« AnteriorContinua »
best Scottish ballads, -- " The Broom of Cowdenknows," for instance,-are still ascribed to David Rizzio. But be that as it will, bis manner was something peculiar to the English ; and he might have continued as head of the English school, had not his merits been entirely eclipsed by Handel. Handel, though originally a German, yet adopted the English manner : he had long laboured to please by Italian composition, but without success ; and though his English oratorios are accounted inimitable, yet his Italian operas are fallen into oblivion. Pergolese excelled in passionate simplicity : Lully was remarkable for creating a new species of music, where all is elegant, but nothing passionate or sublime. Handel's true characteristic is sublimity; he has employed all the variety of sounds and parts in all his pieces : the performances of the rest may be pleasing, though executed by few performers; his require the full band. The attention is awakened, the soul is roused up at his pieces ; but distinct passion is seldom expressed. In this particular he has seldom found success ; he has been obliged, in order to express passion, to imitate words by sounds, which, though it gives the pleasure which imitation always produces, yet it fails of exciting those lasting affections which it is in the power of sounds to produce. In a word, no man ever understood harmony so well as he ; but in melody he has been exceeded by several.
The following Objections, by, an anonymous correspondent, were
addressed to the Editor of the British Magazine, in which the preceding Essay appeared. Dr Smollett, before printing it, sent the communication to Goldsmith, who answered the objector in the notes annexed. Without pretending to give an opinion on the merits of the controversy, we may be permitted to remark, that if, as Sir J. Hawkins affirms, Goldsmith had no scientific knowledge of music, he at least knew where to obtain information. Neither in his Essay, nor in his remarks, does he betray any ignorance of his subject. -- B.
PERMIT me to object against some things advanced in the paper on the subject of “ The Different Schools of Music.” The author of this article seems too hasty in degrading the harmonious * Purcel, from the head of the English school, to
* Had the objector said melodious Purcel, it had testified at least a greater acquaintance with music, and Purcel's peculiar excellence. Purcel in melody is frequently great: his song made in his last sickness,
crect in his room a foreigner, (Handel,) who has not yet formed any school.* The gentleman, when he comes to communicate his thoughts upon the different schools of painting, may as well place Rubens at the head of the English painters, because he left some monuments of his art in England.t He says, that Handel, though originally called Rosy Bowers, is a fine instance of this; but in harmony he is far short of the meanest of our modern composers, his fullest harmonies being exceedingly simple. His opera of Prince Arthur, the words of which were Dryden's, is reckoned his finest piece. But what is that in point of harmony, to what we every day hear from modern masters ? In short, with respect to genius, Purcel had a fine one : he greatly improved an art but little known in England before his time; for this he deserves our applause; but the present prevailing taste in music is very different from what he left it, and who was the improver since his time, we shall see by and by.
* Handel may be said as justly as any man, not Pergolese excepted, to have founded a new school of music. When he first came into England his inusic was entirely Italian : he composed for the opera; and though even then his pieces were liked, yet did they not meet
with universal approbation. In those he has too servilely imitated the modern vitiated Italian taste, by placing what foreigners call the point d'orgue too closely and injudiciously. But in his oratorios, he is perfectly an original genius. In these, by steering between the manners of Italy and England, he has struck out new harmonies, and formed a species of music different from all others. He has left some excellent and eminent scholars, particularly Worgan and Smith, who compose nearly in his manner, - a manner as different from Purcel's as from that of modern Italy. Consequently Handel may be placed at the head of the English school.
+ The Objector will not have Handel's school to be called an English school, because he was a German. Handel, in a great measure, found in England those essential differences which characterize his music; we have already shewn that he had them not upon his arrival. Had Rubens come over to England but moderately skilled in his art; had he learned here all his excellency in colouring and correctness of designing ; had he left several scholars excellent in his manner behind him ; I should not scruple to call the school erected by him the English school of painting. Not the country in which a man is born, but his peculiar style either in painting or in music, constitutes him of this or that school. Thus Champagne, who painted in the manner of the French school, is always placed among the painters of that school, though he was born in Flanders, and should, consequently, by the Objector's rule, be placed among the Flemish painters. Kneller is placed in the German school, and Ostade in the Dutch, though born in the same city. Primatice, who may be truly said to have founded the Roman school, was born in Bologna ; thongh, if his country was to determine his school, he should have been placed in the Lombard. There might several other instances be produced; but these, it is hoped, will be sufficient to prove, that Handel, though a German, may be placed at the head of the English school.
a German, (as most certainly he was, and continued so to his last breath,) yet adopted the English manner. * Yes, to be sure, just as much as Rubens the painter did. Your correspondent, in the course of his discoveries, tells us, besides, that some of the best Scottish ballads,—“ The Broom of Cowdenknows,” for instance,--are still ascribed to David Rizzio.t This Rizzio must have been a most original genius, or have possessed extraordinary imitative powers, to have come, so advanced in life as he did, from Italy, and strike so far out of the common road of his own country's music.
A mere fiddler,f a shallow coxcomb, a giddy, insolent,
Handel was originally a German ; but by a long continuance in England, he might have been looked upon as naturalized to the country. I do not pretend to be a fine writer : however, if the gentleman dislikes the expression, (although he must be convinced it is a common one,) I wish it were mended.
+ I said that they were ascribed to David Rizzio. That they are, the Objector need only look into Mr Oswald's Collection of Scottish Tunes, and he will there find not only “ The Broom of Cowdenknows,”. but also “ The Black Eagle," and several other of the best Scottish tunes, ascribed to him. Though this might be a sufficient answer, yet I must be permitted to go farther, to tell the Objector the opinion of our best modern musicians in this particular. It is the opinion of the melodious Geminiani, that we have in the dominions of Great Britain no original music except the Irish; the Scottish and English being originally borrowed from the Italians. And that his opinion in this respect is just, (for I would not be swayed merely by authorities,) it is very reasonable to suppose, first, from the conformity between the Scottish and ancient Italian music. They who compare the old French vaudevilles, brought from Italy by Rinuccini, with those pieces ascribed to David Rizzio, who was pretty nearly contemporary with him, will find a strong resemblance, notwithstanding the opposite characters of the two nations which have preserved those pieces. When I would have them compared, I mean I would have their basses compared, by which the similitude may be most exactly seen. Secondly, it is reasonable from the ancient music of the Scottish, which is stili preserved in the Highlands, and which bears no resemblance at all to the music of the Low-country. The Highland tunes are sung to Irish words, and flow entirely in the Irish_manner. On the other hand, the Lowland music is always sung to English words.
| David Rizzio was neither a mere fiddler, nor a shallow coxcomb, nor a worthless fellow, nor a stranger in Scotland. He had indeed been brought over from Piedmont, to be put at the head of a band of music, by King James V, one of the most elegant princes of his time, an exquisite judge of music, as well as of poetry, architecture, and all the fine arts. Rizzio, at the time of his death, had been above twenty years in Scotland : he was secretary to the Queen, and, at the same time, an agent from the Pope ; so that he could not be so obscure as he has been represented.
worthless fellow, to compose such pieces as nothing but genuine sensibility of mind, and an exquisite feeling of those passions which animate only the finest souls could dictate ; and in a manner, too, so extravagantly distant from that to which he had all his life been accustomed ! It is impossible. He might indeed have had presumption enough to add some flourishes to a few favourite airs, like a cobbler of old plays when he takes it upon him to mend Shakespeare. So far he might go ; but farther it is impossible for any one to believe, that has but just ear enough to distinguish between the Italian and Scottish music, and is disposed to consider the subject with the least degree of attention. March 18, 1760.
CAROLAN, THE IRISH BARD.
THERE can be perhaps no greater entertainment than to compare the rude Celtic simplicity with modern refinement. Books, however, seem incapable of furnishing the parallel ; and to be acquainted with the ancient manners of our own ancestors, we should endeavour to look for their remains in those countries which, being in some measure retired from an intercourse with other nations, are still untinctured with foreign refinement, language, or breeding.
The Irish will satisfy curiosity in this respect preferably to all other nations I have seen. They, in several parts of that country, still adhere to their ancient language, dress, furniture, and superstitions ; several customs exist among them, that still speak their original ; and, in some respects, Cæsar's description of the ancient Britons is applicable to them.
Their bards, in particular, are still held in great veneration among them ; those traditional heralds are invited to every funeral, in order to fill up the intervals of the howl with their songs and harps. In these they rehearse the actions of the ancestors of the deceased, bewail the bondage of their country under the English government, and generally conclude with advising the young men and maidens to make
the best use of their time, for they will soon, for all their present bloom, be stretched under the table, like the dead body before them.
Of all the bards this country ever produced, the last and the greatest was CAROLAN THE BLIND. He was at once a poet, a musician, a composer, and sung his own verses to his harp. The original natives never mention his name without rapture ; both his poetry and music they have by heart ; and even some of the English themselves, who have been transplanted there, find his music extremely pleasing. A song beginning,
O'Rourke's noble fare will ne'er be forgot,
translated by Dean Swift, is of his composition ; which, though perhaps by this means the best known of his pieces, is yet by no means the most deserving: His songs in general may be compared to those of Pindar, as they have frequently the same flights of imagination ; and are composed (I do not say written, for he could not write) merely to flatter some man of fortune upon some excellence of the same kind. In these one man is praised for the excellence of his stable, as in Pindar, another for his hospitality, a third for the beauty of his wife and children, and a fourth for the antiquity of his family. Whenever any of the original natives of distinction were assembled at feasting or revelling, Carolan was generally there, where he was always ready with his harp to celebrate their praises. He seemed by nature formed for his profession ; for as he was born blind, so also he was possessed of a most astonishing memory, and a facetious turn of thinking, which gave his entertainers infinite satisfaction. Being once at the house of an Irish nobleman, where there was a musician present who was eminent in the profession, Carolan immediately challenged him to a trial of skill. To carry the jest forward, his lordship persuaded the musician to accept the challenge, and he accordingly played over on his fiddle the fifth concerto of Vivaldi. Carolan, immediately taking his harp, played over the whole piece after him, without missing a note, though he had never heard it before, which produced some surprise ; but their astonishment increased, when he assured them he could make a concerto in the same taste himself, which he instantly composed ; and that with such