Old Scores and New Readings eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 159 pages of information about Old Scores and New Readings.
did not spin his web precisely thus; but we shall presently see that his method was derived from the declamatory method.  Much remained to be done first.  Lawes got rid of the old scholasticism, now effete.  But he never seemed quite sure that his expression would come off.  It is hard at this day to listen to his music as Milton must have listened to it; but having done my best, I am compelled to own that I find some of his songs without meaning or comeliness, and must assume either that our ancestors of this period had a sense which has been lost, or that the music played a less important part compared with the poem than has been generally supposed.  Lawes lost rhythm, both as an element in beauty and a factor in expression.  Moreover, his harmonic resources were sadly limited, for the old device of letting crossing parts clash in sweet discords that resolved into as sweet or sweeter concords was denied him.  What would be called nowadays the new harmony, the new rhythm and the new forms were developed during the Civil War and the Puritan reign.  The Puritans, loving music but detesting it in their churches, forced it into purely secular channels; and we cannot say the result was bad, for the result was Purcell.  John Jenkins and a host of smaller men developed instrumental music, and, though the forms they used were thrown aside when Charles II. arrived, the power of handling the instruments remained as a legacy to Charles’s men.  Charles drove the secular movement faster ahead by banning the old ecclesiastical music (which, it appears, gave him “the blues"), and by compelling his young composers to write livelier strains for the church, that is, church music which was in reality nothing but secular music.  He sent Pelham Humphries to Paris, and when Humphries came back “an absolute Monsieur” (who does not remember that ever-green entry in the Diary?) he brought with him all that could possibly have been learnt from Lulli.  He died at twenty-seven, having been Purcell’s master; and though Purcell’s imagination was richer, deeper, more strenuous in the ebb and flow of its tides, one might fancy that the two men had but one spirit, which went on growing and fetching forth the fruits of the spirit, while young Humphries’ body decayed by the side of his younger wife’s in the Thames-sodden vaults of Westminster Abbey.

IV.

A complete list of Purcell’s compositions appears somewhat formidable at a first glance, but when one comes to examine it carefully the solidity seems somewhat to melt out of it.  The long string of church pieces is made up of anthems, many of them far from long.  The forty odd “operas” are not operas at all, but sets of incidental pieces and songs for plays, and some of the sets are very short.  Thus Dryden talks of Purcell setting “my three songs,” and there are only half a dozen “curtain-tunes,” i.e. entr’actes.  Many of the harpsichord pieces are of tiny proportions.  The sonatas of

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Old Scores and New Readings from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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