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Title: Beethoven and His Forerunners
Author: Mason, Daniel Gregory
Language: English
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for having produced the music archives. Chris Curnow and


                                AND HIS


                         DANIEL GREGORY MASON
                   AUTHOR OF “FROM GRIEG TO BRAHMS”

                               NEW YORK
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                     LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                           COPYRIGHT, 1904,

                       BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

     Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1904. Reprinted
                             August, 1911.

                            Norwood Press:
              Berwick & Smith Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



           I THE PERIODS OF MUSICAL HISTORY                1

             MYSTICISM                                    43

         III THE MODERN SPIRIT                            79

          IV THE PRINCIPLES OF PURE MUSIC                123

           V HAYDN                                       173

          VI MOZART                                      211

         VII BEETHOVEN                                   249

        VIII BEETHOVEN (CONTINUED)                       289

          IX CONCLUSION                                  333

                               CHAPTER I

                               CHAPTER I

The modern view of history is vivified by a principle scarcely dreamed
of before the middle of the last century; the conception which
permeates all our interpretations of the story of the world, which
illuminates our study of all its phases, was by our grandfathers
apprehended either vaguely or not at all. For them, history dealt with
a more or less random series of happenings, succeeding each other
accidentally, unaccountably, and at haphazard; each single event,
determined by causes peculiar to itself, was without relation to all
the others. Political and social history, for example, was an account
of battles, sieges, revolutions, governments; of kings, warriors, and
statesmen. Its salient features were special occasions and individual
men: Marathon and Waterloo, Alexander, Cæsar, Alfred, Napoleon. Of
pervasive social movements, tendencies of human feeling and thought,
developments of industries, institutions, laws, and customs by a
gradual process in which great numbers of personally insignificant men
played their part, little account was taken. Facts were facts, and had
no hidden significance, no mutual interaction, no cumulative force,
momentum, or direction.

Far otherwise do we interpret the story of the world. Inspired by the
great doctrine of the nineteenth century, the doctrine of evolution,
first formulated by biology, but immediately applied to all realms
of knowledge, we read in events a continuous movement, a coherent
growth, a gradual, vast, and single process. For us, individual
events and men sink into insignificance in comparison with the great
drama of which they are only acts and actors. For us, great popular
movements, instinctive strivings, of which the men and women under
their sway were unconscious, vast blossomings of vital energy the
roots of which were far below the surface of the human mind, rise
into relief as the true interests of the historian, and we interpret
all particular happenings and special persons in the light of these
universal tendencies. In geology we trace the continuous formation of
the earth through innumerable years; in zoology we study those slow
but constant transformations of animals which are effected by natural
selection and the survival of the fittest; in sociology we examine the
painful yet inevitable crystallization out of the human spirit of such
ideas as responsibility, liberty, justice; in philosophy we learn of
the subtle implications of our nature, and so learning, substitute a
human God for the idols of savages and the remote tyrannical deities
of half-developed religions. There is not a branch of our thought in
which this way of interpreting life as a process, this conceiving of
it as dynamic and vital rather than static and inert, has not enlarged
our outlook, deepened our sense of the sacredness and wonder of the
universe, and filled our spirits with a new freedom, enthusiasm, and

Peculiarly interesting is the application of this mode of study to
the art of music. The expression of feeling through sounds combined
in beautiful forms, gives us an opportunity, as cannot be too often
pointed out,[1] for a much freer and more self-determined activity
than we can enjoy in our other artistic pursuits. Because the art of
music, both in its material and in its content, is less shackled, less
thwarted in its characteristic processes, than the representative arts,
its evolution is remarkably obvious and easy to trace. Its material,
in the first place, is a product of man’s free selection; that complex
system of musical tones which he has constructed by many centuries of
work, is his own, to use as he will, in a sense in which language,
natural objects, and physical substances can never be. Whereas the
growth of poetry, of painting, of sculpture, of architecture, is
complicated and distorted by a thousand external conditions, that of
music is determined by its own inner laws alone,--by the laws, that is
to say, of sound-production, of sound-perception, and of psychology.
In the second place, the content of music, that which it expresses by
means of these freely selected and composed tones, is purely internal.
It is easy to see that the objects of musical expression, namely, human
emotions in their essence, reduced, so to speak, to their lowest terms,
are more fluid to manipulation than the comparatively fixed, indocile,
and external objects of the representative arts. By virtue, then, both
of its material medium and of its ideal content, music enjoys, among
human modes of expression, a unique freedom and autonomy. It grows, not
under pressure from outside, but by its own inner vitality; its forms
are determined, not by correspondence with anything in the heavens or
on the earth, but, like those of the snow-crystals, by the inexorable
laws that govern it; and the particular changes it undergoes in its
evolution, marking merely successive incarnations of tendencies and
potencies always implicit in it, can be traced with comparative ease,
clearness, and certainty.

But however unmistakably musical history may reveal an evolutionary
process, it does not reveal that process as perfectly regular and
uniform. That general tendency from a low toward a high state
of organization, with increase in definiteness, coherence, and
heterogeneity, which readers of Herbert Spencer expect in any
evolutionary series, does characterize the growth of music as a whole;
but within the large general process we also observe, as we do in many
other cases of evolution of any degree of complexity, many momentary
phases sharply marked off from one another, many separate and distinct
periods, like the chapters in a book or the acts in a play. Each
period, beginning tentatively, maturing slowly, and culminating in
music which carries its characteristic effects to the highest possible
pitch, is succeeded by another, presenting the same phases of growth,
but seeking effects quite different. All the periods hang together
in a large view; yet they are, after all, diverse in character, and
therefore capable of being distinguished, and even dated.

An analogy offered by certain well-known chemical processes may help
to make comprehensible this periodic nature of musical evolution.
Chemists have a term, “critical point,” by which they name a stage
in the behavior of a substance, under some systematic treatment, at
which it suddenly undergoes some striking change, some catastrophic
transformation. Put, for example, a lump of ice in a crucible and
apply an even heat by which its temperature is raised, say, one degree
each minute. Here is a systematic treatment of the ice, a steady
influence exerted upon it. Yet, curiously enough, this ice which is
being so equably acted upon will not change its form in the equable,
regular fashion we might expect. It will seem to undergo little or
no change until, at a given moment, suddenly, it passes into water, a
liquid wholly different in appearance from the original solid. It has
reached a “critical point.” Continue the heating, and presently another
critical point will be reached, at which, with equal suddenness, the
liquid will be transformed into a vapor--steam. These catastrophes, in
which the physical properties of the substance suddenly change, are
conditioned, of course, by its chemical nature. They take place in
the midst of a systematic treatment which we might expect to produce
only gradual, inconspicuous effects, but which, as a matter of fact,
produces a series of events as strikingly differentiated one from
another as the acts of a drama.

It is in a similar way that, in the history of music, the tonal
material used, under the systematic treatment of man’s æsthetic
faculty, has been constrained by its nature to undergo sudden
changes, to recrystallize in novel ways, to take on unwonted aspects
which initiate new periods. When the possibilities of one sort of
tone-combination are nearly or quite exhausted, the keener minds of
a generation, led by groping but unerring instinct, grasp an unused
principle of organization, latent in the material, and inaugurate
a new style. This in turn runs its course, develops its resources,
reaches its perfection, and is succeeded by another, which, after due
time, is also superseded. All these periods are but moments in one
vast evolution, successive blossomings from the one root of human
feeling expressible in music; yet each has its individual qualities,
its peculiar style, its special masters. It is possible both to trace
certain general tendencies through them all, and to define other
special qualities in which each is peculiar; and it will be worth
while, before passing on to our proposed study of the particular period
of Beethoven, to describe thus in general terms the salient features
of the evolution as a whole, and to characterize, however briefly, the
individual periods we can discriminate in it.

In the most general point of view, an evolution, of whatever sort, is a
progress from what Spencer calls “indefinite, incoherent, homogeneity,”
to what, consistently if rather overwhelmingly, he calls “definite,
coherent, heterogeneity.” All low forms of life, that is to say, are
so homogeneous in constitution as to be comparatively indefinite and
incoherent; their parts, being all very much alike, cannot be built up
into definite, strongly cohesive structures. A jelly fish, made up of
thousands of but slightly differentiated cells, and without legs, arms,
head, or any viscera worth mentioning except stomach, is doubtless a
useful animal, but not one of pronounced individuality or solidarity. A
savage tribe, consisting of many human beings almost indistinguishable
from one another as regards character, strength, accomplishments, or
powers of leadership, is a similar phenomenon in a different field, a
sort of social jelly fish.

In higher forms of life, on the contrary, such as vertebrate animals
and civilized communities, the elementary parts are sufficiently
diverse to be interwoven into highly individual and compact
organisms. The variety of the atoms or molecules makes possible a
great solidarity in the molar unit they compose, since the uniqueness
and indissolubility of a structure is directly proportionate to the
diversity of the elements that compose it. A man, if he is to attain
the dignity of manhood, must be more than a stomach; he must knit
into his single unity a bony skeleton, a circulatory system, a brain
and nervous apparatus, complicated viscera, and heart, mind, and
spirit. A state depends for its vitality on the varied characters and
abilities of its citizens; it must have laborers, artisans, merchants,
sailors, soldiers, students, and statesmen. In the second book of his
“Republic,” Plato describes the differentiation of talents and pursuits
in the citizens on which depends the advance in civilization of the
society. Such an increase in differentiation of the parts, accompanied
by increasing definiteness and coherence in the wholes, characterizes
every process of evolution.

The history of music is the history of such an evolution. Music
began with vague, unlocated sounds, not combined with one another,
but following at haphazard, and but slightly contrasted in pitch or
duration. Gradually, under the inconceivably slow yet irresistible
influence of men’s selective and constructive faculty, these sounds
took on definiteness, were fixed in pitch, were measured in time,
were knit into phrases and themes as words are knit into sentences,
were combined simultaneously in chords as individuals are combined in
communities;--became, in a word, the various, clearly defined, and
highly organized family of tones we use in modern music. Two passages
from Spencer’s “First Principles” will bring before us very clearly
the advance music has made towards heterogeneity in its elements, on
the one hand, and towards definiteness and coherence in its wholes, on
the other. “It needs,” he says, “but to contrast music as it is with
music as it was, to see how immense is the increase of heterogeneity.
We see this ... on comparing any one sample of aboriginal music with
a sample of modern music--even an ordinary song for the piano; which
we find to be relatively highly heterogeneous, not only in respect of
the varieties in the pitch and in the length of the notes, the number
of different notes sounding at the same instant in company with the
voice, and the variations of strength with which they are sounded and
sung, but in respect of the changes of key, the changes of time, the
changes of timbre of the voice, and the many other modifications of
expression: while between the old monotonous dance-chant and a grand
opera of our own day, with its endless orchestral complexities and
vocal combinations, the contrast in heterogeneity is so extreme that
it seems scarcely credible that the one should have been the ancestor
of the other.”[2] Of the corresponding increase in coherence and
definiteness he writes as follows: “In music, progressive integration
is displayed in numerous ways. The simple cadence embracing but a
few notes, which in the chants of savages is monotonously repeated,
becomes, among civilized races, a long series of different musical
phrases combined into one whole; and so complete is the integration,
that the melody cannot be broken off in the middle, nor shorn of its
final note, without giving us a painful sense of incompleteness. When
to the air, a bass, a tenor, and an alto are added; and when to the
harmony of different voice-parts there is added an accompaniment; we
see exemplified integrations of another order, which grow gradually
more elaborate. And the process is carried a stage higher when these
complex solos, concerted pieces, choruses, and orchestral effects,
are combined into the vast ensemble of a musical drama; of which,
be it remembered, the artistic perfection largely consists in the
subordination of the particular effects to the total effect.”[3]
In innumerable ways, which these passages will perhaps suffice to
suggest, the material of music has undergone a continuous, orderly,
and progressive process of development, from its earliest days down to
our own. It has exemplified, in short, an evolution from “indefinite,
incoherent, homogeneity” to “definite, coherent, heterogeneity.”

Concomitantly with this special evolution of the sound-material
of music, moreover, has gone on a more general evolution of human
faculties, which has involved a gradual turning away of men’s attention
from comparatively low forms of musical effect to those higher forms
which require for their appreciation a good deal of concentration,
perception, and power of intellectual synthesis. What was the exclusive
concern of the earliest musicians became, as time went on, but a
factor in a more complex artistic enjoyment. In order to understand
this aspect of the matter clearly, we shall have to distinguish as
accurately as possible three kinds of musical effect, all indispensable
to music worthy of the name, yet not of equal dignity and value.

There is, in the first place, the direct sensuous effect of the sounds,
their deliciousness as sensations. Musical tones gratify the ear just
as light and color gratify the eye, agreeable tastes the palate,
aromatic odors the nose, and soft, warm surfaces the touch. A single
tone from a flute, a violin, or a horn, is as delightful as a patch of
pure color, white, red, or purple. To listen to music is, at least in
part, to bathe in a flood of exquisite aural sensation. This immediate
value for our sense of the “concord of sweet sounds” is a fundamental,
legitimate, and important one, to deny or disparage which is to confess
oneself insensitive or a prude. All music depends for a part of its
appeal on its primary sensuous quality.

In the second place, music has what we call expressive value.
Feelings, of surprising depth and variety, it can arouse in us, by
inducing, through the contagiousness of rhythm and melody, tendencies
to make those bodily motions and vocal sounds which are the natural
accompaniment of our emotions.[4] These tendencies, of course, remain
incipient; they do not discharge in actual movements greater than the
tapping of the foot in “keeping time” and a slight contraction of the
vocal cords; but even this faint organic commotion suffices to arouse
those vivid feelings with which we listen to expressive music. It is
worth while to note further that these feelings are in themselves
necessarily most general and undefined, hardly more than moods of
animation, excitement, apprehensiveness, solemnity, or depression.
Their particular coloring is always imparted either by words or titles,
or by the associations of the individual listener. On that very fact
depend both the poignancy and the variety of musical expression.

The third and highest value of music is its æsthetic value, or beauty.
This value, which springs from the delight we take in perceiving, or
mentally organizing our sensations and ideas, is precisely analogous
to the æsthetic value of the other arts, as, for example, the beauty
of sonnets and other highly articulated poetic forms, of well-composed
pictures, of finely-proportioned sculpture, of symmetrical and
harmonious architecture. It depends, in general, on the perception of
unity in a mass of various impressions, and is but one example of a
type of satisfaction we are capable of finding in all the departments
of our experience. Wherever, confronted by many objects, sensations,
thoughts, or feelings, we are able to gain a sense of their coherence,
inter-relation, and essential oneness, we get the characteristic
æsthetic value. To win it is the highest success we know. To perceive
unity in the bewildering complexity of our experience, is to possess,
in the realm of knowledge, truth; in the realm of practice, character;
in the realm of art, beauty. Moreover, since perception is a far more
active, self-directed process than either sensation or emotion, which
are in large degree passively suffered, its contribution to our mental
life has for us a deeper charm, a more far-reaching significance, than
that of any other faculty. Beauty transfigures all elements that may
coexist with it in the mind. In the intellectual sphere, for example,
we understand far more deeply the phenomenon when we know its species
and genus, and “science is but classified knowledge.” In practical
life, all the little every-day events, the petty pleasures and pains,
take on, when we view them in relation to a conceived unity in our
characters and destinies, a new significance. Similarly in music,
values of the first two species, sweetness of sound and emotional
expressiveness, can be transfigured by formal beauty; there is no
tone that is not sweeter when it embodies a lovely melody; there is
no emotion that is not apotheosized by association with others in a
harmonious whole, or that does not defeat itself when it stands out
single, and will not merge itself in the organism. No music is wholly
devoid of any one of the three values; but the greatest music uses the
first two only as the materials of the third.

It is easy to see, however, that supreme as the æsthetic value of
music may be, men could arrive at an appreciation of it only after a
long novitiate and training. To enjoy the sensuous beauty of sweet
sounds one needs only ears; to be moved by melodies and rhythms that
strongly suggest those vocal utterances and bodily motions which are
the natural avenues of emotion, requires but a slightly more complex
appreciative mechanism, the mechanism of organic sensations and their
associations in the regions of naïve feeling; but to perceive the
manifold inter-relationship, and the final unity, of groups of tones
combined together by relations in pitch and in time, one needs a
keen ear, an awakened memory, a capacity for tracing unity under the
mask of variety,--in a word, a thoroughly trained and concentrated
mind. Musical art could reach a stage in which all three of its values
were associated in due proportion and proper adjustment, only through
a gradual progress beginning with stages in which it was but the
embodiment of sensuous, or at most of sensuous and emotional, values.
That it did, as a matter of fact, go through these evolutionary phases,
can be demonstrated by a brief and summary account of the actual
periods in its history.

In the first periods that we can make out by theory and
deduction--prehistoric periods that left no records--the values
sought appear to have been preponderantly sensuous and expressive.
The earliest savages, like all children even to this day, who make a
noise for the mere joy of it, probably used their voices and their
instruments chiefly as nerve-stimulants. As in the realm of color their
tastes ran to vivid reds and greens and blues, barbaric hues that
assaulted the eye with a potent stimulation, so in music they were
addicted to the drums and trumpets, to shoutings, and wild contortions,
to whatever gave them a generous measure of sensation, whether in
ears or muscles. Their motto in art was doubtless the one which some
unknown humorist, perhaps a Frenchman, has attributed to the Germans,
in all departments from art to gastronomy--“Plenty of it.” They did,
to be sure, take a certain satisfaction in the expressiveness of their
wailings and shoutings, and even in the crude formal designs into
which they shaped them, generally by mere repetition of some easily
recognizable formula; but their chief pleasure was to make a good,
rousing noise. Of these preliminary stages in the arts of dance and
song it is impossible, however, to form any certain ideas. We can only
rely upon conjecture and inference, supposing that something like them
preceded the stages about which we have more reliable information.

The earliest music of which historic records remain is that of the
Greeks. By painstaking study of the musical inscriptions on stone that
have survived the centuries, of the instruments actually in existence,
or described by ancient Greek writers, and of the technical treatises
on music which are preserved, scholars have been able to substantiate a
very few meager facts about the musical practices of the most artistic
of nations. On the whole, these facts are singularly disappointing.
Forgetting that music is the youngest of the arts, one is apt to expect
of the Greeks that wondrous subtlety and maturity in it which they
showed in sculpture, architecture, and poetry. A people possessed of
so surpassing an artistic instinct, one is apt to think, must have
carried its music to a high pitch of perfection. Investigation shows,
nevertheless, that the reverse was the case. Indeed, no testimony
could speak more eloquently for the deliberation and continuity of the
growth of music than the childishness with which it was practiced by a
people so gifted as the Greeks with every fineness of nature, but at
the disadvantage of living too near the time at which it emerged from

The Greeks used music chiefly as an adjunct to their poetry, and were
accustomed to chant long epics in what would seem to us a monotonous
sing-song, generally if not always without accompaniment. Their love
for moderation and their avoidance of the passionate, harsh, or
over-expressive, moreover, impelled them to exclude from their gamut
both the lowest and the highest tones of the voice, so that even their
tonal material was confined to a range of about two octaves. The tones
included in this limited range, however, they classified and disposed
with the greatest ingenuity. The intervals at which tone should follow
tone were dictated by seven arbitrary schemes called modes, and each
mode was supposed to have its peculiar quality of expression. Thus the
Lydian mode, corresponding to our modern major scale, was considered
voluptuous and enfeebling, while the Doric mode, an idea of which may
be gained by playing a scale, all on white keys, beginning with E,
was thought to breathe manliness, vigor, and dignity. They used no
harmony, and introduced rhythm only by the metre of the verses sung.
Consequently it is easy to see that they can have had from their
music but little æsthetic delight, which depends on the grouping into
harmonic or rhythmic forms of the tonal material; but must have valued
it chiefly for its sensuous beauty, and for its power to enhance the
expressiveness of their poetry.

It is nevertheless noteworthy that all three kinds of value did exist
in the music of the Greeks, though the third was still in a rudimentary
stage. As a result of the generally equal length of their verses or
lines of poetry, the melody that accompanied them tended to be divided
into equal sections remotely resembling our modern “phrases”; and these
sections tended to balance each other, and so to give the sense of
symmetrical form. Furthermore, it was customary to end each line with
a fall of the voice analogous to the downward inflection of a speaking
voice at the end of a sentence. These downward inflections, called
cadences, from a Latin verb meaning “to fall,” afforded a convenient
means of dividing off the musical as well as the poetic flow into
definite parts like segments in a piece of bamboo or the inches on a
tape-line; and in the subsequent development of musical structure these
divisions, marked by cadences, became the indispensable elements in a
highly complex organism. Thus the Greeks, in spite of the immaturity of
their music, considered in and for itself, did actually make valuable
contributions to the progress of the art. Their period was one of
promise rather than of fruition; but it contained the seeds of further
growth. It is often called the Monophonic or “one-voiced” period, from
the fact that their chants were purely melodic, employing but one
voice at a time, without harmonic support.

With the simultaneous employment of more than one voice, music passed
out of its infancy. The Polyphonic period, so called from Greek words
signifying “many-voiced,” extended, through all the Middle Ages, up
to so recent a date as the end of the sixteenth century, there to
culminate in the remarkable compositions of Palestrina. In duration it
was the longest of all the periods; but this is not surprising when we
consider, in the first place, the almost insuperable difficulties to
be overcome before even two voices could be pleasantly and fluently
conducted together; in the second place, the absence of all prototypes
or models for the first experimenters to work from; and, above all, the
surprising distance that separates Palestrina’s ingenious, intricate,
and beautiful tone-fabrics, written sometimes in as many as sixteen
parts, from the rude and protoplasmic chants of two voices, singing an
interval of a “fifth” apart, from which they were developed.

That type of chant in which two voices, one a fifth higher than the
other, sang the same melody, primitive as it was, and intolerable to
modern ears, was to its originators a convenient and pleasant device.
It was convenient because, the natural range of soprano and tenor
voices being about a fifth above that of contraltos and basses, choirs
could chant at this interval more naturally than at the octave. It was
pleasant because, while it left each of the two melodies distinctly
audible, it produced by their combination a harmonic richness that must
have fallen on mediæval ears with an unwonted splendor. Organum, as
this device of singing in fifths was called, must be ever memorable in
the history of music as the beginning of harmony.

After musicians had once taken the plunge, and dared to make different
melodies sound simultaneously, it took them but a comparatively short
time (though eras in music, as in geology, are long) to combine the
parts in other intervals than the fifth, to use varying intervals in
successive chords, to add more voices, and in general to elaborate in
every way their tissue of tones. Adopting, with some modifications,
the Greek modes as the prescribed orbits of the individual melodies,
they produced effects of harmony necessarily very unlike our
modern ones, which are built upon the major and minor scales, but
nevertheless novel and in their way extremely beautiful. The fabric of
the mediæval ecclesiastical music was made up of a succession of
shifting chords, each very pure and sweet in itself, yet without those
definite connections with its fellows that modern habits of thought
demand. The whole effect was curiously kaleidoscopic, mysterious, and
vague. Unity depended, not on the piece being in any one key, which it
never was, but on the melodies being coherent and expressive. These
were the salient features, the harmony was ancillary and incidental.
One voice after another came out from the filmy background, sounded
for a moment above the rest, and subsided again, to be replaced by
another. Not only was there no attempt at a definite series of even
sections, built up into recognizable rhythms, such as are indispensable
to modern music, but any such effect was studiously avoided. The effort
was rather to make the voices interweave inextricably and untraceably.
The entire mass was in constant flux and change, a body of lovely
and expressive sound, without a single distinct lineament, or any
conceivable whence or whither. In Palestrina we have the style at its
acme, vague, iridescent, beautiful with a mystical and unearthly
beauty. Beyond the point it reached with him, pure polyphonic music,
without rhythmic or harmonic definition, could not go. Another critical
point was reached, another transformation was imminent.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, moreover, there began to
dawn upon men’s minds various new principles of musical construction
which were pregnant with possibilities for a far wider and more vital
development than any that had gone before. The rapidity with which
the art now began to grow, ramify, and mature, the variety of the new
tendencies, and the multiplicity of different styles or orders of
art, such as opera and oratorio, fugue and sonata, toward which they
led, are surprising. In the countless centuries before Palestrina
music grew slowly and uniformly, like a plant; in the short three
hundred years between the birth of Palestrina in 1528 and the death
of Beethoven in 1827, it had its inconceivably rich and various
blossoming, and Monteverde and Gluck, Corelli and Scarlatti, Couperin
and Rameau, Bach and Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, were the
bright flowers it now put forth. Such a rapid and many-sided advance
is fairly bewildering; but it is nevertheless possible to distinguish
in the movement a few salient and dominant features, more significant
and remarkable than all the others. From our present point of view,
the labors of J. S. Bach in the fugue and suite forms, and of Haydn,
Mozart, and Beethoven in the sonata form, are of supreme interest.
These labors were guided and fructified by several new principles of
musical effect.[5]

The first step toward new fields was taken early in the seventeenth
century by a set of daring reformers in Florence, who, boldly
discarding the perfect polyphonic style of Palestrina, contrived a
style of dramatic music, embodied in small operas, in which single
voices sing more or less expressive melodies over an instrumental
accompaniment in chords. Crude in the extreme as were necessarily the
compositions of Cavaliere, Caccini, Peri, and their fellows, they
opened up novel paths, because they had to rely for their effectiveness
largely on the conduct of the harmonies employed. So long as the old
church modes were adhered to, to be sure, the harmonic style remained
necessarily vague, wandering, and monotonous; but gradually the
composers began to see that, by altering their intervals, they could
introduce variety and contrast into their cadences, making one line
end on one chord, and the next on a different though related one, and
that thus they could make coherent the successive phrases, punctuated
by the cadences, and at the same time set them in an opposition
that made for variety. In the interests of definiteness of cadence
and an obvious distribution of contrasted yet complementary chords,
therefore, the modes were slowly transformed into the modern scale,
and music became at last harmonically definite and firm. All the tones
came to be conceived as grouped around certain tonal centres, which
could be manipulated and organized like the masses in a picture. Thus
emerged the principle of tonality or key, and in the course of time
the device of modulation by which one passes from one key to another.
Still it remained difficult to get far away from the key in which
one started out, because of the manner of tuning, which made only a
few keys available at once; but J. S. Bach, modifying the system of
tuning to what is called equal temperament,[6] which opens the doors
simultaneously to the entire twelve keys, emancipated music entirely
from the restrictions of the ecclesiastical modes, and in his great
work, “The Well-[or Equally-] Tempered Clavichord,” demonstrated
practically the use of all the twelve keys as an intimate and compact
family. By his time the principle of tonality was firmly established.

A second principle vital to modern music is that of “thematic
development.” By this is meant, first, the existence in the music of
certain salient, easily recognizable groups of tones, called motifs,
subjects, or themes, which are presented to the hearer at the outset,
and impressed upon him by their unique individuality of cut; and
second, that subsequent elaboration of these themes, in varied but
still recognizable forms, which corresponds closely with the process
by which an essayist develops an idea, a mathematician proves a
theorem, or a preacher elucidates a text. It is interesting to note
that the German word “Satz,” often used by musicians to mean “a
theme,” signifies primarily a thesis or proposition in logic, while
“Durchführung,” used to describe the development of the theme, means
primarily a leading-through or bringing to an issue. Thus the process
of thematic development in music is much like any other process of
intellectual statement and proof. Now it is evident that this process,
which is indispensable to all the higher intellectual forms of music,
requires in the first place definite, concise, and memorable themes,
since it is impossible to discuss what one fails to grasp, or after
grasping, forgets. As the proverb says, the preparer of a ragout of
hare must “first catch his hare.” Similarly musicians, before they
could make their music logical, had to catch their themes. But as
musical material up to the time of Palestrina never was definite or
memorable, the first requisite of thematic music was some principle
by which themes could be defined. This principle was found in the
time-measurement of tones. So soon as a group of tones were placed in
measured relations of duration to one another, an individual theme
emerged, and could be elaborated. The second great conquest of modern
music, then, was the conquest of the definite theme or motif, strictly
measured in time, and of those devices by which it could be developed
in an extended and logical discourse.

The third notable achievement of seventeenth century composers was the
emancipation of music from servitude to poetry, and the establishment
of it as an independent art. In one sense this was but a natural
outcome of its new qualities of harmonic and thematic definition,
lacking which it could never reach independence. So long as it remained
in itself vague, amorphous, inchoate, it was constrained to be but a
hand-maid, to content itself with lending eloquence or atmosphere to
the utterances of its sister art; but this condition of dependence,
however inevitable for a time, was nevertheless unfortunate, and
bound to be eventually outlived. Music is always fatally handicapped
by association with words. In the first place, words impose upon it
a concrete meaning immeasurably more trite, prosaic, and limited
than that abstract and indefinable meaning to the heart and mind
which is its proper prerogative; the expressive power of music really
begins where that of poetry fails and ceases. In the second place,
the limitations of all vocal music are in many ways serious. Not
only are voices incapable of sounding readily and with certainty
many intervals, but they are confined to a range of a little over
three octaves, and to phrases short enough not to overtax the breath.
Instruments are free from all these disqualifications. They produce
pure tones, without words, the most celestial of artistic materials;
they can sound any interval; they extend over a range of more than
seven octaves, from the deep bass of the organ or contrabass to the
shrill and immaterial treble of the piccolo; and the breadth of the
phrases they can produce is limited not by their own mechanism, but
only by the power of intellectual synthesis possessed by listeners. For
all these reasons, instruments are the ideal media for producing music;
and never until they supplanted voices could music reach its complete
stature as a mature and self-sufficient art, leaning on no crutch,
borrowing no _raison d’être_, but making by its own legitimate means
its own unique effects.

The task of seventeenth century musicians was, then, in large part,
the establishment of tonality and the hierarchy of keys, contrasted
with one another, but accessible by modulation; the crystallization,
by means of both harmonic and metrical definition, of individual
themes out of the amorphous tonal matrix of previous eras, and the
exploration of means for building up these themes into coherent
organisms; and lastly the emancipation of the art thus brought into
full life from the tyranny of association with words and voices. This
was an immense task; and it is not to be wondered at that most of the
men engaged in it never attained mastery enough to give them great
personal prominence. Theirs was a time of beginnings, of preparation
for novel and unprecedented achievements. The early opera-writers,
the Italian violinists, the German organists, and the clavichord and
harpsichord writers of that period, men like Cavaliere and Caccini,
Corelli and Scarlatti, Sweelinck and Frescobaldi, Purcell, Kuhnau, and
Couperin, are chiefly known to us as preparers of the soil, and sowers
of the seed, for a harvest which was gathered by later, and probably
greater, though not more honorable men. The first composer after
Palestrina who like him overtopped all his fellows, and brought to its
culmination another great period, was Johann Sebastian Bach.

In Bach’s style we find, in addition to the polyphonic or many-voiced
texture of Palestrina, a thematic pointedness and logic and a harmonic
structure which are entirely unforeshadowed in the older man. The
fugue, a form which he carried to its highest pitch, and which was
admirably suited to his genius, is in certain respects allied to the
earlier style, though in others wholly modern. Like the ecclesiastical
forms of Palestrina, it is of the basket-work type of texture. One
voice begins alone, others enter in succession, and all wind in and out
amongst one another almost as intricately as in a sixteenth century
madrigal. On the other hand, the fugue as a whole begins and ends in
some one key, and throughout its progress modulates from key to key
with well-planned contrasts and firmly-controlled movement. Moreover,
a single definite theme or subject appears at the outset of the piece,
and stands prominently forth through its whole extent; it is announced
by the first voice, repeated at a different pitch in the answer of the
second, reiterated again by the third and fourth, and subsequently made
the basis of an ingenious, varied, and extended development. Finally,
although some of Bach’s fugues are vocal, most of them are written
either for organ or for clavichord. In all these respects his work
is modern, and perhaps most of all is it modern in its inexorable
logic, its subtlety and variety, and in its poignant, deeply emotional
expressiveness, which is always held within the bounds necessary to
supreme architectural beauty. The period of Bach and his precursors,
sometimes called the “polyphonic-harmonic” period, because in it the
modern harmonic system was grafted upon the polyphony of Palestrina,
remains to-day, from some points of view, the purest and noblest period
of musical history.

All the time that Bach, in the privacy of an obscure German town, was
writing his wonderfully intricate and beautiful polyphonic music, the
world about him, oblivious, was seeking out a quite different type of
art. It is a surprising fact that Bach’s compositions were virtually
unknown for fifty years after his death, and might have remained so
permanently had they not been “discovered” by appreciative students,
much as the receptacles of classical lore were discovered in the
Renaissance after the long darkness of the Middle Ages, and made the
basis of an intellectual revival. Bach’s great works, too, were full
of an undying vitality; but for a long time their potency had to
remain latent, because men were occupied with another order of art, a
different set of problems, an alien style. Ever since the Florentine
revolution, when the polyphonic texture of mediæval music was abandoned
for a simple monodic or one-voiced style, in which a melody is
accompanied by a series of chords, much of the musical genius of the
world had been devoted to the development of eloquent single melodies,
and of suitable harmonic backgrounds for them. With the systematization
of harmony and the establishment of definite themes this type of art
became mature. Composers discerned the possibility of building up
whole movements to which interest could be given by the statement and
development of one or more themes, contrasted both in character and
in key. They saw that the whole could be unified by general qualities
of style, by recurrence of the themes, and, above all, by being made
to embody, in the long run, a single tonality, though with momentary
departures from it for the sake of variety. Working out their idea,
they devised a type of structure which has remained up to this day the
highest and most widely useful of all musical forms. The essential
features of “sonata-form,” as it is called, are, in the first place,
the Exposition of two themes or subjects of discourse, contrasting
both in character and in key; in the second place, the Development
of these themes, the exploitation of their latent possibilities;
in the third place, Restatement of them, in the central key of the
movement, bringing all to a point, and completing the cycle of
Statement, Argument, and Summary. Sonata-form, of which it is easy
to see the naturalness and beauty, depends for its unity, not on the
equal interplay of many voices, like the older polyphonic forms, but
on the saliency, cumulative development, and harmonic inter-relations,
of single themes. We may, therefore, call the great period of Haydn,
Mozart, and Beethoven, the period in which the sonata-form attained its
full maturity, the “harmonic period,” or, in view of the complete round
or circuit of themes its forms exemplified, the “cyclical-form period.”
It culminated in the early years of the nineteenth century, in the
grand works of Beethoven’s maturity.

After Beethoven, music began to ramify in so many directions that it is
impossible to classify its phases in a hard-and-fast series. It had its
romanticists, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, who uttered with
freer passion and poetry the emotional and spiritual meanings already
heard in Beethoven. It had its realists, notably Berlioz and Liszt,
who, attempting to divert it into the realm of pictorial delineation
and description, have been followed by all the horde of contemporary
writers of programme-music. It had its nationalists, men like Glinka,
Smetana, and in our own day, Grieg and Dvořák, who sought to impress
upon its speech a local accent. Above all, it had one great master,
Brahms, who, assimilating the polyphony of Bach, the architectonic
structure of Beethoven, and the romantic ardor of Schumann, added
to them all his own austere beauty and profound feeling. But we are
too near these later masters to get any general, justly-proportioned
view of them. It is on the horizon only that mountains cease to be
solitary peaks, and become ranges, the trend and disposition of which
can be accurately plotted on the maps. The general tendency of musical
evolution, down to Beethoven so clearly traceable, so obviously
continuous, becomes after him bafflingly complex.

Fortunately, this complexity need not embarrass our present
undertaking. We have seen how, in the gradual and laborious, but
incessant and inevitable growth of musical art, period succeeded
period as the artistic faculty of man constantly discerned new
possibilities of beauty, sensuous, expressive, and æsthetic, in the
tonal material with which it dealt. We have seen how this evolution
tended always from the indefinite, incoherent, and homogeneous
toward the definite, coherent, and heterogeneous; and how it tended
to embody ever higher and higher values, beginning with the mere
sense-stimulations of savages and leading up to the highly complex
and intellectual sound-fabric of Beethoven, in which the sensuous and
emotional values are held ever subordinate to the æsthetic. We have
examined, briefly and summarily, the special characteristics of the
successive periods into which the great evolution has been divided by
those critical points which the nature of its material determined.
With the general view of musical history thus gained held clearly in
mind, we may now profitably pass to that more detailed study of the
great period of Beethoven, the golden age of pure music, which is the
especial task before us.

It will be necessary, however, to linger still a little longer on the
threshold, in order to examine in more detail yet the two scarcely
less interesting periods which preceded it,--the periods of Palestrina
and Bach,--and to define yet more precisely those fundamental
principles of pure music on the efficacy of which its glory depended.


[1] See the author’s “From Grieg to Brahms,” pp. 219-223.

[2] “First Principles,” American edition, p. 358.

[3] Op. cit., p. 326.

[4] For a fuller statement of this theory of musical expression, see
“From Grieg to Brahms,” pp. 6-11.

[5] These principles will be studied more in detail in the chapter on
The Principles of Pure Music.

[6] For a technical explanation of equal temperament, see Dr. Parry’s
“Evolution of the Art of Music,” pp. 187-188.

                              CHAPTER II

                              CHAPTER II

It has been often pointed out by historians and critics that in their
early stages the arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting were the
servants of religion. Nursed through their infancy by the cherishing
hand of the church, they emerged into the secular world only with
their comparative maturity. Architecture, which in our day and country
embodies itself chiefly in great civic and mercantile buildings, began
with the temples of the pagan Greeks and the cathedrals of the mediæval
Christians. Sculpture for the most part delineated, in antiquity,
Egyptian or Greek gods and goddesses; and in the middle ages, Christian
saints. Even painting, which at the Renaissance became for all time
a secular art, inspired by its own ideals and controlled only by
intrinsic conditions, commenced by picturing on mediæval altar-pieces
and frescoes the heroes of sacred story, with their upturned eyes and
their clasped hands, and by symbolizing the dogmas or illustrating
the narratives of its task-master, religion. J. A. Symonds, in the
third part of his “Renaissance in Italy,” in which he describes at
length this universal dependence of art, in its early stages, on
the church, offers the following plausible explanation of it: “Art
aims at expressing an ideal; and this ideal is the transfiguration
of human elements into something nobler, felt and apprehended by the
imagination. Such an ideal, such an all-embracing glorification of
humanity, exists for simple and unsophisticated societies only in
the forms of religion.”[7] It is not, indeed, until art, nurtured
in cloisters, acquires definite aims, technical methods, and
self-confidence, that it can put off its dependence on ecclesiastical
aid, at first favorable but eventually restrictive, and essay a free

To this general rule music is no exception--mediæval music was the
child, nursling, and hand-maid of the Church. It is true that there did
grow up, in the lyrical songs of troubadours and minstrels, a kind of
popular music that had in many respects more vitality, individuality,
and beauty than the more conventional ecclesiastical art; and that
the latter, at many stages in its development, had to draw fresh
inspiration from the humble popular minstrels. But in the middle ages,
when the common people were entirely illiterate, and all intellectual
concerns were in the hands of priests, who alone could read, write, and
preserve manuscripts and artistic traditions, it was inevitable that
the only recognized music, stamped with the seal of age and authority,
should be that of the ecclesiastical choristers. The student of the
infancy of music has to direct his attention, not to the mediæval world
at large, but to the cathedrals and the monasteries of that intensely
clerical age.

For the modern mind, permeated as it is with the instincts of liberty
and individualism, and perhaps especially for the American mind,
naturally radical and irreverent, it is difficult to conceive the
degree in which all the rites, customs, and beliefs of the mediæval
Catholic Church were matters of traditional authority. There was not
a word of the liturgy, not a tone of the plain chant to which it was
sung, not a gesture of the priest nor a genuflexion of the worshippers,
that was not prescribed by what was considered supreme dictation
and hallowed by immemorial practice.[8] The liturgy, or text of the
Mass, the skeleton and fixed basis, so to speak, of the ritual as a
whole, began to take shape in the hands of the apostles themselves;
was developed by a gradual accretion of prayers, hymns, responses,
and readings from Scripture; was translated into Latin and adopted by
the Roman Church; and became fixed in practically its present form so
early as the end of the sixth century. When we consider the almost
superstitious regard in which its great antiquity caused it to be
held, and when we reflect that the musical setting used with it was
considered a mere appanage to the sacred words, we can understand
the slow development of music in the first eleven centuries of the
Christian era. In taking its first steps music was not merely hampered
by its own uncertainty and infantile feebleness; it was paralyzed by
servile dependence on a text swathed within the bandages of priestly

The only form of music used in the Church, up to the beginning of
the twelfth century, the only form of music ever given its official
sanction, was the Gregorian chant or plain song, which consists
in a single unaccompanied series of tones set to the liturgic
text, intoned by priest or choristers, and for many centuries used
exclusively throughout the entire service. It has not only no
harmony, but, properly speaking, no meter or rhythm, being dependent
for time-measurement on the prose text it accompanies. “It follows”
says Mr. Dickinson,[9] “the phrasing, the emphasis, and the natural
inflections of the voice in reciting the text, at the same time that it
idealizes them. It is a sort of heightened form of speech, a musical
declamation, having for its object the intensifying of the emotional
powers of ordinary spoken language. It stands to true song or tune
in much the same relation as prose to verse, less impassioned, more
reflective, yet capable of moving the heart like eloquence.” Having
neither harmonic nor metrical relationship, it had, of course, no
proper structure of its own; and so long as it was used in this primary
way, sung in unison or even in two parts at the interval of an octave,
there was little about it that could properly be called musical at all.

But after a while it occurred to some one to let a second set of voices
sing the same chant at an interval of a fifth above the first.[10]
This scheme, which, simple as it was, contained the seeds of wonderful
developments, was probably first recommended by several practical
advantages. When the chant was sung by two choirs, one made up of
the high voices (soprano and tenors) and the other of the low voices
(contraltos and basses) the interval of the octave was practically
inconvenient because the low voices could not use their highest tones
without throwing the high voices out of range, and the high voices
could not use their lowest tones without similarly embarrassing the
low ones. When the interval of the fifth was used, on the contrary,
practically all the tones in both ranges, which are by nature about a
fifth apart,[11] became available. This was a very practical argument
in favor of chanting “at the fifth.” An even stronger one was the fact
that, while fifths, like octaves, are harmonious and pleasant to the
ear, without harshness or discordance, they are richer than octaves,
and their constituents stand out distinct instead of merging into
one impression, as do tones an octave apart; so that the practice of
Organum, or chanting at the fifth, was harmonically sweet and full as
well as melodically interesting. Organum came therefore into general
and wide use in the mediæval church. Hucbald, a monkish writer of the
tenth century, gives the following example of a fragment of plain chant
“organized,” or sung by two voices a fifth apart:

                            [Music: score]
             [Illustration: FIGURE II. EXAMPLE OF ORGANUM.]

    _In patris sempiturnus es filius._

The practice of Organum, crude as it may seem to modern ears, was
or immense historical importance, as the first embodiment of that
principle of combining various parts simultaneously which in due
time produced all the resources of polyphony and of harmony. It is
not necessary to examine here, in detail, all the stages of that
long and weary journey which the mediæval composers made from this
starting-point of Organum to the highly developed contrapuntal music
of the sixteenth century. In all its aspects it was essentially a
growth in definiteness, coherence, and heterogeneity. The parts were
combined with more and more freedom, both as to their comparative rate
of movement and as to the purity of the chords they made at prominent
points (less harmonious intervals being gradually tolerated); the
number of parts was increased, in spite of the great difficulties
that each additional part must have meant to writers with inadequate
experience and models; experiments were tried in combining together
tunes already composed, popular songs and the like, trimming and
twisting and compressing or expanding them to make them fit; the device
of imitation, of which more will be said presently, was introduced in
the interests of sense and coherence;[12] one experiment after another
was tried, one resource after another was utilized, until eventually,
in the sixteenth century, the art of ecclesiastical counterpoint[13]
was fully established.

To this sixteenth-century music it is difficult for modern ears to
listen appreciatively. The exact value and significance of chords,
cadences, and melodic phrases, like the exact significance of words in
language, depends so largely upon current usage and the mental habits
it reposes upon, that it is as much an effort for modern listeners to
comprehend mediæval music as it is for the modern reader to understand
the vocabulary of Chaucer or Shakespeare. Just as words, in the course
of long service, gradually take on new associations, new shades of
suggestion, and even, in extreme cases, a significance quite opposite
to their original one, so the material of music, as used to-day, has
hundreds of associations and subtle shades of value, developed only
during the last three hundred years, but nevertheless permeating our
minds so thoroughly that it is almost impossible for us to think them

--Perhaps the most inveterate of these modern habits of musical thought
is the harmonic habit. It is second nature for us to conduct all our
musical thinking in terms of harmonic relations. We think of chords
as related to one another in certain fixed ways, as forming groups
or clusters just as definite as the groups of atoms in a chemical
molecule. It is not more sure, for example, that in a molecule of water
two atoms of hydrogen are engaged or held in combination by one atom
of oxygen, than it is that in any key the dominant and sub-dominant
chords are held in the position of subordinate companions by the tonic
chord, and that the other chords of the key are held in more remote but
still perfectly fixed relations with this Paterfamilias of the harmonic
family. We think of the chords in a phrase, of whatever length and
complexity, as progressing in a coherent series, as intertwined one
with another by manifold relationships, and as embodying, all together,
some one key. For us, every composition is in some particular key as
inevitably as every poem or essay is in some particular language.
We modulate freely, to be sure, from key to key; but this rather
intensifies than obliterates our sense of key, just as the process
of translating from one language to another intensifies our sense of
the peculiar idioms of each. Our whole manner of thought would be as
indescribably shocked by a passage which placed together, cheek by
jowl, chords belonging to different keys, as by a sentence every word
of which was drawn from a different tongue.

Now this habit of thought simply did not exist in Palestrina and his
contemporaries and forerunners; it had not been evolved. The bit of
Organum given in Figure II is hideous to modern ears just because
it violates at every step our harmonic sense; it was pleasant to
its composer, whoever he was, because he had no harmonic sense to
be violated. To us, the sound of a tone with its fifth suggests
immediately and inexorably the whole “triad” founded on that
tone--root, third, fifth, and octave--and the key we consider it to be
in. The sound of the tone and its fifth summons up in our imagination
the whole chord and its key just as automatically as the sight of a
horse’s head arouses in us an image of the trunk, legs, and tail that
accompany it. This being the case, the bit of Organum quoted means for
us a series of abrupt transitions from key to key, without warning,
reason, or coherence. It is musical nonsense, gibberish, delirium. To
its composer, on the contrary, it was merely an agreeable combination
of two pleasing melodies in a harmonious interval. The chords used
had for him no implications, no necessary relations, the observance
of which made sense, the violation nonsense. They were pleasant
combinations of sounds formed by the melodies in their progress; and
that was all. Even more striking becomes the contrast between mediæval
and modern usage in the more mature music of the later contrapuntal
epoch. Palestrina, for example, begins a Stabat Mater as follows:

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE III.]

    _Stabat mater dolorosa,_

Here the first three chords, a modern musician would say, are in as
many keys. The first is the triad of A-major, the second that of
G-major, and the third that of F-major. The coherence of the passage
depends, in fact, entirely on the melodies; the chords they form have
no harmonic cohesiveness. For the old composers, in whose scores
hundreds of such passages may be found, harmony was still a sensuous,
not an intellectual or æsthetic agent.

Another peculiarity of their harmonic style resulted from their
attitude toward dissonances, or chords containing harsh intervals.
Dissonance, as we shall have frequent occasion to see, plays an
important part in modern music, both as an indispensable element in
design and as a means of peculiar emotional expressiveness. In the
sixteenth century, on the contrary, dissonances were admitted in the
harmonic fabric but sparingly, and when admitted were subject to
stringent rules, the purpose of which was to mollify their harshness.
The result was not only still further to preclude the sense of harmonic
sequence and coherence so essential to modern ears, and produced
largely by the skilful use of dissonance merging into consonance, but
also to limit the expressive powers of music to that range of feeling
which is aroused by the purest, clearest, and most mellifluous chords
sounding continuously, without contrast or relief.

But if the music of the sixteenth century was lacking in harmonic
cogency and intensity, it was not for that reason either incoherent
or inexpressive. It had its own sort of coherence, its own type of
eloquence, both depending on melodic rather than on harmonic qualities.
Music was to Palestrina and his fellows entirely a matter of melody,
not of harmony at all. The reader needs only to glance again at Figure
III, attending not to the chords and their sequence, but to the
individual voices, one after another, to see that in their own way the
phrases hang together firmly, and say efficiently what they mean. Each
of the four voices has an intelligible and expressive part, and if
together they sound a little strange, singly they are eminently good.
The more one studies this old music the more one realizes that it is
all melody; from beginning to end, from top to bottom, the mediæval
scores _sing_. They are not, like many modern works, full of inert,
lifeless matter, tones put in to fill out the harmonies, and having no
melodic excuse for being. In the modern monophonic style, in which but
one melody sings, the remaining parts are almost inevitably treated by
the composer as affording rather a logical sequence of harmonies than
a subsidiary tissue of melodic strands. In the sixteenth century, on
the other hand, harmony was the accident, melody the essence; any chord
would do very well in any place, provided it were consonant enough not
to offend the ear; but every tone must have a melodic reason for being;
it must be a point in a line; all the lines must be conducted with
draughtsman-like deftness and economy. Melodic life is accordingly the
supreme trait of the style well named polyphonic.

And yet, here we encounter still another difficulty introduced by
modern habits of thought. To us nowadays melody means, not merely
a series of tones having that sort of elementary consecutiveness
which we find in Palestrina, for example, but a series of tones
divided up into several definite segments which in someway balance,
complement, and complete one another. The first phrase of “Yankee
Doodle” has “elementary consecutiveness,” but it does not satisfy
our melodic sense. We must add the second phrase, equal to it in
length, which echoes and reinforces it, and the third phrase, twice
as long as either, which rounds out the whole tune to a complete
period. In short, just as harmony involves for us chord structure and
inter-relation, melody involves for us metrical balance, response,
symmetry--that recognizable recurrence, to use the most general term
possible, which we call “rhythm.” Mere eloquent intoning, without
repetition and balance of phrases, is to us no more “tune” than prose
is verse. Here again we are in danger of letting our own habits of
thought confuse our understanding of an unfamiliar type of art. The
truth is, Palestrina does not write “tunes,” in the modern sense of the
word. He lived and wrote before musical evolution had given the world
that principle of metrical structure so essential to modern music; and
his style, therefore, lacks definite meter, lacks all rhythm save that
vague one superposed upon it by his Latin prose text. His music, devoid
of any regular segmental division, is indeed a sort of tonal prose, as
massive and majestic as the “Religio Medici.”

One other technical peculiarity of the music of the polyphonic period
deserves notice here, as it involved a principle destined to assume
great importance in later stages of art. The polyphonic writers often
introduced successive voices with an identical formula of notes,
which by repetition came to have somewhat the virtue of a motif or
subject in giving to the music rationality and sequence. They had not
as yet, to be sure, enough experience in composing definite themes
strictly measured in time to make these embryonic motifs either very
long or very distinct, but they did make and utilize subjects striking
enough to be remembered and recognized. In this way they introduced
the important device of “Imitation.” This imitating of one part by
another, even when crudely carried out, gave a certain air of intention
and fore-thought to what without it would have been a haphazard
utterance of tones, and in later times, when developed to a high
pitch of perfection in the fugue and allied forms, became a powerful
agent for securing intelligibility. Meanwhile, as we have seen, the
intelligibility of the sixteenth-century music depended chiefly on the
fine melodic cogency and expressiveness of its individual voice parts.
Although time-measurement was well understood, melody was without
metrical structure and rhythmic organization. Harmony was the art of
making pleasant sounds by bringing the voices together, at prominent
moments, on consonant chords; it took no heed of chord relation,
of tonality, or of orderly modulation; and it used dissonance with
extreme conservatism. Such, in sum, were the most notable technical
peculiarities of that polyphonic period which Palestrina brought to its

Giovanni Pierluigi Sante da Palestrina, named Palestrina from the place
of his birth, which was a small town in the Campagna not far from Rome,
was born of humble parents about the year 1524. About 1550 he went
to Rome as teacher of the boy-singers in the Capella Giulia of the
Vatican. All the rest of his life was spent in Rome, in various posts
in the service of the church, and in studious and uneventful labor at
his great compositions. Although a married man, he was made in 1554
one of the singers in the Papal choir by Pope Julius III, to whom he
had dedicated a set of masses; on the accession of Pope Paul IV a year
later he was dismissed, and became ill with anxiety as to the support
of his growing family; he was nevertheless almost immediately appointed
music-director of the Lateran Church, and later he held successively
the posts of music-director in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore,
“Composer to the Pontifical Choir,” leader of the choir of St.
Peter’s, and music-director to Cardinal Aldobrandini. Aside from these
meagre and arid details, unfortunately, little is known of the man
Palestrina. His private life is almost a blank. The one story oftenest
told of him, that his Mass of Pope Marcellus, produced in 1565, was
written to convince the reforming Council of Trent of the possibility
of purging church music of the trivialities and abuses which had crept
into it, has been discredited by recent historians. Mythical also seems
to be the story of Palestrina’s one great popular triumph, in 1575,
a year of jubilee, when fifteen hundred residents of the composer’s
native town are said to have entered Rome in three companies, singing
his works, and led by himself. The story is a severe tax on the
credulity of anyone whose ideas of chorus-singing are based on modern

In character Palestrina was devout, pious, frugal, and industrious.
Though so few records exist, we can guess his industry from the mass
of the work he achieved, and his honor and sense of responsibility
from his anxiety when the support of his family seemed in danger. As
to his piety, all his music is one eloquent demonstration of it. Nor
is it without verbal testimony in the dedications and inscriptions on
his manuscripts. In dedicating his first book of motets to Cardinal
d’Este he expressed his artistic convictions as follows: “Music exerts
a great influence on the minds of mankind, and is intended not only to
cheer these, but also to guide and control them, a statement which has
not only been made by the ancients, but which is found equally true
to-day. The sharper blame, therefore, do those deserve who misemploy
so great and splendid a gift of God in light or unworthy things, and
thereby excite men, who of themselves are inclined to all evil, to sin
and misdoing. As regards myself, I have from youth been affrighted at
such misuse, and anxiously have I avoided giving forth anything which
could lead anyone to become more wicked or godless. All the more should
I, now that I have attained to riper years, and am not far removed from
old age, place my entire thoughts on lofty, earnest things, such as
are worthy of a Christian.” When, in 1594, Palestrina died, almost his
last words, whispered to his son Igino, directed the publication of his
latest manuscript works, “to the glory of the most high God, and the
worship of his holy temple.”

A sentence in the dedication by Palestrina just cited affords us as
serviceable a key as we could desire to the fundamental temper or mood
of mind which underlay the type of art he represents. The technical
peculiarities of this art already traced in the foregoing pages, do
not in themselves explain it; they are, indeed, but manifestations of
a deeper spirit underneath, a spirit that was as characteristic of the
mediæval mind as idealism is of the modern mind. Incommensurate as were
the technical resources of the mediæval composer with ours, their whole
mental temper and outlook upon life was in even more striking contrast
with the modern attitude. We have, therefore, next to ask: What was
the most characteristic peculiarity of this age? What was its most
pervasive general trait? What was the one dominant quality in which
most of Palestrina’s contemporaries, for all their minor differences,
were alike?

Palestrina himself suggests the answer to such questions. “The sharper
blame, therefore,” he writes, “do those deserve who misemploy so great
and splendid a gift of God in light or unworthy things, and thereby
excite men, who of themselves are inclined to all evil, to sin and
misdoing.” This setting in antithesis of “men, who of themselves are
inclined to all evil,” with the attribution of a “great and splendid
gift” to a God conceived as remote from men though beneficent to
them, exemplifies the essence of that mediæval view of life which we
wish to understand, and for which perhaps the best single name is
mysticism. The mystic begins his philosophy with a sharp sundering of
himself, considered as an individual existing in time and space, with
earthly body, finite mind, and human passions, from what he considers
supreme, formless, and eternal good. In common with other men, he has
his instinctive perceptions of the divine; but unlike other men he
cuts off very sharply the divine thus perceived from the real world
in which he eats and drinks, works and plays, lives and dies. His is
a world of strong contrasts, of extreme antithesis--the world that
mystical terminology divides into “apparent and real,” “divine and
carnal,” “temporal and eternal.” His intuition of what is beyond the
veil of mortality, absolute, permanent, serves only to emphasize more
poignantly his own frailty, partiality, and transience. He not only
hypostatizes his own ideal, his dream and aspiration of what ought to
be, making of it, as all men do, a real objective existence, but he
then cuts it off from himself, makes it a touchstone of all the dross
that in him exists alongside the pure gold, and while he attributes
all virtue to this “other” or “beyond” projected by his unconscious
imagination, reserves to his present actual self, as directly known,
all wickedness, sin, and failure. God is perfect, but remote; man is
near--and base.

This was the characteristic attitude of religious-minded men in
the middle ages. If to us it may seem pathetically childish and
superstitious, we should not judge it without remembering the epoch of
which it was a part. When we reconstruct in imagination that historic
moment, that peculiar inheritance and environment of the sixteenth
century Europeans, it is hard to conceive how else they could have
interpreted the world. Theirs was an age, we must remind ourselves, of
violence and bloodshed, of greed, hypocrisy, lust, and faithlessness.
Craft and cruelty reigned in places of power, and the minds of the
common people groped in the obscurity of gross ignorance, made even
darker by fitful flashes of superstition. The poor were ground down by
tyrannies and oppressions, the powerful were tormented by constant
dread of treachery and assassination. Plagues and pestilence, war and
famine and drought, made physical existence miserable; priestly bigotry
and dogmatism crushed all mental initiative. It is not surprising that
humanity, in the midst of such conditions, failed to recognize, as the
source of its beliefs, its own latent virtue; the wonder is rather that
it succeeded in rising at all to the intuition of a holiness which, by
a natural error, it conceived as entirely severed from itself. It was
much to arrive at this point. The object of the present analysis is not
to discredit the mediæval conception of the world, but, by pointing out
its peculiarities, to throw light on the music which was one of its
profoundest utterances.

The most familiar, and in some respects the most characteristic,
element of mysticism is its ecstatic, devout attitude towards the
deity or Absolute it worships. The mystic throws himself on the ground
before his God, so to speak, in an ecstasy of complete self-abandonment
and surrender. He is utterly prone, passive, will-less. His worship
is the most complete, the most devoted worship of which there is
record. The Greek pagans might sacrifice a lamb or an ox at the
altars of their gods, the mystic sacrifices nothing less than himself,
his very personality. He desires no reciprocal relations with his
deity, makes no reservations in his commerce with it, retains no
claim to independence, seeks no special favors; what he longs for,
whole-heartedly and with a passionate fervor, is complete absorption,
utter annihilation. In the trances of the devotees, consciousness
dwindles to a point, all sense of individuality lapses, perception,
sensation, thought even, flag and cease, and there remains only a vast,
vague sense of the infinite self in which the human self is dissolved
and obliterated.

So prominent a feature in this longing or absorption in the infinite,
however, was the characteristic mystical condemnation of the finite,
that an account of the relations of mystical belief and practice to
the affairs of actual life reduces itself largely to a series of
negative statements. Closely connected with the dogma of the supreme
worth of the absolute, and producing even more conspicuous effects than
that, was the obverse dogma of the worthlessness of the immediate,
of whatever could be called “this,” “now,” or “here.” Love of God
was considered to involve contempt of man, and since man was nearer,
more immediate in experience, than God, mysticism expressed itself,
historically, very largely in negations. It acted, in all departments
of life, and on all planes--the physical, the intellectual, and the
emotional or spiritual--as an anti-naturalistic force, for which,
perhaps, the best general name is asceticism.

On the physical plane, asceticism took the form of abstinence and
mortification of the flesh. In its milder phases it prompted merely
the refusal of all the natural calls of instinct and appetite. Because
it was natural to hunger, asceticism required men to fast; because to
sleep was natural, it counselled vigils; because men naturally enjoy
women’s love, material well-being, and personal initiative, monastic
orders imposed the triple oath of celibacy, poverty, and obedience.
Of course it is true that there were positive benefits to be derived
from all these modes of discipline, and that much could be argued in
their favor by mere common-sense; but over and above their positive
virtues there was about them an opposition to nature, a violence
to human instincts, that even more irresistibly commended them to
true ascetics. A still further application of the same principle was
mortification of the flesh. Indian Jogis, Mohammedan dervishes and
fakirs, Christian cenobites and anchorites, all, in a word, who held
the mystical doctrine of the absolute opposition of body and spirit,
believed that to mortify the flesh was to vivify the soul, and carried
out their belief with the help of a thousand engines of penance.

On the intellectual plane, the same distrust of man and of nature
prompted an agelong opposition to science, to independent metaphysical
or religious thinking, and indeed to all forms of free mental
activity. The story of Galileo summoned before the seven cardinals
at Rome and forced to deny his belief in the heretical doctrine that
the earth revolved round the sun is typical of the experiences of
almost all venturesome thinkers in the middle age. The application
of human intellect to the unravelling of the august mysteries of God
was zealously punished as a blasphemy; the only authorized channel
of knowledge was revelation. The rational and systematic questioning
of nature that has given us modern science was by the true mystical
mind held in horror, first because the intelligence is a human and
therefore corrupt instrument, and secondly because nature itself is an
illusion, a pitfall for unwary feet that falter in their search for

An asceticism which saw in the physical and intellectual activities
of the natural man more evil than good, could hardly be expected to
look more leniently on his emotional life, which is, perhaps, the most
intensely human and natural part of him, and of which the organized
expression is art. Ordinary human feelings, exercised spontaneously in
the present world, and not as mere offerings to the beyond, seemed to
the ascetic as unworthy of a God-fearing man as sensuous pleasures and
intellectual quests. And especially abhorrent to him was their free
embodiment in art. As religion is the expression of man’s consciousness
of the supernatural, so art is the expression of his delight and joy
in the natural. Its work is to build, out of primitive sensations,
utterances of feeling and monuments of beauty. But these sensations are
all ultimately physical. These feelings are the simple, instinctive
feelings of humanity, and this beauty is one that is apprehended by no
metaphysical faculty, but by ordinary human powers--by the senses,
the heart, and the mind. Art is the most radically and inexorably
human of all man’s interests. And since the whole bias of asceticism
was against the free development or expression of merely human powers,
it was inevitable that mysticism, in which the ascetic element is so
considerable, should be even more restrictive than helpful in its
influence on art. While it did indeed foster the purely devout and
adoring element in artistic expression, it discouraged that full appeal
to the whole man by which alone art attains its maturity.

The music of Palestrina’s age is probably the most consummate
expression in the whole history of art of this peculiar type of
feeling, with all its characteristic qualities and limitations.
“No other form of chorus music has existed,” writes Mr. Edward
Dickinson,[14] “so objective and impersonal, so free from the stress
and stir of passion, so plainly reflecting an exalted, spiritualized
state of feeling. This music is singularly adapted to reinforce the
impression of the Catholic mysteries by reason of its technical
form and its peculiar emotional appeal.... It is as far as possible
removed from profane suggestion; in its ineffable calmness, and an
indescribable tone of chastened exultation, pure from every trace of
struggle, with which it vibrates, it is the most adequate emblem of
that eternal repose toward which the believer yearns.”

It was, we must now once more insist, these peculiar qualities of
feeling to be expressed in mystical art, that reacted to determine
the peculiarities of the technique in which they had to be embodied,
just as a man’s spirit reacts to determine the nature of the body in
which its purposes have to be wrought out. That “ineffable calmness,”
that “chastened exultation,” of the mystical temper, could be voiced
in sound only through the medium of clear, ethereal vocal tones,
combined in chords prevailingly consonant and void of harshness.
Such a translucent fabric of tones as was produced by human voices,
singing, without instrumental accompaniment, the purest consonances,
was best fitted to merge with the vast, cool arch of the cathedral,
with the unlocalized murmur and reverberation that stirred in it, and
with the somnolent fumes of incense, to form a background apt for
mystical contemplation. And then, against this background, the phrases
of aspiring but unimpassioned melody which one by one sounded above
the general murmur, traced, as it were, arabesques of more definite
human feeling. One by one they rose into momentary prominence, to hover
above the other voices as prayers hover among the tranquil thoughts of
simple and devout minds. There was about them a celestial clarity, an
unearthly plangency of accent, but no turmoil or confusion, no hint of
mortal pain.

Complete impersonality was attained by the exclusion of dissonance and
of meter. The emotional function of dissonance is to suggest, by its
harshness, and by its sharp contrast with the consonances by which
it is surrounded, the struggle and the fragmentariness of all finite
existence. Like a cry of incompleteness yearning to be completed, it
is eloquent to us of our loneliness and bitter self-consciousness.
Meter similarly insists on reminding us of our petty human selves by
stimulating us to make those gestures and motions that bring into full
activity our muscular expression, with all its mental consequents.
To hear a strong rhythm is to be irresistibly reminded of all those
active impulses in us which underlie our sense of finite personality.
It was, then, by its negative peculiarities, by its avoidance of all
harmonic mordancy and definition, and of all rhythmic vigor, that
Palestrina’s music secured its impersonality, its freedom from “profane
suggestion,” and from “every trace of struggle.” Its positive and
negative qualities thus cooperated so efficiently as to make it an
incomparable exponent of the mystical mood. It not only could induce
that rapt attitude of worship which was the kernel of mysticism, but it
also skilfully avoided all disturbing hints of personal, finite, and
secular activities. It comes to our modern ears like a voice from some
grey mediæval cloister, tremulous with a divine passion, but utterly
void of all those earthly passions in which the sweet is subtly mingled
with the bitter, and human pathos is more audible than heavenly peace.

Palestrina marked the culmination of his school; the pure polyphonic
style ended with him. Was this merely because his younger
contemporaries, overawed by his perfect skill, dared not enter the
lists in rivalry with such a master? Or was it rather that men’s minds
had arrived at the period of a fresh insight, and that the time was
ripe for an obliteration of hard and fast distinctions between sacred
and secular, spiritual and carnal, eternal and temporal, and for a
proclamation of the native dignity and worth of man himself, in the
fullness of his sensuous, intellectual, and emotional life?

[7] “Renaissance in Italy.” Part III. The Fine Arts, p. 6.

[8] See, for a complete description of the Church ritual, Mr. Edward
Dickinson’s “History of Music in the Western Church,” Chapters III and

[9] Op. cit., p. 96.

[10] See Chapter I, p. 25.


                            [Music: score]
   [Illustration: FIGURE I. RANGE OF SOPRANOS AND TENORS. (D to G.)]

       [Illustration: RANGE OF CONTRALTOS AND BASSES. (G to C.)]

[12] See page 61.

[13] The word counterpoint, from the Latin “punctus contra punctum,”
meaning note (or point) against note, describes that mode of writing in
which various melodies progress simultaneously, or one against another.

[14] Op. cit., p. 178.

                              CHAPTER III
                           THE MODERN SPIRIT

                              CHAPTER III
                           THE MODERN SPIRIT

The need of mastering life, of reducing its multitudinous, thronging
details to some sort of order, that shall lack neither the unity which
alone can satisfy the mind, nor the variety requisite to do justice to
the complexity of experience, is the one perennial need of humanity.
The aim of all the chief human undertakings is to find schemes of
order: physical science is the quest of order in the material world;
morality is the quest of coordination and balance between many
individual wills; religion is the search for the One Spirit which
contains and fuses together all finite souls; art is the pursuit of
that organization of diverse elements, of whatever sort, in one
sensible whole, in which we perceive beauty. But since experience is
bewilderingly many-sided and complex, one scheme after another is made
only to be discarded as inadequate, and progress entails the constant
substitution of more inclusive for less inclusive syntheses. Our most
catholic formulas are provisional and temporary; “opinions are but
stages on the road to truth.”

Such a word as “modern” can therefore have but a relative meaning.
What is modern to-day will be archaic a hundred years hence. Our
contemporary ideas are more liberal than those of our grandfathers,
but they will likely appear as the rigid superstitions of a dark age
to our still more enlightened descendants. When we speak of the modern
spirit we say nothing in regard to the future; we name simply the
attitude of mind which characterizes the present as contrasted with the
past. That new vision or intuition or instinct of truth by which we
of to-day reinterpret in more liberal wise the elements of experience
either interpreted too narrowly or quite ignored by the earlier
generations--that is the “modern spirit.”

We have been considering at some length, in the foregoing chapter,
the characteristic mystical attitude of the mediæval mind. We have
seen how the typical thinkers of the middle age, aware of good but
unable to identify it with an actual world so full of evil, made a
sharp division, a total breach, between the actual and the divine.
The mystic cut the Gordian knot of the world-problem by rejecting
the actual altogether from his house of life. His scheme had its own
harmony, unity, rationality; but being built upon an exclusion, it had
in the nature of things to give place in course of time to a scheme
less disregardful of the true wealth and reality of experience. The
modern mind turned away from mysticism, envisaged the world afresh, and
reinterpreted truth in terms of idealism.

Idealism is, in essence, a belief in the possibility of attaining the
divine through a selective manipulation of the actual. In the respect
it pays to finite life lies its sharp contrast with mysticism. It has
gone far to obliterate the breach between the actual and the divine
which the mystic had made so wide; it has tried to find the eternal
in the temporal, and to nourish the spirit by guiding and developing,
rather than by mortifying, the flesh.[15] Mysticism spurned the
“this,” the “here,” the “now;” idealism, on the contrary, is on its
hither side, so to speak, identical with realism. The idealist believes
in the immediate, and loves the finite, as much as the crassest
realist. He finds in it the point of departure of all desirable truths,
the scaffolding for all mansions of the spirit. But he differs from
the realist in that he does not stop with the real, but, using it as
material for idealism, selects from it the elements of his heart’s
desire. The actual world is to him a sort of keyboard on which he
strikes those chords, and those only, which he wishes to hear. He is,
indeed, an artist in life, and his method is the true artistic method
of selection and synthesis. But on the other hand, he differs even more
radically from the mystic, in that he makes the very materials of his
Celestial City out of those earthly, momentary, and finite experiences
that the latter rejects as dross. All three types of thought find
themselves confronted by the opposition between actual facts and
spiritual desires which is so characteristic of our world: the mystic
repudiates the facts; the realist discredits the desires; the idealist
sets out to win, by a selective or artistic manipulation of the facts,
the satisfaction of the desires.

Characteristic of idealism is therefore its respect for the actual,
in all its phases. It respects, to begin with, the human body. The
tendency of modern thought is towards a wise paganism in physical life,
towards a substitution of hygiene for mortification, of moderation for
abstinence, of the liberal conception of “mens sana in corpore sano”
for the monkish ideal of a soul gradually burning up and sloughing off
its tenement. Development of the body is increasingly manifesting its
true relation to the spiritual enterprises of men--a relation that
repression of it only obscured and distorted. The Hermit of Carmel,
in the poem of that name,[16] spends his days in a painful, endless,
and futile struggle to eradicate fleshly lusts; the young knight knows
another sort of purity, more joyful and bountiful, the purity of the
lover who remembers his beloved. Idealism, like that happy knight,
remembers that it is the mission and destiny of flesh to wait on

Again, idealism respects the intellect. The great development of the
physical sciences, generally considered the most striking fact in
nineteenth century history, is the necessary result of an idealistic
faith in the powers of human observation and reason. The modern mind,
believing in its own ability to interrogate nature, has done so with
tireless energy, recording the answers obtained in half a hundred
special “sciences,” ranging from histology to psychology. It has
applied the same method introspectively to such good purpose that
metaphysics, in the hands of Kant and his successors, has radically
altered our conception of how we know truth, and what sort of truth
it is that we know. Nor have the contributions of the enfranchised
intellect stopped with philosophy; they have immensely deepened and
vivified religion. The doctrine of evolution, for example, a product of
the most remarkable keenness, liberality, and patience in intellectual
research, has substituted for the childish anthropomorphic doctrine of
creation the wondrously vital modern conception of a God not remote
and detached, but nearer than thought and more enveloping than the
atmosphere, incarnate in every atom and regnant in every mind.

The emotional or spiritual essence in man is as much respected by
idealism as his body and his intellect. Loyalty to actual feelings as
they well up spontaneously in the heart, rather than mere conformity
to custom, is the modern attitude in all spheres of voluntary life.
Personal conduct is a truer mirror of individual feeling than it used
to be. What a contrast the student of literature observes between the
conventional worldliness of eighteenth-century manners and morals and
the intense individualism of the early nineteenth-century poets in
England and of our own transcendentalist writers--an individualism
which was the logical outcome of the idealist’s championship of human
emotion in and for itself. The greatest men are of course always
ahead of their age, but such sturdy, independent lives as Thoreau’s,
Whitman’s, Darwin’s, George Eliot’s, Stevenson’s, would have created
even more consternation in the eighteenth century than they did in
the nineteenth, dimly stirred to freer ideals. The same regard for
emotional verities that has so deepened individual life is producing a
revolution in all social relations. They are constantly becoming more
spontaneous and genuine--less matters of tradition. Class boundaries
are being obliterated, a man’s success and position coming to depend
less on family and station, more on the man himself. Women’s economic
progress, combined with an increasing sense in both women and men of
the real sacredness and responsibility of love between the sexes, is
making marriage, in many ways the most vital of all social relations,
a free and joyful bond between equals, rather than a yoke imposed by
egotism and endured by helplessness. In sum, the democratic ideal is
substituting, in all social relations, the genuine inner cohesion for
the artificial mortar and cement of external usage. Finally, it is the
same regard for inner realities, so characteristic of idealism, that is
giving to men’s religious experience a new profundity. When once the
heart is awakened, it needs no longer the assurance of antique books
that God exists, and it can worship him no longer as a mere formula,
universal because featureless. Intuition supplants revelation, and men
enter into a personal relation with the God they had before conceived
as austere, characterless, and remote. Modern nonconformity is an
indication of the reality of modern religious feeling.

In countless ways we thus discern the working of the idealistic impulse
in our contemporary life. Independence in personal conduct and thought,
democracy in social relations, nonconformity in religion, stand out
as salient features of the modern world, especially when we contrast
them with the conventionality, paternalism, and ecclesiasticism of the

The foregoing remarks, together with the reflections they will suggest
to the reader, may perhaps suffice to show that idealism has met at
least one of the requirements of human progress, by filling the mind
with a vastly richer and more various mass of contents than mysticism
admitted. The realities it takes account of are far less pathetically
inadequate to match the actual richness of experience than the thin,
impalpable, and austere conceptions of the mystic. Compared with his,
the world of the idealist is a breathing, moving world, not entirely
void of the infinite tragedy and comedy of life itself. Something
of passion and pathos it has, and it is held in shape by the tough
fibres of commonplace--for even the trivial is not excluded. All
this increase of complexity, however, would be quite nugatory were a
principle of unity lacking. The complexity must be built into an order
if it is to be truly a synthesis, satisfying to the mind as well as to
the sense of reality.

It is, therefore, a fact of capital importance, that idealism does
succeed in unifying, as well as in enriching, our conceptions of life.
It systematizes, at the same time that it broadens, our views. Much as
it insists on the variety of experience, even more does it assert its
organic unity. Indeed, the central ideal of idealism, its very heart
of hearts, is its belief in the wholeness, the organized integrity,
of the universe. It respects the body, the mind, and the soul of man;
but even more it respects the whole man, in just balance and full
inward cooperation of functions. Believing man to be an organism, it
sets supreme store by his full or organic activity, and deplores undue
prominence in any element of his life, as injuring the harmony of the
whole. Ardently as it champions individual initiative, it demonstrates,
through philosophy, that the very consciousness of the individual is
dependent on his social relations.[17] It recognizes that democracy
can exist only through mutual service, and that freedom is based
on a universal sense of responsibility. It is clearly aware that a
personal relation with God comes only to him who is willing to obey
God, not in a spirit of passive endurance, but with active joy, as a
part serving the whole in which it has its being. This recognition
of a just relation to the whole as the supreme ideal of all partial
existences is testified to most strikingly by our very vocabulary,
the natural repository of our beliefs. The word “health,” denoting
physical well-being, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “hal,” or whole;
“sanity,” signifying mental well-being, is from the Latin word for
the same idea, “sanus;” and we name the most indispensable of moral
traits “integrity.” True idealism is in no way more certainly to be
distinguished from its sentimental counterfeits than by its constant
recognition that the preservation of the wholeness, as well as the
fullness, of man’s nature, is the _sine qua non_ of human welfare. It
values every least manifestation of his nature, because it considers
each one sacred; but it values even more the coordination and harmony
of all.

Turning from the consideration of idealism in its general effect on
modern life to examine its more special effect upon art, we recognize
at once its importance as an æsthetic force. Art is the expression of
man’s physical, emotional, and spiritual life, in organized fullness.
Wherever there is direct, complete, and beautiful expression of what
seems to man precious, there is art. Wherever, on the contrary, there
is suppression of any genuine human impulse, in fancied service to
some other, as in the case of mediæval mysticism, there is artistic
immaturity or arrest; and wherever there is an exaggerated development
of any one impulse, at the expense of others and of the balance or
symmetry of all, as in the cases of modern French realistic literature
and of program music, for example, there is artistic decadence. And
since idealism insists both on the claims of all legitimate human
impulses to recognition, and on their submission to adjustment in the
interests of a rounded human nature, idealism is a potent stimulus to
true art.

All this is amply illustrated in that great development of art under
the spur of idealism which we name the Renaissance. By renaissance,
or rebirth, is meant a reawakening of the human spirit to fuller
activity, an increased recognition of its native dignity and value
as transcending all artificial sanctions and limits. The renaissance
period was, as it were, the adolescence of humanity. It was the time
of putting away childish things--passive dependence on authority,
superstition, timorous conventionality--and of asserting the freedom
and the responsibilities of men. In the race, as in the individual, it
was primarily an internal event, which reached external expression only
with difficulty and after a struggle. The youth has his vague internal
sense of the sacredness of his convictions long before he can work
these out into the fabric of actual life. A long fight with stubborn
customs, with indifferent circumstances, must take place before ideals
can become actualities. Just so, the idealism of the race had to meet
in mortal combat a thousand opposing conditions, had to conquer its
foes and acquire its ways and means, before it could victoriously
express itself in art. In other words, feeling had to enter into and
transform technique in order that the art might voice fully the
impulse that animated it. When we speak of the renaissance, therefore,
we mean no narrow, special period of time, precisely dated, like a
battle or a treaty. We mean a new spirit of liberty and self-respect
in the human mind, which expressed itself in one way at one time, in
another at another, according to the facility and promptitude with
which it acquired mastery over these ways. The expression followed
the effort only after a long interval, and different expressions came
at different epochs, far apart in time. In a general way we may say
that the Renaissance has occupied the centuries of our era from the
fourteenth to the one in which we live. But each art has also had its
special period of development, reaching in its own good time the goal
of its own particular efforts, under the conditions of its own peculiar

There are as a rule several successive stages in the evolution an art
thus undergoes under the spur of idealism. First there is the vague
inner sense of a new weight of meaning to be expressed, fresh insight
or intuition that demands utterance. Men awake to the true value of
those inner impressions and feelings which have so long been smothered
under conventions and the worship of the external. They know not
what to do with them, how to voice them; but they have at least what
Stevenson calls “that impotent sense of his own value, as of a ship
aground, which is one of the agonies of youth.” This may be called
the period of the fresh insight. Then comes the period in which some
sort of technical medium is arduously developed for the expression of
the new impulse. This period, in which a vast work must be done by
patient experiment, by slow adaptation, without standards and without
models, is necessarily long and laborious. Often the prompting insight
is almost forgotten in the toil, and the initial passion seems to be
lost in dry formalism and pedantry. But all the while ways and means
are being invented, problems solved, and traditions established, even
as, while the youth toils at desk or plough or counter, forgetful,
for the moment, of the ideals that sent him thither, habits are being
formed, mastery is being acquired. The period of technical equipment,
then, if it be properly conducted, leads over into the period of
achievement, in which the original impulses are adequately expressed
by means of the acquired skill. This is the time of consummation, of
maturity, of balance between the means and the ends of expression.
Such was the age of Pericles in Greek sculpture, the age of Sophocles
in Greek drama, the Elizabethan age in English drama, the age of
Leonardo and Michelangelo in Italian painting, the age of Wordsworth
and Keats in English lyric poetry. Unfortunately, the period of
maturity is generally followed by still another period, in which the
original impulse overshoots its mark and becomes embodied in distorted,
grotesque, and unbeautiful forms. So weak is human nature that it
can seldom recognize justly its own value without going further,
without precipitating itself into the pitfall of over-valuation,
pride, and arrogant self-assertion. The balance of all the elements of
art to which idealism aspires is then lost; special elements become
preponderant, special effects are made fetishes, and degeneration
ensues. Ripeness leads over into decay; wholeness or sanity is lost,
and partiality paves the way to disintegration.

Mediæval painting, for example, was exceedingly rigid, dry, and
conventional. The effort of the ecclesiastical painters was merely to
symbolize religious truths; they were like chroniclers, who aim at
narrating facts, rather than like ballad-writers and minstrels who
are interested also in the beauty of their language, the richness,
charm, and intrinsic appeal of their images and phraseology. But
by imperceptible degrees, led on by the natural human delight in
shapeliness of form and luxury of color, and learning to make the skill
acquired in delineation subserve the higher and more immediate purposes
of art, the painters of the Renaissance gradually substituted for this
merely symbolic treatment a broader one, in which human beauty was as
much sought as religious edification. The nude figure was lovingly
studied, not because the saints happened to be men, but because men
are beautiful. Garments, draperies, fabrics received a new attention,
in the interests, not of historical accuracy, but of the intrinsic
pleasantness of textures and tints. Postures were softened, adjusted,
made less angular and uncompromising than in the almost chart-like
early frescoes. Atmosphere, chiaroscuro, composition, balance, were
deemed worthy of the efforts of painters who considered art an end in
itself. Eventually, by the great pictures of the Venetian, Florentine,
and Neapolitan masters, all the human faculties were called into
harmonious activity; the eye was delighted, the feelings were wooed
and stimulated, the imagination was touched and informed. “Instead
of riveting the fetters of ecclesiastical authority,” says J. A.
Symonds,[18] “instead of enforcing mysticism and asceticism, [art]
really restored to humanity the sense of its own dignity and beauty,
and helped to prove the untenability of the mediæval standpoint; for
art is essentially and uncontrollably free, and, what is more, is
free precisely in that realm of sensuous delightfulness from which
cloistral religion turns aside to seek her own ecstatic liberty of
contemplation.” Whether painting, which thus by insistence on the
intrinsic values of its medium attained maturity, then carried the
process too far, and lost roundness and balance by prizing mere
richness of color above all else, whether, in a word, its consummation
was followed by a decadence, is a question too large for discussion
here. But it is beyond doubt that painting went through the first three
phases of growth pointed out as the results in art of an idealistic

In the same way, the story of music from the beginning of the
seventeenth century up to Beethoven, or throughout that section of
its history in which we are at present interested, was essentially
the story of a renaissance, or novel artistic development, under the
spur of idealism. Looking at it from the vantage-point now reached,
we easily trace its evolution through the several regular stages. In
the Florentine reformers’ abandonment of old conventions and their
half-conscious aspiration towards a new utterance, we discern the first
stage of the movement, that of the novel impulse; in the steadfast
and efficient delving away at technical methods, at the involutions
of harmony, counterpoint, and form, which characterized many of the
later composers of the seventeenth century, and occupied much of the
attention of even such men as Haydn and Mozart, we trace the second
stage, that of equipment; and in the glorious works of Beethoven,
who set the keystone in the arch, we find the stage of consummation
and fulfilment. Springing from the foundation of the mystical art of
Palestrina much as modern Italian painting sprang from the foundation
of mediæval religious delineation, the art of Pure Music reached, in
the masterpieces of Beethoven, its maturity.

Now, as we saw in the first chapter, the mature art of Pure Music,
which may be defined as the art of combining pure tones, without words,
into forms expressive of our fundamental emotional life, and congruous
with one another, or beautiful, necessarily possesses three kinds of
value, or modes of effect, to which we have assigned the descriptive
labels “sensuous,” “expressive,” and “æsthetic.” Music has sensuous
value in proportion to the actual physical gratification afforded us by
the tones that compose it; it has expressive value proportional to the
degree in which it excites in us, by association and suggestion, the
fundamental emotions or feelings; it has æsthetic value proportional
to its success in assimilating or organizing all its various effects
into clear unity, thus giving us that sense of ordered richness which
we call beauty. If it be true, then, that music, during the seventeenth
century, under the spur of the idealistic or modern spirit, developed
from a primitive into a mature art, it is obvious that this development
must have rested on progress made in all three kinds of effect; and it
becomes a matter of much interest to trace at least some of the chief
phases of this three-fold blossoming. In the remaining portion of the
present chapter, accordingly, we shall study the most striking features
of the progress made during the seventeenth century in sensuous
charm and in expressive power; and in the following chapter we shall
examine those principles of pure music which underlie its highest,
most indispensable quality of all--that of beauty, or final unity and
harmony of impression.

Remarkable, in the first place, is the development the mere material
medium of music underwent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The sensuous fact at the bottom of all music being the tone, the
sensuous value of music depends on the kind of tones employed and
on the modes of their combination, just as the sensuous value of a
painting depends on the purity and richness of the pigments used and
on the harmoniousness of their arrangement. So long as composers
dealt either with choirs of human voices alone, or with a few crude
instruments like the organs of Bach’s predecessors, the violins of
the early sixteenth century, and the spinets and clavichords of the
same period, they could get little variety or sonority of tonal color.
But in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was
made a wonderful mechanical advance. The violin, the most important
of all instruments, not only because of its inimitable beauty and
expressiveness of tone but because it is the nucleus of the orchestra
and of the string quartet, was brought, by the Amatis, Giuseppe
Guarneri, and Antonio Stradivari, the famous Cremonese violin-makers
who flourished from about 1550 to 1737, to a degree of perfection which
the utmost modern ingenuity has been unable to exceed. The organ, which
in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was so cumbersome that each
key had to be struck by the entire fist, came by 1600 to something
like its modern condition, as may be seen by looking at the pieces
written for it by Frescobaldi (1583-1644) and Buxtehude (1637-1707).
The prototypes of the modern piano were rather slower to develop. At
the beginning of the sixteenth century the clavichord was a smallish
oblong box without legs, placed on a table when played; its compass
was somewhat over four octaves; one set of strings had to suffice for
several keys, each key being provided with a metal tangent or tongue
that not only sounded the string, but at the same time “stopped” it
at the requisite point for producing the desired tone. The “damping”
or silencing of the strings, entrusted in the modern piano to the felt
dampers, was often done by the left hand of the player. The spinet
differed from the clavichord in that its tones were produced by a hard
piece of quill that plucked the string. Both instruments gave but weak,
short, and rather characterless sounds. But all through the period we
are considering they were being experimented upon and slowly improved
in sonority, variety, and color of tone.

But even after they are provided with perfected instruments, men are
still much restricted in their search for lovely effects of tone unless
they have also a well-developed tonal technique, or science of harmony.
The tools are not enough; the use of them must also be known. As we
have seen, however, the harmony of Palestrina and his school was for
all its purity somewhat colorless and flat. A harmonic fabric made up
exclusively of consonant chords is like a picture painted altogether
with pure, light colors; it is wonderfully bright and transparent,
but its very purity makes it lack force. For the sake of contrast an
admixture of dissonances is required, much as shadow is required in a
picture, or harshness and irregularity in a poem. The entirely sweet,
soft, and mellifluous series of chords at first charms, but finally

One of the important tasks of seventeenth century composers,
therefore, was to find out how to introduce dissonances in such a
way as to invigorate without disrupting the fabric. Their harshness
must not be obtruded, but it must be used. The Florentine reformers
and their successors showed great skill in solving the problem.
They learned how to “prepare” a dissonance, that is, to let one of
its constituent tones appear in a consonance and then hold over
while other voices moved to dissonant intervals; they experimented
in harsher and harsher dissonances, admitting them only with great
circumspection, but using their characteristic qualities with striking
effect; and they established, as cadences, conventional formulæ of
chords containing dissonant intervals, which became by mere force of
repetition acceptable and familiar. In this way they introduced into
the material of music a variety and range of color that consonances
alone could never give. “Monteverde,” says Mr. R. A. Streatfield,
“with his orchestra of thirty-nine instruments--brass, wood and strings
complete--his rich and brilliant harmony, sounding so strangely
beautiful to ears accustomed only to the severity of the polyphonic
school, and his delicious and affecting melodies, sometimes rising
almost to the dignity of an Aria, must have seemed something more than
human to the eager Venetians as they listened for the first time to
music as rich in color as the gleaming marbles of the Cà d’Ora or the
radiant canvases of Titian and Giorgione.” If we could disabuse our
minds of all emotional and æsthetic perceptions while listening to
modern music, we should still find it vastly superior to the choral art
of the middle ages in its purely sensuous richness. Sensuously it is a
kaleidoscope of shifting effects, now harsh, now sweet, now resonant
and sibilant, the next moment infinitely wooing and grateful; and
through all ever changing its outlines and melting from color to color
like the iridescent film of a soap-bubble.

But of course we cannot disabuse our minds of emotional and æsthetic
perceptions; no human being can divest himself of such essential parts
of his nature; and indeed it was even more in obedience to higher
requirements than for the sake of mere sensuous richness that the
musicians of the renaissance period so radically remodelled their art.
The essence of their reforms is to be looked for, not in the increase
of the first or sensuous value of music, but in the enhancement of its
expressiveness, and of its plastic beauty.

Expression, in general, may be defined as the presentation of a
feeling or idea by means of an impression. The impression may act
either directly, calling up the specific idea or feeling by virtue
of a long-established association between them, or more generally,
by simply inducing a state of mind congruous with the expression
desired, and so tending to generate it. The former is the case in
verbal expression (language), where certain definite symbols, words,
are immemorially coupled in our minds with certain ideas, conceptions,
or feelings, so that when we hear the word we immediately think the
thing. Musical expression differs from verbal expression in that in
does not act by this direct arbitrary symbolism, but rather by the
more subtle general process which instills a feeling by setting up
its appropriate atmosphere or _milieu_. It is much vaguer and more
general, and for that very reason far more potent. The word “love,”
for example, arbitrarily denotes a certain idea, not because it is
anything like the idea, but because we all agree that that word is to
mean that thing.[19] An amorous piece of music, on the contrary, utters
no definite symbol; it makes our heart beat faster and deeper, it
makes our blood circulate, it ravishes our senses and our minds, until
whether we will or not we know what it says, though for our lives we
could not put its burden into words.

It is by this direct establishment in us of a congruous or favorable
state of mind that the consonances of the mediæval music express
religious peace; and it is no otherwise that dissonance, that powerful
engine of the modern musician, expresses the inward division, the
struggle and sweet torment, of idealistic states of feeling. The
harshness, disagreeable in itself but essential to a process in which
it is organically linked with sweetness and rest, arouses by an
association of ideas a sense of the stern beauty, the tragic splendor,
of the experience of the human heart. It reproduces in the sphere
of sound that same series of states, that pain merging into joy,
which we recognize in the sphere of our consciousness as so deeply
characteristic of finite life. And so doing, it suggests or shadows
forth the very essence of our nature, it echoes the utterance of our
very hearts. It is no expurgated reading of the book of life: it is the
full text, with all its shuddering horror and all its celestial joy.

Probably of all the employers of dissonance for the purpose of
emotional expression, in the whole course of the seventeenth century,
when the aims of musicians were so tentative that it required courage
to brave convention, the most daring was Claudio Monteverde. “As
Monteverde most frankly of all musicians of his time,” writes Sir
Hubert Parry,[20] “regarded music as an art of expression, and
discords as the most poignant means of representing human feeling,
he very soon began to rouse the ire of those who were not prepared
to sacrifice the teaching of centuries and their own feeling of what
really was artistic without protest. That he should presume to write
such simple things as ninths and sevenths without duly sounding them
first as concordant notes[21] was so completely at variance with the
whole intention of their art that it struck them with consternation.
And well it might, for small as these first steps were they presaged
the inevitable end of the placid devotional music. The suddenness of
the poignancy which unprepared discords conveyed to the mind implied
a quality of passionate feeling which musicians had never hitherto
regarded as within the legitimate scope of musical art. They had never
hitherto even looked through the door which opened upon the domains of
human passion. Once it was opened, the subjective art of the church
school, and the submissive devotionalism of the church composers, was
bound to come rapidly to an end. Men tasted of the tree of knowledge,
and the paradise of innocence was thenceforth forbidden them.
Monteverde was the man who first tasted and gave his fellow men to eat
of the fruit; and from the accounts given of the effect it produced
upon them they ate with avidity and craved for more.”

Parry gives in illustration of Monteverde’s style a fragment known as
“Ariadne’s Lament,” from the opera “Arianna,” so characteristic that
it must be reprinted here:

                            [Music: score]
                       [Illustration: FIGURE IV.
                 “ARIADNE’S LAMENT,” BY MONTEVERDE.]

    _Lasciatemi morire! Lasciatemi
    morire! E che volete voi.... che mi conforte_

    _In cosi dura sorte, in cosi gran martire?
    Lasciatemi morire! lasciatemi morire!_

In studying this remarkable fragment, the reader will not only note
the striking unprepared dissonances of measures 2, 5, 11 and 13 (the
latter peculiarly poignant), but if he will take the trouble to
compare the effect of the passage as a whole with that of the bit
of Palestrina given in Fig. III., he will be amazed at the increase
in expressiveness, especially if it be remembered that “Arianna” was
produced probably in 1607, or only thirteen years after Palestrina’s
death. The “Lament” is reported to have moved everyone who heard it
to tears. Its pathos is largely due to the skilful way in which harsh
dissonances are made to alternate with the consonances into which they
naturally and inevitably lead--a process which, though not directly
expressive of the facts of human emotion, in the sense in which the
word is directly symbolic of the thing which usage has coupled with
it, is yet indirectly and generally expressive, in that it reproduces
in tones a series of impressions identical with the series of feelings
we everywhere experience in actual life. Pain linked to pleasure by
an organic bond--that is the universal experience of everyone who
cherishes an ideal, since an ideal is a yearning for something which
now is not, but which must eventually come to be.

The melodic character of the “Lament” is as impressive as its harmonic
style. In its short and poignant phrases the accent of passion is
unmistakably heard. And this is true not only of Monteverde’s work
as a whole, but of that of all the other composers of the Florentine
“new music.” As early as the year 1600 Jacopo Peri wrote an opera on
the subject of Euridice, to be performed at the wedding of Henry IV
of France to Maria Medici. A study of the passages in which he tried
to express the grief of Orpheus at the loss of Euridice, and his joy
in their reunion, brings home forcibly to the mind the advance that
composers had even at that time made in eloquence of expression. They
are as follows:

                            [Music: score]

    _O mio core O mio speme
    O pace O vita
    Ohime Chi mi t’ha tolto
    Chimi t’ha tolto
    Ohime...... deve segita_


    _Gioite al canto mio
    selve frondo se Gioite amati
    coli e d’ogni intorno.
    Ecco rimbombi dalle valle ascose._

In spite of the primitiveness of the style, there is considerable force
and even definiteness of expression here. As Sir Hubert Parry points
out: “the phrases which express bereavement and sorrow are tortuous,
irregular, spasmodic--broken with catching breath and wailing accent;
whereas the expression of joy is flowing, easy and continuous.” It was
in fact the aim of the inventors of the type of operatic recitative
here exemplified, to imitate, while idealizing, the actual cadence
of the voice in emotional speech. The music of the choral epoch had
carefully avoided the impression of passionate feeling; the new music
as persistently sought it. The old music had been written for chorus,
which by mere virtue of numbers is quite impersonal; the new was put
into the mouths of individuals. The melodic style of the former was
dignified, formal, severe; that of the latter was mobile, flexible,
constantly adaptable to the most subtle changes of mood. Here again,
then, we see the effect of the idealistic impulse on music. Idealism,
insisting on the worth of finite experience, focusses man’s attention
on himself, on his actual feelings, petty as well as universal, base
and noble alike, and makes him, whether for good or evil, vividly
self-conscious. It believes in the hopes and fears, the aspirations and
disappointments, of men and women; believes that in human beings, in
spite of their pathetic weakness, there is a unique original value, not
to be denied without crippling that august whole of which they are the
minute but essential parts. The music of Peri, Caccini, and Cavaliere,
and later of Monteverde, succeeded in voicing, at first dimly but with
increasing eloquence, the primitive human emotions that mysticism had
disdained as worldly; the tendency they initiated gathered force apace,
and passed with Cavalli and Lulli into France, where it culminated in
the work of Gluck. The great contribution of early modern opera to pure
music was the accent of genuine and various human feeling.

A third tendency toward distinctively modern methods that was steadily
gaining ground throughout this period was the tendency toward metrical
and rhythmic vigor. We have seen how vigorous meter, in music, serves
to express our active impulses, how it grows out of that ordered
gesticulation we name dance.[22] We have seen how devoid was the
mediæval choral music of meter,[23] and indeed how inappropriate to
its peculiar genius metrical qualities would have been.[24] The moment
men’s attitude toward their own ordinary activities changed, however,
and they began to see in them life rather than death, their expression
in art became a desideratum. And it is a fact that very early in the
sixteenth century, even before the pure choral music had reached its
perfect maturity, some composers had begun to write simple dances for
unaccompanied instruments, generally a combination of strings with

For a long while these efforts remained tentative and inchoate,
because the men who made them were neither very clearly aware what
they were trying to do, nor acquainted with technical means for doing
it. But the scheme of treating dances as the basis of instrumental
movements, the chief expression of which was that of energy, vitality,
the more active and effervescent emotions, was afterwards elaborated
by more trained masters, and eventually bore fruit in the innumerable
suites and partitas, or bundles of dances, of the eighteenth century,
and in the symphonic minuet and scherzo.

The mere fact that composers of the seventeenth century paid respectful
attention to the popular minstrelsy, which had been treated with such
scant courtesy by ecclesiastical masters, and that they so persistently
imitated its methods, is in itself strong testimony to the change of
attitude that was taking place. The songs and dances of the people
are the most spontaneous expressions of purely personal feeling in
the entire range of music. They were upwellings of primitive emotion,
as instinctive and unsophisticated as the cries and gestures from
which they were developed. And for these reasons they were norms of
the proper expression of naïve feeling in music--all music, so far as
it aims to express personal feeling at all, makes use of the melodic
phrases derived from the cry, and of the dance-rhythms derived from the
gesture. Consequently, so soon as musical artists became inspired with
the new ideal of personal expression, they turned to the popular music
for inspiration and methods.

Thus in all ways the tendency of music in the seventeenth century
was toward a fuller, more varied, and more poignant emotional
expressiveness. Men were willing to forego without a murmur all the
advantages of the perfected technique of the earlier choral age, and to
trust themselves on the pathless sea of the New Music, because, like
the pilgrims who in the same century left European civilization behind
them to seek a larger if more difficult life in an uncharted country,
they were inspired by a love of the human spirit in its fullness and
freedom. All arbitrary limitations and denials of it, no matter how
hallowed by long usage, were to them not religious, but sacrilegious.
To them, as to Terence, “nothing human was alien”; and they might have
cried, with Whitman, to every human trait, however trivial, ignoble,
or commonplace, “Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you.”

We need not wonder that for a while they paused helpless before the
task of assimilating into an order all these rich materials that their
humanism had evoked out of chaos. At first they were more discoverers
than artists. But genuine progress, as we say, takes place only when
a richer variety is stamped with a broader but still obvious unity.
Art is not merely expression, of howsoever varied and penetrative a
quality; it is congruous, harmonious expression, delighting us not only
mediately by what it says, but immediately by what it is. In other
words, it rises from the plane of interest to the plane of beauty, and
becomes genuine art, only by the possession of that third or æsthetic
value which depends on the ultimate unity of all the various factors
of effect. This highest value music came, in the course of time, to
possess; and the conquest of new forms, intrinsically beautiful, in
which all the novel sensuous and expressive effects could be embodied,
was of all the achievements of the seventeenth century the most

It remains, therefore, to study, in another chapter, the means by
which musicians learned, after long trial and patient experiment, to
give shape and integral life to all this motley array of feelings and
effects that they had summoned out of the depths of the human spirit.
Their task, as may easily be believed, was an arduous one. We need not
follow all the steps they took on that long road. It will suffice to
examine some of the more important stages of their progress, to get
before our minds the general artistic principles which underlay their
practices, and to see what point they had reached by the time Haydn,
the first great forerunner of Beethoven, came to take his share in
their great enterprise.


[15] “Vice,” says Mr. George Bernard Shaw in his brilliant, paradoxical
way, “is waste of life. Poverty, obedience, and celibacy are the
canonical vices.”

[16] “The Hermit of Carmel, and Other Poems,” by George Santayana, New
York, 1901.

[17] See the writings of Royce, Baldwin, and other writers on the
social genesis of consciousness.

[18] “The Renaissance in Italy.”

[19] In the case of onomatopoetic words, of course, the general
expression is added to the specific one--the word does sound like the

[20] “The Oxford History of Music,” vol. III, p. 45.

[21] “Preparation”: see above, page 104.

[22] See Chap. I, p. 9.

[23] See Chap. II, p. 12.

[24] See Chap. II, p. 26.

                              CHAPTER IV
                     THE PRINCIPLES OF PURE MUSIC

                              CHAPTER IV
                     THE PRINCIPLES OF PURE MUSIC

Just as success in the intellectual and moral worlds results from
power to shape ideas and conduct, to make syntheses which combine
the most various elements in unity, so artistic success results from
the power to shape into a single organism the various elements of
artistic effect. Art may make a deep appeal to us by the richness
of its sensuous charm, and a still deeper by the eloquence of its
emotional expression; the deepest of all appeals it will not make, we
have asserted, unless, by marshalling its materials into an obvious
order, it adds to its sensuous and expressive charms the æsthetic
charm, the greatest of all--beauty. Art, we hinted, was beautiful in
the proportion of its unified variety; and we set ourselves to see
what methods men gradually worked out, in the seventeenth and early
eighteenth centuries, by which the wonderfully various effects of their
new music could be stamped with final unity.

In the fact that they attain beauty through the presentation of variety
in unity, all the arts are alike; yet they differ much in the way they
accomplish this end, because of their differing conditions. Those
arts, notably sculpture, painting, and architecture, which adjust
their materials in space, necessarily use methods quite different from
those of the temporal arts of literature and music, which, existing
solely in time, have no spatial relations of any sort. The spatial
arts, presenting all their elements simultaneously, differentiate and
at the same time interlink them by means of relative position, size,
and prominence. In a well designed figure or group of figures, in
sculpture, there is always a balance of masses, by which the whole
work, however diverse in detail, is knit into unity. The centre of
gravity is kept well in toward the centre of the entire mass; all the
features at the extreme edges lead the eye back to the middle to rest;
there is centralization of effect, balance, poise. In a good picture,
all spots of high light, all prominent lines, all striking lineaments
of every sort, are similarly contrived to equalize the tensions of
the eye, to keep it in that state of attentive rest, or anchored
discursiveness, which is so indescribably delightful. The same is true
of all well-proportioned buildings and other architectural monuments.
Activity of eye and mind are stimulated, but also governed and
directed. Howsoever the eye, in looking at any good picture, statue or
piece of architecture, may quest and rove, it is constantly brought, by
the gentle power of good design, back to the centre of rest; the sense
of interesting variety is always wedded with the sense of ultimate
completeness and repose.

In the temporal arts of literature and music the same effect is
gained by quite different means. Here the elements are not presented
simultaneously, spread out for the attention to wander from and revert
to at will. Each is presented but for a moment, after which it exists
only in the memory. Nevertheless all literature and music worthy the
name of art give us, in common with the spatial arts, the sense of
symmetrical shape, of ordered profusion. Though we are aware of each
single lineament but for an instant, after which it is supplanted
by the next, yet we know that all combine into just as complete and
satisfying a scheme as that of the well-designed statuary group,
the well-composed picture, or the well-proportioned building. This
consciousness of form or design in a series of momentary impressions,
on which all the high æsthetic value of the temporal arts depends, is
made possible to us by our mental powers of memory and recognition.
Literature and music deal with memorable units, which are repeated.
Familiarity with their methods quickly accustoms us to expect the
repetitions; whereupon there arises a succession of expectations,
followed by their fulfilments, by which the so fleeting impressions are
arranged in our minds in a fixed and satisfying order. And so arises
the sense of beauty in the contemplation of a poem or a piece of music.

In poetry two different modes of repetition are utilized, each arousing
its own peculiar expectation, which combines with its fulfilment
to give the sense of order. The first mode is that of metrical
repetition, the establishment and reiteration of a certain scheme of
accentuation of syllables practically equal in duration. In heroic
verse, for example, the scheme is a succession of ten syllables, every
alternate one accented, and beginning with an unaccented. When a single
line of this sort is heard, it forms a pattern in the mind, and arouses
an expectation of another of the same sort. The fulfilment of the
expectation gives rise to the sense of form. In rhymed verse, a second
kind of repetition is added to this fundamental metrical one, namely,
the repetition of the terminal sound of the line. When we read “’Tis
not enough no harshness gives offence,” the obviously regular character
of it in respect of accent leads us to expect very confidently another
line of the same metrical structure; and our familiarity with rhyme
disposes us to think it highly probable that the new line will moreover
end with a sound similar to the final one in “offence;” so that when
the line comes--“The sound must seem an echo to the sense,”--it fulfils
both of our expectations, and we get a double sense of design in it.
The rhythm, or reiteration of the metrical scheme, is supplemented by
the rhyme, or repetition of the terminal sound. In the more complex
forms of verse the two schemes of design not only become far more
subtle in their single application, but are made to cooperate and
reinforce each other in all sorts of ingenious ways. The couplet,
the ordinary quatrain, the Omar Khayyam quatrain, _terza rima_, the
rondeau, the rondel, the triolet, and all the stanza forms, are simply
different schemes of combining rhythm and rhyme, the two fundamental
formative devices of all poetry.

Like poetry, music welds its elements by means of two modes of arousing
and fulfilling our expectations; but these, though they are somewhat
analogous to poetic rhythm and rhyme, are so much less close to our
ordinary experience that they will need a slightly more detailed

All modern music is divided up into beats, or equal time divisions,
arranged into groups or measures by some regular system of
accentuation. The accented beats, like the accented syllables in verse,
impress the mind as goals of movement, in reference to which the light
beats are felt as transitions or preparations. The regularity of
the alternation of transition and goal is such that the mind quickly
forms the habit of expecting each goal beforehand, and of taking a
proportionate satisfaction in it when it arrives. This process of
expectation and fulfillment links the successive beats together in
an organism, which we may call the musical foot, after its analogy
with the poetic foot.[25] So limited is the mental span that it is
practically impossible for us to group more than three beats together
in this way into a single organism; and all music consequently consists
of combinations of either duple feet (one light beat followed by a
heavy), or triple feet (two lights followed by a heavy) or complex
arrangements of both sorts together. After this fundamental grouping of
the time-elements is made, the mind instantly proceeds to recombine the
groups into larger groups called phrases or sections. This it does by
the same device of accentuation, either actual or ideal. It conceives
one measure or foot as heavier or more significant than another, and
so leaves one as a transition, to approach another as a goal. Thus
groups of simple elements become themselves the compound elements of a
larger synthesis, and the entire musical fabric gains definiteness and
organization through the process of aroused and fulfilled expectation.
Any metrical formula, like that of a bugle call, interrupted at any
note before the last, gives us as vivid a sense of incompleteness as
a statue with arms and legs broken off, or a ruined building, or a
mutilated picture.

Metrical structure in music is thus, obviously enough, fairly analogous
with metrical structure in verse, with its grouping of syllables into
feet, of feet into verses, and of verses into couplets or stanzas.
When we pass to the second sort of musical structure, however, which
we may call tonal or harmonic structure, the parallel analogy with
poetic rhyme is much less satisfactory. It is true that harmony and
rhyme both act by presenting similar sounds at given points in the
series of impressions; but harmony is a far more subtle, various, and
potent organizing agent than rhyme. Harmony depends on the fact that
the tones, or pitch elements, used in music, can be distinguished
into unrestful and restful, or into transitional and final, just as
the metrical or time-elements are. In primitive music, in which but
one tone sounded at a time, the matter was almost absurdly simple:
high notes were unrestful, because they involved muscular tension;[26]
low notes were restful, because they meant relaxation of vocal effort.
Consequently, a descent of the voice meant a transition to a goal, and
songs were divided off into sections by successive falls of the voice
or cadences. The word “cadence,” so important in musical terminology,
preserves in itself the record of this phase of musical growth; from
the Latin _cado_, to fall, it means primarily a sinking or lapsing, and
hence, in general, a coming to rest.

As soon as two or more melodies were sounded together, however, the
sense of rest following activity, the universal generator of design
in a temporal series of impressions, could be produced in a far more
subtle way. It could be produced by making the melodies pass through an
inharmonious or dissonant chord or series of chords, to a harmonious
one. As soon as dissonance came into general use, in other words, the
sense of unrest, of impulsion toward something else, of progressive
movement, that it imparted to music, was so potent that cadences could
be made upward as well as downward; whenever dissonance resolved into
consonance the effect of cadence ensued. And as dissonances are of all
conceivable degrees of harshness, cadences could be made of any desired
degree of finality. Moreover, as the tonal material of music grew more
and more systematized, the feeling of key sprang up in men’s minds;
all music was felt to be in a certain key, that is, grouped about a
certain tone, the centre and goal of all the others; and then cadences
came to have even greater variety in the degree of finality they seemed
to assert, dependent not only on the strength of the dissonances they
followed, but also on the remoteness or nearness of their final chord
to the key-note of the piece. All this meant greater and greater
resources for building up music into complex and yet perfectly definite
organisms; and as harmonic form constantly interacted more and more
subtly with metrical form the capacities of design became practically

Lest the reader get lost in the maze of technical details, however,
it will be well now to revert to the general principles underlying
all these musical phenomena, and to sum up, before passing on, the
essential points we have been trying to come at. Those arts which,
like poetry and music, present their matter to us in a temporal
series, depend for that organization of variety into unity which is
beauty (and the _sine qua non_ of all art) on the arousal in us of
expectations, which are presently fulfilled. By first leading us to
expect something, and then presenting it, they enable us to group our
impressions, to feel that they are interrelated and mutually dependent,
to get, in short, the sense of design or order. Music effects this by
means of metrical and harmonic form, which act is the same way so far
as they present unrestful, followed by restful, impressions, though
in different ways so far as the technical basis of these impressions
is concerned. Psychologically speaking, metrical and harmonic form
cooperate to give music definite structure in our minds; to reclaim
it from the condition of a mere sensuous or emotional stimulus, and
engraft upon it the final and supreme beauty of order.

All absolute or pure music depends for its structure on these two
great formative agents of metrical and harmonic design; but the
mode of their application progressed from simplicity to comparative
complexity as music evolved from the choral song of the sixteenth
century, out of which it grew, to the modern sonata and symphony. It
would be quite impossible to examine in detail, here, all the stages of
that progress. Our effort must be rather to define three well-marked
phases of the many-sided growth in general and summary terms, taking
for granted, meanwhile, the minor variations and modifications which
elude our somewhat rough analysis. These three phases have in common
certain essential traits. In each we see music making up its elementary
units of effect, out of unorganized tones, by the aid of metrical and
harmonic form; in each we see it combining these units into complex
designs by means of the principles of variated repetition of them. The
difference between the phases is that in the later ones the units are
larger and more definite, and are combined into broader, more complex

The first phase is that in which short musical “subjects,” called
motifs, are made the elements of contrapuntal forms such as the canon,
free prelude, invention, madrigal, and fugue. This phase, in which
pure music makes its first appearance, emerging from the choral music
which needed no musical principles of design because it took its shape
and meaning from words, grew naturally out of the choral music which
preceded it. Imagine any bit of melody springing into existence in
connection with a verbal phrase or sentence; then fancy it sounded
without the words which gave it reason for being: it is easy to see
that the only way it can now be given significance is by being made
the subject of a _musical_ design, that is, by being repeated, either
literally or in modified form. Even the most primitive savages have
always felt this. In Sir Hubert Parry’s book on “The Evolution of
the Art of Music” we find many examples of formulas of notes used by
savages as motifs, and developed simply by endless repetition. Such
formulas as the following, for example, become, by mere repetition,
true music of a primitive type:

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE VI.

The earliest attempts at pure music, though infinitely more advanced
than these childish forms, were, like them, built up out of short
motifs, of anywhere from two to a dozen tones, given definiteness by
fixed metrical and harmonic relationships, and developed by means of
repetition. All through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries such
contrapuntal forms were being developed to a high pitch of perfection,
and they reached their culmination in the great fugues of J. S. Bach
(1685-1750). Let us, then, instead of poring painfully over the obscure
steps by which this vantage-point in art was reached, make a brief
analysis of the consummated fugue-form, as it was treated by this
supreme master.

The fugue of Bach, as it is represented, for example, in the
forty-eight fugues of his “Well-Tempered Clavichord,” is a
contrapuntal or polyphonic form; that is, it is made up of from two to
five voices or parts, progressing with complete melodic independence
of one another, yet in entire harmony. It is based on, or proceeds out
of, a short motif or subject, often but a measure or two in length, but
subjected to the most ingenious, varied, and exhaustive manipulation.
It has certain structural divisions, and always ends in the key in
which it began; yet its form does not, strictly speaking, depend on its
sectional structure, as is the case with the song, dance, and sonata
forms, but rather on the logical exploitation of the motif. The motif,
in a word, is the primary fact of the fugue, the seed from which is
germinated all the luxuriant florescent life of the subsequent music.

Since the motif is the animating force of the entire fugue, it is
obvious that upon its pointedness, variety, and interest will depend
the vitality of the composition as a whole. Bach accordingly spares no
pains in the construction of his motifs. Much as they differ in length,
expression, and style, all are brimful of interest. Each embodies
some striking musical idea; some persuasive or emphatic rhythm, some
definite tonal design which either by its oddness or by its utter
naturalness and inevitability lays firm hold upon the attention at
once, and coerces interest whenever it recurs. Here are a few motifs
from the “Well-Tempered Clavichord”:

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE VII.]

The variety is wonderful, even in these five subjects; and it will
be seen at once how provocative of musical thought they are, like
condensed aphorisms, packed with suggestions that send the mind
questing through endless vistas of imagination.

As for the further treatment of the fugal motif, the actual formal
rules, despite the awe they have immemorially aroused in the popular
mind, are few and simple. After the first announcement of the subject
by a single voice, it is answered by a second voice, at an interval of
a fifth above;[27] then again stated by a third voice, and answered
by a fourth. This process goes on until each voice has had a chance
to enunciate the motif, after which the conversation goes on more
freely; the subject is announced in divers keys, by divers voices;
episodes, in a congruous style, vary the monotony; at last the subject
is emphatically asserted by the various voices in quick succession
(“stretto”) and with some little display or grandiloquence the piece
comes to an end. But simple as is this scheme, it gives the composer
ample opportunity to develop his theme with the utmost ingenuity, to
subject it to the most surprising metamorphoses, and to place it in
ever new lights and postures.

                            [Music: score]
                     [Illustration: FIGURE VIII.]

Practically all the possibilities of developing a motif were
exploited by Bach in his marvelous fugues. The development of the
motif means, in the most general terms, the repetition of it in forms
sufficiently like the original one to be recognizable, yet sufficiently
unlike it to be novel and interesting, to exhibit it, as has just
been said, in “new lights and postures.” Now, since the identity of
the motif depends on the fixed metrical and harmonic relations of its
constituent tones, it is obvious that variation of it will have to
consist in slight alterations of these metrical or of these harmonic
relations, or of both, managed with such skill that they do in effect
vary, without disintegrating, the motif. Our next task, then, will be
to describe the chief means, both metrical and harmonic, by which the
motif, in the hands of Bach and of all his successors, is modified
without being destroyed.

Mere repetition, of course, is not, strictly speaking, development,
however efficient it may be as a means of building up musical
structures. With the repetition of the motif at a different place in
the scale, however, such as is used in the “answer,” we have a true
development, though an elementary one. Here all the metrical and
harmonic relations of the motif are kept intact, at the same time that
the bodily shifting of it in the scale throws upon it, so to speak,
a new light. This will be felt at once by any musical person who will
play over attentively the two subjects and answers of Figure VIII. A
much more radical change is effected when the motif is changed from
major to minor, or vice versa, or presented in some key other than the
dominant and more remote, or presented with new harmonization. Still,
even in such cases, the metrical and fundamental harmonic form of the
subject remains unaltered.

In the device called “inversion,” much used by Bach, we have an
essential change. The metrical form of the subject, remaining
unchanged, ensures recognizability, but the harmonic relations, while
remaining identical in respect of size, are exactly reversed in respect
of direction; in other words, the subject is turned upside down. A few
examples will explain this better than many words.

In Fugue VIII, Book I, W-T.C.,

                            [Music: score]


                            [Music: score]

In Fugue XX, Book I, W.-T.C.,

                            [Music: score]


                            [Music: score]
           [Illustration: FIGURE IX. EXAMPLES OF INVERSION.]

Many other examples might be given, for Bach is endlessly ingenious in
his use of inversion, and all the composers who followed him have used
it. Its effect, as will be seen from the examples, is most stimulating;
the mind easily perceives the likeness to the original subject, since
the rhythm is retained intact; yet the turning upside down of all the
pitch relations produces most unexpected and interesting features.

So much for modifications dependent on altered tonal relationships.
Those produced by metrical alterations are if anything even more
serviceable to the composer. The simplest metrical change possible
is produced by increasing or decreasing the actual duration of all
the tones in the motif, while retaining jealously their proportionate
duration. Thus the identity of the motif is not tampered with, but it
is made to bear a new relation to its musical context. This device is
named augmentation or diminution, according as the time-values of the
motif are augmented or diminished.

In Fugue VIII, Book I, W.-T.C.,

                            [Music: score]

becomes by augmentation,

                            [Music: score]

In Fugue II, Book II, W.-T.C.,

                            [Music: score]

is treated as follows:

                            [Music: score]

In Fugue IX, Book II, W.-T.C.,

                            [Music: score]

becomes by diminution,

                            [Music: score]

It will be well worth the reader’s while to play through the entire
fugues cited, noting the marvelous skill and subtlety with which Bach
weaves his fabric.

In augmentation and diminution the original accents of the motif are
for the most part retained--it is only the durations that are altered.
More transformative still, therefore, are those devices which actually
shift the accents of the motif, its most salient and identifying
features. The most important of these, which we may call “shifted
rhythm,” is seldom found in Bach; for its frequent and exhaustive
application we must look to Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. As its name
indicates, “shifted rhythm” consists in bodily shifting or transposing
the motif in such a manner that its heavy beats become light, and its
light ones heavy. In order to complete our account of the chief means
of exploiting motifs, a few examples of shifted rhythm may find place
here, even though they are not taken from Bach.

                            [Music: score]
[Illustration: FIGURE XI. EXAMPLES OF SHIFTED RHYTHM. From the Minuet
                of MOZART’S String Quartet in C-Major.]

                            [Music: score]
         [Illustration: From the First Movement of BEETHOVEN’S
                           Eighth Symphony.]

                            [Music: score]
          [Illustration: From the First Movement of BRAHMS’S
                           Second Symphony.]

The foregoing discussion and examples will serve to give a slight idea
of the wonderfully varied means of manipulating short motifs or musical
subjects which composers derive from the peculiarities of metrical
and harmonic organization. These means were utilized by Bach in the
fugue with tireless industry and inexhaustible imagination. The fugue
became in his hands the most perfect in its orderly complexity of all
the forms of pure music; for sheer intellectual interest of a highly
abstract kind his fugues have never been surpassed. Nor are they, as
those unfamiliar with their intricacies are apt to suppose, devoid of
emotional expression. The profundity, poignancy, and variety of the
feeling they express are as marvelous as their consummate beauty of
structure. They voice every mood, from the most earnest and impassioned
gravity to the lightest banter. They are the first great independent
monuments of pure music; and wherever future musicians may wander in
the quest of new forms and new potencies of expression, Bach’s fugues
will always stand magnificent on the horizon, marking the unassailable
eastern heights from which pilgrimage was begun.

It is true, nevertheless, not only that the fugue form makes the
severest demands on the attention and intelligence of the listener, but
also that, because of its ecclesiastical origin and polyphonic style,
it is incapable of the kind of highly personal, secular expression
that it was in the spirit of the seventeenth century to demand. The
prototypes of secular expression are the popular dance and song, and
as soon as learned musicians had discovered means to give to dance
and song movements the completeness, breadth, and organic coherence
requisite to large beauty, they began to turn their attention away
from the austere if noble contrapuntal forms, and to base their art
on more popular models. The result was that even in the age of Bach
the suite of dance and song movements began to be cultivated almost as
sedulously as the fugue, and Bach himself wrote suites which in their
way are quite as good as his more polyphonic works. The second great
phase in the application to pure music of the principles of metrical
and harmonic design is represented by the Suite.

As practiced by Bach, the suite is a series of dances and songs,
written in a style partly polyphonic and partly monodic (that is,
consisting of a single melody with subsidiary accompaniment). His
introductory movements, allemandes in the French suites, preludes in
the English, are stately or energetic contrapuntal pieces, intended to
commence the suite with an impression of dignity. They are followed by
courantes, bourrées, sarabandes, minuets, airs, and gavottes, all more
or less definitely rhythmical and animated; and the concluding movement
is generally a rollicking gigue. These suites of Bach may be considered
perfect models of the form.

Now, when we contrast the suite with the fugue, the first difference
that strikes us is that while the fugue, of polyphonic and
ecclesiastical origin, is not definitely rhythmical, but proceeds
somewhat amblingly and without division into segments of definite
duration, the suite movements, owing their origin as they do either
to songs intended to be sung to verses of equal length, or to dances
intended to accompany symmetrical motions of the body, are markedly
rhythmical--are made up, in fact, of phrases of equal length, balancing
one another and giving an impression of complete symmetry. A fugue
proceeds like a prose sentence; a gavotte or a bourrée or a minuet
sounds more like a stanza of verses. In short, the fundamental element
in a dance or song is not a fragmentary motif, but a complete phrase,
filling, as a rule, two measures, though sometimes four, eight, or even
three or five. The phrase begins with a motif, but fills it out with
additional matter rounded off by some kind of cadence. That the phrase
is thus a more complex and extended unit than the motif, a few examples
from Bach will make clear.

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE XII.
     EXAMPLES OF PHRASES. Gavotte from BACH’S Fifth French Suite.]

                            [Music: score]
     [Illustration: Bourrée, from BACH’S Third Suite for 'Cello.]

It will be seen at once that in each case the second phrase
answers or supplements the first. Like it in length and in general
contour, it is at the same time more positive and final, so that the
combined effect of the two is much like that of a couplet of verses.
The first phrase, in fact, arouses in our minds an expectation, which
only the second can satisfy; so that we have here a new and larger
application of the now familiar device for binding together successive
impressions. So characteristic is the supplementation of one phrase
by another that theorists have adopted a set terminology suggested by
it, calling the first phrase in all such cases the “antecedent phrase,”
and the second the “consequent phrase.” It will also be noted, however,
that the pair of phrases, once heard, becomes itself a unit in the
mind, and arouses a new expectation of further matter to establish a
still larger balance; and a reference to the pieces of Bach cited will
show that Bach in each case follows up his pair of two-measure phrases
by a four-measure phrase which supplements them as they supplemented
each other. And so the process goes on, the piece growing ever larger
and more complex by a regular accretion, until at last a phrase of
definite and entire finality is reached, and the movement stands
complete. All short songs and dances illustrate this progressive
accretion of phrases into larger and larger units, by means of a
constant unfolding of new expectations and fulfilments. To trace it
out, to analyse what the composer has so ingeniously built up, is one
of the most fascinating of studies; for it shows us how the simplest
song is organic like a crystal, a flower, or an animal.

It is neither possible nor desirable to lay down here any rigid rules
as to the metrical or harmonic relationships between the phrases.
Generally, the metrical balance is fairly simple; a two-measure phrase
is usually answered by another of the same length; two such phrases
are often answered by a single four-measure phrase. But sometimes
four measures are answered by two; and not infrequently three-or
five-measure phrases appear unexpectedly but with quite satisfactory
effect. The sense of balance must be given--that is all we can
say: just how it shall be given will depend, as Mr. Weller would
say, “on the taste and fancy of the composer.” As for the harmonic
relationships, endless variety is possible. Yet we may here point out
certain general principles. Every phrase, as we have seen, ends with
some sort of a cadence, strong or weak according to the harshness of
the dissonance it contains and the nearness of its final chord to the
tonal centre, or key-note, of the piece. Now, as the salient tones of
any key are its tonic and its dominant, the most obvious and natural
course for the composer is to embody these in the successive phrases;
and as the tonic conveys the impression of finality it is natural to
use that last. A glance at Figure XII will show that Bach makes his
antecedent phrase, in the first instance, end with a tonic chord, but
a weak one; in the second instance, with a dominant. In both cases
the consequent phrase ends with a strong tonic. Thus the harmonic as
well as the metrical relations produce the effect of expectation and
fulfilment, of antithesis between a transitive and a final impression.
This is the general principle of all harmonic structure. The final
impression is given by a strong tonic chord; the mediate impression,
arousing the sense of anticipation, is given by some weaker and
contrasting harmony, in the vast majority of cases the dominant chord.
A full sense of the inexhaustible capabilities of this sort of harmonic
structure can be gained only by a careful analysis of many pieces such
as the movements of Bach’s suites. To this the reader is recommended.

When once composers had grasped the possibilities of structure by means
of harmony, they quickly proceeded to work them out in the large, as
applied to a complete musical form. They began to organize whole pieces
by means of a grouping or ordered antithesis of different harmonic
centres. Working without models and in the dark, they made many false
starts and wrong moves, they tried many hybrid and unstable forms;
but eventually, in the course of years of experiment, they developed
two great types of structure, based on fundamental principles, and
embodied, with unimportant minor modifications, in almost all the
suite-movements of the seventeenth and of later centuries. The first
of these two great general types of structure, called Binary Form,
contained two distinct members or sections; the second, called Ternary
Form, contained three sections.

The essential principle of binary form is the simplest conceivable.
Every piece in binary form may be likened to a journey to a neighboring
place, followed by a return home. “The King of France, with forty
thousand men, marched up the hill, and then marched down again.” In
the case of binary form, the king of France is the subject or theme of
the piece; the forty thousand men are the variations or developments
on this subject that are worked out as the piece proceeds; the hill
is the progress from the tonic key to the contrasted tonal centre,
generally the dominant, or, if the piece is in a minor key, its
relative major; and the march down again is the return to the home
key. More specifically, the first section begins with the announcement
of the theme in the tonic key, and proceeds to ring changes upon it,
meanwhile modulating to the contrasted key and ending with a firm and
memorable cadence there. At this point the second section begins, with
the theme as at first, but in the new instead of the original key;
the modulation is reversed, the original key re-entered, and the same
cadence already heard repeated, but now even more firmly, and with the
added finality of the home key. The device is simplicity itself, yet
it admits a surprising variety of detail within its perfectly obvious
and satisfying unity of ultimate effect. Most of Bach’s allemandes,
courantes, airs, sarabandes, and gigues, are executed in binary form.

The great disadvantage of this admirably concise and organic structure
proved in the course of experience to be a certain monotony and
rigidity. As movements became longer and more complex, the division
into two sections, embodying but two keys in spite of momentary
excursions to more remote centres, came to seem rather constricting.
There was a dearth of variety about it, and a tendency to obviousness.
The element of contrast, of adventure far afield, was somewhat
lacking. Composers accordingly worked out, of course unconsciously, a
more various but equally organic scheme of design--ternary form. In
ternary form the first section is practically identical with that of
binary form; but the second, instead of “marching down again,” makes
the contrasting tonal centre it has reached but a starting-point for
still further excursions. It modulates freely, using to the utmost the
privilege of admission to all the keys of the gamut that music owes
to Bach and his system of equal temperament; it plays with the theme,
subjecting it to the modes of development we have already studied; it
indulges in all sorts of pranks and whimsies, departing as much as
possible from the set formality of the first section; in a word, it
endeavors to establish a complete contrast with what has gone before,
and while never violating logic, to get away as far as possible from
the beaten track, from the rut of routine. Then, after this interregnum
of variety, comes the third section with an emphatic reassertion of
regularity, presenting once more the subject as at first, and in the
tonic key, vindicating the unity of the movement of the whole, and
rounding it out to orderly completeness. Splendid examples of this
splendidly organic structure are most of the preludes, gavottes,
bourrées, and minuets of Bach’s suites.

In the suite, then, as it was practiced by Bach and other
seventeenth-century composers, we see operative a constantly
broadening application of the use of expectation and fulfilment, in
the interests of organic structure. Applying to artistic music those
methods of metrical and harmonic form that had long determined the
growth of folk-song and dance, the composers of this period gradually
learned to make even wider and more intricate syntheses of their
materials. So skilfully did they avail themselves of the relations
between contrasting harmonic centres that they were able eventually
to write whole movements as firmly organic, as deftly coordinated, as
a vertebrate animal. By the ever-extending use of thematic variation
and of free modulation, they made their pieces as various as they
were systematic. And at last, in ternary form, they established that
succession of statement, contrast, and reassertion, which seems even
to-day the last word in the philosophy of general musical structure.

The gradual expansion and increase of complexity in the movements
of the suite, made not only possible but logically necessary by the
structural potencies of these great principles of statement, contrast,
and reassertion, and of antithesis of keys, led eventually to a new
phase of musical structure, the third and last in the evolution we
have been tracing. The suite, in the seventeenth century the most
successfully cultivated of all the forms of pure music, gave place in
the eighteenth century to a still higher form, the sonata, which has
held the position of supremacy ever since. The sonata form is, not
only by tradition but by natural right, the norm of modern musical
structure. Almost all the chief works of all the great composers
from Haydn and Mozart to Brahms and Tschaïkowsky are cast in this
mould, as we easily realize if we remember that not only those pieces
specifically named “sonatas,” but also trios, quartets, quintets,
and the like, and overtures and concertos and symphonies, are but
pieces in sonata-form intended for various groups of instruments.
The string quartet is a sonata for two violins, a viola, and a
'cello; the concerto is a sonata for solo instrument with orchestral
accompaniment; and the symphony is a sonata on a large scale, for
orchestra. This remarkable prevalence of a single type of structure in
modern music means far more than the accidental survival, by inertia,
of an artificial convention; it means that this type of structure is on
the whole the best possible embodiment of variety and unity in tonal
effects; that it is the natural outgrowth of more primitive forms; and
that it is elastic enough to admit into its uniform scheme of order
the most diverse expressions of individual temperaments and ideals.
Tschaïkowsky’s intuition of beauty in tones is different enough from
Haydn’s; and the formal medium of which both can avail themselves
without violence to their genius must obviously be founded deep in
universal human psychology.

The modern sonata consists, as a rule, of four movements, contrasted
in character and in key, but combining to form a rational and complete
whole. In expression, the movements conform deftly to the natural
requirements of human nature. The first is energetic, vigorous, and
complex. The second is sentimental, melancholy, noble, or profound. The
third affords relief from the emotional concentration of the second; it
is a dance, full of vivacity, humor, fantasy, and whimsical impulse;
with Beethoven it becomes a consummate embodiment of the spirit of
comedy, which is quite as essential a part of human nature as that of
tragedy and earnest emotion. The fourth and last movement is again
vigorous and dashing, but in a less intellectual way than the first; it
ends the whole composition in a mood of simple and happy animation. As
regards structure, moreover, the movements differ in conformity with
the needs of the situation. The first, which is to be heard when the
mind is most attentive and unfatigued, is by far the most complex,--is
indeed often the only one in what is technically called “sonata-form.”
The second, the interest of which is more emotional than intellectual,
is usually of fairly primitive structure. The third, a dance, is in the
simplest of ternary dance-forms, that of the minuet, and, as written
by Haydn and Mozart, might almost be taken bodily out of a suite. The
final movement is also usually of simple, obvious structure.

It is clear, then, that of all the movements of the sonata, the
minuet is the nearest, in structure, to those more primitive types
embodied in the suite.[28] It makes a link bridging the gap between
the older form and its more highly-developed supplanter. A glance at
its construction will show how near it is to those simple ternary
forms already described in connection with the suite. The symphonic
minuet of Haydn is built up out of phrases, welded together in the
manner now so familiar to us.

                            [Music: score]
                     [Illustration: FIGURE XIII.

But there is a considerable increase in the subtlety with which the
phrases are combined, in the “modelling,” so to speak, of the melody.
Greater variety is perceptible, the balance of the phrases is less
obvious, while equally satisfactory. The structure, in the more
extended sense, is ternary.[29] The first section of Haydn’s Minuet,
just cited, ends, after eighteen measures, in the dominant key. The
second section, or section of contrast, contains some passages that
are markedly different from the original theme, though congruous with
it, and modulates so far afield as E-flat major (the home key being
G). After twenty-two measures of this digression, the section of
reassertion enters with the original theme in the tonic key, lasts
twenty-two measures, and ends strongly in the home key. The minuet
proper, as with Bach, is followed by a similar short piece, called
the trio, put in for the sake of contrast. After it the minuet recurs;
and it is an interesting fact that the whole movement is thus a large
example of the same device of statement, contrast, and reassertion
that is exemplified in its parts. In other words, the whole minuet is
a “statement,” the whole trio a “contrast,” and the repeated minuet
a “reassertion.” We see here, then, the fundamental form which we
described as ternary, and which may be symbolised by the letters A B
A, utilized as a structural agent both in the individual parts, and in
the whole of the movement. The symphonic minuet is quite obviously the
child of the suite minuet, but a child approaching maturity, becoming
complex and intricate in coordination.

The form generally adopted for the last movement of sonatas exemplifies
a different way of utilizing the same general principles of design. As
its name of “rondo” implies, it consists of a constant recurrence or
“coming around” of the main thematic idea, which, as before, we may
call A; but with several contrasting sections, instead of only one.
The rondo type of structure may be symbolized by the letters A B A C A
D A, etc. It embodies, obviously enough, a greater variety than the
simpler dance form out of which it grew, and at the same time preserves
unity by the repetition of the main theme. It is less perfectly
coordinated, however, than the minuet; for as each episode occurs but
once there is a deficiency of logic and of artistic economy; and as the
principle of the form is sectional there is no intrinsic reason why it
should not be prolonged indefinitely. It is, therefore, an essentially
imperfect and indeterminate organism, although it is serviceable enough
as the mould of a movement in which gaiety and general animation are
more important than highly articulated plastic beauty.

The slow movement is of all the parts of the sonata the least uniform
in structure. Often it is written in the primitive aria-form, identical
with the minuet form; sometimes it is an adaptation of rondo form to
the exigencies of deliberate movement and emotional eloquence; and not
infrequently it is a modification of “first movement form,” or sonata
form proper. Its value depends but little on its structure, and almost
entirely on its expressive qualities.

Of all the movements of the sonata, as has already been said, the
first, which comes when the listener is fresh and disposed to give
minute and unflagging attention, is the most complex. First movement
form, however, is but a further application of the simple principles
of statement, contrast, and reassertion, and of contrast of keys, that
are already operative, in an easily understood way, in the minuet, the
aria, and the rondo. The first movement of a regular sonata begins
with a first subject, or theme, in the tonic key, built, of course,
upon a striking, individual, and memorable motif. After this has been
well impressed upon the mind by a certain amount of repetition, either
literal or modified, there is a formal transition to a contrasted key,
generally the dominant, or, if the movement be in minor, the relative
major, and a second subject enters, is in its turn well impressed
upon the attention, and ends with an emphatic cadence or close in the
contrasted key. This much makes up one complete section of the form.
Historically, it is an outgrowth of the first part of an ordinary small
ternary form, by simple magnification of the elements, and increasing
definition of and contrast between them. What was at first but an
inconspicuous modulation becomes a formal transition; and what was but
a cadence in the contrasting key becomes a new subject, with its own
individuality and function in the organism. And thus is built up the
section of statement, with quite a high degree of complexity of its
own. This is sometimes called the Exposition.

Next comes the “Free Fantasia” or “Working Out,” the section of
contrast, derived from the similar section in the minuet, but far
longer and more intricate. In material it is a development, or
manipulation, of the thematic germs stated in the exposition, by
aid of all the devices for developing motifs that we have traced.
Structurally, its function is to establish complete contrast, to
do away with the impression of rigid system that the first section
is likely to engender, and in every possible way to give variety,
surprise, and interest to the musical tissue. It is accordingly
absolutely free in modulation, unsystematic in arrangement, and
irregular in metrical division. In it the composer gives rein to his
fancy, obeys the impulse of the moment, and lets his ingenuity rather
than his shaping instinct determine his progress. Yet the section of
contrast is not a mere limbo of chaotic impulses. It must have its
own logic, it must be a true “development,” it must be throughout
obviously founded on the themes already stated. There is no part of
the sonata-form in which all the composer’s strength is more taxed
than the Free Fantasia; here, indeed, freedom brings its own heavy

After the contrast comes the reassertion, or “Reprise.” Having
displayed his materials in every light his imagination can suggest,
and having meanwhile almost obliterated his hearer’s sense of the key
of the piece, the composer now carefully prepares to gather up all
his flying threads, to stamp all this baffling variety with ultimate
unity. Re-entering the home key, which has gained by its long silence
a new power to delight and satisfy, he restates his two subjects or
themes, in their original guise, but now both in the home key. As the
essayist, after all his examples and figures and metaphors, returns
to a bald, emphatic, final assertion of his thesis, the composer now,
after all his playing with his ideas, reinstates them in more than
their primitive simplicity.[30] To give them perfect finality he
even reiterates them with fresh assertiveness, seems unwilling to
leave them, and insists, in his Coda or tail-piece, that we take away
with us a full sense of their import. Thus restatement, emphatic and
prolonged, following upon contrast and digression, completes the unity
of the whole composition, and closes the cycle to our satisfaction.
It is impossible to conceive a type of musical structure which should
better satisfy our demand for profusion of detail together with clarity
of fundamental shape, than this highly perfected product of a long
evolution, sonata-form.

It must not be supposed that this wonderful scheme of design reached
its maturity in any short period of time, or through the labors of a
few musicians. Infinitely slow and gradual was its growth; and though
the immediate followers of J. S. Bach, and especially his own son,
Philip Emmanuel Bach, brought it to a condition in which its general
outline was pretty well established, it was still, at the time when
Haydn appeared on the scene, incapable of that free manipulation which
high musical beauty requires. It was Haydn who removed the last traces
of stiffness and primitive angularity from the sonata-form; it was
Haydn who brought it to complete definiteness as an artistic device
and stamped it with lasting individuality; and it was Haydn who at
least hinted and foreshadowed those subtleties and accommodations in
its treatment which, as extended by Mozart and Beethoven, perfected its
capabilities and brought it to its mature estate as the most vital,
elastic and beautiful of modern musical forms.

[25] The musical foot does not always correspond exactly with the
“measure”; for the measure begins with the accent, while the foot often
ends or culminates with the accent. The measure is marked off by the
bar lines, but the foot sometimes spans the bar line.

[26] It must be remembered that all primitive music was vocal.

[27] The reason of the “answer at the fifth” is this: the tonic and
dominant being the two tonal centres of the key, about which all its
sounds are grouped, it is natural that they should be treated as
complementary to each other and made the bases of contrast effects.
After the subject is announced in the tonic, then, it is answered in
the dominant, or a fifth above (or a fourth below, which amounts to the
same thing). See Figure VIII.

[28] A still more primitive type of structure, occasionally but not
uniformly used in symphonies and sonatas, is the variation form. This
consists of a theme, generally in simple binary or ternary form,
subjected to many successive modifications or “variations,” generally
of a superficial kind. Though low in the scale of musical organisms,
it is surprisingly effective in the hands of real masters of musical
development such as Beethoven and Brahms.

[29] This is the case with the Trio, or second Minuet, as well as with
the Minuet proper.

[30] At first the second subject was in a contrasted key; now both
subjects are in the tonic.

                               CHAPTER V

                               CHAPTER V

In the early eighteenth century there lived in a small village called
Rohrau, situated near the Leitha River, which forms the boundary
between Lower Austria and Hungary, a certain wheelwright and parish
sexton, named Matthias Haydn, and his wife. They were simple peasant
people, a little more educated than was usual with their class.
Matthias Haydn, besides a smattering of general information, had a
talent for harp-playing, though he could not read music. Frau Haydn’s
accomplishments ran in the direction of domestic management and
religion; and as she eventually found herself the mother of twelve
children, she may be supposed to have stood in need of both. Franz
Joseph Haydn, born either on March 31 or April 1, 1732, was the second
of these children. He was destined to create an epoch in the art of

How, in spite of his rather commonplace parentage and his heavy
burden of poverty, he managed to develop so remarkable an artistic
genius, has been a problem most puzzling to students; but much light
has been thrown upon the whole matter by the recent investigations
of a Croatian scholar, Dr. František Š. Kuhač, made accessible to
readers of English by Mr. W. H. Hadow’s “A Croatian Composer.” These
researches have shown that the whole region about Rohrau was inhabited
by a largely Croatian or South Slavonic population; that Haydn himself
was probably of Croatian heredity; and that at the very least his
youth was spent among one of the most naturally musical of all races.
“One in every three of the Croats,” says Dr. Kuhač, “either sings,
plays, or composes.” “The men sing at their plows,” says Mr. Hadow,
“the girls sing as they fill their water-pots at the fountain; by
every village inn you may hear the jingle of the tambura, and watch
the dancers footing it on the green.” Here, then, was an environment
precisely suited to develop the qualities we shall observe in the
mature Haydn; and it helps to an understanding of almost every phase
of his genius if we remember that as a boy he was surrounded, not by
stolid German peasants, amiable but inexpressive, nor by a cultivated
but unspontaneous aristocracy, but by a race of natural musicians, in
whom dance and song were native and necessary modes of expression.

His formal musical education was less propitious. At the age of six
he began the study of the violin, the harpsichord, and singing,
under one Frankh, a distant relative, in the town of Hamburg; but
was so neglected and abused that in later years he was wont to say:
“From Frankh I got more cuffs than gingerbread.” He was probably
glad enough when, two years later, he was able to go to Vienna as
a choirboy in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Here he stayed ten years,
half-starved, insufficiently clothed, and carelessly taught. Only his
own indomitable energy enabled him to learn anything at all. He worked
while the other choir-boys were at play; he practiced indefatigably on
his little clavier, which was so small and light that he could take
it under his arm to a quiet place; he covered reams of music paper
with his compositions, thinking that “it must be all right if the
paper was nice and full;” he expended six of his father’s hard-earned
florins on ponderous text books of counterpoint and thoroughbass,
and spent wakeful nights poring over them. Meanwhile his relations
with the musical director in authority became more and more strained,
until finally, in November, 1749, there was open rupture, and Haydn,
seventeen years old, friendless, and without money, was turned into the

It would be difficult to exaggerate the hardships he now had to endure.
By playing his violin at balls and weddings, by making arrangements of
the compositions of amateurs for a pittance, by teaching--in a word, by
any drudgery that anyone would pay for, he managed to keep himself from
starving. And through it all, in his dimly-lighted, unheated attic,
with roof so out of repair that snow and rain fell on the bed, and the
water, of a winter morning, froze in the pitcher, he continued, as best
he could, his own studies in composition. Years afterward he wrote of
this period of his life, with his usual quaint piety: “I was forced
for eight whole years to gain a scanty livelihood by giving lessons;
many a genius is ruined by this miserable mode of earning daily bread,
as it leaves no time for study. I could never have accomplished even
what I did if, in my zeal for composition, I had not pursued my studies
through the night.... I offer up to Almighty God all eulogiums, for to
Him alone do I owe them. My sole wish is neither to offend against my
neighbor nor my gracious Prince, but above all our merciful God.”

Although Haydn had at this time to endure humiliations and slights as
well as actual want, his situation was gradually ameliorated by the
patronage of some wealthy music-lovers with whom his growing reputation
as a composer brought him acquainted. His first fixed post was that of
music-director to a Bohemian nobleman, Count Morzin, for whose band he
wrote, in 1759, his first symphony. In the next year, however, Count
Morzin married and discontinued his musical establishment, and Haydn
was left for a short time without definite work, until in 1761 he was
installed in the post he held uninterruptedly for thirty years. His own
marriage, meanwhile, took place in 1760.

How Haydn, who was quite as prudent as he was amiable, could have been
so rash as to marry at just this moment, it is difficult to explain;
especially as he married, not the woman he had fallen in love with,
but her elder sister. The whole affair is almost farcically perverse.
A young composer of twenty-eight, just pulling himself up at length
on the shelving bank of patronage, out of the slough of miscellaneous
drudgery in which he has been weltering for years, offers to encumber
himself at the critical moment with the daughter of one Keller, a
barber. The lady, for unknown reasons, among which may or may not have
been a dread of the quagmire, betakes herself to a nunnery. Whereupon
the barber persuades the composer to marry the older daughter, Anna
Maria. The outcome of this marriage, which took place in November,
1760, proved, as might have been expected, unfortunate. The wife began
almost immediately to treat her husband with indifference and petty
malignity, which rapidly increased. She seemed not to care whether he
composed or cobbled, so long as he supplied her with money; she used
his manuscripts for curling-papers; when he was in London in 1791
she wrote him appeals for money wherewith to buy “a widow’s home.”
Altogether the uncongeniality was intolerable, and the pair lived
together but a few years, although Frau Haydn did not die until 1800.

The thirty years from 1761 to 1791, a period of the utmost importance
in the development of Haydn’s genius, was of the greatest monotony so
far as events are concerned. His post was that of musical director or
Kapellmeister (at first Vice-Kapellmeister), to the great, princely
family of Esterhazy, one of the most wealthy and influential of the
noble families of Hungary. He served them both at Eisenstadt, at the
foot of the Leitha mountains, in Hungary, where Prince Paul Anton
Esterhazy was the reigning prince in 1761, and at Esterhaz, the
magnificent palace, with groves, grottoes, hot-houses, deer-parks,
and flower gardens, which Prince Nicholas erected in 1766. Of the
musician’s duties and social status in this princely house, an idea may
be gathered from the following sentences from the contract entered into
at the beginning of his term of service as Vice-Kapellmeister:

“The said Joseph Hayden shall be considered and treated as a member of
the household. Therefore his Serene Highness is graciously pleased to
place confidence in his conducting himself as becomes an honourable
official of a princely house. He must be temperate, not showing
himself overbearing towards his musicians, but mild and lenient,
straightforward and composed. It is especially to be observed that when
the orchestra shall be summoned to perform before company, the said
Joseph Hayden shall take care that he and all members of his orchestra
do follow the instructions given, and appear in white stockings, white
linen, powdered, and either with a pig-tail or a tie-wig.

“Seeing that the other musicians are referred for directions to the
said Vice-Kapellmeister, therefore he should take the more care
to conduct himself in an exemplary manner, abstaining from undue
familiarity, and from vulgarity in eating, drinking and conversation,
not dispensing with the respect due to him, but acting uprightly and
influencing his subordinates to preserve such harmony as is becoming in
them, remembering how displeasing the consequences of any discord or
dispute would be to his Serene Highness.

“The said Vice-Kapellmeister shall be under an obligation to compose
such music as his Serene Highness may command, and to retain it for the
absolute use of his Highness, and not to compose anything for any other
person without the knowledge and permission of his Highness.

“The said Vice-Kapellmeister shall take careful charge of all music and
musical instruments, and shall be responsible for any injury that may
occur to them from carelessness or neglect.”

The demands made upon “the said Joseph Hayden” were obviously severe;
but he had in return many advantages. He was secure from want, a great
consideration to one who had starved in garrets and sung in the streets
and the cafés for his supper. He came in contact with many interesting
people, both among the social and the professional guests of Esterhaz.
Above all, he had a good orchestra at his command, and he was not only
privileged, but obliged, to compose for it incessantly. Thus he was
incited to constant study and experiment; so that before many years
had elapsed he had become a thorough master of his medium, with the
requisite technical skill to express any idea that his genius might
suggest. It was largely during these years that he poured out his
endless series of masterpieces of chamber and orchestral music.

One result of all the work thus accomplished was that when, late in
1790, Prince Anton Esterhazy dismissed his entire corps of musicians,
Haydn’s reputation was so widespread that he was immediately solicited
by one Salomon, a violinist and conductor, to make a trip to London.
Hard as it must have been for him, at his age of nearly sixty, to
exchange his studious habits for the fatigues and excitement of travel,
the opportunity was too good to be lost; and late in 1790 he set out
with Salomon, reaching London early in the next year.

In reading of this visit to England, as well as of the second one
which Haydn made three years later, one hardly knows whether to be
more impressed by the fame and prosperity which came to him from all
sides, or by the homely simplicity with which he received them. This
quiet, precise, pious old kapellmeister was the object of the most
flattering attentions from everyone in London; he was half worshipped
by the ladies, he was fêted by noble families, he was the guest of the
Prince of Wales. His works were awaited with impatience and received
with enthusiasm; he was honored with the Degree of Doctor of Music by
Oxford University; his pockets were filled with enough English gold
to buy him German soup for the rest of his life. Yet he was almost
as much overwhelmed as delighted with all this unwonted excitement.
With a characteristic mixture of homeliness and piety he wrote to his
friend Frau von Genzinger: “Oh! how often do I long to be beside you at
the piano, even for a quarter of an hour, and then to have some good
German soup. But we cannot have everything in this world. May God only
vouchsafe to grant me the health that I have hitherto enjoyed, and may
I preserve it by good conduct and out of gratitude to the Almighty!”

His English note-book reveals the same childlike attitude, mingled with
an interest in details and statistics curiously characteristic of his
matter-of-fact mind. Here are a few typical entries:

“The national debt of England is estimated to be over two hundred
millions. Once it was calculated that if it were desired to pay the
debt in silver, the wagons that would bring it, close together, would
reach from London to York (two hundred miles), each wagon carrying

“The city of London consumes annually 800,000 cartloads of coal. Each
cart holds thirteen bags, each bag two Metzen. Most of the coal comes
from Newcastle. Often 200 vessels laden with coal arrive at the same
time. A cartload costs 2-1/2 pounds.”

“Beginning of May, 1792, Lord Barrymore gave a ball that cost 5,000
guineas. He paid 1,000 guineas for 1,000 peaches; 2,000 baskets of
gooseberries cost 5 shillings apiece.”

“On the 14th of December I dined at the house of Mr. Shaw. While I
was bowing all round I suddenly perceived that the lady of the house,
besides her daughters and the other ladies, wore on their head-dresses
a pearl-colored band, of three fingers breadth, embroidered in gold
with the name of Haydn, and Mr. Shaw wore the name on the two ends of
his collar in the finest steel beads. N. B.--Mr. Shaw wanted me to give
him a souvenir, and I gave him a tobacco-box which I had just bought
for a guinea. He gave me his in exchange.”

The last sentence is particularly delicious for its revelation of
Haydn’s usual canniness. Not even his enjoyment of fame could make him
forget that the tobacco-box given away had cost him a guinea; but he
is solaced by the thought that he had got another in return. One is
reminded of the same trait in reading his comment on the high prices of

“These horses are very dear. Prince Wallis a few years ago paid 8
thousand pounds for one, and sold it again for 6 thousand pounds. But
at the first race he won with it 50,000 pounds.”

The entire diary exhibits a similar thriftiness, shrewdness, and
practicality; by impressing the reader with the curiously prosaic and
matter-of-fact quality of Haydn’s mind, it throws as much light on the
essential character of his music as on that of his personality. Fancy
Beethoven, or any other speculative, imaginative mind, going to see Dr.
Herschel’s great telescope, looking through it at the stars, and then
carefully recording in his journal: “It is forty feet long and five
feet in diameter”!

One of the interesting revelations made by Haydn’s note-book is that
of his sentimental attachment to a certain Mistress Shroeter. It is
a charming and in a way a pathetic story; the beginning formal, the
continuation touchingly human in spite of the old-fashioned phrases
in which it reaches us, and the end mysterious. Mistress Shroeter, a
widow, relict of a German musician, begins it in the following note,
copied out carefully, together with all the subsequent ones, by Haydn:

“Mrs. Shroeter presents her compliments to Mr. Haydn, and informs him
she is just returned to town and will be very happy to see him whenever
it is convenient to him to give her a lesson. James St., Buckingham
Gate, Wednesday, June the 29th, 1791.”

The lessons thus begun continued all through the period of the
composer’s first London visit, and the correspondence soon begins to
reveal a growing attachment between the lonely, unhappily married
Haydn and, in his own simple words, “the English widow in London who
loved me.” The letters, quaint, formal, tender, are couched in the
vocabulary of “Evelina” and “Clarissa Harlowe;” their “fair author,”
as one feels impelled to call her, might have been, with her funny
little abbreviations, her odd admixture of grandiloquence and impulsive
feeling, and her constant underscoring of unimportant words, Clarissa
herself. A note of April 12, 1792, will perhaps sufficiently show her
way of writing:

“M. D. [My dear.] I am so _truly anxious_ about _you_. I must write to
beg to know _how you do_? I was very sorry I _had_ not the pleasure
of Seeing you this Evening, my thoughts have been _constantly_ with
you and indeed my D. L. [dear love], no words can express half the
tenderness and _affection I feel for you_. I thought you seemed out of
spirits this morning. I wish I could always remove every trouble from
your mind, be assured my D: I partake with the most perfect sympathy in
_all your sensations_ and my regard for you is _Stronger every day_.
My best wishes attend you and I am ever my D. H. [dear Haydn] most
sincerely your Faithful, etc.”

Thus tenderly and innocently the friendship progresses, with
constant protestations of regard, with continual solicitude to know
“_how you do_” and “whether you have _Slept well_,” with little
discreet panegyrics over “your sweet compositions and your excellent
performance,” and with many fears “lest you fatigue yourself with such
close application”; until, with Haydn’s departure for home, it suddenly
and abruptly closes, never to be resumed. Did these two meet again when
Haydn returned to London in 1794? Did the letters recommence? We do
not know. The story ends with a letter of Mistress Shroeter’s, written
just before Haydn’s departure in 1792, beginning with the hope that
he has “Slept well,” and ending with a protestation of “inviolable

After his second trip to London was over, Haydn returned to Austria,
dividing his time between Vienna and Esterhaz, where he was again made
music-director. Getting now to be an old man, he lived quietly, making
few public appearances. He composed at this time his famous Austrian
National Hymn, as well as his two oratorios, “The Creation” and “The
Seasons,” produced respectively in 1798 and in 1801. In 1803 he made
his final appearance as a conductor, and in 1808 he appeared in public
for the last time. The occasion was a performance of “The Creation.”
“All the great artists of Vienna were present,” says Mr. Hadden, “among
them Beethoven and Hummel. Prince Esterhazy had sent his carriage to
bring the veteran to the hall, and as he was being conveyed in an
arm-chair to a place among the princes and nobles, the whole audience
rose to their feet in testimony of their regard. It was a cold night,
and ladies sitting near swathed him in their costly wraps and lace
shawls. The concert began, and the audience was hushed to silence. When
that magnificent passage was reached, ‘And there was light,’ they burst
into loud applause, and Haydn, overcome with excitement, exclaimed:
‘Not I, but a Power from above created that.’ The performance went on,
but it proved too much for the old man, and friends arranged to take
him home at the end of the first part. As he was being carried out,
some of the highest in the land crowded round to take what was felt to
be a last farewell; and Beethoven bent down and fervently kissed his
hand and forehead. Having reached the door, Haydn asked his bearers to
pause and turn him towards the orchestra. Then, lifting his hand, as if
in the act of blessing, he was borne out into the night.”

Near the end of May, 1809, Haydn began to fail rapidly. On the
twenty-sixth, gathering his household and having himself carried to
the piano, he played over three times his “Emperor’s Hymn,” with
great emotion. Five days later he died. The curious admixture of
kindliness and practical good sense which give to Haydn’s character
such an individual charm appear even in his will, a long and detailed
document very precisely drawn up. He bequeaths “To poor blind Adam in
Eisenstadt, 24 florins”; “To my gracious Prince, my gold Parisian medal
and the letter that accompanied it, with a humble request to grant them
a place in the museum at Forchtenstein”; “To Fräulein Bucholz, 100
florins. Inasmuch as in my youth her grandfather lent me 150 florins
when I greatly needed them, which, however, I repaid fifty years ago.”
After many other bequests he concludes; “I commend my soul to my
all-merciful Creator; my body I wish to be interred, according to the
Roman Catholic forms, in consecrated ground.”

In personal appearance Haydn was an odd mixture of the ordinary and the
unusual, of commonplaceness and distinction. The complexion, marked
with small-pox, was so dark that he was sometimes called “The Moor”;
the nose was strong but heavy; the lower lip thick and projecting; the
jowl square and massive. Yet his dark gray eyes were said to “beam with
benevolence,” and Lavater, the great physiognomist, perceived in his
eyes and nose “something out of the common,” while dismissing the mouth
and chin as Philistine. Of himself Haydn said: “Anyone can see by the
look of me that I am a good-matured sort of fellow”; yet he confessed
that the ladies, who generally found him interesting, were “at any rate
not tempted by my beauty.”

The explanation of these apparent contradictions is to be found in the
peculiar make-up of that individuality of which the external appearance
was an index. That mixture of heavy jowl and penetrative eyes bespoke
the combination of a certain rudeness, primitiveness, commonplaceness
of emotional nature, with rare intellectual vivacity and acumen. We
have already remarked the prosaic attitude of Haydn towards men and
things, as well as the purely intellectual alertness with which he
observed them. His vision of the world was more that of an accountant
or statistician than that of a poet. He saw simply and clearly; for
him objects stood in the hard light of reason, not surrounded by any
haze of reverie or atmosphere of emotion. His mental efficiency is
especially striking when we consider the natural disadvantages under
which it labored. Haydn was distinctly an uneducated man. The son of
a wheelwright, in a petty Austrian village, he had little schooling,
little early contact with men and women, little commerce with all the
indefinable influences that make for cultivation of the rarer powers
of intellect and spirit. He knew Italian and a little French, but
never had any English until he went to London at nearly sixty. He read
little, and did not care to discuss politics, science, or any art but
music. He spoke always in the strong dialect of his native place. Yet
by force of sheer intelligence and ability he established the art of
music on a new basis. Those penetrating gray eyes saw much that was
hidden from men far more happily born, far more delicately nurtured.

On the other hand, the impressive peculiarity of his emotional nature
is its normality. Emotionally he was typical rather than personal,
centred in the common interests and instincts rather than eccentric to
them, conservative and conventional rather than radical and individual.
This is doubtless the meaning of that somewhat stolid jaw, that firm
and vigorous, but rather insensitive mouth, that sane but unimaginative
configuration of the whole lower face, the expressive seat of the
will and the feelings. Beethoven is interesting largely for his
departure from the average human norm, his highly developed selfhood,
his inexorable individuality; Haydn, on the contrary, compels our
study just because he is so like other men, so amply representative of
them within their own limitations. The traits that stand out in him
are traits “in widest commonalty spread”; a brisk and busy vivacity,
finding itself much at home in this world, with plenty to do and to
inquire into; connected with that, a half-childlike shrewdness in
affairs, a canny ability to take care of himself, practical talent,
worldly skill; on a higher plane, a sunny kindliness and good cheer
that make him one of the most genial of men, a kind of simple human
warmth and happiness and joy; finally, on the highest plane of all,
though but a projection of the human cheer, an ardent piety, a
wholehearted faith in God, an earnest and yet quite simple religious
devotion. These are traits not exclusively Haydnish, so to speak, as
mystical devotion and resolute idealism are Beethovenish, but common to
all humanity.

Now, these two fundamental qualities of Haydn’s nature as a man, his
emotional normality and his mental efficiency, deserve the especial
attention we have been giving them, not only on account of their
intrinsic human interest, but also because they determined the quality
of his work as a musician. His wide sympathy with ordinary men, his
practical sense and shrewdness, his brisk good cheer, his childlike
and wholly unmetaphysical piety--all these traits made his music, in
its expressive aspect, far more catholic, far more universal, than
the austere and ethereal music of mysticism. At the same time, his
practical and systematic mind took firm grasp upon these novel elements
of expression, and wrought them into a clear and easily comprehensible
scheme. He stamped the naïve and fragmentary utterances of folk-feeling
with the careful, purposeful orderliness of art; and by so doing,
launched music upon a new period of development.

In both his great tasks, the secularization of expression and the
systematization of form, Haydn’s personal faculties were reinforced
by the general musical conditions of his time. At the end of the
eighteenth century the mystical type of expression in music had not
only arrived at its acme in Palestrina’s work, after which it must
inevitably decline, but it had ceased to be an adequate reflection
of the general human attitude toward life. Men had turned away from
contemplating the mysteries of divinity, to interest themselves more
than ever before in the commonest feelings, the universal experiences,
of ordinary human beings. They had discovered the miraculousness
of the commonplace, and learned to respect themselves. And they
had consequently begun to prize as genuine self-expressions those
upwellings of naïve emotion, the songs and dances of the people,
which had been so long contemptuously ignored by academic musicians.
These folk-songs had none of the limitations of the more dignified,
recognized art, which paid the price of its dignity in a sacrifice of
fullness of expression. They voiced not only what was edifying, what
was devout and mystical and other-worldly. They palpitated with simple
human feeling, very much of this world; they were tender, animated,
melancholy, languorous, excited, merry, amorous, even trivial, dull, or
indecent at times, as human beings are. They were in fact the crude but
genuine expression of that full, simple, unrestricted humanity to which
idealism had begun to pin its faith.

The musicians of the seventeenth century, instinctively aware that
folk-music somehow succeeded in voicing a wider arc of the full
circle of feeling than the conventional ecclesiastical art, applied
themselves with enthusiasm to the endeavor to assimilate and idealize
it, to turn the current of its pulsing blood into the torpid veins of
academic music, at the same time refining its crudities and broadening
its proportions. The result of their effort was the suite, or series
of dances and songs, the most popular and prevalent authorized form
of that century. The suite was, indeed, in its degree a successful
embodiment of folk-types of expression in a form broad and dignified
enough to satisfy æsthetic demands. But it was not capable of extended
growth. The shortness of its movements, their over-obvious scheme of
phrase-balance, their uniformity of key, rendered impossible any great
increase in complexity of form. Composers therefore found themselves in
a dilemma: they were compelled to write either in the old polyphonic
style, which labored under insurmountable limitations of expression,
or in the new harmonic style, which was as yet capable only of a
rudimentary scheme of form, and therefore unsatisfactory to the sense
of plastic interest and beauty.

It was at this auspicious moment that Haydn, equipped, as we have
seen, with an affectionate and sympathetic heart, beating in unison
with that of common humanity, and with a lucid, practical, pedestrian
mind, well-fitted to disentangle and arrange in order the factors
of a complex problem, appeared in the arena. The adjustment between
his nature and his circumstances was thus peculiarly complete. He
found in the folk-music of his native place, to begin with, a type
of emotional expression with which he was, both as regards qualities
and limitations, in complete sympathy. “The Croatian melodies,” says
Mr. W. H. Hadow, “are bright, sensitive, piquant, but they seldom
rise to any high level of dignity or earnestness. They belong to a
temper which is marked rather by feeling and imagination than by any
sustained breadth of thought, and hence, while they enrich their own
field of art with great beauty, there are certain frontiers which they
rarely cross, and from which, if crossed, they soon return.” Could any
better short description be devised of Haydn’s own characteristic vein
of sentiment--“bright, sensitive, piquant, but seldom rising to any
high level of dignity or earnestness”? His music is, in fact, from the
point of view of expression, essentially an expansion, development, and
idealization of the characteristic utterance of his race.

On the other hand, he had the mental grasp necessary to organize all
this crude, inchoate, fragmentary material into the finished and
coherent forms of art. It is a long step from even the most eloquent
expressions of single aspects of feeling, in short songs and dances, to
an extended composition in which moods are coordinated and contrasted,
proportions fitly ordered, and unity combined with broad scope--a
step which only intelligence can make. The technical task which faced
the musicians of the day was to find a scheme of musical form that
should knit the accents of the popular speech, in themselves poignant
and thrilling but disjointed, fragmentary, halting, into a fluent
and rational utterance. Sir Hubert Parry explains the situation as
follows: “What Haydn had to build upon, and what was most congenial
to him through his origin and circumstances, was the native people’s
songs and dances, which belong to the same order of art in point of
structure as symphonies and sonatas; and what he wanted, and what all
men who aimed in the same direction wanted, was to know how to make
this kind of music on a grander scale. The older music of Handel and
Bach leaned too much towards the style of the choral music and organ
music of the church to serve him as a model. For the principle upon
which their art was mainly built was the treatment of the separate
parts. In the modern style the artistic principle upon which music is
mainly based is the treatment of harmonies and keys, and the way in
which those harmonies and keys are arranged. In national dances few
harmonies are used, but they are arranged on the same principles as
the harmonies of a sonata or a symphony; and what had to be found out
in order to make grand instrumental works was how to arrange many more
harmonies with the same effect of unity as is obtained on a small scale
in dances and national songs.” Here again, happily, the historic moment
was favorable to Haydn. Many tentative efforts toward a new method of
musical structure, based on an organized contrast of themes and keys,
had been made; and all that was needed to weld them into a style as
firm and clear as it was novel and interesting was systematization by
an orderly, responsible, and efficient mind. Haydn had such a mind; and
he established sonata-form on a permanent basis.

In this great task he was helped by study of the experiments in the
new or secular music already made by such men as Carl Philip Emanuel
Bach,[31] a son of the great Sebastian, who struck into paths very
different from the contrapuntal ones of his father; he was helped
by the intrinsic principles of structure of the songs and dances
themselves, which made up his musical material; but above all he was
helped by the bias of his own mind, practical and business-like. It
hardly needs demonstration that in the initiatory period of an art-form
the chief desideratum is clearness, simplicity, a clean, concise
treatment which subordinates all details to the salient features of
the construction, and foregoes variety rather than endanger unity.
Haydn’s temperamental make-up, the almost childlike directness of his
intellect, ensured his fitting treatment of an art itself just emerging
from infancy.

The procedure of Haydn, then, in his treatment of the problems of form,
or the shaping of his material, was chiefly notable for simplicity,
directness, shrewd adaptation of means to ends. He was not a lover of
the subtle, the recondite; he went straight to his mark, economized his
resources, prized ready intelligibility beyond all other qualities.
This appears, first, in his initial motifs or melodic germs; and second
in his methods of building them up into larger artistic organisms. Look
at the motifs of his “Surprise Symphony,” for example, noting their
metrical vigor and their harmonic simplicity, particularly in the two
middle movements. The meter of the Andante is the baldest combination
of eighth-notes and quarter-notes, like that of the tunes children
pick out on the piano; its harmony is tonic, sub-dominant, dominant,
tonic again, and the inevitable modulation to the dominant, and so on.
The Minuet is a rollicking, waltz-like tune, seesawing happily about
from tonic to dominant, with some simple modulations for variety’s
sake. Haydn wrote thousands of such motifs, all vigorous, incisive, and
utterly simple.

When we pass from considering the texture or molecular tissue of
the music to an examination of its structure, or composition, the
same qualities continue to impress us. There is a constant dearth of
contrast, a constant simplicity that to modern ears, it may be, seems
like over-simplicity. The motifs, for example, are generally expanded
into complete phrases by the addition of more or less homogeneous or
amorphous matter, rather than by the entrance of new motifs or figures,
such as Mozart often, and Beethoven generally, uses. The schemes of
balance between the phrases are generally obvious and mathematically
exact, four measures answering four, or eight, eight; whereas in
Beethoven, and even in Mozart, the phrase-balance is much more subtle
and various. The transitional passages leading from one theme to
another are so perfunctory, so conventional, that Wagner felicitously
compared them to “the clattering of dishes at a royal feast.” The
themes themselves, too, are often but slightly contrasted in character
and style; instead of setting a dreamy or emotional second theme over
against a sprightly or dashing first theme, Haydn is apt to make the
second hardly more than a variation of the first. In the development
portions of his first movements, again, where the logical power and
ingenuity of the composer is of course most sorely taxed, Haydn is apt
to resort to only the more obvious means of exploiting his subjects, to
represent them literally, with merely a new figure of accompaniment,
or to change a major theme to minor, or vice versa, instead of drawing
forth their latent but at first sight hidden possibilities. He avoids
radical transformations, either of harmony or rhythm. To put the matter
in the most general terms, he is more spontaneous than thoughtful, more
vivacious than logical, more bent on securing perfect transparency
for his tonal web than on filling it with iridescent colors, tempting
opacities, charming labyrinths of light and shade. We must remember,
however, that Haydn was writing for people to whom the whole scheme of
thematic form was unfamiliar. His ingenuity was taxed to be as regular
as possible, rather than to introduce attractive irregularities. He
was, in fact, laying down the first principles of a novel type of
art; and it is the supreme virtue of first principles to be simple,
fundamental, unmistakable.

Our interest in defining Haydn’s general artistic function as that
of a pioneer, a systematizer and law-giver, must not blind our eyes,
however, to his strokes of originality. In an occasional daring
modulation, happy irregularity, or nicely-calculated blurring of
outline, Haydn anticipates some of Beethoven’s most characteristic
effects. In the Minuet of his Ninth Symphony,[32] for example,
there are some charming instances of “shifted rhythm”; and in that
of the Eighth he revels in odd rhythmical surprises with a truly
Beethoven-like elfishness. As for the matter of harmonic ingenuity, the
instances are bewilderingly numerous. Two or three of the most striking
may, however, be mentioned, and the rest left to the reader’s own
research. In the introduction of the Third Symphony, in E-flat, Haydn
makes a most interesting enharmonic change from C-flat to B-natural,
quite in the Beethoven manner, plunging the hearer into a mystification
that clears up only with the return, after a few measures, to the key
of C-minor, the relative of the original key. The Introduction of the
Fifth Symphony contains similar ingenious modulations. But the most
Beethovenish trick of all is perhaps the modulation back to the last
entrance of the main theme of the Finale of this same symphony. The
key of the movement is D-major; Haydn, however, getting himself well
established in F-sharp minor, harps on C-sharp as the dominant of this
distant key; many C-sharps are heard, in a persistent rhythm of two
shorts and a long, until one has forgotten all about the original key
of the piece; the C-sharps fade away to piano, then to pianissimo,
then to silence; when suddenly, in the same rhythm, three loud D’s
bring the piece emphatically back to the home key, and forthwith it
proceeds merrily upon its way. This device is surprisingly unlike Haydn
in his usual jog-trot mood; it is amazingly like the daring strokes of
his great successor. The C-sharp is drummed into us until we take it
for granted, and conceive it wholly as the dominant of F-sharp-minor;
and then by his sudden blast of D’s the composer shows us that he had
after all decided to consider it the leading-note of the home key--and
therewith, home we are!

But in spite of some striking anticipations of later effects, Haydn is
for the most part, and in the long run, a true child of his own epoch,
writing with its concern for clearness of form, its somewhat gingerly
treatment of contrast, its quaint, old-fashioned, and yet awakened
spirit. He assimilated the best capacities of music as he found them,
and by dint of his skill and perseverance, moulded them until they
issued forth in what was to all intents and purposes a new art. But
the novelty in this art was not the novelty of a new vision, a new
character, a new personal ideal; it was the novelty of a more perfect
adjustment than had yet been achieved of expressive impulses and formal
principles already widely disseminated. Haydn’s great achievement was
the development of popular types of expression into a true art by the
application to them of schemes of design, or form, which in his day
had just become possible for the first time as a result of the pioneer
work in harmonic and rhythmic organization done by his immediate
predecessors. Lacking either of these two constituents, Haydn’s art
could not have existed; and coming into being as a resultant of both,
it had qualities of its own, different from those of either one of its
factors alone. It marked, indeed, the beginning of secular music as a
mature art.

The final emphasis in any definition of Haydn’s qualities, whether
of expression or of form, depends on the point of view from which it
is made, on whether he is considered as a follower of Palestrina or
as a forerunner of Beethoven. In comparison with Palestrina he is a
modern. In common with his immediate predecessors, but more fully and
definitely than any of them, he turns away from the ecclesiastical
inspiration and the contrapuntal forms of the sixteenth century, to
establish himself solidly on the untrammeled expression of universal
human feeling, through forms based on harmonic and rhythmic principles.
He sacrifices the dignity, the peace, the detachment, of Palestrina,
in order to voice the self-consciousness, the mobile vitality, the
turbulence and struggle and ebullient life of the modern man. For
this reason, as well as because of the forms he uses, he is “the
first of secular composers,” “the father of instrumental music.” Yet
he is not free as Beethoven is free, nor is his individualism the
fierce nonconformity of the great anarch of outworn conventions and
restricting formulæ. His methods, compared with Beethoven’s, are rigid,
narrow, inelastic; the music they shaped had something of the angular
outline of all childlike art. Had it not been for their regularity,
however, Beethoven’s felicitous daring would have miscarried; without
their order as a point of departure, his “splendid experiments” would
have led, not to freedom, but to chaos. Mozart’s playful nickname of
“Papa Haydn” is more than a term of endearment; it is a condensed
philosophy. Haydn was indeed the father of instrumental composers, in
this sense: that he laid the foundation for all their performance,
and that they made the advances, in the light of which he appears
old-fashioned, only by a wise use of resources inherited from him.

[31] Haydn on C. P. E. Bach: “Those who know me well must be aware that
I owe very much to Emanuel Bach, whose works I understand and have
thoroughly studied.” C. P. E. Bach on Haydn: “He alone has thoroughly
comprehended my works, and made a proper use of them.”

[32] The numbering here refers only to the twelve great symphonies
written for Salomon.

                              CHAPTER VI

                              CHAPTER VI

Although Mozart, born twenty-four years later than Haydn, and
therefore belonging to another generation, was under heavy obligations
to his forerunner for technical resources and models of style, his
disadvantage in years was so much more than cancelled by the superior
brightness of his genius that he in his turn was able to exert a
potent influence upon the older man. The two great predecessors of
Beethoven, accordingly, can be understood only when they are considered
as subject to mutual influences, as supplementing each other through
a delicate play of action and reaction. Haydn led the way into the
_terra incognita_, did the rough work of clearing the ground, but it
was Mozart who turned the wilderness into a garden. The chief dates of
the two careers indicate concisely their interaction. Haydn was born in
1732, Mozart in 1756; yet Haydn, although he began writing symphonies
as early as 1759, when Mozart was but four years old, wrote none that
can compare with the younger man’s until 1791, or after Mozart had
written his three great symphonies of 1788. As with the symphony, so
it was with the string quartet. Haydn opened up the way, but Mozart,
outrunning him, became eventually the leader. It was a sort of hare and
tortoise race in which, to the confusion of morality, the hare won.

Both circumstances and endowment fitted Mozart, in this case, for
the rôle of hare. The son of a professional musician, who wisely
directed his early studies, and opened to him in his impressionable
years all the advantages of companionship with musicians and with
people of general cultivation, he came by good fortune into immediate
possession of all the favoring conditions that Haydn had to struggle
up to through years of poverty, neglect, and hard labor. It would be
hard to imagine more dissimilar lots in life. The contrast between the
two men thus externally induced was accentuated by their opposite
characters. Haydn, as we have seen, was an intensely human person,
full of sympathy for the ordinary and yet always appealing emotions
of common humanity, and looking at music largely as a means for their
expression. Mozart, on the contrary, was an artist pure and simple.
His genius was almost completely independent of his character, and
it was by virtue of the former that he was great. His sensitiveness
to the minutest distinctions and gradations in sound, his unerring
instinct for perfection in form, in the smallest as in the largest
instances, his wonderful power to shape a multitude of details into a
breathing organism, his Greek serenity of temper and indifference to
ranges of feeling that might perturb his art--all these things gave
him an incalculable advantage over the plodding Haydn as a master of
the purely artistic side of musical composition. They enabled him to
assimilate instantaneously all that the older man had to teach him of
design, and to become his teacher before he had done with learning from
him. Haydn showed Mozart how to do things; and in return Mozart showed
Haydn how to do them better.

Both men were clearly aware of their obligations to each other. In
the midst of the petty jealousies and the malicious efforts to stir
up ill-feeling which characterized musical Vienna in their day, they
remained warm friends and mutual admirers. Mozart dedicated his six
finest string quartets to Haydn, with the comment: “It was due from me,
for it was from Haydn that I learned how quartets should be written.”
“It was affecting,” says a contemporary observer, “to hear him speak
of the two Haydns or any other of the great masters; one would have
imagined him to be one of their enthusiastic pupils rather than the
all-powerful Mozart.” Haydn’s respect for Mozart was equally profound,
and even more creditable, in that he was older and less appreciated
by the Viennese public than the man he lost no opportunity to praise.
He often asserted that he never heard one of Mozart’s compositions
without learning something from it; and once when “Don Giovanni” was
being discussed he made a period to the argument by saying: “I cannot
decide the questions in dispute, but this I know, that Mozart is the
greatest composer in the world.” Mozart was thus much more than a mere
successor of Haydn in the usual course of musical evolution; he gave
fully as much as he received. His short though full life, moreover,
came to an end eighteen years before Haydn’s more leisurely one; so
that in a purely human as well as an artistic sense, we can look upon
him, in relation to Haydn, as a sort of brilliant younger brother.

Johann Chrysostum Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart, generally known to the
world as Wolfgang Amadeus[33] Mozart, was born at Salzburg, a small
town southwest of Vienna, in Austria-Hungary, on January 27, 1756.
His father was Leopold Mozart, a professional musician of excellent
abilities, court-composer to the Archbishop of Salzburg, and author of
a School for the Violin which in its day was known throughout Europe.
He was a devoted father, and although there has been some difference
of opinion as to his character, it is certain that he spared no pains
in the education of his son, which he considered the chief business of
his life. He has been charged with penuriousness, with narrowness and
bigotry, and with having forced his son to be a prodigy for the sake
of gain; but there is no evidence that he ever acted unconscientiously,
and the very thoroughness and almost mechanical regularity of the
training he gave Wolfgang were invaluable in laying the foundations of
his remarkable technique.

Under his father’s careful tutelage the young Wolfgang, together with
his sister Maria Anna, who was almost equally precocious, advanced
rapidly in music. When he was but three he picked out simple chords at
the piano; at four he played minuets and other short pieces; and at
five he composed them. His early compositions were carefully copied
out in a sketch-book, at first by his father and later by himself, and
dated; so that we have documentary evidence that they were actually
written by him at an almost incredibly early age. The first, dictated
when he was five years old, is a Minuet and Trio.

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE XIV.

In this childlike but well-organized piece is shown already a perfect
mastery of the simple three-part song-form which is, as we have seen,
the structural embryo of the sonata. Both minuet and trio consist
of (a) an eight-measure sentence, cadencing in the dominant, or
contrasted tonal centre, (b) a four-measure clause of contrast, and
(c) a four-measure clause echoing the last half of the first sentence,
and closing in the home-key. Thus both halves of the piece, and the
entire piece, as a whole, illustrate the fundamental principles of
musical design in a very consummate way. All this, however, Mozart
might have done simply by careful observation and imitation of methods
familiar to all contemporary composers. What is therefore even more
remarkable in such early work is the variety of detail that he manages
to introduce. In view of the fact, which we shall later find very
significant, that his skill as an artist lay largely in his command
over _variety_ of effect (while Haydn’s consisted more in the salient
unity of his composition), it is exceedingly interesting to note
that, at five years old, Mozart uses so complex a device as shifted
rhythm[34] in the manipulation of his motif. In the fifth measure of
the minuet, namely, he writes his motif on the second and third beats,
thus producing a very charming effect of cross-accentuation. It is also
noticeable that in so short a piece as this we find triplets (measures
7 and 15) and groups of sixteenth notes (in the trio), obviously
introduced for the sake of rhythmic diversity.

Even greater ingenuity, of a similar sort, is shown in a piece which he
composed in March, 1762. The theme runs like this:

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE XV.]

How many composers, whether aged six or sixty, would have spontaneously
thought of so charming an arrangement of the phrases, which we may
symbolize with the letters A B B A C C? Most minds would have traveled
the old time-honored rut, writing A B A B in something like this

                            [Music: score]
                     [Illustration: FIGURE XVI.]

But Mozart knew how to compose. Nor does his ingenuity fail him when in
the last section of the piece he wishes, while repeating the essence
of his idea, to reach the tonic instead of the dominant key. Simply
dropping out the second A-phrase, he writes:

                            [Music: score]
                     [Illustration: FIGURE XVII.]

and the trick is done. It was by a steadily broader application of
principles such as are here illustrated that he gradually became so
marvelously skilful in composition.

Concerning the extraordinary physical delicacy of the young Mozart’s
ear there are many stories, some of which are probably true. He is
said to have fainted on hearing a trumpet. According to Schachtner, an
intimate friend of the Mozarts, he was able to perceive an interval of
pitch so small as the eighth of a tone. The story is that Wolfgang was
allowed to play one day on Schachtner’s violin, which he called, on
account of its full, rich tone, “Butter-fiddle.” “Herr Schachtner,” he
announced a few days later, “your violin is half a quarter of a tone
lower than mine; that is, if it is tuned as it was when I played it
last.” The violin was brought out, and proved, Schachtner says, to be
pitched as the boy had stated. As Schachtner, trained in literature by
Jesuits, had the literary man’s instinct for effective statement, it
is necessary to discount such tales a little; but the extraordinary
delicacy of Mozart’s ear is sufficiently proved. For that matter, it
needs no proof; so keen a sense of design would have been impossible
to him had he lacked the requisite physical basis of accurate
perception and discrimination of tones.

The first twenty-five years of Mozart’s life were spent largely in
professional tours, as a piano virtuoso, with intermittent periods
at home in Salzburg devoted to study and composition. Appearing as a
boy-prodigy when he was only six years old, before he was twenty-five
he had made five extended and uniformly successful tours. He appeared
in most of the larger German and Italian cities, as well as in
Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris, and London, everywhere giving new proofs
of the quickness, elasticity, and certainty of his musical powers.
In Paris, when eight years old, he “accompanied a lady in an Italian
air without seeing the music, supplying the harmony for the passage
which was to follow from that which he had just heard. This could not
be done without some mistakes, but when the song was ended he begged
the lady to sing it again, played the accompaniment and the melody
itself with perfect correctness, and repeated it ten times, altering
the character of the accompaniment for each.”[35] “On a melody being
dictated to him, he supplied the bass and the parts without using the
clavier at all.”[36] In Rome, when fourteen years old, after hearing
Allegri’s Miserere sung in the Papal chapel by a nine-part chorus, he
went home and copied out from memory the entire work. A few mistakes
were corrected after a second hearing. Such feats as this bespeak a
mastery of the technique of pure music even more remarkable, and far
more important, than his so much talked of skill as a performer on the
piano, organ, and violin. Had music not become to him in early youth a
natural language, a second mother-tongue, he could never have learned,
in his manhood, to manipulate it with such extraordinary freedom,
ingenuity, and power.

In the intervals of his travels, Mozart had to spend his time in
Salzburg, a town almost intolerably uncongenial. It was a dull,
provincial place, the butt of innumerable sarcasms. There was a saying:
“He who comes to Salzburg becomes in the first year stupid, in the
second idiotic, and in the third a true Salzburger;” and Mozart, in
whom taste and experience wrought together to make provincialism
odious, was never tired of telling of a Salzburgian who complained
that he could not judge Paris satisfactorily, “as the houses were too
high and shut off the horizon.” “I detest Salzburg and everything that
is born in it,” he wrote; “the tone and the manners of the people are
utterly insupportable.” Such a place would have been distasteful enough
to the gay and highly social temperament of Mozart even had he had
no responsibilities there; but it was his position of music-director
to the Archbishop of Salzburg, with the dependence it involved, that
finally exhausted his patience. Hieronymus, who became Archbishop in
1772, was a man famed for his churlishness and arrogant, bullying ways.
He made his poor music-director’s life a burden; he treated him as a
hireling, made him eat with the servants, and called him contemptuous
names, such as “Fex,” “Lump,” “Lausbube.” Mozart, driven to
desperation, finally applied for his discharge. Receiving no attention,
he went in person to press the matter, and was then actually thrown
from the Archbishop’s ante-room by a petty official. This insult marked
the end of his galling relation with his patron. From 1781 until his
death he lived in Vienna, picking up a scanty livelihood by teaching
and giving concerts.

His situation, after this open rupture with the system of patronage
which was the only solid dependence of the eighteenth-century composer,
was most precarious. The Viennese public was notoriously fickle towards
even the most popular pianists and teachers, while the number of
educated people who could be depended upon to buy serious compositions
was small, and publishers were consequently unable to pay composers
so well as they could in Beethoven’s day. To make matters worse,
Mozart was careless in money affairs, luxurious in his tastes, and
so weakly amiable that he would at any time give a friend his last
kreutzer. We cannot, then, be surprised that when Leopold Mozart, who
was naturally cautious, conservative, and worldly, heard that his
son had taken lodgings with a certain Madame Weber, in Vienna, and
fallen in love with her daughter Constanze, he summarily commanded
him to break off the affair. Mozart respectfully but firmly refused
to deprive Constanze, whose position in the house of her shiftless
and half-drunken mother had aroused his pity, of the benefit of his
friendship; and as his father had foreseen, this friendship rapidly
deepened into love.

Leopold Mozart for a long time stubbornly withheld his consent to the
marriage; but at last, overborne by his son’s persistence and by the
intercession of friends, he gave the pair a reluctant blessing. They
were married August 4, 1782. The sequel proved that both father and
son were justified in their opinions. The Mozart ménage was truly most
erratic. Husband and wife were equally improvident and unmethodical.
They were always poor, frequently in actual want. On the other hand,
as Wolfgang had hoped, Constanze’s virtues as a comrade compensated
for her deficiencies as a housekeeper, and their congeniality of
temperament made them contented in the midst of disorder, poverty, and
care. There is a story that a friend, calling on them one cold winter
morning, found them waltzing together, and was told that, as they had
no fuel, they were keeping warm in that way. The incident is typical of
their existence--irresponsible, haphazard, and yet on the whole happy.

The remaining events of Mozart’s short life, from his marriage
in 1782 to his death in 1791, were all artistic events--works
composed--standing out luminous against a dark background of poverty,
struggle, and pain. His three great operas were written during this
time. “The Marriage of Figaro” was first produced at Vienna in 1786;
“Don Giovanni” at Prague, in 1787; and “The Magic Flute” at Vienna,
in the year of Mozart’s death. In the realm of absolute music Mozart
was equally productive all through this period. The six great string
quartets dedicated to Haydn date from 1782, 1783, and 1784. The three
quartets written for Frederick William II of Prussia were composed in
the spring of 1790. The four greatest string quintets were written
in 1787, 1790, and 1791. Finally, the three finest and maturest
symphonies, works which will endure as long as music does, were all
written within two months in the summer of 1788. His last work was the
famous Requiem, begun in July, 1791. His strong constitution was now
beginning to give way under the long strain of poverty and unceasing
mental labor, and he gradually became haunted by the idea that he was
writing this Requiem for himself. He grew morbid and gloomy, but
continued to work with feverish energy. The last evening of his life
he looked at his unfinished score with tears in his eyes, saying, “Did
I not say I was writing the Requiem for myself?” And later, when he
became delirious, he was still busy with the Requiem, imagining it
played, and blowing out his cheeks to imitate the trumpets. He died
quietly on the evening of December 5, 1791, having accomplished an
enduring work in thirty-five laborious, brilliant, and painful years.

This story of Mozart’s last ten years is undoubtedly one of the
strangest pages of musical biography. The contrast between his external
and his internal life is so violent, so startling, that we rub our eyes
involuntarily, wondering if the facts as we know them can be true. And
indeed we can believe in them only when we assume that his mind was
independent of its environment to a degree uncommon even with genius.
Mozart seems to have been a dual person, to have lived two lives at
once; outwardly hounded by creditors, worn with the most prostrating
and debasing anxiety, forgetting his cares only in a dissipation that
was as squalid as they, he was all the time pursuing his artistic
ideals with the highest success, and with the serenity of complete
mastership. In his nature it was not even a step from the ridiculous to
the sublime--the two extremes coexisted and interlaced.

The case of Mozart is in fact an eloquent human proof of the truth of
Schopenhauer’s theory that pure music is a world by itself, parallel
with the actual world of ordinary experience but independent of it. The
plastic artist works in materials familiar to his ordinary experience;
he puts in his pictures or statues the men, women, animals, trees,
and other physical objects that he sees about him daily. Not so the
musician. He deals with ideas that have no existence outside of his
art; and he therefore constantly keeps up in his mind two independent
trains of thought, coexistent but unrelated. That Mozart, whose purely
musical genius was perhaps the brightest and most complete that ever
existed, habitually lived this double mental life, there are many
evidences. His sister-in-law described him as follows: “He was always
good-humored, but thoughtful even in his best moods, looking one
straight in the face, and always speaking with reflection, whether
the talk was grave or gay; and yet he seemed always to be carrying on
a deeper train of thought. Even when he was washing his hands in the
morning, he never stood still, but walked up and down the room humming,
and buried in thought. At table he would often twist up a corner of the
table-cloth, and rub his upper lip with it, without appearing in the
least to know what he was doing, and he sometimes made extraordinary
grimaces with his mouth. His hands and feet were in continual motion,
and he was always strumming on something--his hat, his watch-fob, the
table, the chairs, as if they were the clavier.” Other contemporaries
have recorded that he carried on this musical thought while having
his hair dressed, while bowling or playing billiards, while talking
or joking, and even, wonderful to say, while listening to other
music that did not especially interest him. “The greater industry of
his later years,” said his wife, “was merely apparent, because he
wrote down more. He was always working in his head, his mind was in
constant motion, and one may say that he never ceased composing.”
Lange, his brother-in-law, observed that “when he was engaged on his
most important works he took more than his usual share in any light
or jesting talk that was going on.” When his wife was confined of her
first child he was working on the second of the quartets dedicated to
Haydn; he brought his table to her room, and frequently rose to cheer
or comfort her in her pain, without apparently interrupting his train
of thought. On the evening before the day set for the first performance
of “Don Giovanni,” the overture was still unwritten, though Mozart
doubtless had it perfectly clear in his mind. He sat up most of the
night copying it out, his wife meantime plying him with punch and with
stories to keep him awake; and by seven in the morning it was complete.
When he sends his sister a prelude and fugue he apologizes for the
prelude being copied after the fugue instead of before it. “The reason
was,” he adds, “that I had already composed the fugue, and wrote it
down while I was thinking out the prelude.”

It is necessary to bear constantly in mind this independence, activity,
and self-sufficiency of Mozart’s musical thought-processes, if we would
at all understand the paradox of his personality. Mozart the man, and
Mozart the musician, were two beings. The man, when all is said, and
in spite of many endearing traits, was disappointingly commonplace.
Although he was a good linguist, and fond, as a boy, of mathematics,
he was intellectually undistinguished. His letters are rather
conventional, he kept no journal, he read little, and though he said a
sharp or clever thing now and then his conversation was not remarkable.
Emotionally he was also not unusual. Amiable, generous, and honorable,
he was rather lacking in will-power, rather immature and unformed.

His mental attitude and his conduct in the world were curiously
childlike. He was even unable to care for his own person; his wife
attended to his clothes and cut up his meat at table. In money
matters he was not a child, but a baby. Only six months after his
marriage he began a long course of borrowing, in small sums, from
friends and relatives, and he became later a familiar figure to the
Viennese pawnbrokers and usurers. To make matters worse, he was so
kind-hearted that he could not endure the sight of suffering when he
had money to relieve it. The result was that he gave away freely what
he had borrowed with difficulty, and sunk daily deeper in the morass
of hopeless debt. His dealings with Albert Stadler, an excellent
clarinetist and a wholly unreliable man, will serve as a specimen of
his guilelessness. Being asked by Stadler for a loan of fifty ducats,
he gave him instead two valuable watches to place in pawn, on the
understanding that he should redeem them in due time. Of course Stadler
did nothing about it; whereupon Mozart gave him the fifty ducats,
together with interest, so that he might redeem the watches. Stadler
kept the money. And what is more remarkable, Mozart seems to have
cordially forgiven him, and later to have made him further loans.

Mozart’s high spirits were unquenchable. A tireless jester, a
graceful dancer, a good hand at billiards, clever as an impromptu
poet of doggerel verses and as a deviser of practical jokes, he
found in society the relaxation he needed from the severe mental
concentration of composing; and there is no doubt that he gave himself
up to conviviality and to frivolous amours more than would to-day be
considered becoming. His fondness for wine and punch were generally
known, and he himself confessed to his wife that he was not always
faithful to her. But it must be remembered that in pleasure-loving
Vienna, in the eighteenth century, manners were lax, and that Mozart,
although by his very sensitiveness peculiarly subject to temptation,
was never grossly or habitually vicious. His failings were those of
a high-spirited, vivacious, ardent temperament, combined with an
amiable, but not a profound character. There was no depravity in him,
but there was at the same time little moral or mental elevation. His
humor, which bubbled forth unceasingly, was of the flavor of the comic
papers and of tavern horse-play. He used to make his friend Leutgeb, a
horn-player, submit to mock penances as the price of concertos for his
instrument. Once the penalty was to collect all the orchestral parts
from the floor, where Mozart threw them as they were copied; another
time it was to sit behind the stove until the piece was written. The
score of one of these concertos bears the inscription: “Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart takes pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox, and simpleton, at
Vienna, March 27, 1783.” Another is written in black, red, blue, and
green ink. Mozart was fond of writing, to original doggerel words,
for performance by gatherings of his friends, comic canons, in which
the curious duality of his nature is strikingly illustrated. The words
were colloquial, full of slang, and often coarse; the music, written in
one of the most severe of contrapuntal forms, was always gracious and
consummately wrought as only Mozart knew how to make it. His musical
humor reaches its acme in the “Musikalische Spass,” or, as he himself
called it, the “Peasants’ Symphony,” for string quartet and two horns.
This is nothing less than a parody of the kind of work that Mozart was
constantly producing in all seriousness--a Divertimento in regular
form, but supposed to be written by a tyro and played by amateurs. The
horns come in pompously with wrong notes; the first violin, ascending
a long scale, goes half a tone too high; at the end, in the midst of
a fanfare in F-major by the horns, the string instruments strike in
each in a different key. “The attempt after thematic elaboration,”
says Jahn, “is very ludicrous; it is as though the composer had heard
of such a thing, and strove to imitate it in a few phrases, greatly to
his own satisfaction. The art is most remarkable whereby the pretended
ignorance never becomes wearisome, and the audience is kept in suspense

Thus at every turn are we impressed with that wondrous inspiration and
skill as an artist which were so curiously combined in Mozart with
lack of distinction as a man. Even Haydn, for all his normality and
usualness of emotion, had a certain human quaintness and sweetness
for which we miss any analogue in Mozart. Yet when we shift the point
of view, and study the artists rather than the men, it is Mozart who
stands out as the more interesting figure. As we saw in the last
chapter, Haydn’s power as an artist depended chiefly on the trenchancy
and practical grasp of his mind, by which he was enabled to crystallize
into forms of salient unity the motifs, phrases, and sections of his
music. System is the key-note of his work; he was an organizer, both
by natural faculty, and in obedience to the needs of his time. And he
had the defects of his merits, in a certain monotony, angularity, and
cut-and-dried precision. Mozart, on the contrary, even in his earliest
pieces, already cited, showed a more flexible artistic technique; and
beginning where Haydn left off, he was able to carry the same sort of
organization into a higher stage, combining with the unity of the
whole a much greater diversity in the parts. Variety is as notable in
Mozart’s work as unity in Haydn’s. His art is more subtle, and not a
whit less solid.

In the first place as regards the themes themselves, Mozart’s are
longer and more complex than Haydn’s. It is hard to imagine Haydn
disposing his phrases with the ingenuity and mental grasp shown by the
melody in Figure XV., written when Mozart was only six years old. The
characteristic of this melody is that the phrases are not immediately
repeated, thereby balancing in the most obvious way, but alternated
with apparent whimsicality, which, however, eventually issues in order.
This is even more conspicuously shown by the following theme from
Mozart’s great G-minor Quintet:

                            [Music: score]
                     [Illustration: FIGURE XVIII.]

Here a broad and perfectly poised melody is evolved from
two simple motifs by a deftly managed accretion. The effect reminds one
of Beethoven; Haydn could scarcely have conceived it.

In harmony Mozart is more venturesome than his predecessor. His
harmonic structure, while no less clear than Haydn’s, is less bald,
less obvious. In the fifth of the quartets dedicated to Haydn, for
example, in A-major, there is an early and pronounced modulation
to C-major; after which the second theme comes in regularly in the
dominant key. The effect of this insistence on a comparatively
distant key is to blur slightly the contour of the form, and to
prevent any possible sense of triteness. In the Finale of the third
quartet, Mozart, after ending his first part strongly in C-major,
jumps suddenly, quite without warning, to an emphatic chord of D-flat
major,--a device by which we are irresistibly reminded of the complete
shifts of tonality at the beginning of the coda of the first movement
of the “Eroica” Symphony. Perhaps the most brilliant stroke of genius
in harmonic conception that Mozart ever made, however, is the famous
passage introducing the C-major Quartet. It runs as follows:

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE XIX.

It was to passages of this kind (though even Mozart could not write
many equalling it in supernal beauty and mystery of effect) that he
owed his reputation for heterodoxy and radicalism among the pedants of
the time. A musical connoisseur of Vienna is said to have torn up the
instrumental parts of these quartets in his anger at finding that “the
discords played by the musicians were really in the parts”; the parts
were also returned from Italy as being “full of printer’s errors”;
and even so good a musician as Fétis undertook to “correct” this very
Introduction. Thus to scandalize the conservative is ever the effect of
the daring, novel, and unprecedented conceptions of genius.

Mozart’s rhythms, again, are much more various than Haydn’s. The
characteristic figures of his themes are apt to be strongly contrasted,
whereas Haydn’s generally bear a family resemblance to one another.
Take, for example, the themes of the first movement of Mozart’s String
Quintet in G-minor. The first is a simple series of eighth-notes:

                            [Music: score]

The second is more resilient and individual:

                            [Music: score]

The third, or conclusion-passage, is of a most strongly marked

                            [Music: score]

Not only do these figures contrast well as they appear successively,
but Mozart knows how to combine them in a very intricate web. When the
third one enters in the 'cello, the second violin and viola toss back
and forth the first, the second viola plays a slow sustaining part in
quarter and half-notes, and the first violin has a racing counterpoint
in sixteenth-notes. All this means life, variety, interest. And as for
the question of diversity in phrase-structure, it is only necessary
to compare the Minuet of Mozart’s G-minor Symphony, with its odd
three-measure phrases and its wide climactic stretches of melody, with
the square-cut Minuet of Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, to gain a vivid
idea of the younger composer’s superiority in rhythmic life.

In the general construction of his works, moreover, Mozart is more
skillful than Haydn. Haydn’s transitions from theme to theme are
frequently conventional to a degree--passages of scales or arpeggios
unrelated to the thematic material, and therefore mechanical in effect.
Mozart, whose melodic fecundity was limitless, is much more apt to
write new, subsidiary melodies for his transitions; and though such
passages lacked the fine economy of Beethoven’s carefully wrought
transitions, founded on the themes themselves, yet they were far more
vital than Haydn’s empty formulas. When it came to the working out
of the themes, in the “development section” of the sonata, Mozart
again had Haydn at a disadvantage, owing to his greater contrapuntal
technique, the result of early study, and to the superior native logic
of his mind. Haydn’s development sections are apt to sound perfunctory;
worked out more by rule of thumb than by spontaneous fancy, they hold
together imperfectly, and seem fragmentary and artificial. Mozart’s are
more fluent, more sequacious, and more inevitable. Mozart is thus in
all respects a more subtle artist than Haydn.

In expression, the prevailing quality of Mozart’s work is a clear
serenity, an indescribable joyfulness and starry beauty, the natural
result of his artistic perfection. In spite of a deep and mordant
passion that he undoubtedly voices at times, as in the G-minor Quintet
and in portions of the quartets and the G-minor Symphony, in spite of
the breadth and heroism of such movements as the Andante of the E-flat
Quartet and the Finale of the Jupiter Symphony, and in spite of the
mystic vagueness and aspiration of that marvellous Introduction to the
C-major Quartet, which stamps him as an idealist, at least _in posse_,
his general tone is pagan, unsophisticated, naïve. He not only lacks
the self-consciousness, the tragic intensity, and the fierce, virile
logic of Beethoven; he lacks the genial, peasant humanity of Haydn.
There is an aloofness, a detachment, a rarefied purity, about his
music, that makes it difficult to describe in terms of human feeling.
It has the irresponsible perfection, the untarnished lustre, not to be
dimmed by human tears, of the best Greek art.

Every attempt that has been made to describe in words the differences
between the music of Mozart and that of his great successor, Beethoven,
has necessarily failed. The matter is too subtle for literary
description. Yet Henry Frédéric Amiel, with his usual marvelous
perceptiveness, wrote in his journal, after hearing quartets by the two
masters, a passage that must be quoted here. It at least suggests their
characteristics with an unerring insight:

“Mozart--,” writes Amiel, “grace, liberty, certainty, freedom, and
precision of style,--an exquisite and aristocratic beauty,--serenity
of soul,--the health and talent of the master, both on a level with
his genius; Beethoven, more pathetic, more passionate, more torn with
feeling, more intricate, more profound, less perfect, more the slave
of his genius, more carried away by his fancy or his passion, more
moving and more sublime than Mozart. Mozart refreshes you, like the
‘Dialogues’ of Plato; he respects you, reveals to you your strength,
gives you freedom and balance. Beethoven seizes upon you; he is more
tragic and oratorical, while Mozart is more disinterested and poetical.
Mozart is more Greek, and Beethoven more Christian. One is serene, the
other serious. The first is stronger than destiny, because he takes
life less profoundly; the second is less strong, because he has dared
to measure himself against deeper sorrows. His talent is not always
equal to his genius, and pathos is his dominant feature, as perfection
is that of Mozart. In Mozart the balance of the whole is perfect, and
art triumphs. In Beethoven feeling governs everything, and emotion
troubles his art in proportion as it deepens it.”

While the contrast here so well brought out is perhaps slightly
over-stated, it is certain that between Mozart and Beethoven comes
the gap between the serene childhood and the serious and thoroughly
awakened maturity of secular music. Even in the earliest works of
Beethoven, obviously modelled as they are in the forms and idioms made
common property by his forerunners, there is a virility, a profundity,
an intensity of spiritual ardor, for which we look in vain in Haydn and
Mozart. In him the idealism which with them was instinctive arrives at
self-consciousness. He is founded securely upon them, but he carries
music to higher issues than it was in their happier and simpler natures
to imagine. In leaving Mozart, therefore, we leave the preparatory
stage of the art of pure music, to pass into the stage in which it
realized its promises and accomplished its mission.

[33] Amadeus is the Latin form of the Greek name Theophilus. The German
form, Gottlieb, was also sometimes used.

[34] See page 147.

[35] Jahn’s Life of Mozart, English trans., I., 37.

[36] Jahn’s Life of Mozart, English trans., I., 37.

                              CHAPTER VII

                              CHAPTER VII

One of the most fascinating, and at the same time, the most baffling
problem of the biographer, is to determine just what proportion of
the characteristics of a great man are inherited from his ancestors,
and what proportion take their origin in himself as an individual,
to what degree his personality is merely a resultant or résumé of
various qualities converging from many points into a fresh focus, and
to what degree it is a unique creation, without traceable precedents
or ascertainable causes. It is always possible to concoct a given
character, however striking or unusual, by a judicious selection
of ancestral traits; if we will but search far enough back, any
man’s ancestors will make up quite an adequate representation of
the entire human race, so that each of his qualities need only be
observed, noted, and traced to the particular great-grandfather or
great-great-grandmother who happened to manifest it previously; and
we can thus cleverly explain and label the oddest individual. The
real difficulty is to explain how he happened to inherit just these
qualities and no others, why he is, in a word, just this self instead
of some other self, equally derivable but totally different. This
difficulty has brought the whole subject of heredity into disfavor
with some students; and it is certain that in the present state of our
knowledge the study of the individual must precede and guide the study
of his origins. Nevertheless, there are cases in which the essential
qualities are so unmistakably inherited that the most illuminating way
to approach an individual is through a study of his ancestors.

Such a case is Beethoven’s. A French writer, M. Teodor de Wyzewa,
in a book called “Beethoven et Wagner,” has made so masterly, so
discriminating an analysis of Beethoven’s parents and grandparents,
that no one can read it without a strong conviction of the important
part played by heredity in the formation of this extraordinarily
unique, peculiar, and well-defined character. No man ever existed who
was more intensely individual than Beethoven; yet many of the traits
which in him were so marvelously blended, and which in the blending
produced so novel a flavor, were undoubtedly derived from earlier, and
quite undistinguished, members of his family.

Beethoven’s grandfather, Ludwig van Beethoven, born at Antwerp in
1712, was of an old Flemish family of marked national character.
He early removed to Bonn, the seat of the Elector of Cologne, as a
court-musician, and in 1761 became court music-director, a position
which he held with zeal and ability until his death in 1773. “He was,”
says M. de Wyzewa, “a man of middle stature, sinewy and thick-set,
with strongly-marked features, clear eyes, and an extreme vivacity of
manner. Great energy and a high sense of duty were combined, in him,
with a practical good sense and a dignity of demeanor that earned for
him, in the city he had entered poor and unknown, universal respect.
His musical knowledge and ability were considerable; and although he
was not an original composer, he had frequently to make arrangements
of music for performance by his choir. He was a man of strong family
and patriotic sentiment, and established in Bonn quite a colony of
Flemish, his brother and cousins.”

Beethoven’s grandmother, on the other hand born Maria-Josepha Poll,
developed early in her married life a passion for drink which finally
obliged her husband to send her to a convent where she remained,
without contact with the family, until her death. It is probable that
this unfortunate tendency was but a symptom of morbid weakness of the
nervous system, beyond the control of her will--a fact, as we shall
see, interesting in its possible bearing or the interpretation of her
grandson’s idiosyncrasies.

In 1740 was born to this ill-assorted couple a son, Johann van
Beethoven, the father of the composer. M. de Wyzewa treats him
summarily: “His character, like his intelligence can be described in
one word--he was a perfect nullity”; adding, however, that he was not
a bad man, as some of the anecdotes regarding his conduct toward his
son seem to indicate:--“He was merely idle, common, and foolish.” For
the rest, he was a tenor singer in the court chapel, and he passed his
leisure in taverns and billiard-rooms.

Beethoven’s mother was a woman of tender sensibilities and affections,
condemned to a life of unhappiness by the worthless character of her
husband. Her whole life was devoted to the education of her son Ludwig,
who wrote of her: “She has been to me a good and loving mother, and my
best friend.” She was of delicate health, and died of consumption when
Beethoven was but seventeen.

This was the curiously assorted set of ancestors from which Beethoven
seems to have drawn his more prominent traits. If, to begin with, we
eliminate the father, who, as M. de Wyzewa remarks, was an “absolute
nullity,” and “merely the intermediary between his son and his father,
the Flemish music-director,” we shall find that from the latter,
his grandfather, Beethoven derived the foundation of his sturdy,
self-respecting, and independent moral character, that from his mother
he got the emotional sensibility that was so oddly mingled with it,
and that from his afflicted grandmother, Maria-Josepha Poll, he
inherited a weakness of the nervous system, an irritability and morbid
sensitiveness, that gave to his intense individualism a tinge of the
eccentric and the pathological. Without doubt the most important
factor in this heredity was that which came from the grandfather; and
although M. de Wyzewa is perhaps led by his racial sympathies to assign
an undue importance to this Flemish element, yet what he has to say
of it is most suggestive. Pointing out the obvious fact that purely
German composers, as well as poets and painters, are naturally disposed
to vagueness, sentimentality, and cloudy symbolism, he remarks that
nothing of the sort appears in Beethoven, “whose effort was constantly
toward the most precise and positive expression”; that he eliminated
all the artifices of mere ornament, in the interests of “a rigorous
presentation of infinitely graduated emotions”; and that he “progressed
steadily toward simplification of means combined with complication
of effect.” He shows how Beethoven owed to his Flemish blood, in the
first place, his remarkable accuracy and delicacy of sensation; in the
second place, his wisdom and solid common sense, his “_esprit lucide,
raisonable, marchant toujours droit aux choses necessaires_”; in the
third place, his largeness of nature, grandeur of imagination, robust
sanity, and heroic joy, justly likened to similar qualities in Rubens;
and finally, his moral earnestness, that “energy of soul which in his
youth sustained him in the midst of miseries and disappointments of all
sorts, and which later enabled him to persist in his work in spite of
sickness, neglect, and poverty.”

Of Beethoven’s mother M. de Wyzewa says, “Poor Marie-Madeleine, with
her pale complexion and her blonde hair, was not in vain a woman
‘_souffrante et sensible_,’ since from her came her son’s faculty of
living in the emotions, of seeing all the world colored with sentiment
and passion.” This emotional tendency, the writer thinks, the Flemish
blood could not have given; and “it was to the unusual union of this
profound German sensibility with the Flemish accuracy and keenness of
mind that Beethoven owed his power to delineate with extraordinary
precision the most intimate and tender sentiments.” With a final
suggestion, tentatively advanced, that the weaknesses of Beethoven’s
character, his changeable humor, his sudden fits of temper, his
unaccountable alternations of gaiety and discouragement, may have been
due to a nervous malady traceable to the grandmother, Maria-Josepha
Poll, this masterly study of Beethoven’s antecedents, from which,
whether we entirely accept its conclusions or not, we cannot fail to
gain illumination, comes to a close.[37]

Ludwig van Beethoven, the second of seven children of Johann and
Maria-Magdalena Beethoven, was born at Bonn on the Rhine, on
December 16 or 17, 1770. Inheriting the musical talent of his father
and grandfather, he early showed so much ability that his father,
stimulated by the stories of the wondrous precocity of Mozart,
decided to make him into a boy prodigy. Ludwig was put hard at work,
at the age of four, learning to play the piano, the violin, and the
organ, and to compose; and though he had by no means the facility of
Mozart, he progressed so well that at thirteen he was made “cembalist”
[accompanist] in the court band of the Elector of Cologne, whose seat
was at that time in Bonn. The first public mention of Beethoven occurs
in an article entitled “An Account of the Elector of Cologne’s Chapel
at Bonn,” written in 1783, and runs as follows:

“Ludwig van Beethoven is a promising boy of eleven. [Johann van
Beethoven had evidently trimmed his son’s age to suit his own idea of
what a self-respecting prodigy’s should be.] He plays the piano with
fluency and force, reads well at sight, and has mastered the greater
part of Sebastian Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavichord.’ Any one acquainted
with this collection of Preludes and Fugues in every key will
understand what this means. His teacher has given him instruction in
Thorough Bass, and is now practicing him in composition. This youthful
genius deserves assistance, that he may be enabled to travel; if he
continues as he has begun, he will certainly become a second Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart.”

The Elector of Cologne seems to have acted upon the suggestion of the
last sentence. In 1786 he sent Beethoven for a short visit to Vienna,
the Mecca of all musicians. Here he had the privilege of playing
before the great Mozart himself, who, becoming deeply interested in
his masterly improvisation, turned to the company with the remark:
“Look after him. He will some day make a great name in the world.”
The visit so auspiciously begun was unfortunately cut short by the
death of Beethoven’s mother, and he returned to Bonn to assume the
responsibilities of his inefficient father in caring for his brothers
and sisters. He now entered on a depressing and long-continued drudgery
of teaching, which he seems to have endured courageously. His sterling
character, as well as his genius, began to attract the attention of
many of the wealthy nobles of Bonn, patrons of art; so that difficult
as was this period of his life, it laid a solid foundation for his
subsequent fortunes.

Ludwig Nohl, in his “Beethoven Depicted by His Contemporaries,” gives
an interesting sketch of Beethoven as he appeared at about this time to
a young lady, afterwards Frau von Barnhard, who met him at the musical
soirées of Prince Lichnowsky and Herr von Klüpfell. “Beethoven,”
says Nohl, “thought so highly of the talents of this young girl that
for several years he sent her regularly a copy of his new pianoforte
compositions, as soon as they were printed. Unfortunately not one of
the friendly or joking little letters, with which he accompanied his
gifts, has been preserved: so many handsome Russian officers frequented
Herr Klüpfell’s that the ugly Beethoven made no impression on the young

“Herr Klüpfell was very musical, and Beethoven went a great deal to
his house, and often played the piano for hours, but always ‘without
notes.’ To do this was then thought marvelous, and delighted every one.
One day a well-known composer played one of his new compositions. When
he began, Beethoven was sitting on the sofa; but he soon began to walk
about, turn over music at the piano, and not to pay the least attention
to the performance. Herr Klüpfell was annoyed, and commissioned a
friend to tell him that his conduct was unbecoming, that a young and
unknown man ought to show respect towards a senior composer of merit.
From that moment Beethoven never set foot in Klüpfell’s house.

“Frau von Barnhard has a lively recollection of the young man’s wayward
peculiarities. She says: ‘When he visited us, he generally put his head
in at the door before entering, to see if there were anyone present
he did not like. He was short and insignificant-looking, with a red
face covered with pock marks. His hair was quite dark. His dress
was very common, quite a contrast to the elegant attire customary
in those days, especially in our circles. I remember quite well how
Haydn and Salieri used to sit on the sofa at one side of the little
music-room, both most carefully attired in the former mode with wigs,
shoes, and silk stockings, while Beethoven came negligently dressed
in the freer fashion of the Upper Rhine. Haydn and Salieri were then
famous, while Beethoven excited no interest. He spoke with a strong
provincial accent; his manner of expression was slightly vulgar; his
general bearing showed no signs of culture, and his behaviour was very
unmannerly. He was proud, and I have known him refuse to play, even
when Countess Thun, Prince Lichnowsky’s mother, a very eccentric woman,
had fallen on her knees before him as he lay on the sofa, to beg him

This passage gives us a glimpse of the Vienna of the early nineteenth
century, the Vienna of Beethoven’s young manhood; and it is interesting
to note how favorable an environment, on the whole, this capital of the
musical world was for the great composer. If the middle classes were
not yet sufficiently educated in music to support many public concerts,
there was at least among the aristocracy, who were rich, hospitable,
and music-loving, plenty of generous patronage for rising composers.
Many of the noble families maintained private orchestras, and paid
liberally for new compositions. Haydn, as we have seen, spent most of
his life in the service of the Esterhazys, and Mozart, although without
a regular patron after his rupture with the Archbishop of Salzburg,
wrote many of his works for royal or noble amateurs. Beethoven was even
more generously supported. His removal from Bonn to Vienna, in 1792,
was made at the expense of the Elector of Cologne; and after he was
once settled there he received constant help from Rudolph, Archduke of
Austria, from Princes Lobkowitz, Lichnowsky, and Kinsky, and from many
others. Moreover, profiting much by Haydn’s and Mozart’s pioneer work
in popularizing the higher forms of secular music, he was able to sell
all his works to publishers at good prices, thereby supplementing his
income from patrons. By 1800 his worldly situation was secure; in that
year he wrote to a friend: “Lichnowsky last year settled 600 florins
on me, which, together with the good sale of my works, enables me to
live free from care as to my maintenance. All that I now write I can
dispose of five times over, and be well paid into the bargain.”

There were, however, in Beethoven’s situation, trying elements which
gravely harassed and handicapped him. In the first place, he was as
unfortunate in his family as he was fortunate in his friends. In his
case, “the closest kin were most unkind.” Even after the death of his
shiftless and drunken father, in 1792, there were still two brothers,
Carl and Johann, who remained throughout his life his evil geniuses.
Almost incredible is their indifference to him, their utter failure
to appreciate his noble nature. When he was prosperous they borrowed
money from him, and even stole jewelry; when he was poor and neglected
they refused him the slightest favors. Carl left to him the care of
his worthless son, who proved the greatest trial of his life. Johann,
by withholding his closed carriage for a necessary winter journey,
directly contributed to the illness that ended in his death. This
utter lack of common sympathy had the most poisonous effect on his
sensitive, affectionate nature. It saddened, depressed, and embittered

A second cruel disadvantage was the malady of deafness which began
to afflict Beethoven in 1798, and by the end of 1801 became serious.
At first there was merely buzzing and singing in the ears; then came
insensibility to tones of high pitch, such as the higher register of
the flute and the overtones in human speech; and finally such a serious
deafness that he had to give up playing in public and conducting,
and to carry on conversation by means of an ear-trumpet or paper and
pencil. Formidable to his musical work as was such an impediment,
it was even more baneful in its effect on his relations with men,
and so upon his disposition. As far as his work was concerned, it
had its compensations, in so far as it increased his isolation, his
concentration on the marvelously complex and subtle involutions of
his musical ideas. It insulated him from distractions, and freed him
to explore with single mind the labyrinths of his imagination. But
on his social and emotional life deafness wrought sad havoc--all the
sadder because the tendencies it reinforced were already too strong in
Beethoven’s intense and proud nature.

Beethoven had, in a peculiar degree, both the merits and the defects of
the individualist. Not even Thoreau was more resolved to follow only
the dictates of his own genius, to find his code of action within, in
the impulses of his own heart and mind, rather than without, in the
conventions, habits, and customs which guide the ordinary man. Like
all idealists, he believed in the beauty and rightness of the whole
world of human feeling, revealed to him by his naïve consciousness,
not trimmed to suit prejudice or partial views of what is proper and
admissible. Gifted with an emotional nature of rare richness and
intensity, and with an intellect capable of dealing directly with
experience on its own account, he lived the life and thought the
thoughts that seemed good to him, quite indifferent to accepted views
which happened to run counter. Thus his sincerity necessarily led him
into an unconventionality, an indifference to established ways of
acting, feeling, and thinking, which, when circumstances pushed him
still further away from the common human life, easily passed over into
morbid eccentricity.

His unconventionality appears in all his actions and opinions, from
the most trivial to the most momentous. Take, for instance, to begin
with, the matter of personal appearance, dress, and demeanor. What
an altogether unusual man it was that Carl Czerny, as a boy of ten,
in 1801, was taken to visit! “We mounted,” says Czerny, “five or
six stories high to Beethoven’s apartment, and were announced by a
rather dirty-looking servant. In a very desolate room, with papers and
articles of dress strewn in all directions, bare walls, a few chests,
hardly a chair except the ricketty one standing by the piano, there
was a party of six or eight people. Beethoven was dressed in a jacket
and trousers of long, dark goat’s hair, which at once reminded me of
the description of Robinson Crusoe I had just been reading. He had a
shock of jet black hair, (cut _à la Titus_), standing straight upright.
A beard of several days’ growth made his naturally dark face still
blacker. I noticed also, with a child’s quick observation, that he had
cotton wool, which seemed to have been dipped in some yellow fluid,
in both ears. His hands were covered with hair, and the fingers very
broad, especially at the tips.” The oddity in dress observed by Czerny
was habitual with Beethoven. “In the summer of 1813,” says Schindler,
“he had neither a decent coat nor a whole shirt.” His habit of dabbling
his hands in water, while following out a musical thought, until he was
thoroughly wet, cannot have improved his clothes. Nor did his carriage
set them off: he was extremely awkward with his body--could not dance
in time, and generally cut himself when he shaved, which, however, he
did infrequently.

Very marked was his unconventionality in social relations. So
profound was his sense of personal worth and of the fatuity of
arbitrary class-distinctions that no aristocrat ever regarded his
birth and breeding, no plutocrat ever regarded his wealth, with more
intense pride than Beethoven felt in his democratic independence
and self-sufficiency. That was a characteristic answer he made the
court, in one of his numerous lawsuits, when asked if the “van” in
his name indicated nobility. “_My_ nobility,” he said, “is here and
here”--pointing to his head and heart. When he was offered a Prussian
order, as a recognition of his artistic achievements, he preferred
a payment of fifty ducats, and took the opportunity to express his
contempt for some people’s “longing and snapping after ribands.” When
his brother Johann, a stupid but prosperous worldling, sent him a New
Year’s card signed “Johann van Beethoven, Land-owner,” he returned
it with the added inscription: “Ludwig van Beethoven, Brain-owner.”
But this wholesome self-respect, the result of a faith in himself and
a discrimination between essences and accidents too rare among men,
sometimes became exaggerated by passion into an impatient, egotistical
pride less pleasant to note. When the court just mentioned, for
example, refused, on the ground of his being a commoner, to hear his
case, he was so angry that he threatened to leave the country--a
reaction as childish as it was futile. On receiving, late in life, an
honorary diploma from the Society of Friends of Music in the Austrian
Empire, his impulse was to return it, because he had not been earlier
recognized. Nor was he inclined to forgive readily a fancied slight
to his dignity; he was always getting embroiled with his friends on
account of some insult he read into their conduct. He was indeed too
often the slave, instead of the master, of his own sensitiveness, and
though his point of view as an individualist was higher than that
of the herd, it had its own peculiar limitations. This is clearly
illustrated by the following passage in one of his letters: “Kings
and princes can indeed create professors and privy-councillors, and
confer titles and decorations, but they cannot make great men--spirits
that soar above the base turmoil of this world. When two persons like
Goethe and myself meet, these grandees cannot fail to perceive what
such as we consider great. Yesterday, on our way home, we met the whole
imperial family; we saw them coming some way off, when Goethe withdrew
his arm from mine, in order to stand aside; and say what I would, I
could not prevail on him to make another step in advance. I pressed
down my hat more firmly on my head, buttoned up my great-coat, and,
crossing my arms behind me, I made my way through the thickest portion
of the crowd. Princes and courtiers formed a lane for me; Archduke
Rudolph took off his hat, and the Empress bowed to me first. These
great ones of the earth _know me_. To my infinite amusement, I saw
the procession defile past Goethe, who stood aside with his hat off,
bowing profoundly. I afterward took him sharply to task for this.” In
the sort of pride manifested by Beethoven on this occasion, there is
an element of the hysterical; had his sense of humor been applied to
himself as well as to his companion, he would have been “infinitely
amused” to behold himself, with his hat pressed firmly on his head
and his great-coat buttoned up, demanding for the aristocracy of
genius that very servility which he despised when it was shown to the
aristocracy of rank. It was Beethoven himself this time who, misled by
an overweening pride, was hankering after the accident when he already
possessed the essence.

Examined by and large, however, Beethoven does not often disappoint
us by failing to make that distinction between the nucleus of reality
and its swathings and accompaniments, which lay at the foundation of
his greatness. Nowhere were his instinct for the real and his contempt
for the superfluous more active than in his thoughts on religion, the
deepest and most serious topic on which a man can think. Sturdily
ignoring, all his life, the trappings of ritual, and the narrow
preciseness, as it seemed to him, of creeds and theologies, he as
resolutely clung to the essence of religion, the belief in a universal,
inclusive consciousness, and in the importance to it of right human
effort. On the practical side his religion was eminently positive,
efficient, sane; it prompted him to full development of his genius,
without neglect of the responsibilities of ordinary life. Of the
metaphysical side it is a sufficient description to say that there lay
constantly on his desk, copied by his own hand, these sentences:

“I am that which is.”

“I am all that is, that was, and that shall be. No mortal man has
lifted my veil.”

“He is alone by Himself, and to Him alone do all things owe their

Combined with the mental originality, the habit of deciding all
questions for himself and as if they had never before received
solutions, which made Beethoven so pronounced a non-conformist in all
matters from his toilet to his religion, was a physical peculiarity
that underlay much of what was grotesque about him. This was the
nervous irritability inherited from his grandmother. His moodiness,
his sudden alternations of depressed and excited states, his bursts
of uncontrollable anger, his wild pranks and practical jokes, were
almost beyond doubt the result of an unstable nervous system. So
restless was he that he was continually changing his lodgings; once it
was because there was not enough sun, again because he disliked the
water, another time because his landlord insisted on making him deep
obeisances; in the later part of his life, when his habits were well
known, he had difficulty in finding rooms anywhere in Vienna. He put
little restraint upon his tongue; Schindler says that “the propriety
of repressing offensive remarks was a thing that never entered his
thoughts.” After hearing a concerto of Ries, he wrote a furious letter
to a musical paper, enjoining Ries no longer to call himself his pupil.
This his friends persuaded him not to send. He was so impatient that
he often took the medicines intended for an entire day in two doses;
so absent-minded that he often forgot them altogether. A badly cooked
stew he threw at the waiter, eggs that were not fresh at the cook. To
a lady who had asked for a lock of his hair he sent, at the suggestion
of a friend, a lock cut from a goat’s beard; and when the joke was
discovered he apologized to the lady, but cut off all intercourse with
the friend. An English observer wrote that “One unlucky question, one
ill-judged piece of advice, was sufficient to estrange him from you
forever.” Even on his best friends and his patrons, he wreaked his
ill-humors. When Prince Lobkowitz, to whom he owed much, had been so
unfortunate as to offend him, he went into his court-yard, shook his
fist at the house, and cried “Lobkowitz donkey, Lobkowitz donkey.” It
is not hard to see why casual acquaintances, who knew nothing of the
noble qualities behind his stormy and perverse exterior, frequently
thought him mad.

Nor will it be difficult, after this brief summary of Beethoven’s
fundamental traits, to understand the formidable effect that
deafness, coming upon him slowly but relentlessly in early manhood,
when intellectual achievement and social and personal happiness
seemed equally attainable, exercised upon his character. Naturally
self-dependent, deafness made him self-absorbed; naturally proud,
it made him so sensitive to imagined slights, so suspicious of even
his best friends, that he would at times refuse all intercourse with
people; naturally taking keenest joy in intellectual activity, this
physical disability forced him, while gradually renouncing social
pleasures, to throw himself with ever greater concentration and
completer devotion into his work. All these effects of his deafness
are clearly discernible in the letters written about 1800. “I can with
truth say,” he writes in that year, “that my life is very wretched; for
nearly two years past I have avoided all society, because I find it
impossible to say to people, _I am deaf_!” “Plutarch,” he continues,
“led me to resignation. I shall strive if possible to set Fate at
defiance, although there must be moments in my life when I cannot fail
to be the most unhappy of God’s creatures.... Resignation!--what a
miserable refuge! and yet it is my sole remaining one.” And still later
in the same letter: “I live wholly in my music, and scarcely is one
work finished when another is begun; indeed, I am now often at work on
three or four things at the same time.”

Many such passages occur in the letters of this period, but in none
does the pathetic mingling of almost despairing wretchedness with
a noble courage that will not despair become so striking as in the
remarkable document known as “Beethoven’s Will,” written to his
brothers in the fall of 1802. The summer had been a trying one, and
at the end of it Beethoven, apparently half expecting and a little
desiring death, yet dreading its interruption of his beloved work,
uttered this cry of pain, which deserves to be quoted almost entire:

                                       HEILIGENSTADT, Oct. 6, 1802.


  O! you who think or declare me to be hostile, morose, and
  misanthropical, how unjust you are, and how little you know the secret
  cause of what appears thus to you! My heart and mind were ever from
  childhood prone to the most tender feelings of affection, and I was
  always disposed to accomplish something great. But you must remember
  that six years ago I was attacked by an incurable malady, treated by
  unskilful physicians, deluded from year to year by the hope of relief,
  and at length forced to the conviction of a _lasting affliction_
  (the cure of which may go on for years, and perhaps after all prove

  Born with a passionate and excitable temperament, keenly susceptible
  to the pleasures of society, I was yet obliged early in life to
  isolate myself, and to pass my existence in solitude. If I at any time
  resolved to surmount all this, oh! how cruelly was I again repelled
  by the experience, sadder than ever, of my defective hearing!--and
  yet I found it impossible to say to others: Speak louder; shout! for
  I am deaf! Alas! how could I proclaim the deficiency of a sense which
  ought to have been more perfect with me than with other men,--a sense
  which I once possessed in the highest perfection; to an extent,
  indeed, that few of my profession ever enjoyed! Alas, I cannot do
  this! Forgive me therefore when you see me withdraw from you with whom
  I would so gladly mingle. My misfortune is doubly severe from causing
  me to be misunderstood.... Such things brought me to the verge of
  desperation, and well-nigh caused me to put an end to my life. _Art!
  art_ alone, deterred me. Ah! how could I possibly quit the world
  before bringing forth all that I felt it was my vocation to produce?
  And thus I spared this miserable life--so utterly miserable that any
  sudden change may reduce me at any moment from my best condition
  into the worst. It is decreed that I must now choose _Patience_ for
  my guide! This I have done. I hope the resolve will not fail me
  steadfastly to persevere till it may please the inexorable Fates to
  cut the thread of my life.... I joyfully hasten to meet Death. If he
  comes before I have had the opportunity of developing all my artistic
  powers, then, notwithstanding my cruel fate, he will come too early
  for me, and I should wish for him at a more distant period; but even
  then I shall be content, for his advent will release me from a state
  of endless suffering. Come when he may I shall meet him with courage.
  Farewell! Do not quite forget me, even in death; I deserve this from
  you, because during my life I so often thought of you, and wished to
  make you happy. Amen.
                                              LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN.

It is time, however, turning away from this painful contemplation of a
strong nature’s struggle with adverse fate, to examine that artistic
work in which its strength wrought more successfully, and to which
its weaknesses were less disastrous. Beethoven’s artistic life, as is
well known, has been divided into three periods: that of training and
assimilation, which lasted to about 1803, that of complete mastery and
mature creation, occupying about a decade, and that of exploration of
new, untravelled paths, lasting from 1813 to the end.[38] The division
is a convenient and natural one, as will become clear as we go on.

In the technique of his art, Beethoven was largely self-taught. It is
true that he had the privilege of some lessons with Haydn and with
the famous theoretician Albrechtsberger; but he was too restive under
strict surveillance, and too intolerant of hard-and-fast rules, to take
kindly to their instruction, and Albrechtsberger flatly said of him:
“He will never do anything according to rule; he has learnt nothing.”
The truth is, Beethoven was too busy with his own problems, the
problems of structure and expression, to pay the requisite attention
to the intricacies of counterpoint, which he never really mastered.
What he tried to do, however, he did thoroughly. All the works of his
first period, of which the most important are the pianoforte sonatas up
to the “Waldstein,” the first three pianoforte concertos, the String
Quartets, Opus 18, and the First and Second Symphonies, show him in
the 'prentice stage, learning to treat competently the sonata form and
the secular style inherited from Haydn and Mozart. The First Symphony,
in spite of its dignified proportions, is essentially an exercise in
acquisition. The Second, which is the most important single work of the
entire period, is, as Grove says, an advance rather “in dimensions and
style, and in the wonderful fire and force of the treatment, than in
any really new ideas, such as its author afterwards introduced.” It is
in the four movements prescribed by tradition, except that a Scherzo
is substituted for the minuet. Its phraseology and harmony recall
the older manner. The themes of the opening Allegro are built up out
of short, precise phrases, exactly balancing one another, as will be
vividly realized by anyone who will compare the first theme with the
corresponding subject in the Third Symphony, so much freer and more
ingenious in contour. The transitions are somewhat perfunctory. The
second subject appears regularly in the dominant key. The development,
in comparison with that of Beethoven’s later work, is mechanical,
obvious, trite. In every way he is still, in the Second Symphony,
sitting at the feet of his predecessors, learning patiently, minutely,
what they have to teach him. As Grove well says: “This symphony is
the culminating point of the old, pre-Revolution world, the world of
Haydn and Mozart; it was the farthest point to which Beethoven could go
before he burst into that wonderful new region into which no man before
had penetrated.”[39]

The indebtedness of the early Beethoven to his immediate forerunners,
and the untiring pains he took to learn his lesson thoroughly, call
for especial emphasis because so much has been said and written of
his originality, his disregard for conventions, his non-conforming,
revolutionary tendencies. He was indeed an anarch of outworn
conventions, but he was anything but an anarch of art. No man ever
recognized more cordially his inherited resources; no man was ever
less misled by a petty ideal of mere oddness, by a confusion of
idiosyncrasy with originality. Beethoven was a great individual because
he assimilated the strength of all humanity. His originality, like all
originality that has value, consisted in a fresh, sincere expression of
universal truths through the best technical means which were available
in his day. If any reader has a lingering doubt of Beethoven’s
faithfulness as a student, he needs but examine the Sketchbooks edited
by Nottebohm from the original manuscript note-books in which Beethoven
laboriously worked out his conceptions. Quite tireless was he in the
manipulation of a theme, over and over again, until it suited his
rigorous taste; truly wonderful is the ever-sensitive discrimination
with which he excised redundancies, softened crudities, enhanced
beauties, and refined texture, until at last the melody was as perfect,
as inevitable, as organic, as a sentence by Flaubert, Sir Thomas
Browne, or Cardinal Newman.

It was indeed precisely by these qualities of the conscientious artist
that Beethoven was chiefly enabled to push his work to a higher stage
of interest than his forerunners had attained. He went obediently as
far as they could lead him before attempting to push further alone. We
find, even in this Second Symphony, conceptions that Haydn and Mozart
could not have imagined; but these are worked out with a skill and
ingenuity like theirs in kind, if greater in degree. The most striking
and pervasive difference lies in the immensely increased closeness of
texture, intensity of meaning, logic, vigor, poignancy. All the strings
are tightened, and flabbiness, diffuseness, meaningless ornament
and filling are swept away. As Beethoven’s self-assurance, habit of
examining all conventions for himself, and relentless discrimination
of the essence from the accident, already noted, made him in society a
brief but pregnant talker, an eccentric but true man, so they made him
a forcible, concise, and logical musician. How ruthlessly he discards
the merely pretty, the sensuously tickling, the amiably vapid and
pointless! He wastes no energy in preamble, interlude, or peroration.
He puts in his outline in a few bold, right strokes, leaving much to
the intelligence of his hearers. Concentrating his whole mind on a
single thought, he follows it out relentlessly to the end, will not
be distracted or seduced into side-issues. He tolerates no superfluous
tones in his fabric, but makes it compact, close, rigorously thematic.
The expanses of the music stretch out broad and sequential, the
climaxes unfold deliberately, gather force and body like a rising sea.
Look through the long, complex development section of the Allegro of
the Second Symphony, and note its fine economy of means, its surprising
grandeur of effect; see how two or three motifs are made to flower out
into the most luxuriant forms, and how a page can be educed from a
measure. This is what is meant by thematic development, which no man
thoroughly understood before Beethoven.

This insistent coherence and sequaciousness is kept from becoming
tiresome or monotonous by the variety of the themes themselves and of
the modes adopted for developing them. Indeed, so consummately is the
fundamental progressiveness hidden under a variegated and ever-changing
surface that the casual observer is apt to be impressed chiefly by
the sudden novelties of effect, the unexpected alternations of loud
and soft, the collocation of contrasted rhythms, the prominence
given to distant tonalities by modulation, in Beethoven’s work, and
to realize its solidity and balance only after a more careful study.
Rhythmical variety alone in Beethoven is so perpetual and so ingenious
that a large treatise would hardly suffice to describe it. Short,
nervous phrases of half-a-measure length alternate with wide expanses
where for four or more measures there is not so much as a comma.[40]
Motifs longer or shorter than the measure are so adjusted as to make
up considerable passages in which the accent constantly changes.[41]
Diminutions and augmentations of motifs are deftly used.[42] In ways
too numerous to mention Beethoven introduces life into his work by
constant variation of rhythmic grouping.

As for harmonic variety, his daring was such as to scandalize all the
conservatives of his generation. The First Symphony opens with a
passage of which Grove writes: “That a composition professing to be
in the key of C should begin with a discord in the key of F, and by
the third bar be in that of G, was surely startling enough to ears
accustomed to the regular processes of that time.” The passage did
in fact meet with strong opposition from such critics as Preindl,
Abbé Stadler, and Dionys Weber. In the Second Symphony there are many
foretastes of the radical harmonic methods Beethoven later developed.
Returning to his Restatement section, for instance, in the first
movement, the key of which is D, he reaches the very remote key of
C-sharp major, which he emphasizes by a long reiteration of its tonic
chord, forte, lasting six full measures. Then, with a diminuendo,
a long C-sharp, in unison, is held until, by the addition of an A,
we are made to feel that this C-sharp has become a leading-note in
the original key of D, and so we are home again.[43] The coda of the
same movement contains one of those rapid, kaleidoscopic modulations
through many keys which Beethoven knows how to use so excitingly.
In eleven measures we are bundled through G, B-flat, A-minor, B-flat
again, C-minor, E-flat minor, F-sharp minor, and E, and after it all
find ourselves quite breathless, but safely home again in D. Many
similar passages of harmonic virtuosity are to be found in the Second
Symphony; and they show Beethoven feeling his way toward the wonderful
flexibility of his later harmonic style.

In his early thirties, then, at the close of his apprenticeship or
period of acquisition of resources and establishment of technique,
Beethoven had in the first place thoroughly assimilated the sonata-form
developed by his forerunners as the most convenient and natural medium
for the expression of the free, direct, and widely eclectic secular
spirit in music. He had, in the second place, raised this form to
higher potencies of beauty and expressiveness, by rigorous exclusion
of what was superfluous and inorganic in it, by purification of its
texture and strengthening of its essential structural features, and by
introduction into it, through the power of his genius for composition,
of more subtle and more thoroughgoing contrasts of rhythm, harmony,
and general expressive character. Still he was not content. His soaring
idealism demanded a still greater flexibility of form, as well as a
more intense and intimate utterance of feeling. “I am not satisfied,”
he wrote in 1802, “with my works up to the present time. From to-day
I mean to take a new road.” What that road was, what superstructure
he proceeded to build on so solid a foundation, we must now try to

[37] “Beethoven et Wagner. Essais d’Histoire et de Critique Musicales.”
Teodor de Wyzewa. Paris, 1898.

[38] For a full discussion of these “periods,” see Lenz’s “_Beethoven
et ses trois styles_.”

[39] The foregoing quotations from Grove are to be found in his
“Beethoven and His Nine Symphonies.”

[40] E. g. Second Symphony: Larghetto: passage immediately preceding
the Restatement section.

[41] E. g. Second Symphony: Larghetto: passage at the end of the second
subject. A motif of four sixteenth-notes in 3/8 measure.

[42] E. g. Second Symphony: Finale: passage of half-notes in coda
augmented later to whole notes.

[43] Compare what is said on page 207, of the harmonic device used by
Haydn to introduce the last entrance of the theme in the Finale of his
Fifth Salomon Symphony.

                             CHAPTER VIII
                         BEETHOVEN (CONTINUED)

                             CHAPTER VIII
                         BEETHOVEN (CONTINUED)

History and analytic thought alike reveal the fact that the highest
pinnacles of art can be scaled only at those happy moments when
favoring conditions of two distinct kinds happen to coincide. The
artist who is to attain supreme greatness must in the first place have
at his command a type of artistic technique that has already been
developed to the verge of maturity, but that still awaits its complete
efflorescence. As Sir Hubert Parry well says: “Inspiration without
methods and means at its disposal will no more enable a man to write
a symphony than to build a ship or a cathedral.” These means must be
already highly developed, yet not to the point of exhaustion. If the
technique is primitive, no ardor of artistic enthusiasm can reach
through it a full utterance; if all its potencies have been actualized,
no inspiration can reanimate it.

In the second place, the artist so happy as to inherit a technique ripe
but not over-ripe, must also, if he is to attain supreme greatness,
be in unison with the thought and feeling of his age, echo from the
common mind of his fellows a deep, broad, and universal eloquence,
as though all mankind spoke through him as mouthpiece. He must live
in the midst of some great general awakening of the human spirit, to
which he lends voice. Merely personal art can be interesting, graceful,
charming, moving, noble, but it cannot have the profundity, the
breadth, the elevation, which we recognize in the highest art, such as
Greek sculpture, Elizabethan drama, or the symphonic music we are now
studying. “A great man,” says Emerson, “finds himself in the river of
the thoughts and events, forced onward by the ideas and necessities of
his contemporaries. He stands where all the eyes of men look one way,
and their hands all point in the direction in which he should go. Every
master has found his materials collected, and his power lay in his
sympathy with his people and in his love of the materials he wrought
in. Men, nations, poets, artisans, women, all have worked for him, and
he enters into their labors.”[44]

When Beethoven resolved on his “new path,” his ambition was favored by
the two necessary conditions. That he had at his command an inherited
technique, just brought to the verge of maturity, we have already seen.
And he had furthermore, behind and below him, as a rich nourishing soil
for his genius, a great, new, common enthusiasm of humanity.

The eighteenth century had been a time of formalism in art and
literature, of rigid conventionality in social life, of paternalism in
politics, and of dogmatic ecclesiastical authority in religion. At its
end, however, all those dim, half-conscious efforts of humanity towards
freer and fuller life which we have indicated under the general term of
idealism, were beginning to reach definiteness and self-consciousness.
Men were beginning to assert deliberately and openly what they had
long been feeling intuitively but insecurely. They were boldly erasing
from their standards the mediæval formula: “Poverty, celibacy, and
obedience,” to write in its place the modern one: “Life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness.” They were revolting from the tyrannies of
Church and State, to proclaim the sacredness of the individual soul.

It was Beethoven’s high privilege to be the artistic spokesman of
this new, enfranchised humanity. Haydn, as we know, had reflected for
the first time in music the universal interest in all kinds of human
emotion, sacred and profane, that marked the dawn of the new era. But
in his music the emotion remains naïve, impulsive, childlike; it has
not taken on the earnestness, the sense of responsibility, of manhood.
It is still in the spontaneous stage, has not become deliberate,
resolute, purposeful. But with Beethoven childishness is put away,
and the new spirit steps boldly out into the world, aware of its
obligations as well as of its privileges, clear-eyed, sad, and serious,
to live the full yet difficult life of freedom.

The closeness of Beethoven’s relation to the idealistic spirit of his
time is shown equally by two distinct yet supplementary aspects of his
work. As it was characteristic of the idealism which fed him to set
supreme store by human emotion in all its intensity and diversity, so
it is characteristic of his music to voice emotion with a fullness,
poignancy, definiteness, and variety that sharply contrast it with
the more formal decorative music of his forerunners. And as it was
equally characteristic of idealism to recognize the responsibilities
of freedom, to restrain and control all particular emotions in the
interest of a balanced spiritual life, so it was equally characteristic
of Beethoven to hold all his marvelous emotional expressiveness
constantly in subordination to the integral effect of his composition
as a whole, to value plastic beauty even more highly than eloquent
appeal to feeling. In other words, Beethoven the musician is equally
remarkable for two qualities, eloquence of expression and beauty of
form, which in his best works are always held in an exact and firmly
controlled balance. And if we would fully understand his supremacy, we
must perceive not only his achievements in both directions, but the
high artistic power with which he correlates them. Just as the courage
to insist on the rights of the individual, and the wisdom to recognize
and support the rights of others, are the two essentials of true
idealism, so eloquence and beauty are the equal requisites of genuine

So closely interwoven, so mutually reactive, are these twin merits
of expression and form in the great works of Beethoven’s prime--in
the pianoforte sonatas from the Waldstein to Opus 90, in the String
Quartets, Opus 59 and 74, in the fourth and fifth piano concertos and
the unique concerto for violin, in the Overture to “Coriolanus,” the
incidental music to “Egmont,” and the opera, “Fidelio,” in the Mass
in C, and above all in the six great symphonies from the “Eroica” to
the Eighth--that it seems like wanton violence and falsification to
separate them, even for the purposes of study. Synthesis, at any rate,
should go hand in hand with analysis; we should constantly remember
that the various qualities our critical reagents discern in this music,
exist in it not, as in our analysis, single and detached, but fused and
interpenetrative in one artistic whole. The chemist may find carbon,
and hydrogen, and oxygen in the rose, but a rose is something more,
something ineffably more, than a compound of these chemical elements.

                            [Music: score]

                            [Music: score]

                            [Music: score]

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE XX.]

If, bearing constantly in mind the artificiality of analysis,
we nevertheless attempt an enumeration of separate qualities in
Beethoven’s mature work, we are first of all arrested by the vigor,
definiteness, and variety of his expression. In his symphonies from
the Eroica on, for example, there is a far more direct and poignant
utterance of a wide range of feeling, than we can find anywhere in
Haydn or Mozart, or in the early Beethoven. The first “subjects” of
the Third, Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, shown in Figure XX,
illustrate strikingly, brief as they are, this diversity and force of
the works of the middle period. Who that had once heard them could ever
forget them? And who could ever confuse one with another? How they
pierce through the veil of the past, with their vibrant accent of the
living, breathing man!

Beethoven’s subjects, attaining so wonderful a degree of
individualization, mark the culminating point of a long process of
crystallization of definite forms out of the tonal matrix of earlier
music. Ever since the Florentine reformers essayed to infuse into
academic art the human expressiveness of idealized popular songs and
dances, the latent potentialities of vocal phrases to express earnest
emotion, and of vigorous rhythms to express the more active and
animated feelings, had been becoming more and more fully utilized.
We saw how the popular songs were embodied and transfigured in the
sarabandes and other slow, serious movements of the eighteenth century
suites, and how the rhythms of the popular dances were wrought into
their idealized gavottes, bourrées, minuets, and gigues.[45] We saw
how Haydn, in his naïve yet skillful way, seized upon and refined the
primitive but emotionally vital folk-music of his race.[46] We saw
how Mozart contributed still further, by his wonderful genius for
organization, to the progress in delicacy, variety, and breadth, of
the same type of art. And now we see, in Beethoven, the issue of this
long growth: we see him bring to their apotheosis the eloquence of the
song and the animation of the dance; we see him, by full utilization
of the harmonic and rhythmic potentialities of structure, by vigorous
exclusion of the irrelevant and the superfluous, by full concentration
of all his faculties of heart and mind on the one idea in hand,
attaining a definiteness, a variety, and a compelling eloquence of
expression, that may fairly be said to mark an epoch. Before Beethoven
music was already an art; with him it becomes also a language.

The variety of what Beethoven has to say is as remarkable as the
precision and force with which he says it. To study him is to discern
the fallacy of the view so often heard that sentimental expression is
the only kind possible to music. In Beethoven one can observe at least
four well-contrasted general types of expressiveness, to say nothing of
the infinite gradations between them. There is, in the first place, and
as perhaps the dominant quality in all his work, the virile energy,
the massive and cyclopean power, as of a giant or a god, so well
illustrated in the symphonic subjects of Figure XX. What vigor, what
inexhaustible force, what a morning freshness and joy there is in such
a theme as that of the “Eroica” Symphony! How inexorable is its rhythm,
how broad, solid, and simple its harmonic foundation! What controlled
excitement, what restrained ferocity, there is in that persistent
four-tone motif of the Fifth Symphony--“Fate knocking at the door”!
What swift, concise assertiveness, as in the fiat of an emperor, in the
opening of the Eighth Symphony, though it was called by Beethoven “my
little one”! Elemental strength is the most constant, pervasive quality
of expression in Beethoven’s work.

Yet, like every comprehensively great man he had the feminine
tenderness and sentiment without which primal power is primitive,
and will mere willfulness. His ruggedness hid the most delicate
sensibility. At his most heroic moments he is always melting into moods
of wistfulness, yearning, and soft emotion. To go for illustration
no further than the symphonies, it is sufficient to mention, in the
“Eroica,” the hesitant fervor of the second subject of the first
movement; the deep and noble pathos of the subject of the Funeral
March; the clear and rich emotion of the Trio (in the third movement),
with its wonderful final strains, of which Sir George Grove said:
“If ever horns talked like flesh and blood, they do it here;” in the
Fifth Symphony, the poignant appeal of the second subject of the first
movement, and the ceaselessly questing, gently insistent mood of the
Andante; and in the Seventh, the resigned, yet still aspiring state of
feeling voiced by the melody in A-major in the Allegretto. But it is
impossible to do more than shadow forth dimly, in words, the emotions
that glow with such deep color in this music. Moreover, to enumerate
them is as unnecessary as it is thankless. Every one who knows music
at all, knows how incomparable is Beethoven in the expression of all
shades of tender, romantic, and impassioned human feeling.

A third sort of expression characteristic of Beethoven is that of
the whimsical, the perverse, the irrepressibly gay. Before him, the
classical symphony had had room for the brisk jollity of the Haydn
finale and for the forthright animation of the Mozart minuet; but
nothing like the Beethoven scherzo had existed. In Italian the word
scherzo means a joke; and when he substituted the rollicking scherzo
for the more formal and stately minuet Beethoven introduced into music
the element of banter, mischief, and whimsy. Even among his several
scherzos, there is such a diversity of mood that they introduce into
music far more than one new kind of expression; their fancy is protean,
inexhaustible. The scherzo of the “Eroica” is a mixture of mystery,
gaiety, and headlong _elan_; in that of the Fifth Symphony, a sort of
groping as in darkness alternates with incisive, grandiose, military
boldness; in the middle Allegro of the Pastoral Symphony, taking the
place of the scherzo, there is rustic merry-making, the awkward,
good-natured gambols of peasants; in the Presto of the Seventh, there
is upwelling geniality, the broad smile of amiable indolence; and in
the Minuet of the Eighth, the old minuet stateliness gives place to
a mixture of animal spirits and intellectual subtlety. Nor are the
scherzos proper the only embodiment of the antics of this musical Pan;
such Finales as those of the Fourth, Seventh, and Eighth Symphonies
are but transfigured, ennobled scherzos, with the largeness of the
heroic spirit added to the fancy, whim, and tireless merriment of the
insatiable humorist. Beethoven is the extreme exponent of the spirit of
comedy in music.

A fourth mood distinguishable in Beethoven is the mood of mystery. He
loves to suggest the illimitable and the transcendent, to dissolve
himself in vagueness; to pique curiosity and stimulate imagination by
long stretches of _pianissimo_, of amorphous, ambiguous harmony, of
strange inarticulate melody that baffles the attention--long, wide
hushes, audible silences. In these moods he seems to retire, after his
onslaughts of expression, into the deep subterranean reservoirs of the
unexpressed. The Introduction to the Fourth Symphony is an example;
one hears in it, as it were, the groping of vast unorganized impulses
that await a birth. The extended _pianissimo_ passage that leads
into the Reprise, in the same movement, makes a similar impression,
the modulation to the home-key of B-flat, after the long groping in
B-major, seeming like the opening of a window in a darkened room. The
wide stretches of rippling violin figures, _piano_, in the “Scene by
the Brook” of the Pastoral Symphony illustrate another use of this
device of monotony. They affect the mind, as Beethoven meant they
should, like a placid sun-bathed landscape at noon, flat, silent,
motionless. But perhaps the most striking instance of all is that
wonderful page in the Fifth Symphony that prepares for the Finale.
The sustained C’s of the strings, the suppressed, barely audible
tapping of the drums in the rhythm of the central motif of the work,
the fragmentary, aimless, and yet cumulative phrases of the violins,
instil a sense of some vast catastrophe impending; and then, after the
deliberate, gradual crescendo, pressing upon every nerve, the great
joyous theme of the Finale crashes in, to sweep all before it.

Marvelous indeed is this varied and ever forcible expression of feeling
in the great works of Beethoven’s maturity; but even more marvelous is
the steady power by which he organizes these feelings into forms of
perfect beauty, the unfaltering control by which he keeps the intensely
characteristic from degenerating into caricature, the impassioned from
becoming hysterical. He never forgets that, as an artist, he is the
master, not the slave, of his inspiration, however seizing it may be.
Though he infuses into music an eloquence new to it, he remembers that
it is still music, and that it must be beautiful as music. Titanic
were the labors he imposed upon himself to give his compositions
balance, symmetry, logical coherence, integral unity emerging from an
infinite variety of parts. His sketch-books, several of which, edited
by Nottebohm, have been published by Breitkopf and Härtel, are the
standing evidence of what endless effort it cost him to be an artist.
In them we behold him at work, day by day, eliminating the irrelevant,
reinforcing the significant, exploring the sources of melodic,
rhythmic, harmonic, and structural variety, and returning upon his task
to gather up all the threads into one complete, close-woven fabric. The
result was a type of music seldom equalled, before or since, for that
ordered richness, that complex simplicity, which is beauty.

An example or two will make this clearer than much description.
The first subject of the Fifth Symphony, one of the most famous of
Beethoven’s themes, is entirely made up of ingenious combinations of
the “Fate Knocking at the Door” motif, as follows:

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE XXI.]

How wonderful here is the stern and relentless logic of that
insistently repeated rhythm, the utter naturalness of the melody which
builds itself out of the various repetitions of the theme in different
voices, and the rugged strength of the harmonic scheme of the entire
passage! Had we not documentary evidence, we should find it hard to
believe that this was not a sudden and complete thought, struck out by
Beethoven at a blow in some moment of high musical excitement. Yet his
sketch-book reveals that it grew by a very gradual process of amendment
and refining from the monotonous, uninteresting, almost fatuous bit of
patchwork shown in Figure XXII. Another, slightly more advanced, state
of the same idea is shown in Figure XXIII. In both these passages the
rhythm is almost the only element that even dimly suggests the august
gravity of the final version; for the rest, these first attempts are
depressingly futile.

                            [Music: score]
                     [Illustration: FIGURE XXII.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXIII.]

The well-known and universally admired subject of the Andante of the
Fifth Symphony is another illustration of Beethoven’s artistic power.
That was a rare skill indeed which could educe, even after long labor,
this beautifully modulated and sustained theme (Figure XXIV), so subtle
and varied in contour, from the trite embryo noted in Figure XXV.

                            [Music: score]
                     [Illustration: FIGURE XXIV.]

                            [Music: score]
                      [Illustration: FIGURE XXV.]

The evolution of Beethoven’s almost perfect ideas from their strangely
featureless and uninteresting germs can perhaps be shown best of all,
however, by the citation of several consecutive stages in the history
of some single notable conception. The indescribably lovely second
subject of the first movement of the Eroica Symphony is shown in
its final form at (e) of Figure XXVI; (a), (b), (c), and (d) of the
same figure being a few of the many sketches through which Beethoven
approached it. The points of especial beauty in the matured theme
appear sporadically in the earlier sketches. Of these the chief are:
the insistent beat of the rhythm; the impressive cadence in the fourth
measure and the beat of silence following it in the fifth; the rise to
the poignant G in the seventh measure, and the lapse by rapid motion
down to B-flat again; the sudden assumption of the minor mode in
measure 9, and the modulation to the distant key of D-flat it suggests;
and the uneven yet satisfying balance of the three complete phrases,
together with the sense of being poised in air given by the sudden
cessation of the rhythmic pulse at a point so distant from the key.
The rhythm appears in the very first sketch, marked (a); the cadence
and beat of silence appear in (b), as does also the rise to G in the
melody, except that the G is flatted, slightly sentimentalizing the
effect. The modulation to the key of D-flat appears in (c) and (d),
but in each case its effectiveness is much weakened by the quickly
succeeding further modulation. The sense of poise referred to is
entirely lacking in these two variants, because a fourth phrase is
added to the three essential ones. In the final form all the effects
are made with certainty and economy.

                            [Music: score]
         [Illustration: FIGURE XXVI-a. A FEW OF THE MANY STAGES

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVI-b.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVI-c.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVI-d.]

                            [Music: score]
              [Illustration: FIGURE XXVI-e. Form adopted]

Beethoven’s method of drafting and re-drafting his subjects enabled
him to bring them at last to a formal perfection undreamed of by less
painstaking composers. His best themes combine almost the highest
possible degree of variety and unity, and therefore attain almost the
highest possible degree of beauty. We saw, in connection with the
Quintet of Mozart (Figure XVIII), how high synthetic powers of mind
enable a composer to combine different motifs in one theme in such a
way as to attain great variety of parts with final unity of impression.
Beethoven exhibits constantly, in his best work, an even higher degree
of this synthetic power than Mozart was master of. He knew how to build
the most diverse materials into a compact, indissoluble organism. His
briefest themes often discover this power as strikingly as his long
and elaborate movements. The first theme of the Sonata in A-major for
Violoncello and Piano, which appears in Figure XXVII, is an example
of the way the faculty shows itself within narrow limits. Here are
six measures, each containing a different scheme of time values; yet
the theme as a whole is as compelling in its unity and certainty of
intention as it is engaging in its variety.

The exploitation of the primary themes in the course of a long
movement, however, the constant evocation from them of new meanings and
interests, is of course the last and finest evidence of Beethoven’s
genius in composition. It was in this logical drawing forth of the
implications of his thought that he was unapproachable. He uses
to admiration all those devices of development we have already
enumerated--inversion, augmentation, diminution, shifted rhythm, and
the rest--yet never descends to the mechanical, as his great successor,
Brahms, who is perhaps the only modern composer who compares with him
in this faculty of logical development of an idea, sometimes does.
Beethoven always seems to be merely making explicit what was implied
in the theme itself.

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVIII-a.

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVIII-b.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVIII-c.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVIII-d.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVIII-e.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVIII-f.]

                            [Music: score]
                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVIII-g.]

In Figure XXVIII are put down a few of the more important modifications
of the first subject of the Eroica Symphony, as an illustration of
the inexhaustibility of fancy displayed by Beethoven in this sort of
development. (a) is the theme in its initial form. Note how, with that
mysterious C-sharp in the bass, in the fifth measure, the outline is
momentarily blurred, and the insistence on the tones of the triad
relaxed, until with measure 7 the key is re-entered and the sentence
soon brought to a firm conclusion. No one but Beethoven could ever
have conceived that C-sharp. In (b), which follows, in the score,
immediately on (a), the second half of the motif is made the subject
of a development by repetition, at a higher and higher pitch. In
(c), which occurs after the second subject, and near the end of the
first section of the entire movement, the same portion of the motif
is further exploited. For the first four measures it is thrown back
and forth in imitation. In the fifth, sixth and seventh measures it
is given to the bass, in _diminution_ (note how piquantly) and in the
eighth measure it is both diminished and inverted, yet without giving
the slightest impression of artificiality. The subject appears at (d),
which is a part of the working-out portion of the movement, in the
minor key, and rapidly modulating to distant keys, as is appropriate
in that part of the composition the aim of which is to contrast with
the definiteness, orderliness, and precision of the Exposition. At (e)
the subject, still in minor, is heard in the bass, while the treble has
as a counterpoint to it a tripping rhythm derived from another part
of the original material. At (f), becoming emphatic, magniloquent,
the theme is sounded _forte_, and in unison by the whole orchestra,
and extended by a natural magnification to an eight-measure phrase.
This is developed at some length in the score. (g) is the beginning of
the Coda. In one of Beethoven’s breathless _pianissimos_, the subject
is given by the second violins on their G-strings, the first violins
meanwhile embroidering in an elastic staccato the most indescribably
merry, light-hearted little counter-melody. From the freshness of this,
one might fancy that the work was just opening rather than drawing to
its close. Truly, Beethoven’s imagination is like some friendly genie
of the Arabian Nights, filling our cup of enjoyment as fast as it is

The mental power that in the preliminary parts of composition reveals
itself merely as a remarkable ingenuity, inventiveness, and elasticity
of mind, appears, when contemplated in its larger action, almost
superhuman in its breadth of grasp. In the conception and execution
of a great symphonic work, as an integral whole of many and diverse
parts, Beethoven is unapproachable. All the successive movements in a
long work, all the themes and transitions, all the rhythmic changes,
all the modulations, temporary or prolonged, are foreseen and adjusted
with perfect control. There is no feature of any moment that has not
its relation to the whole. Often the reason of some apparent whim will
not appear for pages; but at last it will appear, and when it does it
will be seen to fulfil a purpose never lost sight of. As a turret or
window at the extreme end of a building may balance a similar feature
at the other end, so Beethoven’s treatment of a given theme, early in a
movement, may be determined and illuminated by what he finally does to
it in the Coda. So integral is his work, so firmly held in the grip of
his inexorable artistic logic.

Beauty, in the great compositions of his prime, is therefore as
omnipresent as expression; and their supreme greatness is in fact
due to the perfect balance, in them, of these two equally important
elements of musical effect. Before passing on to the consideration of
his later years, it will be well to make still clearer the fact of this
balance of qualities by a brief reference to the highly interesting and
significant attitude of Beethoven towards program music.

Program music differs from pure music in being aimed rather at the
literal imitation or delineation of objects and events in the natural
world than at the presentation, through orderly and consequently
beautiful tone-combinations, of the general emotions that they
arouse. Schütz, a very early German composer, depicting by a long
downward scale an angel descending from heaven; Beethoven, introducing
the notes of the nightingale, quail, and cuckoo in his Pastoral
Symphony; Schubert, writing in the accompaniment of his song, “The
Trout,” a leaping figure suggestive of the motions of the fish in the
water; Raff, sounding the rhythm of a galloping horse all through
the ride-movement of his Lenore Symphony: Wagner, imitating in the
“Waldweben” the murmurings of the forest; all these composers are
writing program music. Of course there is no reason that program music
should not be at the same time pure music, provided that the desire
to imitate nature accurately does not lead the composer to slight the
requirements of plastic beauty in the ordering and combination of his
material. A portrait may be good decoration, if composition, massing,
light and shade, coloring, and so on, are not sacrificed to a pitiless
realism. Just so, program music can be made beautiful, if the needs of
abstract tonal beauty are duly considered.

But as a usual thing they are not. The program composer generally
makes a fetish of his “idea,” pursues it with the enthusiasm of the
literalist, and quite neglects the formal symmetry, the stylistic
congruity and harmony, of his web of tones. The result is that program
music is as a rule more interesting than moving; that in attempting
to make pure sounds do what words, or even colors and shapes, can do
better, it sacrifices the legitimate and characteristic effect of
tones--the suggestion of a general state of feeling, potent by reason
of its very vagueness, and transfigured by the abstract beauty of its

Now Beethoven was obliged in his early maturity to face and solve
this problem of program music for himself. His intense individualism,
his susceptibility to strong feeling, his natural interest in the
characteristic, the dramatic, the definite, and the opportunity he
found, in music as he received it from his forerunners, for a more
detailed expressiveness than had yet been attempted, all inclined him
to take the attitude of the program composer. The poetic conception
of a work was so clear and distinct in his mind that he could easily
assign it a descriptive title. He called his third symphony “The
Eroica,” his sixth the “Pastoral,” and said that the motif of the
fifth indicated “Fate Knocking at the Door.” He called one of his
piano sonatas “Les Adieux, l’Absence et le Retour;” of another, that
in G-major, Opus 14, he said, “It is a dialogue between husband and
wife, or lover and mistress; between the entreating and the resisting
principle;” he tacitly admitted that the sonatas in F-minor, Opus 57,
and in D-minor, Opus 29, were illustrative of Shakespeare’s Tempest.
Other works, not specifically named by him, wore very naturally titles
given by others: as the “Pastoral Sonata,” the “Moonlight Sonata,”
and the “Sonata Appassionata.” At the same period that he was writing
these instrumental works with programmistic aspect, he wrote also
his incidental music descriptive of Goethe’s “Egmont,” his overture
on the subject of “Coriolanus,” and his single opera, “Fidelio.” Of
interpretation he said:

“Though the poet carries on his monologue, or dialogue, in a
progressively marked rhythm, yet the declaimer, for the more accurate
elucidation of the sense, must make cæsuras and pauses in places where
the poet could not venture on any interpunctuation. To this extent,
then, is this style of declaiming applicable to music, and it is only
to be modified according to the number of persons cooperating in the
performance of a musical composition.”

Yet in spite of all these indications of the direction in which music
was moving with Beethoven, his instinct for beauty kept him from
allowing mere delineation to become his ideal. As Sir Hubert Parry
well says, the Pastoral Symphony is like a manifesto on that point. Of
all Beethoven’s works, it ventures farthest into the domain of program
music. It contains actual imitations of sounds and sights in nature,
as the rippling of the brook (strings); the muttering of thunder
(contrabasses in their low register); flashes of lightning (violins);
the bassoon of an old peasant sitting on a barrel, and able to play but
three tones; and the song of the nightingale (flute), quail (oboe),
and cuckoo (clarinet.) All the movements bear descriptive titles, as
follows: “The awakening of happy feelings on arriving in the country;
Scene by the brook; Merry gathering of peasants; Thunderstorm;
Shepherd’s song--Rejoicings and thankfulness after the storm.” It is
obvious that here Beethoven was pushing the descriptive power of music
to its limits. Yet it is important to note that even here neither
his instinctive sense of the proper uses of the musical art nor his
reasoned conviction as to the nature of musical expression forsook
him. Throughout the growlings of the thunder, the music pursues its
way coherently and accordingly to its own laws. The rhythmic scheme
and the harmonic sequence are maintained, and the general structure is
not for a moment forgotten. After the imitation of the bird-notes, in
the second movement, the musical sentence is rounded out to completion
by the lovely concluding phrase, imitated by various instruments.
(See Fig. XXIX).

                            [Music: score]

It is only necessary to play the bird-notes alone, omitting the
supplementary phrase, to see how much of the effect is a matter of
pure music. And that Beethoven realized this himself, that he was
clearly aware that music affects us more by setting up vague but potent
emotions in us by means of a beautiful embodiment of expressive sounds
than by merely copying what is in the actual world, is evidenced
by the motto he inscribes at the head of his score: “Mehr Ausdruck
der Empfindung als Malerei”--“More the expression of feeling than
painting.” Even more succinct, if that is possible, is a note in one
of his sketch books: “Pastoral Symphony: no picture, but something
in which the emotions are expressed which are aroused in men by the
pleasure of the country.”

This attitude of Beethoven’s towards program music, both in practice
and in theory, is but a crucial and striking example of his general
attitude towards music, an attitude produced both by the tendencies of
the historic moment and by his native genius. Had he had less capacity
or taste for expression of the most definite and vivid emotions,
he would not have been able to carry music beyond the formalism of
Haydn and Mozart, and to make it voice the self-conscious idealism,
the romantic intensity, the various, many-sided, and profound
spiritual life, of modern men. Had he not, on the other hand, clung
pertinaciously to the plastic beauty which, after all, is the most
indispensable quality of musical art, had he allowed his interest
in the characteristic to betray him into literalism, he would have
deprived music of that period of full maturity which he represents,
and ushered in too soon the inevitable decadence, in which art is no
longer whole and balanced, but seeks special effects and particular
expressions, becomes meteoric, dazzling, and fragmentary. That period
was bound to come, as the parabola must make its descending as well as
its ascending curve, or the plant have its autumn as well as its spring
and summer. But before the appealing, but pathetically incomplete work
of the romanticists came to give a sort of Indian summer brightness to
the musical year, it was meet that it should have its full harvest of
ripe, sound, and wholesome beauty. And this it had, in the incomparably
sane and noble works of the mature Beethoven.

[44] “Representative Men,” Riverside ed., p. 182.

[45] See Chap. III., p. 118.

[46] See Chap. V., p. 199.

                              CHAPTER IX

                              CHAPTER IX

The third and last period of Beethoven’s life, from 1813 to 1827,
during which he produced the remarkable later pianoforte sonatas and
string quartets, the Quintet, opus 104, the Wind Octet, opus 103,
the noble Missa Solemnis, which he considered his greatest work,
and the immortal Ninth or Choral Symphony, was a time of affliction
and wretchedness. The record of these bitter years of the deaf,
lonely, poverty-hounded master, surrounded by unfeeling relatives and
indifferent and dishonest servants, stricken with disease, and laboring
through all to realize his grand artistic conceptions, is relieved only
by his unflinching fortitude and grim humor. The heroic spirit of the
man matched his misfortunes. For him, if for any one, the boast of the
stoic poet would have been justifiable:

      “In the fell clutch of circumstance
        I have not winced nor cried aloud;
      Under the bludgeonings of chance
        My head is bloody but unbowed.”

There was something almost diabolically sinister in the fate that
placed Beethoven, so sensitive to personalities, so peculiarly in need
of tranquillity for the pursuit of his ideas, in the midst of such a
pack of rascally kindred. The great canker of his life was his nephew,
Carl, left his ward, in 1815, by the death of his brother. A loafer in
billiard-rooms, a devotee of cheap amours, a dissipated, frivolous, and
wholly irreverent weakling, this young man looked upon his uncle simply
as a source of florins, having apparently no respect for his age, his
sufferings, or his genius. To make matters worse, Beethoven found it
necessary, in order to secure the boy’s custody, to go to law against
his mother, whom he picturesquely and significantly named “The Queen
of the Night.” He was involved in endless lawsuits to gain the very
responsibilities which proved so heavy and so fruitless. Carl rewarded
all this care and love by holding clandestine meetings with his
mother, by squandering his uncle’s hard-earned money, by neglecting the
commissions which the composer, deaf and ill, was obliged to entrust to
him; and finally, brought to the verge of despair by his own weakness,
he attempted suicide, was locked up in an asylum, and was eventually
packed off to the army. In all Beethoven’s struggles with his nephew
he got no help from the boy’s other uncle, the “land-owner” of the
anecdote, Johann van Beethoven, whom the composer bitterly called his
“pseudo-brother.” This complacent apothecary saw no need of helping a
brother who was one of the greatest artists living, and whose life was
being slowly sapped by sordid anxieties. Doubtless Beethoven was a man
difficult to help--a man of high temper, perverse whims, uncompromising
speech. But the story, nevertheless, is an unpleasant one, in which
young Carl and old Johann Beethoven play unenviable rôles.

In his contact with these wretched relatives Beethoven was not
supported by a comfortable, congenial home. A bachelor, poor,
absent-minded, and engrossed in abstract pursuits, he was at the mercy
of rapacious landlords and self-seeking or incompetent servants. After
1816, when, largely for his nephew’s sake, he began keeping house,
he was given hardly a moment of ease by what he called his “domestic
rabble.” His letters are full of indignant protests or half-humorous
jibes against the old “witch,” or “Satanas,” as he called his
housekeeper--a half-crazy beldame who not only neglected his table and
let the dust thicken on his books, but on one occasion actually used
the manuscript of a part of his great Mass to wrap around old boots.
“My dear Son,” he writes (it was thus that he habitually addressed his
nephew), “It is impossible to permit this to continue any longer; no
soup to-day, no beef, no eggs, and at last _broiled meat_ from the inn!
Little as I require what nourishes the body, as you know, still the
present state of things is really too bad, besides being every moment
in danger of being poisoned.” Another time he exclaims: “Here comes
_Satanas_.... What a reproach to our civilization to stand in need of
a class like this, and to have those whom we despise constantly near
us.” How must Beethoven have felt when the nephew whom he had trusted
as a son descended so low as to borrow money surreptitiously from, this
very “Satanas”? “Last Sunday,” he writes, “you again borrowed 1 florin
15 kreutzers from the housekeeper, from a mean old kitchen wench,--this
was already forbidden,--and it is the same in all things. What avail
even the most gentle reproofs? They merely serve to embitter you. But
do not be uneasy; I shall continue to care for you as much as ever.”

Another constant harassment of Beethoven in his later years was
poverty. The annuity settled upon him by his patrons was so seriously
decreased by a depreciation in the value of paper money and by the
deaths of some of the donors that it eventually amounted to only
four hundred dollars a year. “If my salary,” he wrote in 1822, “were
not so far reduced as to be no salary at all, I would write nothing
but symphonies for a full orchestra, and church music, or at most
quartets.” As it was, he had to devote a part of his time to writing
for money, a servitude intensely distasteful to one so devoted to
high artistic ideals, so constitutionally incapable of compromise. He
puts the best face on the matter, jokes about it as he does about
everything; but it is obvious that he suffered much to gather the
florins his nephew so easily spent. “I wander about here with music
paper, among the hills and dales and valleys, and scribble a great
deal to get my daily bread; for I have brought things to such a pass
... that in order to gain time for a great composition, I must always
previously scrawl away a good deal for the sake of money.” But his
attitude towards publishers remained dignified, considerate; he knew
how to respect his own work and rights without falling into the petty
egotism of the so-called “artistic temperament.” “I must apprise you,”
he writes Herr Peters of the well-known Leipzig publishing house, “that
I cannot accept less than 50 ducats for a string quartet, and 70 for
a pianoforte one, without incurring loss; indeed, I have repeatedly
been offered more than 50 ducats for a violin quartet. I am, however,
always unwilling to ask more than necessary, so I adhere to the sum
of 50 ducats, which is, in fact, nowadays the usual price. I feel
positively ashamed when I have to ask a price for a really great work.
Still, such is my position that it obliges me to secure every possible
advantage. It is very different, however, with the work itself; when
I never, thank God, think of profit, but solely of how I write it.”
It is a similar dignified sense of his responsibilities, far removed
from vanity, that prompts him to request of an editor notice of his
nomination as an honorary member of the Royal Swedish Musical Academy.
“Although neither vain nor ambitious,” he says, “still I consider it
advisable not wholly to pass over such an occurrence, as in practical
life we must live and work for others, who may often eventually benefit
by it.” The sincerity of these convictions is proved by the fact that
after Beethoven’s death in poverty, eight bank-shares were found among
his papers, carefully preserved by him for the legacy of his nephew.

Beethoven’s deafness went on steadily increasing. That is a pathetic
picture his friend Schindler gives of him, improvising with all the
enthusiasm of his inner inspiration on the violin or the viola, which,
because of his inability to tune them, gave out the most distressing,
discordant sounds. On the piano it was but little better; he had to
guide himself largely by sight, and his touch became harsh and heavy.
The effect of this malady on his character, already mentioned in
Chapter VII, and recognized by himself in his “Will,”[47] grew as
time went on more profound. He became morbidly suspicious, withdrew
himself entirely from casual social intercourse, and distrusted even
his best friends. Friendly consultations in his behalf he interpreted
as collusions against him, and resented with all the violent anger of
his intense, willful, and frank nature. When Lichnowsky, Schuppanzigh,
and Schindler met at his room, as if by chance, to discuss a concert
they were planning for the presentation of the Missa Solemnis and the
Ninth Symphony, his suspicions were so aroused that he wrote the three
faithful disciples as follows:

To Lichnowsky:

“Insincerity I despise; visit me no more; my concert is not to take


To Schuppanzigh:

“Come no more to see me. I give no concert.


To Schindler:

“Do not come to me till I summon you. No concert.


The dogmatic, domineering habit of mind here illustrated, the obverse
side of Beethoven’s strong will and high self-reliance, doubtless did
much to intensify the loneliness and the difficulties of his old age.
Yet even here there is something noble, something that commands as much
admiration as pity, about this wounded hero, this lion at bay.

The last scene of Beethoven’s troublous life opens in October, 1826,
when, already aged and broken, though but fifty-six years old, he
was obliged to seek, in the house of his “pseudo-brother” Johann, at
Krems, fifty miles from Vienna, a refuge for Carl, who had been ordered
out of Vienna by the civil authorities after his attempt at suicide.
Sir George Grove gives a picture of the oddly-assorted group of
actors: “The pompous money-loving land-proprietor; his wife, a common
frivolous woman of questionable character; the ne’er-do-well nephew,
intensely selfish and ready to make game of his uncle or to make love
to his aunt; and in the midst of them all the great composer--deaf,
untidy, unpresentable, setting every household rule at defiance, by
turns entirely absorbed and pertinaciously boisterous, exploding in
rough jokes and hoarse laughter, or bursting into sudden fury at some
absolute misconception.” Beethoven, whose health was already seriously
undermined, was obliged to sit in a cold room at his work, his brother
being unwilling to go to the expense of a fire, and to eat unwholesome,
ill-cooked food, for which however board-money was rigorously exacted.
By early December there was an open rupture between the two brothers,
and the composer and Carl, resolved to leave the place, yet denied
the closed carriage of the niggardly Johann, risked the fifty-mile
journey, in winter weather, in a hired open wagon. It was Beethoven’s
death blow. Reaching home after two days’ exposure, he took to his
bed, with his digestive troubles much aggravated, and an inflammation
of the lungs. A little later dropsy set in, and four operations had to
be undergone. As the doctors drew out the water Beethoven said grimly:
“Better from my belly than from my pen.” Early in the new year he
rallied, and planned fresh compositions. He amused himself with the
romances of Scott, but at last threw them down, exclaiming angrily:
“The man writes for money.” Soon he began to fail again. On March 24th,
rapidly sinking, he just found strength to whisper to the friends at
his bedside: “Plaudite, amici, commèdia finita est.” After a desperate
struggle of two days, his vigorous constitution at last succumbed, and
he died on the evening of March 26th, 1827.

Of the compositions of Beethoven’s last period the most conflicting
opinions have been held. Musicians of the Wagner and Liszt school have
seen in the Ninth Symphony the opening of a door into a new realm of
art, greater, freer, more deeply expressive than any that had gone
before. Critics less in sympathy with the tendencies of romanticism,
however, have interpreted the last phase of Beethoven’s career as
a decadence, the necessary result of flagging vitality and of his
previous exhaustion of the legitimate effects of pure music. They
have pointed out that his deafness made him indifferent to the actual
sensuous effect of his combinations of tone; that his increasing
fondness for the subtleties of polyphony was not supported by adequate
early training; and that the isolation and sufferings of his life
gradually undermined the sanity and marred the balance of his art.
Probably there is some truth in each of these views.

It is certain that Beethoven, in his last quartets and pianoforte
sonatas, and in the Ninth Symphony, showed for the first time the
feasibility of those special, highly individualized expressions of
feeling in music which were afterwards wrought out in great variety
and profusion by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, and
the other composers of the Romantic school. He not only made music,
as we have already seen, a language as well as an art, but he set
the fashion, in his last compositions, of regarding its powers of
eloquent and definite utterance as of even greater importance than its
general plastic beauty. From the point of view of interest, this was
an advance; and judged from this standpoint Beethoven was a pioneer
in that movement towards characteristic expression which has been so
important a part of the musical activity of our time.

But every advance, in art as well as in life, is made at a certain
cost, and the price of this increase in complexity and preciseness of
expression was a loss of artistic wholeness and poise. As a monument
of pure beauty embodied in tones, the Ninth Symphony hardly holds its
own beside the Eighth, so much smaller and less ambitious. One misses
in it the sense of reserve power, of restraint, of firmly controlled
balance of means and ends. The passionate spirit of the work jars and
disrupts its body. Music is strained to its limit of power; and great
as is the result, the success seems too much like a feat of genius,
done in despite of natural laws. In all Beethoven’s later works there
is this uncomfortable sense of strain and labor. He achieves the
well-nigh impossible, but it is at the cost of serenity.

In view of the circumstances, we may think it could hardly have been
otherwise. Long-continued deafness had made Beethoven insensitive to
the sensuous basis of music. He considered less and less the actual
sound of his fabric of tones, more and more their purely intellectual
and ideal relations. The pages of the final sonatas and quartets
bristle with passages as distressing to hear as they are interesting
to contemplate. This tendency to harshness was reinforced by his
growing addiction to contrapuntal writing. His natural style was that
monophonic or harmonic style initiated by the Florentine reformers and
passed on to him through Haydn and Mozart. But as he meditated, ever
more profoundly, he came to see its inadequacy, and constantly felt out
more and more in the direction of polyphony; he endeavored to graft
the fugue and the canon upon sonata-form. His early training, however,
was insufficient for such a task; his limitations in counterpoint had
been correctly gauged by his teacher, Albrechtsberger; and when in
his maturity he attempted to write polyphonically, he became crabbed,
awkward, and discordant. His instinct was right, but his skill did not
support him. In choral writing, again, to which he devoted himself
with increasing enthusiasm as he grew older, he was at a disadvantage.
He disregarded the natural conditions of the voice; he never really
mastered vocal style; and when he introduced a chorus into his last and
most gigantic symphony, he attempted more than he could satisfactorily
execute. The choral part of that symphony is exceedingly difficult; and
the audience is made almost as uneasy by it as the chorus.

The isolation in which he finally came to live, and the natural
independence of his character, added their influence to those of
physical and technical limitations. As he cared less for general
intelligibility, and more for the logical carrying out, to their
extremes, of the implications of his ideas, his music became more and
more abstruse. His constantly increasing interest in intellectual
subtleties, on which his great and lonely mind naturally concentrated
itself, was not regulated by a sufficient perception of the sensuous
qualities of his work--for he was deaf; and consequently the balance
was destroyed, the great sanative touch of the actual was lost, and his
music became distorted and grotesque. Some of the fugues in his later
quartets and piano sonatas sound more like audible problems in chess or
mathematics than like “the concord of sweet sounds.”

Suffering so extreme as Beethoven’s had its inevitable effect, too,
on the whole general tone and quality of his artistic utterance. He
learned the lessons of sorrow as few men have ever learned them;
temporal misfortune taught him to impersonalize his ideals, to turn to
the eternal sources of hope in his inmost spirit, and to interpret the
joys and sorrows not of his separate self merely, but of all humanity;
but at the same time that his spirit was thus chastened, purified, and
expanded, it was shorn of its primitive vigor, its pristine elasticity,
energy, and animation. If the music of his prime is the music of pagan
idealism, that of his later years is the music of stoicism--the stern
and noble stoicism of Marcus Aurelius, touched with the tenderness and
spiritual joy of Christ. It breathes a high serenity, a transfigured
human happiness, attainable only to a great soul after much suffering.
If any mortal artist could be justified in such a boast, Beethoven
was justified when he wrote: “I do not fear for my works. No evil can
befall them; and whosoever shall understand them, he shall be freed
from all the misery that burdens mankind.”

                 *       *       *       *       *

As we take a last backward glance over the life of Beethoven, and over
that larger life of the art of music in the classical period, of which
it was the final stage, we cannot but be profoundly impressed by the
unity and continuity of the whole evolution. From its first slight and
tentative beginnings in the experiments of the Florentine reformers,
secular music, the art of expressing through the medium of tones, the
full, free, and harmonious emotional life of modern idealism gradually
acquired, through the labors of the seventeenth-century composers,
definiteness of aim and technical resources. Then, in the work of Haydn
and Mozart, it reached the stage of maturity, of self-consciousness;
it became flexible, various, many-sided, adequate to the demands made
upon it; it emerged from childhood, and took its honored place in the
circle of independent and recognized arts. Finally, it was brought by
Beethoven to its ripe perfection, its full flowering. It was made to
say all that, within its native limitations, it was capable of saying.
It reached the fullness of life beyond which it could live only by
breaking itself up into new types, as the old plant scatters forth
seeds. And even these new types were dimly divined, and suggested to
his successors, by Beethoven. Was it not his effort to express, in
absolute music, the most various shades of personal, highly specialized
feeling, vigorous, sentimental, mystical, or elfishly wayward, that
inspired the romantic composers, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, and their
fellows, to pursue even further the same quest? Was it not his feeling
out toward novel dramatic effects in the combined chorus and orchestra,
in the Ninth Symphony, that showed Wagner the path he must take? Was it
not his attempts, defeated by insufficient technical skill, to combine
the polyphony of the sixteenth century with the harmonic and rhythmic
structure of the nineteenth, that suggested to Brahms, more fully
equipped, his great enterprise? Thus even the failures of a great man
are full of promise; and Beethoven, and all his forerunners too, still
live and speak to us in the music of to-day.

[47] See page 276.

                 *       *       *       *       *

                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

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public domain.

A number of words in this book have both hyphenated and non-hyphenated
variants. For the words with both variants present the one more used
has been kept.

Obvious punctuation and other printing errors have been corrected.

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