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Its Progress, Present State, and Prospects.
has been manifested on the violin of late years has been truly surprising; if, indeed, any thing can be rightly so admitted, where work has been gained from ingenious, happily constituted children, and each step of it directed by consummate experience. What is to accrue from the manhood of such a boy as Joseph Joachim, who, at the age of fourteen, performed during our last London musical season such pieces as Beethoven's Concerto, Mendelssohn's Otetto, Beethoven's Sonata, dedicated to Kreutzer, &c., &c., all of them requiring finished style and great powers of physical endurance, it may be for some future amateur to discover. The whole relation would seem fabulous, were it not told of a boy wonderfully endowed, both intellectually and corporeally. That this early development of the musical nature is, however, a work that incurs risk, and should be prosecuted with caution, we have lately had a melancholy instance in the death of one of the Eichorns, at the age of twenty-two-formerly in the tenderest infancy a Wunder-Kind, and then, with his little brother, astonishing Spohr and other good judges of the difficulties of the violin with feats that were deemed prodigious. Such is too often the fate of talent-it ripens into the great artist, or becomes an early sacrifice to death.
Pre-eminence on the violoncello belongs also to Belgian art; and the modern concerto style of that instrument, in which the whole finger-board is traversed, and the strings crossed up to the bridge, with a great display of flexible bowing, and variety of coups d'archet, assimilates the mechanism and manipulation to those of the violin, while thus its successful cultivation depends as much on muscular power and endurance as on musical requisites. The violoncello, played as it is now played in continental concertrooms, is a truly formidable instrument-it now attacks all the difficulties of the violin; the rapid and brilliant allegro, with its double notes and octave passages-the vocal adagio, with its modifications and fine inflections of tone, the piquant rondo, with its playful and eccentric phrases,-are all given by it in turn, and at the end admiration is often divided between the address and taste of the player and his immense physical power. A finished specimen of endurance and mastery combined was lately given by Demunck, a young man, professor of the violoncello in the Conservatorio of Brussels, by performing at one of the concerts of that institution, an arrangement of De Beriot's Violin Concerto in B minor, a feat that excited general astonishment among all who were able to judge practically of its arduous character. But the first man of the day in the new art of handling the violoncello, an art which has made it even transcend the violin in the variety of its effects, is undoubtedly the Belgian violoncellist, Servais. He takes this position naturally and unopposed, having now added to that fine practical skill, which was so justly admired in England, a solid reputation as a composer
for his instrument. Servais, and his young countryman Vieuxtemps, the violin player, do great honour to the music of Belgium; their progress in Germany has been rendered doubly successful by excellent compositions as well as performances, their names have become classical, and half the young aspirants to instrumental celebrity on the continent hope to make a more auspicious commencement by producing themselves in one of their pieces.
Such artists as these who are received with the warmest greetings wherever they appear, and whose travelling concerts soon replenish their purses, and repay what has been expended by them in self-cultivation or in composition, would seem to mark the dif ference between the love of the instrumental art in Germany and England. Here there is an absolute want of patronage for a concerto-player:-if one happen to have cultivated his art with great enthusiasm and self-denial, M. Jullien may possibly introduce him to the public for a few nights at the Promenade Concerts, but then his glory wanes, and he may trim his course as he can between ambition and expediency. This discouraging frigidity of the public is the reason why English performance on the violoncello rarely extends beyond the solo, the quartet, or the obligato accompaniment, in which, though we may observe a certain beauty and sweetness of tone characteristic of this country, through the influence of that remarkable quality in Lindley's play, yet there is none of the grandeur and magnificence of style which belong to the habitual concerto player. Putting Lindley's auld warld concertos out of the question, which indeed were never of any merit as compositions, or distinguished by pretension to classical structure, if mere antiquity had not exempted them from consideration, as connected with the modern art of the violoncello, we may say that the concerto style of that instrument is totally unrepresented, and almost obsolete in England. It is nearly as bad with the violin, on which we have several professors of great industry, talent, and ambition;-distrust of audiences-fear of playing music too good to preserve the player's popularity, has made the concerto give way to the flimsy show-piece, and both the style and the manual execution have become deteriorated in consequence. The vice of high English patronage has been to believe nothing worthy of it that is not foreign-far fetched and dear bought;-an exclusiveness not only unnatural, but which has established a prescriptive superiority in the continent, and made many go abroad to learn, and some to live. Whatever may be the faults of German artists, it can, however, be only said of their country, that she is in the highest degree liberal and friendly to all who appear before her with the credentials of talent.
The interest felt by the Germans in the cultivation of stringed instruments is not confined solely to grand displays of mechanism
Its Progress, Present State, and Prospects.
and of difficulty successfully combated; but is distributed between concert-room music and the quartet style, which is still the delight of the most polished musical society. The classics of this art, as established by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, do not satisfy the ardour of the day for new pleasures, nor quell the rising ambition of young artists-quartet composition is, therefore, a strong feature of the chivalry of modern music; it is a constant form of publication, exhibits a variety of pens and as varied success, with one object unchangeably in view-reputation. The art can never, we suspect, fall into any great danger of total neglect and decay while this abstract motive is well supported. Robert Schumann of Leipsic has gained great applause by his début as quartet composer, and from one quarter or another, out of the numerous attempts made, some in the old and symmetrical form of Haydn, some in the fantastic style of Beethoven, or in the piquant and effective manner of Onslow, a fair contribution of interesting novelties is gathered, and in a mode of writing which the greatest musical wits have confessed to be difficult. Mozart, in the preface to his six quartets, dedicated to Haydn, speaks expressly of the labour and pains' which their composition had cost him. But, whatever may be the relative merit of new quartet compositions, the charm of that social style of performance is certainly carried to its height in Germany at the present day. Sometimes it unites four composers, in which réunion, if the composition rendered be really no better than it would be in the hands of merely practical artists, there is something still to flatter the imagination. At other times a family of brothers has been seen to devote themselves entirely to social practice and improvement; custom confirming always as a theory founded on experience, that towards the true beauty of quartet performance there will ever be something more wanting than the presence of four competent players casually brought together. The chamber concerts at Leipsic, during the early part of last year, presented a great attraction in Mendelssohn's 'Otetto,' led by David, with the parts of first and second tenor sustained by the composer and Neils. W. Gade of rising orchestral celebrity. We may be sure that the violas on this occasion were not the least listened to, and it will be a new gratification to the admirers of the genial Mendelssohn to know that he can become the heart of the social musical circle in this humble capacity.
It is pleasant to observe among the musicians of the actual epoch, some who bear the names of certain great organists formed in the school of Sebastian Bach, viz.: Krebs, Kittl, &c. These are, doubtless, the descendants of composers, in whom, after lying dormant for a generation or two, the spirit of music is again awakened. We are thankful even for a name that revives associations with
great masters or solemn styles of music, and we could not see among the able organists of Berlin that of Thiele without remembering that such a name is connected historically with the formation of Handel's individual and majestic style on the organ. Meantime new names have sprung up allied to deeds of fame in composition and practical skill worthy to forestal antiquity. Adolph Hesse, organist of the cathedral of Breslau, is one of this class. He has written the most excellent organ music, besides six symphonies for the orchestra, that are exceedingly well received among new compositions of that kind; while his playing discovers a noble style, and a mechanism so neat, smooth, and distinct, that Spohr, mentioning him with admiration, once exclaimed He makes the pedals sing.' The musical traveller who visits the cathedral cities of Germany, finds the imposing effect of the spacious and venerable Dom Kirche greatly enhanced in most cases by the size, magnificence, and architectural symmetry of its enormous organ, an edifice itself, and not an unimpressive one even in its silence, adorned as it is by sumptuous woodcarvings, by figures of jubilant angels with uplifted trumpets, and every symbol of sacred harmony and solemn adoration. The liberality which furnished these fine instruments is like the whole plan of Gothic ornament and architecture, one of the magnificent mysteries of the past. Such an organ as we have described, of an immense semicircular front covering the whole breadth of the choir, and rising to its greatest height at the wings, angel crowned, stands in the cathedral of which Hesse is the principal organist. This, with its noble pedal pipes, and endless stock of combinations, might well pique the skill and invention of the artist, who, in this particular instance, has become the first performer of his country; but similar advantages enjoyed here and there by others, together with the quiet life of Germany, have conspired to keep organ music at a very high state of cultivation, and we take this pursuit, which is often prosecuted with great ardour in comparative solitude, to realise as much of Arcadian simplicity and enjoyment as musical life is capable of affording We have followed, with great pleasure, Hesse to Paris, whither he was invited to display the effects of a new organ erected in the church of St. Eustache, and to introduce the German style of organ playing, as exhibited in the execution of Bach's fugues and Toccatas. We can imagine the surprise with which this fine music, with its splendid examples of the obligato pedal, must have burst upon the French artists, who, though not destitute of talent of a certain order, were wholly so of mechanism, playing to their extemporary compositions nothing but pizzicato basses, and that only with one foot, while the other rested very conveniently on a ledge made, as it seemed, for that purpose. Notwithstanding
Its Progress, Present State, and Prospects.
this backwardness in the management of their organ, the musicians at St. Eustache understood and relished good music: the motets of Palestrina were the order of the day among them, and from the appreciation of so severe a style to that of Bach's organ music, is but a gentle gradation. Let us hope that Hesse has established a school of execution which will shortly find as many disciples in Paris as it has already obtained among the rising musicians of London.
The lyric drama of Germany seems rather to be distinguished by the abundance of its modern repertory than by the quality or intrinsic merit of individual specimens. New operas are almost as complete a necessity of German life as of Italian, and what the workmanship of native talent fails to supply in this respect is made up by translations and adaptations from the French and Italian stage. In observing the crowd of musicians who think themselves qualified to exercise the vocation of dramatic composers, we are little surprised at the ephemeral character which vails in their productions. For the truth is, that opera music has ceased to fulfil any higher object than that of pastime, and being thus degraded from its original standard as the interpreter of sentiment and situation, which the art of the musician displayed and contrasted with the happiest resources of his genius, it calls no longer for any remarkable individuality of nature, but may be indifferently the work of any one who has a technical acquaintance with the orchestra, and is versed in the routine of combination and effect. The bulk of this work is of imitative origin, therefore artificial, and incapable of rooting itself in the mind or affections. Wagner, who is at the head of the German opera at Dresden, was shortly one of the favourites of expectation, through his lyrical treatment of Captain Marryat's popular tale, The flying Dutchman;' but in his new five-act opera, Rienzi,' he has not soared so triumphantly, having, as some think, in that lengthy exhibition of scenic pageantry and display, sunk down into the confirmed imitator of Meyerbeer. It is in this opera, we believe, that a chorus is sung by men on horseback, a new choral medium for the expression of heroic sentiment, and a sure card for applause. The public like to be addressed from the back of an animal, and Liston, we remember, used to mount an ass for the occasion, in doing which, however, he consulted the effect rather than the dignity of his appearance; and in much the same way the equestrian opera writers balance between novelty and propriety. How gladly however would the admirer of the lyric drama exchange all the effect, the glare and glitter of the modern heroic opera of the Meyerbeer school, with its processions, costumes, and pompous array of the chivalry of the middle ages, for some scenes touched with human interest and with nature, which in the truest poetry