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The two Philharmonic Societies have had concerts this week ; the Old at the Hanover Square Booms on Monday, the New at Exeter Hall on Wednesday.
The Old Society's concert was rendered remarkable by the large por- tion of it devoted to the music of Berlioz. As he is in London at pre- sent, superintending the rehearsals of his Denvenuto Cellini at the Royal Italian Opera, the Society paid him the compliment of bringing forward several of his compositions and requesting him to direct their perform- ance. They formed the whole first act of the concert. The first of them, the symphony entitled "Harold in Italy," appears to be only a portion (for Berlioz is large in his conceptions) of an exten- sive design never completed—a musical instead of a poetical Childe Harold ; carrying his hero through various regions, and not only paint- ing the scenes and objects he surveyed, but also expressing his own thoughts and feelings suggested by them. Thus the "Harold in Italy" may be regarded as a canto of an unfinished poem. The successive scenes are described by the orchestra ; and the pensive traveller, passing through them, is represented by one instrument, of a very marked tone and character, the viola, which is heard soliloquizing, as it were, through- out the whole piece. We have Harold among the wild passes of the Appenines ; we have him listening, in succession, to the tread of a body of pilgrims singing their evening hymn, to a mountaineer's serenade to his Mistress, and to the wild orgies of a band of brigands. There is much poetry in this design ; and the painting, though vague, as musical painting must always be, is intelligible when once we know what it is meant to repre- sent.. Some portions, which come fairly within the domain of music, are strikingly picturesque ; particularly the measured tread of the pilgrims accompanying their evening hymn, a quaint little tune repeated again
and again with ever-changing harmony and effect. You hear the foot- steps and the melody dying gradually away till they mie(Ipet‘ in the dis- tance. The effect of this was charming, and so was theit bf the Calabrian lover's serenade : but the " orgie of brigands," which wound up the whole, was music run mad—such a jumble of frightfiA arises that we could scarcely resist the desire to stop our ears. The next piece was an air'etilled "The Repose of the Holy Family," of a simple and pastoral kind ; sweetly sung by Gardoni, with the most delicious orchestral Ac-
companiments that can be imagined. The last was the Overture or intro- duction to the second act of Benvenuto Calini. It paints, as well as music can paint, the gay crowds and confusion of a Roman carnival; and must have an admirable effect in the theatre, preparatory to the iising.of the curtain which discloses the scene.' The performance of these pieces (which, after a single irelielirsal, was so admirable that it subsequently drew from the composer ex- pressions of unbounded surprise) made a very strong impression on the audience, and must have contributed greatly to raise Berlioz's re- putation in the eyes of our musical public. It must have further nar- rowed the minority, already narrow, who withhold from him the charac- ter of a great artist ; and it must have strengthened the conviction that he is a man of a high and original genius, not transcended; in some branches of his art, by any of his predecessors or contemporaries. In his command of all the resources of harmony, and in the richness, brilliancy, and variety of his orchestral colouring, he has unquestionably no superior. It is true that in his sound-painting he often confuses the ear by com- plexity, and stuns it by physical force, in the same manner as an accumu- lation of glaring hues perplexes and fatigues the eye ; but whether, among other things in music, the strength of auricular endurance is still (as it has been for many years past) in a state of progress, remains to be known by those who shall come after us. In like manner, the obscurities in Berlioz's music, and its departure from those ideas of clearness and sym- metry which we have derived from the great models of art, may gradually disappear, when he himself shall, in the course of time become a model for new forms of construction. All this may be, for the same thing has been already ; and that it will be, to some extent at least, is apparent from the fact, of which we ourselves have had expe- rience, that every time Berlioz's music is heard, it hoes, something of its seeming irregularity, confusion, and crudity. But our ears, we confess, have still to undergo a long discipline of this kind be- fore they can derive the same sense of beauty from the music of Berlioz which they now receive from the masterpieces of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. It certainly appeared to us, when we afterwards came to hear Beethoven's C minor mphony, that we never before had been so sensible of its wondrous breadth and simplicity ; and the audience, by their reception of it, seemed to have some similar feeling.
The New Philharmonic Society's concert had less eclat than any of the three preceding. Its new matter was not interesting, and its old matter was common. The first part consisted chiefly of a cantata called "The Widow of Nein," by Lindpaintner. If Berlioz is too regardless of esta- blished modes and forms, Lindpaintner falls into the opposite extreme. His music—in this cantata at least—is altogether conventional. From the construction of a whole movement down to its minutest details, its phrases of melody, its points of imitation and fugue, its harmonies, and its instrumentation, everything is drawn from former writers Haydn espe- cially, whom the composer seems to have taken for his standing model. It is put together in a musicianlike manner, but its total want of ori- ginality deprived it of all interest. The only other novelty was an over-" ture by Macfarren, entitled "Don Carlos," and intended as a musical prelude to Schiller's tragedy. It has merit, as Macfarren's music gene- rally has ; but it is laboured and heavy, and might just as well have had any other title. M. Prudent played a solo on the pianoforte, which he had already played on other occasions,—a mere display of brilliant exe- cution in the fashionable style of the day. Of the old matter, Mozart's symphony in C—the Jupiter Symphony— was executed admirably; and Mendelssohn's "Walpurgis Night" in- differently—it had evidently been imperfectly rehearsed, especially by the chorus.
At the end of the concert, Herr Lindpaintner, whose engagement ter- minated with that evening, made his parting bow, and left the orchestra amid prolonged cheers from all parts of the hall. He has shown himself a consummate chef d'orchestre ; and, we understand, gained universal good-will and esteem by his conduct and deportment. For the last two concerts he is to be succeeded by Spohr.