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ideals and accepted in their place the artificial pageants of the seventeenth century and the absurd pseudoclassicism of the eighteenth. It is significant that in 1644 Evelyn speaks of having seen at Rome an opera 'given by the architect Bernini'; it is not less significant that, some seventy years later, Addison summed up his experience of the Italian style by roundly asserting that 'music renders us incapable of hearing sense.'
Peri and Monteverde never reached the goal; and the art of their country turned aside from it. But they ran their stage in the race, and, when they ceased, handed the torch undimmed to a more powerful successor. Lully was born at Florence in 1633, was taken in early childhood to France, entered the royal service as violinist, and at the age of twenty was made Court composer, an office which he held until his death in 1687. His life in Paris coincided with the most splendid period of French Tragedy. The Cid' appeared in 1636, Horace' and 'Cinna' in 1640, Andromaque' in 1667, Iphigénie' in 1674, 'Phèdre' three years later. To a musician of true dramatic instinct there could have been no atmosphere more sustaining or more stimulating. For a time, no doubt, he was occupied with ceremonial duties, writing ballets and divertissements, many in collaboration with Molière, composing and arranging incidental music for 'M. de Pourceaugnac' and the 'Bourgeois Gentilhomme.' Yet even these he inspired with the same vigour with which Ben Jonson inspired the English Masque; indeed, with him they are not mere pageants or episodes, but studies and sketches for the finished picture to come. All this while, too, he was improving his technique, analysing the work of Cavalli the Venetian, borrowing somewhat unscrupulously from his French predecessor Cambert, taking his goods where he found them, and bringing his orchestra to a perfection hitherto unknown in Europe.
Thus, when in 1672 he began with Quinault that series of operas which has made him famous, he came to the work with full equipment-a master of virile melody and of harmony which in his day was considered audacious, a great conductor, a great disciplinarian, and, above all, a dramatist who was determined to give to music, as nearly as possible, the rhythm and inflection of the spoken word. He chose his opera-singers less for
their vocalisation than for their power of acting; he filled page after page of his score with free declamatory recitative, keeping the melodic stanza for special effects of lyric emotion. To him belongs in full measure the praise which Wagner bestows upon Gluck, that in his music he took pains to speak correctly and intelligibly.' 'Si vous voulez bien chanter ma musique,' he said, 'allez entendre la Champmeslé,' naming a famous actress of the Comédie Française who, we are told, had been taught every tone and every phrase by Racine himself. So far, then, as concerns the important matter of a just and expressive recitation he marks an epoch in the history of the music-drama.
We may here pause for a moment to consider the point that has been reached. The religious impulse has for the time vanished altogether and has taken with it that particular need of dramatic music which it originally fostered and justified. In its place we have a form of secular tragedy, where the spoken voice is heightened by the musical medium, and the action emphasised and in some measure interpreted by musical accompaniment. This tragedy is not yet completely humanised; it still wears the pall and buskin; its characters, though we can recognise their image, are not of our mould and figure. The very titles are significant-Atys' and 'Thesée,' 'Proserpine' and Bellerophon' and 'Roland'; the stage is set upon distant heights; the atmosphere is purer and more serene than our lower air. Yet, like Racine, Lully treats his heroes with true psychological insight, with less genius, of course, but with something of the same method and purpose; and the music which he employed as vehicle is no more of an intrusion than the Alexandrine couplet. It was entirely due to him that the French opera of his time' appartenait,' as M. Lanson says, 'à la littérature autant et presque plus qu'à l'art musical'; and in this sentence we may find the explanation of his dramatic ideals.
The converse of this statement throws some light on the rhythm of the 'classical' Alexandrine. If Lully's recitatives may be taken as an indication, its basis was far more anapestic' than iambic'-more like Byron's Destruction of Sennacherib' than the last line of a Spenserian stanza. Of course even then there were cross-rhythms; and since Victor Hugo ('J'ai disloqué ce grand niais d'Alexandrin') the pattern has been much altered.
The direct school of Lully failed through the docility of its scholars. His immediate followers were men of little talent, who copied his forms without a breath of his animating spirit, and soon wearied Parisian taste by mere insipidity. But his own operas continued to hold the stage, and some half-century after his death were uplifted as a party banner against a new and redoubtable antagonist.
Rameau was in many respects the exact opposite of Lully. His main interest lay in pure music, which he may even be said to have approached on its scientific side, for he began his career with a treatise on harmony. He wrote for the theatre by necessity rather than choice; and his first venture was so unsuccessful that he was with difficulty persuaded to continue. To the merits and demerits of his libretti he showed the most complete indifference; a composer of genius,' he said, 'will find all subjects equally suitable-qu'on m'apporte la Gazette de Hollande.' His great qualities are all essentially musical -striking effects of harmony and modulation, interesting points of orchestral colour, strength of melody for its own sake. The claims of the drama he held to be subservient; and even in his best opera, Castor et Pollux' he treated them with comparative disregard. With him, then, there comes a change of principle, a shifting of the centre of gravity. The dramatist recedes into the background; the stage becomes a concert-platform, adorned with scenery and action, but entirely controlled by the hand of the musician. Paris at once broke into a feud of Lullists and Ramists which lasted through the middle years of the century. On Rameau's side were novelty, some brilliance of invention, and a large and impressive rhetoric which he aided by considerably increasing the resources of chorus and orchestra. The partisans of
Lully found valuable allies in the Encyclopædists and particularly in Rousseau, who has left an amusing account of the Académie de Musique under his enemy's directorship-the whole stage overwhelmed in a flood of musical grandiloquence, singers and orchestra straining in perpetual rivalry, and the conductor, from sheer despair, belabouring his desk 'like a wood-cutter.' In 1752 came the Bouffons; and the war blazed up with renewed violence. In 1764 Rameau died; in 1773 Gluck was invited from Vienna to Paris.
There is no need to repeat the well-known story of Gluck's diplomacies and conflicts, of the vicissitudes of his campaign and the signal victory by which it was crowned. But it is worth while to quote from his own writings a statement of the cause for which he contended, since without this we are in danger of under-estimating the debt that we owe to him, and the curious resemblance between his position and that of music-drama in our own time. He is often judged as though his main object was that set forth in the famous preface to Alceste'-continuity of dramatic texture and a firm resistance to the unreasonable tyranny of the singers. But in his Parisian manifestoes he goes far beyond this. The first letter to the Mercure de France' gives the place of honour to his librettist Calzabigi, and continues with a sentence which reads like a direct challenge to Rameau :
'Quelque talent qu'ait le Compositeur, il ne fera jamais que de la musique mediocre si le Poète n'excite pas en lui cet enthousiasme sans lequel les productions des tous les Arts sont foibles et languissantes; l'imitation de la nature est le but reconnu qu'ils doivent tous se proposer; c'est celui auquel je tâche d'atteindre; toujours simple et naturel, autant qu'il m'est possible, ma musique ne tend qu'à la plus grande expression et au renforcement de la déclamation de la Poésie.'
Still more striking is his answer to La Harpe's criticism of Armide.' La Harpe had complained that the opera represented passions which were beyond the reach of music, which were in themselves so violent and unlovely that they could admit of no possible beauty in the expression. The heroine was not an enchantress but a sorceress'; her part was 'one monotonous cry'; there were no airs, and therefore no melodies, only a distressing cacophony forced upon a declamation which would have done better without it. Gluck replies:
'J'avois eu la simplicité de croire jusqu'à present qu'il en étoit de la Musique comme des autres Arts; que toutes les passions étoient de son ressort, et qu'elle ne devoit pas moins plaire en exprimant l'emportement d'un furieux et le cri de la douleur, qu'en peignant les soupirs de l'amour.
"Il n'est point de serpent ni de monstre odieux
Qui par l'art imité ne puisse plaire aux yeux."
It has been fully told by Mr Ernest Newman in his volume on 'Gluck and the Opera.'
Je croyois ce précepte vrai en Musique comme en Poésie. Je m'étois persuadé que le chant, rempli partout de la teinte des sentimens qu'il avoit à exprimer, devoit se modifier comme eux, et prendre autant d'accens différens qu'ils avoient de différentes nuances; enfin que la voix, les instruments, tous les sons, les silences mêmes, devoient tendre à un seul but qui étoit l'expression, et que l'union devoit être si étroite entre les paroles et le chant, que le Poème ne semblât pas moins fait sur la Musique que la Musique sur le Poème.'
Is it of Gluck we are reading or of Richard Strauss; of Armide' or of 'Elektra'? And if we so look back on the controversies of our predecessors, how, we may ask, will posterity look back upon ours? For, strangest of all, though the same war still continues, the old fortress has been abandoned by both combatants. To us, whichever side we take, the operas of Gluck are now classics; time has so softened their outlines and so mellowed their colouring that they stand to us as examples of pure beauty. We look for the dissonances that assailed the ears of La Harpe; we find harmonies which to us are as transparent as a mountain stream. We look for those outbursts of passion which made the eighteenth century weep and tremble; and we find passion indeed, but so exquisitely melodious that our emotion is too deep for tears.
So far we have considered music in its relation to Tragedy. Comedy is of wider range. It may glow with the imagination of Shakespeare or glitter with the wit of Congreve; it may be the incarnation of common sense like Molière or mere 'excellent fooling' like much of Labiche; it may cut its way by satire like Gogol's 'Inspector,' or, like Goldoni's 'Locandiera,' delight us by charm and daintiness. In the realm of Tragedy convention wearies and incongruity offends; Comedy has many outlying dependencies where incongruity is part of the fun, and convention passes unnoticed. Across their frontiers music can enter wherever it likes; they set no sentry to challenge it, and at their feast of laughter it is one of the most welcome guests.
Hence the rapid development, at this time, of Italian musical comedy. The Italian composers of the eighteenth century were not reformers; they worked, for the most