National Schools - Bohemia And Scandinavia
( Originally Published 1905 )
The Influence of Folk-Music.—Some races are endowed with a better musical taste than others. Among these favored peoples the Folk-song, the music that appeals directly to the popular heart, needs only the touch of a gifted composer to fashion it into a great national school. In the case of England and Belgium, we have seen that even the most thorough musical education cannot wholly atone for a lack of real public taste in music. Scotland, possessing a wealth of beautiful Folk-songs, has not yet given birth to a composer who can employ its style in larger forms. But in Bohemia and the countries of Northern Europe, the Folk-music has not only been worthy in itself, but has been properly developed and amplified by gifted composers.
Smetana.—Frantisek Skroup (1801-1862) composed many popular Bohemian Volkslieder, and wrote the first national opera, but the real founder of the Bohemian school was Bedrich, or Friedrich, Smetana (Leito mischl, Bohemia, 1824-Prague, 1884). Parental opposition could not pre-vent his studying music, and we find him at Prague, under Proksh, and, later on, taking lessons of Schumann. That master recommended a course with Mendelssohn, but as the pupil was too poor, he changed his advice and suggested a study of Bach. Smetana became an ardent admirer of Liszt, at whose house his own career was decided. Hearing Herbeck remark, while there, that the Czechs were merely re-productive, he made a solemn resolution to devote his life to the building up of a national school of music in Bohemia.
His Works.—While conductor at Gothenburg, Sweden, he produced three worthy symphonic poems : "Richard III," "Wallenstein's Camp," and "Hakon Jarl." On his return, he wrote "The Brandenburgers in Bohemia," the fir.t of the eight operas that have made him so farnous in h's native land. This was Wagnerian in style, and at once t e critics assailed him fiercely for trying to bring Bohemia under the musical domination of Germany. To show that he could write in a more popular vein, Smetana produced second opera, "Prodana Nevésta," (The Bartered Bride), which proved a marvel of musical grace and delicacy, . nd was enough in itself to establish the reputation of a y composer. "Dalibor" is a dramatic work in serious veil, while "Libuse" is based on a national subject. "The T o Widows" and "The Kiss" are light operas of marked success, the latter being often cited as a perfect model or this style. ' "The Secret" is in the same vein, while "Th: Devil's Wall" is again on a national legend. Other notabi- works are the string quartet "Aus Meinem Leben," and the "Carnival of Prague" ; but Smetana's greatest orchestr.1 work is the set of six symphonic poems entitled "Ma Vlat" (My Fatherland). These depict "Vysehrad," a historic ortress; "Vltava," the river Moldau; "Sarka," a mythical ' mazon; "Bohemia's Groves and Meadows," "Tabor," the Hussite camp ; and "Blanik," the magic mountain where t e warriors sleep. Smetana's music shows an inspirat on and depth of feeling that make him rank with the worlds great composers, and his struggles against poverty and disease form a story of the utmost pathos.
Dvorak.—The greatest of Smetana's pupils was ntonin Dvorak (Mühlhausen, Bohemia, 1841—Prague, Igo ). Son of a butcher, he persuaded the village schoolmaster to give him lessons. He began composition at Zlonitz, a d soon sent home a polka to surprise his family ; and as he had written it without considering the transposing inst uments, thus causing three different keys to sound toget er, the resulting discords certainly accomplished that purpose. After further study at Prague, he was able to gain a Government pension, and to interest such men as anslick and Brahms. He spent his time in "hard study, oc asional composition, much revision, a great deal of thinking, and little eating." Being asked what teacher helped h m most, he replied : "I studied with God, the birds, the t ees, the rivers, myself."
His Works.—Dvorâk's many operas, including " anda," "Dimitri," "Armida," and others, have been surpe ssed in importance by his orchestral works. His "Staba Mater" and the cantata "The Spectre's Bride" are import. nt vocal compositions. His overtures include such well-known ex-amples as the "Husitzkd," "Mein Heim," "Othello," "In der Natur," and the "Carneval." Other instrumental works are the famous "Slavic Dances," the Slavonic Rh psodies, the "Scherzo Capriccioso," three Ballades, and . "Hero Song." Before coming to New York, in 1892, he ad writ-ten four great symphonies ; but the fifth, "Aus de Neuen Welt," is of the greatest interest to America s, since Dvorak here adopted the plantation style in his th mes, to show what could be done in building up an American school of music. He was eminently successful in andling his material, and he produced a greater and mop e truly national work than any resident composer has yet done. In general, Dvoi-âk's style is more cosmopolitan than that of Smetana, and his faculty of melodic invention makes his works attractive. He enriched the symphony oy two Bohemian dance-movements—the Dumka, and the I uriant.
Other Bohemians. Zdének Fibich, though little " known outside of his own country, was another famous opera-composer. He devoted some efforts to melodra a also, "Hippodamia" being his chief work in this field. e published two symphonies and several symphonic pors, the latter showing the influence of Liszt. Rezni'c k, who has recently identified himself with the musical life of Germany, has produced five operas, of which the sparkling comedy "Gonna Diana" and the later "Till Eulenspiegel" are the best. Josef Suk, son-in-law of Dvorak, has compost d some attractive instrumental music, while Nâpravni'k, of a earlier generation, won operatic successes in St. Petersbur. Hungary, too, has a national school of opera, founded b Franz Erkel. This school is carried on by such men as Alexander Erkel, the Doppler brothers, Mihalovitch, Zichy, and Hubay, while Dohnanyi is better known as pianist than as composer. Poland is represented by Paderewski, while Soltys has won renown in symphony, and Stalkowsky in opera.
Norwegian Music.—Norway is preeminently a land of song. Its sombre fiords, dark forests, and smiling meadows have at all times inspired a school of Folk-music whose plaintive sweetness exerts the utmost charm on the musical auditor. In Edvard Àagerup Grieg (Bergen, 1843–1907) we find a composer of wonderful melodic gifts and expressive power, who has preserved admirably the flavor of the local Folk-songs and dances. Grieg owed much to the wise training of his mother, a woman of rare gifts. At Ole Bull's advice, he took a course at Leipzig, after which he studied further with Gade, at Copenhagen. There he met Rikard Noordraak, who first aroused his enthusiasm for the songs and legends of his native land.
Grieg's Works.—Grieg's genius was essentially lyric and melodic, but this in no way detracts from the greatness of his orchestral works. The "Autumn" overture is clear and beautiful, with the simplicity of strength, not of weakness. The "Norwegian Dances" mark the beginning of the national style that is carried out in the melodrama "Bergliot," the two "Peer Gynt" suites, and "Sigurd Jorsalfer." The piano concerto, somewhat in the style of Schumann, is one of Grieg's best works, and shows the utmost perfection of melodic and harmonic architecture. The "Elegiac Melodies," the "Norwegian Themes," and the "Holberg Suite," all for strings, are further examples of his rich fulness of romantic utterance. His choral and chamber works show the same sympathetic treatment, while his piano works and songs include some of the most exquisite gems in the entire musical repertoire. His works show endless melodic invention, great power of expression, and a warmth of tender sentiment that seems never to lose its charm.
Christian Sinding (Kongsberg, Norway, 1856) studied at Leipzig also, and won a royal scholarship that took him to Munich and Berlin. He belongs to an artistic family, for one brother, Otto, is a painter, and another, Stefan, sculptor. Sinding's music is melodic in character, and distinctively Norwegian in style, but less so than that o Grieg. His orchestral works include an excellent symphony, rought out under Weingartner and later by Thomas; an a tractive concerto for piano, and two for violin ; a "Rondo I finito" ; and the interesting suite, "Episodes Chevaleresques " His chamber-music, violin sonatas, piano solos, and so are made of the most attractive material.
Other Norwegians. — Johann Severin Svendsen, though prominent in Danish music, is really Norwegian by birth. Son oiF a military bandmaster, he soon obtained a position similar to his father's. But he longed for higher things, and after a tour as violin virtuoso, he studied at Leipzig, under Reinecke. He traveled much, meeting in Paris an American woman whom he afterwards married in her own country. After some experience in Christiania, he became court conductor in Copenhagen, where he owns the baton Lsed by von Weber and inscribed with that composer's name. His orchestral works include two symphonies, four Norwegian Rhapsodies, the legend "Zorahayde," and the "Carnival at Paris," but they are too conventional to take foremost rank. A prominent composer among the younger Norwegians is Ole Olsen, of Hammerfest, whose symphonic poem "Asgardsreien" is but one of his many successes. Gerhard Schj:lderup is one of the modern radicals, and shows all the complexity and dissonance of Strauss. Agathe Backer-Grohndahl (d. 1909 is the leader of the Norwegian women-compcsers.
Music in Denmark.—In Denmark, the fame of Cade obscured that of other composers, and such a man as J. P. E. Hartmann could gain scarcely more than local reputation. The most important name in recent years is that of August Enna, who won a popular operatic triumph in 1852 with "Die Hexe." He was almost wholly self-taught, for poverty prevented him from taking lessons, sometimes even from buying music paper. "Cleopatra" is a later work, while "The Little Match-Girl" was the beginning of a series of fairy operas. Enna handles his orchestra with boldness and skill, and displays vocal fluency and thematic excellence. Eduard Lassen gained more renown by his melodious songs than by his operas or orchestral works. Otto Mailing is known for his piano pieces, while Victor Bendix has attempted the symphonic poem. Ludwig Schytte (died 1909), a friend of Liszt, has made Berlin his home, and is identified with light opera as well as piano music.
Music in Sweden.—The national opera of Sweden was brought into being by Ivar Hallstrom, soon after the middle of the 19th century. Since then, a new school has arisen, showing the influence of Liszt, Wagner, Schumann, and at times, Berlioz, with the plaintive sweetness of the native Folk-music pervading it all. Anders Hallen, the first of the new romanticists, has written four operas (of which "Hex-fallen" is the best), several symphonic poems and Swedish Rhapsodies, a number of ambitious cantatas, and some beautiful Swedish and German songs. He unites the charm of his native music with strength of passion and richness of instrumentation. Emil Sjogren shows a harmonic feeling worthy of Grieg, but his boldness in modulation often produces bizarre effects. He excels in the smaller forms, such as his "Spanish Songs," "Tannhauser Lieder," and several piano cycles. Wilhelm Stenhammar, pupil of these two, shows much enthusiasm and spirit in his music, but his operas are now laid aside. Wilhelm Peterson-Berger is the best of the new opera-composers, his music-drama "Ran" being a recent success. Hugo Alfven has attempted the symphony, with fair success. Tor Aulin, a famous violinist, has produced concertos and other works for his instrument, while Erik Akerberg has devoted his energy to choral works. Elfrida Andree is the most prominent of the Swedish women-composers.
Music in Finland.—The national epic of Finland is the Kalevala, a work of real poetic beauty. There is also a collection of shorter lyrics, called the Kanteletar. These have furnished inspiration for a large number of modern composers, of whom the most important is Jean Sibelius. He studied with Becker in Berlin and Goldmark in Vienna.
On his return to Helsingfors, the capital, he became the leader of the new Finnish school. His two symphonies are worthy if not absolutely great, but his symphonic poems, and the suite "King Christian IV," show real musical beauty. He has been active in the smaller forms also, and holds the Government pension for musical excellence. Armas Jarnefelt is another good orchestral compose:, while Ernest Mielck, who died at twenty-two, showed a lyric beauty not unworthy of Schubert. Richard Faltin is one of the older song-composers. Martin Wegelius, died 1906, did valuable work as director of the Musical Institute, while Robert Kajanus became prominent as the founder and leader of the Helsingfors Philharmonic Orchestra. Both are excellent composers, the former working chiefly in vocal:. forms, the latter in the orchestral field.