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Thought And Action In Musical Europe

BY ARTHUR ELSON
 
In the magazine of the International Musical Society is an abstract of a lecture on Irish Folk-Music by Alfred Percival Graves. He dwelt upon the honor in which music was held in the early days, when King Cormac Ceolach had a bard, a chief musician, a head poet and several harpists in his court. The head poet (Ard Filé) celebrated his master’s prowess in battle. His position was obtained only by long study and after an apprenticeship of seven years as minstrel. He also had to show ability in the three different branches of music—the Suantree, which caused sleep; the Gentree, which produced laughter, and the Golltree, which brought tears. Modern Irish music still shows these three styles, in its lullabies and hush- songs, its jigs and reels, and the “keens,” or songs of the mourning women.
 
The legend tells us that Ireland was civilized by the Danann, who went away to Fairyland after their task was accomplished. It is possible that these were the Danai (Greeks), who may have introduced the lyre. But the Irish harp differs greatly from the instruments of other lands and may have developed wholly in the Emerald Isle. The early harps had thirty strings. The tuning, apparently, was in our diatonic scale, though a minor mode without accidentals (used also in Breton folksongs) gave effects like the so-called Hypodorian Mode of the Greeks. From earliest times the Irish harpers seemed to have more knowledge of harmony than the minstrels of other nations, playing a treble part with the left hand and adding a bass with the right.
 
The Irish music and musicians spread into Scotland and Wales. Giraldus Strongbow, a violent enemy of the Irish in the twelfth century, had to admit that their harpers were more skilful than any he had yet heard. While the Britons played in a slow and harsh manner, the Irish “enter into a movement and conclude it in so delicate a manner, and tinkle the little strings so sportively under the deeper tones of the bass strings—they delight so delicately and soothe with such gentleness that the perfection of their art appears in the concealment of art.” The same praise is given to them in the seventeenth century. The Talbot papers, speaking of the music at Elizabeth’s court, say that “Irish tunes are at this time most pleasing.” Shakespeare used some Irish music in his plays, and Dr. Grattan Flood has just shown that this includes “Light o’ Love,” “Peg-a-Ramsey,” and many other songs whose Irish origin was not suspected.
 
The wars with English invaders brought about a musical decline. The harpers were no longer attached to establishments, but were forced to become wandering minstrels. The most remarkable of these was Turloch O’Carolan, whose hundred known songs include “The Arethusa” and many other famous tunes. As late as 1792 there was a meeting of minstrels at Belfast, where Hempson showed the true old style of tinkling the upper strings under the bass tones, and Arthur O’Neill charmed everyone by his broad cultivation and deep knowledge of folk-lore. A witness of this meeting was Edward Bunting, who afterwards made a thorough collection of Irish music, which was used by the poet Moore. A later and still more important collector was George Petrie, whose work has been used by Sir Villiers Stanford. The most recent collection is that of Dr. Joyce. Parry praises the Irish folk-music and calls it “the most human, the most varied and the most poetical in the world.”
 
THE ORIGIN OF THE HARP.
The origin of the harp has always been a matter of debate. The Irish claim to have originated it, and Galilei credits them with the invention. But all the ancient nations had some form of harp. Assyrian bas-reliefs show one with a slanting frame and a horizontal bar, while the Hebrews and Egyptians had harps with curved frames. But it was the Irish harp that the Roman legions brought back from Britain, and its use at the Apulian city of Arpi may have given the instrument its name. The Greek kithara is translated as lyre or lute as well as harp.
 
The Irish harp of later times was strung in three rows. The two outer ones had twenty-nine strings each, giving the diatonic scale, while the middle row of twenty was tuned in chromatics. But this form varied, and it is probable that the “arpa doppia,” or double harp, of Monteverde’s “Orfeo” was an Irish model.
 
RARE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.
An article on the theorbo, by Henri Quittard, brings to mind the fact that our ancestors had many more varieties of tone-color than we have. The theorbo and the archiliuto were both large varieties of the lute, and are both found in Handel’s works, though Bach did not use them. Handel employed the harpsichord for accompaniments, while Bach inclined more to the organ. But Bach, even though he did not use the large lutes, had plenty of other strings to his bow. He employed the violino piccolo, a minor third above the ordinary violin; the viola d’amore, with seven catgut strings and seven steel strings vibrating sympathetically with them; the viola da gamba, a viol of the same size as our ‘cello; the small lute, and the violoncello piccolo, or small ‘cello. Among the wind instruments were the flute-a-bec, held straight forward instead of sidewise; the oboe d’amore, a minor third deeper than our oboe; the oboe di caccia, a fifth deeper, like the English horn; the cornetto, or wooden trumpet, and four varieties of brass trumpets and trombones. The classical orchestra consisted of only thirteen parts, but Richard Strauss, with his heckelphone and wind machine in addition to the Wagnerian forces, has brought the number of instruments up to a larger size than ever. In the battle scenes of the “Heldenleben,” for example, he writes at times for as many as thirty-two different staffs, most of them divisi.
 
MUSICAL NOVELTIES.
In Germany, Schillings seems to have made a great success with his “Hochzeitslied,” for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Brought out at the Lower- Rhine Festival, it seems to be spreading rapidly. Other novelties are a symphonic poem, “Erlosung,” by Blumer, and a fourth symphony by Prince Heinrich   von Reuss, both of which are said to have received much applause at Chemnitz. A “Hellas Symphony” by Gustav Cords was also well received. In Switzerland, a symphony by Ernest Bloch is in the Geneva programs.
 
Among French works Fauré’s suite, “Shylock,” made a great success at Brussels. Carre’s announcements for next season include, besides Bloch’s “Macbeth,” “La Jota,” a new work by Laparra; Trépard’s “Celeste,” and two Debussy works (if finished); “La Chute de la Maison Usher,” and “Le Diable dans le Beffroi.” In Malines, Josef Denyn continues his carillon recitals, giving sonatas and other ambitious works upon the chimes.
 
Busoni has won a great triumph in London with his new piano-and-chorus concerto. In the programs for Milan, where Mengelberg is to lead the concerts, are new works by Fromo, de Venise, Bossi and Count Guerchi. Two Italian women have entered the operatic field: Emilia Gubitosi’s “Nada Delwig” shows good music united to a weak libretto, while Elisabetta Oddone’s “Pierrette” is to be given soon.
 
In Spain, Pahissa’s “Canigo,” based on a poem by Verdaguer, was given in memory of the poet. Madrid has heard works by Albeniz, Granados, Turina and Falla; also zarzuelas (comic operas) by Foglietti, Arenas and Pradilla. At the other end of Europe, Finland has heard Madetoja’s “Elegie,” for string orchestra; the orchestral suite “Kristina Wasa,” by Axel von Kothen, and a Johanniskantata by Ilmari Krohn. In Russia Balakireff’s posthumous concerto is now ready for publication. Rachmaninoff is to lead a new symphony of his own at Leeds.
 
A new English work for the Leeds festival is Dr. Vaughn Williams’ “Sea Symphony,” with chorus singing Walt Whitman’s words. Elgar’s second symphony is now finished. Roger Quilter’s “English Dances” are very graceful, while Frank Merrick’s piano concerto is rated as a worthy work. G. H. Clutsam, brother of the curved keyboard inventor, won a success with his opera “A Summer Night.” An Aberdeen correspondent has come upon an opera by Méhul, entitled “Josephine Gypt,” but on second thoughts this is not so new as it appears, and Joseph still remains masculine.
 
The Musical Times comments on musical automobile horns that give the first figure of Beethoven’s fifth symphony or the “Ho-jo-to-ho” of the Valkyries, and seems rather alarmed over the coming- downfall of Beethoven and Wagner. But in place of the guiding motives of the Trilogy, the following might suit auto owners: “We Won’t Go Home Till Morning,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “The Wanderer,” or even Coleridge-Taylor’s “On-away,” while the injured pedestrians could reply with “Abscheulicher, wo eilst du hin?”
 
SOME CHARACTERISTIC PARENTS
A writer in the London Musical Opinion gives some of his experiences with parents of pupils he has taught. It would seem that human nature differs very little the world over, when it comes to the subject of giving music lessons. The writer says, among other things:
 
“The parents of the boys are an interesting study. The ideal parent is, of course, one who pays the fees and any extras that may occur, promptly and without grumbling; who does not regard his boy as the embodiment of virtue and a veritable genius; who possesses the not altogether unreasonable notion that gentlemen who have studied educational methods for years and have had practical experience of boys do know a little about the management of school affairs, and something of the inner workings of youthful minds; who, consequently, entrusts his boy to the head master fully convinced that he will receive all the attention that he requires. Unfortunately this very desirable type is rather uncommon. Too often parents tend to give the impression of having placed their lads in some particular school solely with the purpose of securing thereby the opportunity of criticising its internal arrangements, both educational and domestic.
 
“From the ideal type, parents can, therefore, be graded down to the absolutely intolerable; and, between the two extremes, one meets with an almost endless variety. There are those (we are considering the question now from the music master’s point of view) who know nothing about music, and who have a wild idea that every youth is a potential   Paderewski, requiring only a good teacher (mark this!) to enable him to attain to maturity in about three terms; there are those who desire their sons to learn because they think that their children must lack no opportunity of developing any latent talent that they possess, but who are quite indifferent as to the progress that they may be making; there are those who, on the strength of a few piano lessons that they have taken at a well-known music school in London, consider themselves competent judges in all matters musical. Our profession labors under the peculiar disadvantage of being surrounded on all sides by dabblers, who intrude their worthless opinions on every conceivable occasion.
 
“The great disparity in the character of parents would not be fraught with so much anxiety if the boys could only be induced to adjust their abilities to the requirements of their progenitors. We are, unfortunately, confronted with the lamentable fact that Nature has distributed these youths very badly indeed, from the music master’s point of view. The ignorant individual who wishes to see his son a brilliant pianist in a year ought to have been blessed with one of those remarkably gifted beings who need to hear a comic song once only to be able to sit down and rattle it off con fuoco, but whose reading power is absolutely non-existent. The indifferent person who is allowing his son to learn music merely because it is a part of a liberal education would not be very concerned if his boy were a dunce at it; whilst the quasi-musical amateur should be the parent of those rare brilliant youths who possess an immense love of the art combined with exceptional power of execution. These desirable connections are, however, not the rule, but the exception.
 
“The exacting parents hand over to the music master boys with heavy frames and dull brains and hands like lumps of mutton, or sickly, anæmic creatures with flabby, double-jointed fingers. The indulgent parents provide those encouraging pupils on whom one delights to expend unlimited time and trouble, but whose excellent progress is hardly appreciated, and awakes little enthusiasm among the folks at home. The inevitable result is, as I have mentioned, that unjust criticism is leveled at the music master and well-merited praise is withheld.”

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