Music: An Art and a Language

By Walter Raymond Spalding | Go to book overview

Finally, for orchestra his Spanish Rhapsody ranks with Chabrier's España and Debussy's Ibéria as the acme of descriptive power and of orchestral color. His Mother Goose Suite (originally a set of fourhand pieces but since orchestrated with incomparable finesse) illustrates his humor and play of fancy. It has become a truly popular concert number. Ravel's chef d'oeuvre the "choreographic symphony" Daphnis et Chloé displays an extraordinary synthetic grasp, for all the factors -- plot, action, the musical fabric, a large orchestra and a chorus of mixed voices behind the scenes -- are held together with a master hand. This work ranks with Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande as the most significant dramatic work of recent years.

It is evident, we trust, from the foregoing somewhat condensed estimates that the modern French school is very much alive, that it has to its credit numerous distinct achievements and that it contains the promise of still further growth. The French nature, which is highly emotional and yet, at its best, always controlled1 by a regard for fitness and clarity of thought, is particularly suited to express itself worthily in music, for in no other form of artistic endeavor is this balance more requisite. Music without emotion is, to be sure, like "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal" and dies in short order. On the other hand, music which is a mere display of crude emotion soon palls. The works of modern French composers deserve enthusiastic study for their charm, their finish and their refined emotional power.


CHAPTER XIX
NATIONAL SCHOOLS -- RUSSIAN, BOHEMIAN AND SCANDINAVIAN

BEFORE beginning an account of Tchaikowsky, the most noted though not necessarily the greatest of the Russian composers, a few words may be said concerning nationalism in music, the chief representatives of which are the Russians, the Bohemians, the Scandinavians and the Hungarians. Of these, however, the present-day Russian School is the most active and contributes constantly new factors to musical evolution. This grafting of forms of expression derived from the outlying nations on to the parent-stock of music --

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