25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 13

M us ic Jr is natural that a public which perforce is

listening to music of all kinds at all times of the day should be interested in the problems of performance. Another natural step is from a consideration of those problems to a curiosity about instru- ments and their development. Ga1pin, Hipkins, Schlesinger, Dolmetseh, Flood, Dale, all these and many others have given us in English the benefits of their research. Recently two important studies have been added to the list : Musical Instruments and their Music (Part II), by Gerald R. Hayes, and Early Keyboard Instruments, by Philip James. The first is published by the Oxford University Press at 10s. ad. ; the second by Peter Davies Ltd., at 30s. Mr. James's book is illustrated with collotypc plates taken from illuminated manuscripts, prints, and fine examples of instruments.

Mr. Mayes is concerned with bowed instruments, the viol in particular. In such a wide field it is not surprising that he has difficulty in marshalling the facts. This is no fault of the author. On the contrary, his courage and judgment are much to he admired. Especially his judgment. In spite of the environment of his subject, lie allows himself no indul- gence in fantasy. Whenever he desires to point out the story of our Golden Age, he allows Thomas Mace to speak. No man wrote more eloquently upon viols and their music. Yet it is singificant, that although for years musicians have been familiar with quotations from Musick's Monument, they have only recently began to be interested in the actual music that so inspired the author. The interest began with imbibe recognition of the Dolmetsch movement. The work of Mr. Gerald Hayes is a faithful and necessary contribution to that movement. At present he is at work upon a study of the lute and other plucked instruments.

The rending of these two books on bowed and keyboard instruments has created an atmosphere of debate. How far is u work of music conditioned by the medium for which it is composed? And, how far has instrumental technique been developed by composers' demands ? .

It would probably be found that a composition does not always appear in the form or even the phraseology of its first conception. It cannot be doubted that the idioms of instru- ments play a part in modifying the expression and the direction of a composer's inspiration. The works of Beethoven provide many examples of this kind of compromise between what is demanded by the composer's impulse and what is expedient. Beethoven was chiefly concerned with ideas, more concerned with the urgent need to express the sum of his musical nature than with suiting the convenience of performers.

Of other composers it can be said that they could not possibly think of a phrase apart from a given instrument. Of Wagner and Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov and of all the great masters of instrumentation this can be said. This group again can be sub-divided. There are those whose creative impulse is con- ditioned, and therefore confined, by instrumental idioms. And there are those whose inspiration is intensified by the medium in which they must work.

The same problem recurs in the history of keyboard music. Mr. Philip James's sober and lucid account is indispensable to those who wish to know all sides of the question. He discusses the development of the early keyboard instruments under three headings : 1. Bowed ; geigenwerek and arched vial!. 2. Plucked ; virginal, harpsichord, spinet. 3. Struck ; clavi- chord (tangent action) and pianoforte (hammer action). Clearly, the music written for these instruments must be shaped and directed by the different types of mechanism. For instance, since the strings of a harpsichord are plucked, it follows that the music written for this instrument is fluent, brilliant, restless, elaborately wrought and is rarely invaded by the vocal style. As the funds of technique became enriched, composers naturally sought ways of increasing the range of tone. The keyboard duet (four hands at one keyboard) was an obvious way of increasing the number of tones and so creating the illusion of bigger tone. Although the harpsichord did not as a rule exceed five octaves, a few eighteenth-century eomposers experimented by dividing the limited field between two performers. The other kind of keyboard duet, two instruments, a performer at each, is encountered much earlier. IThere is an example in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.) Works of this kind were written to provide contrasts of phrase and intricacies of texture. The problem here is to preserve clarity. Couperin, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Greig, Busoni, flax, these names are sufficient to show how continuously fas- cinating the problem has been. At the present time music fur two pianos is attracting composers and public alike.

So, on the one hand we have composers who depend upon instrumental problems for their inspiration ; and on the other hand, those who are for ever seeking to expand the limitations of their medium. Which, then, is first—the hen or the egg ? One authority who commands great respect makes the priority of the hen an article of faith. Yet the truth is probably some- where between. Here I find my earlier conviction confirmed. The lien lays the egg and the hen is in the egg- 13Astr. Msosn.