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

By John Erskine | Go to book overview

PIANOFORTE AND VIOLIN SONATAS AND DUETS

CHAPTER I
THE CLASSICS

(a) BACH AND HANDEL

NOT MANY SONATAS for piano and violin of the pre- Mozart age have survived. There are some fine things by J. S. Bach and one sonata (in E major) that stands above all the others and represents his genius in the art of instrumental writing at its best. It consists of four movements--two slow, alternating with two lively sections. The allegros have a sparkle that is not found in the allegros of the violin concertos; nor is there any other single movement of his for violin in which slight, but effective, changes of melodic design are more happily exploited. The first Adagio, somewhat florid and elaborate, serves well the purpose of an introduction; the second equals the slow movements of the violin concertos in its exquisite tenderness of devotional expression.

Again, in Handel's sonatas for piano and violin one is found which overtops the rest. The Sonata in A major has no real slow movement, its place, between the two allegros, being taken by a recitative-like passage only five bars long. Short as it is, it fulfils its purpose perfectly. The change from the preceding movement is complete; the matter is so arresting that it takes away the mind entirely from all that went before it. The genius of Handel for dramatic expression, exemplified in the recitatives of Messiah, touches here its greatest height. After the bustling energy of the first movement he conjures up in a flash an atmosphere of tense expectation; in five bars he takes us to a tragic climax. When the last movement-- a chaste Allegro of enchanting beauty--comes to unravel the plot, we experience a feeling of positive relief. Both Allegro and Recitative lose their qualities when the pace of the one and the sentiment of

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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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