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260

CHAPTER XXIII.

INSTRU

PRESENT STATE OF MUSIC IN ENGLAND. -THE PIANO-FORTE.-
CLEMENTI. CRAMER. THE ORGAN.-COMPOSITION OF
MENTAL MUSIC. THE VIOLIN. VOCAL PERFORMERS.-INSTITU-
TIONS. ANCIENT CONCERT.
SOCIETY. SOCIETY OF BRITISH MUSICIANS. MUSICAL PUBLICA-

TIONS.-CONCLUSION.

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PHILHARMONIC SOCIETY.

VOCAL

MR. JOHN CRAMER, in the preface to the last edition of his invaluable Studio per il Piano-forte, says, that "it is not unreasonable to suppose that our hereditary acquaintance with, and the frequent performances of, Handel's works, have, in this country, offered an effectual resistance to the evil influence of the florid and vitiated style of the modern Italian school, which has been so unfortunately and perniciously diffused over the whole Continent; for nowhere are Handel's works so well understood, and so well performed, as in England." This remark, though expressed in general terms, is especially applicable to the subject of which the writer is treating,-the style of composition for, and performance on, the piano-forte; and it is gratifying to have such conclusive testimony to the superiority of English taste in this great branch of instrumental music.

The harpsichord, the precursor of the piano-forte, did not possess the powers, or attain the importance, of the latter instrument. There was little music written expressly for the harpsichord by composers of the first

class; and by them it was used as subsidiary to the organ. The first remarkable compositions for the harpsichord are those of FRESCOBALDI, who flourished about the middle of the seventeenth century, and who was also the greatest organist of his day. When we add to his pieces those of Domenico Scarlatti, Handel, Sebastian and Emanuel Bach, Paradies, and a few minor composers, we have all the harpsichord music, of any consequence, that preceded the time of the celebrated Clementi, the father of the piano-forte. As soon as it became known, its powers of sostenuto and expression, of which the harpsichord was destitute, led to the abandonment of that instrument.

MUZIO CLEMENTI was born at Rome in 1752. He was brought to this country when little more than a boy; and, having resided in England during almost the whole of his long life, may be looked upon as an English musician. He had made considerable proficiency in music before his arrival; but it was in this country that he prosecuted those studies which raised him to the summit of his art. He was indefatigable in the study of the works of Corelli, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Handel, and Sebastian Bach, and the harpsichord lessons of Paradies, then very popular in England. He became, by the common consent of the whole musical world, the greatest performer on the piano-forte of his time; and, though, in his latter years, he was rivalled by younger men, he has never yet been surpassed. Indeed, he may be said to be the founder of the modern school of the piano-forte, not only by means of the great players whom he has instructed, but by his works, which have been studied throughout

Europe. John Cramer, Field, of Petersburg, and several eminent foreign performers, were his pupils ; and many of the first pianists of the age (including Beethoven himself) have acknowledged that they had, in a great measure, formed themselves on his works. Clementi died in 1833, full of years and honours, due not only to his exalted station as an artist, but to his high intellectual and moral qualities as a man.

Many eminent composers for and performers on the piano-forte have flourished in England since the commencement of the present century, whom our limits do not permit us to particularize. The most distinguished among them were DUSSEK, STEIBETT, WOELFL, and FIELD; all of whom have left many masterly and beautiful works which ought not to be neglected by the amateurs of this instrument.

Of JOHN BAPTIST CRAMER Wwe have already had occasion to speak. He, too, though a foreigner by birth, is an English musician. He was brought to this country in his childhood, by his father, William Cramer, of Manheim, the celebrated violinist, about the year 1772; and (with the exception of occasional visits to the Continent) lived constantly in England till the year 1835, when he retired from the exercise of his profession, and fixed his residence in Germany. He was a pupil of Clementi; but many of his peculiar beauties (in so far as they can be ascribed to anything but his own genius,) were derived from his assiduous study of the music of Mozart.

To the labours of Clementi and Cramer, aided by their younger coadjutor, Moscheles, must, in a great measure, be ascribed the comparative purity of the

English school of the piano-forte. Their admirable didactic works are a body of studies in which nothing is wanting that is requisite to form a finished player; and they all lay the foundation of their instructions in the works of the old masters. Students thus imbued with solid knowledge and good taste, are in little danger of being corrupted by the shallow and frivolous style which, springing from Vienna and Paris, is spreading itself over Europe. Our principal public performers, Mrs. ANDERSON, NEATE, POTTER, and BENNETT, and a great number of excellent teachers, not only in London, but all our principal towns, belong to the school of these great masters, and follow their footsteps in tuition. The florid and showy style, fashionable at Vienna and Paris, has its votaries here also; but their number is comparatively small, and does not seem to be increasing *.

The organ, the noblest of instruments, is successfully cultivated in England. Our organists rival those of Germany, and are very superior to those of any other country. The low state of the organ in France is admitted by French writers themselves; and the Italian organists profane their churches, and degrade the instrument, by playing upon it, by way of voluntaries, marches, waltzes, and overtures of operas. In England, the dignity of the organ has been sustained by the purity of our ecclesiastical school of music. Our chief composers for the church, down to the present day, have been masterly performers on the organ: and,

*

The performances of THALBERG, displaying such wonderful powers of execution, and so much novelty of style, cannot fail to have an influence on the state of piano-forte playing in England.

264

COMPOSITION OF INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC.

owing to the example and influence of SAMUEL WESLEY, (the Sebastian Bach of the organ,) and other great organists of the metropolis, the cathedrals and churches, throughout the kingdom, are supplied with organists who are not only able performers, but sound and enlightened musicians. They are generally musical instructors; and it is owing to them that (as John Cramer has said) the works of Handel are nowhere so well understood and performed as in England.

The composition of instrumental music, either for a full orchestra, or in the form of concerted pieces for instruments, has not yet been successfully cultivated in England. We have no symphonies, quartets, or quintets, which can rival the works of the German school; and our dramatic composers, though some of them are able to employ the orchestra effectively as an accompaniment, hardly ever fail, in their overtures, to show their deficiency in instrumental composition. To excel in this branch of the art demands a depth and variety of knowledge, and a command of the resources of harmony, which, till very lately at least, has been unattainable by the imperfect means of education which England has furnished to musical students; and they have, moreover, to contend with the stupendous works of the German masters, the excellence of which appears to the public, as well as to themselves, to be unapproachable. This produces the double disadvantage of depressing their own energies, and of preventing their productions from having an indulgent, or perhaps even a fair, hearing. If a symphony, an overture, or a quartet, by a native aspirant for musical honours, is performed in public, the question ought to be, not

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