6 SEPTEMBER 1919, Page 17


OF recent additions to the series of musical books edited by Dr. Eaglefield Hull, the most opportune in its appeal, and the most interesting in its treatment, is M. Calvocoressi's study of .Muscrgsky, the Russian Musical Nationalist.' Like most of the modern Russian composers, Musorgsky began as a brilliant amateur. M. Calvocoressi tells again the story of the sudden conversion of the young dandy, an officer in a crack Russian regiment, into the serious musician. Till a short time before his early death—he died on his forty-second birthday—he supported himself in a variety of small civil employments. He was not only straitened in means, but handicapped by ill- health, and by the limitations of his technical equipment. His own orchestral score of the work that has brought him his posthumous fame—Boris Godunoff—was never published. The original edition was for piano and voice only, and the title states that it contained scenes not intended for stage performance. " In its complete form Boris is of gigantic 'proportions." It was subjected to various revisions and • (1) Musorgsky, Me Russian Musical Nationalist. By H. D. Calcocoressi• Translated by A. F.aglefleld Hull, Mus. Doc. Oxon. With Musical Illustrations and a Portrait. "Library of Music and Musicians." London: Sedan Paul. 14s. 8d. net.]—(2) Modern Pianoforte Technique : a Short Treatise on the Science and Art of Pianoforte Playing for Masters and Pupils. By Sidney Vantyn. " The Music-Lover's Library." Same publishers. I25. &I. net.]—(3) The -Story of British Music. By Clement Antrobus Harris. Same series, publishers, and price.—(4) The Listener's Guide to Music, with a Coneert-goer's Glossary. By Percy A. Scholes. Rith an Introduction by Sir Henry liadow. Oxford: at the buivereity rxess, : Inunelsres Milford. La's CJ. set.] ,

mutilations in his lifetime, and after his death the part writing and the instrumentation were- corrected and other changes made by Rimsky-Korsakoff for the version which has been adopted since the reproduction of the opera at Petrograd in 1896. " Never was an artist more often counselled, helped, and guided by his friends." Yet in spite of this dependence,

Musorgsky was a great innovator and inventor, and conscientiously adhered to the aims expressed in his own words when he laid down the best road to art for the modern man, and the only justification of his duty as an artist, to be "Life, especially when it is made manifest ; Truth, however bitter it may be ; Fearlessness, the free speech." His emancipation from the brief spell cast over him by Italian opera music was largely due to the influence of Dargomijsky. His musical

education, such as it was, was mainly derived from Balakireff. But he differed from the other members of the " Great Five " both in temperament and in the extent of his revolt from all formalism and preoccupation with technique. " His disdain for ' pure music,' for the science of construction and development,

had no limits. . . . His sole ambition was to create by his art a faithful reflection of life without embellishment or variation."

His chief mistake was the failure to realize that in order to free oneself from the restraint of form and design it is necessary to be a master of form :-

" One cannot put aside any student's rule before having been able to conform to it. Musorgsky failed to understand this truth. Because he was not capable of penetrating it, he turned aside. He created laboriously, clumsily, imperfectly. 1t was truly only by the power of his genius that he produced immortal pages ; he always did this, when his inspiration was sufficiently powerful to record itself in its own way. The deep sincerity, the absolute spontaneity which he always preserved, in spite of all the weaknesses we have noticed, gives artistic value to nearly everything he wrote."

M. Calvocoressi shows how Musorgsky was inspired in his

work as a realist by his deep sympathy with the people and the peasantry. He drew largely on folk-music ; his greatest work

is eminently national, and the chief character in it is the populace. It is well said of him, again, that he " never wrote from habit." All his longer songs are darch-komponirt ; the

unity is not based on musical form, but on the words. In his operas there is hardly any musical commentary and no musical rhetoric. " At the basis of Musorgsky's art is genuine truth at all costs,' truth so strong that it is sufficient unto itself." And though he appeals to the feelings alone and never to the intellect, he possessed a clairvoyance that enabled him to identify himself with the intimate spirit of the words chosen. In fine, M. Calvocoressi sums him up as " one of the greatest inventors of musical elements, of melodic curves, or of new and expressive harmonies who has ever lived," while denying him any special gift for rhythmic invention, and admitting his clumsy writing, hasty and awkward transitions, and unjustifiable modulations.

Mr. Sidney Vantyn, who is a Professor• at the Conservatoire at Liege and the Schola Musicac at Brussels, reminds us in the

Introduction to his treatise on Modern Pianoforte Technique° that Hans von Below once said that " three things were necessary

for a pianist : firstly technique ; secondly technique ; and thirdly technique." Mr. Vantyn's comment is typical of his general attitude :—

" If technique were only to be regarded as one of the necessary adjuncts in an acrobatic performance on the pianoforte, these words of a great master would be sheer nonsense. But thee() who remember this artist know that ho never strove after effect for effect's sake, but employed all his powers as a means to the end of a perfect interpretation of each and every work performed. This is exactly what the word ` technique ' should mean to us : the art of playing the right note at the right time in the right way."

Even Musorgsky, himself a brilliant pianist, would have sub- scribed to this view of the value of technique on the executive side. The treatise is eminently practical, though the aesthetics

of interpretation are dealt with, but it eschews dogmatism, and discourages violence, extravagance, and mannerism, while emphasizing the legitimacy of maintaining personality in interpretation. A truly personal rendering, combined with a due respect for the composer's text, " is infinitely better than a characterless imitation of another person's ideas." A great part of the book is necessarily too technical for discussion in these columns. We may note, however, the author's condem- nation of mechanical appliances to strengthen the fingers, and his insistence on the development of both hands simultaneously and equally. In the majority of books of studies, the proportion of exercises for the right hand is at least 75 per cent.

Mr. Clement Harris's volume' is "less a history than a story of British music on its social and more human side," in which special stress is laid on the early eminence of Great Britain in the cultivation of music, and her fruitful contributions to the evolution of harmony, counterpoint, the art of composition, and instrumental forms. John Dunstable and Henry Purcell are the chief heroes of the narrative ; and Mr. Harris dwells, not without good reason, on the entire neglect of music in the pages of Hallam and Macaulay, who in his review of the arts and science of the seventeenth century never even mentions Purcell. Apart from our claim to priority in various branches of the art, he insists on the fact that " the Island Kingdom can boast a longer continuous musical history than any other country in the Western World." Of the 210 pages composing the book, only about twenty are devoted to the period succeeding Purcell. The long domination of Italian and German influence is not overlooked, but Mr. Harris claims for England that even during the dark ages of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many of the world's greatest masters composed their masterpieces for her, and met with their highest appreciation and sometimes their best performance in this country.

Mr. Harris speaks with pride of the present and with hope for the future of British music. He acclaims Dr. Ethel Smyth as the greatest woman composer the world has yet produced, and Sir Edward Eiger as one of the two greatest composers living. It is a spirited little book with much interesting information on bards, minstrels, and folk-music, and an excellent chapter on Church music with special reference to the attitude of the Puritans. We have noted some inaccuracies. Mr. Lecky is shorn of his first initial, and Sir Edward Eiger, not Sir Charles Stanford, composed " Land of Hope and Glory."

Lastly, we have in The Listener's Guide to ilfusic,4 prepared for the use of the soldier classes in France, quite the best thing of the kind that has yet appeared. It has been written to answer the need of the ordinary listener—" the quite ordinary, humble-minded, so-called unmusical' person," a class enormously increased by the multiplication of orchestral concerts. In simple language, with a minimum of techniealities, Mr. Scholes explains stales and keys ; modulation, rhythm, and time ; melody, harmony, and counterpoint ; and then, -as Sir Henry Hadow says in his Introduction, " opens the door of the Masters' workshop and shows, not the secret of their mastery, for none can show that, but the way in which they used their tools and dealt with their materials." Especially happy are the chapters on the principle of design in music : on " the mysteries of sonata form," admirably _elucidated by simple diagrams ; on the sonata and the symphony as a whole; and on the construction of fugues. Then follow chapters on gong, oratorio, and opera; the orchestra and its instruments, with some typical orchestral combinations ; and a brief review of " the chain of composers " from the early contrapuntal writers of the sixteenth century down to Debussy, Rlgar, and Scriabin. Finally, we have an analytical index and " Concert- goer's Glossary " based on the annotated programmes of the " Promenade Concerts " for a period of six years and the entries in the Philharmonic Society's programmes for a century. This Glossary is a real triumph of lucid and concise definition. Take, for example, Ballet " a piece intended for stage dancing. The old-fashioned operas had irrelevant decorative Ballets introduced. Nowadays the Ballet tends to become a form of art in its own right, expressive and dramatic, rather than merely decorative." Mr. Scholes has a remarkable gift of combining vivacity with compression. Text-books are arid things as a rule, but he is never dry, and often entertaining. The aim of the book could not be better expressed than in his own comment on Tolstoy's What is Art ?— "Tolstoy would abolish all complex music because the plain man cannot grasp it at a sitting. The assumption of the present book is that it is better to abolish the plain man—as a plain man. There is a world of beauty lying just beyond that plain man's reach ; it is worth a little striving on his part to find the way to that world and enter in."

There are some useful hints on the class use of this volume, the educational value of the pianola and gramophone, and a list of books for supplementary reading. To this list we would suggest, as an addition, the late Arthur Hugh Sidgwick'a altogether delightful volume, TheTrornenatte Ticket.