Germany Music Part 10

Germany Music Part 10

At Mozart we find a sovereign sense of grace and lightness, expressed above all in the melodic invention of an almost Italianizing character, which sometimes overshadows the thematic development; a subtle and infallible orchestral sensibility, probably never surpassed by anyone; and in the play (which Mozart cultivated, the only one of the three great classics, with supreme excellence of results) a singular psychological penetration and therefore a perfect characterization of the various characters.

At Beethoven a new dynamism appears in the history of music; dynamism that from the symphonic theme exerts a powerfully constructive rhythm; a wealth of dialectical consequences that leads the composer to an amplification of the form (especially in the areas of elaboration); a dramatic sense which confers to the various tempos of the symphony the value of moments of a single spiritual process, and which practically often determines an enhancement of the last of these tempos, resolution or catharsis of the symphonic drama (III, V and IX symphony). With Beethoven, music, having abandoned the criterion of art for art, becomes a real individual confession. This is a character that the nineteenth-century romantics hastened to take on their own.

Close to the formidable dialectic and builder of symphonic dramas lives and works the first group of romantics formed by: F. Schubert, whose sweet lyricism is poured out in the Lied for voice and piano (bringing this genre to its highest peak) and in instrumental pages notable for the freedom of speech (which borders on fantasy from the closed form); from CM v. Weber, the founder of the romantic opera, so representative of the German people and country; by minor masters, such as the singular poet-musician ETA Hoffmann, author of plays; the violinist L. Spohr, notable not only for instrumental music but also for the opera Jessonda, full of a romanticism that is a prelude to Wagner; the operas HA Marschner, AG Lortzing, O. Nicolai, whose last two cultivate musical comedy with happy results; while, outside Germany, the Berliner J. Meyerbeer came to fame with his eclectic-style Grand-Opéra aimed at predominantly outward effects.

In this lapse of time, a lively movement towards popular choralism should also be noted, probably under the influence of the then reinvigorated patriotic currents. Vast associations of a not only artistic nature are formed, which benefit greatly from choral singing: Fr. ex. the Liedertafel founded by Zelter in Berlin; and in southern Germany these organizations are of considerable importance. Together with this movement, the custom of large gatherings or musical festivals was born, which still remain typical of German artistic life today; especially those of the countries of the Lower Rhine, whose centers are Cologne, Aachen, Düsseldorf, soon take on great value, leading, among other things, to a renewed love for great symphonic-choral performances and, consequently, to a new flowering of compositions of this kind, as p. ex. the oratories of F. Schneider, L. Spohr, C. Löwe (the popular author of ballads for voice and piano) and, later, F. Mendelssohn.

But the strongest musical currents in the German nineteenth century were those of instrumental music and theater. We have already seen the beginning of romantic instrumental music with the group Schubert, Weber, Spohr, etc. The continuation of his activity is especially due to two masters of very different nature but of perhaps equally great value: F. Mendelssohn and R. Schumann. In the work of the first, the dreams and inspirations of romanticism are resolved in a calm, ethereal expression of eurythmy. On the other hand, the darkest mystery envelops the unbridled romanticism of R. Schumann, in which the beauty and impetus of inspiration does not respond to the same ease of elaboration in great classical forms. Sommo is therefore Schumann in the short and imaginative pages, especially piano, and in the Lied, although the musical substance of his symphonies also places these works among the greatest of the post-Beethoven period.

Towards the middle of the century, German instrumental music split into two currents: conservative (J. Brahms) and revolutionary (F. Liszt), the latter, also called Neudeutsche Schule, connected to the Wagnerian theatrical movement.

According to, the activity of the first group, despite the seriousness and wisdom of many of its exponents (F. Kiel, J. Rheinberger, C. Reinecke, M. Bruch, R. Franz, J. Joachim), has a real great value for us, aesthetic and historical, almost only in the work of J. Brahms, who in the severe architectural construction finds – far from scholastic formalism – precisely the expression of the most powerful spiritual motion. Nourished by Bach and Beethoven, but also by romantic fantasy, this art represents the legitimate Germanic tradition, as well as in the powerful symphonic architectures as in chamber music and in the Lied, in the face of the ardent insurrection of the guided Neudeutschen, on the traces of style Wagnerian, from the cosmopolitan F. Liszt.

Germany Music 10

Comments are closed.