Music is the science of combining tones in melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic order, so as to excite the emotions or appeal to the intellect. For untold ages it was purely emotional. With its development as a science, in the Middle Ages, it appealed almost entirely to the intellect, this species of music culminating shortly before 16oo. At the present time that music is considered best which appeals both to mind and emotion. It is the combination and equipoise of these two factors which causes Beethoven to be considered one of the chief masters, and the music of Wagner, with all its intensity of passion, to appeal to the mental processes by its peculiar treatment of Leit-motiven.
Spencer and Huxley suggest imitations of nature (bird-songs, etc.) as a possible commencement of emotional music. Palæolithic man had his music, even instrumental music, as may be deduced from a primitive flute of reindeer's horn, found in a cave which was inhabited during the Stone Age. Many pre-historic horns of metal have been unearthed among the relics of the Bronze Age.
From two or three notes the scale grew in to various intricate and widely differing forms. The five-toned (pentatonic) scale is the most primitive now in use among civilized nations. It was chiefly employed by the Chinese, even 4,0o0 years ago, but is also used in some hymns ('There is a Happy Land') and in many Scottish songs, such as 'Ye Banks and Braes,' or 'Auld Lang Syne'.
About 600 B.C. Pythagoras (see PYTHAGOAS) established the proportions of the intervals, and Music, always an artificial and a human product, was given a natural foundation. (See MODE; INTERVAL.) It may be doubted whether harmony existed at all in the ancient world. It is absolutely certain that the Chinese, who were well advanced in the art in ancient days, and who formulated many acoustical principles before the time of Pythagoras, used melody without supporting harmonies. It is possible that the Greeks had a crude accompaniment of drone bass to some of their songs. The Scriptural music, loud and ecstatic, and of an improvisational character, is a blind alley and does not lead to modern development of any kind. The music of both the old and new Testaments was orally transmitted and is not to be traced. Ancient Rome copied the Greek music but without fully understanding it. Rome conquered Greece but could not assimilate its culture, and in the first centuries of our era the musical art was retrogressing. The influence of the Christian Church stayed the decadence and gave a new direction to the art. Ambrose (about 340-398) and Gregory (540-604), stemmed the tide of decay and rescued some part of the ancient systems or modes. The power of music in the early Christian ritual is not only shown by the praises of the Fathers of the Church, but by the fact that the Emperor Julian in 361 endeavored to found a musical conservatory in Alexandria to educate boys to sing in the pagan rites as his adversaries were singing in the Christian churches. The Roman influence now extended the Gregorian chants all over the civilized world. Boethius (475-524) had written a treatise on the Roman system which became the misty text-book of the earliest days (See BOETHIUS). In 790 Pope Adrian sent singing teachers into France with missals illustrating the Gregorian modes. An antiphonarium was left at St. Gallen which still exists and proves the earnestness of the musical mission. The music of this early period, however, is still very vague to us, since no practical notation existed. The musicians of this epoch sometimes employed alphabetical letters as notes (which could be deciphered) but more frequently a system of lines, curves, dots and dashes, called the Neumes, which were only to aid the memory of one who had learned the song orally, but meant nothing definite to anyone who had not thus studied it.
A step forward was made by a monk named Hucbald, in St. Amands, who improved the notation somewhat by using a staff (it is very doubtful if he invented it) and by writing certain rules regarding the union of different parts in music simultaneously. The reform seems, at first, to be a very great one, meaning nothing less than the birth of part-music, the evolution of a new science; but, when one knows that these parts were simply consecutive fifths or fourths, or other equally harsh progressions, one can only marvel that the men of the middle ages bore it so patiently. The new system was called the Organum, since it was often played upon the great wind instrument which had disappeared when Rome went down, and reappeared in Europe in the reigns of King Pepin and the Emperor Charlemagne.
A much greater reformer than Hucbald came upon the scene about 1000 A.D. Guido an excellent monk of Arezzo, founded the system of sight-reading, by establishing a vocal scale on the syllables still in use. He noticed that the hymn to St. John (patron saint of singers) rose step by step from C to the following words,
- (C) UT queant laxis,
- (D) REsonre fibris,
- (E) MIra gestorum
- (F) FAmuli tuorum.
- (G) SOLve polluti
- (A) LAbii reatum,
- Sancte Johannes.
causing his choir-boys to memorize the syllables from the melody of their chief hymn, he soon taught them intervals by this simple means, and his treatise "De ignoto cantu" was the first practical mode of singing "an unknown song" (that is, a song unknown before to the singer), in short, the birth of sight-singing. It must be confessed, however, that Guido's claims to this tremendous discovery have been contested, and that every point connected with the rise of the science of music is more or less wrapped in vagueness and doubt.
We come to somewhat firmer ground a little later when notes of definite length are introduced. Franco of Cologne may be credited with the first clear treatise upon such a system (he calls it "Ars Cantus Mensurabilis") in the first half of the 13th century.
And now there came a recession from the evil-sounding fourths and fifths that had existed in the 10th century, and from some equally harsh progressions that -were countenanced long after this. The troubadours in France and the minnesingers in Germany had brought forth secular music that broke many of the old rules yet sounded infinitely better than the more "regular" music. The musical canons of the ecclesiastics began to broaden. Marchettus of Padua and Jean de Muris, both in the middle of the 14th century, began to urge new progressions, and the consecutive fifths were tabooed, only to reappear copiously in the most modern works of the 20th century.
It will be impossible in an outline sketch to give all the attempts that were made in evolving the new science, from the 11th to the 14th centuries. Suffice it to say that out of these efforts there grew the first real school of compositlon, and instead of its having birth in Rome, it was born in the Netherlands and in Flanders. Yet the Flemish school at once gave its services to the Church, and many of its greatest representatives in its earliest stages went to Rome as servants of the Catholic cause. The Flemish School may be called the true beginning of the science of music, since now, for the first time, a race of composers existed who worked according to definite rules in the production of intricate counterpoint, and were able to impart their knowledge to their pupils. William Dufay was the first of this line of composers. His epoch is mistakenly given in many histories as falling in the 14th century, but the researches of F. X. Haberl have proved that he was born shortly after 1400. He died 27 Nov. 1474. The chief of his contemporaries were Hobrecht, Eloy, Brasart and Binchois, who have, however, left little more than their names, and even of Dufay very little music is extant.
The first great teacher of the school was John Ockeghem, or Ockenheim (about 1430-1503), and among his pupils was the first great contrapuntist of that time, practically the first great composer that the world had ever possessed,—Josquin Des Pres,—whose music Martin Luther delighted in. Des Pres was born about 1440 and died either in 1515 or 1521. Other pupils of Ockeghem were De la Rue, Brumel and Agricola. All the music of the foregoing composers was purely intellectual, but with Des Pres we find the first glimmerings of emotion mingled with the musical mathematics, and he taught that dissonances could be used to express passionate feeling.
The greatest figure in the Flemish school, however, is Orlando Di Lasso (1520-94), who composed works which are beautiful even to modern ears. The Flemish school ended with this culmination. It had existed about two centuries and in that time it had brought forth the science of composition and some 300 composers.
There was, however, another country which helped greatly in this result. The first musical dictionary ever written, by John Tinctor (1476), gives the credit of the invention of counterpoint to the English, and a manuscript of a canon for six voices, in the British Museum, would seem to show that there were very skilful composers in England as early as the 13th century. This canon ("Sumer is icumen in") ascribed by some to John of Reading, in 1250, by others to a much earlier date, is a surprisingly advanced work for its epoch. A mysterious figure looms up as an English contemporary of Dufay, in John Dunstable, but of the music of this Englishman (who died about 1458) very little is known, only a few fragments remaining.
Contemporaneous with the later Flemish writers one finds a few Italian composers forming a school of their own. The first of the old Italian school was Costanza Festa, a Florentine, who died in 1545. But the one great master in this field was Palestrina (born probably in 1524 — there is much doubt about the date of birth,— and died 1594), who was without doubt the greatest composer up to that time. He combined the Flemish ingenuity with a lofty dignity and sometimes (as in his 'Improperia') with emotional power.
The year 1594 was an epoch year in music. The Flemish school ended in that year, with Di Lasso's death; the Italian school 1ost its chief master in Palestrina; a revulsion against the intellectuality of music took place,— and the first opera was written.
We pause here, therefore, to sum up a few other points in musical evolution that had preceded this important date.
Although the chief scientific music of the world had been ecclesiastical up to this point, the troubadours in France, and the minnesingers in Germany, had turned the attention of cultured minds to the beauties of secular singing. Instrumental music was as yet a Cinderella among the arts. The strolling jongleurs and wandering minstrels amused the people, and sometimes the nobility, with displays of skill upon various instruments, combined with juggling tricks. They were generally under the ban of the law and led a very precarious existence.
One of the trouvères of France,— Adam de la Halle,—in the latter half of the 13th century, had written a musical play, entitled 'Robin et Marion,' which was the precursor of light opera, It is the earliest popular work of which we have any record, but it was written by ear, and not by any teachable rules. Venice, partly through the efforts of Flemiugs, partly through Italian influence, had become a centre of organ-playing. Adrian Willaert (1480-1562), a Fleming, had become organist of St. Mark's in Venice and drew many pupils thither, among them Di Rore, Zarlino, and Andrea Gabrieli. The last-named taught his nephew, Giovanni Gabrieli, who became one of the noblest composers of the Venetian school. He was born in 1557 and died in I613. Zarlino taught many German pupils, and through the Venetian school of organ-playing, Germany for the first time came in close musical touch with Italy. Zarlino taught Scheidt, Praetorius and Schiedemann, while the eider Gabrieli had Hans Leo Hassler as a pupil. Zarlino and Willaert were the first to agitate for a tempering of the musical scale (see TEMPERANENT), bnt its establishment came much later through the wisdom of Bach.
Claudio Merulo (1533-1604) established the organ toccata, probably the earliest form of technical instrumental display in the modern sense. One other form of scientific secular music had arisen, thanks to the Netherlanders; the madrigal, an unaccompanied vocal composition displaying the most intricate counterpoint had come into vogue, and Willaert and Di Lasso had achieved triumphs in this school. Luca Marenzio (1556-99) had also done good work in this field. But the most charming madrigal composers were to be found in England, where this style of singing met with especial favor. It is customary to vaunt the glory of the Elizabethan poets, but if the tremendous name of Shakespeare be eliminated, the excellence of the contrapuntists at this time rivals that of their literary brethren. Tallis, Weelkes, Wilbye, Morley, Farrant, Byrd, Bull, Ford, etc., may well be cited as balancing Beaumont, Fletcher, Massinger, Marlowe, Jonson etc.
Music-printing (see PRINTING) had also been established, in 1502, by Petrucci of Fossombrone, and caused the compositions of all those men to spread from country to country with great rapidity.
The change from the old school of pure counterpoint to a more emotional style, from intricate choral works to solos both vocal and instrumental, had its first practical demonstration in 1594 (some place the date two years later), by the composition and performance of first opera, entitled 'Daphne.' The work was the outcome of the efforts of a coterie of cultivated amateurs who began their meetings in Florence, and endeavored to bring into music something of what they supposed it to have possessed in ancient Greece. The men who were active in this movement, which caused the renascence of music, were Giovanni Bardi (Count Vernio), Vincenzo Galilei, Strozzi, Mei, Rinuccini, Caccini, and Peri. Their first opera met with great success, but their second,—'Euridice'—was an epoch-making work, since it contained in embryo an entirely new mode of musical treatment. Counterpoint was replaced by monody, and recitative allowed musical declamation to take the place of intricate tonal construction. The libretto was the work of Rinuccini, while the music was written by Peri and Caccini in two versions, that of the former being the better.
The new school spread quickly to all countries, only in France its progress was checked by the power of Lulli, who devoted himself chiefly to ballet-music. The latter was largely introduced into Molière's plays and obtained the favor of Louis XIV., who sometimes appeared himself in the dances.
The opera was not the only form of the period of phenomenal musical activity which marked the closing of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th. The oratorio also had its beginning in this wonderful era. Filippo Neri (1515-95), who has since been canonized by the church, was an enthusiast in the matter of good church music and at his church in Rome he frequently had spiritual meetings, apart from the regular services, in which he portrayed Scriptural subjects in the shape of musical plays. His friend Palestrina often assisted in this pious work, and may have had a hand in the development of the great sacred form. As these entertainment did not take place in the body of the church, but in the Oratory (Oratorio), the origin of the name of this form will readily be seen.
But the real establishment of the form came with Emilio del Cavaliere (1550-98), who wrote a large work in the new style, entitled 'L'Anima e Corpo.' This was first performed in 1600, probably in the church where Neri had labored, and was given upon a stage, with costume and action, exactly as if it were an opera. Although both Neri and Cavaliere were dead, such minute directions were left regarding the mode of presenting the work that one may presume that the intentions of the composer were thoroughly carried out. This first oratorio was so entirely in the new school of monody and declamation that one may doubt as to whether the establishment of opera is not in a large degree to be credited to Del Cavaliere.
Besides the opera and oratorio, instrumental forms were established at this time as well. Dancing is the mother of instrumental form. The dances of Spain had gradually made their way into France and exerted a strong influence upon classical music. In an effort to obtain contrasts several of these were joined together in one large composition, which was at first called a partita, but afterward became a suite.
Free instrumental forms also sprang from the organ toccatas already alluded to. Frescobaldi (1588-1653) was to Rome what Willaert had been to Venice half a century before. Frescobaldi has been called the father of true organ-playing. He improved the toccata and called it sonata (a sounding-piece,— that is, an instrumental piece), to distinguish it from the cantata,— the singing piece. Corelli (1653-1713) gave to the old sonata a form, which, although much less important than the later, classical shape, had yet within itself the elements of the noble form. Its first movement was a large three-division shape, exposition, development and recapitulation; and this led to the Sonata-Allegro, the first movement-form of the classical symphonies and sonatas, the form of many noble overtures.
Amid all these remarkable advances the fugue remained rigid and lifeless, a survival of the old intellectual problem-music. As yet the fugue was little more than a canon, a continuous imitation of a given melody. It waited its liberator — Bach.
During the century which followed we find Italy combining contrapuntal skill with the less educated enthusiasm which marked the early operas, and such men as Monteverde (1568-1643) and eventually Alessandro Scarlatti (1659-1725) make of the new school something far better than its founders had dreamed of. Stradella, Carissimi, Lotti, and Rossi added to the advance of the great new school which was to cause Italy to be just called the "Mother of Music." The school was established in England too by Henry Purcell (1658-95), who even introduced the Italian musical signs and expression-marks into his native country. Purcell, who was the greatest musical genius that England ever produced, founded his own English operas upon the Italian models, but his works had characteristics entirely their own and extend all the way from the melody of 'Lilliburlero' (the revolutionary song of 1688) to the loftiest anthems and brightest operas.
In France the great Lulli (1633-87) was bringing forth the most dainty and graceful ballets. In Germany Reinhard Keiser (1673-1739) began the 18th century by endeavoring to form a German school of opera, but the Italian operas soon resumed their sway.
In Germany, also, the effect of the numerous students who had gone down to Venice in the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th, was beginning to make itself felt. Luther's influence had established the chorale as a sturdy root whence much sacred music was to grow. Perhaps the three men who most helped the growth of Germany's sacred music in its earliest post-Lutheran stages were the "three Ss,"— Schutz (1585-1672), Scheidt (1587-1654), and Schein (1586-1630), who not only helped Italian music in the Fatherland, but elevated the style of organ-playing far above anything that Italy had done. Musical settings of the Passion began to appear in Germany, and the oratorio took a nobler path than in Italy, even before the appearance of Bach and Handel. To Germany also was due the new arrangement of part music, which took the melody out of the tenor voice, where it had always been in the Flemish and old Italian music, and placed it in the soprano, a change due to the chorale-singing of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Out of the great musical epoch at the beginning of the 17th century there came also a radical change of notation. The notation of Franco of Cologne had been improved by the invention of many additional rhythms and the employment of smaller notes. In the music of Palestrina and of Orlando di Lasso, that is to say up to 1594, one finds some half-dozen tonalities (keys) employed, and notes and rests down to 16ths. But one does not yet discover a rational division of music into measures. This great advance came shortly after 16oo, with the new monody, the declamatory music of the early operas, and with this came also. for the first time, the use of terms of tempo and of expression. Even the grouping of notes was invented in the latter part of the 17th century, so that this epoch saw the establishment of the greater part of our present notation system. Music of the better class, printed after 1700, is without any very important difference from that printed to-day.
And now the procession of the tone-masters who are prized by the modern world begins. Bach (1685-1750) and Handel (1685-1759) were so exactly contemporaneous that many speak of them as if they had been the Siamese twins of music. Yet their influence was very divergent. Bach leaned toward the old school of pure counterpoint; Handel was impelled toward modern dramatic effects. They faced different ways. Handel led toward orchestral experiments and was more directly melodic than Bach. We owe to him the noblest form of oratorio, which, by the way, he did not attempt seriously until past his fiftieth year.
To Bach we owe debts far more varied and even greater. He reconciled the old diatonic style of composition with the newer more modulatory school; by his great organ works and his clavichord fugues he founded modern technique; he was the father of the best school of organ-playing; he composed the greatest mass (that in B minor) which the world possesses, and also the noblest Passion music; and he was absolutely the inventor of freedom of modulation. Before his time, by what was called "mean temperament," it was possible to modulate into some three or four major and minor keys. Bach in 1722 gave to the world the first book of his "Well-tempercd Clavichord," the composer's declaration of independence—"We hold that all keys are created free and equal!" (See Temperament) In 1740 he wrote the second book, riveting the great reform.
Opera in the meantime had lost its opening splendor. Intoxicated by the success of the new style of music the composers began to believe that poetry was a secondary matter in the wedding of the arts, and in allowing their music to pursue an independent path all dramatic purport was soon lost. A reformer was needed and he soon came. Gluck (1714-87) began a crusade against the meaningless character of many of the beautiful melodies of the Italian Opera. In 1776 his opera of 'Orpheus' (which still holds the stage) began the dramatic school of operatic music. Beethoven followed in this path, and Mozart managed to reconcile melodic grace and dramatic content.
In carrying this sketch to its conclusion we must now trace three intertwining paths—piano music, orchestral music, and operatic and other vocal music. Naturally we shall be able to allude only to epoch-making composers.
In 1709 Cristofori, an Italian, invented the pianoforte. The instrument was at first neglected. Bach thought it fit only for rondos. Mozart used the spinet, as did Haydn. It was Beethoven who first turned the tide toward the new instrument. Instrumental technique grew up in the train of the new invention. Domenico Scarlatti (1683-1757) led toward a piano style while writing for the spinet. In 1752 Philipp Em. Bach published the first valuable book of technique, which could be applied to the piano, to the clavichord, or the spinet.
The classical piano sonata grew gradually from a combination of the ideas of the suite and of the first movement of the old sonata as established by Corelli. Haydn first established it, Mozart improved it, and Beethoven brought it to its culmination. The symphony was but a larger form of sonata, for orchestra, and the same process of evolution took place. Seldom has a form reached its zenith more quickly; from the first symphony, composed by Haydn (in three movements and for eight instruments only) in 1769, to the tremendous ninth symphony of Beethoven, composed in 1824, is but 55 years, yet these years contain all that is pertinent to the birth, growth and climax of every form of sonata,—in which we include classical chambcr music, string quartettes, quintettes, etc., and orchestral works such as symphonies and concertos.
Just as there was a most significant musical epoch from about 1590 to 1620, so we find the "classical period", from about 1775 to 1825 to present not only a marvelous amount of creative energy, but a change in the musical taste of the world, a transformation of the scope and style of music. Only the opera went on its uninterrupted path. Yet here, too, there were some changes.
Beethoven (1770-1827) was an instrumentai, an orchestral composer, par excellence. His one opera, 'Fidelio,' great art-work though it was, exerted no especial influence upon any school of composition. Mozart (1756-91) improved the style of the Italians in opera, but did not actually strike out a new path. His 'Don Giovanni,' for a long time the masterpiece of the world in the operatic form, was but a culmination of what Italy had already attempted. Rossini (1792-1868) with a pernicious habit of creating the most beautiful melodies whether they fitted the text or not, set back the hands of the clock of musical progress, as far as opera was concerned, for a good half-century.
The first ringing note of the newer and truer school of dramatic opera was heard when Von Weber (1786-1826) in 1820 completed his 'Freischütz,' an opera built upon the sure foundation of the folk-song, a dramatic work, thoroughly wedding its poetry and music.
The sacred forms, during the classical epoch, did not change materially. Beethoven wrote a most intricate mass, but it was only an echo of Bach with his great polyphonic B minor mass. Mozart composed, almost upon his death-bed, a noble requiem, hut it was only an addition, of operatic flavor to the requiems that had preceded. Cherubini (1760-1842) wrote a couple of requiems that were as great as any of the school—but were not in any sense innovations.
Piano and orchestral works advanced the most in the classical half-century. The vastest piano-work existing today is probably Beethoven's B fiat sonata, Op. 106.
The orchestra, in the modern sense, had its birth in the classical half-century. Bach and Handel made only outline sketches of their orchestral works, leaving much for modern commentators to fill in. But when Haydn came to England, in 1791, he directed a complete orchestra and he published complete orchestral scores, an epoch in the history of orchestral development. Mozart had, however, before this time, written a large number of symphonies in complete score, many of which were published at a later period. Although the modern orchestra and the full score had their origin in this remarkable epoch, the art of conducting came later. Mendelssohn and Berlioz may be named as the first really great conductors in the modern definition of the word. The use of the baton in conducting only became established after 1800.
One other important evolution must be added to the work of the 50 years which form such a golden epoch of musical creation. The songs of Europe, such as had any real worth, were almost altogether folk-songs, melodies which grew up as the briar rose by the way-side of art, not the careful product of great composers, but the spontaneous voice of the people. The songs of the composers were generally dull and artificial things, made so, perhaps, by the fact that the poets were not concerning themselves with short and lyrical forms. But when Goethe and Heine, in Germany, began writing beautiful lyrical poems, the song-composer was sure to follow soon. Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was the genius who evolved the 'Lied,' the artistic song which, however short, was yet a complete and perfect whole; as a tiny Meissonier painting is as perfect in its way as the largest canvas. Schubert added glorious works to the symphonic repertoire, his piano-works practically rounded the "Minuet-form," yet he thought vocally, and his most spontaneous and most important works we consider to be his 'Lieder,' which songs began a new school. There are, however, a few authorities who consider Schubert greatest in his orchestral works and influence.
We may now follow the three distinct musical paths,—Vocal forms (including opera), piano music and orchestral music,—each by itself, to the present time. Continuing the song development, we find Schumann (1810-56), and Robert Franz (1815-92) following in the footsteps of Schubert and bringing the miniature vocal form to perfection. The operatic form took a wide deviation.
The work of Rossinl was baleful only in the fact that it paid no heed to the wedding of words and music in dramatic unity. In light operas Rossini was a model, and his 'Barber of Seville' is a masterpiece. Once, and once only, he proved that he could write a truly dramatic opera, and produced 'William Tell.' Donizetti (1797-1848), Bellini (1802-35), and others, followed his lead and wrote charmingly, but untruthfully. France compromised and united prettiness and some degree of dramatic feeling in the works of Gounod (1818-93), and of Ambroise Thomas (1811-96). The real reform, in this mésalliance of Poetry and Music was made by Richard Wagner (1813-83).
Wagner's combat and triumph have been too recent to require detail here. We need only state that his theories of opera, or "music-drama,> as he preferred to call it, were,—
- 1. The abolition of a set form (that is, ending as one began), and the use of any shape that the poets suggested.
- 2. Absolute unity of the entire work. No division into songs, duets, choruses, with applause between and sometimes even encores. Continuity from beginning to end.
- 3. The music is always to interpret the poetry. Its entire character is to be dictated by the words: "Music is Truth." "In the wedding of the arts Poetry is the man, Music the woman"; "Poetry must lead, Music must follow"; "Music is the handmaid of Poetry"; are a few of Wagner's apothegms.
- 4. Abolition of mere tune and the substitution of a melodic recitative, called the "Melos."
- 5. Absolute freedom of modulation. Not necessarily a fixed tonality to any work or part of it. "Swimming in a sea of tone."
- 6. Excellence of libretto. No book is fit to be used for the text of an opera unless it would make a successful dramna by itself.
- 7. A constant use of the Leit-motif (a musical figure expressing a definite meaning) by which the orchestra speaks a language that can be comprehended, somewhat like the chorus used to do in the old Greek tragedies. (See Leit-Motif.)
These are not all of the theories that Wagner evolved, but they are the most important. They did not spring into being at once. One sees a few of them in 'Tannhäuser,' more in 'Lohengrin,' but the fulness of his reforms is first revealed in 'Tristan und Isolde.'
Wagner's work has influenced all the modern opera composers. Verdi (1813-1901) had begun his career in Italy almost upon the lines of his predecessors. Thanks to his genius he soon began to carve out a better vein for himself. In his 'Aida' he began to lead Italy to a much finer and truer school of opera than it had ever possessed, In 'Otello' and 'Falstaff' while carefully discarding the "Leit-motif" he seems to arrive at almost all the other Wagnerian conclusions, although his Italian personality prevents any great resemblance in results. In France, Bizet (1838-75), the best of French operatic composers, was starting upon a similar path with 'Carmen' when death interrupted his career. America has as yet produced no standard operas, although Paine's 'Azara' and Chadwick's 'Judith' are worthy to become permanent additions to the repertoire.
Tracing the piano path from the time of Beethoven, we find three great "Cs"~ in technical writing—Czerny (1791-1857), Clementi (1752-1832), and Cramer (1771-1858). These led to a modern technique and this bore fruit in two different directions. Liszt (1811-86) became the king of the piano and brought its technical power to a point that had never been suspected before his time. Chopin (1809-49) came as the poet of the piano and gave to the instrument its most beautiful phases of expression. A host of piano composers have sprung up in every civilized country, Russia furnishing a great number.
In connection with the rise of technique we may speak of the advance in other branches of music. Italy had great singing schools in the 18th century, and some of the most famous vocaI teachers. Nicolo Porpora (1686-1766) was the most eminent of these, and had as pupils some of the most renowned singers of his day, among them Farinelli (Carlo Broschi) who was reputed to he unrivaled in flexibility and in power. Pistocchi was another of the famous teachers of this epoch and his most famous pupil,—Senesino,—disputed the palm even with Farinelli, in EngIand in Handel's time. Vocal technique could scarcely go further than it advanced in the 18th century, although the 19th furnished such singers as Catalani, Malibran, Mario, Rubini, Lablache, Jenny Lind, and later such artists as Jean De Reszke, Adelina Patti, and, in the dramatic school, Materna, Tietjens, etc.
In violin technique the chief advance was begun in the 17th century, when Corelli (1653-I713) was the most prominent teacher of Italy. At about this time, too, the golden period of violin making began and the Amatis, Stradivarius and the Guarnerii made the name of Cremona famous all over the world. The king of all violinists, speaking entirely from the standpoint of virtuosity, was Paganini (1784-1840) who advanced technique so far that even to-day the greatest living violinists are unable to conquer all of the difficulties which he left as a legacy to the world. Since his time the sceptre has passed to Joachim (1831—), who held it for many years, but now, in his old age, sees it contended for by a host of advanced players. Paganini influenced violin music toward mere virtuosity, while such players as Joachim, Wilhelmj, or Wieniawski combine musical feeling with technique in their work.
Orchestral advance has been absolutely phenomenal since Beethoven made his developments in tone-coloring. Berlioz (1803-69) was the first to improve upon the great pioneer's work and achieved remarkable results by his various experiments with new combinations. Wagner carried the art of orchestration still higher in his operas, and since his death a whole host of great tone-colorists have arisen. Russia has contributed very much to this advance, and it is not an absurd prophecy to predict that the Slav may attain the orchestral supremacy of the world in the near future. Tschaikowsky (1840-93) appears to be the greatest genius in this field that Russia has yet produced.
France has done much in recent times in this direction both in purely orchestral works and in combination with voices in cantatas and operas. César Franck (1822-90) led the reform in that country and, thanks chiefly to him, a race of very modern music-thinkers has arisen in France. Massenet, Saint Saens, D'Indy, Charpentier, Chaminade, and many others are writing in various fields of music, almost all tending to develop the orchestral side in some way. There is much freedom of form in the neo-Gallic school.
Italy has done very little in this direction, Sgambati being her only symphonist of prominence, but the neo-Italians, Mascagni, Puccini, Leoncavallo, etc., are laying great stress upon their orchestral work in opera.
Germany has developed chiefly along the Wagnerian lines, not an unmixed blessing when applied to purely orchestral work. After Beethoven there came a degree of dulness in orchestral matters. Mendelssohn (1809-47) developed the symphony along the classical lines, but while one must pay cordial tribute to the symmetry, skill, and melodic character of Mendelssohn's work, he was not of the stuff of which epoch men are made.
It was Schumann who made the first remonstrance against following too slavishly the classical paths, and through him the Romantic school and the freer mode of sonata treatment had its birth.
There are many who desire us to believe that the sonata form and all classical orchestral forms have had their day, but the great work of Brahms (1833-97) in symphony and sonata stands as a refutation to this dictum.
Nevertheless the modern tendency is toward greater freedom than ever before, both in form and in harmonic combinations. Liszt began this movement, and the time will come when it will be seen that his orchestral works were scarcely less influential than his piano compositions. He has led toward great brilliancy of tone-coloring, and, in his 'Poèmes Symphoniques' to freedom of form and to intense dramatic expression. In England, Edward William Elgar (1857) has broken the bonds of Handelian tradition in oratorio by his Wagnerian orchestral, solo, and choral treatment of 'The Dream of Gerontius' and other sacred cantatas. Richard Strauss (1864—) has led the orchestra into the most difficult paths that it has ever trodden. He is not only the greatest master of orchestration at the present time, but he has endeavored to extend the boundaries of orchestral expression, using metaphysical subjects freely and pushing programme-music (instrumental music which gives definite pictures) to the extreme limit.
America has brought forth a school of orchestral writers of which John K. Paine (1839—), George W. Chadwick (1854), and E. A. MacDowell (1861—), are the foremost, while Horatio Parker (1863—) has brought the American oratorio to a much higher standard than it has ever before occupied.
What the future may bring is difficult to prophesy. Music has changed so constantly and so entirely, from epoch to epoch, that it is folly to imagine that there will be no further changes. In 1722 Rameau, the French composer, declared that music had been worn utterly threadbare, that all the possibilities of tonal expression had been exhausted! Yet almost all the great composers came after that time!
We cannot believe that the world will ever recede from the great orchestral virtuosity it has attained, but we may imagine that a return may be made, if not to form, at least to melodic beauty. A combination of attractive melody with rich and impressive harmony, a perfect balance of the intellectual and the emotional sides of the art,— these may be characteristics of the Music of the Future.
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- Louis C. ELSON,
- Instructor at New England Conservatory of Music, Lecturer and Author.