excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 58-9 (603 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 58-9 (603 words)

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Musical letters from Abroad

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A rich programme was presented this evening. The concert opened with an overture which is a great favorite here, and often played in public, though I have not heard it in America,— “Iphigene in Aulis,” by Gluck. It is a charming overture, and any one’s musical reputation might safely rest on the production of a single piece like this. Its subjects are at once natural and beautiful, and they are always treated in a most masterly manner; with elaborateness it is always intelligible, and with copiousness it is never diffuse. There is no departing from the main topic of discourse, no wandering in the mazes of thick darkness, or searching for ideas, but the leading thoughts are kept ever before the mind, presented now in this form, and now in that. Its analogies are perfect, its contrasts are striking, and its light and shade are applied with the hand of a Raphael or a Turner. It is full of pleasing melody, yet always subject to the laws of good taste, and manifesting both genius and science; it is in the performance, perhaps, equally satisfactory both to the musician and to the mere unstudied lover of song.

The second piece was an extract (first and second movements) of Cherubini’s Requiem, written for male voices. This, which is one of Cherubini’s great works, was written under circumstances somewhat exciting, as I remember to have heard years ago. On some funeral occasion when a Requiem was desired, that which he had previously written was rejected, because composed for a mixed choir; this caused him to put forth his energies, in the production of a mass for men’s voices only. The music throughout is of a very high character, though it would not much interest those who desire musical gratification only from pretty tunes or pleasant voices. The first movement, “Requiem aeternam” with its accompaniment of violoncellos and double basses, is plaintive and sad, and tells only of sorrow, penitence and grief. In the “Dies irae,” the full powers of the orchestra are brought into requisition; and uniting, as was the case on the present occasion, with sixty well-trained and fearless men’s voices, the effect was awfully grand and commanding. The majestic movements, the severely dissonant harmonies, the wailings of the strings, the frightful appeals of the instruments of blast and percussion, and the cryings out of the voices, all combined to produce an effect which was, at times, truly terrific and overwhelming. The nineteen stanzas, however, have furnished an opportunity for musical contrasts which have been well introduced, affording variety and relief.

The third piece was the very unique but, to the musician, highly interesting "Concert fur 2 claviere (c moll) Von J. S. Bach." Following the Requiem, it was like a delightful calm after a storm, enabling one to realize where he was, to breathe easily again, and put on a cheerful countenance.

Several part-songs were then sung by the “Mannerchor” without accompaniment.

The second part consisted of the “Sinfonie in C minor, by L. Von Beethoven” What a symphonie this is! We have often heard it, and it is well known in America. We will not attempt a description; we listened with intense interest to the whole of it, hardly daring to breathe in the piano and not having the power to do so in the forte passages. Is it strange then, that, whether “in the body or out of the body” at its close, we should not be able to tell?

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excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 58-9 (603 words)


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