Old Scores and New Readings eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about Old Scores and New Readings.
of singing was required, there were a good many mad parts.  Probably Purcell would have treated all Wagner’s characters, and all Berlioz’s, as utterly and irretrievably mad.  Nor have I space to discuss his instrumental music and his instrumentation, but must refer shortly to the fact that the overtures to the plays are equal to Handel’s best in point of grandeur, and that in freedom, quality of melody, and daring, and fruitful use of new harmonies, the sonatas are ahead of anything attempted until Mozart came.  They cannot be compared to Bach’s suites, and they are infinitely fresher than the writings of the Italians whom he imitated.  As for Purcell’s instrumentation, it is primitive compared to Mozart’s, but when he uses the instrument in group or batteries he obtains gorgeous effects of varied colour.  He gets delicious effects by means of obligato instrumental parts in the accompaniments to such songs as “Charon the Peaceful Shade Invites”; and those who have heard the “Te Deum” in D may remember that even Bach never got more wonderful results from the sweeter tones of the trumpet.


Having shown how Purcell sprang from a race of English musicians, and how he achieved greater things than any man of his time, it remains only to be said that when, with Handel, the German flood deluged England, all remembrance of Purcell and his predecessors was swiftly swept away.  His play-music was washed out of the theatres, his odes were carried away from the concert-room; in a word, all his and the earlier music was so completely forgotten that when Handel used anew his old devices connoisseurs wondered why the Italians and Germans should be able to bring forth such things while the English remained impotent.  So Handel and the Germans were imitated by every composer, church or other, who came after, and all our “English music” is purely German.  That we shall ever throw off that yoke I do not care to prophesy; but if ever we do, it will be by imitating Purcell in one respect only, that is, by writing with absolute simplicity and directness, leaving complexity, muddy profundity and elaborately worked-out multiplication sums to the Germans, to whom these things come naturally.  The Germans are now spent:  they produce no more great musicians:  they produce only music which is as ugly to the ear as it is involved to the eye.  It is high time for a return to the simplicity of Mozart, of Handel, of our own Purcell; to dare, as Wagner dared, to write folk-melody, and to put it on the trombones at the risk of being called vulgar and rowdy by persons who do not know great art when it is original, but only when it resembles some great art of the past which they have learnt to know.  It was thus Purcell worked, and his work stands fast.  And when we English awake to the fact that we have a music which ought to speak more intimately to us than all the music of the continental composers, his work will be marvelled at as a new-created thing,

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