Twentieth Century Music: How it Developed, How to Listen to It

By Marion Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
NINETEENTH CENTURY POINTS THE WAY: PROGRAM MUSIC AND POSTROMANTICISTS

WHILE Schumann and Chopin were developing piano music along romantic lines, Hector Berlioz ( 1803-1869) and Franz Liszt ( 1811-1886) were increasing the possibilities of orchestral music and were strengthening the bond between music and the other arts through Program Music, of which they are illustrious exponents. They represent two distinct types, however, as Berlioz was concrete and objective in his use of program, and Liszt was psychological and subjective. Although it was Berlioz's intention to make the program a means and music the end, he translated, as it were, the incidents into music, adhering realistically to his story. In fact, he may well be regarded as the father of realism in music.

Liszt's methods were more suggestive and impressionistic. He allowed his mind to play on the program, giving full sweep to emotion and imagination, yet under the control of a technic. Berlioz's early years were not spent in music and he lacked the discipline that Liszt had acquired as a prodigy pianist. At the same time, Berlioz was unhampered by tradition, because he did not know the past. Gluck and Beethoven were his guiding stars, and Lesueur, his teacher at the ParisConservatoire, an original thinker and experimenter, encouraged his wayward pupil. Jean François Lesueur ( 1760-1837) must have been regarded as a rank infidel in the eighteenth century for his bold attempts to apply to church music Gluck's principle of making the music express the meaning of the word. Yet he deserves recognition as a precursor of Romanticism, and his teachings come still closer to our day, as he recognized in the old Greek modes a "possible means of modern musical expression and the consequent tendency to combat any fixed conventions of harmonic style. This idea of harmonic freedom was

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