26 MARCH 1954, Page 28

Voyage in Music


THIS is the most interesting book on a musical subject that has appeared in English for a long time. No performer whatsoever and no would-be intelligent listener should fail to read it from covet to cover—but Mr. Dart writes with such verve as well as author] tY and brings within the ordinary reader's understanding such riches of scholarship that no one who once starts the book is likely to Put it down unfinished. The author himself is aware of how unrewarding are most books on `old' music and its performance; and he wittilY quotes dans cette etude laborieuse et ingrate, mais plane des [sid seduisants mirages, on traverse des deserts pour arriver a des minis. There are no deserts in Mr. Dart's book. He, like the perfect courier, has crossed them all before and can lead his party straight to his objective by the shortest path. As for ruins, if some of th° mediaeval texts he discusses are little less enigmatic than the SOO' who would not enjoy visiting the Sphinx, or the most dilapidated ruin, with so knowledgeable and lively a guide? After discussing the task of an `editor' of old music and chapters on the sonorities involved and the important part played by ex.' temporisation in all music up till 150 years ago, Mr. Dart embarks on a voyage backwards through time He starts with the eighteenth century; and one of the greatest of the many services that this boo renders to the practising musician is the setting out—in unvarnished language and musical notation instead of vague literary generalities of the precise difference between the French and Italian styles. mostthe seventeenth century, where Mr. Dart makes another of his !lst useful observations. We have all khown that instrumentation was fluid until comparatively recently; but he points out that the l'esf guide to the sort of sound te composer had in mind is provided hall, work's destination. Was item eant for a private room; a large ,1;111, church or other 'resonant' building; or for the open air ? Until this is decided, it is useless to bother about rebecs, pommers !emphasises trumsscheits. Speaking of Monteverdi's Vespers, for instance, he _111Phasises the importance of dividing the performers spatially into several groups and he explains why: The whole work is designed to dazzle and bewilder the listener in the same way that the architecture of the Counter-Reformation is designed to dazzle and bewilder the spectator. A performance of the Vespers with all the performers packed together at one end of a concert hall is comparable with a photograph of a Jesuit church of theearly seventeenth-century ; both have been robbed of two dimensions—mystery and perspective—and their planned effect is thereby dimmed or even erased. As he leads the reader further back in musical time, Mr. Dart confesses that 'conjecture plays an ever larger part in what he has to