Oskar Bie.

A history of the pianoforte and pianoforte players; online

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minor movement of the A major sonata (No. IV. in Kenner und
Liebhaber, vol. i). In all these points he manifests his indepen-
dence ; and in spite of his study of the French^ it is but seldom
that, as in the "Siciliana" of one of his sonatas in the " Musikal-
isches AUerley," we catch an echo of a phrase from Couperin.

Like all the "galants," he wrote much. A considerable
number of his works were printed in his own time in the maga-
zines or separately. Among these the sonatas to Frederick the



Philip Emanuel 145

Great to Charles Eugene of Wurttemberg, to Amalie of Prussia,
and the " Kenner und Liebhaber," take the first place. But
yet more remained unprinted. Prosniz has counted four hundred
and twenty of his clavier pieces, of which two hundred and fifty
were printed. There is no modern comprehensive edition of his
works, but the " Kenner und Liebhaber " has been very beauti-
fully reissued by Krebs in the Berlin Academy collection of
original editions. Apart from the first volume these are written
exclusively for pianoforte.

The name of Philip Emanuel generally rises to our lips
when we speak of the origins of the modern forms of chamber-
music and symphony. This is correct enough if we are content
to establish his claims as an agent in the crystallisation of the
two main forms of classical composition — the Sonata and the
Rondo. But the creator of these forms he was not ; he found
them very far advanced in France and Italy, and on the other
hand he handles them so freely that their regulation cannot be
said to have been completed till the days of Haydn and Mozart.
Thus he is in these points also but an intermediary.

The strict sonata introduces first a main subject, then in
an allied key an allied subject ; next the middle section ^ in
which these subjects are developed and completed ; and lastly
it repeats the exposition, transposing the subordinate subject,
however, with a view to the finale, into the main key.

In the Rondo, on the contrary, there is one main theme and
many subordinate motives. The main theme is chiefly melodious ;
the by-themes alternate in all kinds of forms among the repeti-
tions of the melodic strophe.

To the Sonata and the Rondo all older dance and fantasia
forms gradually gravitated. The Sonata is the more dramatic,
the Rondo the more lyrical. The Rondo, considered as to logical
content, is the more organic ; but advance and climax are wanting

^Various names have been used for this "middle section "of the "sonata form,"
e.g. — "Development," "Fantasia," "Free part," " Diirchfiihrung, carrying through,"
"Working-out."

K



146



The ^'Galant" School



to it. The Sonata on the other hand, is, because of its reprises,
less intellectual than architectural ; but it has the sobriety of
greatness. Usually, in thinking of the forms of this musical age,




Mary Coswey with the Orphica, a portable clavier, which at
the beginning of this century had a certain vogue.

our thoughts dwell on the Sonata — in which form as a rule the
first movement was cast. But the Rondo was equally important, and
is equally often used in the second or last movement. Purer dance-
forms were always in use as intermezzos between the movements.
In Philip Emanuel, then, we see a preference for the types



Philip Emanuel 147



of the sonata and the rondo which prepares the way for their
sole supremacy. He only needed to proceed eclectically. Not
only the French Rondo but the Italian Sonata had led to the
reprise form. Philip Emanuel did not advance far beyond these
models. A second theme is not universal in his works ; and
only the modulation of the keys within the first half, to the
dominant or relative major, is strongly stamped on them. The
Sonata movement with him still admits of all tempi. In the
third of the " Kenner und Liebhaber " Sonatas the peculiar sonata-
form is not on the whole adhered to, but allegretto, andante,
cantabile, follow each other in free fashion. On the other hand,
in the following piece, the first and the last movements both
show the sonata-form ; but in the first of the " Wiirttembergers "
only the last movement has the stricter sonata-style. The third
sonata of Volume II. of the "Kenner und Liebhaber" is actually
written in a single movement. On the other hand the second
Wurttemberger begins with a genuine sonata with double subject ;
and in the Kenner und Liebhaber, Vol. III. No. 2, the type
of the modern sonata appears in full development. We see
then from these examples that while Philip Emanuel uses the
reprise of the first part almost universally, he is yet far removed
from the classical model of the sonata. In a word, we shall
find in him nothing that is not already to be found in Rameau,
Scarlatti, or above all, his great father.

The Rondo was more in accordance with his genius. Here,
where he had fully developed French models, it cannot be denied
that with all his freedom in detail he has brought the form appreci-
ably nearer to the classic type. Even Beethoven was often unable
to improve on his alternations of intermediate movements, or the
grace with which he returns to the air and makes his theme gently
rock to and fro. He loves those simple popular rondo airs, which,
as we listen, we all seem to have heard before. As couplets ^ he

1 The word " couplet " is here used as in Couperin, and other old French composers.
It means the subsidiary themes or sections which alternate with the main subject in these
ancient rondos. Call the main theme A, the subsidiary ones B, C, D, etc. Then the course
of the movement is — A, B, A, C, A, D, A, etc., and B, C, D, etc., are called "couplets."



148 The "Galant" School

prefers to use technically brilliant figures, which in their turn offer
a good contrast to the air. He is untiring in toying with the
theme. He makes it now break off in the middle, now become
sentimental; now it becomes questioning. As time goes on he
develops his whole power of expression, so that he is far removed
from a stiff alternation of theme with couplet. In a fantasia (K.
and L. v. ; last piece), which is perhaps his most charming com-
position, he blends the rondo-form most skilfully with the free
style of an improvisation, and thus shows himself on his best side.
Hardly less delightful is the last piece in Volume VI., a Fantasia-
Rondo whose main theme is a kind of hunting-call. In this
movement the hunt is interrupted by a beautiful romantic andante,
then by emotional reveries in larghetto sostenuto, and in the con-
clusion the reflective style gains the upper hand.

The Rondo was so attractive to him because by its means he
was able the more easily to bring his beloved " affettuoso " into
expression. And his inner genius was not so much formal as
lyrical. In his music there is even to-day a strong spiritual charm,
to which the slight archaism adds a pleasant flavour. In his
Rondos he comes very near to us, and not less in those little
characteristic pieces which, written in dance-form, followed French
models in the very style of the inscriptions. He uses for titles
proper names, such as Hermann, Buchholz, Bohmer, Stahl ; and
such more general appellations as La Xenophone, La Sibylle,
La Complaisante, La Capricieuse, L'Irresolue, La Journaliere,
and Les Langueurs Tendres — names, it will be remembered, used
also by Couperin. La Sibylle has a wonderfully beautiful melody;
and Les Langueurs Tendres is such an unsurpassable air in two
mournful voices, that it bears endless repetition. Nothing has
ever been written to surpass this tender clavichord-sadness.

The great counterpoint of Bach is now forgotten with ex-
traordinary rapidity. The ancestor of the following generation is
Philip Emanuel. Wherever we look, to the London Bach, Johann
Christian, to the Austrians — anywhere — we find the work influenced
by his style. " He is the father and we the boys," said Mozart.




Joseph Haydn.
Engraved by Quenedey.



Haydn 149

Haydn knew well what he owed to Philip Emanuel, and was
as little chary to acknowledge it as Mozart In actual essentials
liaydn made no advance in clavier-music. The stream is perhaps
a little clouded, and it is not till Mozart's time that it again
becomes clear. Haydn's genius lay in composing for the
orchestra, not for the piano. He has of course written clavier
sonatas — they number thirty-five — and other pieces in which the
clavier takes part ; as numerous and light as the works of all
these " galant " musicians. But his trios are to be preferred to
the sonatas for piano only ; there is more depth in them ; and
the ideas are lit up more brightly by the instrumental combina-
tion. Only in the sonatas after 1790, as in the first in E flat
major (Br, and H.) does something more noteworthy emerge —
but by that time Haydn had studied Mozart.

Still further, in his pieces, Haydn is no great virtuoso. In his
Trios he knows well how to make the most of the character of the
clavier, by contrasting it with the strings, by means of arpeggios,
all kinds of passages, full chbrds, and the beloved octave-melodies.
But a more interesting virtuoso performance, such as that in the
F minor variations, appears very rarely. The ornamental work
is still extensive, but within limits ; and much of it is written
out in full, just as the cadenzas, which used to appear in small
notes, are now preferably printed in the usual type. At the end
of the century everything was taken away from the caprice of
the player, except the great cadenzas at the conclusion of the
concerto-movements. Philip Emanuel had taken a last important
step, when, in his Sonata dedicated to the Prussian Princess
Amalie, he wrote out exactly for the second time the ornamenta-
tions and alterations in the frequent repetitions of musical phrases
of a few bars, instead of leaving them to the pleasure of the
players. To judge by his preface, caprice in these matters must
have flourished like a green bay-tree ; and he takes great credit to
himself for having been the first to offer accurately formulated
" alternative reprisesl^ which run no risk of spoiling the whole aim
and meaning of the piece. His point of view is interesting. It



150 The **GaIant" School

is, he says, not possible to avoid altering a musical phrase in
repeating it. This conception is endorsed by all his contem-
poraries and successors in style, in their works : Haydn and
Mozart cannot be conceived apart from this mannerism of altering
a musical idea in repetition by slight turns and adornments. This
method is the fixed law of movement of their musical ideas, and
dictates their progress through long stretches in advance. Deep
founded in the general delight in variation so characteristic of the
time, it enables us to understand that great development which
forms a whole branch of musical history — the development,
namely, of improvised "manieren" into strict and firm melodies.

As far zs, form is concerned, the work already begun is con-
tinued by Haydn. The Sonata-form tends to limit itself more
and more to the first movement ; more and more clearly does the
"second theme" crystallise itself; slow-drawn movements are
preferred more and more in the second place, and graceful rondo-
like movements in the third — without, however, any appearance
of compulsion. The only relic of the traditional "suite" of
dances, which Haydn retains in his sonatas or symphonies, is
the "Minuet" which he is so fond of using as an intermezzo.^
The old dance-forms, as dances, were so speedily forgotten, that
in a certain trio a delicate slow waltz is marked as " allemande " —
• whereas the old allemande is not even written in the time of a
waltz, apart from the difference in style.^

Haydn received more from the clavier than he gave to it.
He transferred to the orchestra the clavier-forms of the time, and
thus pointed out to it the path to the symphony. Without doubt
the modern symphony, in the first instance, is to be traced to the
clavier pieces of Philip Emanuel Bach ; and Haydn, to whom
fell the task of the intermediary, was the first to put the rich
development of this chamber-music to practical use. Clavier and
orchestra always advance in mutual rivalry, treading on each

^ See for instance, Haydn's earliest string quartets, where he commonly has two
minuets, one on each side of the " slow" movement.

2 Does not " allemande " here simply mean " German " waltz?




W. A. Mozart.
Engraved in 1793 by C. Kohl (1754- 1807).



Mozart 1 5 i



other's heels. In Haydn it was the clavier that aided the
orchestra; in Beethoven the orchestra aided the clavier; Mozart,
standing between, gives to each its own.

Thus it is that Mozart has given much, and much of its
special character, to the clavier. This equilibrium — and Mozart
is always the very personification of equilibrium — is most striking
in his piano-concertos, which justly enjoy the renown of having
created an epoch in this class. Especially remarkable is the
C minor concerto, in which the piano experienced one of its
chief emancipations. On one side stood the orchestra, on the
other the instrument, and yet neither of these two great rivals
loses anything of its essential nature; rather, they owe to this
very rivalry many of their best effects. When clavier and
orchestra address and answer each other ; when the clavier
intertwines itself with the strings and the wood, and they in
turn blend with the clavier ; when in the running strife each
sounds in its own style and gives birth to a natural variation
of phrases and to delicate alterations of the constituent forms ;
all proceeds in accordance with that self-evident logic which, at
such critical points in artistic history, naturally dispenses with
internal laws.

Mozart is the great virtuoso who, even as a boy, was the
astonishment of Europe. It is not to be expected that he
should content himself with the intimate reflectiveness of the
pianoforte ; he drags it out into the great world ; he needs the
concerto-form just as he needs great concert halls. The new
pianoforte, with its fuller and more subtly expressive tones, is
precisely adapted to his aims, and he is the first to launch the
pianoforte on its decisive career. With his triumphal progresses
the popularity of the new instrument was not likely to decline.
The great enchanter leaves the tiny victories of the spinet far
behind ; his public recitals in hired halls, which henceforward
become more and more popular, demand new feats. He has to
work on bold lines ; he has to bring into use the special features
of the instrument he adopted ; the rippling scale-passage, the



152 The "Galant" School

variety of tone, the forte, the pianissimo, the hundred gradations
between these extremes, the altogether new possibilities of senti-
mental expression which were now at the disposal of the public
performer. But amid all the intoxication of the concert hall, the
virtuoso remains an artist ; the idol of the hour retains his deeper
feeling. As he was only truly himself when, after the furore of
publicity, he touched the notes in solitude or before a few friends,
so in his concertos, behind the external glitter, a romantic soul lies
hidden. In the beautiful Romance in the D minor Concerto, for
example, the soul looks out on us with a wonderful and never-to-
be-forgotten intensity.

In almost all his pieces Mozart composes according to the
bidding of the moment. He is an " occasional '" composer. In
the concertos the occasion was his own appearance on the
stage. In the duets and double pianoforte pieces he found the
occasion in his association with his sister. From this species of
performance he drew new effects. The D major sonata for two
pianos stands alone in the skilful and effective blending of the
two instruments. His four-handed sonatas are astonishingly
successful in the individualisation of the hands, and started a
numerous class of clavier-pieces which have been too often mis-
used. We shall not appreciate such duets, if we take the clavier
as a diminutive orchestra.^ But here again Mozart has been
unwilling utterly to sacrifice combined effects to individual
demands.

Through the ravishing chamber-music in which, especially
in the quintett for oboe, clarinet, horn, fagotto and pianoforte^
the splendid treatment of the pianoforte with regard to the
wind deserves notice ; through all the melodious pieces for piano
and violin, the trios, the quartetts ; to the numerous smaller
clavier-pieces, the fashionable variations, the relics of the suites,

^ It is a great pity, and a great loss in every way, tliat the careful artistic playing
of duets on one pianoforte has largely ceased. What Moscheles and Mendelssohn were
not ashamed to do in public, surely is not an unworthy employment. It should be
revived, if only to popularise Schubert's beautiful works for four hands, the widespread
ignorance of which is a simple disgrace to us all.



'^''^^ ^•.-^" - ^^^




Beginning of Mozart's A minor Sonata. Royal Musikbibliothek, Berlin.



*S3



154 The "Galant" School

the scattered fugues, the fantasies so rich in variety ; we follow
Mozart to the eighteen pure piano sonatas, which are the very-
miniature mirror of his unfailing musical invention. We shall
treat them in chronological order, for here for the first time we
perceive a distinct development which renders such treatment
the most natural and advantageous.

At first we meet the daring harmonies and enharmonic
changes by which every innovator makes himself notorious, and
which draw on him the first severe criticisms. But there is not
yet the concentration of later works. A light counterpoint runs
through the whole, a conscientious trea,tment of the themes,
which bears witness to sound training. A striking feature is
the unforced inventiveness in motives, which succeed one another
in unfailing profusion. Intellectual themes, as for example in
the B flat major, remind us of Philip Emanuel. The form
becomes more distinct, the rules of sonata-arrangement more
rigid. But it is not till we reach the A minor (1778) that the
full brilliancy of form is seen. This piece has all that wonderful
proportion and balance even in the smallest parts, which was, and
remained, Mozart's most peculiar characteristic. Proportion in the
well-balanced opposition of themes in all three divisions, in the
liveliness of the piquant semiquaver runs, which already leave
Scarlatti far behind, in the brilliant and yet simple execution of
the last movement — proportion, indeed, is everywhere.

After 1778 our impressions deepen. The D major is the
creation of Mozart's indestructible caprice. The motives become
ever more tuneful, more speaking: in the C major we hear the
phrases as though sung; we seem to hear words with pauses
for breath, as from a distant exquisite opera. The melodies
run after each other, and — what is so typical a feature of Mozart
— it is by this that our attention is held rather than by any inner
development of the themes.

The A major sonata is an excellent example of this melodic
regularity. Its contours are of an unimagined loveliness, and
its airs of a magic delicacy. The Turkish March stands out in



Tf^fTJ^^.




Mozart at the age of seven, with his Father and Sister.
Engraved 1764, by J, B. Delafosse (b. 1721) after L. C. de Carmontelle (? about 1790).



Mozart 155

variegated national colours, far removed from every triviality —
if only we give to the Janissary rhythm its full due.

The airs become broader, the piquancies more daring, until
the allegretto of the B flat major with its jubilant sevenths
stands before us as a new peak of Philip Emanuel's Rondo forms.
Here is that bright laughter, which from Mozart's lips has the
most delightful of sounds.

This was in 1779. In 1784 Mozart has entered upon the
second half of his life, the unhappy half, and the C minor sonata
appears. New tones now strike upon our ear, harsh, strong,
broad, intense. But all is still in proportion. The hand is
freer, rushing more boldly from the heights of the piano to its
depths ; bolder also are the episodes which are the pivots of the
thoughts. In all is the sweet intoxication in the bewildering sound
of the pianoforte, and the air so full of soul, growing richer in
retardations, and more and more taking the lines which Mozart
decisively fixed for the beautifully-formed melody. A strange
reserve, the reserve of maturity, characterises the last movement,
otherwise so flowing; its expressive raggedness forbodes new things,
the victory of matter over form — in a word, Beethoven ; and then,
in this period of Figaro and Don Giovanni, we meet the F major,
the most sombre in content of all his writings (1788). With its
two movements we are accustomed, not improperly, to connect
the, Rondo written in 1786. Counterpoint has slowly advanced to
its old position — the sign of the mature man, who is seeking his
fixed abode. This it is which stiffens the weft into what at times
is a solidity worthy of Bach. The dominion over the world of
tone is now absolute, the melodies sing heavenward, as for
example in the theme of this andante, which came spontaneously
from his soul.

We have reached the limit of the " galant," over whose fields
dark clouds are already gathering. But we are also at its highest
point. In Mozart the ideal of popular music was more fully
realised than its father, Philip Emanuel, could ever have dreamed.
Mozart's well-balanced nature preserved the clavier from super-



56



The " Galant " School



ficiality ; and he himself was saved by an early death from
sacrificing this balance to the sombre thought of a new time.
His sense for form brought the sonata into more typical shape,
but the endless melody and the free intelligence of his music took
all sharpness from the forms. No music can be less easily
described in words than his ; and therefore, as a great beautiful
sound, it was the best content which the forms of the galant
popular epoch could find. It is not till we have left youth behind
that we see proportion and equilibrium in this repose; and it is
then, as Otto Jahn says, that we are amazed at the wonderful
wealth of this art and at ourselves for being so slow to feel it.




Upright Hammer-clavier (pianoforte), about 1800, called the " Giraffe." Mahogany

and bronze, with open work in green moir6. Three pedals, forte, piano, and

"fagotto." By Joseph Wachtl, Vienna. De Wit collection.




Beethoven at age of 31.



Beethoven



When a great scheme was started in Berlin for a common
monument to Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, it was plain to
see that the artists felt themselves in the presence of a very
mixed task ; but it was not so clear where the incongruity lay.
They stood under the influence of the popular opinion, which
binds these three heroes under a single yoke, and they were
the victims of this influence. Nations have an instinct of
symmetry in the classification of their great men. The ancients

XS7



158



Beethoven



had their seven sages ; to-day we are content with two or three ;
but even so the combinations are none the less strained. The
false ideas due to the pairing of Bach and Handel, or of Goethe
and Schiller, are hardly to be numbered. The triumvirate of
Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, is the very acme of perversity.
Haydn and Mozart, though two fundamentally different natures,
have yet in common the similar features of the age. But Beet-
hoven is as little like them as Goethe is like Racine. We have
only to glance round a salon in the Vienna of the last century.
The old Haydn and the old Salieri sit smiling and friendly on a
sofa ; they move in the stilted fashion of the eighteenth century ;
they retain in their carriage all the features of the " Zopf und
Schopf"^ period ; and in every judgment, in every gesture, they
show their antagonism to unrestrained emotion. Over against
them a young man is leaning on the piano. His demeanour is
modish though untidy, and smacks of the Rhine ; his movements
natural but wooden ; his hair is loose and disordered ; his com-
pliments are few ; he accepts strangers only on compulsion ; his
playing is perhaps too vigorous, too full of feeling ; and the ideas
which he incorporates in his works are in their originality half
revolutionary, half romantic. This new-comer is Beethoven, a
man so different from the settled type, from the old "composers
of the Empire," as he himself calls them, that it is easy to an-
ticipate the future which he himself is conjuring up. He is the
first of the Titans, the first of the great fragmentary natures, the
first tone-artist who breaks the forms of music to pieces on the


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Online LibraryOskar BieA history of the pianoforte and pianoforte players; → online text (page 13 of 27)