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.
work sung instead of simply having it printed as an antiquarian curiosity.  The music does not suggest the eighteenth century with its jangling harpsichords, its narrow, dirty streets, its artificiality, its brilliant candle-lighted rooms where the wits and great ladies assembled and talked more or less naughtily.  There is indeed a strange, pathetic charm in the eighteenth century to which no one can be indifferent:  it is a dead century, with the dust upon it, and yet a faint lingering aroma as of dead rose petals.  But the old-world atmosphere of Byrde’s music is, at least to me, something finer than that:  it is the atmosphere of a world which still lives:  it is remote from us and yet very near:  for the odour of dead rose petals and dust you have a calm cool air, and a sense of fragrant climbing flowers and of the shade of full foliaged trees.  All is sane, clean, fresh:  one feels that the sun must always have shone in those days.  This quality, however, it shares with a great deal of the music of the “spacious days” of Elizabeth.  But of its expressiveness there is not too much to be found in the music of other musicians than Byrde in Byrde’s day.  He towered high above all the composers who had been before him; he stands higher than any other English musician who has lived since, with the exception of Purcell.  It is foolish to think of comparing his genius with the genius of Palestrina; but the two men will also be reckoned close together by those who know this Mass and the Cantiones Sacrae.  They were both consummate masters of the technique of their art; they both had a fund of deep and original emotion; they both knew how to express it through their music.  I have not space to mention all the examples I could wish.  But every reader of this article may be strongly recommended at once to play, even on the piano, the sublime passage beginning at the words “Qui propter nos homines,” noting more especially the magnificent effect of the swelling mass of sound dissolving in a cadence at the “Crucifixus.”  Another passage, equal to any ever written, begins at “Et unam Sanctam Catholicam.”  There is a curious energy in the repetition of “Et Apostolicam Ecclesiam,” and then a wistful sweetness and tenderness at “Confiteor unum baptisma.”  Again, the whole of the “Agnus” is divine, the repeated “miserere nobis,” and the passage beginning at the “Dona nobis pacem,” possessing that sweetness, tenderness and wonderful calm.  But there is not a number that does not contain passages which one must rank amongst the greatest things in the world; and it must be borne in mind that these passages are not detached, nor in fact detachable, but integral, essential parts of a fine architectural scheme.

OUR LAST GREAT MUSICIAN (HENRY PURCELL, 1658-95)

I.

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