A Musical Companion: A Guide to the Understanding and Enjoyment of Music

By John Erskine | Go to book overview

THE EXPANSION OF THE ORCHESTRA

CHAPTER I
TROMBONES AND HORNS

NOT for long was the orchestra to remain in the state of calm that had produced the shapely Haydn symphonies, for a great dramatic genius was already finding it insufficient for his musical needs. When Mozart was writing his opera Don Giovanni in 1787, the trombones had already returned to some favour with composers. Once the numerical balance between strings, wind instruments, and percussion had been settled satisfactorily in the main essentials, there seems to have been little hesitation in accepting the trombones (usually three) as rightful additions to the brass section. Gluck, in particular, used them to fine effect in his operas. But no one at that time seemed to want them in the symphony, not even Mozart. Their subsequent elevation to symphonic rank came from Beethoven some twenty years after Don Giovanni was written.

Yet it was actually Mozart who rediscovered the trombones in all their splendour of tone. He it was who in the last act of Don Giovanni gave them a new and wonderful significance. He it was who, in The Magic Flute, four years later, again invested them with an extraordinary duality of character; first, to illustrate the Temple of Wisdom and Light, wherein Masonic rites were performed by the high priest Sarastro and his brethren; and, secondly, to depict the final descent of Sarastro's enemy the Queen of Night into her Kingdom of Darkness. If Haydn has been called the "Father of the Symphony," then assuredly we must rank Mozart as the male parent of modern orchestration. And lest the reader think I am overstating matters, let me recall to his mind the scenes in Don Giovanni, where, in my submission, the three trombones for the first time foreshadow in the most definite terms the birth of the modern orchestra.

-78-

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A Musical Companion: A Guide to the Understanding and Enjoyment of Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Music *
  • Title Page i
  • Acknowledgment iii
  • Introductory Note v
  • Contents ix
  • Book I - The ABC of Music 1
  • Musical Notation 3
  • The Fundamentals of Music 19
  • Form 27
  • The Orchestra and Other Instruments 39
  • Book II - The Orchestra and Orchestral Music 53
  • The Rise of the Orchestra 55
  • The Expansion of the Orchestra 78
  • The Orchestra as Instrument 93
  • Orchestral Music; "Absolute" Music and the Symphonists 130
  • Orchestral Music of Mantkinds 174
  • Book III - Opera 189
  • How Opera Arose 191
  • The Eighteenth Century 207
  • From Mozart to Wagner 223
  • From Verdi to the Present Day 241
  • Book IV - The Human Voice 259
  • By Way of Introduction 261
  • The Polyphonic Period 268
  • English Song 284
  • Folk-Song 294
  • Oratorio and Other Choral Music 301
  • European Song in the Nineteenth Century 314
  • Vocal Music in the Twentieth Century 330
  • Book V - Chamber Music 341
  • Before Beethoven 343
  • From Beethoven to Brahms 364
  • National Schools 382
  • Britain 405
  • Modernism 421
  • Book VI - The Solo Instrument 431
  • Keyboard Instruments 433
  • Pianoforte and Violin Sonatas and Duets 468
  • The Violin in Solo and Concerto 477
  • The Violoncello and the Viola 490
  • Glossary and Index 501
  • A Short Glossary of Musical Terms 503
  • Index 517
  • A Note on the Type In Which This Book is Set 552
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