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Masterworks of the Orchestral Repertoire

Masterworks of the Orchestral Repertoire: A Guide for Listeners

Copyright Date: 1954
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 684
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  • Book Info
    Masterworks of the Orchestral Repertoire
    Book Description:

    The fullest enjoyment of an orchestral performance or a record concert comes with a background of knowledge about the music itself. This handbook is designed to help music lovers get the ultimate pleasure from their listening by providing them with that background about a large portion of the orchestral repertoire. Professor Ferguson analyzes and interprets the most important classical symphonies, overtures, and concertos, as well as selected orchestral works of modern composers. He goes beyond a conventional analysis of structure since he believes (with a majority of the music-loving public) that great music is actually a communication -- that it expresses significant emotions. The great composers, on their own testimony, have striven not merely to create perfect forms but to interpret human experience. Mingled with the analyses, then, the reader will find comments on the expressive purport of the music. For 25 years Professor Ferguson has supplied the program notes for the subscription concerts of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and this volume is an outgrowth of that activity. In preparing the material for book publication, however, he studied the musical compositions anew, and the resulting chapters provide a much deeper exploration of the musical subjects than did the program notes. The themes of important works are illustrated by musical notations, and a brief glossary explains technical terms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6237-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-viii)
    D. F.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. A Word to the Reader
    (pp. 3-9)

    YOU will find a majority of the words in this book devoted to the analysis of musical structure. Many students of music would hold that all the words, except those which deal with the historical or incidental background of a given composition, should be devoted to its structural analysis. Looked at in reverse, this opinion is equivalent to a contention that in the music itself nothing else than structure, which in its highest aspect is form, demands analysis.

    Yet you will also find, often mingled with the analytical comments, many incidental references to the character — the apparent expressive purport — of...

  5. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
    (pp. 10-26)

    BACH’S six Brandenburg Concertos represent his most ambitious effort toward composition for a considerable number of instruments — that is to say, for the orchestra, as that body was constituted in his day. The concertos were completed in 1721, toward the end of Bach’s tenure of the position of Kapellmeister to the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen. He had been formerly in the service of the Duke of Weimar, where his occupation was with church music and with the organ. At Cöthen he had no regular church duties, and it was here that his interest in instrumental music was enlarged so as to...

  6. Bela bartok (1881–1945)
    (pp. 27-37)

    ‘‘PAINT me, warts and all’’ (the familiar, if apocryphal, words of Cromwell) expresses a general idea that applies not inappropriately to the music of Béla Bartók. Unheralded by laudatory or tendentious critics — and his first independent musical adventure was earlier than that of Stravinsky or Schönberg — he was obsessed by the desire to make music speak his mind without superfluity of ornament and without those conventional graces which, for the generality, are the indispensable amenities of musical language.

    To most of us this does not point the way to popularity. We have been bred to a kind of musical logic...

  7. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
    (pp. 38-114)

    IT IS usually taken for granted that Beethoven’s earlier works are so strongly influenced by Haydn and Mozart that little of Beethoven himself is to be found in the music. It would be truer to say that there was a conventional musical idiom, largely imposed by aristocratic taste, in which both Haydn and Mozart spoke, and which it would have been folly for any young composer to ignore.

    Within this idiom it was still possible for a composer to display originality, as it had been, until about 1625, within the still narrower idiom of the sixteenth century. Beethoven, as well...

  8. Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
    (pp. 115-127)

    WHEN this symphony was first performed (on December 5, 1830) Paris was at the very crisis of a romantic fever. The cooling phlebotomy of criticism was sorely needed, but that operation was hardly to be performed by the fiery redhead who was Hector Berlioz. On the contrary, his purpose was rather to heighten the already dangerous temperature. Until the twentieth century it is doubtful if any musical composition attempted a more audacious assault on the sensibilities of the conventional. Audacity was in fact one of the chief tenets of Berlioz’s artistic creed; but time has revealed that what was then...

  9. Georges Bizet (1838–1875)
    (pp. 128-130)

    WE CAN hardly restrain a start of surprise when we encounter Georges Bizet among the names of the recognized symphonists. His one operatic masterpiece,Carmen, has given him an enduring place among the musical dramatists, and has so far usurped the general attention that even to remember his other dramatic works is something of an effort. Yet these are numerous, and his bent for music drama was early displayed. He won thePrix de Romeat nineteen, having submitted three operatic compositions in different styles along with other required exercises. At Rome, as still another exercise, this time required of...

  10. Ernest Bloch (b. 1880)
    (pp. 131-133)

    ALTHOUGH he was born and trained in Europe, so great a part of Ernest Bloch’s musical life has been lived in this country that he may properly be regarded as an American composer. His father was a musician and a student of acoustics, so that there was no parental obstacle opposed to the cultivation of a talent which manifested itself very early. He worked first in Geneva with Dalcroze and Rey, and had composed a string quartet and anOriental Symphonybefore he was fifteen. Thereafter he worked with Ysaye at Brussels, with Iwan Knorr at Frankfort, and with Ludwig...

  11. Alexander Borodin (1834–1887)
    (pp. 134-137)

    OF THE famous “Five” who began in the ’sixties to exert a strong influence on the course of Russian music, not one was a professional musician, and only one (Balakireff) was a “learned” composer. César Cui was a military officer, and Rimsky-Korsakoff an officer in the navy; Moussorgsky, until his twenty-third year also destined for the army, resigned his scholarship and was obliged to support himself as a clerk in an administrative office. Alexander Borodin had already earned his degree in medicine and had attained a position as lecturer at the Academy of Medicine when he at last took up...

  12. Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
    (pp. 138-174)

    THE high regard in which the four symphonies of Brahms are held and the prominence of the symphonic form in the present organization of our musical activity suggest to the average music lover that Brahms devoted his chief effort toward perfection in that form. That is hardly true. His choral compositions and his chamber music were as dear to him as his symphonies, and his songs and his few concertos show no lesser devotion. He does belong, of course, among the greatest of our symphonists; but his greatness is equally revealed in other large works, written in all the recognized...

  13. Anton Bruckner (1824–1896)
    (pp. 175-205)

    THE chronicle of Anton Bruckner’s life, if read with the expectation of startling events, turns out to be more nearly a blank than that of any other great composer. Even Schubert, whom we think of as almost removed from the ordinary world, had a circle of friends who formed for him a miniature public and so a miniature world, wide enough for his imaginative needs. But Bruckner, for most of his life, had neither public nor champion. He had, however, One to whom he looked for more, perhaps, than public or earthly champion could provide. No artist in history was...

  14. Ernest Amedée Chausson (1855–1890)
    (pp. 206-209)

    ERNEST CHAUSSON was of that group of composers — mostly pupils of César Franck, but not a propagandized coterie as were, in some measure, the later “Six” — who at last made the world aware of France as a nation which shared many of the musical ideals of other lands. He endured for two years, but with increasing distress, the academic atmosphere of theConservatoire. This atmosphere was doubtless the more stifling because he belonged to a wealthy family and had lacked for nothing that could make him aware of the finer currents of feeling in contemporary French thought. He had begun...

  15. Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842)
    (pp. 210-212)

    LUIGI CHERUBINI, from 1786, when he first visited Paris, till about 1800, when the dislike of his music which Napoleon took no pains to hide began to affect his position, was the leading operatic composer in France. His musical learning was great. He studied at Bologna under Sarti, and acquired a mastery of the Palestrina style which was probably not equalled by any later nineteenth-century composer. While the opera, for a considerable period, was his favorite pursuit, he turned again to religious music in 1809, and from 1816, when he was appointed co-director of theChapelle Royal, he wrote only...

  16. François Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
    (pp. 213-216)

    FAMILIARITY has somewhat dulled for us the vividness of Frédéric Chopin’s genius. In a day when complacent tradition held all innovation suspect, when the last sonatas and quartets of Beethoven were regarded as the ravings of a madman, and when Schumann’s imaginaryDavidsbündlerwere waging a very real battle with musical self-righteousness, Chopin struck a note that was thoroughly “modern” and that has not yet lost its charm for any but the most sophisticated ear. Because he wrote for the piano, an instrument that was rapidly becoming an indispensable piece of household furniture, he brought music, more than did any...

  17. Aaron Copland (b. 1900)
    (pp. 217-223)

    AARON COPLAND is among the most conspicuous figures in the large list of American composers. He has not only made a significant contribution to most of the contemporary musical forms, but has been of great service to many a fellow worker in the musical world. A notable instance of such endeavor is his present activity with the summer camp at Tanglewood, in Massachusetts. His musical study began in his thirteenth year, with Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler in piano and Rubin Goldmark in composition. He had a brief period of study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in 1924. So striking...

  18. Claude Achille Debussy (1862–1918)
    (pp. 224-227)

    THIS remarkable piece may justly be regarded as one of the landmarks on the road to the extremer modernisms of the twentieth century. It was first performed on December 23, 1894, when the world that had at last accepted Wagner was being assaulted by the unforgivable (but often delightful) dissonances of Richard Strauss, and it evoked similar repercussions. No one would think of questioning its musical propriety today. Indeed, its impressionism is somewhat faded in appeal, the stern lines and the primary colors of more recent music having dulled our sensibilities to the suave lines and the pastel colors of...

  19. Paul Dukas (1865–1935)
    (pp. 228-230)

    THAT is a strange world in which a single tune like the theme of the broomstick inL’Apprenti sorcieris whistled by the newsboy on the corner, but in which few professional musicians will be found who can quote from any other piece by the same composer. Something of that same barrier which kept so many French composers from full acceptance by the non-Gallic world has apparently worked against Paul Dukas. Yet his fame at home is certainly more than ephemeral. His huge piano sonata, written in 1899–1900 seemed a notable contribution in a day when the literature of...

  20. Antonin Dvořák (1841–1904)
    (pp. 231-241)

    POVERTY and the lack of musical opportunity have often been the youthful lot of composers who, to our sentimental satisfaction, have surmounted every obstacle and risen to success. But our admiration is perhaps offered rather to the success than to the struggle against adversity; and our notions of art as a manifestation of powers above the common level thus often obscure for us the contributions made by enforced contact with life on a level even lower than the common. Antonin Dvořák’s life is almost too apt an illustration of this familiar case.

    His father was an innkeeper and butcher — the...

  21. Edward Elgar (1857–1934)
    (pp. 242-245)

    SIR EDWARD ELGAR, at the beginning of this century, had attained the highest position among British composers that a native son had been able to reach since the brave days of the Elizabethans. Almost every work of his, as it appeared, was greeted by the critical equivalent of the ejaculation “At last!” I can remember a mingling of awe and enthusiasm at London performances ofThe Dream of Gerontiusand of the Symphony in F minor (his second) ; and of course the popularity of the first of thePomp and Circumstancemilitary marches was unbounded. He was revered as...

  22. Manuel de Falla (1877–1946)
    (pp. 246-249)

    IT USED to be said, with some truth, that the Spanish music that was really popular had all been written by foreigners — mostly Frenchmen. Bizet, Chabrier, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, and Ravel were the most conspicuous; but the Hungarian Liszt and the Russian Rimsky-Korsakoff also built musical castles in Spain. There was, of course, much Spanish music of which the world had never heard, and the clear strain of the native art was hardly revealed until the end of the nineteenth century by such men as Granados, Albeniz, and de Falla. Only then, also, did the cis-Atlantic Spaniards begin to contribute...

  23. César Franck (1822–1890)
    (pp. 250-256)

    IN COUNTRIES like ours, where the influence of German music has been strong, French music has seemed to exemplify the schoolboy’s definition of the French as “a gay people, fond of dancing and light wines.” We have been slow to realize the purport of French tragedy, with its adherence to the unities and its exclusion of everything that abates in the least from the high dignity associated with the tragic muse; and the similar formality of French music, together with its apparent lack of profundity, has blinded us to its virtues of clarity and logic, which we usually take for...

  24. Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843–1907)
    (pp. 257-259)

    EDVARD GRIEG remains, in 1954, the most famous of Norwegian musicians. “Famous” is a word likely to suggest a certain isolation, on a higher level than our own; but this sort of position Grieg neither held nor would have enjoyed. He was merely a man who saw beauty where we see only the commonplace — an inspirer of affection rather than awe. He could find in music the equivalent for a smile that sparkles or for a sob that must be suppressed. These things are too simple to awe or mystify; but they are signs, nevertheless, of emotion that arises out...

  25. George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
    (pp. 260-263)

    HANDEL began as a composer of opera, and would have ended in the same way if public taste in England had followed his lead. That public, however, two decades before his coming, had all but ignored the dramatic talent of Purcell. It had responded for a time to Handel’s enthusiasm for the Italian art, but had at length become surfeited, and Handel had a hard struggle to regain his popularity. Even the great series of oratorios which, for the public of today, constitute his chief claim to glory, were at first tepidly received. And it was doubtless in the hope...

  26. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
    (pp. 264-287)

    THE Father of the Symphony was born some five weeks later than the Father of his Country. Haydn’s progeny is much more definitely his own than was Washington’s. The titles, ascribed long after the progeny had passed the stage of adolescence, are somewhat pretentious; for both country and symphony, moreover, there are grandfathers who should be historically acknowledged in spite of the usual obscurities in the family tree. Nevertheless the titles are justifiable.

    This is not the place for historical narrative; but it is needful, in making the inevitable comparisons between Haydn and other symphonists, to realize that the symphony,...

  27. Paul Hindemith (b. 1895)
    (pp. 288-298)

    PAUL HINDEMITH has for more than two decades been reckoned among the leaders of the contemporary movement in music. He showed such talent for the violin that he might well have appeared in the first rank of the youthful prodigies on that instrument, but he showed also such interest in the substance and the larger purposes of music that the career of virtuoso soon proved unattractive. The first years of his maturity coincided with the first period of the modernistic “revolt” (as it may properly be called) against the crystallizing sentimentality of the nineteenth century and against the rather trivial...

  28. Arthur Honegger (b. 1892)
    (pp. 299-301)

    ARTHUR HONEGGER, whose boyhood was spent at Le Havre, where he was born, was the son of Swiss parents, and although his education and culture were chiefly French, there was enough of Germanic solidity and romantic imagination to make him considerably independent of the French influences that molded his exterior. The Swiss traits were doubtless preserved by the frequent visits of the family to Zürich. Neither of his parents was markedly musical. Some unnamed lady seems to have supported his first studies in piano and violin, and his first efforts at composition seem also to have begun at a very...

  29. Zoltán Kodály (b. 1882)
    (pp. 302-304)

    ZOLTÁN KODÁLY, a professor at the Academy of Music in Budapest, was a colleague of Béla Bartók in the long project of collecting the folk songs of their native land in the form in which these songs were known to and sung by the people. His learning is vast, perhaps especially in the music of Palestrina’s time, and this fact is doubtless responsible for the relatively slight volume of his compositions. A certain self-diffidence toward his own work — noted with regret by his pupils — has also prevented the acquisition of a distinctive style such as a composer of firmer convictions...

  30. Ernst Křenek (b. 1900)
    (pp. 305-310)

    ERNST KŘENEK attended the Gymnasium and the University of Vienna, pursuing there what we should call graduate studies in philosophy and the history of music and art. He was also a student at the Imperial Academy of Music in Vienna and at the State Academy in Berlin, where he was a pupil of the noted opera composer, Franz Schrecker. He has composed ten operas (one of which,Jonny spielt auf, was a world sensation, translated into eight languages), and many works for orchestra, quartet, and vocal ensemble, and has written and lectured widely on many subjects. HisMusic Here and...

  31. Edouard Lalo (1823–1892)
    (pp. 311-313)

    ALTHOUGH Edouard Lalo is better known to us for his brilliant concertos for violin and ’cello and his still more vividSymphonie Espagnole, his dramatic works have received some attention in this country, and perhaps deserve more than they have received. The most important of these are the balletNamounaand the opera from which the present Overture is taken. There is also a pantomime,Nero, and another opera,La Jacquerie, left unfinished at Lalo’s death. In addition there are many chamber works. His style, while less individual than that of Franck or the great French masters after him, is...

  32. Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
    (pp. 314-362)

    BY HIS admirers Gustav Mahler is placed very high in the ranks of symphonists. In comparison to the whole number of the music-loving public, however, these admirers are few. Whether they are increasing proportionately to the growth of the greater body is hard to say, but at least it must be admitted that the sincere music-lover who “just doesn’t like Mahler” is becoming uncomfortable in the presence of the devout Mahlerite. The unbeliever’s dislike cannot be laid at the door of that apparently meaningless dissonance which is the avowed stumbling-block of those who “just don’t like modern music.” For Mahler’s...

  33. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847)
    (pp. 363-377)

    THE first of Mendelssohn’s symphonies — the first, that is, to be counted in the list of five — is a remarkable piece for a fifteen-year old boy, but is hardly more than that. Nor was it his first essay in that form. Indeed, there were twelve lesser symphonies, most of them for strings only, which had been performed by members and friends of the Mendelssohn family at the fortnightly Sunday morning musicales that had early become a regular occasion. Felix conducted his pieces, even when he was so small that he had to stand on a chair to be...

  34. Darius Milhaud (b. 1892)
    (pp. 378-380)

    DARIUS MILHAUD first became prominent in Brazil, where he went in 1917, as secretary to the French embassy. He was there associated with the poet Paul Claudel, who in that year was made Ambassador. Milhaud had already set some of Claudel’s verse to music, and had learned from him to seek in the music of the future “an art alive and sane, ready to submit to the influence of that power which shakes the human heart.” “We passed two years in this marvelous country,” he says, “in contact with the great tropical forests. It was during this time that we...

  35. Modest Moussorgsky (1835–1881)
    (pp. 381-384)

    LIKE most of the group called “the Five,” of which he was the most gifted member, Moussorgsky was not trained as a professional musician, and indeed was almost all his life an obscure and apparently a rather shiftless worker in various government offices. His father, wealthy when Modest was born, lost his fortune when his son was still a student of composition (in 1863), and since the young man had already given up his post in the army, office work was his only means of livelihood. His first piano lessons were given by his mother, but he spent more time...

  36. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
    (pp. 385-417)

    MOZART left Salzburg in September 1777 for a visit to Paris, where he hoped to revive the fame his first appearances there as a prodigy had brought him. His chief ambition was to compose and produce an opera — the surest road to fame. But the Gluck-Piccinni controversy was raging, and he could do little more than watch that battle from the side lines. His expressions of opinion, more frank than discreet, were harmful to his cause; he lost favor with Baron Grimm, the social figure upon whom he chiefly depended; his mother died in July 1778 (shortly after the...

  37. Walter Piston (b. 1894)
    (pp. 418-421)

    WALTER PISTON is the grandson of an Italian named Pistone who himself Anglicized his name by dropping the finale. The grandson has contributed notably to the literature of music in the American idiom. His approach is liberal but not extreme, deriving confessedly from the orthodox harmony of the nineteenth century, and attempting to continue that tradition in a manner which recognizes both the conventions of musical syntax and the demands of the imagination for freedom in the handling of tonal rhetoric. He pursues neither the abstract system of tonal design which is present in the twelve-tone technique nor the...

  38. Serge Prokofieff (1891–1953)
    (pp. 422-435)

    WHEN this century was in its teens, Serge Prokofieff was regarded as a leader in the trend toward dissonance and artistic iconoclasm. But as early as 1930 he had recanted. Asked by Olin Downes what he had become, he replied:

    “I hope, simpler and more melodic. Of course I have used dissonance in my time, but there has been too much dissonance. Bach used dissonance as good salt for his music. Others applied pepper, seasoned the dishes more and more highly until finally the music was nothing but pepper. Society has had enough of that. We want a simpler style...

  39. Sergei Vassilievitch Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)
    (pp. 436-442)

    TO SERGEI RACHMANINOFF a “symphony” meant essentially what it meant to Beethoven or Brahms. Adherence to this tradition involved, in some degree, artistic expatriation; for the German concept of the symphony was not that of the famous “Five,” who believed themselves to have emancipated the Russian art of music and to have endowed it with the individuality of the Russian people. And it involved also a considerable separation from the contemporary currents of musical thought in Western Europe, where Mahler and his more adventurous followers were pursuing a concept of the symphony which, whether in detail or principle, was not...

  40. Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
    (pp. 443-451)

    MAURICE RAVEL, like Horace long before him and out of a similarly decadent background, hated the profane crowd. His devotion to art, and especially to the niceties of art, was complete and selfless; but the idea that all men are brothers (the essential thesis of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony) ignited in his mind no spark of inspiration. It may be argued, indeed, that he dealt with superfluities: with themes like that which is his confessed subject in theValses nobles et sentimentales— “the delicious and ever novel pleasure of a useless occupation.” It is perhaps for this reason that he...

  41. Max Reger (1873–1916)
    (pp. 452-456)

    JOSEPH REGER, the composer’s father, was a schoolmaster, not unskilled in music, who taught his son harmony and something of the art of organ-playing. (It is perhaps owing to this early contact with that instrument that Max Reger, unlike almost all the great composers since Bach, composed significantly for the organ.) His mother was also enough of a musician to ground him in piano. Music, however, played only a minor part in the boy’s general education. Like Schubert, he was destined for the classroom; but unlike Schubert, he did not rebel at or forsake the idea of becoming a teacher...

  42. Ottorino Respighi (1879–1935)
    (pp. 457-460)

    OTTORINO RESPIGHI’S serious study of music was begun at theLiceo Musicalein Bologna in 1892. Having taken first prizes in both violin and composition, he was in some doubt whether he should pursue the career of virtuoso or that of composer. But at length he found that his deeper interest lay in composition, and he went to St. Petersburg, where Rimsky-Korsakoff laid the foundations of his outstanding technique in orchestration. With Max Bruch, in Berlin, he returned for a time to his instrument, and in 1925 he appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in his own...

  43. Nicolas Andreivitch Rimsky-Korsakoff (1844–1908)
    (pp. 461-465)

    THE brilliant Nicolas Rimsky-Korsakoff, like all but one of the other members of the famous “Five,” was not trained for the musical profession but came to it out of the Russian navy. His keen ear and retentive memory were apparent from the beginning, but in spite of these, music left him indifferent to its charms. His first instruction seems to have been uninspiring, but when he was seventeen he met Balakireff (the one professional among “the Five”), under whose encouragement he began to realize both the world of music and the world outside as related to it. He began a...

  44. Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
    (pp. 466-470)

    CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS had, indeed, an individual manner; but that manner can hardly be called a style. He had every possible musical facility; his intellectual interests were wide and deep (he was, for instance, an astronomer of far more than amateur standing); but he seems seldom to have recognized the relation between music and what is popularly called the heart. Yet he could sometimes devise a highly convincing imitation of what we think of as an appeal to that organ. Who will ask for a more complete embodiment than his of a swan’s majestic grace? Who can blame Samson for succumbing...

  45. Florent Schmitt (b. 1870)
    (pp. 471-472)

    FLORENT SCHMITT is regarded by many — although in comparison to the whole body of music lovers the “many” are here really the “few” — as one of the most daring spirits of his time. He and Alfred Bruneau share, inexplicably to their admirers, a singular indifference on the part of a public which prides itself on its musical judgment.

    The Tragedy of Salomewas originally conceived on a small scale as a “mute drama,” with only about twenty musicians to accompany it. In this form it was performed in Paris in 1907. Interest in the work was great enough...

  46. Arnold Schönberg (1874–1953)
    (pp. 473-479)

    INTRODUCING Arnold Schönberg to an assemblage of learned musicians, Dr. Howard Hanson once referred to him — to his own vast amusement — as “the man who taught us to appreciate the major triad.”

    For many students the process of that teaching has been remarkably thorny. It has involved a reconstruction of the most commonly accepted convention which underlies the musical thought of the million — the convention of tonality or key. The sense of key is in practice the recognition of a central tone (the keynote or tonic) to which, at any given moment, all the notes in the...

  47. Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828)
    (pp. 480-500)

    BRAHMS, who at twenty was announced to the world by Robert Schumann as “the one who must come” to set the art of music again on its proper path, labored at composition for twenty years more before he would submit his First Symphony to critical judgment. Schubert, from 1813, in which year his First Symphony was finished, had but fifteen years of creative activity before him. In that time he composed nine (perhaps ten) symphonies, some six hundred songs, seven Masses, seventeen string quartets, twelve operas, and a host of other works.

    For Brahms composition was always a problem to...

  48. Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
    (pp. 501-524)

    UNTIL 1840 — that is, for about ten years — Schumann composed exclusively for the piano.* He had been a rather indifferent student of theory under Heinrich Dorn, but he had really absorbed more than his teacher realized. His indifference was not wholly a disadvantage, however, for it kept his imaginative powers fresh while his hand was acquiring mastery. And he was learning from Bach that polyphony — the independent movement of the voices in a composition — imparts a singular force to the chords that result from the combination, even though these may be in themselves quite ordinary chords....

  49. Dimitri Shostakovich (b. 1906)
    (pp. 525-531)

    THIS remarkable work was composed before Dimitri Shostakovich had completed his twentieth year, and was published in 1927 by the Soviet Publishing Department. It was first played in America by the Philadelphia Orchestra in November 1928.

    Its reception was everywhere favorable, so that the composer momentarily became the most talked-of figure in the musical world. His fertility of invention was apparent, and the youthful freshness of his thought was so engaging that the high expectations of the world seemed amply justified, even by this one work.

    The style is perhaps more spontaneous than in any first symphony since Schumann’s. There...

  50. Jan Julius Christian Sibelius (b. 1865)
    (pp. 532-559)

    SINCE 1945, when Jan Sibelius passed his eightieth birthday, little has transpired out of the troublous postwar confusions to inform us of the present activities of this revered figure in the musical world. He has, indeed, apparently and not unnaturally, come to the end of his creative activity, leaving unfinished the Eighth Symphony about which rumors were frequent in the late ’thirties, and not minded to pursue mechanically the act of composition with other and smaller works. But time has considerably solidified the position of his earlier symphonies, and the First, in the long retrospect of more than half a...

  51. Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
    (pp. 560-577)

    DURING the last decade of the nineteenth century Richard Strauss became the most conspicuous composer in the world. His astounding cleverness, both in composing for the orchestra and in conducting it, was the basis of his fame. Nor was this eminence founded on mere trickery. His early education was of the severest kind, his father (a hornist in the Bavarian Court Orchestra) being a violent opponent of Wagner and all his works, and determined that his son should be influenced by music of the purest taste. Richard’s early works, therefore, display little of that adventurousness which later startled the world....

  52. Igor Stravinsky (b. 1882)
    (pp. 578-585)

    UNLIKE many notable careers, that of Igor Stravinsky did not begin with the doubtful fame that attaches to the prodigy. As with many a great master, however, his genius was first revealed in a talent for improvisation at the piano. When he was nine he had begun piano lessons, and had found his head full of tunes that were not in the books his teacher assigned for study. His family was musical, his father being the leading basso at the Imperial Opera, and his uncle a fervid amateur. Yet the evidence of his genius was so far unobserved by his...

  53. Peter Iljitch Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
    (pp. 586-603)

    THIS symphony is the fruit of that inspiration which accrued to the composer from the unexpected generosity of Mme. Nadejda Filaterovna von Meck, the wealthy widow of an engineer, who had long felt great admiration for Tchaikovsky’s work. Hearing of his distressful financial condition from a mutual friend, Joseph Kotek, with whom she often played violin sonatas, she had first offered the composer several commissions for arrangements of his works for violin and piano, and finally, in the summer of 1877, had settled upon him an annual pension in order that he might devote himself wholly to composition. Tchaikovsky’s sense...

  54. Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
    (pp. 604-627)

    WAGNER’S biography as man depicts him as in sore need of redemption. His biography as artist shows him — perhaps by a kind of empathy — profoundly concerned with the redemption of humanity. EvenDie Feen(The Fairies), his first completed opera, transmutes what in Carlo Gozzi’s hands was a mere fairy tale into a remote foreshadowing of some of the supernatural elements in theRing. In that vast panorama of the natural and the supernatural worlds Brünnhilde, a war-maiden rather than a fairy, is for her disobedience to Wotan’s command transformed into a woman who, by self-immolation, redeems the...

  55. William Walton (b. 1902)
    (pp. 628-631)

    WILLIAM WALTON, the extraordinarily gifted composer of this piece, is the son of a music teacher in his native town. Showing signs of musical aptitude at an early age, he was given attentive care at home until, at the age of ten, he won a probationership at Christ Church Cathedral College, Oxford. He studied there under Sir Hugh Percy Allen, and became a regular undergraduate of Christ Church College at sixteen. In that and the next year he passed the first two examinations for the degree of Bachelor of Music, but pursued his regular collegiate studies concurrently. To some extent...

  56. Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826)
    (pp. 632-638)

    THE story of the fabulous triumph ofDer Freischützin Berlin on June 18 (Waterloo day), 1821, reveals the operation of a poetic justice all too seldom realized. Carl Maria von Weber was the child of a theatrical family, so that from the beginning his musical bent was toward the stage. His first opera, written at twelve years, has for titleThe Power of Love and Wine— a reflection, perhaps, of the irregular life and the ill-conducted education of the precocious boy. But he survived the dangers and overcame the deficiencies in a way wholly admirable, mastering both the...

  57. Ralph Vaughan Williams (b. 1872)
    (pp. 639-646)

    VAUGHAN WILLIAMS has proved to be perhaps the most independent-minded of all the British composers of this century. His training was under masters of many schools — at first under Parry, Stanford, and Sir Walter Parratt — sound representatives of the older traditions; then under G. P. Moore, Dr. Charles Wood, and Dr. Alan Grey — men whom one might call conservative modernists; then, on the continent, with Max Bruch, again of the old school, and Maurice Ravel, regarded in the early years of the century as distinctly a modernist.

    The first version of this symphony was composed in 1912–...

  58. Glossary
    (pp. 649-659)
  59. Index
    (pp. 660-662)