ANY STUDY of European vocal music during the last century demands in reality a preparatory essay on a scale impossible within the limits of this chapter. A few general facts, however, may usefully be summarized.
On a broad view it may be said that the songs of all countries already show during the eighteenth century, if not the seventeenth, the main outlines of the characteristics that were subsequently to distinguish them. Mainly, of course, the basis of song in all nations is folk-music. The extent of the influence of the folk-music, however, varies in each country. It was very strong in Germany and Russia; less strong in France and Italy, and comparatively slight in England. In England, for instance, there has on various occasions been a struggle between the vocal models imported from abroad (in the main from Italy and Germany) and the folk or national songs. The success of the ballad operas in general and of The Beggar's Opera in particular was perhaps the most noteworthy instance of a reaction against vocal forms of an origin foreign to England. Eighteenth- century composers, such as Dibdin and Arne, not to mention many of those who provided songs for the entertainments at the famous Vauxhall Gardens, may at least claim credit for having preserved in their music a genuine English flavour, subsequently lost in the perhaps more scholarly but less attractive vocal compositions of the latter part of the nineteenth century.
In Italy folk-song has always been kept alive in the various provinces, but with little effect, so far as one can see, on what would nowadays be termed "art music." Indeed, the history of Italian song, glorious as it is, is identified in practice with the history of the opera.
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Publication information: Book title: A Musical Companion:A Guide to the Understanding and Enjoyment of Music. Contributors: John Erskine - Editor. Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1935. Page number: 314.
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