DESPITE a century and a half of great musicians, Germany about the year 1750 was far from having won, in the musical judgment of Europe, the position that she holds today. It is true that those days were past when a Roman chronicler said of the students of the German College in Rome:
“If by chance these students had to make music in public, it is certain that it would be a Teutonic music, fit to excite laughter and to fill the hearers with merriment.”
The time was even pastthough not very remotewhen Lecerf de la Viéville made careless mention of the Germans “whose reputation in music is not great,” and the Abbe de Châteauneuf congratulated a German performer on the dulcimer “all the more because he came from a country not likely to produce men of brilliance and talent.”
By 1780 Saxony had produced Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. She had Gluck and Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Yet she was still enduring the crushing yoke of Italy. Although certain of her musicians who were becoming conscious of their power suffered this domination with impatience, they were not as yet sufficiently united to end it. The gifts of fascination possessed by their rivals were too great; the Italian art was too complete, whatever its deficiency of ideas. It showed up in a crude light the awkwardness, the dullness, the faults of taste which are not lacking in the German masters and often repel him who examines the works of artists of the second rank.
The English traveler Burney, who in his notes on Germany finally pays high tribute to the greatness of German music, is none the less continually shocked by the clumsiness of musical performances; he gnashes his teeth over the ill-tuned instruments, the inharmonious organs, the shrieking voices.
“One does not find in German street musicians the same delicacy of ear which I have met in the same class of persons in Italy.,,
In the musical schools of Saxony and Austria “the playing of the pupils is generally hard and clumsy.”
At Leipzig the singers produce merely a disagreeable noise, a yelping, when the high notes are taken; a sort of stricken shriek, instead of emitting the voice while diminishing or swelling the tone.
In Berlin the instrumental school “makes hardly any use of forte and piano. Each performer simply vies with his neighbor. The chief aim of the Berlin musician is to play louder than the other. . . . There is no gradation . . . no attention to the nature of the tone produced by the instruments, which have only a certain degree of power when producing a musical note, after which there is nothing but a noise.”
At Salzburg the large orchestra of the Prince-Archbishop was remarkable chiefly for its inelegance and its noise. Mozart speaks of it with disgust: “It is one of the great reasons why Salzburg is hateful to me; this court orchestra is so uncouth, so disorderly, and so debauched! An honest man with decent manners cannot live with such people!”
Even at Mannheim, which had the most perfect orchestra in Germany, the wind instrumentsthe bassoons and oboeswere not in tune.
As for the organ, it was torture to hear it played in Germany. In Berlin “the organs are big, clumsy, loaded with stops, noisy, and out of tune.” In Vienna, in the cathedral, “the organs are horribly out of tune.” Even in Leipzig, in the holy city of the organ, the city of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, “despite all my investigations,” says Burney, “I did not hear anyone play the organ well anywhere.”
It would seem that with the exception of a few princely courts, “where the arts,” says Burney, “rendered power less insupportable, and intellectual diversions were perhaps as necessary as those of active life,” the love of music was not nearly so ardent or so universal as in Italy.
During the first weeks of his tour Burney was disappointed:
“Traveling along the banks of the Rhine from Cologne to Coblenz, I was peculiarly surprised to find no trace of that passion for music which the Germans are said to possess, especially on the Rhine. At Coblenz, for example, although it was Sunday and the streets were filled with crowds of people, I did not hear a single voice or instrument, as is usual in most Roman Catholic countries.”
Hamburg, lately famed for its opera, the first and most celebrated in Germany, has become a musical Boeotia. Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach feels lost there. When Burney goes to see him, Bach tells him: “You have come here fifty years too late.”
And in a jesting tone that conceals a little bitterness and shame, he adds:
“Goodbye to music! The Hamburgers are good people, and I enjoy here a tranquility and independence that I should not have in a court. At the age of fifty I abandoned all ambition. Let us eat and drink, I said, for tomorrow we shall sleep. And here I am, reconciled with my position except when I meet men of taste and intellect who can appreciate a better music than that we produce here; then I blush for myself and for my good friends, the Hamburgers.”
Burney concludes that the Germans must owe their knowledge of music not to nature but to study.
He will gradually change his opinion, on discovering the hidden wealth, the originality, the powerful vitality of German art. He will come to realize the superiority of German instrumental music. He will even take pleasure in German singing and will prefer it to any others, Italian excepted. But his first impressions make it clear enough that the choice spirits of the period, the princes and amateurs, favored the Italians at the expense of their own compatriots, with an exaggeration that even the Italianate Burney recognized.
Italian music had several centers in the heart of Germany. These, in the seventeenth century, were Munich, Dresden, and Vienna. The greatest Italian mastersCavalli, Cesti, Draghi, Bontempi, Bernabei, Torri, Pallavicino, Caldara, Porpora, Vivaldi, Torelli, Veracinihad sojourned there and reigned supreme. Dresden above all displayed a dazzling efflorescence of Italianism during the first half of the eighteenth century, in the days when Lotti, Porpora, and Hasse, the most Italianate of the Germans, directed the opera.
But in 1760 Dresden was barbarously devastated by Frederick the Great, who applied himself to effacing its splendor for good and all. He methodically destroyed by his artillery, during the siege of the city, all its monuments, churches, palaces, statues, and gardens. When Burney passed through it, the city was no more than a heap of rubbish. Saxony was ruined, and for a long time to come played no further part in musical history. “The theater was closed for reasons of economy.” The band of instrumentalists, famous all over Europe, was dispersed among foreign cities. “The poverty was general. Those artists who had not been dismissed were rarely paid. The greater part of the nobility and bourgeoisie was so poor that it could not afford to have its children taught music. . . . But for a wretched comic opera there was no other spectacle in Dresden save that of poverty.” There was the same devastation at Leipzig.
The citadels of Italianism in the second half of the century were Vienna, Munich, and the towns on the banks of the Rhine.
At Bonn, when Burney was making his tour, the band of musicians maintained by the Elector of Cologne was almost wholly composed of Italians under the direction of the Kapellmeister Lucchesi, a composer well known in Tuscany.
At Coblenz, where Italian operas were often performed, the Kapellmeister was Sales of Brescia.
Darmstadt had formerly been distinguished by the presence of Vivaldi, the court violinist.
Mannheim and Schwetzingen, the summer residence of the Elector Palatine, had Italian opera houses. That of Mannheim was able to contain five thousand persons; the staging was sumptuous and the company more numerous than at the Paris or London opera houses. Almost all the performers were Italian. Of the two Kapellmeisters one, Toeschi, was Italian, and the other, Christian Cannabich, had been sent to Italy at the Elector’s expense to study under Jommelli.
At Stuttgart and at Ludwigsburg, where the Duke of Wiirttemberg was in conflict with his subjects on account of his extravagant passion for music, Jommelli was fifteen years Kapellmeister and director of the Italian opera. The theater was enormous; it could be opened at the back, thus forming, when required, an open-air amphitheater, “which was sometimes filled by the populace expressly for the purpose of obtaining effects of perspective.” All the opera buffa singers were Italian. The orchestra included numerous Italians, and in particular some famous violinists: Nardini, Baglioni, Lolli, and Ferrari. “Jommelli,” writes Leopold Mozart, “is taking all imaginable pains to close the court to Germans. . . . In addition to his salary of four thousand florins, the upkeep of four horses, lighting, and fuel, he has a house in Stuttgart and another at Ludwigsburg. … Add to this that he has unlimited power over his musicians. … Would you like a proof of the degree of his partiality for people of his own nation? Just think of ithe and his compatriots, of whom his house is always full, have gone to the length of declaring, in respect to our Wolfgang, that it was an incredible thing that a child of German birth could possess such passion and animation.”
Augsburg, which had never ceased to be in touch with Venice and Upper ItalyAugsburg, where Italian influence had permeated architecture and the arts of design in the time of the RenaissanceAugsburg, which was the native city of Hans Burgkmair and the Holbeins, was also the cradle of the Mozarts. Leopold Mozart had, it is true, settled at Salzburg, but in 1763 he made a journey to Augsburg with his little boy, aged seven; and Teodor de Wyzewa has shown that it was there in all probability that Mozart “began to initiate himself into the free and majestic beauty of Italy ”
Munich was almost an Italian city. It had Italian comic opera houses and Italian concerts and the most famous Italian singers and performers. The sister of the Elector of Bavaria, the Dowager Electress of Saxony, was a pupil of Porpora and had composed Italian operas, words and music. The Elector was himself a virtuoso and a fairly good composer.
Scarcely had he entered Austria but Burney noted “the corrupt, factitious, Italianized melody which one hears in the towns of this vast empire.”
Salzburg, whose musical life is described by Teodor de Wyzewa in some charming pages devoted to La Jeunesse de Mozart, was half Italian in music as in architecture. About 1700 a writer of bad opera buffa, Lischietti, of Naples, was Kapellmeister there..
But the German metropolis of Italianism was Vienna. There reigned the monarch of the opera, the opera-made man: Metastasio. Father of an innumerable progeny of operatic poems, each of which was set to music not once but twice, thrice, ten times, and by all the famous composers of the century, Metastasio was regarded by all the artists of Europe as a unique genius. “He has,” says Burney, “all the feeling, all the soul and completeness of Racine with more originality.” He was the first authority in the world on theatrical music. “This great poet,” says Burney again, “whose writings perhaps contributed more to the perfection of vocal melody, and consequently of music in general, than the united efforts of all the composers of Europe,” let it be understood that he sometimes gave the musicians the motive or subject of their airs; and he arrogated to himself a protective supremacy over them. Nothing shows the Italianization of Germany better than this fact; the most famous representative of Italian opera chose as his residence not Rome or Venice but Vienna, where he held his court. Poet laureate to the emperor, he disdained to learn the language of the country in which he lived; he knew only three or four words of it; just what he needed, as he said, `to save his life'; that is, to make himself understood by his servants. Worshiped by Germany, he did not conceal his disdain of her.
His right hand in Vienna, his principal interpreter in music, was the composer Hasse, the most Italianate of German musicians. Adopted by Italy, baptized by her it Sassone ( the Saxon), the pupil of Scarlatti and Porpora, Hasse had acquired a sort of Italian chauvinism surpassing that of the Italians themselves. He would not hear of any other music; and he was ready to fall upon President de Brosses when the latter, while in Rome, attempted to uphold the superiority of Francois Lalande in the matter of church music.
“I saw,” says De Brosses, “my man ready to suffocate for anger against Lalande and his supporters. Hasse was already exhibiting a display of chromatics, and if Faustina, his wife, had not thrust herself between us, he would in a moment have seized me with a semiquaver and crushed me with a diesig.”
We may say that the German Hasse was, about the middle of the eighteenth century, the favorite Italian composer of opera seria in Germany, England, and even Italy. He had set to music all Metastasio’s operatic librettos with a single exception
some of them three or four times, and all at least twice; and although one could not possibly say that Metastasio worked slowly, Hasse found that he did not write quickly enough; and to pass the time, the German composed the music for various operas by Apostolo Zeno. The number of his works was so great that he confessed that “he might very well fail to recognize them if they were shown to him”; he derived more pleasure, he said, in creating than in preserving what he had written; and he compared himself with “those fertile animals whose off-spring are destroyed in the act of birth or left to the mercy of chance.”
This illustrious representative of Italian opera in German was, it is true, beginning to be discussed. About 1760 another party, and a very zealous one, was formed in Vienna in opposition to Metastasio and Hasse. But who were its leaders? Raniero da Calzabigi of Leghornyet another Italian!the librettist of Orfeo and Alceste; and Gluck, no less Italianate than Hasse, a pupil of Sammartini’s in Milan, the author of two score dramatic works in the Italian style, who professed all his life to write Italian operas. Such were the opposing camps, and between them there was no question of the superiority of Italian opera; that was contested by neither. The only point at issue was whether certain reforms should or should not be introduced into opera. “The school of Hasse and Metastasio,” says Burney, “regarded all innovation as charlatanry and remained attached to the old form of musical drama, in which the poet and the musician demanded equal attention on the part of the spectators-the poet in the recitative and narrative and the composer in the airs, duets, and choruses. The school of Gluck and Calzabigi devoted itself instead to scenic effects, to the propriety of the characters, to simplicity of diction and musical execution rather than to what they called flowery descriptions, superfluous comparisons, a cold and sententious morality, with tedious symphonies and long musical developments.” Here we have the whole difference: at bottom it is a question of age, not of race or style. Hasse and Metastasio were old; they complained that there had been no good music written since the days of their youth. But neither Gluck nor Calzabigi had any more idea than the older men of dethroning Italian music and replacing it with another style. In his preface to Paride ed Elena, written in 1770, after Alceste, Gluck speaks only of “destroying the abuses which have found their way into Italian opera and are degrading it.”
Viennese society was divided between these two Italianate coteries, which exhibited only the merest shade of difference. The whole imperial family was musical. The four archduchesses played and sang in Metastasio’s operas, set to music alternately by Hasse and by Gluck. The empress sang and had even acted formerly on the boards of the court theater. Salieri had just been appointed composer to the chamber and director of the Italian theater; he remained conductor of the court orchestra until 1824, an obstacle in the way of German composers, and of Mozart in particular.
Vienna, then, even into the nineteenth century, remained a center of Italian art in Germany. In the days of Beethoven and Weber, Rossini’s Tancredi was enough to ruin the painfully erected fabric of German music; and we know with what unjust violence Wagner spoke of this cityunfaithful, in his opinion, to the Germanic spirit: “Viennadoes not that say everything? Every trace of German Protestantism effaced; even the national accent lost, Italianized!”
In opposition to the Germany of the south and the ancient capital of the Holy Roman Empire, the new capital of the future German empire, Berlin, was already growing in importance.
“The music of this country,” writes Burney in Berlin, “is more truly German than that of any other part of the empire.” Frederick the Great had set his heart upon Germanizing it; he would allow no operas to be performed in his states other than those of his favorite Graun and the Saxon Agricola and a fewonly a fewof Hasse’s. But observe how difficult it was for German taste to liberate itself! These operas were Italian operas, and the king could not even imagine there could be any object in singing them in any other language than Italian.
“A German singer!” he used to say. “I would as soon hear my horse neigh!”
And who were these German composers, whose exclusive and intolerant protector he had appointed himself, so that Burney concertos had no doubt been composed in an age when people held their breath better; for in some of the difficult passages, as in the organ-points, his Majesty was obliged, against the rules, to take breath in order to finish the passage.” The court listened in resignation, and it was forbidden to betray the least sign of approbation. The contrary eventuality had not been fore-seen, Only the gigantic Quantz, worthy in respect of stature to figure in one of the king’s regiments, “had the privilege of shouting bravo to his royal pupil after each solo or when the concert was finished.”
But without lingering over these well-known facts let us see how the royal flautist endeavored to rule, by blows of his stick, the whole musical world of Berlin, and especially the opera.
Certainly he had done good. From the death of Frederick I (1713) to 1742, Berlin had had no opera. Immediately upon his accession, Frederick II built one of the greatest opera houses in existence, with the inscription: Fredericus Rex Apollini et Musis. He got together an orchestra of fifty per-formers, engaged Italian singers and French dancers, and prided himself upon having a company which in Berlin was said to be the best in Europe. The king bore all the expenses of the opera, and admission was gratuitous to all who were decently clothed; which made it possible, after all, to exclude the popular element, even from the parterre.
But although the artists were royally paid, I fancy they earned their salaries. Their situation was by no means restful.
“The king,” says Burney, “stood always behind the Kapellmeister, with his eyes on the score, which he followed so that one might truthfully say that he played the part of director-general. . . . In the opera house as in the camp, he was a strict observer of discipline. Attentively observing the orchestra and the stage, he noted the least sign of negligence in the music or the movements of the performers and reprimanded the culprit. And if any member of the Italian company dared to infringe this discipline by adding to or subtracting from his part or by altering the least passage, he was subsequently ordered by the king to apply himself strictly to the execution of the notes written by the composer, under penalty of corporal punishment.”
This detail gives us the measure of the musical freedom enjoyed in Berlin. An Italian pseudoclassicism reigned in a tyrannical fashion permitting neither change nor progress. Burney is scandalized by this tyranny.
“Thus,” he says, “music is stationary in this country and will be so long as his Majesty allows the artists no more liberty in this art than he grants in matters of civil government, striving to be at the same time the sovereign of the lives, fortunes, and interests of his subjects and the supervisor of the least of their pleasures.”
We may add that Berlin was above all a city of musical professors and theorists, who assuredly did not permit themselves to discuss the king’s taste, for they were all more or less officials, such as the chief among them, Marpurg, who was director of the royal lottery and councilor to the Ministry of War. They avenged themselves upon this constraint by bitter disputes, and their squabbles did nothing to add to the liberty or the amenity of musical life in Berlin.
“Musical disputes,” says Burney, “are accompanied in Berlin with more heat and animosity than anywhere else. Indeed, as there are more theorists than performers in this city, there are also more critics, which is not calculated to purify the taste nor to feed the imagination of the artists.”
Those whose tempers required freedom could not endure Berlin. If Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach remained in the city from 1740 to 1767, it was much against his will. The poor fellow could not leave Berlin was not allowed to do so; and he suffered in his taste and his self-respect. His position and his salary were both unsatisfactory; he was obliged day after day to accompany the royal flautist on the harpsichord; and both Graun and Quantz, “whose style was absolutely opposed to that which he was striving to establish,” were preferred to him. This explains why he was later on so delighted to find himself in the good town of Hamburg, which was devoid of interest in music and of taste, but was hospitable, good-natured, and free. To an artist, anythingeven ignoranceis better than despot-ism in matters of taste.
Such, then, at first sight was the musical culture of the great German cities. Italian opera was supreme, and Burney closed his observations of Germany with these words:
“To sum up: the points of comparison between the melodic style of the Germans and that of the Italians are as numerous as the analogies of taste offered by the majority of the composers and artists of these two countries. The reason for this resides in the relations obtaining between the empire and its extensive possessions beyond the Alps, and also in the Italian opera houses which have almost always existed in Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Berlin, Mannheim, Brunswick, Stuttgart, Cassel, etc.”
But had not Germany lately produced the eminently German genius, the vast and profound achievements of Johann Sebastian Bach? How is it that his name finds so little space in Burney’s notes and in his picture of Germany?
We have here a fine example of the diversity of the judgments pronounced upon a genius by his contemporaries and by posterity! At a distance of two centuries it seems to us impossible that he should not have held a predominant position in the musical world of his period. We may at a pinch admit that a great man may remain absolutely unknown if the circumstances of his life are such that he is isolated and can neither publish his works nor force the public to give him a hearing. But we find it difficult to believe that he could be known and not recognized; that people should have had an indifferent and merely’ benevolent opinion of him; that they should have been unable to distinguish between him and the artists of the second rank by whom he was surrounded. Yet such things are constantly happening.
Shakespeare was never completely ignored or unrecognized.
Jusserand has shown that Louis XIV had his plays in his library and that they were read in France in the seventeenth century. The public of his own time appreciated him, but not more than it appreciated many other dramatists and less than it appreciated some. Addison, who was acquainted with his works, forgot, in 1694, to mention him in his Account of the Best English Poets.
It was almost the same with Johann Sebastian Bach. He had a respectable reputation among the musicians of his time, but this celebrity never extended beyond a restricted circle. His life in Leipzig was difficult, straightened, almost poverty-stricken; and he was a victim of the persecutions of the Thomasschule, whose council did not regret his death, and, like the Leipzig newspapers, did not even mention it in its annual opening address. It refused the small customary pension to his widow, who died in 1760 in a condition of indigence. Fortunately Bach had trained a number of scholarly pupils, to say nothing of his sons, who cherished a pious recollection of his teaching. But how was he known twenty years after his death? As a great organist and masterly teacher. Burney remembers him when he passes through Leipzig, but only to cite the opinion of Quantz, who said of Bach “that this able artist had brought the art of playing the organ to the highest degree of perfection.” He adds:
“In addition to the excellent and numerous compositions which he wrote for the church, this author has published a book of preludes and fugues for the organ on two, three, or four different motives, in modo recto et contrario, and in each of the twenty-four modes. All the organists existing today in Germany were trained in his school, just as most of the harpsichord players and pianists have been trained in that of his. son, the admirable Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who has long been so well known.”
Observe the position of the epithet “admirable.” In 1770 the “admirable Bach” is Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach. He is the great man of the family. And Burney goes into raptures over the fashion in which “this sublime musician” had contrived to train himself.
“How did he form his style? It is difficult to say. He had neither inherited it nor acquired it from his father, who was his sole master; for that worthy musician, whom no one has equaled in knowledge and invention, thought it necessary to concentrate in his own two hands all the harmony of which he could avail himself; and undoubtedly in his system he sacrificed melody and expression.”
Nothing could be more characteristic than the promptitude with which the sons of Johann Sebastianwho, for that matter, venerated himdenied his taste and his principles. Karl Philipp Emanuel speaks with irony of musical science, especially of canons, “which are always dry and pretentious.” He regards it “as a defect of genius to abandon oneself to these dreary and insignificant studies.” ” He asks Burney whether the latter has met with any great contrapuntist in Italy. Burney replies in the negative. “Faith,” says Philipp Emanuel, “if you did find one, it wouldn’t be a very valuable discovery, for when one knows counterpoint there are other things too that are necessary to make a good composer.”
Burney is wedded to his own opinion, and both agree that “music must not be a large gathering where everybody speaks at once so that there is no longer any conversation, nothing but wrangling and ill-breeding and noise. A sensible man should wait for the moment in conversation when he can put in his word with effect.” It was the school of pure melody in the Italian style that condemned the old German polyphony, Italianism had permeated even the Bach family.
Johann Sebastian himself was possibly not indifferent to the charm of Italian opera. According to his historian, Forkel, he relished the work of Caldara, Hasse, and Graun. He was a friend of Hasse’s and La Faustina’s; and in Leipzig or Dresden he often went with his elder son to hear the Italian opera. He laughingly used to apologize for the pleasure which he took in these little escapades. “Friedmann,” he would say, “shall we go and hear those pretty little Dresden songs again?” Is it so difficult to recognize in certain passages of his compositions reminiscences of these “little songs”? And who knows whether, in other circumstances, had he had a theater at his disposal, he would not have gone with the tide as the others did?
His sons offered no resistance to the movement. Italianism conquered them so thoroughly that one of them became-for a timecompletely the Italian, under the name of Giovanni Bacchi. I am referring to Johann Christian Bach, the youngest of the family. He was fifteen years old at the time of his father’s death and had received at his hands a thorough musical training; he displayed a preference for the organ and the clavier. After his father’s death he went to his brother, Karl Philipp Emanuel, in Berlin. There he found the Italianized opera of Graun and Hasse. The impression which it made upon him was so profound that he set out for Italy. Ile went to Bologna, and there this son of Johann Sebastian Bach placed himself under the discipline of Father Martini. For eight years, with Martini’s assistance, he worked incessantly at the task of acquiring an Italian training and an Italian soul, At intervals he went to Naples and there became a champion of the Neapolitan school of opera; he produced a series of Italian operas based on poems by Metastasio, including Catone in Utica (1761) and Alessandro nelle Indie (1762), which enjoyed a great success. Burney said that “his airs were in the best Neapolitan taste.” But this is not all; having abjured his father’s musical taste, he likewise abjured his faith; the son of the great Bach became a Catholic. He was appointed organist in the Duomo of Milan, under an Italian name. It would be difficult to mention a more categorical example of the conquest of the Germanic spirit by Italy.
And we are not speaking of second-rate men, having no other claim to our attention than the fact that they were the sons of a great man. Johann Sebastian’s sons were themselves great artists, whom history has not placed in their proper rank. Like the majority of the musicians of this transition period, they have been unduly sacrificed to those who preceded them and those who followed them. Karl Philipp Emanuel, far in advance of his time and imperfectly understood except by a few, has rightly been described by Vincent d’Indy as one of the first direct forerunners of Beethoven. Johann Christian is hardly less important; from him derives not Beethoven but Mozart.
Another remarkable musician, who, even more than Karl Philipp Emanuel, was the precursorone might almost say the modelof Beethoven in his great sonatas and variationsFrederick Wilhelm Rust, a friend of Goethe’s, musical director to Prince Leopold III of Anhalt, at Dessau-was seduced like the rest by the Italian charm. He journeyed to Italy and remained there for two years, assiduously visiting the opera houses and making the acquaintance of the principal teachers: Martini, Nardini, Pugnani, Farinelli, and, above all, Tartini, from whom he learned a great deal; and this sojourn in Italy had a decisive effect upon his artistic education. Thirty years later, in 1792, he once more related his reminiscences of travel in one of his sonatas, the Sonata Italiano.
If the leaders of German music, such as the Sachs, Rust, Gluck, Graun, and Hasse, were affected to such an extent by the influence of Italian art, how should German music hold out against the foreign spirit? Where was its genius to find salvation?
To begin with, it was inevitable that the mass of lesser musicians, the musical plebs of Germany, those who had not the means to go to Italy and Italianize themselves, suffered from their humiliating situation and the preference given to the Italians. Burney, compelled to admit that the Italians in Germany were often much better paid than German artists who were superior to them, adds that for this reason “one must not blame the Germans unduly for endeavoring to disparage the merit of the great Italian masters, and to treat them with a severity and a disdain which are due merely to gross ignorance and stupidity.” “All are jealous of the Italians,” he says else-where. It is true that this remark occurs at the end of a sentence in which Burney remarks that the Germans also furiously attacked one another. Every town was divided into jealous factions. “Everyone is jealous of everyone else, and all are jealous of the Italians.” This lack of union was to be as disastrous to the Germans in art as in politics; it rendered them all the more incapable of defending themselves against the foreign invasion, inasmuch as their leaders, the Clucks and Mozarts of the profession, seemed to have gone over to the enemy.
But to the popular taste Italianism remained all but unknown. The catalogues of the Frankfurt and Leipzig fairs of the eighteenth century afford us proof of this. In these great European markets, in which music occupied an important place, Italian opera, so to speak, scarcely showed itself. Of German religious music there was abundance: Lutheran canticles, oratorios, Passions, and above all the collections of lieder and liedlein, the eternal and inviolable refuge of German thought.
On the other hand, it is a remarkable fact that Italian opera and Italian music were represented in Europe about the middle of the eighteenth. century not by Italians but by Germans: by Gluck in Vienna, Johann Christian Bach in London, Graun in Berlin, and Hasse in Italy itself. How could it be otherwise than that a new spirit should find its way into this Germanized Italianism? In these German masters, conscious of their superiority, there gradually developed a desire, avowed or unconfessed, to conquer Italy with her own weapons. We are struck by the Germanic pride which we perceive increasing in Gluck and Mozart. And these brilliant Italianizers are the first to try their powers in the German lied.
Even in the theater we see the German language reconquering its place. Burney, who, after calling attention to the musical qualities of the language, was at first astonished that more use was not made of it in the theater, very soon realized that musical compositions in the German language were -beginning to spread through Saxony and in the north of the empire. Since the middle of the century the poet Christian Felix Weisse and the musicians Standfuss and Johann Adam Hiller were composing, at Leipzig, in imitation of the English operetta and the comic operas of Favart, German operettas (Singspiele), the first example (1752) of which is Der Teufel ist los, oder die verwandelten Weiber. The Devil Is Loose, or the Gossips Transformed was soon followed by a quantity of similar works.
“The music,” says Burney, “was so natural and so agreeable that the favorable airs, like those of Dr. Arne, in England, were sung by all classes of people, and some of them in the streets.” Hiller gave the plebeian characters in his operas simple lieder to sing, which became as popular in Germany as vaudeville in France. “Today,” says Burney, “the taste for burlette (farces) is so general and so pronounced that there is some reason to fear, as sober individuals do, that it may destroy the taste for good music, and above all for music of a more exalted style.” But far from destroying it, these popular lieder were one of the sources of the new German opera.
But the capital fact which was to be salvation of German music was the sudden development of instrumental music at this juncture. At the moment when Germany seemed to be abjuring, with vocal polyphony and the infinite resources of the contrapuntal style, the old German manner, her very personalityat the moment when she seemed to be abandoning the effort to express her complex and logical soul to adopt the Latin style of sentiment, she had the good fortune to find in the sudden outgrowth of instrumental music the equivalent, and more, of what she had lost.
It may seem strange to speak of good fortune in respect to an event in which intelligence and determination evidently played a great part. However, we must allow here, as always in history, for chance, for the cooperation of circumstances which now favor, now oppose the evolution of a people. It is true that the more vigorous peoples always end by constraining chance and forcing it to take their side. But we cannot deny that there is such a thing as chance.
And in this instance it is plainly visible.
The Germans were not alone in developing the resources of instrumentation. The same tendencies were manifest in France and Italy. The conservatories of Venice were devoting them-selves to instrumental music with successful results; the Italian virtuosos were everywhere famous, and the symphony had its birth in Milan. But symphonic music harmonized but ill with the Italian genius, which was essentially methodical, lucid and definite, a thing of clear outlines. At all events, to transform this genius and adapt it to the novel conditions would have necessitated an effort of which Italian music, overworked, exhausted, and indolent, was no longer capable. In Italy the change would have meant a revolution. In Germany it meant evolution. Consequently the development of the orchestra assured Germany of victory while it contributed to the. decadence of Italian music. Burney complains that the Italian operatic orchestras had be-come too numerous and that their noise forced the singers to bawl. “All the chiaroscuro of music is lost; the half-tints and the background disappear; one hears only the noisy parts, which were intended to provide a foil for the rest.” Consequently the Italian voices are being spoiled, and Italy is losing her prerogative of bel canto, of which she was justly so proud. A useless sacrifice; for while renouncing her own inimitable qualities she cannot acquire qualities and a style which are alien to her.
The Germans, on the other hand, are quite at home in the nascent symphony. Their natural taste for instrumental music, the necessity which numbers of the little German courts found of confining themselves to such music as the result of a strict application of the principles of the Reformed Church, which forbade them to maintain an opera house, the gregarious instinct which impelled German musicians to unite in small societies, in small “colleges,” in order to play together, instead of practicing the individualism of the Italian virtuosos-all these thingseverything, in short, even to the comparative inferiority of German singing, was bound to contribute to the universal development of instrumental music in Germany. Nowhere in Europe were there more schools in which it was taught; or more good orchestras.
One of the most curious musical institutions in Germany was that of the “Poor Scholars,” which corresponded ( save that they were on a less generous scale) with the conservatories for poor children in Naples. These Scholars, troops of whom Burney met in the streets of Frankfort, Munich, Dresden, and Berlin, had in each city of the empire “a school confided to the Jesuits, where they were taught to play instruments and to sing.” ” The Munich school contained eighty children from eleven to twelve years of age. Before being admitted they had to be able to play an instrument or to give signs of a marked vocation for music. They were kept at school until their twentieth year. They were boarded, fed, and taught, but not clothed. They had partly to earn their living by singing or playing in the streets. This was an absolute obligation ‘upon them, “so that they should make their progress known to the public that maintained them.” In Dresden the city was divided into wards or quarters, and the Poor Scholars, divided into bands of sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, had to sing in turns before the doors of the houses of each quarter. They made up little choirs and orchestrasviolins, ‘cellos, oboes, horns, and bassoons. Wealthy families subscribed to the schools in order that the Poor Scholars should play before their houses once or twice a week. They were even engaged for private entertainments, or for funerals. Lastly, they had to take part-in the religious ceremonies of Sunday. It was a hard profession and an irksome obligation to sing in the streets in winter, however inclement the weather. These Poor Scholars were afterward appointed as schoolmasters in the parish schools, on condition that they knew enough of Greek and Latin and the organ. The most distinguished were sent to certain of the universities, such as Leipzig and Wittenberg, where more than three hundred poor students were maintained. They were allowed to devote themselves to music or to the sciences.
Some of the princely courts had musical foundations for poor children. The Duke of Wurttemberg had installed at Ludwigsburg and “Solitude,” in one of his summer palaces, two conservatories for the education of two hundred boys and a hundred girls of the poorer classes. “One of his favorite amusements was to be present at their lessons.”
In addition to these schools for poor children the communal schools gave a considerable amount of attention to music, especially to instrumental music. Such was the rule in Austria, Saxony, Moravia, and above all in, Bohemia. Burney records that every village in Bohemia had a public school where the children were taught music just as they were taught to read and write. He inspected some of them. At Czaslau, near Collin, he found “a class of young children of both sexes occupied in reading, writing, and playing the violin, the oboe, the bassoon, and other instruments. The organist of the church, who improvised r .magnificently on a sorry little organ, had, in a small room, four harpsichords on which his small pupils practiced.” At Budin, near Lobeschutz, more than a hundred children of both sexes were taught music, singing, and playing in the church.
Unhappily the skill thus acquired was stifled by poverty. “The majority of these children were destined for inferior situations of a menial or domestic nature, and music remained for them simply a private recreation; which is perhaps, after all,” says Burney philosophically, “the best and most honorable use to which music could be applied.” The rest entered the service of wealthy landowners, who with these servants made up orchestras and gave concerts: The nobility of Bohemia made the mistake of detaching themselves unduly from its interesting peasantry, living for the greater part of the year in Vienna. “If the Bohemians,” says Burney, “had the advantages enjoyed by the Italians, they would surpass them. They are perhaps the most musical race in all Europe.” They excelled above all in the playing of wind instruments: woodwind toward the Saxon frontier and brass in the direction of Moravia. It was one of these Bohemian schools that trained the reformer of instrumental music, the creator of the symphony, Stamitz, born at Teuchenbrod, the son of the Cantor of the church there. It was in these schools that Gluck received his earliest musical training. It was at Lukavec, near Pilsen, that Haydn, director of music in the private chapel of Count Morzin, wrote hi§ first symphony in 1759. Lastly, the greatest German violinist, Franz Benda, who was, with Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the only musician in Berlin who dared to possess a style of his own, independently of Graun and the Italianizers, was also a Bohemian.
Thanks to these schools and these natural faculties, instrumental music was cultivated throughout Germany, even in Vienna and Munich, pre-eminently the center of Italian opera. We say nothing of princely virtuosos: of the flute-playing king in Berlin; of the ‘cellist who was emperor of Austria; of the princely violinists, the Elector of Bavaria and the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg; of the royal pianists, the Duke of Württem-burg and the Elector of Saxony, the latter of whom, by the way, was “so timid in society,” says Burney, “that the Electress, his wife, herself had scarcely ever heard him! . . .” Nor do we insist upon the alarming consumption of concertos on the part of the German dilettanti; an average of three or four concertos to the concert in Berlin, while in Dresden five or six were given in a single evening! … But the nascent symphony was putting forth its shoots on every side. Vienna had a veritable efflorescence of symphonists among whom the naturalistic Hoffmann and the imaginative Vasshall, with Dieters, Huber, Gusman, and the youthful Haydn, who had just made his first appearance, were singled out for praise. This music found an enthusiastic public in Vienna. Teodor de Wyzewa has described the court music and “table music” of the Archbishop of Salzburg; three concertmasters were responsible in turn for preparing the pro-grams of these orchestras and for conducting the performances. The work of Leopold Mozart shows what a quantity of instrumental music was demanded by the everyday life of these little German courts. To this we may add the private concerts and the serenades sung or played in the streets to the order of wealthy burghers.
The center of instrumental music in Germany was in those days Mannheim, or during the summer months, Schwetzingen, at a distance of some seven or eight miles from Mannheim. Schwetzingen, which was only a village, was apparently inhabited, says Burney, solely by a colony of musicians. “Here it was a violinist who was practicing; in the next house a flautist; there an oboe, a bassoon, a clarinet, a ‘cello, or a concert of several instruments combined. Music seemed the principal object in life.” The Mannheim orchestra “contained, by itself, perhaps more distinguished virtuosos and composers than any other in Europe; it was an army of generals.”
This company of the elect, which also earned the admiration of Leopold Mozart and his son, used to give celebrated concerts. It was at these concerts that Stamitz, since 1745 first concertmaster and musical director of the prince’s chamber music, made the first experiments in the German symphony.
“It was here,” says Burney, “that Stamitz for the first time ventured to cross the boundaries of the ordinary operatic overtures, which until then had merely served to challenge attention and impose silence. . . . This brilliant and ingenious musician created the modern symphonic style by the addition of the majestic effects of light and shade which he used to en-rich it. First all the various effects were tested which could be produced by the combination of notes and tones; then a practical understanding of the crescendo and diminuendo was acquired in the orchestra, and the piano, which until then had been employed only as synonymous with echo, became with the forte an abundant source of colors which have their gamut of shades in music just as red and blue have in painting.”
This is not the place to insist on this fact; it is enough to note in passing the originality and the fertile audacity of the experiments made by the fascinating Stamitz, who today is so little and so imperfectly known, although, as Burney tells us, he was regarded in his day “as another Shakespeare, who overcame all difficulties and carried the art of music further than any had ever done before his time; a genius, all invention, all fire, all contrast in the lively movements, with a tender, gracious, and seductive melody, simple and rich accompaniments, and everywhere the sublime effect produced by enthusiasm, but in a style not always sufficiently polished.”
We see that in spite of Italianism the German genius had contrived to reserve itself certain independent provinces in which it was able to grow in safety until the day when, conscious of its power, it would give battle to the alien spirit and liberate itself from the yoke. None the less it is true that about the middle of the eighteenth century Italian opera was supreme in Germany, and the leaders of German music, those who were afterward to be its foremost liberators, were all without exception profoundly Italianized. And magnificent as was the development of German music in Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their successors, it is permissible to believe that this was not the normal development of German music as it would have been had the latter, in taking shape, relied only upon its own resources, drawing only upon its own capital.
From the overwhelming triumph of the Italian opera over the Germany of the eighteenth century there has remained through the centuries the indelible mark of Italian feeling and the Italian style, which is perceptible even in the most thoroughly German masters of our own period. It would not be difficult to prove that Wagner’s work is full of Italianisms; that the melodious and expressive language of Richard Strauss is, to a great extent, fundamentally Italian. A victory such as that of the Italy of the eighteenth century over Germany leaves its indelible traces upon the history of the people that has suffered it.