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Symphonies and Their Meaning Part 27

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[Music: _Leichtfertig_ (Strings reinforced by clarinets and horns)]

(like fleeting shadow) a phantom of the rogue's figure passes stealthily across the horizon.

_Etwas gemachlicher_, a graceful duet weaves prettily out of the Till motive, while the other roars very gently in chastened tones of softest horns.

[Music]

The first course of themes now all recurs, though some of the roguery is softened and soon trips into purest folk-dance. And yet it is all built of the rascal theme. It might (for another idle guess) be a general rejoicing. Besides the tuneful dance, the personal phrase is laughing and chuckling in between.



The rejoicing has a big climax in the first folk-song of all, that now returns in full blast of horns against a united dance of strings and wood. After a roll of drum loud clanging strokes sound threatening (_drohend_) in low bass and strings, to which the rascal pipes his theme indifferently (_gleichgultig_). The third time, his answer has a simulated sound (_entstellt_). Finally, on the insistent thud comes a piteous phrase (_klaglich_) in running thirds. The dread chords at last vanish, in the strings. It is very like an actual, physical end. There is no doubt that the composer here intends the death of Till, in face of the tradition.

Follows the epilogue, where in the comfortable swing of the beginning the first melody is extended in full beauty and significance. All the pleasantry of the rogue is here, and at the end a last fierce burst of the demon laugh.

_"SINFONIA DOMESTICA."_

The work followed a series of tone-poems where the graphic aim is shown far beyond the dreams even of a Berlioz. It may be said that Strauss, strong evidence to the contrary, does not mean more than a suggestion of the mood,--that he plays in the humor and poetry of his subject rather than depicts the full story. It is certainly better to hold to this view as long as possible. The frightening penalty of the game of exact meanings is that if there is one here, there must be another there and everywhere. There is no blinking the signs of some sort of plot in our domestic symphony, with figures and situations. The best way is to lay them before the hearer and leave him to his own reception.

In the usual sense, there are no separate movements. Though "Scherzo" is printed after the first appearance of the three main figures, and later "Adagio" and "Finale," the interplay and recurrence of initial themes is too constant for the traditional division. It is all a close-woven drama in one act, with rapidly changing scenes. Really more important than the conventional Italian names are such headings as "Wiegenlied"

(Cradle-song), and above all, the numerous directions. Here is an almost conclusive proof of definite intent. To be sure, even a figure on canvas is not the man himself. Indeed, as music approaches graphic realism, it is strange how painting goes the other way. Or rather, starting from opposite points, the two arts are nearing each other. As modern painting tends to give the feeling of a subject, the subjective impression rather than the literal outline, we can conceive even in latest musical realism the "atmosphere" as the principal aim. In other words, we may view Strauss as a sort of modern impressionist tone-painter, and so get the best view of his pictures.

Indeed, cacophony is alone a most suggestive subject. In the first place the term is always relative, never absolute,--relative in the historic period of the composition, or relative as to the purpose. One can hardly say that any combination of notes is unusable. Most striking it is how the same group of notes makes hideous waste in one case, and a true tonal logic in another. Again, what was impossible in Mozart's time, may be commonplace to-day.

You cannot stamp cacophony as a mere whim of modern decadence. Beethoven made the noblest use of it and suffered misunderstanding. Bach has it in his scores with profound effect. And then the license of one age begets a greater in the next. It is so in poetry, though in far less degree.

For, in music, the actual tones are the integral elements of the art.

They are the idea itself; in poetry the words merely suggest it.

A final element, independent of the notes themselves, is the official numbering of themes. Strauss indicates a first, second and third theme, obviously of the symphony, not of a single movement. The whole attitude of the composer, while it does not compel, must strongly suggest some sort of guess of intending meaning.[A]

[Footnote A: At the first production, in New York, in obedience to the composer's wish, no descriptive notes were printed. When the symphony was played, likewise under the composer's direction, in Berlin in December, 1904, a brief note in the program-book mentions the three groups of themes, the husband's, the wife's and the child's, in the first movement. The other movements are thus entitled:

II.--_Scherzo._ Parents' happiness. Childish play. Cradle-song (the clock strikes seven in the evening).

III.--_Adagio._ Creation and contemplation. Love scene. Dreams and cares (the clock strikes seven in the morning).

IV.--_Finale._ Awakening and merry dispute (double fugue). Joyous conclusion.]

The "first theme" in "comfortable" pace, gliding

[Music: 1st Theme _Pleasantly_ (Cellos and fagots) _Dreamily_ (Oboe) (Cellos, bassoons and horns)]

into a "dreamy" phrase, begins the symphony. Presently

[Music: _Peevishly_ (Clarinets)]

a "peevish" cry breaks in, in sudden altered key; then on a second, soothing tonal change, a strain sings "ardently" in upward wing to a bold climax and down to gentler cadence, the "peevish" cry still breaking in. The trumpet has a short cheery

[Music: _With fire_ (Strings)]

call (_lustig_), followed by a brisk, rousing run in wood and strings (_frisch_). A return of the "comfortable" phrase is quickly overpowered by the "second theme," in very lively manner (_sehr lebhaft_), with an answering phrase, _grazioso_, and light trills above.

[Music: 2d Theme _With great spirit_ (Strings, wood, horns and harps) _grazioso_]

The incidental phrases are thus opposed to the main humor of each theme.

The serene first melody has "peevish" interruptions; the assertive second yields to graceful blandishments. A little later a strain appears _gefuhlvoll_, "full of feeling," (that plays a frequent part), but the main (second) theme breaks in "angrily." Soon a storm is brewing; at the height the same motive is sung insistently. In the lull, the first phrase of all sings gaily (_lustig_), and then serenely (_gemachlich_) in tuneful tenor. Various

[Music: (Largely in strings)]

parts of the first theme are now blended in mutual discourse.

Amidst trembling strings the oboe d'amore plays the "third theme." "Very tenderly," "quietly," the

[Music: 3d Theme _Quietly_ (Strings) (Oboe d'Amore)]

second gives soothing answer, and the third sings a full melodious verse.

Here a loud jangling noise tokens important arrivals. Fierce, hearty pulling of the door-bell excites the parents, especially the mother, who is quite in hysterics. The father takes it decidedly more calmly. The visitors presently appear in full view, so to speak; for "the aunts," in the trumpets, exclaim: "Just like Papa," and the uncles, in the trombones, cry: "Just like Mama" (_ganz die Mama_). There can be no questioning; it is all written in the book.

It is at least not hazardous to guess the three figures in the domestic symphony. Now in jolly Scherzo (_munter_) begin the tricks and sport of babyhood. There is of course but one theme, with mere comments

[Music: _Gaily. Scherzo_ (Oboe d'Amore) (Strings)]

of parental phrases in varying accents of affection. Another noisy scene mars all the peace; father and child have a strong disagreement; the latter is "defiant"; the paternal authority is enforced. Bed-time comes with the stroke of seven, a cradle-song (Wiegenlied) (where the child's theme hums faintly below). Then, "slowly and very quietly" sings the "dreamy" phrase of the first theme, where

[Music: _Rather slowly_ (Cradle song) (Clarinets singing) (Oboe d'Amore) (Fagots)]

the answer, in sweeping descent, gives one of the principal elements of the later plot. It ends in a moving bit of tune, "very quietly and expressively" (_sehr ruhig und innig_).

Adagio, a slow rising strain plays in the softer

[Music: _Very quietly and expressively_ (Strings)]

wood-notes of flute, oboe d'amore, English horn, and the lower clarinets; below sings gently the second theme, quite transformed in feeling. Those upper notes, with a touch of impassioned yearning, are not new to our ears. That very rising phrase (the "dreamy" motive), if we strain our memory, was at first below the more vehement (second) figure. So

[Music: _Adagio_]

now the whole themal group is reversed outwardly and in the inner feeling. Indeed, in other places crops out a like expressive symbol, and especially in the phrase, marked _gefuhlvoll_, that followed the second theme in the beginning. All these motives here find a big concerted song in quiet motion, the true lyric spot of the symphony.

Out of it emerges a full climax, bigger and broader now, of the first motive. At another stage the second has the lead; but at the height is a splendid verse of the maternal song. At the end the quiet, blissful tune sings again "_sehr innig_."

_Appassionato_ re-enters the second figure. Mingled in its song are the latest tune and an earlier expressive phrase _(gefuhlvoll)_. The storm that here ensues is not of dramatic play of opposition. There are no "angry" indications. It is the full blossoming in richest madrigal of all the themes of tenderness and passion in an aureole of glowing harmonies. The morning comes with the stroke of seven and the awakening cry of the child.

The Finale begins in lively pace (_sehr lebhaft_) with

[Music: (Double Fugue) 1st theme (Four Bassoons) _marcato_]

a double fugue, where it is not difficult to see in the first theme a fragment of the "baby" motive. The second is a remarkably assertive little phrase from the cadence of the second theme (quoted above). The son is clearly the hero, mainly in sportive humor, although he is not free from parental interference. The maze and rigor of the fugue do not prevent a frequent appearance of all the other themes, and even of the full melodies, of which the fugal motives are built. At the climax of the fugue, in the height of speed and noise, something very delightful is happening, some furious romp, perhaps, of father and son, the mother smiling on the game. At the close a new melody that we might trace, if we cared, in earlier origin, has a full verse "quietly and simply"

(_ruhig und einfach_) in wood and horns, giving the crown

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Symphonies and Their Meaning Part 27 summary

You're reading Symphonies and Their Meaning. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Philip H. Goepp. Already has 39 views.

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