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

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

BOOK III.

FULFILMENTS.

CHAPTER I.

FIFTH PERIOD (FROM THE CLOSE OF THE 18TH CENTURY):
PROGRAMME MUSIC IN THE LARGER CLASSICAL FORMS AND
VITALIZATION OF THE LESSER FORMS.--BEETHOVEN.

After the prophecies and preparations of the preceding period, we come now to the fulfilment and consummation. The masters that dominate this period are Beethoven, the first in time and quality, Weber, Schubert, Spohr, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. Although I pointed out programme music in the larger classical forms as the most distinguishing feature, this period is also remarkable for the substantialization, revivification, poetization, and spiritualization ( venia sit verbis) of the smaller forms, a fact sufficiently proved by the mention of the names of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, and Henselt.

It required a master mind, a tone-poet of the highest potency, to accredit programme music at once and legitimize and justify it for all time to come. That mind and that poet was LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN ( 1770-1827). If the declarations accompanying his compositions marked the limits of Beethoven's activity as a composer of programme music, we should be obliged to say that his contributions to this class of

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