Symphonies and Their Meaning; Third Series, Modern Symphonies
Philip H. Goepp
Part 2 out of 5
movement lies in the balance of the new rhythms, the eccentric and the
flowing. By some subtle path there grows a song
[Music: _Allegro. Molto cantabile_]
in big tones of unison, wood and strings and trumpets, that is the real
hymnal refrain of the movement. Between this note almost of exultation
and all shades of pious dreaming the mood is constantly shifting.
Another phrase rises also to a triumphant height (the clear reverse of
the former tuneful melody) that comes now like a big _envoi_ of assuring
Though the whole movement is evenly balanced between Allegro and
Penseroso (so far as pace is concerned), the mood of reflection really
finds full vent; it has no reason for a further special expression.
Simple as the Allegretto appears in its suggestion of halting dance, the
intent in the episodes is of the subtlest. The slow trip of strings and
harp is soon given a new meaning with the melody of English horn.
Throughout we are somehow divided between pure dance and a more
thoughtful muse. In the first departure to an episode in major, seems to
sing the essence of the former melody in gently murmuring strings, where
later the whole chorus are drawn in. The song moves on clear thread and
wing right out of the mood of the dance-tune; but the very charm lies in
the mere outer change of guise. And so the second episode is still far
from all likeness with the first dance beyond a least sense of the old
trip that does appear here and there. It is all clearly a true scheme of
variations, the main theme disguised beyond outer semblance, yet
faithfully present throughout in the essential rhythm and harmony.
In the Finale, _Allegro non troppo_, we are really clear, at the outset,
of the toils of musing melancholy.
[Music: _Allegro non troppo_
After big bursts of chords, a tune rolls pleasantly along, _dolce
cantabile_, in basses of wood and strings. Expressive after-phrases
abound, all in the same jolly mood, until the whole band break
boisterously on the simple song, with a new sonorous phrase of basses.
Then, in sudden remove, sounds the purest bit of melody of all the
symphony, in gentlest tones
[Music: _Dolce cantabile_
(In the brass)]
of brass (trumpet, trombone and tuba). But, though in complete recoil
from the rhythmic energy of Allegro theme, it is even farther from the
reflective mood than the latter. It shows, in this very contrast, the
absence of the true lyric in the meditative vein, frequent with Cesar
Franck. The burst of melody blossoms ever fairer. In its later musing
the tune browses in the bass. A waving phrase grows in the violins,
which continues with strange evenness through the entrance of new song
where we are surprised by the strange fitness of the Allegretto melody.
And the second phase of the latter follows as if it belonged here. So,
almost listless, without a hair of rhythmic change (_les temps ont
toujours la meme valeur_), the Finale theme sings again most softly in
the strings. It has, to be sure, lost all of its color, without the
original throb of accompanying sounds. The phase of the movement is a
shadowy procession of former ideas, united in the dreamy haze that
enshrouds them. The stir that now begins is not of the first pale hue of
thought, rather the vein of big discussion, brewing a storm that breaks
finally in full blast on the gentle melody (of the brass) transfigured
in ringing triumph, in all the course of the song. Nor is the succeeding
phase the mystic habit of our poet; it is a mere farther digestion of
the meat of the melody that leads once more to a height of climax whence
we return to first course of themes, tuneful afterphrase and all, with
the old happy motion. The counterpoint here is the mere joyous ringing
of many strains all about.
Against all rules comes a new chorusing paean on the theme of
Allegretto, led by stentorian basses, together with an enchanting
after-strain, which we might have remarked before. And still another
quarter, long hushed, is heard anew, as a voice sounds a faint reminder
of the hymn of the first Allegro. Indeed, the combining strains before
the close seem sprung all of one parental idea. The motto of the
beginning sings in fittest answer to the latest phrases. The very maze
of the concert forbids our turning to their first origin. The end is in
joyous chanting of the Finale melody.
D'INDY AND THE FOLLOWERS OF FRANCK
Perhaps the noblest essay in symphonic music of the followers of Franck
is the second symphony of Vincent D'Indy.[A] His vein is indeed
throughout nearest akin of all the disciples to the serious muse of the
[Footnote A: Vincent d'Indy was born in Paris on March 27, 1852.]
Though D'Indy is surpassed in a certain poetic originality by some of
his compatriot contemporaries, there is in this symphony a breadth of
design and detail, a clear melodic quality and a sustained lofty feeling
that seem to mark it the typical French symphony of its time. The
strength of the work lies in a unity that is not merely of figure and
outline. If we must measure a symphony mainly by the slow movement, we
cannot avoid, with all the languorous beauty, a certain conventionality
of mood, stressed with an exotic use of the appoggiatura, while in the
Scherzo is a refined savagery of modern cacophony.
The directions are all in French; we are reminded of Schumann's
departure from the Italian fashion.
Each movement, save the third, has its prelude: a gathering of threads
before the new story. The first notes of basses, together with the
answer on high, sound a prophetic legend of the whole.
The harmonic lucubrations are profoundly subtle. Indeed the very nature
of the first phrase is of dim
[Music: _Extremement Lent._ (Woodwind)
(Strings and harps)]
groping; it ends in a climax of the answer and merges into the main song
of the Allegro (_tres vif_) in horns, with rapid trip of strings.
[Music: _Tres vif_ (Horns)
Throughout (from a technical view) is a fine mastery of the device of
ornamental notes, and secondary harmonies; there is also a certain
modern sense of chords and their relations. Together with an infinite
brilliance of these resources there is not only no weakness in cogency
of form, but there is a rare unity of design. The movements are bound
together, at least in themal relation, as strictly as in any symphony.
While the first phrase of the Allegro theme may hark back to the answer
of original motto, the second is the main thread of narrative.
[Music: (Flutes, oboes and clarinets)
Again and again is the climax rung on the first high note of the theme.
Then, in lieu of cadence, out of a bright dissonance the quick notes
dance upward in sturdy pace, the answer of the Allegro in sharp
disguise. And then from the height descends a refreshing spray of
subtlest discords, ending in another masterful burst of new harmony.
The dainty, dazzling play is stopped by a rough thud of basses and a
fierce clang of chords. In the sharp blare of brass on the ascending
phrase is almost lost the original motto in lowest basses. It is now
heard in gradually quickened speed, while the rising phrase runs more
timidly. At last the quickened motto sinks gently into lulling motion,
_un peu plus modere_. Above, in strings and horns, the melody haunts us
with a dim sense that takes us to the first languishing answer of the
original legend. And the whole is strong-knit; for the very Allegro
theme began in resolute mood of a like figure. A counter-strain rises to
meet the main phrase. The whole episode is an intertwining of song in
the vein of the first answer of motto.
The quick rising notes suddenly return with snatches of the main motive,
the chain of echoing phrases runs a gamut of moods, fitful, anxious,
soothed, until the bright upward trip begins anew, with the enchanting
burst of chord and descending harmonies. A climactic height is stressed
by a rough meeting of opposing groups, in hostile tone and movement,
ending in a trill of flutes and a reentry of the episode.
In the returning Allegro the thread is still the same, though richer in
color and texture. Again there is the plunge into dark abyss, with
shriek of harp, and the ominous theme in the depths. The slow ascending
phrase here has a full song and sway. The end is in spirited duet of two
The second movement, _moderement lent_, begins in revery on the answer
of original motive, and the stately pathos of the theme, in horns,
clarinets and violas, with rhythmic strings, grows naturally out of the
_Plus anime_, in subtle change of pace (from 6/4 to 3/2), the episode
begins with eccentric stride of harps (and added woodwind), that serves
as a kind of
[Music: _Moderement Lent._
(Melody in horns, clarinets and violas)
(Acc'd in strings)]
accompanying figure and foil for the sweeping song of the real second
melody (in oboe solo, succeeded by the clarinet).
[Music: (Oboe solo)
(Acc't in bassoons, horns, harps and basses)]
In the clash of themes and harmonies of the climax, the very limits of
modern license seem to be invoked. Later the three themes are entwined
in a passage of masterly counterpoint.
There is a touch of ancient harmony in the delicate tune of third
movement, which has the virtue of endless weaving. It is sung by solo
violin, mainly supported by a choir of lower strings.
A final conclusive line is given by the solo flute. Besides the constant
course of varying tune, there is a power of ever changing harmony that
seems to lie in some themes.
One can hardly call it all a Scherzo. It is rather an idyll after the
pathos of the Andante. Or, from another view, reversing the usual order,
we may find the quality of traditional Trio in the first melody and a
bacchanale of wild humor in the middle. For, out
[Music: _Tres anime_
(Woodwind and strings)]
of a chance phrase of horns grows of all the symphony the boldest
harmonic phrase (repeated through ten bars). Above rings a barbarous
cry, in defiance of common time and rhythm.
Suddenly we are surprised by the sound of the martial stride of the
second theme of the Andante which moves on the sea of rough harmony as
on a native element. One whim follows another. The same motion is all
there, but as if in shadow, in softest sound, and without the jar of
discord; then comes the fiercest clash of all, and now a gayest dance of
the first tune, _assez vif_, in triple rhythm, various figures having
their _pas seul_. A second episode returns, brilliant in high pace but
purged of the former war of sounds. At the end is the song of the first
tune, with new pranks and sallies.
The beginning of the Finale is all in a musing review of past thoughts.
The shadow of the last tune lingers, in slower pace; the ominous dirge
of first motto sounds below; the soothing melody of the Andante sings a
verse. In solemn fugue the original motto is reared from its timid
phrase to masterful utterance, with splendid stride. Or
[Music: _Modere et solennel_
(Cellos and basses)]
rather the theme is blended of the first two phrases, merging their
opposite characters in the new mood of resolution. The strings prepare
for the sonorous entrance of woodwind and horns. One of the greatest
fugal episodes of symphonies, it is yet a mere prelude to the real
movement, where the light theme is drawn from a phrase of latest
cadence. And the dim hue of minor which began the symphony, and all
overspread the prelude, at last yields to the clear major. There is
something of the struggle of shadow and light of the great third
symphony of Brahms.
The continuous round of the theme, in its unstable pace (of 5/4), has a
strange power of motion, the feeling
of old passacaglia. To be sure, it is the mere herald and companion of
the crowning tune, in solo of the reeds.
From the special view of structure, there is no symphony, modern or
classic, with such an overpowering combination and resolution of
integral themes in one movement. So almost constant is the derivation of
ideas, that one feels they must be all related. Thus, the late rush of
rhythm, in the Finale, is broken by a quiet verse where with enchanting
subtlety we are carried back somewhere to the idyll of third movement.
Above, rises another melody, and from its simple outline grows a fervor
and pathos that, aside from the basic themes of the whole work, strike
the main feeling of the Finale.
[Music: _Un peu moins vite_]
The martial trip from the Andante joins later in the return of the
whirling rhythm. At last the motto strikes on high, but the appealing
counter-melody is not easily hushed.
(Cellos with _tremolo_ violins)]
It breaks out later in a verse of exalted beauty and passion. The
struggle of the two ideas reminds us of the Fifth Symphony. At last the
gloom of the fateful motto is relieved by the return of the original
answer, and we seem to see a new source of latest ideas, so that we
wonder whether all the melodies are but guises of the motto and answer,
which now at the close, sing in united tones a hymn of peace and bliss.
DEBUSSY AND THE INNOVATORS
At intervals during the course of the art have appeared the innovators
and pioneers,--rebels against the accepted manner and idiom. The mystery
is that while they seem necessary to progress they seldom create
enduring works. The shadowy lines may begin somewhere among the Huebalds
and other early adventurers. One of the most striking figures is Peri,
who boldly, almost impiously, abandoned the contrapuntal style, the only
one sanctioned by tradition, and set the dramatic parts in informal
musical prose with a mere strumming of instruments.
It is not easy to see the precise need of such reaction. The radical
cause is probably a kind of inertia in all things human, by which the
accepted is thought the only way. Rules spring up that are never wholly
true; at best they are shifts to guide the student, inadequate
conclusions from past art. The essence of an art can never be put in
formulas. Else we should be content with the verbal form. The best
excuse for the rule is that it is meant to guard the element of truth in
art from meretricious pretence.
And, we must not forget, Art progresses by slow degrees; much that is
right in one age could not come in an earlier, before the intervening
The masters, when they had won their spurs, were ever restive under
rules.[A] Yet they underwent the strictest discipline, gaining early the
secret of expression; for the best purpose of rules is liberation, not
restraint. On the other hand they were, in the main, essentially
conservative. Sebastian Bach clung to the older manner, disdaining the
secular sonata for which his son was breaking the ground.
[Footnote A: Some of the chance sayings of Mozart (recently edited by
Kerst-Elberfeld) betray much contempt for academic study: "Learning from
books is of no account. Here, here, and here (pointing to ear, head, and
heart) is your school." On the subject of librettists "with their
professional tricks," he says: "If we composers were equally faithful to
our own rules (which were good enough when men knew no better), we
should turn out just as poor a quality in our music as they in their
librettos." Yet, elsewhere, he admits: "No one has spent so much pains
on the study of composition as myself. There is hardly a famous master
in music whom I have not read through diligently and often."]
The master feels the full worth of what has been achieved; else he has
not mastered. He merely gives a crowning touch of poetic message, while
the lighter mind is busy with tinkering of newer forms. For the highest
reaches of an art, the poet must first have grasped all that has gone
before. He will not rebel before he knows the spirit of the law, nor
spend himself on novelty for its own sake.
The line between the Master and the Radical may often seem vague. For,
the former has his Promethean strokes, all unpremeditated, compelled by
the inner sequence,--as when Beethoven strikes the prophetic drum in the
grim Scherzo of the Fifth Symphony; or in the Eroica when the horn
sounds sheer ahead, out of line with the sustaining chorus; or when Bach
leaps to his harmonic heights in organ fantasy and toccata; or Mozart
sings his exquisite clashes in the G Minor Symphony.
As the true poet begins by absorption of the art that he finds, his
early utterance will be imitative. His ultimate goal is not the
strikingly new but the eternally true. It is a question less of men than
of a point of view.
It seems sometimes that in art as in politics two parties are needed,
one balancing the weaknesses of the other. As certain epochs are
overburdened by the spirit of a past poet, so others are marred by the
opposite excess, by a kind of neo-mania. The latter comes naturally as
reaction from the former. Between them the poet holds the balance of
When Peri overthrew the trammels of counterpoint, in a dream of Hellenic
revival of drama, he could not hope to write a master-work. Destructive
rebellion cannot be blended with constructive beauty. An antidote is of
necessity not nourishment. Others may follow the path-breaker and slowly
reclaim the best of old tradition from the new soil. The strange part of
this rebellion is that it is always marked by the quality of stereotype
which it seeks to avoid. This is an invariable symptom. It cannot be
otherwise; for the rejection of existing art leaves too few resources.
Moreover, the pioneer has his eye too exclusively upon the mere manner.
A wholesome reaction there may be against excess. When Gluck dared to
move the hearts of his hearers instead of tickling their ears, he
achieved his purpose by positive beauty, without actual loss. In this
sense every work of art is a work of revolution. So Wagner, especially
in his earlier dramas,[A] by sheer sincerity and poetic directness,
corrected a frivolous tradition of opera. But when he grew destructive
of melody and form, by theory and practice, he sank to the role of
innovator, with pervading trait of stereotype, in the main merely adding
to the lesser resources of the art. His later works, though they contain
episodes of overwhelming beauty, cannot have a place among the permanent
classics, alone by reason of their excessive reiteration.
[Footnote A: The "Flying Dutchman," "Lohengrin" and "Tannhaeuser" seemed
destined to survive Wagner's later works.]
One of the most charming instances of this iconoclasm is the music of
Claude Debussy.[A] In a way we are reminded of the first flash of
Wagner's later manner: the same vagueness of tonality, though with a
different complexion and temper. Like the German, Debussy has his own
novel use of instruments. He is also a rebel against episodic melody.
Only, with Wagner the stand was more of theory than of practice. His
lyric inspiration was here too strong; otherwise with Debussy. Each
article of rebellion is more highly stressed in the French leader, save
as to organic form, where the latter is far the stronger. And finally
the element of mannerism cannot be gainsaid in either composer.[B]
[Footnote A: Born in 1862.]
[Footnote B: Some recurring traits Wagner and Debussy have in common,
such as the climactic chord of the ninth. The melodic appoggiatura is as
frequent in the earlier German as the augmented chord of the fifth in
the later Frenchman.]
Among the special traits of Debussy's harmonic manner is a mingling with
the main chord of the third below. There is a building downward, as it
were. The harmony, complete as it stands, seeks a lower foundation so
that the plain tower (as it looked at first) is at the end a lofty
minaret. It is striking that a classic figure in French music should
have stood, in the early eighteenth century, a champion of this idea, to
be sure only in the domain of theory. There is a touch of romance in the
fate of a pioneer, rejected for his doctrine in one age, taken up in the
art of two centuries later.[A]
[Footnote A: Rameau, when the cyclopaedic spirit was first stirring and
musical art was sounding for a scientific basis, insisted on the element
of the third below, implying a tonic chord of 6, 5, 3. Here he was
opposed by Fetis, Fux and other theoretic authority; judgment was
definitively rendered against him by contemporary opinion and prevailing
tradition. It cannot be said that the modern French practice has
justified Rameau's theory, since with all the charm of the enriched
chord, there is ever a begging of the question of the ultimate root.]
A purely scientific basis must be shunned in any direct approach of the
art whether critical or creative,--alone for the fatal allurement of a
separate research. The truth is that a spirit of fantastic experiment,
started by the mystic manner of a Cesar Franck, sought a sanction in the
phenomena of acoustics. So it is likely that the enharmonic process of
Franck led to the strained use of the whole-tone scale (of which we have
spoken above) by a further departure from tonality.[A] And yet, in all
truth, there can be no doubt of the delight of these flashes of the
modern French poet,--a delicate charm as beguiling as the bolder, warmer
harmonies of the earlier German. Instead of the broad exultation of
Wagner there is in Debussy the subtle, insinuating dissonance. Nor is
the French composer wanting in audacious strokes. Once for all he stood
the emancipator of the art from the stern rule of individual vocal
procedure. He cut the Gordian knot of harmonic pedagogy by the mere
weapon of poetic elision. He simply omitted the obvious link by a
license ancient in poetry and even in prose. He devised in his harmonies
the paradox, that is the essence of art, that the necessary step somehow
becomes unnecessary. Though Wagner plunges without ceremony into his
languorous chords, he carefully resolves their further course. Debussy
has them tumbling in headlong descent like sportive leviathans in his
sea of sound. Moreover he has broken these fetters of a small punctilio
without losing the sense of a true harmonic sequence. Nay, by the very
riotous revel of upper harmonies he has stressed the more clearly the
path of the fundamental tone. When he enters the higher sanctuary of
pure concerted voices, he is fully aware of the fine rigor of its rites.
And finally his mischievous abandon never leads him to do violence to
the profoundest element of the art, of organic design.[B]
[Footnote A: As the lower overtones, discovered by a later science,
clearly confirm the tonal system of the major scale, slowly evolved in
the career of the art,--so the upper overtones are said to justify the
whole-tone process. At best this is a case of the devil quoting
scripture. The main recurring overtones, which are lower and audible,
are all in support of a clear prevailing tonality.]
[Footnote B: In the drama Debussy avoids the question of form by
treating the music as mere scenic background. Wagner, in his later
works, attempted the impossible of combining a tonal with the dramatic
plot. In both composers, to carry on the comparison beyond the technical
phase, is a certain reaching for the primeval, in feeling as in
tonality. Here they are part of a larger movement of their age. The
subjects of their dramas are chosen from the same period of mediaeval
legend, strongly surcharged in both composers with a spirit of fatalism
where tragedy and love are indissolubly blended.]
_"THE SEA." THREE SYMPHONIC SKETCHES_
_I.--From Dawn to Noon on the Sea._ In awesome quiet of unsoothing
sounds we feel, over a dual elemental motion, a quick fillip as of
sudden lapping wave, while a shadowy air rises slowly in hollow
intervals. Midst trembling whispers descending (like the soughing
wind), a strange note, as of distant trumpet, strikes in gentle
insistence--out of the other rhythm--and blows a wailing phrase. The
trembling whisper has sunk to lowest depths. Still continues the lapping
of waves--all sounds of unhuman nature.
[Music: (Muted trumpet, with Eng. horns in lower 8ve.)
(Cellos with basses in lower 8ve.)]
On quicker spur the shadowy motive flits faster here and there in a slow
swelling din of whispering, to the insistent plash of wave. Suddenly the
sense of desolation yields to soothing play of waters--a _berceuse_ of
the sea--and now a song sings softly (in horn), though strangely jarring
on the murmuring lullaby. The soothing cheer is anon broken by a shift
of new tone. There is a fluctuation of pleasant and strange sounds; a
dulcet air on rapturous harmony is hushed by unfriendly plash of chord.
Back again in the quieter play of rhythm the strange, sweet song (of
In a ravishing climax of gentle chorus of quick plashing waves and
swirling breeze the song sings on and the trumpet blows its line of tune
to a ringing phrase of the clarinet.
[Music: (Strings and horns)
_ad lib. faster_]
When this has died down, the lapping waves, as in concert, strike in
full chord that spreads a hue of warmth, as of the first peep of sun. It
is indeed as though the waves rose towards the sun with a glow of
In the wake of the first stirring shock is a host of soft cheering
sounds of bustling day, like a choir of birds or bells. The eager
madrigal leads to a final blast (with acclaiming chorus of big rocking
waves), echoed in golden notes of the horns. One slight touch has
heightened the hue to warmest cheer; but once do we feel the full glow
of risen sun.
The chilling shadows return, as the wistful air of hushed trumpet
sounds again. We hover between flashes of warming sun, until the waves
have abated; in soothing stillness the romantic horn[A] sings a lay of
[Footnote A: English horn.]
Now to friendly purling of playful wavelets, the sea moves in shifting
harmonies. In sudden climax the motion of the waves fills all the brass
in triumphant paean, in the gleam of high noon.
_II.--Play of the Waves._ There is a poetic background as for the play
of legend. We seem to be watching the sea from a window in the castle of
_Pelleas_. For there is a touch of dim romance in a phrase of the
The movement of waves is clear, and the unconscious concert of
sea-sounds, the deeper pulse of ocean (in the horns), the flowing
ripples, the sharp dash of lighter surf (in the Glockenspiel), all with
a constant tremor, an instability of element (in trembling strings). We
cannot help feeling the illusion of scene in the impersonal play of
natural sounds. Anon will come a shock of exquisite sweetness that must
have something of human. And then follows a resonant clash with spray of
Here the story of the waves begins, and there are clearly two roles.
To light lapping and cradling of waters the wood sings the simple lay,
while strings discourse in quicker, higher phrase. The parts are
reversed. A shower of chilling wave (in gliding harps) breaks the
[Music: _Con anima_
(Highest and lowest figure in strings.
Middle voices in octaves of wood)]
Now golden tones (of horns) sound a mystic tale of one of the former
figures. The scene shimmers
[Music: (With rhythmic harps and strings)
(Eng. horn) _espressivo_
in sparkling, glinting waters (with harp and trilling wood and strings).
But against the soothing background the story (of English horn) has a
chill, ominous strain.
With the returning main song comes the passionate crisis, and we are
back in the mere plash and play of impersonal waves.
On dancing ripples, a nixie is laughing to echoing horns and lures us
back to the story.
[Music: (Strings with lower 8ve.)
(Cl.) _grazioso_ (Horns)]
Later, it seems, two mermaids sing in twining duet. In a warm hue of
light the horns sound a weird tale. It is taken up by teasing chorus of
lighter voices. In the growing volume sounds a clear, almost martial
call of the brass.
In a new shade of scene we recover the lost burden of song; the original
figures appear (in the slower air of trembling strings and the quicker
play of reed, harp and bells), and wander through ever new, moving
phases. A shower of chords (in strings and shaking brass) brings back
the ominous melody, amidst a chorus of light chatter, but firmly resting
on a warm background of harmony. And the strain roves on generous path
and rises out of all its gloom to a burst of profound cheer.
[Music: (1st violins with lower 8ve.)
(2d violins; percussion with cellos below)
(Harp with violas)
(Flutes with higher 8ve.)
(See page 104, line 11.)]
As in all fairy tales, the scene quickly vanishes. On dancing rays and
ripples is the laughing nixie; but suddenly breaks the first song of the
main figures. A climactic phrase of trumpets ends with a burst of all
the chorus on stirring harmony, where in diminishing strokes of bells
long rings the melodic note.
The teasing motive of the nixie returns while the trumpet sounds a
shadowy echo of its phrase, again to dying peal of bells. A chorus of
eerie voices sing the mocking air, and again sounds the refrain of
trumpet as in rebuke. On a tumult of teasing cries flashes a delivering
burst of brilliant light, and we are back in the first scene of the
story. Only the main figure is absent. And there is in the eager tension
of pace a quivering between joy and doubt. Then, in answer to the
lighter phrase of the other, is the returning figure with a new song now
of blended longing and content that soars into higher flights until a
mighty chorus repeats the strain that rises to triumphant height of joy
and transforms the mocking motive to the same mood.
But it is all a play of the waves. And we are left once more to the
impersonal scene where yet the fragrance of legend hovers over the dying
_III.--Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea._ Tumultuous is the humor of the
beginning; early sounds the stroke of wave of the first hour of the sea.
The muted trumpet blows a strain (to trembling strings) that takes us
back to the first (quoted) tune of the symphony in the wistful mood of
dawn. For a symphony it proves to be in the unity of themes and thought.
Now unmuted and unrestrained in conflict of crashing chords, the trumpet
blows again the motto of the roving sea. In various figures is the
pelagic motion, in continuous coursing strings, in the sweeping phrase
of the woodwind, or in the original wave-motion of the horns, now
The main burden is a plaint
[Music: (Woodwind in lower octaves
and touches of horns)
(_Animato_) _poco rit._
(Strings in higher and lower octaves)]
(in the wood) against the insistent surge (of strings), on a haunting
motive as of farewell or eventide, with much stress of pathos. It is
sung in sustained duet against a constant churning figure of the sea,
and it is varied by a dulcet strain that grows out of the wave-motive.
Indeed, the whole movement is complementary of the first, the obverse as
it were. The themes are of the same text; the hue and mood have changed
from the spring of dawn to the sadness of dusk. The symbol of noontide
peace reappears with minor tinge, at the hush of eve. The climactic
motive of the sea acclaiming the rising sun is there, but reversed.
The sea too has the same tempestuous motion (indeed, the plaintive song
is mainly of the wind), unrestrained by the sadder mood. At the
passionate climax, where the higher figure sinks toward the rising
lower, it is as if the Wind kissed the Sea.
The concluding scene begins as in the first movement, save with greater
extension of expressive melody. And the poignant note has a long song
against a continuous rippling (of harps).
More elemental figures crowd the scene; the first melody (of trumpet)
has a full verse, and the dulcet phrase (of wave-motive).
Toward the end the plaintive song has an ever-growing chorus of
acclaiming voices. In the fever of united coursing motion the phrase
loses the touch of sadness until in eager, spirited pace, as of
galloping steeds, it ends with a shout of victory.
_DUKAS. "THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE"_
Chief among the companions of Claude Debussy in his adventures is Paul
Dukas.[A] Though he lags somewhat in bold flights of harmonies, he shows
a clearer vein of melody and rhythm, and he has an advantage in a
greater freedom from the rut of repeated device.
[Footnote A: Born in 1865.]
It is somehow in the smaller forms that the French composer finds the
trenchant utterance of his fancy. A Scherzo, after the ballad of Goethe,
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice," tells the famous story of the boy who in
his master's absence compels the spirit in the broom to fetch the
water; but he cannot say the magic word to stop the flood, although he
cleaves the demon-broom in two.
After the title-page of the score is printed a prose version (by Henri
Blaze) of Goethe's ballad, "Der Zauberlehrling."
Of several translations the following, by Bowring, seems the best:
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE
I am now,--what joy to hear it!--
Of the old magician rid;
And henceforth shall ev'ry spirit
Do whatever by me is bid:
I have watch'd with rigor
All he used to do,
And will now with vigor
Work my wonders, too.
So that rightly
Flow the torrent,
And with teeming waters yonder
In the bath discharge its current!
And now come, thou well-worn broom,
And thy wretched form bestir;
Thou hast ever served as groom,
So fulfil my pleasure, sir!
On two legs now stand
With a head on top;
Water pail in hand,
Haste and do not stop!
So that rightly
Flow the torrent,
And with teeming waters yonder
In the bath discharge its current!
See! he's running to the shore,
And has now attained the pool,
And with lightning speed once more
Comes here, with his bucket full!
Back he then repairs;
See how swells the tide!
How each pail he bears
Straightway is supplied!
Stop, for lo!
All the measure
Of thy treasure
Now is right!
Ah, I see it! woe, oh, woe!
I forget the word of might.
Ah, the word whose sound can straight
Make him what he was before!
Ah, he runs with nimble gait!
Would thou wert a broom once more!
Streams renew'd forever
Quickly bringeth he;
River after river
Rusheth on poor me!
Now no longer
Can I bear him,
I will snare him,
Ah, my terror waxes stronger!
What a look! what fearful sight!
Oh, thou villain child of hell!
Shall the house through thee be drown'd?
Floods I see that widely swell,
O'er the threshold gaining ground.
Wilt thou not obey,
O thou broom accurs'd!
Be thou still, I pray,
As thou wert at first!
Never please thee?
I will seize thee,
Hold thee fast,
And thy nimble wood so tough
With my sharp axe split at last.
See, once more he hastens back!
Now, O Cobold, thou shalt catch it!
I will rush upon his track;
Crashing on him falls my hatchet.
Bravely done, indeed!
See, he's cleft in twain!
Now from care I'm freed,
And can breathe again.
Woe oh, woe!
Both the parts,
Quick as darts,
Stand on end,
Servants of my dreaded foe!
O ye gods, protection send!
And they run! and wetter still
Grow the steps and grows the hall.
Lord and master, hear me call!
Ever seems the flood to fill.
Ah, he's coming! see,
Great is my dismay!
Spirits raised by me
Vainly would I lay!
"To the side
Of the room
As of old!
Spirits I have ne'er untied
Save to act as they are told."
In paragraphs are clearly pointed the episodes: the boy's delight at
finding himself alone to conjure the spirits; the invocation to the
water, recurring later as refrain (which in the French is not addressed
to the spirit); then the insistent summons of the spirit in the broom;
the latter's obedient course to the river and his oft-repeated fetching
of the water; the boy's call to him to stop,--he has forgotten the
formula; his terror over the impending flood; he threatens in his
anguish to destroy the broom; he calls once more to stop; the repeated
threat; he cleaves the spirit in two and rejoices; he despairs as two
spirits are now adding to the flood; he invokes the master who returns;
the master dismisses the broom to the corner.
There is the touch of magic in the first harmonics of strings, and the
sense of sorcery is always sustained in the strange harmonies.[A]
[Footnote A: The flageolet tones of the strings seem wonderfully
designed in their ghostly sound for such an aerial touch. Dukas uses
them later in divided violins, violas and cellos, having thus a triad of
harmonics doubled in the octave.
The remaining instruments are: Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets,
bass-clarinet, 3 bassoons, contra-bassoon (or contra-bass sarrusophon);
4 horns, 2 trumpets (often muted); 2 cornets-a-pistons; 3 trombones; 3
kettle-drums; harp; glockenspiel; big drum, cymbals and triangle.]
After a mystic descent of eerie chords, a melodious cooing phrase begins
in higher wood, echoed from one voice to the other, while the
spirit-notes are still sounding.
Suddenly dashes a stream of descending spray, met by another ascending;
in the midst the first phrase is rapidly sounded (in muted trumpet). As
suddenly the first solemn moment has returned, the phrase has grown in
melody, while uncanny harmonies prevail. Amidst a new feverish rush a
[Music: (Wood and _pizz._ strings)
(Horns and trumpets)]
loud and oft (in trumpets and horns) ending in an insistent, furious
summons. The silence that ensues is as speaking (or in its way as
deafening) as were the calls.
After what seems like the grating of ancient joints, set in reluctant
motion, the whole tune of the first wooing phrase moves in steady gait,
in comic bassoons, to the tripping of strings, further and fuller
extended as other voices join. The beginning phrase of chords recurs as
answer. Ever the lumbering trip continues, with strange turn of harmony
and color, followed ever by the weird answer. A fuller apparition comes
with the loud, though muffled tones of the trumpets. The original tune
grows in new turns and folds of melody, daintily tipped with the ring of
bells over the light tones of the wood. The brilliant
(Melody in 3 bassoons)
(Acc't in _pizz._ strings)]
harp completes the chorus of hurrying voices. Now with full power and
swing the main notes ring in sturdy brass, while all around is a rushing
and swirling (of harps and bells and wood and strings). And still more
furious grows the flight, led by the unison violins.
A mischievous mood of impish frolic gives a new turn of saucy gait. In
the jovial answer, chorussed in simple song, seems a revel of all the
spirits of rivers and streams.
At the top of a big extended period the trumpet sends a shrill defiant
But it is not merely in power and speed,--more in an infinite variety of
color, and whim of tune and rhythmic harmony, that is expressed the
full gamut of disporting spirits. Later, at fastest speed of tripping
harp and wood, the brass ring out that first, insistent summons, beneath
the same eerie harmonies--and the uncanny descending chords answer as
before. But alas! the summons will not work the other way. Despite the
forbidding command and all the other exorcising the race goes madly on.
And now, if we are intent on the story, we may see the rising rage of
the apprentice and at last the fatal stroke that seemingly hems and
almost quells the flood. But not quite! Slowly (as at first) the hinges
start in motion. And now, new horror! Where there was one, there are now
two ghostly figures scurrying to redoubled disaster. Again and again the
stern call rings out, answered by the wildest tumult of all. The shouts
for the master's aid seem to turn to shrieks of despair. At last a
mighty call overmasters and stills the storm. Nothing is heard but the
first fitful phrases; now they seem mere echoes, instead of
forewarnings. We cannot fail to see the fine parallel, how the masterful
command is effective as was the similar call at the beginning.
Significantly brief is the ending, at once of the story and of the
music. In the brevity lies the point of the plot: in the curt dismissal
of the humbled spirit, at the height of his revel, to his place as broom
in the corner. Wistful almost is the slow vanishing until the last
chords come like the breaking of a fairy trance.
The Byron of music is Tschaikowsky for a certain alluring melancholy and
an almost uncanny flow and sparkle. His own personal vein deepened the
morbid tinge of his national humor.
We cannot ignore the inheritance from Liszt, both spiritual and musical.
More and more does the Hungarian loom up as an overmastering influence
of his own and a succeeding age. It seems as if Liszt, not Wagner, was
the musical prophet who struck the rock of modern pessimism, from which
flowed a stream of ravishing art. The national current in Tschaikowsky's
music was less potent than with his younger compatriots; or at least it
lay farther beneath the surface.
For nationalism in music has two very different bearings. The concrete
elements of folk-song, rhythm and scale, as they are more apparent, are
far less important. The true significance lies in the motive of an
unexpressed national idea that presses irresistibly towards fulfilment.
Here is the main secret of the Russian achievement in modern music,--as
of other nations like the Finnish. It is the cause that counts. Though
Russian song has less striking traits than Hungarian or Spanish, it has
blossomed in a far richer harvest of noble works of art.
Facile, fluent, full of color, Tschaikowsky seems equipped less for
subjective than for lyric and dramatic utterance, as in his "Romeo and
Juliet" overture. In the "Manfred" Symphony we may see the most fitting
employment of his talent. Nor is it unlikely that the special
correspondence of treatment and subject may cause this symphony to
survive the others, may leave it long a rival of Schumann's "Manfred"
With Tschaikowsky feeling is always highly stressed, never in a certain
natural poise. He quite lacks the noble restraint of the masters who, in
their symphonic lyrics, wonderfully suggest the still waters that run
Feeling with Tschaikowsky was frenzy, violent passion, so that with all
abandon there is a touch of the mechanical in his method. Emotion as the
content of highest art must be of greater depth and more quiet flow. And
it is part or a counterpart of an hysterical manner that it reacts to a
cold and impassive mood,--such as we feel in the Andante of the Fourth
The final quality for symphonic art is, after all, less the chance flash
of inspiration than a big view, a broad sympathy, a deep well of feeling
that comes only with great character.
Nay, there is a kind of peril in the symphony for the poet of uncertain
balance from the betrayal of his own temper despite his formal plan.
Through all the triumph of a climax as in the first movement of the
Fourth Symphony, we may feel a subliminal sadness that proves how subtle
is the expression in music of the subjective mood. There is revealed not
the feeling the poet is conscious of, but, below this, his present self,
and in the whole series of his works, his own personal mettle. What the
poet tries to say is very different from what he does say. In a
symphony, as in many a frolic, the tinge of latent melancholy will
_SYMPHONY NO. 4_
Reverting to a great and fascinating question as to the content of art,
we may wonder whether this is not the real tragic symphony of
Tschaikowsky, in the true heroic sense, in a view where the highest
tragedy is not measured by the wildest lament. There may be a stronger
sounding of lower depths with a firmer touch (with less of a conscious
kind of abandon),--whence the recoil to serene cheer will be the
There is surely a magnificent aspiration in the first Allegro, a
profound knell of destiny and a rare ring of triumph. Underlying all is
the legend of trumpets, _Andante sostenuto_ (3/4), with a dim touch
[Music: _Andante sostenuto_
(Horns and bassoons doubled in 8va.)]
of tragedy. Opposite in feeling is the descending motive of strings,
_Moderato con anima_ (9/8). First gently expressive, it soon rises in
passion (the original
[Music: _Moderato con anima_
_in movimento di valse_
(Strings and one horn, the melody doubled below)]
motto always sounding) to a climax whence an ascending motive, in lowest
basses, entering in manner of fugue, holds a significant balance with
the former. Each in turn rears a climax for the other's
[Music: (Horns doubled below)
(Cellos and bassoons)]
entrance; the first, lamenting, leads to the soothing hope of the second
that, in the very passion of its refrain, loses assurance and ends in a
Suddenly a very new kind of solace appears _Dolce grazioso_, in a
phrase of the clarinet that leads to a duet of wood and _cantabile_
strings, impersonal almost in the sweetness of its flowing song.
[Music: _Moderato assai_
(Oboe doubled in flute)
In such an episode we have a new Tschaikowsky,--no longer the subjective
poet, but the painter with a certain Oriental luxuriance and grace. It
is interesting to study the secret of this effect. The preluding strain
lowers the tension of the storm of feeling and brings us to the attitude
of the mere observer. The "movement of waltz" now has a new meaning, as
of an apparition in gently gliding dance. The step is just sustained in
leisurely strings. Above is the simple melodic trip of clarinet, where a
final run is echoed throughout the voices of the wood; a slower moving
strain in low cellos suggests the real song that presently begins, while
high in the wood the lighter tune continues. The ripples still keep
spreading throughout the voices, at the end of a line. The tunes then
change places, the slower singing above.
With all the beauty, there is the sense of shadowy picture,--a certain
complete absence of passion. Now the lower phrase appears in two
companion voices (of strings), a hymnal kind of duet,--_ben sostenuto
il tempo precedente_. Here, very softly in the same timid pace, enters a
chorus, on high, of the old sighing motive. Each melody breaks upon the
[Music: _Bel sostenuto il tempo (moderato)_
(Woodwind doubled above)
ceases, with equal abruptness. There is no blending, in the constant
alternation, until the earlier (lamenting) motive conquers and rises to
a new height where a culminating chorale sounds a big triumph, while the
sighing phrase merely spurs a new verse of assurance.
[Music: (Strings and flutes)
(Doubled above and below)]
A completing touch lies in the answering phrase of the chorale, where
the answer of original motto is transformed into a masterful ring of
cheer and confidence.
As is the way with symphonies, it must all be sung and striven over
again to make doubly sure. Only there is never the same depth of lament
after the triumph. In a later verse is an augmented song of the answer
of trumpet legend, in duet of thirds, in slow, serene pace, while the
old lament sounds below in tranquil echoes and united strains. Before
the end, _molto piu vivace_, the answer rings in new joyous rhythm.
Somewhat the reverse of the first movement, in the second the emotional
phase grows slowly from the naive melody of the beginning. Against the
main melody that begins in oboe solo (with _pizzicato_ strings),
_semplice ma grazioso_, plays later a rising
[Music: _Andantino in modo di canzone_
(Clarinet with lower 8ve.)
(Bassoons, with _pizz._ basses)]
counter-theme that may recall an older strain. The second melody, in
Greek mode, still does not depart
[Music: (Strings, wood and horns)]
from the naive mood, or lack of mood. A certain modern trait is in this
work, when the feeling vents and wastes itself and yields to an
impassive recoil, more coldly impersonal than the severest classic.
A sigh at the end of the second theme is a first faint reminder of the
original lament. Of it is fashioned the third theme. A succeeding climax
[Music: _Piu mosso_
(Clarinet doubled below in bassoons)
brings back the subjective hue of the earlier symphony. A counter-theme,
of the text of the second melody of Allegro,--now one above, now the
other--is a final stroke. Even the shaking of the trumpet figure is
there at the height, in all the brass. Yet as a whole the first melody
prevails, with abundant variation of runs in the wood against the song
of the strings.
The Scherzo seems a masterly bit of humor, impish, if you will, yet on
the verge always of tenderness. The first part is never-failing in the
flash and sparkle of its play, all in _pizzicato_ strings, with a
wonderful daemonic quality of the mere instrumental effect. Somewhat
suddenly the oboe holds a long note and
[Music: _Pizzicato ostinato_
then, with the bassoons, has a tune that is almost sentimental. But
presently the clarinets make mocking
[Music: (Oboes and bassoons)]
retorts. Here, in striking scene, all the brass (but the tuba) very
softly blow the first melody with eccentric halts, in just half the old
pace except when they take us by surprise. The clarinet breaks in with
the sentimental tune in faster time while the brass all the while are
playing as before. There are all kinds of pranks, often at the same
time. The piccolo, in highest treble, inverts the second melody, in
impertinent drollery. The brass has still newer surprises. Perhaps the
best of the fooling is where strings below and woodwind above share the
melody between them, each taking two notes at a time.
The first of the Finale is pure fanfare, as if to let loose the steeds
of war; still it recurs as leading idea. There is a kind of sonorous
terror, increased by the insistent, regular notes of the brass, the
spirited pace of the motive of strings,--the barbaric ring we often hear
in Slav music. At the height
[Music: _Allegro con fuoco_
(Wood doubled above and below)
the savage yields to a more human vein of joyousness, though at the end
it rushes the more wildly into a
(Doubled above and below)]
series of shrieks of trebles with tramping of basses. The real battle
begins almost with a lull, the mere sound of the second tune in the
reeds with light strum of strings and triangle. As the theme is
redoubled (in thirds of the wood), the sweep of strings of the first
motive is added, with chords of horns. A rising figure is now opposed to
the descent of the second melody, with shaking of woodwind that brings
back the old trumpet legend. Here the storm grows apace, with increasing
tumult of entering hostile strains, the main song now ringing in low
In various versions and changes we seem to see earlier themes briefly
reappearing. Indeed there is a striking kinship of themes throughout,
not so much in outline as in the air and mood of the tunes. This seems
to be proven by actual outer resemblance when the motives are developed.
Here in a quiet spot--though the battle has clearly not ceased--is the
answer of old trumpet motto, that pervaded the first Allegro. There is a
strong feeling of the Scherzo here in the _pizzicato_ answers of
strings. The second theme of the Andante is recalled, too, in the
strokes of the second of the Finale. In the thick of the fray is a
wonderful maze of versions of the theme, diminished and augmented at the
same time with the original pace. Yet it is all a clear flow of melody
and rich harmony. The four beats of quarter notes, in the lengthened
theme, come as high point like the figure of the leader in battle. A
later play of changes is like the sport of the Scherzo. This insensibly
leads to the figure of the fanfare, whence the earlier song returns
with the great joyous march.
The final height of climax is distinguished by a stentorian, fugal blast
of the theme in the bass, the higher breaking in on the lower, while
other voices are raging on the quicker phrases. It is brought to a
dramatic halt by the original prelude of trumpet legend, in all its
fulness. Though the march-song recurs, the close is in the ruder humor
of the main themes.
_THE "MANFRED" SYMPHONY_
Schumann and Tschaikowsky are the two most eminent composers who gave
tonal utterance to the sombre romance of Byron's dramatic poem.[A] It is
interesting to remember that Byron expressly demanded the assistance of
music for the work. If we wish to catch the exact effect that is sought
in the original conception, Schumann's setting is the nearest approach.
It is still debated whether a scenic representation is more impressive,
or a simple reading, reinforced by the music.
[Footnote A: Prefixed are the familiar lines:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."]
Tschaikowsky's setting is a "symphony in four pictures, or scenes (_en
quatre tableaux_), after Byron's dramatic poem." In the general design
and spirit there is much of the feeling of Berlioz's "Fantastic"
Symphony, though the manner of the music shows no resemblance whatever.
There is much more likeness to Liszt's "Faust" Symphony, in that the
pervading recurrence of themes suggests symbolic labels. Moreover, in
the very character of many of the motives, there is here a striking line
_Lento lugubre_, the first scene or picture, begins with a theme in
basses of reeds:
[Music: _Lento lugubre_
with later _pizzicato_ figure of low strings.
An answering strain is one of the most important of all the melodies:
On these, a bold conflict and climax is reared. If we care to indulge in
the bad habit of calling names, we might see "Proud Ambition" in the
first motives, intertwined with sounds of sombre discontent. The pace
grows _animando_,--_piu mosso_; _moderato molto_. Suddenly Andante sings
a new, expressive song, with a dulcet cheer of its own, rising to
passionate periods and a final height whence, _Andante con duolo_, a
loudest chorus of high wood and strings, heralded and accompanied by
martial tremolo of low wood, horns, basses, and drums, sound the fateful
chant that concludes the first scene, and, toward the close of the work,
sums the main idea.
[Music: (Strings and flutes)
(Basses, wood and horns)
(Same continuing rhythm)]
The apparition of the Witch of the Alps is pictured in daintiest,
sparkling play of strings and wood, with constant recurrence of mobile
figures above and below. It seems as if the image of the fountain is
fittest and most tempting for mirroring in music. Perhaps the most
beautiful, the most haunting, of all the "Manfred" music of Schumann is
this same scene of the Witch of the Alps.
Here, with Tschaikowsky, hardly a single note of brass intrudes on this
_perpetuum mobile_ of light, plashing spray until, later, strains that
hark back to the first scene cloud the clear brilliancy of the cascade.
Now the play of the waters is lost in the new vision, and a limpid song
glides in the violins, with big rhythmic chords of harps, is taken up in
clarinets, and carried on by violins in new melodic verse, _con
tenerezza e molto espressione_. Then the whole chorus sing the tune in
gentle volume. As it dies away, the music of the falling waters plash as
before. The returning song has phases of varying sadness and passion. At
the most vehement height,--and here, if we choose, we may see the stern
order to retire,--the fatal chant is shrieked by full chorus in almost
Gradually the innocent play of the waters is heard again, though a
gloomy pall hangs over. The chant sounds once more before the end.
The third, "Pastoral," scene we are most free to enjoy in its pure
musical beauty, with least need of definite dramatic correspondences. It
seems at first as if no notes of gloom are allowed to intrude, as if the
picture of happy simplicity stands as a foil to the tragedy of the
solitary dreamer; for an early climax gives a mere sense of the awe of
Still, as we look and listen closer, we cannot escape so easily, in
spite of the descriptive title. Indeed, the whole work seems, in its
relation to the poem upon which it is based, a very elusive play in a
double kind of symbolism. At first it is all a clear subjective
utterance of the hero's woes and hopes and fears, without definite
touches of external things. Yet, right in the second scene the torrent
is clear almost to the eye, and the events pass before us with sharp
distinctness. Tending, then, to look on the third as purest pastoral,
we are struck in the midst by an ominous strain from one of the earliest
moments of the work, the answer of the first theme of all. Here notes of
horns ring a monotone; presently a church-bell adds a higher note. The
peaceful pastoral airs then return, like the sun after a fleeting storm.
The whole of this third scene of Tschaikowsky's agrees with no special
one in Byron's poem, unless we go back to the second of the first act,
where Manfred, in a morning hour, alone upon the cliffs, views the
mountains of the Jungfrau before he makes a foiled attempt to spring
into the abyss. By a direction of the poet, in the midst of the
monologue, "the shepherd's pipe in the distance is heard," and Manfred
muses on "the natural music of the mountain reed."
The last scene of the music begins with Byron's fourth of Act II and
passes over all the incidents of the third act that precede the hero's
death, such as the two interviews with the Abbot and the glorious
invocation to the sun.
From Tschaikowsky's title, we must look for the awful gloom of the
cavernous hall of Arimanes, Byron's "Prince of Earth and Air." The gray
figure from most ancient myth is not less real to us than Mefistofeles
in "Faust." At least we clearly feel the human daring that feared not to
pry into forbidden mysteries and refused the solace of unthinking faith.
And it becomes again a question whether the composer had in mind this
subjective attitude of the hero or the actual figures and abode of the
spirits and their king. It is hard to escape the latter view, from the
general tenor, the clear-cut outline of the tunes, of which the
principal is like a stern chant:
[Music: (Wood, strings and horns)]
The most important of the later answers lies largely in the basses.
[Music: (Low wood)
(Rhythmic chords in strings)]
There is, on the whole, rather an effect of gloomy splendor (the
external view) than of meditation; a sense of visible massing than of
passionate crisis, though there is not wanting a stirring motion and
life in the picture. This is to speak of the first part, _Allegro con
The gloomy dance dies away. _Lento_ is a soft fugal chant on elemental
theme; there is all the solemnity of cathedral service; after the
low-chanted phrase follows a tremendous blare of the brass. The
repeated chant is followed by one of the earliest, characteristic themes
of the first scene. And so, if we care to follow the graphic touch, we
may see here the intrusion of Manfred, at the most solemn moment of the
As Manfred, in Byron's poem, enters undaunted, refusing to kneel, the
first of the earlier phases rings out in fierce _fortissimo_. A further
conflict appears later, when the opening theme of the work sounds with
interruptions of the first chant of the spirits.
A dulcet plaint follows, _Adagio_, in muted strings, answered by a note
of horn and a chord of harp.
(Muted strings answered by horn and harp)]
It all harks back to the gentler strains of the first movement. In the
ethereal _glissando_ of harps we see the spirit of Astarte rise to give
the fatal message. The full pathos and passion of the _lento_ episode of
first scene is heard in brief, vivid touches, and is followed by the
same ominous blast with ring of horn, as in the first picture.
A note of deliverance shines clear in the final phrase of joined
orchestra and organ, clearer perhaps than in Manfred's farewell line in
the play: "Old man! 'tis not so difficult to die." To be sure, Schumann
spreads the same solace o'er the close of his setting, with the Requiem.
The sombre splendor of romance is throughout, with just a touch of
turgid. In the poignant ecstasy of grief we feel vividly the
foreshadowing example of Liszt, in his "Dante" and "Faust" Symphonies.
_FIFTH SYMPHONY (E MINOR)_
With all the unfailing flow of lesser melodies where the charm is often
greatest of all, and the main themes of each movement with a chain of
derived phrases, one melody prevails and reappears throughout. The
fluency is more striking here than elsewhere in Tschaikowsky. All the
external sources,--all the glory of material art seem at his command. We
are reminded of a certain great temptation to which all men are subject
and some fall,--however reluctantly. Throughout there is a vein of
daemonic. The second (Allegro) melody grows to a high point of
pathos,--nay, anguish, followed later by buoyant, strepitant, dancing
delight, with the melting answer, in the latest melody. The daemon is
half external fate--in the Greek sense, half individual temper. The end
is almost sullen; but the charm is never failing; at the last is the
ever springing rhythm.
_pesante e tenuto sempre_
The march rhythm of the opening Andante is carried suddenly into a quick
trip, _Allegro con anima_ (6/8), where the main theme of the first
movement now begins, freely extended as in a full song of verses. New
accompanying figures are added, contrasting phrases or counter-melodies,
to the theme.
[Music: _Allegro con anima_
Solo clarinet (doubled below with solo bassoon.)
One expressive line plays against the wilder rhythm of the theme, with
as full a song in its own mood as the other. A new rhythmic motive, of
great charm, _un pocchetino piu animato_, is answered by a bit of the
theme. Out of it all grows, in a clear
[Music: _Molto espr._
welded chain, another episode, where the old rhythm is a mere gentle
spur to the new plaint,--_molto piu tranquillo, molto cantabile ed
[Music: _Molto piu tranquillo_
_Molto cantabile ed espr._]
To be sure, the climax has all of the old pace and life, and every voice
of the chorus at the loudest. In the answering and echoing of the
various phrases, rhythmic and melodic, is the charm of the discussion
that follows. Later the three melodies come again in the former order,
and the big climax of the plaintive episode precedes the end, where the
main theme dies down to a whisper.
_Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza._ After preluding chords in
lowest strings a solo horn begins a
[Music: _Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza_
_dolce con molto espr._
languishing song, _dolce con molto espressione_. It is a wonderful
elegy, a yearning without hope, a swan-song of desire, sadder almost
than the frank despair of the Finale of the _Pathetique_
symphony,--pulsing with passion, gorgeous with a hectic glow of
expressive beauty, moving too with a noble grace. Though there is a foil
of lighter humor, this is overwhelmed in the fateful gloom of the
returning main motto.
The abounding beauty with all its allurement lacks the solace that the
masters have led us to seek in the heart of a symphony. The clarinet
presently twines a phrase about the tune until a new answer sounds in
the oboe, that now sings in answering and chasing duet with the horn.
The phrase of oboe proves to be the main song, in full extended
periods, reaching a climax with all the voices.
[Music: _Con moto_
Well defined is the middle episode in minor reared on a new theme of the
clarinet with an almost fugal polyphony that departs from the main lyric
[Music: _Moderato con anima_
At the height all the voices fall into a united chorus on the original
motto of the symphony. The first melodies of the Andante now return with
big sweep and power, and quicker phrases from the episode. The motto
reappears in a final climax, in the trombones, before the hushed close.
We must not infer too readily a racial trait from the temper of the
individual composer. There is here an error that we fall into frequently
in the music of such men as Grieg and Tschaikowsky. The prevailing mood
of the Pathetic Symphony is in large measure personal. Some of the more
recent Russian symphonies are charged with buoyant joyousness. And,
indeed, the burden of sadness clearly distinguishes the last symphony of
Tschaikowsky from its two predecessors, the Fourth and the Fifth.
The tune of the _valse_, _Allegro moderato_, is first played by the
violins, _dolce con grazia_, with accompanying strings, horns and
bassoon. In the second part, with some loss of the lilt of dance, is a
subtle design--with a running phrase in _spiccato_ strings against a
slower upward glide of bassoons. The duet winds on a kind of _crescendo_
of modulations. Later
the themes are inverted, and the second is redoubled in speed. The whole
merges naturally into the first waltz, with a richer suite of adorning
figures. The dance does not end without a soft reminder (in low
woodwind) of the original sombre phrase.
Almost for the first time a waltz has entered the shrine of the
symphony. And yet perhaps this dance has all the more a place there. It
came on impulse (the way to visit a sanctuary), not by ancient custom.
But with all its fine variety, it is a simple waltz with all the
careless grace,--nothing more, with no hidden or graphic meaning (as in
Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony).
The middle episode, though it lacks the dancing trip, is in the one
continuing mood,--like a dream of youthful joys with just a dimming hint
of grim reality in the returning motto.
In the Finale the main legend of the symphony is transformed and
transfigured in a new, serener mood, and is brought to a full melodic
bloom. Indeed, here is the idealization of the original motto. _Andante
maestoso_ it begins in the tonic major. When the theme ceases, the brass
blow the rhythm on a monotone, midst an ascending _obligato of strings_.
[Music: (Brass and lower woodwind)
(See page 139, line 1.)]
In answer comes a new phrase of chorale. Later the chorale is sounded
by the full band, with intermediate beats of rhythmic march.
Once more there is a well-marked episode, with a full share of melodic
discussion, of clashing themes, of dramatic struggle. First in the tonic
minor a theme rises from the last casual cadence in resonant march,
_Allegro vivace_. Then follows a duet, almost
[Music: _Allegro vivace_
(Strings and low wood)
(Trill of kettle drums)]
a harsh grating of an eccentric figure above against
[Music: (Solo oboe)
the smoother course of the latest Allegro motive. The themes are
inverted. Presently out of the din rises a charming canon on the
prevailing smoother phrase, that soars to a full sweep of song. A new
(Basses 8va.) (Low strings)]
hymnal melody comes as a final word. Though the main motto returns in
big chorus, in full extension, in redoubled pace and wild abandon, still
the latest melody seems to contend for the last say. Or, rather,
[Music: (Woodwind doubled above and below)
(See page 141, line 2.)]
it is a foil, in its simple flow, to the revel of the motto, now grown
into a sonorous, joyous march. And we seem to see how most of the other
melodies,--the minor episode, the expressive duet--have sprung from bits
of the main text.
To return for another view,--the Finale begins in a mood that if not
joyous, is religious. Out of the cadence of the hymn dances the Allegro
tune almost saucily. Nor has this charming trip the ring of gladness,
though it grows to great momentum. As a whole there is no doubt of the
assurance, after the earlier fitful gloom, and with the resignation an
almost militant spirit of piety.
In the dulcet canon, an exquisite gem, bliss and sadness seem
intermingled; and then follows the crowning song, broad of pace,
blending the smaller rhythms in ecstatic surmounting of gloom. In
further verse it doubles its sweet burden in overlapping voices, while
far below still moves the rapid trip.
But the motto will return, in major to be sure, and tempered in mercy.
And the whole hymn dominates, with mere interludes of tripping motion,
breaking at the height into double pace of concluding strain. Before
falling back into the thrall of the legend the furious race rushes
eagerly into the deepest note of bliss, where in sonorous bass rolls the
broad, tranquil song. And though the revel must languish, yet we attend
the refrain of all the melodies in crowning rapture. Then at last, in
stern minor, sounds the motto, still with the continuing motion, in a
loud and long chant.
In blended conclusion of the contending moods comes a final verse of the
legend in major, with full accoutrement of sounds and lesser rhythm, in
majestic pace. And there is a following frolic with a verse of the
serene song. The end is in the first Allegro theme of the symphony, in
transfigured major tone.
We must be clear at least of the poet's intent. In the Fifth Symphony
Tschaikowsky sang a brave song of struggle with Fate.
For some mystic reason nowhere in modern music is the symphony so
justified as in Russia. Elsewhere it survives by the vitality of its
tradition. In France we have seen a series of works distinguished rather
by consummate refinement than by strength of intrinsic content. In
Germany since the masterpieces of Brahms we glean little besides the
learnedly facile scores of a Bruckner, with a maximum of workmanship and
a minimum of sturdy feeling,--or a group of "heroic" symphonies all cast
in the same plot of final transfiguration. The one hopeful sign is the
revival of a true counterpoint in the works of Mahler.
Some national song, like the Bohemian, lends itself awkwardly to the
larger forms. The native vein is inadequate to the outer mould, that
shrinks and dwindles into formal utterance. It may be a question of the
quantity of a racial message and of its intensity after long
suppression. Here, if we cared to enlarge in a political disquisition,
we might account for the symphony of Russians and Finns, and of its
absence in Scandinavia. The material elements, abundant rhythm, rich
color, individual and varied folk-song, are only the means by which the
national temper is expressed. Secondly, it must be noted as a kind of
paradox, the power of the symphony as a national utterance is increased
by a mastery of the earlier classics. With all that we hear of the
narrow nationalism of the Neo-Russians, we cannot deny them the breadth
that comes from a close touch with the masters. Mozart is an element in
their music almost as strong as their own folk-song. Here, it may be,
the bigger burden of a greater national message unconsciously seeks the
larger means of expression. And it becomes clear that the sharper and
narrower the national school, the less complete is its utterance, the
more it defeats its ultimate purpose.
The broad equipment of the new Russian group is seen at the outset in
the works of its founder, Balakirew. And thus the difference between
them and Tschaikowsky lay mainly in the formulated aim.[A]
[Footnote A: In the choice of subjects there was a like breadth.
Balakirew was inspired by "King Lear," as was Tschaikowsky. And amid a
wealth of Slavic legend and of kindred Oriental lore, he would turn to
the rhythms of distant Spain for a poetic theme.]
The national idea, so eminent in modern music, is not everywhere equally
justified. And here, as in an object-lesson, we see the true merits of
the problem. While one nation spontaneously utters its cry, another,
like a cock on the barnyard, starts a movement in mere idle vanity, in
In itself there is nothing divine in a national idea that needs to be
enshrined in art. Deliberate segregation is equally vain, whether it be
national or social. A true racial celebration must above all be
spontaneous. Even then it can have no sanction in art, unless it utter a
primal motive of resistance to suppression, the elemental pulse of life
itself. There is somehow a divine dignity about the lowest in human
rank, whether racial or individual. The oppressed of a nation stands a
universal type, his wrongs are the wrongs of all, and so his lament has
a world-wide appeal. And in truth from the lowest class rises ever the
rich spring of folk-song of which all the art is reared, whence comes
the paradox that the peasant furnishes the song for the delight of his
oppressors, while they boast of it as their own. Just in so far as man
is devoid of human sympathy, is he narrow and barren in his song. Music
is mere feeling, the fulness of human experience, not in the hedonic
sense of modern tendencies, but of pure joys and profound sorrows that
spring from elemental relations, of man to man, of mate to mate.
Here lies the nobility of the common people and of its song; the
national phase is a mere incident of political conditions. The war of
races is no alembic for beauty of art. If there were no national lines,
there would still be folk-song,--merely without sharp distinction. The
future of music lies less in the differentiation of human song, than in
Thus we may rejoice in the musical utterance of a race like the Russian,
groaning and struggling through ages against autocracy for the dignity
of man himself,--and in a less degree for the Bohemian, seeking to hold
its heritage against enforced submergence. But we cannot take so
seriously the proud self-isolation of other independent nations.
_BALAKIREW.[A] SYMPHONY IN C_
[Footnote A: Mili Alexeivich Balakirew was born at Nizhni-Novgorod in
1836; he died at St. Petersburg in 1911. He is regarded as the founder
of the Neo-Russian School.]
The national idea shines throughout, apart from the "Russian Theme" that
forms the main text of the Finale. One may see the whole symphony
leading up to the national celebration.
As in the opening phrase (in solemn _Largo_) with
[Music: (Lower reed, with strings in three 8ves.)
its answer are proclaimed the subjects that presently
[Music: (Flute and strings)]
appear in rapid pace, so the whole movement must be taken as a big
prologue, forecasting rather than realizing. There is a dearth of
melodic stress and balance; so little do the subjects differ that they
are in essence merely obverse in outline.
Mystic harmonies and mutations of the motto lead to a quicker guise
(_Allegro vivo_). Independently of themes, the rough edge of tonality
and the vigorous primitive rhythms are expressive of the Slav feeling.
Withal there is a subtlety of harmonic manner that could come only
through the grasp of the classics common to all nations. Augmentation
and diminution of theme abound, together with the full fugal manner. A
warm, racial color is felt in the prodigal use of lower reeds.[A]
[Footnote A: Besides the English horn and four bassoons there are four
clarinets,--double the traditional number.]
In all the variety of quick and slower melodies a single phrase of five
notes, the opening of the symphony, pervades. In all kinds of humor it
sings, martial, solemn, soothing, meditative, or sprightly. Poetic in
high degree is this subtle metamorphosis, so that the symphony in the
first movement seems to prove the art rather than the national spirit of
Of the original answer is wrought all the balance and foil of second
theme, and like the first it reaches a climactic height. But the first
is the sovereign figure of the story. It enters into the pattern of
every new phase, it seems the text of which all the melodies are
fashioned, or a sacred symbol that must be all-pervading. In a broader
pace (_Alla breve_) is a mystic discussion of the legend, as of dogma,
ending in big pontifical blast of the answering theme.
The whole movement is strangely frugal of joyous abandon. Instead of
rolling, revelling melody there is stern proclamation, as of oracle, in
the solemn pauses. The rhythm is purposely hemmed and broken. Restraint
is everywhere. Almost the only continuous thread is of the meditative
A single dulcet lyric verse (of the motto) is soon
[Music: (Cellos with _tremolo_ of lower strings)]
banished by a sudden lively, eccentric phrase that has an air of forced
gaiety, with interplay of mystic symbols. At last, on a farther height,
comes the first
joyous abandon (in a new mask of the motto), recurring anon as recess
from sombre brooding.
Here the second subject has a free song,--in gentle chase of pairs of
voices (of woodwind and muted strings and harp) and grows to alluring
[Music: (Lower reed, with _tremolo_ of lower strings)]
from a dream the eccentric trip awakens us, on ever higher wing. At the
top in slower swing of chords horn and reeds chant the antiphonal
legend, and in growing rapture, joined by the strings, rush once more
into the jubilant revel, the chanting legend still sounding anon in
The climax of feeling is uttered in a fiery burst of all the brass in
the former dulcet refrain from the motto. In full sweep of gathering
host it flows in unhindered song. Somehow by a slight turn, the tune is
transformed into the alluring melody of the second theme. When the
former returns, we feel that both strains are singing as part of a
single song and that the two subjects are blended and reconciled in
rapture of content.
A new mystic play of the quicker motto, answered by the second theme,
leads to an overpowering blast of the motto in slowest notes of brass
and reed, ending in a final fanfare.
All lightness is the Scherzo, though we cannot escape a Russian vein of
minor even in the dance. A rapid melody has a kind of perpetual motion
in the strings, with mimicking echoes in the wood. But the strange part
is how the natural accompanying voice below (in the bassoon) makes a
haunting melody of
(Violins doubled below in violas)
its own,--especially when they fly away to the major. As we suspected,
the lower proves really the principal song as it winds on in the
languorous English horn or in the higher reed. Still the returning dance
has now the whole stage in a long romp with strange peasant thud of the
brass on the second beat. Then the song rejoins the dance, just as in
answering glee, later in united chorus.
A quieter song (that might have been called the Trio) has still a
clinging flavor of the soil,--as of a folk-ballad, that is not lost with
the later madrigal nor with the tripping figure that runs along.
Strangely, after the full returning dance, an epilogue
[Music: (Trio) _Poco meno mosso_
of the ballad appears over a drone, as of bagpipe, through all the
harmony of the madrigal. Strangest of all is the playful last refrain in
the high piccolo over the constant soft strumming strings.
The Andante, in pure lyric mood, is heavily charged with a certain
Oriental languor. The clarinet
(Strings with harp)]
leads the song, to rich strum of harp and strings, with its note of
sensuous melancholy. Other, more external signs there are of Eastern
melody, as in the graceful curl of quicker notes. Intermediate strains
between the verses seem gently to rouse the slumbering feeling,--still
more when they play between the lines of the song. The passion that is
lulled in the languor of main melody, is somehow uttered in the later
episode,--still more in the dual song of both
[Music: (Violins doubled below)
(Horns and bassoons doubled above in wood)
(Strings and horns)]
melodies,--though it quickly drops before a strange coquetry of other
strains. Yet the climax of the main song is reached when the lighter
phrase rings fervently in the high brass. Here the lyric beauty is
stressed in a richer luxuriance of rhythmic setting. Once more sings the
passionate tune; then in midst of the last verse of the main song is a
quick alarm of rushing harp. The languorous dream is broken; there is an
air of new expectancy. Instead of a close is a mere pause on a passing
harmony at the portals of the high festival.
With a clear martial stress the "Russian Theme" is sounded (in low
strings), to the full a national
[Music: _Allegro moderato_
Finale _Theme Russe_
(Cellos with basses in lower 8ve.)]
tune of northern race. Enriched with prodigal harmony and play of lesser
themes it flows merrily on, yet always with a stern pace, breaking out
at last in a blare of warlike brass.
Nor does the martial spirit droop in the second tune, though the
melodies are in sheer contrast. In faster rhythm, the second is more
festal so that the first returning has a tinge almost of terror. An
after-strain of the second has a slightest descent to reflective
feeling, from which there is a new rebound
(Strings and harp with sustained chord of horns)]
to the buoyant (festal) melody.
Here in grim refrains, in dim depths of basses (with hollow notes of
horns) the national tune has a free fantasy until it is joined by the
second in a loud burst in the minor.
Now the latter sings in constant alternation with the answering strain,
then descends in turn into the depths of sombre musing. There follows a
big, resonant dual climax (the main theme in lower brass), with an edge
of grim defiance. In the lull we seem to catch a brief mystic play of
the first motto of the symphony (in the horns) before the last joyous
song of both melodies,--all with a power of intricate design and a
dazzling brilliancy of harmony, in proud national celebration.
A last romp is in polacca step on the tune of the Russian Theme.
_RIMSKY-KORSAKOW.[A] "ANTAR," SYMPHONY_
[Footnote A: Nicholas Rimsky-Korsakow, Russian, 1844-1908.]
The title-page tells us that "the subject is taken from an Arabian tale
of Sennkowsky." Opposite the beginning of the score is a summary of the
story, in Russian and in French, as follows:
I.--Awful is the view of the desert of Sham; mighty in their
desolation are the ruins of Palmyra, the city razed by the spirits
of darkness. But Antar, the man of the desert, braves them, and
dwells serenely in the midst of the scenes of destruction. Antar
has forever forsaken the company of mankind. He has sworn eternal
hatred on account of the evil they returned him for the good which
Suddenly a charming, graceful gazelle appears. Antar starts to
pursue it. But a great noise seems pulsing through the heavens, and
the light of day is veiled by a dense shadow. It is a giant bird
that is giving chase to the gazelle.
Antar straightway changes his intent, and attacks the monster,
which gives a piercing cry and flies away. The gazelle disappears
at the same time, and Antar, left alone in the midst of ruins, soon
goes to sleep while meditating on the event that has happened.
He sees himself transported to a splendid palace, where a multitude
of slaves hasten to serve him and to charm his ear with their song.
It is the abode of the Queen of Palmyra,--the fairy Gul-nazar. The
gazelle that he has saved from the talons of the spirit of darkness
is none other than the fairy herself. In gratitude Gul-nazar
promises Antar the three great joys of life, and, when he assents
to the proffered gift, the vision vanishes and he awakes amid the
II.--The first joy granted by the Queen of Palmyra to Antar are the
delights of vengeance.
III.--The second joy--the delights of power.
IV.--Antar has returned to the fallen remains of Palmyra. The third
and last gift granted by the fairy to Antar is the joy of true
love. Antar begs the fairy to take away his life as soon as she
perceives the least estrangement on his side, and she promises to
do his desire.
After a long time of mutual bliss the fairy perceives, one day,
that Antar is absent in spirit and is gazing into the distance.
Straightway, divining the reason, she passionately embraces him.
The fire of her love enflames Antar, and his heart is consumed
Their lips meet in a last kiss and Antar dies in the arms of the
The phases of the story are clear in the chain of musical scenes, of the
movements themselves and within them. In the opening Largo that recurs
in this movement between the visions and happenings, a melody appears
(in violas) that moves in all the
[Music: (Violas) _Largo_
acts of the tragedy. It is clearly the Antar motive,--here amidst ruin
The fairy theme is also unmistakable, that first plays in the flute,
against soft horns, _Allegro giocoso_,
[Music: (Flute) _Allegro giocoso_
and is lost in the onrushing attack, _furioso_, of a strain that begins
in murmuring of muted strings.
Other phrases are merely graphic or incidental. But the Antar motive is
throughout the central moving figure.
The scene of the desert returns at the end of the movement.
In the second (_Allegro_, rising to _Molto allegro_, returning
_allargando_) the Antar motive is seldom absent. The ending is in long
notes of solo oboe and first violins. There is no trace of the fairy
queen throughout the movement.
The third movement has phases of mighty action (as in the beginning,
_Allegro risoluto alla Marcia_), of delicate charm, and even of humor.
The Antar melody plays in the clangor of big climax in sonorous tones of
the low brass, against a quick martial phrase of trumpets and horns.
Again there is in this movement no sign of the fairy queen.
In the fourth movement, after a prelude, _Allegretto vivace_, with light
trip of high flutes, a melody, of actual Arab origin, sings _Andante
amoroso_ in the
[Music: (Arabian melody)
English horn, and continues almost to the end, broken only by the
dialogue of the lover themes. At the close a last strain of the Antar
melody is followed by the fairy phrase and soft vanishing chord of harp
_"SCHEREZADE," AFTER "A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS." SYMPHONIC SUITE_
Prefixed to the score is a "program," in Russian and French: "The Sultan
Schahriar, convinced of the infidelity of women, had sworn to put to
death each of his wives after the first night. But the Sultana
Scherezade saved her life by entertaining him with the stories which she
told him during a thousand and one nights. Overcome by curiosity, the
Sultan put off from day to day the death of his wife, and at last
entirely renounced his bloody vow.
"Many wonders were told to Schahriar by the Sultana Scherezade. For the
stories the Sultana borrowed the verses of poets and the words of
popular romances, and she fitted the tales and adventures one within the
"I. The Sea and the Vessel of Sindbad.
"II. The Tale of the Prince Kalender.
"III. The Young Prince and the Young Princess.
"IV. Feast at Bagdad. The Sea. The Vessel is Wrecked on a Rock on which
is Mounted a Warrior of Brass. Conclusion."
With all the special titles the whole cannot be regarded as close
description. It is in no sense narrative music. The titles are not in
clear order of events, and, moreover, they are quite vague.
In the first number we have the sea and merely the vessel, not the
voyages, of Sindbad. Then the story of the Prince Kalender cannot be
distinguished among the three tales of the royal mendicants. The young
prince and the young princess,--there are many of them in these Arabian
fairy tales, though we can guess at the particular one. Finally, in the
last number, the title mentions an event from the story of the third
Prince Kalender, where the vessel (not of Sindbad) is wrecked upon a
rock surmounted by a warrior of brass. The Feast of Bagdad has no
special place in any one of the stories.
The truth is, it is all a mirroring in tones of the charm and essence of
these epic gems of the East. It is not like the modern interlinear
description, although it might be played during a reading on account of
the general agreement of the color and spirit of the music. But there is
the sense and feeling of the story, _das Maerchen_, and the romance of
adventure. The brilliancy of harmony, the eccentricity and gaiety of
rhythm seem symbolic and, in a subtle way, descriptive. As in the
subject, the stories themselves, there is a luxuriant imagery, but no
sign of the element of reflection or even of emotion.
_I._--The opening motive, in big, broad rhythm, is clearly the Sea. Some
have called it the Sindbad motive. But in essence these are not very
different. The Sea is here the very feeling and type of adventure,--nay,
Adventure itself. It is a necessary part of fairy stories. Here it
begins and ends with its rocking theme, ever moving onward. It comes in
the story of the Prince Kalender.
The second of the main phrases is evidently the motive of the fairy tale
itself, the feeling of "once upon a time," the idea of story, that leads
us to the events themselves. It is a mere strumming of chords of the
harp, with a vague line, lacking rhythm, as of musical prose. For rhythm
is the type of event, of happenings, of the adventure itself. So the
formless phrase is the introduction, the narrator, _Maerchen_ in an
Oriental dress as Scherezade.
The first number passes for the most part in a rocking of the motive of
the sea, in various moods and movements: _Largo e maestoso, Allegro non
troppo,--tranquillo_. At one time even the theme of the story sings to
the swaying of the sea.[A]
[Footnote A: We remember how Sindbad was tempted after each fortunate
escape from terrible dangers to embark once more, and how he tells the
story of the seven voyages on seven successive days, amid luxury and
_II._--In the tale of the Prince Kalender Scherezade, of course, begins
the story as usual. But the main thread is in itself another interwoven
tale,--_Andantino Capriccioso, quasi recitando_, with a solo in the
bassoon _dolce e espressivo_,--later _poco piu mosso_, in violins.[A]
There is most of happenings here. A very strident phrase that plays in
the brass _Allegro molto_, may be some hobgoblin, or rather an evil
jinn, that holds the princess captive and wrecks the hero's vessel. The
sea, too, plays a tempestuous part at the same time with the impish
mischief of the jinn.
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