Music: An Art and a Language

By Walter Raymond Spalding | Go to book overview

To suggest the attitude which we of to-day should take towards Mendelssohn -- he may justly be admired as a musician of great natural gifts, of high ideals and of unusually finished technique in many branches of composition. It is ungracious to censure him because he lacks the gripping emotional power of a Beethoven or a Wagner. Those who indulge in such narrow criticism condemn only themselves.


CHAPTER XIV
CHOPIN AND PIANOFORTE STYLE

ALTHOUGH Chopin ( 1809-1849) was less aggressively romantic than others of the group we have been considering, in many respects his music represents the romantic spirit in its fairest bloom. Not even yet has full justice been done him -- although his fame is growing -- since he is often considered as a composer of mere "salonpieces" which, though captivating, are too gossamer-like to merit serious attention. Chopin was a life-long student of Bach; and much of his music, in its closeness of texture, shows unmistakably the influence of that master. Together with Schumann, he broke away from the strict formality of the old classic forms and instituted the reign of freely conceived tone-poems for the pianoforte: the form being conditioned by the poetic feelings of the composer. As far as fundamental principles of architecture are concerned, his pieces are generally simple, modeled as they are on the two and three-part form and that of the rondo. When he attempted works of large scope, where varied material had to be held together, he was lamentably deficient, e. g., in his Sonatas. In fact, even in such pieces as the Etudes and Scherzos, in the presentation of the material we find occasional blemishes. But there are so many other wonderful qualities that this weakness may be overlooked. In spite of a certain deficiency in form, Chopin is indisputably a great genius. Far too much stress has been laid on the delicacy of his style to the exclusion of the intensity and bold dramatic power that characterize much of his music

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