also took the
management of the famous Concerts Spirituels,
with Gavinies and Leduc, in 1 773, and furthered
the cause of good instrumental music there
as welL The few symphonies of his to be
found in this country are of the same calibre,
and for the same groups of instruments as those
of J. G. Bach, Abet etc., already described ; but
F^tie attributes importance to him chiefly because
of the way in which he extended the dimensions
and resources of the orchestra. His Symphony
in D, no. 21, written soon after the founding of
the Concert des Amateurs, was for a full set of
strings, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns,
trumpets, and drums ; and this was doubtless an
astonishing force to the Parisians, accustomed
as they had been to regard the compositions
of Lulli and Rameau as the best specimens of
instrumental music But it is clear from other
indications that Gosseo had considerable ideas
about the ways in which instrumental music
might be improved, analogous on a much smaller
scale to the aspirations and attempts of Berlioz
at a later date. Not only are his works carefully
marked with pianos ana fortes, but in some (as
the Symphonies of op. xii.) there are elaborate
directions as to how the movements are to be
played. Some of these are curious. For instance,
over the ist violin part of the slow movement of
the second symphony is printed the following :
* La difference da Fort an Dome dans ce morceau
doit etre excessive, et le mouvement modere*, a
raise, qu'il semble se jouer avec le plus grand
faciHte*. Nearly all the separate movements of
this set have some such directions, either longer
or shorter; the inference from which is that
Gossec had a strong idea of expression and style
in performance, and did not find his bands very
easily led in these respects. The movements
themselves are on the same small scale as those
of J. C. Bach, Abel, and Stamits ; and very
rarely have the double bar and repeat in the
first movements, though these often make their
appearance in the finales. The style is to
a certain extent individual ; not so robust or so
full as that of Bach or Stamitz, but not without
attractiveness. As his works are very difficult
to get sight of, the following quotation from the
last movement of a symphony in Bb will serve to
give some idea of his style and manner of scoring.



SYMPHONY.



23




1. j jTgJTkflBj]




Another composer of symphonies, who is often
heard of in juxtaposition with Haydn and
Mozart, and sometimes as being preferred to
them by the audiences of the time, is Gyrowetz.
His symphonies appear to be on a larger scale
than those of the prior generation of composers
of second rank like himself. A few of them
are occasionally to be met with in collections
of ' Periodical overtures,' * symphonies,* etc., pub-
lished in separate orchestral parts. One in C,
scored for small orchestra, has an introductory
Adagio, an Allegro of about the dimensions of
Haydn's earlier first movements, with double bar
in the middle; then an Andante eon sordini (the
latter a favourite device in central slow move-
ments) ; then a Minuet and Trio, and, to end wi th,
a Rondo in 2^4 time, Allegro non troppo. Others,
in Eb and Bb, have much the same distribution of
movements, but without the introductory Adagio.
The style of them is rather mild and complacent,
and not approaching in any way the interest or
breadth of the works of his great contemporaries ;
but the subjects are clear and vivacious, and
the movements seem fairly developed. Other
symphony writers, who had vogue and even



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24



SYMPHONY.



celebrity about this time and a little later, such
as Krommer (beloved by Schubert), the Rombergs,
and Xberl (at one time preferred to Beethoven),
require no more than passing mention. They
certainly furthered the branch of art very little,
and were so completely extinguished by the ex-
ceptionally great writers who came close upon
one another at that time, that it is even difficult
to find traces of them.
The greatest of all masters of the Symphony
*/' followed so close upon Haydn, that there is less
of a gap between the last of Haydn's Symphonies
and his first than there was later between some
of his own. Haydn's last was probably written
in 1795. When Beethoven wrote his first can-
not be ascertained; sketches for the Finale are
found as early as the year last mentioned; but
it was not actually produced in public till April
a, 1800. Like Schumann and Brahms in later
days, he did not turn his attention to this
branch of composition till comparatively late.
The opus-number of his first symphony is ai.
It is preceded by eleven pianoforte sonatas,
several works for pianoforte combined with
other instruments, the well-known Septuor in
Eb, and several chamber compositions for strings.
So that by the time he came to attacking
Symphony he had had considerable practice in
dealing with structural matters. The only works
in which he had tried his strength with the
orchestra were the two concertos — the Bb, op. 19,
which was written in or about 1795, and the
C major, op. 15, which was written about
1796. He showed himself at once a master of
the orchestra ; but it is evident that at first he
stepped cautiously in expressing himself with
such resources. The 1st Symphony is less free
and rich in expression, and has more elements
of formality, than several works on a smaller
scale which preceded it. This is explicable on
the general ground that the orchestra, especially
in those days, was not a fit exponent of the same
kind of things which could be expressed by solo
violins, or the pianoforte. The scale must neces-
sarily be larger and broader; the intricate
development and delicate or subtle sentiment
which is quite appropriate and intelligible in
the intimacy of a domestic circle, is out of
place in the more publio conditions of orchestral
performance. This Beethoven must have in-
stinctively felt, and he appears not to have found
the style for full expression of his personality in
either of the first symphonies. The second is
even more curious in that respect than the first,
as it comes after one of the richest and most
interesting, and another of the most perfectly
charming and original of the works of his early
period, namely the Sonatas in D minor and Eb
of op. 31. However, even in these two sym-
phonies there is a maesiveness and breadth and
seriousness of purpose, which mark them as pro-
ducts of a different and more powerfully consti-
tuted nature than anything of the kind produced
before. At the time when the 1st Symphony
appeared, the opening with the chord of the
minor 7th of C, when the key of the piece was



SYMPHONY.

C major, was looked upon as extremely daring ;
and the narrow-minded pedants of the day felt
their sensitive delicacy so outraged that some
of them are said never to have forgiven it.
The case is very similar to the famous introduc-
tion to Mozart's C major String Quartet, about
which the pedants were little less than insulting.
Beethoven had to fight for his right to express
what he felt to be true ; and he did it without
flinching; sometimes with an apparent relish.
But at the same time, in these early orchestral
works he seems to have experimented with
caution, and was content to follow his predecessors
in a great deal that he put down. There are
characteristic things in both symphonies ; for in-
stance, in the 1st the transitional passage which
begins at the 65th bar of the Allegro, passing
from G to G minor and then to Bb and back again,
and the corresponding passage in the second
half of the movement. The working out of the
Andante cantabile and the persistent drum.
rhythm are also striking points. In the 2nd
Symphony the dimensions of the Introduction
are unusual, and the character of all the latter
part and the freedom of the transitions in it are
decisive marks of his tendencies. The Slow move-
ment has also a warmth and sense of genuine
sympathy which is new; the Scherzo, though
as yet short, has a totally new character about
it, and the abrupt sforzandos and short striking
figures and still more the coda, of the Finale,
are quite his own. In the orchestra it is worth
noting that he adopted clarinets from the first,
apparently as a matter of course ; in the first
two symphonies he continued to use only the
one pair of horns, as his predecessors had done;
in the third he expanded the group to three. <
In the 4th he went back to two, and did not \
use four till the 9th. The disposition of his
forces even in the first two is more indepen-
dent and varied than his predecessors. The
treatment of the several groups of instruments
tends to be more distinct and appropriate, and
at the same time more perfectly assimilated in
the total effect of the music. The step to the
3rd Symphony is however immense, and at last
shows this branch of composition on a level with
his other works of the same period. It is sur-
rounded on both sides by some of his noblest
achievements. Opus 47 was the Sonata in A for
violin and pianoforte, known as the ' Kreutser.*
Opus 53 is the Sonata in C major, dedicated to
Count Waldstein. Opus 54 is the admirable little
Sonata in F major. Opus 55 is the Symphony, -
and opus 57 the Sonata known as the 4 Appas-
sionata.' It appears that Beethoven had the idea
of writing this symphony as early as 1 798, but ■—
the actual work was probably done in the summer
and autumn of 1803. There seems to be no
doubt that it was written under the influence of -
his admiration for Napoleon. His own title-page
had on it ' Sinfonia grande, Napoleon Bonaparte/
and, as is well known, the name * Eroica' was
not added till Napoleon became Emperor ; after
which event Beethoven's feelings about him
naturally underwent a change. To call a great



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SYMPHONY.

work by the name of a great man was quite a
► different thing from calling it by the name of a
crowned ruler. However, the point remains the
same, that the work was written with a definite
purpose and under the inspiration of a special
■object, and one upon which Beethoven himself
Assuredly had a very decided opinion. The result
was the richest and noblest and by far the biggest
symphony that had ever yet appeared in the
world. It is very possible that Beethoven meant
it to be so ; but the feet does not make the step
from the previous symphonies any the less re-
markable. The scoring throughout is most freely
distributed. In the first movement especially
there is hardly any one of the numerous subjects
sad characteristic figures which has not pro-
perties demanding different departments of the
orchestra to express them. They are obviously
conceived with reference to the whole forces at
( command, not to a predominant central force and
appendages. The strings must necessarily have
the greater part of the work to do, but the sym-
phony is not written for them with wind as a
species of afterthought. Bat it is still to be
noticed that the balance is obtained chiefly by
definite propositions and answers between one
group and another, and though the effect is
delightful, the principle is rendered a little
obvious from the regularity of its occurrence.
The second movement is specially noticeable as
reaching the strongest pitch of sentiment as yet
shown in an orchestral slow movement. In the
earliest symphonies these movements were nearly
always remarkably short, and scored for fewer
instruments than the first and last. Frequently
they were little better than 'intermezzi,' attached
on both sides to the more important allegros.
Even Mozart's and Haydn's latest examples had
more grace and sweetness than deep feeling, and
frequently showed a tendency to formalism in the
expression of the ideas and in the ways in which
the ornamental jforituri were introduced. In
the Eroica the name ' Marcia funebre ' at once
defines the object ; and though the form of a
march is to a certain extent maintained, it is
obvious that it is of secondary importance, since
the attention is more drawn to the rich and noble
expression of the finest feelings of humanity over
the poetically imagined death of one of the world's
heroes, than to the traditional march form. The
music seems in fact to take almost the definite-
nets of speech of the highest order; or rather, to
express the emotions which belong to the im-
agined situation with more fulness and compre-
hensiveness, but with scarcely less definiteness,
than speech could achieve. In the third move-
ment appears the first of Beethoven's large or-
chestral scherzos. Any connection between it



Online LibraryJohn Alexander Fuller-Maitland Sir George GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) → online text (page 6 of 194)