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proportions in which they are brought together in the orchestra. Formerly, the materials were collected promiscuously; and too many of one kind, or too few of another, destroyed that balance of sound which is necessary to a grand effect. The proportion of the Abbey band, * in the year 1791, would now destroy the finest compositions of art. Then the oboes and bassoons were used as mere helpers, to fill up the chorus: but now they are raised to the rank of principals, and few duplicates are ever admitted. The great defect in most orchestras, proceeds from that part, which is the most essential, being commonly the weakest. This, no doubt, arises from the greater difficulty in procuring these performers; and the usual method of making up the number by materials more easily obtained, only adds to the evil instead of diminishing it.
Among the instruments, we never have sufficient power and ability in the first violins and violoncellos; and we are overpowered by the wind instruments. In the voices, we lament the weakness of the soprani, which are borne down by the merciless tenor. The following is a scale for an orchestra of two hundred and fifty performers, the proportions of which have been adopted at the late festivals of
* Violins . . 250 Oboes. . 40 Vocal.
Violas .. 50 Bassoons . 40 Trebles . . 160 Violoncellos. 50 Horns .. 12 Altos . . 92 Double Basses 27 Trumpets - 14 Tenors .. 152
Trombones 12 Basses . . 159 Drums, 8; Organ, 1; Total, 1077.-Lives of Haydn and Mozart.
sacred music, held at Leicester and Derby, with acknowledged success :Violins .. 24 Flutes .. 2
Vocal. Seconds ditto 24 Oboes .. 2 Soprani ... Violas ... 14 Clarionets. 4 Alto ... Violoncellos. 12 Bassoons . 4. Tenor 30 Double Basses 8 Horns . . 4 Bass ... 40
146 Instruments 104
The Organ of first-rate power. If the orchestra be reduced to one-half the preceding number, the wind instruments will admit of no reduction beyond the duplicate clarionets and bassoons. Since the above was written, I have met with the following proportions suggested by M. Fétis of Paris, for an orchestra of three hundred and forty-six performers.*
* Harmonicon, September, 1831.
It will appear there is not much similarity in our notions of constructing an orchestra.
To ensure the well going of the chorus, the vocal leaders should be placed in the rear of their part, in which place they will be better heard: and as it often happens that the most experienced musicians have the weakest voices, it is best to couple them with the strongest : these, correctly led, will contribute much to keep the part firm and steady. It is important that this arrangement be made a condition with the leaders, as they invariably think themselves entitled to a more conspicuous place, and press forward to get into the front; whereas, the place of honor, as in the Legions of Buonaparte, is in the rear. He always placed his rawest troops in front, and his veterans behind. It may also be remarked, that the country performers should be coupled with the London performers, and care should be had, in arranging the violins, that those who have been accustomed to play the second part, should not be placed among the first violins. As the voices form so large a portion of the band, a simultaneous effect from them is of the first importance. For this purpose, a conductor should be placed at the right hand of the organist, so that he can command a complete view of the choir, which will enable him to secure correctness in all the leading parts.
The concert orchestras are universally defective; the stringed instruments are overpowered by a crowd of flutes, clarionets, bassoons, trumpets, trombones, drums, and horns. If we except the Philharmonic band, there is not one in London that is properly composed. Singers have an aversion to the full orchestra, and to save the expense of duplicate parts, seldom give out more than one copy to each of the stringed instruments, thinking they shall be better heard by abridging them: they forget that in every case there is seldom or ever a sufficient number of violins, to moderate and keep down the force of the wind instruments. The writer noticed two circumstances in the Abbey band in the year 1791, worthy of remark: first, the great softness with which the songs were executed, although three hundred and seventy-seven stringed instruments accompanied the single voice: such was the lightness of the effect, that they did not overpower or incommode it. Second, from the great extent of the surface from which the sounds emanated, they were diffused through the atmosphere, so as completely to fill it. No single instrument was heard, but all were blended together in the softest showers of harmony.
This ancient instrument, which is frequently mentioned in the sacred writings as the sackbut-might
have been lost to us for ever had it not been preserved, in the ashes of Mount Vesuvius, to give force and energy to the music of modern times. When the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii were discovered, one of these instruments was dug up, after having been buried nearly two thousand years by that dreadful catastrophe. The lower part of it is made of bronze, and the upper with the mouthpiece of solid gold. The King of Naples made a present of it to George III.; and from this antique the instruments now called by the Italians tromboni have been fashioned. As these instruments can be lengthened or shortened at pleasure, by the tubes sliding one within the other, similarly to the tubes of a telescope, every semitone of the scale can be performed, which imparts a sliding or vocal effect, not to be obtained on any other wind instrument.
Mozart has introduced a choir of them, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, into the Requiem, and the opera of Don Giovanni. The voices of these, when combined, have an imposing effect. Instruments of such tremendous power should be but sparingly used, and they are misapplied when ordered to play the same part with the voices. They ought to move in a band of themselves, and never enter the composition hut upon grand and solemn occasions. In that masterly composition, the opera of Der Freischütz, they are introduced into the overture as well as the incantation scene, with magical effect. At the funeral of Beethoven by torch light, when