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not conceive his great operas till he was fifty, the best works of Haydn were composed when he was between fifty and sixty-four, and Handel wrote his Messiah at eighty! But let us not impiously murmur that this great master was not permitted to do more, while there is so much cause to be grateful for what he did accomplish.
For an able criticism on the compositions of Beethoven we would refer our musical readers to the lectures of Nägeli, published in 1826. Considering J. S. Bach as the fountain head of instrumental music, and ascribing its further developement to C. P. E. Bach, J. Haydn, Mozart, Clementi, Cramer, and Pleyel, until the art attained its acme under Beethoven, he proceeds to speak of its regeneration under the influence of his genius. He maintains that it had been debased and diluted by the divertimento style of Pleyel, and moreover that instrumental music was even impaired by Mozart. To this the admirers of Mozart will hardly subscribe their assent. If he did not attain the severe, original, ever-varying style of Beethoven, he must be allowed to have infused into music an expression and beauty, a pathos and glow, which it had not exhibited before. True, Mozart does not often thrill us by unearthly sounds and wild harmonies, but in his peculiar walk he has hardly been surpassed. He does not deal in combinations of detached intervals, in great peculiarities of rhythm, nor does he stir us up to frenzy ; but does he not overwhelm the spirit with delicious melody, and produce the most absorbing effects by the richness of his accompaniments and the magnificence of his instrumentation?
At the beginning of this article we stated that Beethoven's name has long been familiar to our musical amateurs. But most of his superb symphonies and a large proportion of his piano-forte sonatas, concertos, and other works, are known only to those to whom the pages of a score present something more than unintelligible hieroglyphics, and who need not the aid of an instrument or orchestra to give them voice and expression. To most people music is but a succession and combination of pleasing sounds, soothing, inspiring, or depressing, as they vary in pitch or measure; it is not what is perceptible to the mental ear of the artist as he turns over in silence the pages of Beethoven. Huv VOL. LIII. - NO. 113.
ἁρμονία ἀορατόν τι καὶ ἀσώματον καὶ πάγκαλόν τι καὶ θεῖον
Of no composer does the music abound in more ideal beauties than that of Beethoven. Before the public, however, or even the greater number of musical performers, enjoy and appreciate the productions of his mighty mind, the assistance of the ear is required; but to the true musician his beauties. are as evident in the silence and retirement of his attic, as are those of Shakspeare to the scholar who never assisted at a play. Indeed so far from bringing out or enhancing the ideal or actual beauties of the compositions of the great masters, the performance too often has a contrary effect. Beethoven and Mozart are quite as commonly mangled and murdered as Shakspeare. Every tyro in music can talk of the eccentricities of Beethoven, and every fair aspirant to musical fame of the difficulties of his piano-forte compositions. While yet incapable of playing a sonata of Pleyel, profoundly ignorant of Mozart, and with no other acquaintance with Haydn than what has been derived from the opportunity of hearing an oratorio, too many of our amateurs must play something from Beethoven, although utterly unprepared to perceive his beauties, and almost equally so to conquer his difficulties, the fame of doing which is in fact too often the only excitement to the attempt, and the chief, if not the only, anticipated reward of success. We would have his works in the hands of all amateurs and performers, but not until, by the study of those masters who preceded him, they are prepared to understand him. Often as we have opportunities of listening to the performances of the easier piano-forte works of Beethoven, we seldom have the satisfaction of perceiving that he is understood by the performer, and have merely a confusion of sounds quite incomprehensible to the hearer. Indeed since the departure of a lady of unusual musical talent, who, a few years since executed the most difficult piano-forte symphonies of Beethoven with a fire and feeling that would have charmed the composer himself, we have very rarely heard any of his great works performed even decently by an amateur. Several of his orchestral symphonies have however been produced during the past winter, in creditable style, by the Boston Academy of Music, and the pleasure they afforded to a promiscuous assembly proved, that, when properly
performed, they give delight to every one whose musical taste has received only a moderate cultivation.
It is a prevalent belief, and in some respects it is well founded, that Beethoven's piano-forte music is more difficult than that of any other composer, with the exception of some of his successors, the estimation of whose works is too commonly in exact proportion to the number of notes they can crowd into a bar. This erroneous impression in regard to Beethoven has, no doubt, deterred many amateurs, who are not deficient in the power of appreciating his beauties, from attempting the performance of his later works, believing that they require great rapidity of execution. The perusal of the work of Schindler and Moscheles will dispel this error, for it will be found that the composer himself, although he had acquired great skill in execution, never sacrificed distinctness and expression to mechanical dexterity. Indeed he was continually exclaiming at the rapidity with which his music was executed by others. There is reason also to suppose that this erroneous impression has been strengthened by the fact, that with the multitude an unlooked for velocity of finger has come to be the great test of musical ability. Since the time of Beethoven, it is well known that one or two artists have appeared, who, by assiduous practice and peculiar personal fitness, have arrived at a rapidity of fingering that is truly marvellous. Able to overcome the greatest existing difficulties, they have been compelled to invent still greater, and their public exhibitions have created a fashion for execution; a foolish ambition for mere dexterity has been excited, and instead of music we have unmeaning noise. The imitators of Liszt and Thalberg should be aware that the allegro of the modern school was unknown to Haydn and Mozart, and that even the prestos of Beethoven require that every note should have time to be heard. It is not the performers who have labored all their lives to improve the mechanical dexterity of their fingers, who, as Beethoven once said, "lose intelligence and feeling in proportion as they gain dexterity of fingering," that can interpret his music; as little are they acquainted with it as with the occupations of the inhabitants of the moon. The great difficulty is in the expression, the correct conception of, and the giving utterance to, the ideas and feelings of the great composer. Beethoven's music is profoundly imbued with sentiment; his simple, touching melodies
require exquisite refinement and delicacy, which can never be imparted to them by bravura players, who, in the words of M. Schindler, make of them what M. Liszt makes of Schubert's songs,-what Paganini made of the cantilena in Rode's concerto, and what Rubini makes of Beethoven's "Adelaide," tasteless perversions of beautiful originals, violations of truth and right feeling.
Before the last winter we do not recollect to have been present at any concert in this country of which the great orchestral compositions of Beethoven formed a part. The Boston Academy of Music deserves great praise for having brought more than one of them into notice. That these performances were rightly appreciated was evinced by the number of persons who attended even to hear them a second time. We trust the efforts of this institution will be liberally seconded on future occasions, and that it will be encouraged to persevere in the attempt to diffuse a more general knowledge of such classical works, and, by thus fostering a correct taste, protect us from the diableries of eccentrics and the absurdities of imitators.
According to M. Schindler, the music of Beethoven is hardly known in France. That his works are not so generally pleasing to the French people as to others, we can believe from what we have ourselves seen and heard, from the character of the nation, and from the style of the most popular music of its composers. There is ground for the opinion, that, as a people, the French more generally admire the music that is addressed to the heels than that which appeals to the heart and head. But the real amateurs and artists of France cannot but be familiar with and enjɔy Beethoven. In England, where his music is oftener brought before the public, especially in London, it is no doubt better known and understood. Nor do we believe that his music is so much neglected in Germany as his biographer would give us to understand. We know that his best works have been published in various forms, and at such small cost as to make them accessible to all who would be likely to make use of them; and they are scattered throughout the country, and often performed in public and in private. That they may not be known and prized as universally as the waltzes of Strauss or the quadrilles of Musard, is
no matter of surprise, nor is it probable that they will ever be very generally popular in any country. The exciting fictions of "Boz" have become familiar to thousands, not one of whom may have enjoyed or can enjoy the creations of Shakspeare, and to tens of thousands to whom the beauties of Milton are wholly unknown. Although we are not inclined to admit the sweeping assertions of our author, we think he is correct in attributing a part, perhaps much, of the ignorance of Beethoven's compositions to the "absurdly refined mechanism of piano-forte playing, which, years ago, Beethoven justly feared would banish all truth of feeling from music." The only piano-forte compositions of Beethoven which have, according to Schindler, obtained attention from the French and "from most of the German pianists, are such as afford scope for the display of mechanical dexterity." The compositions of this class are inferior in poetic spirit, but much less difficult to comprehend and to perform. From the second to the thirtieth, there are but few of Beethoven's sonatas that are known to "the legion of fashionable pianoforte players of any country. The gods whom this legion worship have no place among the Immortals; and, if we estimate their productions by the standard of art, they must be ranked on a level with those musical idols of the day whose chief merit is, that they set the feet of the multitude in motion."
It is much to be regretted that Beethoven, or his pupil, Ries, has not given us the key to all his great works; by which we mean the scene, event, dialogue, or whatever subject or occasion led to the inspiration of the moment, or suggested the work. Any one who examines the analysis which M. Schindler has given of the beautiful sonatas comprised in Opera 14, and then performs them, or listens to their performance by skilful hands, will find they have a new charm, new beauties and ideas starting forth.
"These sonatas have for their subject a dialogue between a husband and wife, or a lover and his mistress. In the second sonata, this dialogue with its signification is very forcibly expressed. By the two parts, Beethoven intended to represent two principles, which he designated the entreating and the resisting. Even in the first bars the contrary motion marks the opposition of these principles.