« VorigeDoorgaan »
presence of very marked and delicate character-painting, which is nevertheless subordinated for the most part to the demands of a perfectly consistent and coherent musical form. No one can doubt, in reading so full a biography as the one before us, that the dramatic interest was exceedingly strong in Mozart from an early age. His quick sense of humor, his appreciation of special foibles of character in individuals, and his power of lively satire thereupon, come out in his correspondence continually, and we have glimpses of his figure as an accomplished actor in the personation of characters in drawingroom comedy. But the realization of this power in his principal operas goes far beyond all which the suggestions of it in his every-day life would have led us to expect. For the plot and situations he was mainly indebted to the "poet," but for everything beyond them we are indebted entirely to Mozart. The skeleton characters of the conventional librettist are clothed, by Mozart's musical treatment of them, with the full outline and endowed with the warm pulsations of living and breathing human beings, men and women of like passions with ourselves; nor does any mood seem to be beyond the range of the composer's appreciation. He can give expression to the love or the grief of the high-born lady, the coquetry of the waiting-maid, the artlessness of the country girl. The polished sensuality of the libertine gentleman, the humors of his good-for-nothing valet, the illtemper of a sulky old court official, each receive from Mozart their appropriate and entirely individual musical expression. In this respect it is not too much to say that there is what may be called a certain Shakespearian power in Mozart. It is, in effect, as if he said to us, "This is how these characters would express themselves if music were their natural language ;" and the more we hear and compare their various utterances, the more we must feel convinced of the composer's clear and vivid perception of the varieties of human character. This is exhibited notably in his musical coloring of the almost epicene character of Cherubino, the amorous boy-page with the timidity and bashfulness of a woman. In a character of
such marked and unusual type, he was, of course, rather more indebted to the poet's original conception than in the case of the more ordinary types, but even thus the music of Cherubino's part is a remarkable instance of subtlety of expression; and Jahn throws an additional light on this by his mention of the treatment of the part of Polidoro in La Finta Semplice, written at the age of twelve : The naïve emotion of a youth who is as yet unconscious of the strength of his own passion, is so naturally and heartily expressed, that we may well ask how the boy had acquired such a degree of psychological insight.' The dignity and elevation of feeling, again, with which Mozart invests the love music of a high-minded lady, of a Donna Anna or a Countess, is not less remarkable in its way; and the truth and reality of Mozart's pathos, as exhibited through such characters, has been commented on by John Stuart Mill, who contrasts the feeling expressed in the Countess's airs in Figaro, the genuine outpouring of the heart in solitude, with what he terms the garrulous pathos" of Rossini, a pathos which is manifestly conscious of the listeners, and acts to them. The new form which the treatment of the orchestra in opera took in his hands cannot be better put than in Jahn's own words:
"It (the orchestra) is no longer a mere adjunct to the vocal parts, but takes its share in the effective working of the whole, filling out details which the vocal parts leave imperfect, and obeying not so much the requirements of the vocalist as the conditions of artistic perfection. This altered relationship required an altered organization; each component part of the orchestra must have a distinct existence, so that each, according to its place and kind might contribute to the general effect. The single example of the treatment of the basses will serve to make this clear. Hitherto the basses had served merely as the foundation of the melody, indispensable indeed, but often clumsy and insignificant; but here without losing their character as the groundwork of harmonic elaboration, they have an independent movement; they serve not only to support the superincumbent mass, but their quickening power sets in motion and gives the impulse to its formation."
All that need be added to this is, that Mozart, alone among operatic composers, has been able to preserve precisely the balance between the vocal and the orchestral portion of the work; to weave
the orchestra into the whole design, and give individual expression to various instruments, without hampering and over-weighting the singers. Even in Beethoven's one exquisite opera the balance is sometimes lost, the singers too much enmeshed in the elaborations of the accompaniment; and in much of recent German opera the balance is so entirely lost that the result is really an orchestral composition, with explanatory comments by the singers.
The strong sense of character, and power of musically defining it, which has been referred to and illustrated in Mozart's operas, should in itself be sufficient to refute the idea which some critics of to-day seem to entertain, that he was essentially a superior class of music-maker, producing by a happy instinct, rather than by intellectual effort. The man Mozart, it must be confessed, does not represent, apart from his art, a very high ideal of life; nor does the strong light of Jahn's biography benefit his memory much in this respect, save in so far as it justifies us in regarding him as a beautiful nature spoiled by untoward circumstances, acting upon some inherent weaknesses of character. In youth he was far more serious and self-respecting than in his later life; but Grimm characterizes him, during his stay in Paris, in a letter to the elder Mozart, as "zu treuherzig, peu actif, trop aisé à attraper, trop peu occupé des moyens qui peuvent conduire à la fortune," and Grimm's penetration is sadly justified by the records of the composer's later life-the tale of improvidence and carelessness about money, resulting in constant grinding embarrassment; of thoughtless expenditure on the whim of the moment, ill counterbalanced by equally thoughtless expectations of something turning up, or schemes for attaining that end; of the swindles perpetrated upon him by worthless companions, who were pardoned and taken into good fellowship again out of mere easy-hearted goodnature, reckless of consequences; of wine and billiards employed as the refuge from anxiety. It is a pathetic picture, but hardly a heroic one. In regard to general culture and breadth of view, Mozart's mind was evidently but of a very ordinary type, as may readily be
concluded from the total absence of any reference to the higher class of literature in his correspondence; from the tone of puerile spite in which he chronicles the death of Voltaire, "the arch-heretic;" the mingled superstition and naïveté with which he defends himself against the charge of having not fasted with full orthodoxy in Lent, somewhat in the spirit of Mrs. Quickly ("What's a joint of mutton or two in a whole Lent?"); from his fondness for rings, chains, and finery, which led to his once being actually taken for a liveried servant in some one's palace; and from the fact that he could descend to make a boon companion of such a vulgar 'rip" as Schikaneder, the manager for whom he wrote Die Zauberflöte, when the theatre was in low water, and who rewarded his ill-advised good-nature by swindling him of all that he should have made by the opera. His weaknesses were mostly amiable, and the man was lovable through them all, and was loved by many; but he was not a hero, either intellectually or morally, outside of his art. Let so much be conceded; does this fact materially affect the importance of his place as a composer? If we concluded so, we should in consistency have to lurch the garland from some of the most brilliant names in literature and art. Nor do the school of critics, who now affect to slight Mozart, profess to do so on this ground. They charge him with want of earnestness in his art, with having no definite aim, or, as I once saw the charge more distinctly formulated in print, with a thoughtless habit of taking a beautiful melody, and elaborating it solely with the view of displaying its beauty, with no ulterior aim. Is this then so ignoble a task? We have Filippo Lippi's answer
"If you get simple beauty and naught else, You get about the best thing God invents:" an answer the weight and significance of which are apt to be sadly overlooked in these days of self-conscious theorizing upon the morale of art. But the further answer on the part of Mozart might be this: that inasmuch as his special power consisted in the utterance of feeling through musical form, we have no right to demand that he should also have uttered that feeling through other channels,
literary or moral, not congenial to his genius; that in the face of the unquestionable evidence, in his lyric dramas, of the existence in him of a feeling based upon the elemental facts of a human nature and human pathos, we have no right to deny the existence of such a basis in his purely instrumental works, merely because he did not formulate in words what he could better express in music, the very raison d'étre of which is that it expresses what words cannot express; and furthermore, that the mere development of perfect musical form, proportion, and detail is in itself an intellectual exercise of the highest interest, leading to a result the contemplation of which forms an intellectual pleasure of the purest and most abstract nature, which, just because it is abstract, is incapable of rigorous or logical definition, but is not the less genuine on that account. And in the days when, as Sterndale Bennett said, music was young," it was the proper object of a composer to perfect its form, to experiment upon its resources of design, to master its technical difficulties; just as in the younger days of painting the mere effort to work out effects and handling not previously mastered was one of the main objects of the most gifted painters, and was a sufficient and ennobling aim in itself. The "Warum?" which Wagner has so persistently put, and which is a question naturally intruding itself upon the practitioners of an art which has passed its prime and is falling into its sere and yellow leaf, could have no place in the early and formative epoch of the same art. It seems to have been Mozart's peculiar mission to exhibit the perfect balance of form and design in his own art. In lyric drama he has done this more completely than any one since his time has succeeded in doing it. In one important and very popular branch of instrumental music, that of which the keyboard is the medium, he has been far surpassed, because he never thoroughly emancipated himself from the old clavier or harpsichord style which was in vogue in his youth, never fully appreciated the new and different powers of the modern pianoforte, which was only coming into general use in the
latter part of his musical career. In the/ higher forms of instrumental music, the quartet and the symphony, he achieved a perfection of finish in regard to form, expression, and relation of means to the end, which has never been surpassed, and not often equalled even by Beethoven. He gave to music of this class a higher and more serious tone than it had ever exhibited before. Of one section of his instrumental movements, the minuets, Jahn remarks very truly, Haydn's minuets are the product of a laughter-loving national life; Mozart's give the tone of good society," the distinction of character which, as before observed, belongs also to the music of his heroines in opera; and the same kind of comparative elevation of tone belongs to the best of his instrumental music generally, in comparison with what had preceded it. When we come to compare the emotional expression of his music with that of his greatest successor, then indeed we are conscious of a comparative limitation in his powers; but we must also perceive that so passionate a stress of feeling as is poured out in the works of Beethoven, even could the poetic motive for it have existed in Mozart's day, would have torn asunder the delicate and finished framework of Mozart's exquisitely constructed forms. The greatest intensity of expression is perhaps incompatible with the greatest perfection of form; but while recognizing in Mozart the musician who gave us the most balanced and complete musical art, we must, while recognizing also his limitation in regare to emotional intensity, remember that he had lived but a short life, that his latest work, the "Requiem" (taking those portions which are unquestionably his), evinces deeper and more serious, feeling than any of his previous compositions, and that we can hardly estimate what he night have done with twenty years' longer life, under favorable circumstances. As it is, he has left enough to justify Rossini's characterization of him, as the only musician who had as much knowledge as genius, and as much genius as knowledge." Fortnightly Review.
LIFE AND TIMES OF THE RIGHT HON. JOHN
This work aims to be something more than a biography, to sketch an outline of the great movements which have made the middle half of the nineteenth century such an important epoch in English history. Indeed, this is the only way in which an adequate life of John Bright could be written. His glory has been that he has interpreted the domestic needs of England to herself and to the world with an eloquence unsurpassed in its day in his own country, as well as with a single-minded devotion which has never been questioned. This benign political figure would have been an object of deep sympathy on the part of all Americans, had he not endeared himself peculiarly to us during our late struggle for existWhen most of the leading men of Great Britain were hostile to the Union cause John Bright's eloquence rang like a trumpet through the land unfaltering in its support, and through this trumpet spoke the voice of the great middle class, which he represented and had inspired. The life of such a man could not fail to be of the most pregnant interest and his biographer has performed his work con amore. We do not discover that literary
public agitation increased, his irresistible im. pulse as an orator came to the fore, and he became known for the fervor and charm of his
eloquence. It was not many years before he was recognized with Richard Cobden as the most powerful advocate in England for the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the establishment of that free-trade policy which has since been the dominant fact in the economic life of the country. In 1843 he was returned to Parliament from Durham. He entered political life with a large stock of practical political knowledge, a noble and lofty purpose, and an extensive training in the very best school of oratory, the habit of addressing large masses of people for at least ten years previously. instantly sprang to the front rank as a debater in the House of Commons. Side by side with Cobden at Westminster during parliamentary sessions, or through the length and breadth of the land at other times he brought his eloquent voice and strong logic to bear on his work, till in 1846 Sir Robert Peel was won over, and the Corn Laws were abolished. It is not practicable, for us to pursue at any length the important part taken by John Bright in successive reforms in English policy. He was identified with most of the different reform and suffrage bills which passed Parliament, and his voice skill in the work which make some biographies changes. Of his more recent career we do not was a most potent one in bringing about those
so delightful. It is the matter rather than the manner which interests, and if the author is at times prolix and cumbersome, we can readily overlook this fault in view of the sincerity and sympathy shown on every page. Every biographer must be a hero-worshipper, so far as his subject is concerned, to be successful, and Mr. Robertson cannot be mistaken in this attitude. John Bright was the scion of a respectable Quaker family and was born at Rochdale, in the North of England, in 1811. His father acquired a fortune in manufacturing, but John Bright, after he had received a fairly good school training, was not permitted to go to a university but was put to the more practical training of his father's mill. Though engaged in active business while yet a youth, he devoted all his leisure time to study, and so laid the foundation of that extensive knowledge of literature and history which is not surpassed by any of his political colleagues and rivals. He soon became interested in the great contest which sprang from the Corn Laws, and as
need to speak, for all Americans are familiar with it. His biographer has given us a pleasant picture of John Bright in private as well as of the statesman and reformer, and, however faulty on the literary side of his work, he is entitled to the thanks of the reading world for his very full presentation of the life of so great
THE CREATORS OF THE AGE OF STEEL. By
This is pre-eminently the age of the practical arts, and among these arts those connected with the manufacture and use of iron and steel take the highest place. The utilization of iron has been agreed on as the measure of the world's more advanced civilization. For example, the archaeologists have divided the progress of man from savagery to civilization accordingly as he has made his weapons and tools of stone, bronze, or iron. It is not till
man in the history of the race had reached a comparatively advanced stage of progress that he learned to smelt and work iron, and the use of this most valuable of all metals contributed largely to advance him in that civilization. The knowledge of that peculiar modification of iron called steel existed almost contemporaneously with the other, but for many thousand years the world advanced not beyond the very threshold of knowledge as to what the capacity of steel was. It may, in fact, be said that as much was known about methods and processes of working and tempering steel at the time of the Christian era as in the year 1800 A.D. The age of steel had not yet begun. The dawn of modern physical science was in the middle of the fifteenth century. For a hundred years progress was slow. From the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth
century it became universally recognized that observation and experiment were indispensable to the extension of physical knowledge. This was the period of Galileo. During the next hundred years the world witnessed the application of mathematics to mechanics and physics. This was the age of Newton and Leibnitz. From 1750 to 1850 there existed no distinctive characteristic except the enormous and widespread application of these principles of physical and industrial knowledge. It has been reserved for the latter half of this century to witness the marvellous discoveries in the properties of steel, processes of making it, and varieties of application which have revolutionized the conditions of the age in so many particulars. The little book before us is an interesting sketch of the great inventors and scientists who have contributed most largely to making this the age of steel-Sir Henry Bessemer, Sir William Siemens, Sir Joseph Whitworth, Sir Thomas Brown, and others. Of course, it is only an outline sketch, but it gives an admirable résumé of the field and a sufficiently graphic idea of what the world Owes to some half dozen men. To illustrate, for example, the value of the invention of Bessemer in steel-making: It is stated by M. Chevalier, the French economist, that the whole gold yield of California up to 1882 amounted to about $1,200,000,000. Yet he claims that the Bessemer steel process has saved the world much more than that enormous sum, though it was only discovered or at least made known to the public in 1856. Sir William Siemens supplemented the discoveries of Bessemer in processes of cheap steelmaking, and so these two men have revolution
ized the industrial conditions of the century. for all other industries depend on iron and steel. It would be interesting to collate various facts and statements from the book of Mr. Jeans, and thus give a more vivid notion of the value of these brief biographies, but this we cannot do. Sir William Siemens, it need hardly be said, was not only intimately associated with the greatest operations in steel metallurgy, but a scientist of most versatile attainments, who seemed indefatigable in the more abstract branches as well as in the practical field. It is to him, too, that we owe some of the most important steps in modern electrical engineering. Sir Joseph Whitworth is specially known as the inventor and manufacturer of the heaviest rifled ordnance and Sir Henry Brown as the iron-master who has carried the art of rolling armor plates of vast size to a higher perfection than any other manufacturer in the world. Of the other two men whose biographies are sketched in this book we can only say that they are worthily grouped with the others. The author has done his work with good taste and sufficient skill, and succeeded in making a very interesting book, and one not less instructive than interesting.
(American Novel Series.) By New York: Henry Holt & Co.
This is the second issue in the American Novel Series, "A Latter-Day Saint" having been the first. Though essentially different from the other story in motive and the fact that it is the product of a riper and more experienced mind, it has certain points of resemblance that come of a common flippancy of method and an audacious misstatement by implication, at least, of social facts and tendencies. If the publishers have the same luck with the succeeding authors of the series, it will be unique of its kind. By the title, "The Pagans," is meant no allusion whatsoever to those worthy forefathers of us all who worshipped idols. It is supposed to be the name of a little society of artists and litterateurs in Boston, who meet periodically in a very informal way to drink beer, smoke pipes, rail at the established order of things, make long speeches against what is known as Philistinism, condemn everything which does not square with their notions of art and society, and otherwise aeport themselves as harmless lunatics. It is with the sayings and doings of these people and their connection with the outer world that "The Pagans" concerns itself. The story is not much, but it