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 followers asserted that he did.  He was run as the prophet of the classical school with all the force of all who hated Wagner and had not brains enough to understand either Brahms’ or Wagner’s music; he became the god of all the musical dullards in Europe; and it is small wonder that he took himself with immense seriousness.  A little more intelligence, ever so little more, would have shown him that, despite the noise of those who perhaps admired him less than they dreaded Wagner, he was not the man they said he was.  He had not a great matter to utter; what he had he could not utter in the classical form; yet he tried to write in classical form.  If ever a musician was born a happy, careless romanticist, that musician was Brahms—­he was even a romanticist in the narrower sense, inasmuch as he was fond rather of the gloomy, mysterious, and dismal than of sunlight and the blue sky; and whenever his imagination warmed he straightway began breaking the bonds in which he had endeavoured to work.  But that miserable article of Schumann—­deplorable gush that has been tolerated, nay, admired, only because it is Schumann’s—­the evil influence of the pseudo-classicism of Mendelssohn and his followers, the preposterous over-praise of Hanslick,—­these things drove Brahms into the mistake never made by the really able men.  Wilkes denied that he ever was a Wilksite; Wagner certainly never was a Wagnerite; there are people who ask whether Christ was ever a Christian.  But Brahms became more and more a devoted Brahmsite; he accepted himself as the guardian of the great classical tradition (which never existed); and he wrote more and more dull music.  It is idle to tell me he is austere when my inner consciousness tells me he is merely barren, and idler to ask me feel beauty when my ears report no beauty to me.  He had no original emotion or thought:  whenever his music is good it will be found that he has derived the emotion from a poem, or else that there is no emotion but only very fine decorative work.  In most of his bigger works—­the symphonies, the German Requiem, the Serious songs he wrote in his later days—­he sacrificed the beauty he might have attained to the expression of emotions he never felt; he assumed the pose and manner of a master telling us great things, and talked like a pompous duffer.  An exception must be made:  one emotion Brahms had felt and did communicate.  It was his tragedy that he had no original emotion, no rich inner life, but lived through the days on the merely prosaic plane; and he seems to have felt that this was his tragedy.  Anyhow, the one original emotion he brought into music is a curious mournful dissatisfaction with life and with death.  The only piece of his I know in which the feeling is intolerably poignant, seems to cut like a knife, is his setting of that sad song of Goethe’s about the evening wind dashing the vine leaves and the raindrops against the window pane; and in this song, as also in the movement in one of the quartets
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Old Scores and New Readings from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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