Image and Structure in Chamber Music

Image and Structure in Chamber Music

DONALD N. FERGUSON
Copyright Date: 1964
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttss9g
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Image and Structure in Chamber Music
    Book Description:

    Professor Ferguson discusses the important chamber music works, composer by composer, with separate chapters on Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms. There are also chapters on the intimacy of chamber music, on the antecedents of the above-named composers, on nationalistic chamber music, on twentieth-century chamber music, and on chamber music in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3714-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  3. The Intimacy of Chamber Music
    (pp. 3-21)

    Seasoned participants in chamber music — and these, to an exceptional degree, are the listeners as well as the performers — are convinced that they enjoy the deepest pleasure that music can offer. The opera can portray more violent passions; the symphony, with its huge volume of sound, its more intricate texture, and its far wider palette of tonal color, can attain to a more imposing grandeur; and the solo literature — especially that for piano — displaying the overwhelming virtuosity of the performer as well as his striking individuality of temperament, may transport an audience to heights of enthusiasm...

  4. Antecedents
    (pp. 22-29)

    In bach’s day and before, virtually all the music for instrumental ensembles — even concertos — was chamber music. The chambers varied in size and appointment, from the palatial music rooms of the aristocracy to the garret above Thomas Britton’s (the small coal-man’s) shop in Clerkenwell, London—“not much higher than a Canary Pipe, with a window but very little bigger than the Bunghole of a Cask” — where Dr. Pepusch, arranger of the music toThe Beggar’s Opera, John Banister, an eminent violinist and a prolific composer, and even Handel himself provided “many notable Performances in the charming Science...

  5. Joseph Haydn, 1732–1809
    (pp. 30-45)

    If ever a man was cut out to be the father of a musical form, that man was Joseph Haydn. His paternal experience was ample. His children (for he fathered both the string quartet and the symphony) number somewhere in the 180’s. Books on the care and feeding of the infant musical form were less numerous in his day than in our own; but he seems to have grasped clearly the essential aspects of his problem, exerting a discipline neither too strict nor too lax. For musical ideas, like children, are not wholly the property of the parent who engenders...

  6. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756–1791
    (pp. 46-74)

    If ever a man was cut out to achieve the perfecting of a musical form, that man was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. To perfect anything requires the highest degree of skill, and Mozart was surely the most carefully trained, at the earliest age, of all the great composers. But to perfect an art-form requires also both a native imagination and an acquired taste. Mozart possessed the one from the beginning, and he was enabled to attain the other as rapidly as he learned his skill — so rapidly that his amazing equipment must have seemed to him, during the act of...

  7. Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770–1827
    (pp. 75-133)

    We found the man Mozart, although we left him, rather incongruously, in a mood of ironic laughter, portrayed in his music as a man aware of the world and of its inexplicable contradictions. That “self-portrait” was doubtless refined and idealized (as were most of the painters’ representations of him) by conventions of thought and utterance more concerned with surfaces than with underlying realities; but the man —l’homme mêmeof Buffon’s famous definition — wasthere.

    The man Beethoven will be more evident. His childhood background — all but squalid — bred in him no such instinctive and in some...

  8. Franz Peter Schubert, 1797–1828
    (pp. 134-155)

    No other music is as unselfconscious as Schubert’s. Even after he has turned from song to instrumental music, having found things to utter which are beyond the range of melody as singers know it, the stream still flows — as clear and as unaware of its source as any hillside spring, and just as perennial.

    He was shy and uncomfortable in the world of men, and even in the more manifest regions of the world of art — in those that are haunted by men from the world of affairs. Those men are indeed earnest seekers after that strange insight...

  9. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, 1809–1847
    (pp. 156-163)

    Mendelssohn’s chamber music, like all the rest of his output, is what might have been expected from a man of extraordinary talent, educated almost wholly by contact with the best things, the best people, and the best ideas to be found in his privileged world. He and his sister Fanny were not sent to school, but were taught at home by private tutors — the most competent available. Their teachers were strict, their lessons thoroughly learned, and their progress such that comparison with Mozart and his sister was inevitable.

    Felix’s taste, thus stimulated from above, was highly exclusive, for stimulation...

  10. Robert Schumann, 1810–1856
    (pp. 164-174)

    Schumann’s musical sensitivity, which in some lights will appear even keener than Mendelssohn’s, was very differently nurtured. Not even Kuntzsch, his only music teacher in the little town of Zwickau where he grew up, had any true measure of its depth; and while it was fed by many cultural contacts (his father was a publisher), it underwent no formal discipline until he went to Leipzig (1831) to study law. He had shown, as a child, an exceptional knack for improvisation, and had begun to shape some of these fleeting musical images into little piano pieces and songs; but whereas, at...

  11. Johannes Brahms, 1833–1897
    (pp. 175-218)

    Brahms’s musical education, like Mendelssohn’s, was directed from above. Unlike Mendelssohn’s, it was mingled with many strong influences from below. Brahms’s father was a hack performer on horn, viola, and double bass who had — until his son enabled him to glimpse it — no notion of the possible range and depth of musical art. But he was bluntly honest; and his rather diffident son, adopting that attitude as the best policy even in matters of art, pursued it doggedly, sometimes to his great material disadvantage.

    He was a docile student, executing the disciplinary tasks which Cossel and Marxsen, his...

  12. Nationalistic Chamber Music
    (pp. 219-262)

    The structural perfection of Brahms’s chamber music is probably as great as is humanly attainable. But that perfection, except in its smaller detail, is not wholly due to his effort. It is the culmination of that long line of endeavor which began with Haydn and which our study has in some measure illuminated. It was thus an inheritance wholly Germanic in character, even though the origins of chamber music were Italian.*

    Native musical imagination, the primary stimulus to any high creative effort, was no more prevalent in Germany than in other lands. In Italy and France, where it was developed...

  13. Twentieth-Century Trends in Chamber Music
    (pp. 263-270)

    The word decadent, as the twentieth century opened, was often applied to various current methods or styles in musical composition. It implied a diseased condition, but neither the attacking germ nor the affected region was clearly determined, and since the prognosis did not appear alarming, no intensive research was undertaken toward its cure. Nevertheless, the most violent revolution ever to occur in the history of music was brewing, and, while its relation to World War I is still obscure, several minor “explosions,” all but coincident with that event, may one day be shown to be more than merely coincidental.

    That...

  14. Twentieth-Century Chamber Music
    (pp. 271-320)

    That the idiom of music, suffering such attacks as we have just described, should emerge as battered and unstable — no longer the “universal language” which Western Europe (considering itself the universe) had laboriously perfected, but a variety of dialects betraying their origin, not only in the polytonal and serial techniques of the main revolutionary movements but also in many nostalgic memories of the once-universal tongue — was to be expected by anyone with the slightest awareness of the incessant shifts essential to the process of human communication. Indeed, whether it was a language at all became a much-debated question....

  15. Chamber Music in the United States
    (pp. 321-332)

    In that general perspective which we have so far tried to maintain, chamber music in the United States (which we shall hereafter call American) doubtless belongs in the nationalistic category. But while Russian or Bohemian or Scandinavian nationalism connoted a distinctive background of mental attitude and custom, the notion of American nationalism evokes a cultural image so confused as to be all but indefinable. There is, however, one similarity. We found the characteristics of the European nations most distinctively portrayed in their dance-music, and that seems to be true also of America.

    We have seen that the simple dance-form —...

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 333-339)