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.
by its overwhelming power and beauty and pathos.  There has never been, nor does it seem possible there ever will be, a finer scene written than the dungeon scene.  It begins with the low, soft, throbbing of the strings, then there is the sinister thunderous roll of the double basses; then the old man quietly tells Leonora to hurry on with the digging of the grave, and Leonora replies (against that wondrous phrase of the oboes).  After that, the old man continues to grumble; the dull threatening thunder of the basses continues; and Leonora, half terrified, tries to see whether the sleeping prisoner is her husband.  Then abruptly her courage rises; her short broken phrases are abandoned; and to a great sweeping melody she declares that, whoever the prisoner may be, she will free him.  These twenty bars are as great music as anything in the world:  they even leave Senta’s declaration in the “Dutchman” far behind; they are at once triumphant and charged with a pathos nearly unendurable in its intensity.  The scene ends with a strange hushed unison passage like some unearthly chant:  it is the lull before the breaking of the storm.  The entry of Pizarro and the pistol business are by no means done as Wagner or Mozart would have done them.  The music is always excellent and sometimes great, but persistently symphonic and not dramatic in character.  However, it serves; and the strength of the situation carries one on until the trumpet call is heard, and then we get a wonderful tune such as neither Mozart nor Wagner could have written—­a tune that is sheer Beethoven.  The finale of the scene is neither here nor there; but in the duet between Leonora and Florestan we have again pure Beethoven.  There is one passage—­it begins at bar 32—­which is the expression of the very soul of the composer; one feels that if it had not come his heart must have burst.  I have neither space nor inclination to rehearse all the splendours of the opera, but may remind the reader of Florestan’s song in the dungeon, Leonora’s address to Hope, and the hundred other fine things spread over it.  It is symphonic, not dramatic, music; but it is at times unspeakably pathetic, at times full of radiant strength, and always an absolutely truthful utterance of sheer human emotion.  Wagner hit exactly the word when he spoke of the truthful Beethoven:  here is no pose, no mere tone-weaving, but the precise and most poignant expression of the logical course taken by the human passions.


Excepting during his lifetime and for a period of some thirty years after his death, Schubert cannot be said to have been neglected; and last year there was quite an epidemic of concerts to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of his birth.  Centenary celebrations are often a little disconcerting.  They remind one that a composer has been dead either a much shorter or a much longer time than one supposed; and one gets down Riemann’s “Musical Dictionary”

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