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

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

BOOK V.

CONTEMPORARIES AND SUCCESSORS OF THE
PROGRAMMATIC PROTAGONISTS OF THE LAST TWO
PERIODS (1830-1900).

CHAPTER I.

IN FRANCE.

The new ideas, forms, and methods of Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner did not put an end to the old ideas, forms, and methods. But although programme music in the classical forms continued to be cultivated side by side with programme music in freer forms, it could not but become in the course of time more and more influenced by the new views and processes. And as the later style of programme music influenced the earlier, so both these kinds of instrumental music influenced absolute instrumental music, bringing about either an actual diminution of absoluteness, or the semblance of such, that is, the composer either having an unrevealed programme in his mind or deporting himself as if he had. In the latter case, where there is mere aimless parroting of language regardless of meaning, the outcome is of course lamentable. To such composers rightly applies Wagner's taunt that they adorn themselves with the feathers fallen from the programmatic storm-birds.

Perhaps the best way of making the vast survey indicated in the title is to have recourse to a grouping by nationalities. An exhaustive enumeration of all that has been written, which would be equally useless and

-350-

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