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

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV.

IN GERMANY.

The writing of the present chapter cannot be called an inspiring task. Without Wagner's sovereign contempt for the music of his time, and Tchaikovsky's belief in Germany's complete exhaustion, one may yet be unable to grow enthusiastic over the theme. The productivity during the period with which we are concerned has been enormous. But how about the really valuable outcome of it? In the latter part of the 19th century the question was often asked: What remains if you remove from the living German composers Wagner and Brahms? And then there were ever so many people who, while heartily admitting the greatness of one of the two, were not so sure of the other--not to mention those who were all for the one and would have none whatever of the other. Now, this exclusive way of looking at men and things is not only unfair it is absolutely foolish. The men of genius leave room for the men of talent; and the masters en grand for the masters en miniature. To be sure for some time past Germany has not been abounding in musical genius of the first or even second order. But if there has been a dearth of powerful original creativeness and of strikingly outstanding individuality, there has been also a goodly provision of artistic ability well deserving our respect and gratitude, ability displaying itself not merely in technical skill, but often also in imaginativeness, sensibility, and poetic charm. The great bulk of crudities, futilities, and vacuities need not trouble us: they are not peculiar to any one period.

-446-

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