OGARTH'S MUSICAL HISTORY.
AMONG our other musical desiderata, is that of a good History of the ort,—especially of the history, character, and progress of music in our own country. BURNEY'S voluminous work is one of great pretension, but of little intrinsic worth. In the chief requisites of' an historian—in diligent research, patient investiga- tion, and especially in that enlarged view ot' his art which is able to discern and prompt to acknowledge the excellencies which at- tach to the several classes and schools of music, he was lamentably deficient. That he travelled over the Continent in search of materials, was ostentatiously proclaimed : that be neglected to employ even ordinary diligence in finding and arranging those which exist in England, is abundantly evident to those who have submitted his work to careful investigation. Negligence in an historian is bad enough; but when pert and flippant dogmatism is substituted for accurate investigation, and when compositions are to indiscriminate censure, whose merits have never even been examined, time language of indignant reprobation can scarcely be too severely applied. BURNEY'S grasp as a musician was scanty and feeble. his History ranges the eminent piano- forte-players of his time in the following ortler—"Buatszy, CLEMENT!, CRAMER." Not a single piece exists to justify his admission into such company. As a composer, he is utterly, irretrievably consigned to oblivion. His Life (alas for his fame !) has been published by his daughter ; and he appears there, as in his History, a sort of musical echo of fashionable opinions—desti- tute of the ability to form, or at least wanting the courage to avow his own. Unfortunately, this work, which was puffed into unmerited notice by a knot of literary associates, who were wholly incompetent to decide on its merits, has been regarded as an authority both at home and abroad, One consequence of this has been the universal impression on the Continent, that there exists no school of English music. His acquaintance with the works of our great writers was scanty : to some of them he vouchsafes only a transient and imperfect glance; of one whole class he makes no mention ; and his review of the compositions even of HANDEL, whom lie affects to regard with profound veneration, prove how superficial was his knowledge of that great writer's labours. He devotes pages to the review of many a forgotten opera—examining every song in turn, and dismisses Israel in Egypt and Alexander's Feast in a single and the same sentence. The elaborate work of Sir JOHN HAWKINS, though plundered without acknowledgment by B URNEY, and made the subject of unseemly ridicule by his partisans, is by far the best History of Music we possess. It contains a mass of facts collected with im- mense labour and research ; and, as a book of authority, is thus far quite to be depended upon. The illustrations which accom- pany his work are a most valuable collection of musical curiosities and treasures—ample and well-chosen; whereas B URNEY'S are miserably imperfect. H AWKI NS had a predilection for that school of vocal writing which Boasisv affected to hold in contempt: but his opinions, though tinged with prejudice, are entitled to more respect than those of his fellow-labourer; and his History is free from that, nauseous vanity and conceit which led BURNEY to thrust himself for ever before the eyes of' his readers.
But whatever be the merits and defects of these several His- tories of Music as to the times and countries over which they extend, they reach only to what may now almost he called a dis- tant period of the art ; since Hawisisrs's was published in 1776,
and BURNEY'S last volume in 1789. The immense strides which Instrumental and Operatic writing have made since that time, and the great and mighty names which appear on our musical records, offer to the musical historian a rich, interesting, and varied field of inquiry, and an abundant supply of materials. Some attempts have been made to bring the musical annals of former ages into a small compass, and to continue them to our own time : but these have, in general, been disgracefully incorrect or imperfect, —compilations in which the scissors rather than the pen have • been employed, and in which pages from BURNEY, with all their blunders, have been pilfered without ceremony and without
acknowledgment. Hence, errors and prejudices have received fresh currency; since those who have never had the inclination, frequently not the ability, to examine for themselves, have re- garded his work as one of unquestioned authority and safe guidance.
It is obvious that the history of an art which extends through to many ages—spreads over countries so diversified in habits, feelings, and language—embraces such varied and opposite fortes,
connecting itself alternately with the church, the theatre, the concert-room, and the social circle—and in each of these several forms taking a different hue from the character of the people in which it exists—must demand no ordinary quantum of musical as well as literary research : that its historian should possess a quick and discriminating sense of the excellencies and defects of these various schools ; should hold the balance of criticism with a steady and even hand, and should add to his musical knowledge that re- fined taste which will enable him to recognize in music not a mere trifling or sensual gratification, but a noble and intellectual pleasure, the fit and worthy ally of her sister poetry; he should combine accu- racy with enthusiasm, and unite to ardour impartiality. A history of music, as of any art, must be a collection of dates and facts; but it should be more, and he whose soul does not kindle into occa- sional rapture is unfitted to write it. There must be "thoughts that breathe and words that burn"—as well as a succinct, accurate, and well-digested narrative.
These requisites Mr. HOGARTH possesses in no ordinary degree. He is, in the true sense of the word, a lover of music,—by which we mean, not a person amused or pleased with it in that form which best chances to suit his habits or his prejudices, still less the champion of a party or the bigot of a school ; but one whose enjoyment arises from the power of accurate comprehension and just discrimination. He knows when and why to praise or to censure. Some critics and writers, as well as some hearers, have a very narrow range of musical knowledge and enjoyment. They are "of Paul, of Apollos, or of Cephas,"—each of these, with them, is in turn the model of orthodox taste, any departure from which, or any approbation of another, is heresy and schism. They are not content with worshiping IIANDEL, but they must denounce MOZART; you must hate as well as love with them, or they will cast you out as an infidel. From this miserable bigotry Mr. lionsaen is free. If he admires, it is not because music is of this age or that country, but because it is good. Of the various classes into which music is divided, it would bsr difficult to say which has the supremest hold on his affections. Yet is he far from an indis- criminate admirer. He censures freely and severely, where cen- sure is deserved; and his opinions are in nowise controlled or dic- tated by the ignorant prejudices or fashionable dicta of the multi- tude. His tone is that of an independent, well-informed, and accurate thinker, who has no purpose to serve save that of truth and sound reason.
In common with most writers, he has trusted too much to BUR- NEY as an authority ; whose opinions are nevertheless occasion- ally condemned with just severity. His insolent depreciation of Dr. GREENE'S merits, (compared with whom BURNEY was a pigmy,) is deservedly reprehended; and the tone of arrogant con- tempt in which he mentions TRAVERS is noticed with merited censure.
Mr. HOGARTH'S object in the present work is thus described in the preface- " The author's object is to give that information respecting the progress of music, the personal history of the, most eminent musicians and the present state of the art in this and other cotntries, which is now looked upon as indis- pensable to every person of liberal attainments. He has endeavoured to use simple and perspicuous language, avoiding technical phraseology and abstruse discussions ; these, in truth, being wholly unnecessary in treating of music, not as an intricate science, but as one of the most beautiful of the fine arts. He has entered, as fully as the plan of a concise and popular work would admit of, into an examination of the works of the great masters ; endeavouring to illus- trate those principles of criticism which are the foundation of sound judgments on musical subjects. His opinions, he knows, are not always in accordance with those which have been advanced by critics superior to himself; and he is very far from having any overweening confidence in his own infallibility. He may have taken narrow views, or (like many of his letters) may have been some- times blinded by prejudice. But his opinions have been carefully formed ; and any errors that may be laid to their charge, are ceitainly not the result of wilful perversion of judgment."
Where materials are so ample, it is difficult, as MORLEY phrases it, " to wrest much matter into small bounds: " the present work aims at being concise and popular, yet few circumstances of im- portance are omitted. Mr. HOGARTH has followed the plan of HAWKINS and BURNEY, in treating of European music, as a whole, chronologically. We have some doubts whether this be the most lucid and satisfactory way of dealing with the subject. We should prefer taking one department of the art, and following out its progress step by step—marking its advance or decline, tracing the causes of those changes, whether for better or worse, which attended it—to the discursive mode which musical histo- rians have usually pursued. The thread of the narrative, by the common process, is constantly broken off, and the reader is obliged to piece it on at the end of another chapter or two. Each branch of the art, if brought separately and connectedly be- fore the eye, would present a perfect musical diorama, which, though confined to one landscape, would give every part of
it in due succession. To the description of and criticism upon its several parts, should be added a judicious selection of illustrations, carefully gathered from appropriate works : the reader would then have a perfeet acquaintance with each, instead of vonetantly wandering from die theatre to the church or the
esse concert-room. But such a mode of treating musical history would require a much larger space than Mr. HOGARTH has chosen to occupy (only a single duodecimo volume); and haring adopted the discursive plan, he could not have followed it out with more clearness and accuracy. More than half the volume is occupied by the history of the art since BURNEY wrote; and the notices of all the great German composers who have appeared since that period are highly interesting. Nor are the merits of those of our own country overlooked. The different Societies which have been formed in London for the advancement of the art are noticed with due discrimination ; the preference being deservedly given to the Philharmonic and the Vocal Concerts.
The following extracts, (we wish our limits could have afforded more,) will exemplify, on a small scale, the spirit, taste, and literary pretensions of this valuable work.
Cimarosa was a man of highly.cultivated mind and an amiable disposition. His reply to a painter who wished to pay him a compliment, by saying that he was superior to Mozart, exhibited wit as well as modesty. " I superior to Mo- zart, Sir ! what would you say to any man who should tell you that you were superior to Raphael?" Cimarosa's music is remarkable for the charms of its melody ; which, though less varied and less indebted to the resources of modulation than that of Mozart, and less showy and piquante than that of Rossini, is unrivalled for the open- ness and flow of its long and exquisite rounded petiods. He possesses little of the melancholy which tinges Mozart's music, even when it is meant to be gay ; but he is able to express Italian passion in all its ardour; and, in his comic style, there is a quietness and delicacy, which Rossini, with all his eccentricity and humour, has not attained. his concerted pieces are not so full of bustle and business as those of Rossini, but yet very dramatic and admirably constructed. In the richness and fulness of his accompaniments, and in the delicate manage- ment of the different instruments, he excels any Italian writer of his tunic; though, in these respects, he is far surpassed by Mozart.
As a musician, Beethoven must be classed along with Handel, Haydn, rind Mozart. He alone is to be compared to them in the magnitude of his works, and their influence on the state of the art. Though he has written little in the department to which Kindel devoted all the energies of his mind, yet his spirit, more than that of any other composer, is akin to that of Handel. In his music there is the same gigantic grandeur of conception, the same breadth and sim- plicity of design' and the same absence of minute finishing and petty details. In Beethoven's harmonies, the masses of sound are equally large, ponderous, and imposing as those of Handel, while they have a deep amid gloomy character peculiar to himself. As they swell in our ears, and grow darker and darker, they are like the lowering storm-clowl, on which we gaze till we are startled by the flash and appalled by the thunder which bursts from its bosom. Such effects lie has especially produced in his wondee huh symphonies ; they belong, to the tone of his mind, and are without a parallel in the whole range of music. Even where he does not wield the strength of a great in chestra,—in his instru- mental concerted pieces, his quartets, his trios, and his sonatas for the piano- forte, time is the same bissid sail massive harmony, and the same wild, unex- pected, and startling effects. Mingled with these, in his orchestral as well as his chamber music, there are strains of melody inexpressibly impassioned and ravishing ; strains which do not merely please, but dissolve in pleasure; which do not merely move, but overpower with emotion. Of these divine melodies, a remarkable feature is their extreme simplicity: a few notes, as artliss: as those of a national air, are sufficient to awake the most exquisite feelings.
ORCHESTRAL A CCOMPA NIMENTS.
Weber's instrumental accompaniments are stronger than those of Mozart. Whether this species of colouring has reached its height, or whether it will con- tinue to increase in strength, it seems hardly possible to conjecture. Every suc- ceeding generation of dramatic composers has added variety, richness, and force, to the effects of the oichestra ; and accompaniments, at first thought too predominant and overpowering, have come, in course of time, to be consi- dered tin it.and feeble. It is grievous to think that the divine harmonies of Mozart himself may share this fate' yet when once the accompaniments of Weber and Spohr shall be on a level with the generally-established standard of taste, those of Mozart mast necessarily be below it. This, indeed, is in some measure the case already ; and the time may come when the present style of orchestral writing shall give way to new forms of instrumentation as yet undreamed of. There may, indeed, be a point beyond which the tide of innovation cannot reach, and at which it must remain or begin to ebb. But the history of music affords no indication of any such point ; and the tide still flows on as fast and as steadily as ever. One thing however, may be said. However endless may be the changes caused by the ejlargeinent of the bounds of harmony, and by dis- coveries in the use and combination of instruments, those innovations which consist in a mere accession of noise have already reached their limit. The human tympanum can bear nothing beyond the heating of drums and braying of trumpets and trombones introduced by the followers of the Rossini school ; and the temporary vogue of a fashion of composing which is a mere cloak for ignorance and incapacity, appears to be passing away. In this pleasant manner—the results of extensive learning and much thought being communicated in easy, natural, and flowing language—the volume proceeds. In addition to the claim to general circulation which is afforded by its intrinsic merits, we ought to mention that of extraordinary cheapness. So much in- teresting and sound information on musical history, for so little money (7s. Gd.), is not to be found elsewhere.