Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

mands. He has used the highest notes of the instrument in a sort of minuet time and style, much too light for the awful scene he had to express. Mozart has treated the same subject in a different way; he has uttered the "dread call' in a few simple notes from the terrific trombones, with a sublimity of thought truly appalling.

There is a species of horn or trumpet music in Russia, that surpasses everything of its kind, and which can only be heard in the palace of the emperor, at Moscow. A friend of the writer, M. Baillot, when at that court, was conducted by Prince Potemkin into a long dark gallery, where, at a distance, was stationed this extraordinary band. The composer listened with astonishment, and was asked by the Prince what he thought of it. 'All that I know,' replied the musician, 'is, that it is like nothing on 'this earth. It is the music of another world, and 'I am utterly at a loss even to guess how it is pro

duced.' Lights were instantly brought, and there appeared two hundred soldiers, each with a trumpet or horn in his hand, varying in length from the size of an extinguisher—which they much resembledto twenty feet in length. And what is most extraordinary, each performer upon his instrument made but a single note, all of which fell in succession so aptly, that the two hundred tones in performing a symphony of Haydn's, had the effect of one grand instrument. The power of accent thus exerted by every person upon his individual note, gave a series of effects to the performance unattainable in any other way, and as endless as they were surprising.

CHAPTER XXXII.
ACCOMPANIMENT.

In Handel's time, this department of science was but imperfectly understood. Of four hundred songs which he has written, not twenty have a full accompaniment. The instruments are seldom introduced but in the symphonies, and the voice is left without any support, except that clumsy aid obtruded by the hand of the organist. It was the practice of this author to accompany the songs himself on the organ, but since that instrument is no longer used, some of his best compositions are left in a state so destitute, as to appear frightfully thin and naked. The animated strain in Judas Maccabeus, 'Sound an alarm, your silver trumpets sound,' in which great orchestral effects might have been displayed, has nothing but a straggling bass to support the singer, and that in a song which requires an unusual stress of voice. So negligent was Handel in his accompaniments, that we find in the same work, that he has directed the first and second violins, as well as the violas, to play in octaves with the bass; betraying a poverty of style and invention much below the merit of the air. That devotion which the Italians have ever shown for melody, has led them to be sparing in their accompaniments, thinking they had a tendency to hide more than adorn; but since the Germans have introduced the wind instruments with such great skill and delicacy, this department of art has become highly interesting, and has received an animation never contemplated by the early musicians.

For models of excellence, we may refer to Haydn's Creation, and his Seasons, in which not less than twenty distinct instruments accompany the single voice, and that without incommoding it. As a striking proof of the progress of art, we may compare the German score of the Messiah with the original, in which we trace how the genius of Mozart has embellished that magnificent work with an accompaniment that is obedient, yet often bold and independent.

'The first and most important rule of the accompanist is, to remember that he does not lead, but 'accompanies; that he is not to shine and predomi' nate, but to assist and support the principal part.'* • Harmonicon.

On the piano-forte, great force as well as delicacy of touch is requisite, to adapt the performance to every shade of passion which the singer would express. A bold stroke from the bow of Dragonetti has roused a feeling in the performer, that has enabled him to conquer the greatest difficulties, and the same hand could as readily subdue the sounds into Lydian softness and delight.

Singers have an aversion to a full accompaniment, conceiving the instruments to divert the attention from the voice, and overpower it. To obviate this, as has been before remarked, they often deliver but one copy to each part of the stringed instruments, thinking they shall remedy the evil, but by the reduction, they only expose themselves the more to the fury of the loud instruments. No injury can possibly arise from increasing the number of stringed instruments, as they always have a pianissimo at command; whereas, few persons can be found, that can so effectually subdue the ferocity of the wind instruments, as not to incommode the voice. We have noticed, in page 342, the extraordinary effects produced in Westminster Abbey by the powerful band engaged in the celebrated commemoration there in 1791

274

CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE BASSOON.

The fagotto,* or bassoon, is of the same genus as the oboe, and forms the natural bass to that instrument. It probably was first introduced into this country by Handel, as it does not appear to take a part in any composition prior to the publication of

Tamerlane, in 1720. In his oratorios, the bassoon is generally used as a mere helper; and rarely appears as a principal, when it joins the oboe in replying to the stringed instruments. These alternate changes from the violins and basses, to the wind instruments, were the first attempts at orchestral effects.

Of all the tones in the orchestra, none excite us more powerfully than those of the wind instruments. Their language is peculiar; and we listen to them almost as sentient beings. The clarionet and picolo express with enthusiasm a lively joy, and the trumpet, the transports of glory; but the bassoon is never prominent in these bursts of passion-it has no natural gaiety ; its pensive note is adapted to strains of woe and complaint. Mozart was the first to recognize its melancholy disposition. In the Requiem, he has mingled it with the wailing moan of

• So named by the Italians, as when taken to pieces and bound together, it resembles a fagot, or bundle of sticks.

« AnteriorContinuar »