From Song to Symphony: A Manual of Music Appreciation

By Daniel Gregory Mason | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
CHAMBER MUSIC

QUALITIES OF THE STRING QUARTET

A TEST for the sense of humor is said to have been invented by Sidney Smith, the English wit. He told people he met, it seems, a rather fantastic story, which made the literal-minded stare, but tickled the fancy of such as had a fancy to be tickled. If we wished to find a similar test for the musical sense, it is certain we could hardly choose a better one than a piece of chamber music, such as a Mozart string quartet. Anyone who sincerely liked it could safely be pronounced musical. It would leave unmoved many who respond to the less musical elements in other forms of the art -- to the satisfaction of curiosity about personalities afforded by opera and by song, piano, and violin recitals, for instance, or to the merely sensuous stimulation of ears and nerve centres that give many orchestral pieces of Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and Strauss so much of their popularity. It would offer little encouragement to that "drowsy reverie, relieved by nervous thrills," in which, according to Santayana, many people like to listen to

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