Programme Music in the Last Four Centuries: A Contribution to the History of Musical Expression

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.

FOURTH PERIOD (18TH CENTURY) CONTINUED: CURIOSITIES, FATUITIES, AND NOTABILITIES--LESUEUR, A THEORIZING COMPOSER; LACÉPÈDE, A COMPOSING THEORIST; CLEMENTI, DUSSEK, STEIBELT, WOLF, VOGLER, TARTINI, AND BOCCHERINI.

Striking testimony to the programmatic tendency of the age is borne by two Frenchmen. The first of these witnesses is J. F. LESUEUR ( 1760-1837), the master-- note this--of Berlioz. He published in 1787 a book with this title: Exposé d'une musique une, imitative, et particulière à chaque solennité. The object of music, he says, must always be imitation. If poetry and painting are in many cases more expressive than music, music is in other circumstances more expressive than poetry and painting. If music cannot invest poetry with a meaning which it has not, it can at least reinforce it, and in a thousand ways modify, nay, even divert and change it. 'Music can imitate all the inflections of nature. All the sentiments are also within its domain.' What the principle adopted by the master mainly aimed at was un ensemble dramatique. I need not repeat here what I have quoted already. But I must exemplify Lesueur's notions of what music should do by some extracts from his plans for a kind of oratorio music suitable to the Mass on the several high festivals, such as Christmas, Easter, &c. In doing so, I shall preserve to some extent his strange and awkward phraseology. Speaking of the overture of the music suitable to the Christmas Day Mass, he writes: 'At the beginning of the overture

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