Page images
PDF
EPUB

ENGLISH MUSIC AND ENGLISH MUSICIANS.

MUSICAL taste, as we observed in a fostered by habit, are far more lasting former article, has undergone fewer mu- and enduring. The poet must have la. tations in England, than in most other mented the loss of the music, which, in countries where the art has been culti-. the stern ascetic spirit of Puritanism vated and esteemned. In order, there. prevailing at a later period of our fore, to acquire an accurate knowledge history, he assisted to banish from our of the state of musical taste and sci. churches, as he sangence which now prevails among us, it will be necessary to take a brief re

“But let my due feệt never fail trospect; and as much of the music To walk the studious cloisters pale, still popular was composed during the

And love the high embowed roof, earliest period of the art in England,

With antique pillars, massy proof, we shall rapidly trạce its history from

And storied windows richly digbt, the times of those early masters,

Casting a dim religious light, whose names are still held in remem

There let the pealing organ blow

To the full-voiced choir below, brance and repute, down to the pre

In service high, and anthem clear, sent century.

As may with sweetness, through mine ear, When England threw off the Papal

Dissolve me into extasies, yoke, music was little known beyond

And bring all heav'n before mine eyes." the services of the church. Though the secular music of this period was

At the period of which we speak, barbarous in the extreme, yet masses

the want of music in the services of were universally sung, and music had the church seems to have been selong formed a necessary element in the verely felt, though perhaps the sim. due performance of the services of the pler forms of the new ritual were Romish church. During the reign of comparatively but little adapted for Henry VIII. few alterations were musical display. Great exertions were made in public worship; and the ser

made throughout the kingdom by the vice continued to be sang and carried deans and chapters to restore the effion in the Latin language, as before. ciency of the choirs ; and Elizabeth, From Strype's account of the funeral in the exercise of what then appeared of this monarch, it appears that all

an undoubted prerogative of the the old ceremonies were observed, crown, issued her warrant for the imand that the rupture with Rome bad pressment of singing men and boys caused no alteration in the obsequies for the castle of Windsor. The performed on such occasions. In the churches and cathedrals still, indeed, reign of his successor, the church ser. retained their organs; "the choirs and vice was entirely changed, and the places where they sing” were still in Protestant liturgy was first published being; all the matériel was at hand; for general use. Four

years

after this but, with the exception of the produc. event, on the accession of Mary, the tion of John Marbeck, called “The “old worsbip' was again restored.

Book of Common Prayer Noted," But when, at length, the reformed which was printed in 1550, there was religion was firmly established by Eli- as yet no music for the new services zabeth, and the ritual permanently in the English language. Two years changed, the music of the old masses,

after the accession of Elizabeth, and suited to the genius and structure of one year after the bill for the uniforthe Romish service, was no longer mity of common prayer had passed available for the simpler forms of the legislature, a choral york, very worship by which it was replaced. pecessarie for the church of Christ to During the holiest and most solemn be frequented and used," was pubportions of the ancient worship, the lished, among the authors of which organ had for centuries been heard in the name of Tallis appears. The the cathedrals, while the choruses of musical necessities of the newly estapraise and adoration resounded through blished church appear to have stimuthe aisles. Men's opinions may un.

lated or developed talents which, undergo a change, but the feelings and der other circumstances, might perideas created by early association, and haps have been less prominently brought forward : at all events, the part of every collection of church mudemand for this music would seem a

sic. Canons and fugues were the faprincipal reason why the early Emg: vourite modes of that early period; lish masters should have devoted vain substitutes for melody, rhythm, themselves so exclusively to sacred and correct accentuation, in which composition. Tallis and his pupil particulars music was then greatly deByrd, both men of original genius, ficient. The merits of the composiproduced many compositions for the tions of the Elizabethan age, vaunted newly introduced ritual, which, by by the lovers of antiquity as the golden their intrinsic merit and comparative age of English music, are thus summed superiority, aided also by a constant up by Dr Burney: “ It is, therefore, demand for new music of the same upon the church music, madrigals, and character, gave a permanent direction songs in parts, of our countrymen duto the exercise of musical talent; and ring the reign of Elizabeth, that we the services of Tallis and Byrd became must rest their reputation ; and these, the classic objects of emulation and in point of harmony and contrivance, imitation, and sacred music became, in the chief excellencies of such compoa peculiar manner, the national music sitions, appear in nothing inferior to of England. The compositions of those of the best contemporary comthese “fathers of our genuine and positions of the Continent. Taste, national sacred music,” are still pre- rbythm, accent, and grace, must not be served, the latter of whom, Byrd, died sought for in this kind of music; inin 1623, at the age of probably near deed, we might as well censure the eighty years.

ancient Greeks for not writing in Eng. The year 1588 forms an epoch in lish, as the composers of the sixteenth our musical history. An Italian mer- century for their deficiency in theso chant, who, by his mercantile connec- particulars, which having then no tion with the Mediterranean, had op- existence, even in idea, could not be portunities of obtaining the newest wanted or expected ; and it is necesand best compositions of his native sarily the business of artists to culticountry, had, for some years, been in vate or refine what is in the greatest the frequent habit of procuring the esteem among the best judges of their best singers of the day, to perform own nation and times. And these, at them, privately, at his house in London. this period, unanimously thought every This gentleman had at length the spi- species of musical composition below rit and enterprise to publish a volume criticism except canons and fugues. of Italian madrigals, entituled, “ Musi. Indeed, what is generally understood ca Transalpina, Madrigales transla- by taste in music, must ever be an ted of four, five, and six parts, chosen abomination in the church; for, as it out of divers excellent authors; with consists of new refinements or arrangethe first and second parts of La Vir- ments of notes, it would be construed ginella, made by Maister Byrd, upon into innovation, however meritorious, two stanzas of Ariosto, and brought unless sanctioned by age. Thus the to speak English with the rest." These favourite points and passages in the pieces seem to have given birth to that madrigals of the sixteenth century, passion for madrigals which was af. were in the seventeenth received as terwards so prevalent, and thus be orthodox in the church; and those of came the models of contemporary mu. the opera songs and cantatas of the sicians. The next composer of any seventeenth century, are used by the note was Orlando Gibbons. He died gravest and most pious ecclesiastical at an early age, soon after the acces- composers of the eighteenth.” Of sion of Charles I., to whom he had the skill of the performers, for whom been appointed organist. This mas- this music, still listened to and adter composed several madrigals, but, mired, was written, he also observes, like his predecessors, he devoted him. “ that the art of singing, further than self principally to sacred composition. necessary to keep a perforThe secular productions of Tallis, mer in tune, and time, must have Byrd, and Gibbons, together with been unknown;" and that “if £500 those of contemporary composers of had been offered to any individual to inferior note, are, for the most partperform a solo, fewer candidates now forgotten; but the sacred music would have entered the lists than if of these three masters still forms a the like premium had been offered for

was

flying from Salisbury steeple over Old Italian composers. The fact, that Sarum without a balloon." For our. Purcell was under obligations to the selves, we do not hesitate to acknow- Italians, may startle many of his moledge that, in our opinion, the ser- dern admirers; but with a candour vices of these patriarchs of the Eng- worthy of himself, in the dedication lish school surpass the great majority of his Dioclesian to Charles Duke of of similar productions by our later Somerset, he says, that “music is yet masters. They may, indeed, suffer but in its nonage, a forward child. when compared with the masses of 'Tis now learning Italian, which is its the great continental masters; but best master.” And in the preface to they nevertheless possess a certain his Sonatas, he tells us that he “faithdegree of simple majesty, well suited fully endeavoured at a just imitato the primitive character of the ritual tion of the most famed Italian masof that church which disdains the use ters," An able critic has also reof ornament, and on principle declines marked, that he thinks he can perceive to avail herself of any appeal to the the obligations which Purcell bad to senses as an auxiliary to devotion. Carissimi in his recitative, and to We have been the more particular in Lulli both in recitative and melody ; our notice of these early masters, be- and also that it appears that he was cause, long without any rivals, their fond of Stradella's manner, though he church music even now stamps the seems never to have pillaged his paspublic taste, and is still held in the sages. Many of our readers are doubt. highest esteem by many among whom less aware, that Purcell's opera of their names alone suffice to hold the King Arthur has been lately revived judgment captive.

at Drury. Lane, where it has had a It is needless to advert to Humphrey considerable run. The public prints and other composers, some of whose have been loud in its praise; and this productions are still in vogue; enough work has been styled “ the perfect has been said to show with what rea- model of the lyric drama of England.” son the absolute correctness of Eng. The intervention of spoken dialogue, lish taste in sacred music, in which by many in their innocence hitherto we suppose ourselves so peculiarly to supposed to be a defect in the conexcel, may be called in question. struction of a musicaldrama, is strange

We proceed to sketch the history ly metamorphosed into a beauty in of the other branches of the art in King Arthur. In short, from some England, and commence at once with of these critiques, King Arthur would Henry Purcell, the greatest of our appear to be the only perfect drama native masters, previously to whom or opera which the world has ever music is said to have been manifestly seen. To show the real value of these on the decline during the seventeenth criticisms, we may mention the fact, century. It has been often remarked that in an elaborate article of a jourof Purcell, that he had “ devancé son nal now before us, in which many of siècle." Many of his faults, defects, the pieces of this opera are enumerated or crudities, may undoubtedly be at- and highly commended, the writer has tributed to the age which he adorned. curiously enough passed by in silence The tide of public approbation has of two airs, of which Dr Burney oblate set strongly in his favour; and serves that they contain not a single could the fulsome panegyrics, of which passage which the best composers of he has been the object, be implicitly his time, if it presented itself to their received, Purcell would be considered imagination, would reject; and on one as nothing less than a prodigy of of which he also remarks, that it is genius. Several attempts at dramatic one of the few airs that time has music had been made before Purcell's not the power to injure; it is of all time. Matthew Lock had already ages and all countries." There is set the songs of Macbeth and the doubtless much in Purcell, which, Tempest, and had also given to the though quaint and antiquated, the world - The English Opera, or the musician may nevertheless admire; vocal music in Psyche,” in close imi- but excellence of this kind is necestation of Lulli, the long famed com- sarily lost upon a general audience. poser of Louis XIV. Purcell follow. Melody in his day was rude and uned in the new track, taking for his polished; for there were no singers to models the productions of the first execute, even if the composer had ?'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ability to conceive. Thus Purcell's musical drama in which the whole of melody, though often original and the plot is carried on without the inexpressive, is nevertheless more often tervention of spoken dialogue. Artarude and ungraceful. In the words xerxes, the only work of the kind of a recent writer on this subject, which we possess, was first produced • We are often surprised to find ele- in the year 1762. Though the music gance and coarseness, symmetry and is of a form now obsolete, this opera clumsiness, mixed in a way that would has seldom been long a stranger to be unaccountable, did we not con- our stage, having been from time to eider that, in all the arts, the taste is time revived for the debut of new and a faculty which is slowly formed, even ambitious singers. One of these rein the most highly gifted minds." vivals has recently taken place; the We suspect that the pageant saved piece, however, was performed for a King Arthur; the scenic illusions few nights only, and perhaps popuby which contending armies were larity may be, at length, deserting brought upon an extended plain, to. Artaxerxes.

This “standard work gether with the numerous transform of the English school" appears to be mations, continually commanded that of more than doubtful parentage. applause which the music alone failed Arne is stated to have crowded the to elicit. With many, however, the airs, those of Mandane in particular, mere spectacle was not all-sufficient; with all the Italian divisions and diffibut Opinion was written down, and culties of the day, and to have incorindependently of the prestige attach- porated with his own property all the ed to the name of Purcell, the press best passages of the Italian and Engwould have effectually put down all lish composers of his time. With the exhibition of disapprobation. The exception of Comus and Artaxerxes, theatre might be seen to become gra- none of his pieces or operas met with dually deserted, and party after party, great success; and he seems to be stunned by the noise and blinded by principally remembered by those comthe glare, might be observed to glide positions which were the least originoiselessly away as the performance nal. “ Rule Britannia," by the comproceeded, while an air of fatigued bined effect of the sentiment of the endurance, and disappointment, was words and the spirit and vivacity of plainly visible on the countenances of the music, now become a national those that remained behind. This song, does not possess the merit of opera has been frequently revived; originality. Long before it was nahow much of the success which it has tionalized-if one may use such a met with may be attributed to what word — by Englishmen, it was obRousseau, when speaking of the operas served that in an Italian song, which of that period, terms “a false air of may be seen at page 25 of Walsh's magnificence, fairyism, and enchant- collection, the idea-nay, almost all ment, which, like flowers in a field the passages--of this melody might before the harvest, betokens an ap. be found. In the well-known song, parent richness,” may be matter of “ Where the bee sucks, there lurk I," speculation ; but it is recorded that passages occur taken almost note for even on its first introduction on the note from a cantabile by Lampugstage, it caused a heavy loss to the pani. According to Dr Burney, Arne patentees, in consequence of which may also claim the glory of having, their affairs were thrown into Chan- by his compositions and instructions, cery, where they remained some formed an era in the musical history twenty years. Even Purcell's fame of his country. The former relates is confined to our own shores, and we that music, which had previously stood are not aware that his music was ever still for near half a century, was greatly known

improved by Arne in his endeavours Arne, who established his reputa- "to refine our melody and singing tion as a lyric composer by the musie from the Italian;" and that English of Comus in 1738, is the next com- • taste and judgment, both in compoposer whom we think it necessary to sition and performance, even at the mention. To this master belongs the playhouses, differed as much from singular glory of having composed an those of twenty or thirty years ago, English opera-a term by which, as as the manners of a civilized peowill be seen hereafter, we mean a ple from those of savages.' Dr

upon the Continent.

[ocr errors]

of recitative in its simplest form, the conferred by mere sounds. How other, of accompanied recitative." It beautiful are the scenes, about to folwould seem scarcely credible that so low, depicted in the overtures to Der powerful an agent of the lyric drama Freyschutz and Oberon ; what wild should be utterly neglected, among a diableries are not suggested by those people who undoubtedly claim to be wonderful compositions! There are considered a musical nation, and sounds of awful mystery, proceeding, whose composers certainly esteem as it were, now, from the dread rites themselves among those to whom mu- of dark malignant beings of another sical fame might be justly awarded. world, now, from the mad frolics of But such is nevertheless the fact, and mischievous and reckless imps; in the we are not aware of any modern com- midst of which a stream of beauteous, poser of the English school who has gentle melody-like a minister of grace fully availed himself of its powers and breaks forth; now,gliding smoothly capabilities. It has been said of Arta- along, now, rushing on impetuously, Xerxes, that the attempt then made or, broken and interrupted in its course, to apply recitative to the English lan- as though the powers of good and evil guage is unsuccessful; but it may be were striving for the mastery ; and at asked, whether the long.continued po- length, as if the former were victorious pularity of this work may not, in some in the strife, that melody again bursts degree at least, be owing to the ab. forth, loud and expanded in the bold sence of the incongruous mixture of exulting tones of triumph, with which speech and song. However this may

the imaginary scene is closed. be, it is at least a singular coincidence, Similar observations might be made that the single opera of our language, of many other pieces of instrumental in which dialogue does not break and music; but these effects depend upon interrupt the unity and consistent ac- the imagiuation of the hearer, there tion of the drama, should be the only being no words to convey definite musical work which has been distin- ideas to the mind. In vocal music, guished by such constant and endu- where the words express po passion ring marks of popular favour and ap- or emotion, the voice becomes little probation. Another species of dra- more than a mere instrument of the matic music, the cantabile of the

composer or the performer. Now, the Italians, is equally neglected among pational music of our country is for the

The cantabile includes much of most part adapted to words of this dethe most exquisite music of the Itae scription, and the anthem, the madrigal, lian masters, and we know of nothing and glee, are thus necessarily deficient more touchingly beautiful, through- in dramatic power and expression. out the whole range of musical com- The glee has been described as “quelposition, than many of the andante que chose bien triste," and few but the cantabili of this school. This, also, fanatics of the school who have listhas been rarely attempted by the ened to a succession of glees, will, we English masters, and their puny think, deny the accuracy of the deefforts will bear no comparison with scription. The oratorio is often highly the rich, graceful, flowing measure of dramatic; but we have few, if any, the true Italian.

oratorios of merit, of native producAll music is, in a greater or less tion. Our operas we have already degree, essentially dramatic. Its designated as plays, with songs scatbeauty often depends, entirely, upon tered about at random. Thus, music the fidelity and truth with which na- of the highest class is rarely attemptture is followed. Even instrumental ed in this country; and the neglect of music aims at dramatic effect, and the one great requisite of musical exfanciful incidents, and catastrophes cellence, may have prevented our are often suggested by the melodies composers from assuming that rank, and harmonies of a symphony, or con- to which they might otherwise have certo. These creations of the ima. shown themselves entitled. gination are in themselves a source There is, however, another class of of interest and delight, wholly differ- composers whom we must not omit to ent, in their nature, from the pleasure notice: we mean the song-writers of

us.

:

* No. cccxxvii. p. 137.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »