"Medieval Music" (by Will Durant, "The Story of Civilization", 1949)
(too old to reply)
Kelly and Sandy
2004-07-17 22:24:03 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 373 lines ]

Medieval Music


by Will and Ariel Durant

I. The Music of the Church

We have done the cathedral injustice. It was not the cold and empty
tomb that the visitor enters today. It functioned. Its worshipers
found in it not only a work of art but the consoling, strengthening
presence of Mary and her Son. It received the monks or canons who many
times each day stood in the choir stalls and sang the canonical Hours.
It heard the importunate litanies of congregations seeking divine mercy
and aid. Its nave and aisles guided the processions that carried before
the people the image of the Virgin or the body and blood of their God.
Its great spaces echoed solemnly with the music of the Mass. And the
music was as vital as the church edifice itself, more deeply stirring
than all the glory of glass or stone. Many a stoic soul, doubtful of
the creed, was melted by the music, and fell on his knees before the
mystery that no words could speak.

The evolution of medieval music concurred remarkably with the
development of architectural styles. As the early churches passed in
the seventh century from the ancient domed or basilican forms to a
simple masculine Romanesque, and in the thirteenth century to Gothic
complexity, elevation, and ornament, so Christian music kept till
Gregory I (540-604) the ancient monodic airs of Greece and the Near
East, passed in the seventh century to Gregorian or plain chant, and
flowered in the thirteenth century into polyphonic audacities rivaling
the balanced strains of a Gothic cathedral.

The barbarian invasions in the West, and the resurgence of
Orientalism in the Near East, combined to break the tradition of Greek
musical notation through letters placed above the words; but the four
Greek "modes" -- Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian -- survived, and
begot by division the 'ortoechos', or "eight manners" of musical
composition -- contemplative, restrained, grave, solemn, cheerful,
joyful, spirited, or ecstatic. The Greek language persisted for three
centuries after Christ in the church music of the West, and still
remains in the Kyrie eleison. Byzantine music took form under St.
Basil, mated Greek and Syrian chants, reached its height in the hymns of
Romanus (c. 495) and Sergius (c. 620), and made its greatest conquest in

Some early Christians opposed the use of music in religion, but it
soon appeared that a religion without music could not survive in
competition with creeds that touched man's sensitivity to song. The
priest learned to sing the Mass, and inherited some of the melodies of
the Hebrew cantor. Deacons and acolyted were taught to chant responses;
some were technically trained in a 'schola lectorum', which under Pope
Celestine I (422-32) became a 'schola cantorum'. Such trained singers
formed great choirs; that of St. Sophia's had 25 cantors and 111
"lectors," mostly boys. Congregational singing spread from East to
West; the men alternated with the women in antiphonal song, and joined
with them in the Alleluia. The psalms they sang were thought to echo or
imitate on earth the hymns of praise sung before God by the angels and
saints in paradise. St. Ambrose, despite the apostolic counsel that
women should be silent in church, introduced antiphonal singing to his
diocese; "psalms are sweet for every age, and becoming to either sex,"
said this wise administrator; "they create a great bond of unity when
all the people raise their voices in one choir." Augustine wept when he
heard the Milan congregation singing Ambrose's hymns, and verified St.
Basil's dictum that the listener who surrenders to the pleasure of music
will be drawn to religious emotion and piety. The "Ambrosian chant" is
still used in Milan churches today.

A tradition universally accepted in the Middle Ages, and now, after
long doubts, generally received, ascribes to Gregory the Great and his
aides a reform and canonical determination of Roman Catholic music,
resulting in the establishment of the "Gregorian chant" as the official
music of the Church for six centuries. Hellenistic and Byzantine
strains combined with Hebrew melodies of Temple or synagogue to mold
this Roman or plain chant. It was monodic -- one song -- music; no
matter how many voices participated, they all sang the same note, though
women and boys often sang, an octave higher than the men. It was simple
music for voices of modest range; now and then it allowed a more complex
"melisma" -- a melodious wordless embellishment of a note or phrase. It
was a free and continuous rhythm, not divided into regular meter or
measures of time.

Before the eleventh century the only musical notation used by the
Gregorian chant consisted of small signs derived from the Greek accent
marks, and placed over the words to be sung. These "neumes" (airs,
breaths) indicated a rise or fall of tone, but not the degree of rise or
fall, nor the duration of the note; such matters had to be learned by
oral transmission and the memorizing of an enormous body of liturgical
song. No instrumental accompaniment was allowed. Despite these
limitations -- perhaps because of them -- Gregorian chant became the
most impressive feature of the Christian ritual. The modern ear,
accustomed to complex harmony, finds these old chants monotonous and
thin; they carry on a Greek, Syrian, Hebrew, Arab tradition of monody
which only the Oriental ear can appreciate today. Even so, the chants
sung in a Roman Catholic cathedral during Holy Week reach to the heart
with a directness and weird power withheld from music whose
complications divert the ear instead of moving the soul.

Gregorian chant spread through Western Europe like another
conversion to Christianity. Milan rejected it, as it likewise resisted
papal authority; and southern Spain long preserved its "Mozarabic"
chant, formed by Christians under Moslem rule, and still used in a part
of Toledo Cathedral. Charlemagne, who loved unity like a ruler,
replaced the Gallican with the Gregorian chant in Gaul, and established
schools of Roman church music at Metz and Soissons. The Germans,
however, with throats formed by climate and needs quite different from
the Italian, had trouble with the more delicate strains of the chant.
Said John the Deacon: "Their coarse voices, which roar like thunder,
cannot execute soft modulations, because their throats are hoarse with
too much drinking."

Perhaps the Germans deprecated the 'fioritura' that from the eighth
century forward embellished the Gregorian chant with "tropes" and
"sequences." The trope or turn began as a composition of words for a
melisma, making this easier to remember. Later it became an
interpolation of words and music into a Gregorian chant, as when the
priest sang not 'Kyrie eleison' but 'Kyrie (fons pietatis, a quo bona
cuncta procedunt) eleison'. The Church permitted such embellishments,
but never accepted them into the official liturgy. Bored monks amused
themselves by composing or singing such interpolations, until there were
so many tropes that books known as "tropers" were published to teach or
preserve the favored ones. The music of the ecclesiastical drama grew
out of such tropes. Sequences were tropes designed to follow the
Alleluia of the Mass. The custom had grown of prolonging the final
vowel of this word in a long melody known as a 'iubilus' or chant of
joy; in the eighth century various texts were written for these inserted
melodies. The composition of tropes and sequences became a highly
developed art, and gradually changed Gregorian chant into an ornate form
uncongenial to its original spirit and "plain" intent. This evolution
ended the purity and dominance of Gregorian chant in that same twelfth
century which saw the transition from Romanesque to Gothic in the
architecture of the West.

The multiplication of complex compositions demanded for their
transmission a better notation than that which plain chant had used. In
the tenth century Odo, Abbot of Cluny, and Notker Balbulus, a monk of
St. Gall, resurrected the Greek device of naming notes by letters. In
the eleventh century an anonymous writer described the use of the first
seven capitals of the Latin alphabet for the first octave of a scale,
the corresponding lower-case Latin letters for the second octave, and
Greek letters for the third. About 1040 Guido of Arezzo, a monk of
Pomposa (near Ferrara), gave their present strange names to the first
six notes of the scale by taking the first syllables of each half-line
of a hymn to John the Baptist:

UT queant laxis REsonare floris
MIra gestorum FAmuli tuorum,
SOLve polluti LAbii reatum.

This "solmization," or naming of the musical tones by the syllables 'ut'
(or 'do'), 're', 'mi', 'fa', 'sol', 'la', became part of the inexorable
heritage of Western youth.

More vital was Guido's development of a musical staff. About 1000
the practice had arisen of using a red line to indicate the note now
represented by F; later a second line, yellow or green, was added to
represent C. Guido, or someone shortly before him, extended these lines
to make a staff of four lines, to which later teachers added a fifth.
With this new staff and the 'ut', 're', 'mi', wrote Guido, his choir
boys could learn in a few days what formerly had taken them many weeks.
It was a simple but epochal advance, which earned for Guido the title of
'inventor musicae', and a splendid statue still to be seen in Arezzo's
public square. The results were revolutionary. Singers were free from
the task of memorizing the whole musical liturgy; music could be more
readily composed, transmitted, and preserved; the performer could now
read music at sight and hear it with the eye; and the composer, no
longer bound to keep close to traditional melodies lest singers refuse
to memorize his work, could venture upon a thousand experiments. Most
important of all, he could now write polyphonic music, in which two or
more voices could simultaneously sing or play different but harmonizing

We owe to our medieval forebears still another invention that made
modern music possible. Tones could now be determined by dots placed on
or between the lines of the staff, but these signs gave no hint as to
how long a note was to be held. Some system for measuring and denoting
the duration of each note was indispensable to the development of
contrapuntal music -- the simultaneous and harmonious procedure of two
or more independent melodies. Perhaps some knowledge had seeped up from
Spain of Arab treatises by al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Avicenna, and other
Moslems who had dealt with measured music or mensural notation. At some
time in the eleventh century Franco of Cologne, a priest mathematician,
wrote a treatise 'Ars cantus mensurabilis', in which he gathered up the
suggestions of earlier theory and practice, and laid down essentially
our present system for indicating the duration of musical notes. A
square-headed 'virga' or rod, formerly used as a neume, was chosen to
represent a long note; another neume, the 'punctum' or point, was
enlarged into a lozenge to represent a short note; these signs were in
time altered; tails were added; by trial and error, through a hundred
absurdities, our simple mensural notation was evolved.

These vital developments opened a wide door to polyphonic music.
Such music had been written before Franco, but crudely. Toward the
close of the ninth century we find a musical practice called
"organizing" -- the singing of concords by concurring voices. Little is
heard of it again till the end of the tenth century, when we find the
names 'organum' and 'symphonia' applied to such compositions for two
voices. The 'organum' was a liturgical piece, in which an old monodic
strain was carried or "held" by the tenor (who was therefore so named),
while another voice added a harmonizing melody. A variant of this form,
the 'conductus', gave the tenor a new or popular tune, and conducted
another voice in a concurrent air. In the eleventh century the
composers took a step as bold in its way as the Gothic balancing of
thrusts: they wrote harmonies in which the "conducted" voice did not
slavishly accompany the tenor in the rise or fall of the melody, but
ventured upon other harmonies through notes not necessarily moving in a
parallel line with the 'cantus firmus' of the tenor. This declaration
of independence became almost a rebellion when the second voice
accompanied the ascending melody of the tenor with a descending
movement. This harmony by contrast, and fluent resolution of momentary
discords, became a passion with composers, almost a law; so, about 1100,
John Cotton wrote: "If the main voice is ascending, the accompanying
part shall descend." Finally, in the 'motet' (apparently a diminutive
from the French 'mot', a word or phrase), three, four, five, even six
different voices were made to sing in a complex weave of individual
melodies whose diverse but concordant strains crossed and merged in a
vertical-horizontal web of harmony as subtle and graceful as the
converging arches of a Gothic vault. By the thirteenth century this
'Ars antiqua' of polyphony had built the foundations of modern musical

In that exciting century the enthusiasm for music rivaled the
interest in architecture and philosophy. The Church looked askance upon
polyphony; she distrusted the religious effect of music becoming a lure
and end in itself; John of Salisbury, bishop and philosopher, called a
halt to complexity of composition; Bishop Guillaume Durand branded the
motet as "disorganized music"; Roger Bacon, a rebel in science, deplored
the vanishing of the stately Gregorian chant. The Council of Lyons
(1274) denounced the new music; and Pope John XXII (1324) issued a papal
condemnation of 'discantus', or polyphony, on the ground that the
innovating composers "chop up the melodies ... so that these rush around
ceaselessly, intoxicating the ear without quieting it, and disturbing
devotion instead of evoking it." But the revolution continued. In one
citadel of the Church -- Notre Dame de Paris -- the choirmaster
Leoninus, about 1180, composed the finest 'organa' of his time; and his
successor Perontus was guilty of compositions for three or four voices.
Polyphony, like Gothic, spread from France to England and Spain.
Giraldus Cambrensis (1146?-1220) reported two-part singing in Iceland,
and said of his native Wales what one might say of it today:

In their songs they do not utter the tunes uniformly
... but manifoldly -- in many manners and many notes; so
that in a multitude of singers, such as it is the custom
of this people to bring together, as many songs are to
be heard as there are singers to be seen, and a various
diversity of parts, finally coming together in one
consonance and organic melody.

In the end the Church bowed to the infallibility of the 'Zeitgeist',
accepted polyphony, made it a powerful servant of the faith, and
prepared it for its Renaissance victories.

II. The Music of the People

The impulse to rhythm expressed itself in a hundred forms of secular
music and dance. The Church had her reasons for fearing this instinct
uncontrolled; it allied itself naturally with love, the great rival of
religion as a source of song; and the hearty earthiness of the medieval
mind, when the priest was out of sight, inclined it to a freedom,
sometimes an obscenity, of text that shocked the clergy, and provoked
councils to vain decrees. The goliards, or wandering scholars, found or
composed music for their paeans to woman and wine, and their scandalous
parodies of sacred ritual; manuscripts circulated containing solemn
music for the hilarious words of the 'Missa de potatoribus' -- the Mass
of the Topers -- and the 'Officium ribaldorum -- a Prayer Book for
Roisterers. Love songs were as popular as today. Some were as tender
as a nymph's orisons; some were seduction dialogues with delicate
accompaniments. And of course there were war songs, calculated to forge
unity through vocal unison, or to anesthetize the pursuit of glory with
hypnotic rhythm. Some music was folk song, composed by anonymous
genius, and appropriated -- perhaps transformed -- by the people. Other
popular music was the product of professional skill using all the arts
of polyphony learned in the liturgy of the Church. In England a
favorite and complex form was the roundel, in which one voice began a
melody, a second began the same or a harmonizing melody when the first
had reached an agreed point, a third chimed in after the second was on
its way, and so on, until as many as six voices might be running the
rounds in a lively contrapuntal fugue.

Almost the oldest roundel known is the famous "Sumer is i-cumen in,"
probably composed by a Reading monk about 1240. Its six-part complexity
shows polyphony already at home among the people. The words still live
with the spirit of a century in which all medieval civilization was
coming to flower:

Sumer is i-cumen in; Summer is a-coming in,
Llude sing cuccu! Loudly sing cuckoo!
Groweth sed and bloweth med Groweth seed and bloweth mead,
And springth the wude nu: And blossoms the woodland now:
Sing cuccu! Sing cuckoo!

Awe bleteth after lomb, Ewe bleateth after lamb,
Lhouth after calve cu; Loweth after calf the cow;
Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth; Bullock leapeth, buck turns off;
Murie sing cuccu! Merry sing cuckoo!

Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes thu Cuckoo, cuckoo, well singest thou
cuccu; cuckoo;
Ne swik thu naver nu; Cease thou not, never now;
Sing cuccu nu, sing cuccu, Sing cuckoo now, sing cuckoo,
Sing cuccu, sing cuccu, nu! Sing cuckoo, sing cuckoo, now!

Such a song must have been congenial to the minstrels or jongleurs
who wandered from town to town, from court to court, even from land to
land; we hear of minstrels from Constantinople singing in France, of
English gleemen singing in Spain. A performance by minstrels was a
usual part of any formal festivity; so Edward I of England engaged 426
singers for the wedding of his daughter Margaret. Such minstrel groups
often sang part songs, sometimes of bizarre complexity. Usually the
songs were composed -- words and music -- by troubadours in France,
'trovatori' in Italy, minnesingers in Germany. Most medieval poetry
before the thirteenth century was written to be sung; "a poem without
music," said the troubadour Folquet, "is a mill without water." Of 2600
troubadour songs extant, we have the music of 264, usually in the form
of neumes and ligatures on a four- or five-line staff. The bards of
Ireland and Wales probably played instruments, and sang.

In the manuscripts that preserve the 'Cantigas' or canticles
collected by Alfonso X of Castile several illustrations show musicians
in Arab dress performing on Arab instruments; the pattern of many of the
songs is Arabic; possibly the music, as well as the early themes and
poetic forms, of the troubadours was derived from Moorish songs and
melodies passing through Christian Spain into Southern France.
Returning Crusaders may have brought Arab musical forms from the East;
it is to be noted that the troubadours appear about 1100, contemporary
with the First Crusade.

Startling is the variety of medieval musical instruments.
Percussion instruments -- bells, cymbals, timbrels, the triangle, the
bombulum, the drum; string intruments -- lyre, cithera, harp, psaltery,
noble, organistrum, lute, guitar, vielle, viola, monochord, gigue; wind
instruments -- pipe, flute, hautboy, bagpipe, clarion, flageolet,
trumpet, horn, organ: these are a selection out of hundreds; everything
was there for hand or finger, foot or bow. Some of them had survived
from Greece, some had come, in form and name, from Islam, like the
rebec, lute, and guitar; many were precious examples of medieval
artistry in metal, ivory, or wood. The usual instrument of the minstrel
was the vielle, a short violin played with an archer's curved-back bow.
Before the eighth century most organs were hydraulic; but Jerome in the
fourth century described a pneumatic organ; and Bede (673-735) wrote of
organs with "brass pipes filled with air from bellows, and uttering a
grand and most sweet melody." St. Dunstan (c. 925-88) was accused of
sorcery when he built an Aeolian harp that played when placed against a
crack in the wall. In Winchester Cathedral, about 950, an organ was
installed having twenty-six bellows, forty-two bellows-blowers, and four
hundred pipes; the keys were so Gargantuan that the organist had to
strike them with fists protected by thickly padded gloves. Milan had an
organ whose pipes were of silver; Venice had one with pipes of gold.

All notion of medieval hell-stricken gloom vanishes before a
collection of medieval musical instruments. What remains is again the
picture of a people at least as happy as ourselves, full of the bounce
and lust of life, and no more oppressed with fear of the end of the
world than we with doubts whether civilization will be destroyed before
we can complete its history.


"The Story of Civilization" (in 10 volumes)
Volume 4: "The Age of Faith"
Chapter 33, Medieval Music
by Will and Ariel Durant
2004-07-18 17:23:13 UTC
Post by Kelly and Sandy
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 373 lines ]
Medieval Music
by Will and Ariel Durant
I. The Music of the Church
Post by Kelly and Sandy
The barbarian invasions in the West, and the resurgence of
Orientalism in the Near East, combined to break the tradition of Greek
musical notation through letters placed above the words; but the four
Greek "modes" -- Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian -- survived, and
begot by division the 'ortoechos', or "eight manners" of musical
composition --
"Octoechos". Not "Ortoechos". From "Octa-o"="Eight".
Same root as "Octave".

Post by Kelly and Sandy
"The Story of Civilization" (in 10 volumes)
Volume 4: "The Age of Faith"
Chapter 33, Medieval Music
by Will and Ariel Durant
I. N. Galidakis
Eventually, _everything_ is understandable
Kelly and Sandy
2005-02-10 00:08:44 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 318 lines ]

[A Summary of Renaissance Music]

by Will and Ariel Durant

X. Music

It was a redeeming feature of Italian comedy that ballets,
pantomimes, and concerts were presented as intermezzi between the acts.
For next to love itself, music was the chief recreation and consolation
of every class in Italy. Montaigne, traveling in Tuscany in 1581, was
"astounded to see peasants with lutes in their hands, and, beside them,
shepherds reciting Ariosto by heart"; but this, he adds, "is what we may
see in all of Italy." Renaissance painting has a thousand
representations of people playing music, from the luting angels at the
Madonna's feet in so many Coronations, and Melozzo's serenading
seraphim, to the quiet exaltation of the man at the harpischord in 'The
Concert'; and note the boy -- whom we can hardly believe to be the
painter himself -- in the center of Sebastiano del Piombo's 'Three Ages
of Man'. The literature likewise conveys a picture of a people singing
or playing music in their homes, at their work, on the street, in music
academies, monasteries, nunneries, churches, in processions, masques,
'trionfi', and pageants, in religious or secular plays, in the lyric
passages and interludes of dramas, in such outings as Boccaccio imagined
in the 'Decameron'. Rich men kept a variety of musical instruments in
their homes, and arranged private musicales. Women organized clubs for
the study and performance of music. Italy was -- is -- mad about music.

Folk song flourished at all times, and learned music periodically
rejuvenated itself at that fount; popular melodies were adapted for
complex madrigals, for hymns, even for passages in music for the Mass.
"In Florence," says Cellini, "people were wont to meet on the public
streets of a summer night" to sing and dance. Street singers --
'cantori di piazza' -- strummed their sad or merry notes on handsome
lutes; people gathered to sing 'laudes', hymns of praise, to the Virgin
before her street or roadside shrines; and in Venice mating songs rose
to the moon from a hundred gondolas, or throaty lovers hopefully
serenaded hesitant lasses in the mystic shadows of labyrinthine canals.
Almost every Italian could sing, and nearly as many could sing in simple
vertical harmony. Hundreds of these popular part songs have come down
to us under the picturesque name of 'frottole', little fruits; usually
short, usually amorous; arranged for a dominant soprano supported by
tenor, alto, and bass. Whereas in previous centuries the tenor voice
had "held" the melody and so derived its name, now in the fifteenth the
air was carried by the soprano -- so called because its music was
written above the rest. This part did not need a female voice; as often
as not it was sung by a boy, or by the falsetto of an adult male.
('Castrati' did not appear in the papal choir till 1562.)

Among the educated classes considerable knowledge of music was
required. Castiglione demands of his courtier or gentleman some amateur
proficiency in music, "which not only doth make sweet the minds of men,
but also many times doth wild beasts tame." Every person of culture was
expected to read simple music at sight, accompany himself on some
instrument, and take part in an impromptu musicale. Sometimes people
joined in a 'ballata' that involved a union of singing, dancing, and
instrumental music. Universities after 1400 offered courses and degrees
in music; there were hundreds of music academics; Vittorino da Feltre
founded a school of music at Mantua about 1425; our "conservatories" of
music are called so because in Naples many orphanages ('conservatori')
were used as music schools. Music was further spread by the adaptation
of printing to musical notation; about 1476 Ulrich Hahn printed at Rome
a complete missal with movable type for notes and lines; and in 1501
Ottaviano de' Petrucci began at Venice the commercial printing of motets
and 'frottole'.

At the courts music was more prominent than any other art except
those of personal adornment. Usually the ruler chose a favorite church,
whose choir became the object of his care; he paid goodly sums to
attract to it the finest available voices and instrumentalists from
Italy, France, and Burgundy; he trained new singers from their
childhood, as Federigo did at Urbino; and he expected the members of the
choir to perform also for his state ceremonies and court festivities.
Guillaume Dufay of Burgundy directed music at the court of the
Malatestas in Rimini and Pesaro, and at the papal chapel in Rome, for a
quarter of a century (1419-44). Galeazzo Maria Sforza about 1460
organized two chapel choirs, and brought to them from France Josquin
Depres, then the most famous composer in western Europe. When Lodovico
Sforza welcomed Leonardo [da Vinci] to Milan it was as a musician; and
it is to be noted that Leonardo was accompanied, in going from Florence
to Milan, by Atalante Migliorotti, a celebrated musician and maker of
musical instruments. A still more famous maker of lyres, lutes, organs,
and clavichords was Lorenzo Gusnasco of Pavia, who made Milan one of his
homes. The court of Lodovico was flush with singers: Narcisso,
Testagrossa, Cordier of Flanders, and Cristoforo Romano, chastely loved
by Beatrice. Pedro Maria of Spain conducted concerts in the palace and
for the public; and Franchino Gaffuri founded and taught in a famous
private music school in Milan. Isabella d'Este was devoted to music,
made it the chief theme of decoration in her inner sanctum, and herself
played several instruments. When she ordered a clavichord from Lorenzo
Gusnasco she specified that the keyboard should respond to a light
touch, "for our hands are so delicate that we cannot play well if the
keys are too stiff." At her court lived the leading lutanist of his
day, Marchetto Cara, and Bartolommeo Tromboncino, who composed such
alluring madrigals that when he killed his unfaithful wife no punishment
was meted out to him, and the matter was passed over as a discord soon
to be resolved.

Finally the cathedrals and the churches, the monasteries and the
nunneries resounded with music. In Venice, Bologna, Naples, Milan, the
nuns sang Vespers so movingly that crowds flocked to hear them. Sixtus
IV organized the famous Sistine Chapel choir; Julius II added, in St.
Peter's, a 'capella Iulia', or Julian chapel choir, which trained
singers for the Sistine choir. This was the summit of the Latin world's
musical art in the Renaissance; to it came the greatest singers from all
Roman Catholic countries. Plain chant was still the letter of canon law
in church music; but here and there the 'ars nova' of France -- a form
of complex counterpoint -- made its way into the Roman choirs and
prepared for Palestrina and Victoria. Once it had been held undignified
to have any other musical instrument than the organ accompany a church
choir; but in the sixteenth century a variety of instruments were
brought in to give church music some of the grace and adornment of
secular performances. At St. Mark's in Venice the Flemish master,
Adrian Willaert of Bruges, presided over the choirs for thirty-five
years, and trained them to such performances as made Rome envious. At
Florence Antonio Squarcialupi organized a School of Harmony, of which
Lorenzo was a member. For a generation Antonio reigned over the
cathedral choir, and the great 'duomo' rang with music that stilled all
philosophic doubt. Leon Battista Alberti was a doubter, but when the
choir sang he believed:

All other modes of singing weary with repetition;
only religious music never palls. I know not how others
are affected; but for myself those hymns and psalms of
the Church produce on me the very effect for which they
were designed, soothing all disturbance of the soul, and
inspiring a certain ineffable languor full of reverence
toward God. What heart of man is so rude as not to be
softened when he hears the rhythmic rise and fall of
those voices, complete and true, in cadences so sweet
and flexible? I assure you that I never listen ... to
the Greek words ('Kyrie eleison') that call on God for
aid against our human wretchedness, without weeping.
Then, too, I ponder what power music brings with it to
soften us and soothe.

Despite all this popularity, music was the one art in which Italy
lagged behind France during most of the Renaissance. Shorn of papal
revenues by the flight of the popes to Avignon, and with the courts of
the despots still culturally immature in the fourteenth century, Italy
lacked then the means and the spirit for the higher grades of music.
She produced lovely madrigals (a word of uncertain derivation), but
these songs, modeled on those of the Provencal troubadours, were set to
a musical frame of such strictly regulated polyphony that the form died
of its own rigidity.

The pride of 'trecento' music in Italy was Francesco Landini,
organist of San Lorenzo in Florence. Though blind from his childhood,
he became one of the finest and most loved musicians of his time,
honored as an organist, lutanist, composer, poet, and philosopher. But
even he took his lead from France; his two hundred secular compositions
applied to Italian lyrics the 'ars nova' that had captured France a
generation before. The "new art" was doubly new: it accepted binary
rhythms as well as the triple time previously required in the music of
the Church; and it devised a more complex and flexible musical notation.
Pope John XXII, who hurled his thunderbolts in all directions, aimed one
at the 'ars nova' as fanciful and degenerate, and his prohibition had
some effect in discouraging musical development in Italy. However, John
XXII could not live forever, though at times it seemed possible; after
his death at the age of ninety (1334) the new art triumphed in the
learned music of France, and shortly thereafter in Italy.

At Avignon French and Flemish singers and composers constituted the
papal choir. When the papacy returned to Rome it brought with it a
large number of French, Flemish, and Dutch composers and singers; and
for a century these alien musicians and their successors dominated the
music of Italy. As late as Sixtus IV all the voices in the papal choir
were from beyond the Alps; and a like foreign supremacy ruled in the
music of the courts in the fifteenth century. When Squarcialupi died
(c. 1475), Lorenzo chose a Dutchman, Heinrich Ysaac, to succeed him as
organist in the cathedral at Florence. Heinrich wrote music for some of
the 'canti carnascialeschi', and for Politian's lyrics, and he taught
the future Leo X to love -- even to compose -- French songs. For a time
the chansons of France were sung in Italy, as once Italy had recited the
lays of the troubadours.

This invasion of Italy by French musicians, preceding by a century
its invasion by French armies, produced toward 1520 a revolution in
Italian music. For these men from the north -- and the Italians whom
they trained -- were steeped in the 'ars nova', and applied it in
setting to music the lyric poetry of Italy. In Petrarch, Ariosto,
Sannazaro, and Bembo -- later in Tasso and Guarini -- they found
delectable verses crying out for music; indeed, had not poetry always
intended itself to be at least a recitative, if not a song? Petrarch's
'canzoniere' had already hired musicians; now every line of it was set
to music, some stanzas a dozen times or more; Petrarch is the most
completely musicked poet in world literature. Or there were little
lyrics of unknown authorship but simple and viable sentiment, that
touched the chords of every heart, and invited the strings of every
instrument. E.g.:

One from the other borrowing leaves and flowers,
I saw fair maidens beneath summer trees,
Weaving bright garlands with low love ditties.
Mid that sweet sisterhood the loveliest
Turned her soft eyes to me and whispered, "Take!"
Love-lost I stood, and not a word I spake.
My heart she read, and her fair garland gave;
Therefore I am her servant to the grave.

To such verses the composers applied the full and complex music of the
motet: polyphony in which all four parts -- sung by four or eight voices
-- were of equal value, instead of three parts subserving one; and all
the complex subtlety of counterpoint* [* This term arose about 1300 as
'punctum contra punctum', point counter point, note against note; notes
being then indicated by points.] and fugue wove the four independent
rivulets of sound into a stream of harmony. So rose the Italian
madrigal of the sixteenth century -- one of the fairest flowers of
Italian art. Whereas in Dante's time music had been a handmaid to
poetry, now it became a full-fledged partner, not obscuring the words,
not slurring the sentiment, but uniting them with a music that made them
doubly stir the soul, while delighting with its technical skill the
educated mind.

Almost all the great composers of sixteenth-century Italy, even
Palestrina, turned their art now and then to the madrigal. Philippe
Verdelot, a Frenchman living in Italy, and Costanza Festa, an Italian,
contest the honor of having first developed the new form, between 1520
and 1530; soon after them came the Arcadelt -- a Fleming in Rome --
mentioned by Rabelais. In Venice Adrian Willaert relaxed from his
duties as choirmaster at San Marco to compose the finest madrigals of
his time.

Usually the madrigal was sung without instrumental accompaniment.
Musical instruments were innumerable, but only the organ dared compete
with the human voice. Instrumental music slowly developed in the early
sixteenth century out of music forms originally intended for dances or
choruses; so the pavane, the 'saltarello', and the saraband graduated
from dance accompaniments to instrumental pieces, alone or in suite; and
the music for a madrigal, played without song, became the instrumental
'canzone', the distant progenitor of the sonata, and therefore of the

The organ was already in the fourteenth century almost as highly
developed as today. The pedal board appeared in Germany and the Low
Countries in that age, and was soon adopted in France and Spain; Italy
delayed acceptance of it till the sixteenth century. By that time most
large organs had two or three keyboards, with a variety of stops and
couplers. Great church organs were themselves works of art, designed,
carved, and painted by masters. The same love of form went into the
making of other musical instruments. The lute -- the favorite
instrument of the home -- was built of wood and ivory, shaped like a
pear, pierced with sound holes in a graceful pattern, with a finger
board divided by frets of silver or brass, and ending in a pegbox turned
at a right angle to the neck. A pretty woman plucking the strings of a
lute held in her lap, made a picture that went to the head of many a
sensitive Italian. Harps, citherns, psalters, dulcimers, and guitars
were also favorites with musical fingers.

For those who preferred fiddling to plucking there were viols of
diverse sizes, including the tenor 'viola da braccio', held on the arm,
and the bass 'viola da gamba', resting against the leg. The latter
became the later violoncello, and the viol, about 1540, became the
violin. Wind instruments were less popular than the stringed; the
Renaissance had the same objection that Alcibiades had raised to making
music by puffing out the cheeks; nevertheless there were flutes and
fifes ("pipes"), bagpipes, trumpets, horns, flageolets, and the shawm or
oboe. Percussion instruments -- drums, tabors, cymbals, tambourines,
castanets -- added their fury to the ensemble. All Renaissance musical
instruments were of Oriental origin except for the keyboard that was
added to other instruments besides the organ to indirectly strike or
pluck the strings. The oldest of these keyboard instruments was the
clavichord ('clavis' meaning key), which appeared in the twelfth century
and had a sentimental resurrection in the days of Bach; here the strings
were struck with little brass tangents operated by the keys. In the
sixteenth century it was displaced by the 'clavicembalo' or harpsichord,
whose strings were plucked by points of quill or leather attached to
wooden "jacks" that rose when the keys were depressed. The virginal was
an English, the spinet an Italian, variant, of the harpsichord.

All these instruments were as yet subordinate to the voice; and the
great virtuosos of the Renaissance were singers. But at the baptism of
Alfonso of Ferrara in 1476 we hear of a feast in the Schifanoia Palace,
at which a concert was given by a hundred trumpeters, pipers, and
tambourine players. In the sixteenth century the Signory of Florence
employed a regular band of musicians, of which Cellini was one.
Performances by several instruments in concert were given in this
period, but they were still for the aristocratic few. On the other hand
solo instrumental performances were almost fanatically popular. Men
went to church not always to pray but to hear a great organist like
Squarcialupi or Orcagna. When Pietro Bono played the lute at the court
of Borso in Ferrara the souls of the listeners, we are told, flew out of
this world into another. The great executants were the happy favorites
of a day, who asked no fame of posterity but received all their renown
before their deaths.

Musical theory lagged a generation behind practice: performers
innovated, professors denounced, then debated, then approved. Meanwhile
the principles of polyphony, counterpoint, and fugue were formulated for
easier instruction and transmission. The great musical feature of the
Renaissance was not theory, nor even technical advances; it was the
increasing secularization of music. In the sixteenth century it was no
longer religious music that made the advances and experiments; it was
the music of the madrigal and the courts. Side by side with philosophy
and literature, and reflecting the pagan aspect of Renaissance art and
the relaxation of morals, the music of sixteenth-century Italy escaped
from ecclesiastical control, and sought inspiration in the poetry of
love; the old conflict between religion and sex was resolved for a time
in the triumph of Eros. The reign of the Virgin ended, the ascendancy
of woman began. But under either rule music was the handmaid of the


"The Story of Civilization" (in 10 volumes)
Volume 5: "The Renaissance"
Chapter 20, The Moral Release
by Will and Ariel Durant
2005-07-25 17:22:51 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 633 lines ]

[A Summary of Music During the Reformation]



by Will and Ariel Durant

.... Of all pastimes the best beloved was the dance.
"After dinner," says Rabelais, "they all went tag-rag
together to the willowy grove, where, on the green
grass, to the sound of merry flutes and pleasant
bagpipes, they danced so gallantly that it was a sweet
and heavenly sport to see." So in England, on May Day,
villagers gathered round a gaily decorated Maypole,
danced their lusty rustic measures, and then, it
appears, indulged in intimacies reminiscent of the Roman
festival of Flora, goddess of flowers. Under Henry VIII
the May games usually included the morris (i.e.,
Moorish) dance, which had come from the Spanish Moors
via the Spanish fandango with castanets. Students
danced so boisterously at Oxford and Cambridge that
William of Wykeham had to forbid the ecstasy near chapel
statuary. Luther approved of dancing, and relished
especially the "square dance, with friendly bows,
embracings, and hearty swinging of the partners." The
grave Melanchthon danced; and at Leipzig, in the
sixteenth century, the city fathers regularly held a
ball to permit students to become acquainted with the
"most honorable and elegant daughters of magnates,
senators, and citizens." Charles VI often led
('balait') the ballet or dance at the French court;
Catherine de Medicis brought Italian dancers to France,
and there, in the later days of that unhappy queen
mother, dancing developed new aristocratic forms.
"Dancing," said Jean Tabourot, in one of the oldest
books on one of the oldest arts, "is practiced in order
to see whether lovers are healthy and suitable for one
another; at the end of a dance the gentleman is
permitted to kiss his mistress, in order that he may
ascertain if she has agreeable breath. In this manner
... dancing becomes necessary for the good government of
society." It was through its accompaniment of the dance
that music developed from its vocal and choral forms
into the instrumental compositions that have made it the
dominating art of our time.

I. The Instruments

THE popularity of music in these centuries corrects the somber note that
history tends to give them; every now and then, through the excitement
and bitterness of the religious revolution, we hear people singing. "I
care nothing for the pleasures of food, gaming, and love," wrote the
passionate printer Etienne Dolet; "music alone ... takes me prisoner,
holds me fast, dissolves me in ecstasy." From the pure note of a girl's
voice or a perfect flute to the polyphonic counterpoint of Depres or
Palestrina, every nation and class redeemed with music the commercialism
and theology of the age. Not only did everyone sing; Francesco Landino
complained that everyone composed. Between the merry or plaintive folk
songs of the village and the solemn High Masses of the Church a hundred
forms of music lent their harmony to dances, ballets, banquets,
courtships, courts, processions, pageants, plays, and prayers. The
world sang.

The merchants of Antwerp were escorted daily to the Bourse by a
band, Kings studied music as no feminine or mechanical prerogative but
as a mark and fount of civilization. Alfonso X of Spain sedulously and
lovingly collected songs to the Virgin -- 'Cantigas de Santa Maria'.
James IV of Scotland wooed Margaret Tudor with clavichord and lute;
Charles VIII of France took the royal choir with him on his campaigns in
Italy; Louis XII sang tenor in the court choir; Leo X composed French
chansons; Henry VIII and Francis I courted and challenged each other
with rival choirs on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Luis Milan
described Portugal in 1540 as "a veritable sea of music." The court of
Matthias Corvinus at Buda had a choir rated equal to the pope's, and
there was a good school of music under Sigismund II in Cracow. Germany
was bursting with song in Luther's youth. "We have singers here in
Heidelberg," wrote Alexander Agricola in 1484, "whose leader composes
for eight or twelve voices." At Mainz, Nuremberg, Augsburg, and
elsewhere the Meistersinger continued to adorn popular songs and
Biblical passages with the pomp of pedantry and the jewelry of
counterpoint. The German folk songs were probably the best in Europe.
Everywhere music was the prod of piety and the lure of love.

Although nearly all music in this age was vocal, the accompanying
instruments were as diverse as in a modern orchestra. There were string
instruments like psalteries, harps, dulcimers, shawms, lutes, and viols;
wind instruments like flutes, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, trombones,
cornets, and bagpipes; percussion instruments like drums, bells,
clappers, cymbals, and castanets; keyboard instruments like organs,
clavichords, harpsichords, spinets, virginals; there were many more; and
of many there were fascinating variants in place and time. Every
educated home had one or more musical instruments, and some homes had
special cabinets to hold them. Often they were works of art, fondly
carved or fancifully formed, and they were handed down as treasures and
memories from generation to generation. Some organs were as elaborately
designed as Gothic cathedral fronts; so the men who built the organs for
the Sebalduskirche and the Lorenzkirche in Nuremberg became "immortal"
for a century. The organ was the chief but not the only instrument used
in churches; flutes, pipes, drums, trombones, even kettledrums might add
their incongruous summons to adoration.

The favorite accompaniment for the single voice was the lute. Like
all string instruments, it had an Asiatic origin. It came into Spain
with the Moors, and there, as the vihuela, it rose to the dignity of a
solo instrument, for which the earliest known purely instrumental music
was composed. Usually its body was made of wood and ivory, and shaped
like a pear; its belly was pierced with holes in the pattern of a rose;
it had six -- sometimes twelve -- pairs of strings, which were plucked
by the fingers; its neck was divided by frets of brass into a measured
scale, and its pegbox was turned back from the neck. When a pretty girl
held a lute in her lap, strummed its strings, and added her voice to its
tones, Cupid could save an arrow. However, it was difficult to keep the
lute in tune, for the constant pull of the strings tended to warp the
frame, and one wit said of an old lutanist that sixty of his eighty
years had been spent in tuning his instrument.

The viol differed from the lute in having its strings stretched over
a bridge and played by a bow, but the principle was the same -- the
vibration of taut struck strings over a box perforated to deepen sound.
Viols came in three sizes: the large bass viola da gamba, held between
the legs like its modern replacement, the violoncello; the small tenor
viola da braccio, held on the arm; and a treble viol. During the
sixteenth century the viola da braccio evolved into the violin, and in
the eighteenth the viol passed out of use.

The only European invention in musical instruments was the keyboard,
by which the strings were indirectly struck instead of being directly
plucked or bowed. The oldest known form, the clavichord, made its debut
in the twelfth century and survived to be "well tempered" by Johann
Sebastian Bach; the oldest extant example (1537) is in the Metropolitan
Museum in New York. In the fifteenth century a sturdier variant took
form in the harpsichord; this allowed modifications of tone through
differences of pressure; sometimes a second keyboard extended the gamut,
and stops and couplers offered new marvels of sound. The spinet and
virginal were Italian and English variants of the harpsichord. These
keyboard instruments, like the viol and the lute, were prized for their
beauty as well as their tone, and formed a graceful element of
decoration in well-to-do homes.

As instruments improved in range and quality of tone and in
complexity of operation, more and more training and skill were required
to play them successfully; an audience grew for performances of one or
more instruments without voices, and virtuosos appeared for the organ
and the lute. Conrad Paumann (died 1473), the blind organist of
Nuremberg, traveled from court to court giving recitals whose excellence
knighted him. Such developments encouraged the composition of music for
instruments alone. Till the fifteenth century nearly all instrumental
music had apparently been intended to accompany voices or dances, but in
that century several paintings show musicians playing with no visible
singing or dancing. The oldest surviving music for instruments alone is
the 'Fundamentum organisandi' (1452) of Conrad Paumann, which was
composed primarily as a guide to organ playing, but contained also a
number of pieces for solo performance. Ottaviano dei Petrucci's
application of movable metal types to the printing of music (1501)
lowered the cost of publishing instrumental and other compositions.
Music written for dances lent itself to independent presentation; hence
the influence of dance forms on instrumental music; the suite of
"movements" composed for a succession of dances led to the symphony and
the chamber music quartet, whose parts sometimes retained dance names.
The lute, viol, organ, and harpsichord were favored for solo or
orchestral performances. Alberto da Ripa achieved such fame as a
lutanist at the court of Francis I and Henry II that when he died (1551)
the poets of France warbled dirges to his remains.

II. The Flemish Ascendancy: 1430-1590

The songs and dances of the people were the perennial fountain from
which nonecclesiastical forms of music took their origin, moods, and
themes, and even Masses might stem from such ditties as 'Adieu mes
amours'. The chamsons of France ranged from the lilting lays of street
singers and the ballads of troubadours to the intricate polyphonic
chants of Guilliume de Machaut and Josquin Depres.

Machaut (c. 1300-77) was the lord of that 'ars nova' which Philippe
de Vitry had expounded in 1325 -- music using binary rhythms in addition
to the triple rhythms sanctioned by the 'ars antiqua' and the Church.
Machaut was a poet, a scholar, a musician, a canon of Reims Cathedral,
probably also a man of ardor, for he wrote some amorous lyrics whose
warmth has not yet cooled. He excelled in a dozen musical forms --
ballads, roundels, virelays, motets, Masses; to him we trace the oldest
polyphonic Mass composed by one man. Though an ecclesiastic, he shared
in the movement to secularize polyphonic music, to lead it from the
orthodox rhythms of the motet and the High Mass to the freer, more
flexible 'cantilena' of secular song.

In those centuries the English were musical. They did not rival the
Italians in melody (who has?), nor the Flemings in polyphony, but their
songs now and then touched a strain of tenderness and delicacy equaled
only in the profoundest French chansons. English singers were acclaimed
at the Council of Constance, and in that generation Henry V, hero of
Agincourt, composed a Mass whose 'Gloria' and 'Sanctus' are still
preserved. The compositions of John Dunstable (c. 1370-1453) were sung
from Scotland to Rome, and played a part in forming the style of the
Flemish school.

As Flanders had set the pace in painting in the fifteenth century,
so it was there, in a milieu of prosperous and art-loving nobles and
burghers, that music had one of its most exuberant periods. "Today,"
wrote Johannes Verwere about 1490, "we have blossoming forth, quite
apart from a large number of famous singers ... an almost unlimited
number of composers" whose works "excel in pleasant sound; I never hear
or look at their compositions without rejoicing in them."
Contemporaries would probably have ranked Dufay, Okeghem, and Depres
quite on a par with Jan van Eyck, Claus Sluter, and Rogier van der
Weyden in the hierarchy of genius and beneficence. Here, in Flemish
polyphony, Western Europe lived the last phase of the Gothic spirit in
art -- religious devotion tempered with secular gaiety, forms firm in
base and structure, fragile and delicate in development and ornament.
Even Italy, so hostile to Gothic, joined Western Europe in acknowledging
the supremacy of Flemish music, and in seeking 'maestri' from Flanders
for episcopal choirs and princely courts. Emperor Maximilian I,
enchanted by the music of Brussels, formed a choir in Vienna on Flemish
models. Charles V took Flemish musicians to Spain; Archduke Ferdinand
took some to Austria, Christian II others to Denmark; "the fountain of
music," said the Venetian Cavallo, "is in the Netherlands." Through
this Flemish ascendancy professional music escaped the narrowing
nationalism of the age.

Guillaume Dufay led the way. Born in Hainaut (c. 1399), trained as
a boy chorister in the cathedral of Cambrai, he was called to Rome to
sing in the Sistine Chapel; then, back in Cambrai, he raised its choir
to international renown; the Masses that he composed there were sung in
all the musical centers of Latin Christendom. Those that survive sound
heavy and slow to ears alert to the light celerity of modern life, yet
they may have fitted well in stately cathedrals or solemn papal choirs.
More to our mood is a polyphonic song of mellifluous melancholy, 'Le
jour s'endort' -- "The day is going to sleep." We picture a robed
chorus singing such a chant in the Gothic halls of Cambrai, Ypres,
Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, or Dijon, and we perceive that the
architecture, painting, costumes, music, and manners of that warm and
colorful and pompous age made a harmonious artistic whole, being
themselves variations on one pervasive theme.

Dufay's methods were developed, and were broadcast through Europe,
by the most influential musical teacher of perhaps any time. Johannes
Okeghem, born in Flanders (c. 1430), spent most of his years providing
music, and musical education, at the court of France. His special
passion was for the "canon" -- a form of fugue in which the words and
melody sung by the first voice were repeated, several bars later, by a
second voice, later by a third, and so on, in a flowing counterpoint
whose laborious complexity challenged the singers and charmed the
composers. These ran to him from every Roman Catholic land to learn and
carry off his skill. "Through his pupils," wrote an old historian, "the
art" of contrapuntal and "canonical" polyphony "was transplanted into
all countries; and he must be regarded -- for it can he proved by
[stylistic] genealogy -- as the founder of all schools from his own to
the present age"; but since this was written in 1833, Okeghem cannot be
held responsible for twentieth-century music. At his death (1495) the
musicians of Europe wrote motets to his memory, and Erasmus a
"Lamentation." The names of even the "immortals" are writ in water.

His pupils became the musical leaders of the next generation.
Coming from Hainaut to Paris, Josquin Depres spent years studying with
Okeghem, then served as 'maestro di capella' -- "master of the chapel"
choir -- in Florence, Milan, and Ferrara. For Duke Ercole I he wrote a
'Miserere' that soon resounded throughout Western Europe. After six
years in the Sistine Chapel Choir he returned to Paris (1494) to serve
as 'maitre de chapelle' for Louis XII. One of his noblest works was his
'Deploration de Jehan Okeghem', a dirge for his dead teacher. For a
time he followed him in composing Masses and motets in canonic style,
piling voice upon voice in almost mathematical problems of sequence and
harmony. When his skill was complete, and his supremacy in "art music"
was unquestioned, he tired of technique, and wrote moters, hymns, and
secular songs in a simpler harmonic style, in which the music followed
and illuminated the words instead of torturing them on a Protean canon,
or stretching a syllable into a song. When both teacher and pupil were
gone it became customary to call Okeghem the Donatello, Depres the,
Michelangelo, of musical art.

The French court cultivated music as the finest flower of wealth and
power. A lovely tapestry dated about 1500, and now in the Musee des
Gobelins at Paris, pictures four women, three youths, and a bald monk
grouped in a garden around a fountain; one lad is playing a lute, a girl
plays a viol, a staid lady plays a portable organ. French poets
intended their lyrics to be sung; an Academie du Palais devoted itself
to promoting the union between music and poetry; and even now one
without the other seems incomplete. Clement Jannequin, a pupil of
Depres', excelled in descriptive chansons; his 'Chant de l'alouette', or
"Song of the Lark" (1521), still warbles over several continents.

Spanish music reflected the piety and gallantry of the people.
Cross-fertilized by Arabic, Italian, Provencal, French, and Flemish
influences, this art ranged from melancholy Morisco monodies to stately
polyphonic Masses in the Flemish style. One of the greatest composers
of the sixteenth century, Cristobal Morales, carried polyphony to high
excellence, and transmitted his art to his more famous pupil, Tomas Luis
de Victoria. By contrast the Arabic heritage produced just the strains
to fit the lute. Luis de Milan and Miguel de Fuenllana composed for the
vilhuela -- and performed on it -- songs that rivaled the German Lieder
in range and power.

The conquest of Italy by Flemish musicians continued to the rise of
Palestrina. Heinrich Ysaac, after absorbing the contrapuntal art in
Flanders, was brought to Florence by Lorenzo de'Medici to teach Il
Magnifico's children; he stayed there fourteen years, and composed music
for Lorenzo's songs. Disturbed by the French invasion of Italy, he
passed into the service of Maximilian I at Innsbruck, where he shared in
giving form to the Lieder. In 1502 he returned to Italy, pensioned by
the Emperor and his former pupil, Leo X. His Masses, motets, and songs
-- above all his 'Choralis Constantinus', fifty-eight four-part settings
for the Offices of the Mass throughout the religious year -- were ranked
with the highest music of the age.

Orlando di Lasso brought the Flemish school to its culmination, and
illustrated, in his triumphant career, the geographical range and rising
social status of Renaissance musicians. As a boy chorister in his
native Hainaut, he so fascinated his hearers that he was twice abducted
by those who hoped to profit from his voice; finally, in his fifteenth
year (1545?) his parents allowed Ferdinand Gonzaga to take him to Italy.
At the age of twenty-three he became choirmaster in the church of St.
John Lateran in Rome. In 1555 he settled in Antwerp, and published his
'First Book of Italian Madrigals', secular lyrics dressed in all the
frills of Flemish counterpoint. In the same year he issued a miscellany
of villanelles (songs of Neapolitan origin), French chansons, and four
religious motets; this collection well reflected the judicious
oscillation of Di Lasso's life between profane enjoyment and melodious
penitence. We get a glimpse of his environment at Antwerp in the
dedication of a motet to Cardinal Pole, and another to Cardinal
Granvelle, minister to Philip II in the Netherlands. Probably it was
Granvelle who arranged the young composer's engagement to assist in
directing the ducal choir at Munich (1556). Orlando came to like
Bavaria as much as Italy, took his wife from one as he had taken his
name from the other, and served the Bavarian dukes till his death.

This happy Mozart of the sixteenth century doubled the 626
compositions of his counterpart. He traversed the whole gamut of
current musical forms, and in each won European renown. He seemed
equally at home in madrigals of refined love, chansons of amorous
levity, and Masses of mystic piety. In 1563 he was made
'Kapellmeister'. Now he composed for Albert V a musical setting of the
seven Penitential Psalms. The Duke so admired these compositions that
he engaged artists to transcribe them on parchment, adorn them with
miniatures, and bind them in red morocco in two folio volumes which are
today among the most prized possessions of the state library in art-
loving Munich.

All Europe solicited the new star. When Di Lasso visited Paris
(1571), Charles IX offered him 1,200 livres ($30,000? in the 1950s) per
year to stay; he refused, but presented Charles and Catherine de Medicis
with a book of French chansons, the most melodious, said Brantome, that
Paris had ever heard. One song chanted the praises of the French
capital for its love of justice and peace -- a year before the Massacre
of St. Bartholomew. Returning to Munich, Di Lasso dedicated to the
Fuggers a collection of Latin motets, Italian madrigals, German Lieder,
and French chansons; this composer was no romantic starveling but a man
adept in the ways of the world. In 1574 he traveled to Rome at Duke
Albert's expense, gave Gregory XIII a volume of Masses, and received the
Order of the Golden Spur. Even God appreciated Orlando's dedications;
for when, on Corpus Christi day (1584), a severe storm threatened to
cancel the usual religious procession through the streets of Munich, the
rain stopped and the sun came out as Orlando's motet, 'Gustate et
videte' -- "Taste and see how gracious the Lord is" -- was sung by his
choir; and every year thereafter, on Corpus Christi, the same music was
sung to ensure propitious skies.

In 1585 Di Lasso, aging and repentant, published his 'Fifth Book of
Madrigals', in which he applied the form to spiritual themes; these are
among his most moving compositions. Five years later his mind began to
fail; he could no longer recognize his wife, and talked of almost
nothing but death, the Last Judgment, and an increase in salary. He
received the increase, and died triumphant and insane (1594).

III. Music and the Reformation

The Reformation was a revolution in music as well as in theology,
ritual, ethics, and art. Catholic liturgy was aristocratic, a stately
ceremonial rooted in inviolable tradition and standing frankly above the
people in language, vestments, symbols, and music. In that spirit the
clergy defined itself as the Church, and thought of the people as a
flock to be shepherded into morality and salvation by myth, legend,
sermon, drama, and all the arts. In that spirit the Mass was an
esoteric mystery, a miraculous intercourse of the priest with God, and
the music of the Mass was sung by the priest and a male choir set apart
from the worshipers. But in the Reformation the middle classes asserted
themselves; the people became the Church, the clergy became their
ministers, the language of the service was to be the vernacular of the
nation, the music was to be intelligible, and in it the congregation
would take an active, finally a leading, role.

Luther loved music, appreciated polyphony and counterpoint, and
wrote enthusiastically in 1538:

When natural music is sharpened and polished by art,
then one begins to see with amazement the great and
perfect wisdom of God in His wonderful work of music,
where one voice takes a simple part and around it sing
three, four, or five other voices, leaping, springing
round about, marvelously gracing the simple part, like a
square dance in heaven .... He who does not find this an
inexpressible miracle of the Lord is truly a clod, and
is not worthy to be considered a man.

At the same time he aspired to a religious music that would move the
people by its fusion of faith with song. In 1524 he collaborated with
Johann Walther, 'Kapellmeister' to the Elector Frederick the Wise, to
produce the first Protestant hymnal, which was expanded and improved
through many editions. The words were taken partly from Catholic hymns,
partly from the songs of the Meistersinger, partly from Luther's own
roughly poetic pen, partly from folk songs transformed to religious
themes; "the Devil," said Luther, "has no right to all the good tunes."
Some of the music was composed by Luther, some by Walther, some was
adapted from current Catholic settings. Lutheran churches continued for
almost a century to include polyphonic Masses in their ritual; but
gradually Latin was replaced by the vernacular, the role of the Mass was
reduced, singing by the congregation was extended, and the chants of the
choir moved away from counterpoint to an easier harmonic form in which
the music sought to follow and interpret the words. From the choir
music composed by Luther and his aides to accompany the recitation of
Gospel narratives came the noble Protestant church music of the
eighteenth century, culminating in the oratorios of Handel and the
Masses, oratorios, and chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Not all the founders of Protestantism were so favorable to music as
Luther. Zwingli, though himself a musician, excluded music altogether
from the religious service, and Calvin forbade any church music except
unisonal singing by the congregation. But he allowed polyphonic song in
the home; and his Huguenot followers in France took part of their
strength and courage from family singing of hymns and Psalms set to
music for several voices. When Clement Marot translated the Psalms into
French verse, Calvin so liked the result that he condoned the polyphonic
settings arranged by Claude Goudimel, and the fact that this Protestant
composer was slain in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew made his Psalter a
doubly holy book. A century after Marot, a Catholic bishop expressed
his envy of the role these translations and settings had played in the
French Reformation. "To know these Psalms by heart is, among the
Huguenots, a sign of the communion to which they belong; and in the
towns in which they are most numerous the airs may be heard coming from
the mouths of artisans, and, in the country, from those of tillers of
the soil." The democratization of religious music marked the lands of
the Reformation, covering the darkness of the creed with the releasing
joy of song.

IV. Palestrina: 1526-94

The Catholic Church remained the chief patron of music, as of the
other arts. North of the Alps Catholic music proceeded along the lines
set by the Flemish School. This tradition was confirmed by Ysaac in
Austria, and by Di Lasso in Bavaria. One of Luther's most generous
letters was addressed (1530) to Ludwig Senfl, complimenting him on the
music he was composing at Munich, and praising the Catholic dukes there
because "they cultivate and honor music."

The choir of the Sistine Chapel was still the model on which kings
and princes established their "chapels" in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries. Even among Protestants the highest form of musical
composition was the Mass, and the crowning glory of a Mass was to be
sung by the papal choir. The supreme ambition of a singer was to join
that choir, which was therefore able to include the best male voices in
Western Europe. 'Castrati' -- then called 'eunuchi' -- were first
admitted to the Sistine Choir about 1550; soon afterward some appeared
at the Bavarian court. The emasculation was performed on consenting
boys who were persuaded that their soprano voices would be a greater
asset to them than fertility -- a vulgar virtue generally supplied
beyond demand.

Like any old and complex institution, which has so much to lose by
an unsuccessful innovation, the Church was conservative, even more in
ritual than in creed. Composers, on the contrary, were weary of old
modes, as they have been in all ages, and experiment was to them the
life of their art. All through these centuries the Church struggled to
prevent the artificiality of the 'ars nova', and the subtlety of Flemish
counterpoint, from weakening the dignity and grandeur of the High Mass.
In 1322 Pope John XXII issued a stern decree against musical novelties
and decoration, and ordered that the music of the Mass should keep to
unisonal plain song, the Gregorian chant, as its foundation, and permit
only such harmony as would be intelligible to worshipers, and would
deepen rather than distract piety. The order was obeyed for a century;
then it was evaded by having some of the performers sing the bass part
an octave higher than written; this 'faulx bourdon' -- false bass --
became a favorite ruse in France. Complexities in Mass music developed
again. Five, six, or eight parts were sung in fugue and counterpoint,
in which the words of the liturgy ran upon one another's heels in
professional confusion, or were drowned in musical flourishes sometimes
inserted by the singers 'ad libitum'. The custom of adapting popular
tunes into a Mass led even to the intrusion of profane words into the
sacred text. Some Masses came to be known from their secular sources,
like 'The Mass of Farewell My Loves', or 'The Mass in the Shadow of the
Bush'. The liberal Erasmus was himself so disgusted with the
artificiality of "art Masses" that he protested, in a note to his
edition of the New Testament:

Modern church music is so constructed that the
congregation cannot hear one distinct word. The
choristers themselves do not understand what they are
singing .... There was no [church] music in St. Paul's
time. Words were then pronounced plainly. Words
nowadays mean nothing .... Men leave their work and go
to church to listen to more noises than were ever heard
in Greek or Roman theaters. Money must be made to buy
organs and train boys to squeal.

In this matter the reform party within the Church agreed with
Erasmus. Bishop Giberti of Verona forbade the use of amorous songs or
popular melodies in the churches of his diocese, and Bishop Morone of
Modena prohibited all "figured" music -- i.e., music adorned with the
elaboration of motives or themes. At the Council of Trent the Catholic
reformers urged the exclusion of all polyphonic music from church
services, and a return to monodic Gregorian chant. The predilection of
Pope Pius IV for Palestrina's Masses may have helped to save the day for
Catholic polyphony.

Giovanni Luigi Palestrina took his name from a little city in the
Roman Campagna, which in ancient days had entered history as Praeneste.
In 1537 we find him listed, at the age of eleven, among the choirboys at
Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. He was not yet twenty-one when he was
appointed choirmaster in the cathedral of his native town. So
established, he married (1547) Lucrezia di Goris, a woman of helpful but
moderate means. When the bishop of Palestrina became Julius III he
brought his choirmaster to Rome, and made him head of the Cappella
Giulia, in St. Peter's, which trained singers for the Sistine Chapel.
To the new Pope the young composer dedicated his 'First Book of Masses'
(1554), one of which presented a three-voice counterpoint accompaniment
to one voice in plain song. The Pope liked these Masses enough to give
Palestrina membership in the Sistine Choir. As a married man Giovanni's
position in this usually tonsured group seemed irregular, and evoked
some opposition. Palestrina was about to dedicate a book of madrigals
to the Pope when Julius died (1555).

Marcellus II lived only three weeks after his elevation to the
papacy. To his memory the composer dedicated (1555) his famous 'Missa
Papae Marcelli', which was not published or so named till 1567. Pope
Paul IV, a man of inflexible and puritan principles, dismissed the three
married members from the Sistine Choir, allotting each a small pension.
Palestrina was soon made choirmaster at St. John Lateran, but this
position, though it buttered his bread, offered no patronage to cover
the expense of publishing musical compositions. With the accession of
Pius IV (1559) papal favor returned. Pius was impressed by the
'Improperia' that Palestrina wrote for the Good Friday service, and from
that time this composition became a regular part of that ritual in the
Sistine Chapel. Palestrina's marriage still excluded him from the
Sistine Choir, but his status rose with his appointment (1561) as
choirmaster at Santa Maria Maggiore.

A year later the reassembled Council of Trent took up the problem of
adjusting church music to the new spirit of reform. The extreme
proposal to forbid polyphony altogether was rejected; a compromise
measure was passed urging ecclesiastical authorities to "exclude from
churches all such music as ... introduces anything of the impure or
lascivious, in order that the house of God may truly be seen to be ...
the house of prayer." [* Pius X (1903) and Pius XII (1955) felt it
necessary to repeat these instructions.] Pius IV appointed a committee
of eight cardinals to implement this decree in the diocese of Rome. A
pleasant story relates that the commission was on the verge of banning
polyphonic music when one member, Cardinal Charles Borromeo, appealed to
Palestrina to compose a Mass that would show the full congruity of
polyphony and piety. That Palestrina wrote, and a choir sang, for the
commission, three Masses, one of them the 'Missa Papae Marcelli', and
that the profound union of religious elevation and chastened musical
artistry in these Masses saved polyphony from condemnation. However,
the 'Mass of Pope Marcellus' was already ten years old, and the only
known connection of Palestrina with this commission is its extension of
his pension. We may none the less believe that the music which
Palestrina had presented in the choirs of Rome -- by its fidelity to
the words, its avoidance of secular motives, and the subordination of
musical art to religious intent -- played a part in leading the
committee to sanction polyphonic music. It was an added argument for
polyphony that Palestrina's ecclesiastical compositions normally
dispensed with instrumental adornment, and were almost always written 'a
cappella' -- "in chapel style" -- i.e., for voices alone.

In 1571 Palestrina was again made choirmaster of the Cappella
Giulia, and he kept this post till his death. Meanwhile he composed
with uncontrollable fertility -- in all, ninety-three Masses, 486
antiphons, offertories, motets, and psalms, and a great number of
madrigals. Some of these were on secular themes, but as Palestrina aged
he turned even this form to religious purposes. His 'First Book of
Spiritual Madrigals' (1581) includes some of his most beautiful chants.
Personal misfortunes may have colored his music. In 1576 his son Angelo
died, leaving to his care two beloved grandchildren, who died a few
years later. Another son died about 1579, and in 1580 the death of his
wife moved the composer to think of becoming a monk. However, he
married again within a year.

The astonishing abundance and quality of Palestrina's product raised
him to the leadership of Italian, if not of all European, music. His
setting of the Song of Solomon to twenty-nine motets (1584), his
'Lamentations of Jeremiah' (1588), his 'Stabat Mater' and 'Magnificat'
(1590) confirmed his reputation and his persisting power. In 1592 his
Italian competitors joined in presenting him with a 'Collection of
Vesper Psalms' honoring him as the "common father of all musicians." On
January 1, 1594, he dedicated to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany
a 'Second Book of Spiritual Madrigals', combining again religious
devotion with musical mastery. A month later he died, in the sixty-
ninth year of his age. His tomb bore under his name the title he had
earned, 'Musicae Princeps', Prince of Music.

We must not expect to appreciate Palestrina today unless, ourselves
in a religious mood, we bear his music in its proper setting as part of
some solemn ritual; and even there its technical aspects may leave us
more marveling than moved. In a literal sense the proper setting can
never return, for it was music of the Catholic Reformation, the somber
tone of a stern reaction against the sensuous joyousness of the pagan
Renaissance. It was Michelangelo surviving Raphael, Paul IV replacing
Leo X, Loyola displacing Bembo, Calvin succeeding Luther. Our current
preferences are a transient and fallible norm; and an individual's taste
-- especially if he be lacking in technical competence, in mysticism,
and a sense of sin -- is a narrow base on which to rest a standard of
judgment in music or theology. But we can all agree that Palestrina
carried to its completion the religious polyphony of his day. Like most
high artists, he stood at the crest of a fine of development in feeling
and technique; he received a tradition and completed it; he accepted
discipline, and through it gave structure to his music, an architectonic
stability against the winds of change. Who knows but some not very
distant age, tiring of orchestral sonorities and operatic romances, may
find again in such music as Palestrina's a depth of feeling, a profound
and placid flow of harmony, better fitted to express the soul of man
cleansed of pride in reason and power, and standing again humble and
fearful before the engulfing infinite.


"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 6: "The Reformation"
[Last paragraph of] Chapter 33, The Life of the People
Chapter 34, Music
by Will and Ariel Durant
2005-10-07 15:38:28 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 143 lines ]

The Birth of The Opera

by Will and Ariel Durant

Religion, love, the dance, the court, even work shared in generating
music. Evelyn found the rural Italians "so jovial and addicted to music
that the very husbandmen almost universally play on the guitar and will
commonly go to the field with their fiddle." Every ducal court had its
choir and 'maestro di cappella'; at Ferrara a female quartet famous as
the "Concert of Ladies" moved Tasso to tears and rhymes. Madrigals of
love wove their polyphonic plaints, making the adoration of woman, till
married, almost as reverent as the litanies to the Mother of God.
Masses, vespers, motets, and hymns rolled from a thousand organs; choirs
of emasculated boys ('evirati', 'castrati') began, about 1600, to thrill
the naves; a Protestant visitor described Catholic church music "sung by
eunuchs and other rare voices, accompanied by theorboes, harpsichords,
and viols, so that we were even ravished." Monks and nuns were trained
into choruses that could stir even the savage breast to orthodoxy.
Andrea Gabrieli, Claudio Merulo, and Andrea's nephew Giovanni Gabrieli
in succession drew thousands to St. Mark's in Venice to hear their
organ-playing, their orchestras, and their choirs. When Girolamo
Frescobaldi played the great organ at St. Peter's as many as thirty
thousand crowded in or around the church to hear. His varied
compositions, complex with their difficult experiments, influenced
Domenico Scarlatti, and prepared for the harmonic evolutions of Johann
Sebastian Bach.

Musical instruments were almost as diverse as today. Toward the
middle of the sixteenth century the violin, evolving out of the lyre,
began to replace the viol. The first great violinmakers, Gasparo da
Salo and his pupil Giovanni Maggini, worked at Brescia; from them, it
seems, Andrea Amati learned the art and took it to Cremona, where his
sons handed it down to the Guarneri and the Stradivari. The innovation
encountered opposition from those who preferred the softer and gentler
tones of the viols; for a century the viols, the lutes, and the violins
competed; but when the Amati found ways of tempering the shrillness of
the violin, the new instrument, helped by the growing predominance of
soprano voices in vocal music, rose to unchallenged leadership.

Compositions were still for the voice rather than for instruments.
To this period belongs the romantic figure of Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of
Venosa, who graced pedigree with music and murder with madrigals. Born
in Naples (c. 1560), he became a virtuoso of the lute, married a high-
born lady, had her and her lover killed on suspicion of adultery, fled
to Ferrara, married Donna Eleonora d'Este, and published five books of
madrigals whose adventurous harmonies and sharp modulations moved from
Renaissance to modern polyphonic forms. In February 1600 Emilio de'
Cavalieri, in the Oratory, or prayer chapel, of St. Philip Neri in Rome,
produced a semidramatic allegory, with only symbolic action, but with
orchestra, dancing, chorus, and soloists; this "first oratorio" preceded
by only eight months, and in many ways resembled, Peri's opera
'Euridice'. A generation later Giacomo Carissimi composed oratorios and
cantatas whose monodic chants influenced the development of operatic

Many other lines of musical growth converged to produce the opera.
Some medieval 'sacre rappresentazioni' had added music and song to the
action; in these, as in her Passion music, the Church was mother or
nurse of opera as of so many other arts. Recitatives accompanied by
music had been heard in late medieval courts. Renaissance scholars had
pointed out that parts of Greek tragedies had been sung or recited to
instrumental accompaniments. At the court of Mantua, in 1472, Angelo
Poliziano united music and drama in his brief 'Favola di Orfeo'; now
that sad fable began its long odyssey through opera. The masque, so
popular in sixteenth-century courts, provided another road to opera;
probably the ballet, the lavish scenery, and the sumptuous costumes of
modern opera descend from the dancing, the pageantry, and the gorgeous
dress that predominated over the action in Renaissance masques.

Toward the close of the sixteenth century a group of musical and
literary enthusiasts, meeting in the home of Giovanni Bardi in Florence,
proposed to revive the music drama of the Greeks by freeing song from
the heavy polyphony and drowned-out language of the madrigals, and
restoring it to what was believed to be the monodic style of ancient
tragedy. One member, Vincenzo Galilei, father of the astronomer, set to
monodic music parts of Dante's 'Inferno'. Two other members, the poet
Ottavio Rinuccini and the singer Jacopo Peri, composed the libretto and
the score for what may be reckoned the first opera, 'Dafne', which was
produced in the home of Jacopo Corsi in 1597. The performance was so
applauded that Rinuccini was invited to write the words, and Peri and
Giulio Caccini the music, of a more substantial composition to celebrate
the marriage of Henry IV and Maria de' Medici at Florence (October 6,
1600). The 'Euridice' there performed is the oldest opera still extant.
Peri apologized for the imperfections of his hurried work, and hoped to
"have opened the path for the talent of others, for them to walk in my
footsteps to that glory to which it has not been given me to attain."

It was attained by one of the major figures in the history of music.
Claudio Monteverdi became an expert violinist in his native Cremona. At
twenty-two (1589) he was made violinist to the Duke of Mantua; at
thirty-five he was 'maestro di cappella'. Critics hotly denounced his
five books of madrigals (1587-1605) for double discords, "licentious
modulations," "illegal" harmonic progressions, and broken rules of
counterpoint. "These new composers," wrote Giovanni Artusi in 'Delle
imperfezioni della musica moderna' (1600-3), "seem to be satisfied if
they can produce the greatest possible tonal disturbance by bringing
together completely unrelated elements and mountainous collections of

Turning his reckless hand to the new form that he had heard in
Florence, Monteverdi produced at Mantua his first opera, another 'Orfeo'
(1607), with an enlarged orchestra of thirty-six pieces. The music and
action marked a great advance over Peri's 'Euridice'. In Monteverdi's
second opera, 'Arianna' (1608), the action was still more dramatic, the
music more appealing; all Italy began to intone the deserted Ariadne's
lament, "Lasciate mi morire", (Let me die). In his expansion and
reorganization of the orchestra, in his leitmotiv signalization of each
character with a specific musical theme, in the overtures ('sinfonie')
with which he prefaced his operas, in the improvement of recitatives and
arias, in the complex and intimate union of music and drama, Monteverdi
marked as decisive an advance in opera as his contemporary Shakespeare
was making in the theater.

In 1612 Monteverdi moved to Venice as 'maestro di cappella' at St.
Mark's. He composed more madrigals, but altered that declining form
into such declamation that critics accused him of subordinating music
(as Bernini would be accused of subordinating sculpture) to drama; and
unquestionably Monteverdi -- like nearly all opera -- is musical
baroque. In 1637 Venice opened the first public opera house, the Teatro
di San Cassiano; there Monteverdi's 'Adone' ran from 1639 till Carnival
of 1640, while at times his 'Arianna' was filling another theater. When
he produced his last opera, 'L'incoronazione di Poppea' (1642), Italy
was happy to see that at the age of seventy-five Monteverdi (like Verdi
with 'Otello' at seventy-four) was still in the fullness of his powers.
A year later he died, leaving the world of music inspired and
rejuvenated by a creative revolution.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 7: "The Age of Reason Begins"
Chapter 9, Alma Mater Italia
pages 251-256
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-08-27 22:31:34 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 111 lines ]

English Music: 1558-1649

by Will and Ariel Durant

No one who knows only post-Puritan England can feel the joyous role of
music in Elizabethan days. From the home, the school, the church, the
street, the stage, the Thames, rose sacred or profane song-masses,
motets, madrigals, ballads, and delicate little lyrics of love such as
those that found a setting in Elizabethan plays. Music was a main
course in education; at Westminster School it received two hours a week;
Oxford had a chair of music (1627). Every gentleman was expected to
read music and play some instrument. In Thomas Morley's 'Plaine and
Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke' (1597) an imaginary untutored
Englishman confesses this shame:

Supper being ended, and musicke bookes, according to
the custome, being brought to the table, the mistresse
of the house presented me with a part, earnestly
requesting me to sing; but when, after many excuses, I
protested unfeignedly that I could not, everyone began
to wonder, some whispering to others, demanding how I
was brought up.

Barbershops provided instruments for waiting customers to play.

Elizabethan music was predominantly secular. Some composers, like
Tallis, Byrd, and Bull, remained Catholic despite the laws and wrote for
the Roman ritual, but such compositions were not publicly performed.
Many Puritans objected to church music as diverting piety; Elizabeth and
the bishops saved church music in England, as Palestrina and the Council
of Trent rescued it in Italy. The Queen supported with her wonted
determination the chapelmasters who organized large choirs and formal
music for the royal chapel and the cathedrals. The Book of Common
Prayer became a magnificent libretto for English composers, and the
Anglican services almost rivaled the Continental Catholic in polyphonic
splendor and dignity. Even the Puritans, following Calvin's lead,
approved psalm singing by the congregations; Elizabeth laughed at these
"Geneva jigs," but they matured into some noble hymns.

Since the Queen was a profanely secular spirit and loved to be
courted, it was fitting that the musical glory of her reign should be
the madrigal -- love in counterpoint, a part song unaccompanied by
instruments. Italian madrigals reached England in 1553 and set the key.
Morley tried his hand at the form, expounded it in his graceful
dialogue, and invited imitation. A madrigal for five voices, by John
Wilbye, suggests the themes of these "ayres":

Alas, what a wretched life this is, what a death,
Where the tyrant love commandeth!
My flowering days are in their prime declining,
All my proud hope quite fallen, and life entwining;
My joys each after other in haste are flying
And leave me dying
For her that scorns my crying;
Oh, she from here departs, my Love restraining,
For whom, all heartless, alas, I die complaining.

William Byrd was the Shakespeare of Elizabethan music, famous for
masses and madrigals, for vocal and instrumental compositions alike.
His contemporaries honored him as 'homo memorabilis'; Morley said he was
"never without reverence to be named among the musicians." Almost as
highly rated and versatile were Orlando Gibbons and John Bull,
royalchapel organists. These and Byrd joined (1611) in producing the
initial book of keyboard music in England, 'Parthenia, or The Maydenhead
of the first musicke that ever was printed for the Virginalls'.
Meanwhile the English sustained their reputation for composing solo
songs of a wholesome freshness redolent of the English countryside.
John Dowland, renowned as a virtuoso of the lute, won praise for his
'Songes or Ayres', and Thomas Campion gave him close rivalry. Who does
not know Campion's "Cherry Ripe"?

Musicians were organized in a strong union, disturbed under Charles
I by internal strife. Instruments were nearly as various as today:
lute, harp, organ, virginal or spinet, clavichord or harpsichord, flute,
recorder (our flageolet), hautboy, cornet, trombone, trumpet, drums, and
many forms of viol, which was now giving place to the violin. The lute
was favored for virtuoso performance and to accompany songs; the
virginal, modest mother of the piano, was popular with young women, at
least before marriage. Instrumental music was intended chiefly for the
virginal, the viol, and the lute. A kind of chamber music was composed
for an ensemble or "consort" of viols varying in size and range.
Campion, in a masque for James I's Queen Anne, used an orchestra of
lutes, harpsichords, cornets and nine viols (1605). Much instrumental
music by Byrd, Morley, Dowland, and others has come down to us. It is
largely based on dance forms, follows Italian models, and excels in a
delicate and tender beauty rather than in vigor or range. Fugue and
counterpoint are developed, but no thematic variation, no ingenuity in
modulation, no resolved discords or chromatic harmonies. And yet when
our nerves are frayed with the pounding stimuli of modern life, we find
something cleansing and healing in Elizabethan music; no bombast, no
rasping dissonances, no thundering finales, only the voice of an English
youth or girl singing plaintively or merrily the timeless canticles of
impeded love.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 7: "The Age of Reason Begins"
Chapter II, Merrie England: 1558-1625
pages 59-61
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-08-27 22:34:40 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 295 lines ]

France Beneath the Wars


by Will and Ariel Durant

I. Morals

THE religion whose varieties gave specious excuses for so many wars was
beginning to suffer from its political employment; there was a growing
number of men who questioned the divinity of doctrines that argued by
the competitive shedding of blood; and in the upper classes doubts of
the Christian ethic began to mingle with skepticism of the creed. It
was a sign of the times when a good priest, Pierre Charron, explained
the respectability of sex and its absurd apparatus.

The peasants retained their faith, and honored the Christian code
even when violating it; they might kill one another in passing ecstasy,
they might diverge from monogamy when opportunity called and
surveillance slept, but otherwise they led a tolerably decent life,
heard Mass regularly, and, at least once a year, consumed the body and
the blood of the Lord. The middle classes -- Catholic or Huguenot --
gave the best example of Christian morality: they dressed modestly,
married once, attended to their business and their children, went to
church, and gave the state its priests, physicians, lawyers,
magistrates, and stability. Even in the aristocracy there were
exemplary women; Charles IX called his wife, Elizabeth of Austria, the
most virtuous woman in the world. But generally, in the leisure classes
of the capital and in the artisans of the towns, erotic matters were
getting out of hand. It was an age of frankly physical drive.
Something of the platonic love that had amused Bembo and Castiglione in
Italy and Marguerite of Navarre in France survived in the circle of Mme.
de Rambouillet (herself an Italian), but it was mostly a feminine
device, a resistance in depth to glorify the citadel.

So far as we know, Catherine de Medicis was a faithful wife and
solicitous mother, but gossip accused her of training pretty women to
seduce her enemies into obedience, and Jeanne d'Albret (something of a
prude) described Catherine's court as "the most corrupt and accursed
society that ever was." Brantome was a scandalmonger, but his testimony
should enter the picture:

As for our fair women of France ... they have in the
last fifty years learned so much gentleness and
delicacy, so much attraction and charm in their clothes,
in their fair looks and wanton ways ... that now none
can deny that they surpass all other women in every
respect.... Moreover, the wanton language of love is in
France more wanton, more exciting and sweeter-sounding,
than in other tongues. And more than all, this blessed
libertv which we have in France ... renders our women
more desirable and captivating, more tractable and easy
of access than all others; and further, adultery is not
so generally punished as in other lands ... In a word,
it is good to make love in France.

The kings set the fashion. Francis II died too soon for sinning.
Charles IX had his Marie Touchet. Henry III passed from 'mignonettes'
to 'mignons'. Henry IV was faithfully heterosexual. Neither he nor his
mistress Gabrielle d'Estrees seems to have objected to her being
portrayed naked to the waist. When his daughter Henrietta Maria of
France, aged seventeen, married Charles I, she had had so many liaisons
that her confessor advised her to take the Magdalen as her model and
England as her penance.

Even so, the complaisance of the women lagged behind the eagerness
of the men, and prostitutes labored to meet the swelling demand. Paris
recognized three types: the 'chevre coiffee' (she-goat with a hairdo)
for the court, the 'petrel' (chattering bird) for the bourgeoisie, and
the 'pierreuse', who served the poor and lived in a stone basement.
There were educated tarts for aristocrats, like Marion Delorme, who,
dying, confessed ten times, since after each shriving she reminded
herself of untold sins. Charles IX and Henry III issued edicts
outlawing brothels, and an ordinance of Louis XIII (1635) required that
all detected prostitutes should be "whipped, shaved, and banished," and
that all men concerned in the traffic should be sent to the galleys for
life. Several men, including Montaigne and a Huguenot clergyman,
protested against such measures, and advocated the legalization of
brothels in the interest of public morals. These laws remained on the
statute books till the late eighteenth century, but were seldom
enforced. Other decrees fought in vain against nature's perversions and
vagaries; Montaigne tells of a girl who at twenty-two was changed into a
man. Obscene literature found a ready market, and print-shop windows
displayed erotic pictures without incurring any now known interference.

Social and political morality suffered from the wars. The sale of
public offices was extended to a nearly universal venality. The
financial administration, before Sully cleansed it, was corrupt to the
point of chaos. War was not as indiscriminately devastating as it was
soon to be under Louis XIV; yet we hear of armies, Huguenot as well as
Catholic, engaging in wholesale massacre, pillage, and rape, stringing
citizens up by the thumbs, or kindling a fire under their feet, to
extort hidden gold. Dueling became more frequent in the sixteenth
century, perhaps because the sword became a regular part of male dress.
It was forbidden by Charles IX, under the urging of Michel de L'Hopital,
but it became almost an epidemic under Henry III; seconds as well as
principals were expected to fight; duels, said Montaigne, were now
battles. Richelieu's edict against dueling differed from its
predecessors in being vigorously and impartially enforced. After his
death the practice revived.

Crime was frequent. Nocturnal Paris was mostly unlit; robbery and
murder flourished; violent brawls disordered the streets, and travel in
the countryside endangered life as well as limb. Penalties were
barbarous; we are not sure that they were effective deterrents, but
probably crime would have been still worse without them. Imprisonment
was genteel for gentlemen; aristocrats sent to the Bastille could pay
for comfortable quarters equipped with their own furniture and wives.
Common criminals might be sent to stifling dungeons or be deported to
colonies or condemned to the galleys. Traces of this last penalty go
back to 1532, but its earliest known enactment in French law belongs to
1561. The 'galeriens' were usually sentenced for ten years; the letters
GAL were branded on their backs. In winter they remained in their
docked galleys or were herded into prisons, chiefly at Toulon or
Marseille. During the Religious Wars many captured Huguenots were
sentenced to the galleys, where they received such brutal treatment that
death must have seemed a boon. Epidemics of suicide broke out in those
bitter decades, above all among the women of Lyon and Marseille.

II. Manners

Manners improved while morals declined. Catherine de Medicis had
brought Italian politeness with her, a sense of beauty, a taste for
elegance, a refinement in appointments and dress. Brantome thought her
court the finest that had ever been, "a veritable earthly Paradise,"
sparkling with "at least three hundred ladies and damoiselles" dressed
to the height of taxation. French court ceremonial, established by
Francis I, now displaced the Italian as the model of Europe. Henry III
created the office of Grand Master of the Ceremonies of France and
issued an edict detailing the ritual and protocol of court behavior,
specifying the persons who were to be admitted to the king's presence,
the manner of addressing him, of serving him at his rising, his
toilette, his meals, and his retiring, who might accompany him on his
walks or hunts, who might attend the court balls. Henry III, timid and
finicky, insisted on these rules; Henry IV violated them freely, Louis
XIII ignored them, Louis XIV expanded them into a liturgy rivaling High

Court dress became increasingly costly and ornate. Marshal de
Bassompierre wore a coat made of cloth of gold, laden with pearls
weighing fifty pounds and costing fourteen thousand ecus. Marie de
Medicis at the baptism of her son wore a robe covered with three
thousand diamonds and thirty-two thousand other precious stones. A
courtier considered himself poor unless he had twenty-five costumes of
divers styles. Sumptuary laws were numerous and soon ignored. One,
issued by Henry IV, forbade "all inhabitants of this kingdom to wear
either gold or silver on their clothes, except prostitutes and thieves,"
but even this clever correlation failed. Preachers complained about the
calculated risk that ladies took in only partly covering their curves;
if we may believe Montaigne, who was not often guilty of wishful
thinking, "our ladies (dainty-nice though they be) are many times seen
to go open-breasted as low as the navel." To accentuate white skin or
rosy cheeks, women began in the seventeenth century to adorn them with
spots or patches which the prosaic called 'mouches', or flies. They
stiffened stays with whalebone and spread their hoopskirts with wire.
They tossed their hair up in a dozen tempting shapes. Men wore theirs
in long and flowing curls, and crowned themselves with broad hats gaily
plumed. Louis XIII, becoming prematurely bald, made the wig
fashionable. The sexes rivaled each other in vanity.

Their fine manners did not deter them from eating with their
fingers. Even in the nobility forks did not replace fingers before
1600, hardly before 1700 in other ranks. A fashionable restaurant, La
Tour d'Argent, where Henry III dined on his way back from the hunt,
achieved fame by supplying forks. Already in the seventeenth century
the French were eating frogs and snails. Wine was their favorite drink.
Coffee was coming into use, but was not yet indispensable. Chocolate
had come in through Spain from Mexico; some physicians condemned it as
an inopportune laxative; others prescribed it for venereal disease; Mme.
de Sevigne told of a pregnant lady who indulged in it so immoderately
that she gave birth to a charming little blackamoor -- 'un petit garcon
noir comme le diable'.

The improvement in manners was reflected in transportation and
amusements. Public coaches were now common in Western Europe, and in
France the well-to-do began to move about in splendid 'carrosses'
equipped with curtains and glass. Tennis was the rage, and dancing
claimed all classes. The stately 'pavane' came in from Spain, taking
its name from the Spanish for peacock -- 'pavo'; its proud and graceful
evolutions gave it an aristocratic flair, and the kissing that was part
of it helped to circulate the blood. Under Catherine de Medicis the
ballet became the crown of court entertainments, combining music and the
dance to tell a tale in verse or pantomime; her loveliest ladies took
part, in costumes and settings artistically designed; one such ballet
was performed in the Tuileries on the day after the Massacre of St.

Musicians were the heroes of the passing hour. They exercised such
fascination on the French that one courtier, at a concert in 1581,
clapped his hand on his sword and swore that he must challenge the first
man he met; thereupon the conductor led his orchestra into a gentle
strain that soothed the savage breast. The lute was still the favorite
instrument, but in 1555 Balthazar de Beaujoyeux, the first famous
violinist in history, brought a band of violinists to Catherine's court
and made violin music popular. In 16oo Ottavio Rinuccini followed Marie
de Medicis into France and introduced there the idea of opera. Singing
was still the favorite music, and Pere Mersenne rightly judged that no
other sound in nature could match the beauty of a woman's voice.

Music, literature, fine manners, and cultured conversation now came
together in one of the most basic contributions of France to
civilization -- the salon. Italy, alma mater of modern arts, had shown
the way in such urbane gatherings as those ascribed to Urbino in
Castiglione's 'Courtier'; it was from Italy that the salon -- like the
violin, the chateau, ballet, opera, and syphilis -- came to France. Its
founder in France was born in Rome (1588) to Jean de Vivonne, French
ambassador to the papacy, and Giulia Savelli, an Orsini heiress.
Catherine de Vivonne received an education exceptional for a girl of the
sixteenth century. At twelve she was married to Charles d'Angennes,
who, as Marquis of Rambouillet, held high office under Henry IV and
Louis XIII. The young Marquise complained that French speech and
manners fell short of the Italian in correctness and courtesy, and she
noted with disapproval the separation between the intellectual classes
-- poets, scholars, scientists, savants -- and the nobility. In 1618
she designed for her family the Hotel de Rambouillet in the Rue
St.-Thomas-du-Louvre in Paris. One room was hung with panels of blue
velvet bordered with silver and gold; in this spacious 'salon bleu' the
Marquise received her guests in what became the most celebrated salon in
history. She took care to invite men and women of congenial manners but
diverse interests: nobles like the Great Conde and La Rochefoucauld,
ecclesiastics like Richelieu and Huet, generals like Montausier and
Bassompierre, highborn dames like the Princess of Conti, the duchesses
of Longueville and Rohan, lettered ladies like Mmes. de La Fayette and
de Sevigne and Mlle. de Scudery, poets like Malherbe, Chapelain, and
Guez de Balzac, scholars like Conrart and Vaugelas, wits like Voiture
and Scarron. Here Bossuet preached a sermon at the age of twelve, and
Corneille read his plays. Here aristocrats learned to take interest in
language, science, scholarship, poetry, music, and art; men learned from
women the graces of courtesy; authors learned to hide their vanity,
savants to humanize their erudition; wit rubbed elbows with pedigrees;
correct speech was debated and acquired, and conversation became an art.

The Marquise managed these lions and tigers with a tact that
painlessly trimmed their claws. Despite bearing seven children, she
kept her beauty long enough to inspire passion in Voiture and Malherbe,
who, being poets, kindled into flame at every smile; despite these fires
she was respected by all for her fidelity to her dull husband; despite
ill health, she gave her guests an example of good cheer and sprightly
intelligence; despite losing two sons to death and three daughters to
religion, she silenced her melancholy till she wrote her epitaph. In an
age of sexual license and untamed speech she spread about her a
contagion of manners and decency. Good taste -- 'bon ton', good tone --
became a passport to her salon. Marshals and poets left their swords
and shafts in the vestibule; politeness turned the edge of difference;
discussion flourished, dispute was banned.

At last the refinement was carried to excess. The Marquise drew up
a code of correctness in speech and deed; those who practiced it too
precisely were called 'precieux' or 'precieuses'; and in 1659, when the
Marquise was retired and solitary, Moliere pounced upon these fanciful
residues of her art and finished them off with ridicule. But even the
excess had its use; the precieuses helped to clear the meaning and
connotations of words and phrases, to cleanse the language of
provincialisms, bad grammar, and pedantry; here in germ was the French
Academy. In the Hotel de Rambouillet Malherbe, Conrart, and Vaugelas
developed those principles of literary taste that led to Boileau and the
classic age. The precieuses contributed to that analysis of the
passions which elongated the romances and lured Descartes and Spinoza;
they helped to embroider the relations of the sexes with that strategy
of retreat, and consequent idealization of the elusive treasure, which
made for romantic love. Through this and the later salons French
history became more than ever bi-sexual. The status of women rose;
their influence increased in literature, language, politics, and art.
The respect for knowledge and intellect increased, and the sense of
beauty spread.

But would the salons and the Academy have made Rabelais impossible?
Would they have closed the French mind to the gay physiology, the easy
ethic, the proliferating pedantry of Montaigne? Or would they have
forced and raised these geniuses to a subtler and higher art?

[We have gone too far forward. Montaigne was twenty-six years dead
when Mme. de Rambouillet opened her salon. Let us turn back in our
course and listen for an hour to the greatest writer and thinker of
France in this age...]

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 7: "The Age of Reason Begins"
Chapter 16, France Beneath the Wars: 1559-1643
pages 393-398
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-02 19:58:33 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 245 lines ]

Germany Before Thirty Years of War

by Will and Ariel Durant

... Germany was a confusion within a complexity: not a nation
but a name, a medley of principalities agreeing in language and
economy, but jealously diverging in customs, government, currencies, and
creeds. In the sixteenth century Germany was divided into seven
administrative "circles":

1. Franconia, including Wurzburg, Bamberg, and Bayreuth.

2. Bavaria, including Munich, Regensburg (Ratisbon), and

3. Swabia, including Baden, Stuttgart, Augsburg, and the
duchy of Wurttemberg.

4. Upper Rhine, including Frankfurt am Main, Cassel,
Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, the county of Nassau, the
landgraviate of Hesse, the duchy of Lorraine, and part of

5. Lower Rhine, including Westphalia, Julich and Cleves, the
Palatinate, and the archbishoprics of Cologne, Trier, and

6. Lower Saxony, including Mecklenburg, Bremen, Magdeburg,
and the duchies of Brunswick-Luneburg and Holstein.

7. Upper Saxony, including Leipzig, Berlin, the duchy of West
Pomerania, and the electorates of Saxony and Brandenburg.

Each of these units acknowledged no superior except the emperor, and
ignored him fifty weeks in the year. Some foreigners found consolation
in this division of Germany; "If it were entirely subject to one
monarchy," wrote Sir Thomas Overbury in 1609, "it would be terrible to
all the rest" of Europe. Even for Germany it was in many ways a
pleasant arrangement. It weakened her in political and military
competition with unified states, but it gave her a local liberty, a
religious and cultural variety that the Germans might reasonably prefer
to such centralized and exhausting autocracies as those of Philip II in
Spain and Louis XIV in France. Here was no tyrannical pullulating Paris
sucking the lifeblood of a country, but a galaxy of famous cities each
of which had its own character and vitality.

Despite this kaleidoscope of great towns and petty courts, Germany
no longer enjoyed the economic ascendancy that she had held in northern
Europe before Luther. The discovery of an all-water route from Western
Europe to India, and the opening of the Atlantic to trade, had benefited
first Portugal and Spain, then England and the Netherlands; they had
injured Italy, which had formerly dominated trade with the East; and the
German rivers and towns that had carried commerce from Italy to the
north shared in the Italian decline. On the North Sea the ports of the
Netherlands, on the Baltic those of Denmark and Poland, took most of the
trade and the fees. The Hanseatic League had long since lost its old
ascendancy. Lubeck was ruined in its long war with Sweden (1563-70).
Only Frankfurt am Main retained its prosperity; its annual fair
continued to be the best-attended in Europe, and made the city the
center of Germany's domestic trade and international finance.

Money was as popular as ever. Edicts forbidding interest rates
above 5 per cent were evaded everywhere. "The godless vice of usury,"
said a priest in 1585, "is practiced more zealously now by the
Christians than formerly by the Jews." An "unchristian love of gold,"
complained a preacher in 1581, "has seized upon everybody and all
classes. Whoever has anything to stake, instead of engaging in honest
and strenuous work ... thinks to grow rich ... by all sorts of
speculation, money dealing, and usurious contracts." Hundreds of
working people invested their savings with the Fuggers, the Welsers, or
the Hochstetters, and were wiped out in repeated bankruptcies. In 1572
the banking firm of Loitz Brothers went bankrupt after gathering great
sums from simple investors, who now lost their savings, even their
homes. The Fuggers were ruined by the bankruptcies of Philip II and
Alva, whom they had helped to finance. The Welsers failed in 1614,
owing 586,000 gulden. Perhaps fear of inflation had driven people into
such investments, for nearly every German prince stole from his people
by debasing the currency, and counterfeiters and coin clippers abounded.
By 1600 all German currencies were in a disgraceful chaos.

Population rose while production lagged, and misery verged on
revolution. In all but Saxony and Bavaria the peasants were driven into
serfdom. In Pomerania, Brandenburg, Schleswig, Holstein, and
Mecklenburg serfdom was established by law in or soon after 1616. "In
what German land," asked a writer in 1598, "does the German peasant
still enjoy his old rights? Where does he have any use or profit of the
common fields, meadows, or forests? Where is there any limit to the
number of feudal services or dues? Where has the peasant his own
tribunal? God have pity on him!" Many peasants went to work in the
bowels of the earth, but the profits and real wages of mining declined
as American silver entered Germany to compete with metal laboriously
extracted from exhausted lodes. In the towns the old guild comradeship
gave place to the exploitation of journeymen (day laborers) by masters.
In some industries the working day began at 4 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m.,
with "breaks for beer"; the braziers' guild exacted a ninety-two-hour
week in 1573. As early as 1579 we hear of strikes against textile
machinery in Germany. Only war was needed to make destitution

Morals and Manners

If we believe the moralists of this half century before the war, the
moral picture was as dark as the economic. Teachers complained that the
youngsters sent to them were not Christians but barbarians. "The people
bring up their children so badly," wrote Matthias Bredenbach in 1557,
"that it becomes obvious to the poor schoolmasters ... that they have
got to reckon ... with wild animals." "All discipline appears at an
end," said another in 1561; "the students are refractory and insolent in
the extreme." In most university towns the citizens hesitated to go out
at night for fear of the students, who on some occasions attacked them
with open knives. "A chief cause of the general depravity of the
students," said Nathan Chytransin in 1578, "is undoubtedly the decline
in home training.... Now that we have slipped the yoke of ancient laws
and statutes from off our necks ... it is no wonder that we find, among
the larger part of our young people, such unbridled licentiousness, such
boorish ignorance, such ungovernable insolence, such terrible
godlessness." Others thought that "not the least among the causes why
the young lapse into immorality and lasciviousness are the comedies,
spectacles, and plays."

As for adults, the preachers described them as quarrelsome
hypocrites, gluttons, drunkards, and adulterers. Pastor Johann Kuno
complained in 1579, "Vice of all sorts is now so common that it is
committed without shame, nay, people even boast of it in sodomitish
fashion; the coarsest, the most indecent sins have become virtues....
Who regards common whoredom any longer as a sin?" Pastor Bartholomaus
Ringwalt thought in 1585 that those were "the last and worst times which
have come upon the world." Profanity was almost universal among the
men, regardless of creed. Calumny had a festival. "My superintendent,"
wrote the Count of Oldenburg in 1594, "has complained to me of the
manner in which Dr. Pezel, at Bremen, has abused and slandered him in
one of his books, making out that he spent his days in gluttony,
drunkenness and debauchery, that he ... was a sheep-devouring wolf, a
serpent, a he-goat, an abortion, ... and that he must be gotten rid of
either by hanging, drowning, or imprisonment, by the wheel or by the
sword." The court preacher of the Elector of Saxony found that "almost
throughout the length and breadth of Germany it has been falsely
reported that I earn large gilded goblets in drinking matches, that ...
I so fill myself with wine that ... I have to be propped up and laid on
a wagon and carted off like a drunken calf or sow."

Eating and drinking were major industries. Half the day of a well-
to-do German was consumed in passing edibles from one end of his anatomy
to the other. Burghers were proud of their appetites, which, like the
dress of their women, served as heralds of their prosperity. A circus
performer earned national fame by eating at one meal a pound of cheese,
thirty eggs, and a large loaf of bread -- after which stint he fell
dead. Dinners lasting seven hours, with fourteen toasts, were not
unusual. Weddings were in many cases riots of gourmandizing and
intoxication. A jovial prince signed his letters "Valete et
inebriamini" (Be well and get drunk). Elector Christian II of Saxony
drank himself to death at the age of twenty-seven. A temperance society
struggled against the evil, but its first president died of drink. It
was asserted that gluttony was shortening the tenure of life. Said
Erasmus Winter in 1599: "Owing to immoderate eating and drinking there
are now few old people, and we seldom see a man of thirty or forty who
is not affected by some sort of disease, either stone, gout, cough,
consumption, or what not."

We must not take these contemporary complaints too seriously.
Probably the majority of the people were hard-working, long-suffering,
and literally God-fearing folk; but in history, as in journalism, virtue
makes no news -- which proves it usual. The wives of the burghers lived
in a modest domestic privacy, absorbed in a hundred duties that left no
time for greater sins than gossip; and many women of the upper classes,
like Anna, wife of Elector Augustus I of Saxony, were models of
conscientious devotion to their families. There were some pleasant
aspects in that turbulent Germany: love of children and home, generous
hospitality, gay dancing and good music, jolly games and festivals. The
first Christmas tree in recorded history was part of a celebration in
Germany in 1605; it was the Germans who surrounded the Feast of the
Nativity with picturesque relics of their pagan past.

Dances and folk songs were begetting forms of instrumental music,
and hymns were growing into massive chorales. Organs became monuments
of architecture; harpsichords, lutes, and other instruments were
themselves products of loving art; hymnbooks, especially in Bohemia,
were sometimes gorgeously adorned. Protestant hymns were often didactic
or polemical, sacrificing the tenderness of medieval sacred song, but
the Protestant chorales were already pointing to Johann Sebastian Bach.
Musical instruction was compulsory in the schools of all the creeds; the
"cantor" -- i.e., the professor of music -- ranked only after the rector
or principal in the scholastic hierarchy. Organists were as famous then
as pianists now; Jakob Handl held high repute in Prague, and the Hassler
brothers -- Hans, Kaspar, and Jakob -- thrilled congregations, often
with their own compositions, in Dresden, Nuremberg, and Prague. Musical
ability tended to run in families, not through any mystical heredity,
but through the contagion of the home; so a veritable host of Schultzes
took the name Praetorius. Michael Praetorius composed not only tomes of
music, but also, in his 'Syntagma musicum' (1615-20), a thorough and
scholarly encyclopedia of musical history, instruments, and forms.

The great name in this age and field was Heinrich Schutz,
unanimously honored as the father of modern German music. Born to a
Saxon family in 1585, exactly a century before Bach and Handel, he
established the musical forms and spirit that these men brought to
perfection. At twenty-four he went to Venice, where he studied under
Giovanni Gabrieli. Returning to Germany, he hesitated between music and
law, but finally settled down as director of music at the Dresden court
of John George, Elector of Saxony. From 1618 onward he poured forth
choral compositions which, in their manipulation and contrast of choirs,
solo voices, and instruments, fully prepared for the many Bachs. Now
for the first time heavy German choral counterpoint was fused and
lightened with the more melodious "concerted" style, which combined
voices and instruments. To celebrate the marriage of the Elector's
daughter (1627), Schutz composed the first German opera, 'Dafne', based
upon Peri's opera of the same name performed in Florence thirty-three
years before. A second trip to Italy influenced Schutz to give further
prominence to solos and instruments in his 'Symphoniae sacrae' (1629),
setting to music Latin texts from the Psalms and the Song of Songs. In
1631 Saxony became an active theater of war, and Schutz wandered from
court to court, even to Denmark, seeking choirs and bread; not till 1645
was he re-established in Dresden. In that year he created the style of
German Passion music with an oratorio, 'The Seven Words from the Cross';
here he set the example of giving the words of a single character to the
same single voice, and of preceding or following the voice with the same
strains in the instruments; Bach adopted this method in 'The St. Matthew
Passion'. Again opening up new paths, Schutz published in 1657
'Deutsche Concerten' -- cantatas that place him with Carissimi as joint
founder of the dramatic oratorio. His 'Christmas Oratorio' (1664) set
another mark for Bach to aim at. A year later he reached his zenith
with 'The Passion and Death of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ',
sternly scored for voices alone and unrelieved with arias. Soon
thereafter he lost his hearing. He retired to the solitude of his home,
and died at eighty-seven after putting to music a passage from the 119th
Psalm: "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage."

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 7: "The Age of Reason Begins"
Chapter 21, Imperial Armageddon
pages 542-547
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-02 20:03:42 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 109 lines ]

Germany After Thirty Years of War

by Will and Ariel Durant

... Every year seemed now to bring new blows to the new Emperor. In
1643 his ally Spain was broken by the victory of the Duke of Enghien at
Rocroi; in 1644 Enghien and Turenne conquered the Rhineland as far north
as Mainz; in 1645 Torstensson again swept down almost to the gates of
Vienna, the French won a bloody battle at Allerheim, and a Swedish army
under Count Hans Christoph von Konigsmarck overran Saxony, took Leipzig,
and forced John George out of the war. The Bavarian army had been
driven out of the Palatinate in 1634; in 1646 Turenne invaded and
devastated Bavaria itself, and the once proud Maximilian sued for peace
and begged the Emperor to come to terms with France. Ferdinand III, not
as somberly inflexible as his father, and hearing the cry of the
prostrate Empire, sent his ablest negotiators to Westphalia to seek some
compromise between the faiths and the dynasties.

He was too young to know that the carnage and the desolation were
probably greater than men had ever wrought in one generation in any land
before. There were not two armies but six -- German, Danish, Swedish,
Bohemian, Spanish, French; armies manned largely by mercenaries or
foreigners having no attachment to the German people or soil or history,
and led by military adventurers fighting for any faith for a fee; armies
fed by appropriating the grains and fruits and cattle of the fields,
quartered and wintering in the homes of the people, and recompensed with
the right to plunder and the ecstasy of killing and rape. To massacre
any garrison that had refused to surrender, after surrender had become
inevitable, was a principle accepted by all combatants. Soldiers felt
that civilians were legitimate prey; they shot at their feet in the
streets, conscripted them as servants, kidnaped their children for
ransom, fired their haystacks and burned their churches for fun. They
cut off the hands and feet of a Protestant pastor who resisted the
wrecking of his church; they tied priests under wagons, forcing them to
crawl on all fours till they fainted with exhaustion. The right of a
soldier to rape was taken for granted; when a father asked for justice
against a soldier who had raped and killed his daughter, he was informed
by the commanding officer that if the girl had not been so stingy with
her virginity she would still be alive.

Despite the spreading promiscuity, the population of Germany rapidly
declined during the war. The decline has been exaggerated and was
temporary, but it was catastrophic. Moderate estimates reckon a fall,
in Germany and Austria, from 21,000,000 to 13,500,000. Count von Lutzow
calculated a reduction of population in Bohemia from 3,000,000 to
800,000. Of 35,000 villages existing in Bohemia in 1618, some 29,000
were deserted during the conflict. Throughout the Empire hundreds of
villages were left without a single inhabitant. In some regions one
might travel sixty miles without seeing a village or a house. Of 1,717
houses standing in nineteen Thuringian villages in 1618 only 627 stood
in 1649, and many of these were untenanted.

Thousands of fertile acres were left untilled for lack of men, draft
animals, or seed, or because peasants had no assurance that they could
reap where they had sown. Crops were used to feed armies, and what
remained was burned to prevent the feeding of foes. Peasants in many
localities were reduced to eating hidden remnants or dogs, cats, rats,
acorns, grass; some dead were found with grass in their mouths. Men and
women competed with ravens and dogs for the flesh of dead horses. In
Alsace hanged offenders were torn from the gallows to be eagerly
devoured; in the Rhineland exhumed bodies were sold for food; at
Zweibrucken a woman confessed to having eaten her child. Transportation
was too disrupted to let a local surplus feed a distant drought; roads
were torn up with battle, or dangerous with brigands, or clogged with
deserters and fugitives.

The towns suffered only less than the villages. Many of them were
reduced to half their former population. Great cities were in ruins --
Magdeburg, Heidelberg, Wurzburg, Neustadt, Bayreuth. Industry declined
for lack of producers, purchasers, and trade; commerce hid its head;
once-wealthy merchants begged and robbed for bread. Communes, declaring
themselves bankrupt, repudiated their debts. Financiers were loath to
lend, fearing that loans would be gifts. Taxation impoverished
everybody but generals, tax collectors, prelates, and kings. The air
was poisonous with refuse and offal and carcasses rotting in the
streets. Epidemics of typhus, typhoid, dysentery, and scurvy ran
through the terrified population and from town to town. Spanish troops
passing through Munich left a plague that in four months carried off
10,000 victims. The arts and letters that had ennobled the cities
withered in the heat of war.

Morals and morale alike collapsed. The fatalism of despair invited
the cynicism of brutality. All the ideals of religion and patriotism
disappeared after a generation of violence; simple men now fought for
food or drink or hate, while their masters mobilized their passions in
the competition for taxable lands and political power. Here and there
some humane features showed: Jesuits gathering and feeding deserted
children; preachers demanding of governments an end to bloodshed and
destruction. "God send that there may be an end at last," wrote a
peasant in his daybook. "God send that there may be peace again. God
in heaven, send us peace."

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 7: "The Age of Reason Begins"
Chapter 21, Imperial Armageddon
pages 566-568
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-09 22:49:52 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 365 lines ]

Court Life under Louis XIV

by Will and Ariel Durant

Manners and Morals

It was an age of strict manners and loose morals. Dress was the
sacrament of status. In the middle classes clothing was almost
puritanically simple -- a black coat modestly covering shirt and
trousers and legs. But in the elite it was magnificent, and more so in
men than in women. Hats were large and soft, with a broad brim trimmed
with gold braid, tilted up on one or three sides, and sporting a plume
of feathers caught in a metal clasp. When Louis came to the throne he
-- and soon the court -- discarded the perukes that had come into style
with his bald father, for the young King's waves of chestnut hair were
too splendid to be concealed; but when, after 1670, his hair began to
thin, he took to wigs; and presently every head of any pretensions, in
France, England, or Germany, was crowned with borrowed and powdered
curls falling to the shoulders or lower, and making all men look alike
except to their bedfellows. Beards were shaved, mustaches were
cherished. Gloves were gauntleted and adorned, and both sexes carried
muffs on cold days. The high ruff was now replaced by the silk cravat,
loosely tied around the neck. The doublet was giving way to a long and
ornamented vest; the thighs were graced with 'culottes' -- trousers
ending at the knees, and buckled or ribboned there; and these garments
were covered, except in front, by a swirling coat whose sleeves ended in
large cuffs trimmed with lace. By law only nobles were permitted to
deck their raiment with gold embroidery or precious stones, but moneyed
men of any class overrode the law. Stockings were usually of silk.
Male feet were shod in boots, even for a dance.

The dress of courtly women was free and flowing to accord with their
morals. Their bodices were laced, but in front, as Panurge had urged in
Rabelais, and swelling bosoms leaped to the roving eye. Farthingales
and puffed sleeves went out with Richelieu. Robes were richly
embroidered and gaily colored; entrancing high-heeled shoes covered
tired feet; and hair was daintily beribboned, bejeweled, perfumed, and
curled. The first fashion magazine appeared in 1672.

Manners were stately, though under the flourish of the saluting hat
and trailing skirt many crudities remained. Men spat on floors, and
urinated on the stairways of the Louvre. Humor could be brutal or
obscene. But conversation was elegant and polite, even when dealing
with physiology and sex. Men were learning from women the graces of
conduct and speech; they spoke clearly and correctly, avoided
sententiousness and pedantry, and touched all topics, however profound,
with a light gaiety of spirit and phrase. To dispute earnestly was bad
form. Table manners were improving. The King ate with his fingers to
the end of his life, but by that time forks were in general use. About
1660 napkins came into vogue, and guests were no longer expected to wipe
their fingers on the tablecloth.

Social morality was not outstanding in this age of etiquette and
protocol. Charity declined as the wealth of the upper classes grew.
Morals were soundest in the lower middle class, where good behavior was
made possible by security, and stimulated by the desire to rise. In all
classes the ideal was 'l'honnete homme' -- not the honest man, but the
honorable man, who added good breeding and manners to good conduct.
Honesty was hardly expected. Despite Colbert's regulations and royal
espionage, venality in office was widespread, and it was encouraged by
the sale of governmental appointments as a source of public revenue.
Crime sprouted from the greed of the rich, the need of the poor, and the
passionate outbreaks of all classes. So some highborn dames enjoyed the
services of Catherine Monvoisin or the Marquise de Brinvilliers, both
skilled in concocting poisons of lingering subtlety; poisoning was so
popular that special courts were set up to deal with it. Catherine
Monvoisin practiced medicine, midwifery, and witchcraft; she assisted a
renegade priest in celebrating the "Black Mass," soliciting the aid of
Satan; she procured abortion and sold poisons and love potions. Among
her clients were Olympe Mancini, niece of Mazarin, the Comtesse de
Gramont, and Mme. de Montespan, mistress of the King. In 1679 a
commission investigated the activities of "La Voisin," and found
evidence involving so many members high at the court that Louis ordered
suppression of the record. La Voisin was burned alive (1680).

Private morals included the usual aberrations. In law homosexuality
was punishable with death; a nation preparing for war and paying for
babies could not let the sexual instincts be diverted from reproduction;
but it was difficult to pursue such deviates when the King's own brother
was a noted invert, beneath contempt but above the law. Love between
the sexes was accepted as a romantic relief from marriage, but not as a
reason for marriage; the acquisition, protection, or transmission of
property was judged more important in marriage than the attempt to fix
for a lifetime the passions of a day. As most marriages in the
aristocracy were arrangements of property, French society condoned
concubinage; nearly every man who could afford it had a mistress; men
plumed themselves on their liaisons almost as much as on their battles;
a woman felt desolate if no man but her husband pursued her; and some
faithless husbands winked at their wives' infidelities. "Is there in
all the world," asks a character in Moliere, "another town where the
husbands are as patient as here?" It was in this cynical atmosphere
that La Rochefoucauld's maxims grew. Prostitution was despised if it
had no manners, but a woman like Ninon de Lenclos, who gilded it with
literature and wit, could become almost as famous as the King.

Her father was a nobleman, freethinker and duelist. Her mother was
a woman of strict morals but (if we may believe her daughter) "with no
sensory feelings ... She procreated three children, scarcely noticing
it." Without formal education, Ninon picked up considerable knowledge;
she learned to speak Italian and Spanish, perhaps as aids in
international commerce; she read Montaigne, Charron, even Descartes, and
followed her father into skepticism. Later her discussions of religion
made Mme. de Sevigne shudder. "If a man needs a religion to conduct
himself properly in this world," said Ninon, "it is a sign that he has
either a limited mind or a corrupt heart." She might thence have
concluded to the almost universal necessity of religion; instead she
slipped into prostitution at the age of fifteen (1635). "Love," she
said recklessly, "is a passion involving no moral obligation." When
Ninon allowed her promiscuity to be too prominent, Anne of Austria
ordered her confinement in a convent; there, we are told, she charmed
the nuns by her wit and vivacity, and enjoyed her imprisonment as a
restful vacation. In 1657 she was released by order of the King.

There was so much more in her than the courtesan that she soon
enlisted among her devotees many of the most distinguished men in
France, including several members of the court, ranging from the
composer Lully to the Great Conde himself. She played the harpsichord
well, and sang; Lully came to her to try out his new airs. Three
generations of Sevignes were on her list -- the husband, then the son,
then the grandson, of the amiable letter writer. Men came from foreign
lands to court her. Her lovers, she said, "never quarreled over me;
they had confidence in my inconsistency; each awaited his turn."

In 1657 she opened a salon; she invited men of letters, music, art,
politics, or war, and sometimes their wives; and she astonished Paris by
showing an intelligence equal to that of any woman, and most men, of her
time; behind the face of Venus they found the mind of Minerva. Says a
severe judge, Saint-Simon:

It was useful to be received by her, on account of
the connections thus formed. There was never any
gambling there, nor loud laughing, nor disputes, nor
talk about religion or politics, but much elegant wit
... [and] news of gallantries, yet without scandal. All
was delicate, light, measured; and she herself
maintained the conversation by her wit and her great

At last the King himself became curious about her; he asked Mme. de
Maintenon to invite her to the palace; from behind a curtain he listened
to her; charmed, he revealed and introduced himself. But by this time
(1677?) she had become quasi-respectable. Her simple honesty and many
kindnesses gave her a brighter renown; men left large sums, with her for
safekeeping, and could always rely on regaining them at will; and Paris
had noted how, when the poet Scarron was incapacitated by paralysis,
Ninon visited him almost daily, bringing him the delicacies that he
could not afford.

She outlived nearly all her friends, even the nonagenarian Saint-
Evremond, whose letters from England were the consolation of her old
age. "Sometimes," she wrote to him, "I am tired of always doing the
same things, and I admire the Swiss who throw themselves into the river
for that very reason." She resented wrinkles. "If God had to give a
woman wrinkles, He might at least have put them on the soles of her
feet." As she neared death, in her eighty-fifth year, the Jesuits
competed with the Jansenists for the honor of converting her; she
yielded to them graciously, and died in the arms of the Church (1705).
In her will she left only ten ecus for her funeral, "so that it might be
as simple as possible"; but "I humbly request M. Arouet" -- her attorney
-- "to allow me to leave his son, who is at the Jesuits, one thousand
francs for books." The son bought books, read them, and became

It was the crowning charm of French society that the sexual stimulus
extended to the mind, that the women were roused to add intelligence to
beauty, and that the men were tamed by the women to courteous conduct,
good taste, and polished speech; in this regard the century from 1660 to
1760 in France marks the zenith of civilization. In that society
intelligent women were numerous beyond any precedent; and if they were
also attractive in face or figure, or in the solicitude of kindliness,
they became a pervasive civilizing force. The salons were training men
to be sensitive to feminine refinement, and women to be responsive to
masculine intellect. In those gatherings the art of conversation was
developed to an excellence never known before or since -- the art of
exchanging ideas without exaggeration or animosity, but with courtesy,
tolerance, clarity, vivacity, and grace. Perhaps the art was more
nearly perfect under Louis XIV than in the days of Voltaire -- not so
brilliant and witty, but more substantial and friendly. "After dinner,"
wrote Mme. de Sevigne to her daughter, "we went to talk in the most
agreeable woods in the world; we were there till six o'clock, engaged in
various sorts of conversation so kind, so tender, so amiable, so
obliging ... that I am touched to the heart by it." Many men ascribed
nine tenths of their education to such converse and social intercourse.

In the Blue Room at the Hotel de Rambouillet the first of the salons
was in its final glory. Conde came there, though he did not shine;
Corneille came, La Rochefoucauld, Mmes. de La Fayette and de Sevigne,
the Duchesse de Longueville, and La Grande Mademoiselle. There 'les
femmes precieuses' laid down the laws of nice conduct and polished
speech. The Fronde interrupted these gatherings; Mme. de Rambouillet
moved to the country; and though her 'hotel' later reopened its doors to
the genius of France, the premiere of Moliere's 'Les Precieuses
ridicules' (1659) was a mortal blow. The first famous salon ended with
the death of its founder in 1665.

Other salons continued the tradition, in the homes of Mmes. de La
Sabliere, de Lambert, and de Scudery -- the last the most famous
novelist of the reign, the first a woman who attracted men by beauty
despite her love of physics, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. In
such salons flourished the 'femmes savantes' who provoked Moliere's
laughter in 1672. But every satire is a half-truth; in his
philosophical moments Moliere might have recognized the right of women
to share in the intellectual life of their times. It is the women of
France, even more than her writers and artists, who are the crown of her
civilization, and the special glory of her history.

The Court

The King and the court helped to civilize France. The court, in
1664, comprised some six hundred persons: the royal family, the higher
nobility, the foreign envoys, and the servant staff. In the fullness of
Versailles it grew to ten thousand souls, but this included notables in
occasional attendance, all the entertainers and servitors, and the
artists and authors whom the King had singled out for reward. To be
invited to the court became a passion only third to hunger and sex; even
to be there for a day was a memorable ecstasy, worth half a lifetime's

The splendor of the court lay partly in the luxurious furnishings of
the apartments, partly in the dress of the courtiers, partly in the
sumptuous entertainments, partly in the fame of the men and the beauty
of the women drawn there by the magnets of money, reputation, and power.
Some notable women, like Mmes. de Sevigne and de La Fayette, were seldom
seen there, for they had sided with the Fronde; but enough remained to
please a King extremely sensitive to feminine charms. In the portraits
that have come down to us these ladies seem a bit ponderous, overflowing
their corsages; but apparently the men of that time liked an adipose
warmth in their amours.

The morals of the court were decorous adultery, extravagance in
dress and gambling, and passionate intrigues for prestige and place, all
carried on a rhythm of external refinement, elegant manners, and
compulsory gaiety. The King set the fashion of costly dress, especially
in ambassadorial receptions; so in receiving the envoys of Siam he wore
a robe laced with gold and bordered with diamonds, the whole worth
12,500,000 livres; such display was part of the psychology of
government. Nobles and their ladies consumed half the income of their
estates on clothing, lackeys, and equipage; the most modest had to have
eleven servants and two coaches; richer dignitaries had seventy-five
attendants in their household, and forty horses in their stables. When
adultery was no longer prohibited it lost its charm, and gambling at
cards became the chief recreation of the court. Louis again gave the
lead, bidding for high stakes, urged on by his mistress Montespan, who
herself lost and won four million francs in one night's play. The mania
spread from the court to the people. "Thousands ruin themselves in
gambling," wrote La Bruyere; "a frightful game ... in which the player
contemplates the total ruin of his adversary, and is transported with
the lust for gain."

Competition for the royal favor, for a lucrative appointment or a
place in the royal bed, led to an atmosphere of mutual suspicion,
calumny, and tense rivalry. "Every time I fill a vacant post," said
Louis, I make a hundred people discontented, and one ungrateful." There
were quarrels for precedence at table or in attending the King; even
Saint-Simon worried lest the Duc de Luxembourg should walk five steps in
advance of him in a procession, and Louis had to banish three dukes from
court because they refused to yield precedence to foreign princes. The
King laid great stress on protocol, and frowned when, at dinner, he
found an untitled lady seated above a duchess. Doubtless some fixed
order was necessary to keep six hundred beribboned egos from trampling
upon one another's toes, and visitors praised the external harmony of
the enormous entourage. From the palaces, receptions, and
entertainments of the King a code of etiquette, standards of manners and
taste, spread through the upper and middle classes, and became a part of
the European heritage.

To keep all these lords and ladies from being bored into regicide,
artists of every kind were engaged to arrange amusements -- tournaments,
hunts, tennis, billiards, bathing or boating parties, dinners, dances,
balls, masques, ballets, operas, concerts, plays. Versailles seemed
heaven on earth when the King led the court into boats on the canal, and
voices and instruments made music, and torches helped the moon and the
stars to illuminate the scene. And what could be more splendid or more
suffocating than the formal balls, when the Galerie des Glaces reflected
in its massive mirrors the grace and sparkle of men and women in stately
dances under a thousand lights? To celebrate the birth of the Dauphin
(1662) the King arranged a ballet in the square before the Tuileries,
attended by fifteen thousand people. The Commune of 1871 destroyed the
palace, but the site of that famous fete is still called the Place du

Louis loved dancing, praised it as "one of the most excellent and
important disciplines for training the body," and established at Paris
(1661) the Academie Royale de Danse. He himself took part in ballets,
and the nobility followed suit. The composers at his court were kept
busy preparing music for dances and ballets; there the dance suite
developed which was so skillfully used by Purcell in England and the
Bachs in Germany. Not since Imperial Rome had the dance reached such
graceful and harmonious forms.

In 1645 Mazarin imported Italian singers to establish opera in
Paris. The Cardinal's death interrupted this initiation, but when the
King grew up he founded an Academie de l'Opera (1669), and commissioned
Pierre Perrin to present operas in several cities of France, beginning
with Paris in 1671. When Perrin bankrupted himself through excessive
outlays for scenery and machinery, Louis transferred the 'privilege des
academies de musique' to Jean Baptiste Lully, who soon made the whole
court dance to his tunes.

He too was a gift of Italy. The Chevalier de Guise brought him, as
a peasant boy of seven, from Florence to France in 1646 "as a present"
to his niece, La Grande Mademoiselle, who gave him work as an assistant
in her kitchen ('sousmarmiton'). He annoyed his fellow servants by
practicing the violin, but Mademoiselle recognized his talent, and
provided him with an instructor. Soon he was playing in the royal band
of twenty-four violins. Louis took a liking to him, and gave him a
small ensemble to conduct. Through this little string orchestra he
learned to conduct and to compose dance music, songs, violin solos,
cantatas, church music, thirty ballet suites, twenty operas. He became
friendly with Moliere, collaborated with him in several ballets, and
composed 'divertissements' for some of Moliere's plays.

His success as a courtier rivaled his triumphs as a musician. In
1672, through Mme. de Montespan's influence, he succeeded in acquiring a
monopoly on opera in Paris. He found in Philippe Quinault a librettist
who was also a poet. Together they produced a succession of operas that
constituted a revolution in French music. Not only did these
performances delight the court at Versailles, they brought the elite of
Paris to the theater that had been built for Lully in the Rue
St.-Honore, and in such numbers that the street was blocked with
carriages, and patrons in many cases had to get out and walk, often
through mud, lest they miss Act One. Boileau frowned upon opera as an
enervating effeminacy, but the King granted a charter to the Academie de
Musique (1672), and authorized "gentlemen and ladies to sing at the
representations of the said Academy without derogation" to their rank.
Louis raised Lully to the nobility as a secretary to the king; other
secretaries complained that this was too high a post for a musician; but
Louis told Lully, "I have honored them, not you, by placing a man of
genius among them." Everything prospered for Lully till 1687; then,
while conducting, he accidentally struck his foot with the cane that he
used as a baton; the wound, maltreated by a quack, developed gangrene,
and the ebullient composer died at the age of forty-eight. French opera
still feels his influence.

One more name survives from the music of that lordly reign. The
Couperins were another case of heredity in art, contributing composers
to France for two centuries, and ruling from 1650 to 1826 the great
organ in the Church of St.-Gervais. Francois Couperin "le Grand" held
that post for forty-eight years; he was also 'organiste du roi' in the
King's chapel at Versailles, and was the most famous harpsichordist of
the "great century." His compositions for that instrument were closely
studied by Johann Sebastian Bach; and his treatise 'L'Art de toucher le
clavecin' (the French name for the clavichord) influenced the great
German's 'Das wohltemperirte Clavier'. Was music in the Couperin blood,
or only in the Couperin home? Probably it is social, not biological,
heredity that makes civilization.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 8: "The Age of Louis XIV"
Chapter 1, The Sun Rises: 1643-84
pages 27-34
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-09 22:58:39 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 108 lines ]

The English Restoration and Music

by Will and Ariel Durant

The Puritans had nearly obliterated art, but they had not silenced
music. All but the lowliest homes had some musical instruments. Amid
the great fire Pepys noticed virginals on almost every third boat
carrying salvaged goods on the Thames. "Music and women," he wrote, "I
cannot but give way to, whatever my business is"; and he mentions his
flageolet, lute, theorbo, and "viollin" as frequently as his amours.
Everybody in his Diary plays music and sings; he takes it for granted
that his friends can join in part song; he and his wife and their maids
sing in harmony in his garden, and so bearably that neighbors open their
windows to hear them.

In the Restoration jubilation music burst forth in all its forms.
Charles brought in musicians from France, and soon let it be known that
he favored tuneful, cheerful, intelligible compositions that did not
take mathematics for melody. Organs were built again, and rumbled in
the churches of the Establishment; those designed for St. George's
Chapel at Windsor and the cathedral at Exeter were among the wonders and
thunders of the age. But even in church choirs solemnity was replaced
by dramatic displays of instrumental virtuosos and vocal soloists.
Charles II and James II ordered music for odes and masques to celebrate
royal events; churches commissioned music; theaters ventured on opera.
English composers and performers began to eat again.

In 1656 Sir William Davenant persuaded the Protectorate government
to let him reopen a theater on the ground that he would produce not a
play but an opera. The 'First Dayes Entertainment' that he staged was
less an opera than a series of dialogues preceded, interrupted, and
followed by music; but in that same year Davenant presented, in his own
Rutland House, the first English opera, 'The Siege of Rhodes'. The
closing of the theaters by the plague and the fire interfered with these
experiments, but in 1667 the enterprising Davenant offered a musical
adaptation of his alleged father's 'Tempest'. Purcell's 'Dido and
Aeneas' marked the full arrival of opera in England.

As so often in musical history, Henry Purcell's genius was in large
part a product of social heredity -- i.e., adolescent environment. His
father was master of the choristers at Westminster Abbey; his uncle was
"composer in ordinary for the violins to his Majesty"; his brother was a
composer and dramatist, his son and his grandson continued his role as
organist in the Abbey. He himself was allowed only thirty-seven years
of life (1658-95). As a boy he sang in the Chapel Royal till his voice
broke. As a youth he composed anthems that continued to be heard in
English cathedrals for a century. His twelve sonatas (1683), for two
violins and organ or harpsichord, brought the sonata form from Italy to
England. His songs, anthems, cantatas, and chamber music, said Burney,
"so far surpassed whatever our country had produced or imported before,
that all other musical compositions seem to have been instantly
consigned to contempt or oblivion."

Busy with his work as organist and composer, it was not till 1689
that Purcell produced 'Dido and Aeneas', for a select audience at a
girls' school in London. The music, even the famous overture, seems to
us now thin and feeble; we have to remember that opera was still young,
and that audiences did not then have our liking for noise. The final
aria-- Dido's lament, "When I am laid in earth" -- is one of the most
moving airs in the whole history of opera.

'King Arthur' (1691), for which Dryden wrote the words and Purcell
the music, is not quite an opera, since the music seems to have little
relation to the mood or events of the play -- just as the play had
little connection with the Arthurian cycle as we know it in Malory and
Tennyson. A year later Purcell made a further advance with incidental
music for 'The Fairy Queen', an anonymous adaptation of 'A Midsummer
Night's Dream'. He did not live to see it produced; the music was lost,
was discovered in 1901, and is now ranked with Purcell's best.

In 1693 he composed the most elaborate of his many odes for St.
Cecilia's Day. But the finest of these is the joyful 'Te Deum and
Jubilate' of 1694; this was performed annually at the festival of the
Sons of the Clergy till 1713, when it shared the honor with Handel's
'Utrecht Te Deum' in alternate years till 1743. For Queen Mary's
funeral (1695) Purcell wrote a famous anthem, "Thou knowest, Lord, the
secrets of our hearts." In his final years he contributed incidental
music to Dryden's 'Indian Queen'. Apparently he fell sick before he
could complete this, for the music of the concluding masque was provided
by his brother Daniel. He died, probably of consumption, on November
21, 1695.

Despite the vitality of the Restoration, English music had not yet
recovered from the cutting of its Elizabethan traditions by the Puritan
interlude. Instead of rooting itself again in English soil, it followed
the royal lead and bowed to French styles and Italian voices. After
'Dido and Aeneas' the English operatic stage was dominated by Italian
operas sung by Italians. "English music," wrote Purcell in 1690, "is
yet but in its nonage, a forward child, which gives hope of what it may
be hereafter ... when the masters of it shall find more encouragement."

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 8: "The Age of Louis XIV"
Chapter 9, The Restoration
pages 266-268
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-16 18:11:34 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 242 lines ]

Germany Before Bach

by Will and Ariel Durant

The German Soul

The struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism for the soul of
Germany was moderating its violence, for the Thirty Years' War had
brought theological hatreds to a 'reductio ad absurdum'. Largely
through Jesuit persuasion some Protestant princes went over to the Roman
Church in this period. Calvinism gained on Lutheranism, which tended to
a stiff Scholastic dogmatism. Chiefly in reaction to this formalism the
Pietist movement spread, seeking to replace outward observances with an
inner spirit of union with God. In the second half of the seventeenth
century George Fox, William Penn, and Robert Barclay carried their
Quaker gospel to Germany, and perhaps this missionary movement shared in
developing Pietism there; we note that Philipp Jakob Spener's 'Pia
desideria' (1675) appeared four years after Penn's first visit. Spener,
as pastor of a Lutheran church in Frankfurt-am-Main, supplemented its
services with the mystic devotions of private assemblies ('collegia
pietatis') in his home. The name Pietist, like Puritan and Methodist,
was given to these devotees by their critics as a term of ridicule; it
was accepted by them, and became a badge of humble pride. They clung
with fervor to the millenarian hopes that had consoled some of the
German masses during the war. They thought of the Second Advent not as
a vague doctrine of theology, but as a warm and active inspiration of
their daily lives. At any moment now Christ would reappear on earth; he
would still the strife of faiths and end the reign of force and war; he
would establish a purely "spiritual church," without organization,
without ritual, without priests, but practicing with joy a generous
Christianity of the heart.

August Fraticke carried on the movement with the ardor of a prophet.
Many women were touched by his practical Christianity and enlisted in
the cause of personal piety and public charity. Influenced by English
Puritanism and French Quietism, the movement in turn influenced English
Methodism and German poetry, and made itself felt in America, where
Cotton Mather hailed it hopefully: "The world begins to feel a warmth
from the fire of God, which thus flames in the heart of Germany." But
Pietism, like Puritanism, injured itself by making its piety public and
professional, sometimes falling into affectation and cant. In the
eighteenth century it was swamped by the rationalist flood that poured
in from France.

The successes of Richelieu, Mazarin, and Louis XIV, and the growing
wealth and splendor of the French court, had an irresistible influence
upon German society in the century following the Peace of Westphalia.
For a time cosmopolitanism overcame nationalism. French ways dominated
the princely courts in language, literature, liaisons, manners, dances,
art, philosophy, wine, and wigs. The German aristocracy now spoke
German chiefly to servants. German authors wrote in French for the
upper classes or in Latin for the learned world. Leibniz, who wrote
mostly in French, admitted that German "manners have been somewhat
modified toward elegance and politeness" by French example, but mourned
the replacement or infiltration of German speech by the language or
phrases of France.

Only one German book of this age has survived -- the 'Simplicius
Simplicissimus' (1669) of Hans von Grimmelshausen. In form it is the
picaresque episodic autobiography of Melchior von Fuchshaim, who is one-
quarter fool, one-quarter philosopher, and one-half rogue. In spirit it
is a goodhumored but pessimistic satire on the Germany that was left
barely alive after thirty years of war. Melchior begins as the foster
child of a peasant, whose life is described in courtly terms:

Instead of pages, lackeys, and hostlers my sire had
sheep, goats, and pigs, and each waited upon me on the
chase until I drove them home. His armory was well
provided with plows, mattocks, axes, hoes, shovels, dung
forks and hay forks, wherewith he practiced every day,
for hoeing and digging were his 'disciplina militaris';
... drawing out manure was his science of fortification,
holding the plow his strategy, cleaning out the stable
his knightly diversion, his tournament.

A band of soldiers breaks into this peasant paradise, and tortures
the family to make it reveal nonexistent hoards. Melchior escapes and
finds refuge with an old hermit, who gives him his first lessons in
theology. Asked for his name, he answers, "Rascal or scape-gallows,"
for he has never heard himself otherwise addressed; his foster-father's
name, on the same basis, was "clown, ruffian, drunken dog." Captured by
soldiers, he is taken to the court of the governor of Hanau; there he is
trained to be a fool, and is christened Simplicius Simplicissimus. He
is kidnaped, becomes a thief, finds a hidden treasure, becomes a
gentleman, seduces a girl, is forced to marry her, deserts her, becomes
a Catholic, visits the center of the earth, loses his fortune, recoups
it by quackery, wearies of wandering, and retires to lead the life of a
hermit disillusioned with the world. This is 'Candide' a century before
Voltaire, except that its satire is softened with German humor rather
than graced with Gallic wit. The book was condemned by the critics, and
became a classic, the most famous production of German literature
between Luther and Lessing.

We must not take it as a fair picture of Germany in the generation
after the war. The German might be too fond of drink, but he kept his
bubbling good humor even in his cups; his wife might call him a drunken
dog, but she loved him 'faute de mieux', and reared his children
sturdily. Perhaps there was a more wholesome morality in the Germany of
this age than in France. Poor Charlotte Elisabeth, Princess Palatine,
married (1671) against her wishes to "Monsieur" Philippe d'Orleans, the
invert widower of "Madame" Henrietta, never forgot the cool loveliness
of Heidelberg; and after forty-three years of uncomfortable living with
the comforts of the French court, she still longed for "a good dish of
sauerkraut and smoked sausages" as far preferable to the coffee, tea, or
chocolate of Paris or Versailles. Her stoic fidelity to her worthless
husband, and her patience with the royal brother-in-law, who ordered or
permitted the devastation of the Palatinate, show us that even amid the
ruins of Germany there were women who could teach decency and humanity
to beribboned, embroidered, periwigged, perfumed kings.

The Arts in Germany

Moreover, and contrary to all reasonable expectations, this age was
one of the most productive in German architecture. It saw the first
flowering of German baroque, which gave a new front of charm and gaiety
to Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Dresden, Bayreuth, Wurzburg, and Vienna. It was
the time of builders like Johann Fischer von Erlach, Jakob Prandtauer,
Johann and Kilian and Cristoph Dientzenhofer, and Andreas Schluter,
whose names would be as well known to English-speaking peoples as those
of Wren and Inigo Jones, were it not for the prison of frontiers and the
babel of tongues. Some of their work, however, was destroyed in the
invasions of Germany by French armies (1689), and some in the Second
World War. History is a race between art and war.

Some lovely churches rose amid the poverty and desolation. We
should dishonor our record if we found no line for Johann
Dientzenhofer's cathedral at Fulda or his abbey church at Banz, or for
the work of Christoph and Kilian Dientzenhofer on the churches of St.
Nicholas and St. John in Prague. In 1663 the Italian architect Agostino
Barelli began the Nymphenburg Palace outside Munich, and Joseph Effner
completed its interior in a successful merger of classic pilasters and
baroque decoration. Ornament was the besetting temptation of baroque;
it went to excess in the Festsaal, or Festival Salon, of the Schloss
Berlin, and in the pavilion of the Zwinger Palace built at Dresden by
Matthaus Daniel Poppelmann for Augustus the Strong; here baroque passed
into a pretty rococo rather befitting a boudoir interior than a palace
front. This was mostly destroyed in the Second World War; so were the
Schloss Charlottenburg and the Schloss Berlin, the royal palace begun by
Andreas Schluter in 1698.

Schluter was the outstanding German sculptor of the age. All
Germany was thrilled by his equestrian statue of the Great Elector, 'Der
Grosse Kurfurst', which withstood all the bombs of war, and now rides
the Charlottenburg plaza outside Berlin. At Konigsberg Schluter set up
an equally imposing figure of Frederick I, just made King of Prussia.
Julius Glessker carved a quietly mourning 'Head of Mary' for a
Crucifixion group in the cathedral at Bamberg. The wood carvers showed
their skill in the magnificent choir stalls of the 'Klosterkirche' in
Silesia, but they went to excess in the extravagantly carved furniture
demanded by patrons who had more pride than taste.

German painting begot no masterpieces in this period, unless we
count as such a charming 'Young Man with a Gray Hat' by Christoph
Paradiso. The tapestries designed for the Wurzburg Palace by Rudolf
Byss are among the finest; and Paul Decker's engravings in copper were
near the top of their kind. The little town of Warmbrunn -- the Warm
Springs of Silesia -- was famous for its cut glass; Dresden made
"Dresden china" fashionable; Augustus the Strong was also 'le roi de
faience'; and at Meissen, suitable clays having been found nearby, he
established (1709) the kilns that produced the first hard porcelain in

But it is in music that the German spirit found its most
characteristic expression; this, so to speak, was the eve of Johann
Sebastian Bach. The forms and instruments came from Italy, but the
Germans poured into them their own tender sentiment and massive piety,
so that while Italy excelled in melody and France in graceful rhythm,
Germany moved toward primacy in lieder, organ music, and chorales. In
G. F. Krieger's '12 Suonate a due Violini' (1688) the sonata sequence is
already established in three movements -- allegro, largo, and presto.
Instrumental music, rising out of dance forms (pavan, saraband, gavotte,
gigue, etc.), was declaring its independence of both dance and voice.

Italian musicians were still in demand in Germany. Cavalli reigned
in Munich, as Vivaldi later in Darmstadt. Italian opera was imported,
and had its first performance in Germany at Torgau (1627); others
followed at Regensburg, Vienna, and Munich. The first German opera,
called a 'Singspiel', was Johann Theile's 'Adam und Eva', produced at
Hamburg in 1678; from that time, for half a century, Hamburg held the
leadership in German opera and drama. There Handel brought out his
'Almira' and 'Nero' in 1705, and his 'Daphne' and 'Florinda' in 1706,
before going to conquer England. The great name in the German opera of
this period is Reinhard Keiser, who produced 116 operas for the Hamburg

After 1644 German composers won pre-eminence from the Italians in
compositions for the organ and the church. The hymns of Paul Gerhardt
expressed his uncompromising Lutheranism. Jan Reinken dominated the
organ in the Katherinenkirche at Hamburg from 1663 till his death at the
age of ninety-nine in 1722. Dietrich Buxtehude, born in Denmark, became
organist in the Marienkirche at Lubeck in 1668; his performances there,
and especially his 'Abendmusik' concerts for organ, orchestra, and
chorus, were so renowned that in 1705 the great Bach walked fifty miles
from Arnstadt to Lubeck to hear him play. Nearly seventy of his
compositions for the organ have survived; many are still performed; and
his chorales shared in forming Johann Sebastian's style. Johann Kuhnau
preceded Bach as organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig; he developed
the sonata for the clavier, and composed 'Partien' of the same type as
Bach's suites.

The Bach family was now entering upon the musical scene in
bewildering profusion. We know of some four hundred Bachs between 1550
and 1850: all musicians, sixty of them holding important posts in the
musical world of their time. They formed a kind of family guild,
meeting periodically at their headquarters in Eisenach, Arnstadt, or
Erfurt. They constitute unquestionably the most extensive and
remarkable dynasty in cultural history, impressive not merely by their
number, but by devotion to their art, by a typically Germanic steadiness
of purpose, and by their productivity and influence. They do not come
prominently into musical annals until their fifth generation, with
Johann Christoph and Johann Michael Bach, sons of Heinrich Bach,
organist at Arnstadt. Johann Christoph was chief organist at Eisenach
for thirty-eight years: a simple, serious, painstaking man who trained
choirs and composed for organ and for orchestra. His brother Johann
Michael became organist at Gehren in 1673, remained there till his death
in 1694, and gave his fifth daughter to be the first wife of Johann
Sebastian. Heinrich's brother Christoph Bach, organist at Welmar, had
twin sons who were violinists; one of them, Ambrosius, was Johann
Sebastian's father. Johann Bach, brother of Heinrich and Christoph, was
organist at Erfurt from 1647 till 1673, when he was succeeded by his son
Johann Christian Bach, who in 1682 was succeeded by his brother Johann
Egidius Bach. All the forces of nature seem to have been directed to
produce and prepare Johann Sebastian Bach.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 8: "The Age of Louis XIV"
Chapter 14, The Changing Empire
pages 415-420
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-16 18:23:24 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 189 lines ]

From Monteverdi to Scarlatti

by Will and Ariel Durant

In that gay society of seventeenth-century Italy music was the note
and air of life. A passionate people, kept in unwilling peace by Spain
and the papacy, waged wars in operas, and fought love combats in

Musical instruments took a hundred forms. The organ was now an
embellished bellows with two keyboards for the hands and one for the
feet, plus diverse stops; and of course there were "portative" organs
for the street. As early as 1598 we hear of another keyboard
instrument, called 'piano e forte', which was listed as owned and played
by Duke Alfonso II at Modena; but how far this differed from the
'clavicembalo' (harpsichord) and the 'spinetta' is still a mystery. A
century passes before we hear of the pianoforte again. In 1709
Bartolommeo Cristofori, instrument maker to the music-loving Prince
Ferdinand de' Medici at Florence, displayed what he called a
"gravicembalo col piano e forte." This differed slightly and yet
vitally from the harpsichord: the note was sounded by a little hammer
rising to strike a string, and the sound could be made low or loud by
varying the touch of the fingers on the key -- whereas in previous
keyboard instruments the note had been produced by a plectrum (of quill
or hard leather) rising to pluck the string, and no variation was
possible in the force of the sound. [* One of Cristofori's pianofortes,
dated 172O, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.] The
pianoforte slowly replaced the harpsichord in the eighteenth century,
not only because it could play "soft and loud," but because the hammers
wore out less rapidly than the plectra.

The violin had evolved out of the lyre in the sixteenth century,
chiefly at Brescia. [* Wlodzimierz Kaminski in 1961 claimed to have
found descriptions of the violin in fourteenth-century Polish
manuscripts -- Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1961.] Andrea Amati had
brought the art of violinmaking to Cremona, and there his grandson
Nicolo surpassed all rivals in the craft until he himself was excelled
by his pupils Andrea Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari. The Guarneri too
were a dynasty: Andrea and his sons Pietro "de Mantua" and Giuseppe I,
his grandson Pietro II "de Venezia," and his grandnephew Giuseppe II
"del Gesu' -- who made the violin preferred by Paganini to all others.
The oldest violin signed by Stradivari is dated 1666, when he was
twenty-two years old; it was labeled ANTONIUS STRADIVARIUS CREMONENSIS
ALUMNUS NICOLI AMATI FACIEBAT ANNO 1666, followed by his personal symbol
-- a Maltese cross and his initials, A.S., enclosed in a double circle.
Later he signed himself with proud simplicity "Stradivarius." He worked
incessantly, ate frugally, lived ninety-three years, and amassed such a
fortune by the superior beauty, construction, tone, and finish of his
instruments that 'ricco come Stradivari' became Cremonese for opulence.
He is known to have made 1,116 violins, violas, and violoncellos; 540 of
his violins exist today; some have sold for ten thousand dollars. The
secret of his varnish has been lost.

The improvement in instruments encouraged the development of the
orchestra, and the composition and performance of instrumental music.
Composers and virtuosos discovered in the violin a flexibility of
movement and range of tone impossible for the human voice; they could
run up and down the chromatic scale with literally ineffable ease; they
could build and frolic with variations; they could escape from the
grooves of melody and launch upon new rhythms, evolutions, and
experiments. When many instruments were combined the composition could
be freed from the dance as well as from song, and could mount on its own
wings in new sequences, combinations, and forms. Tommaso Vitali led the
way with violin sonatas of unprecedented richness of invention, and
helped to establish the progression of quick, slow, and lively
movements. Arcangelo Corelli, as composer and virtuoso, prepared for
eighteenth-century chamber music with his sonatas for the violin; he and
Vitali in Italy, Kuhnau and Heinrich von Biber in Germany, gave
structure and form to the sonata as a piece to be 'sounded' by
instruments only, in contrast to cantatas as compositions to be sung by
the voice. It was Corelli who set the form of the 'concerto grosso' --
two violins and one violoncello leading an orchestra of strings -- with
such simple and melodious productions as his 'Christmas Concerto'
(1712); so he opened a path for the concertos of Vivaldi and Handel and
the suites of Bach. Corelli's compositions retained their popularity so
far into the eighteenth century that Burney, writing about 1780, thought
their fame would endure "as long as the present system of music shall
continue to delight the ears of mankind."

As Corelli was now the favorite composer for the violin, so
Alessandro Stradella, with solos, duets, trios, and oratorios, dominated
the vocal music of this age. His life itself was a music drama, and has
been made into a play and an opera. As a teacher of singing at Venice
he achieved a tragic success. One of his aristocratic pupils, Ortensia,
though affianced to the Venetian senator Alvise Contarini, eloped with
Alessandro to Rome. The senator sent assassins to slay them. These
sensitive cutthroats, hearing him sing the leading part in his "Oratorio
di San Giovanni Battista" in the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano,
were so touched by the music that (so the story avers) they abandoned
their assignment and warned Stradella and his mistress to seek some safe
obscurity. The lovers fled to Turin, but soon Alessandro became
dangerously famous there by his compositions and his voice. Contarini
sent two unmusical ruffians to kill him; they attacked him, and left him
for dead. He recovered, married Ortensia, and moved with her to Genoa.
There the senatorial hirelings found them, and stabbed them both to
death (1682). The oratorio that allegedly saved his life remained
popular for a century, and prepared the way for Handel.

Opera had by this time become a craze in Italy. Venice alone had
sixteen opera houses in 1699, and heard nearly a hundred different
operas between 1662 and 1680. The melodious spectacle was only slightly
less fashionable in Naples. In Rome it symbolized the advancing
secularization of music; Clement IX himself, before his elevation to the
papacy, composed some musical comedies. There was a temporary decline
in the quality of Italian opera after Monteverdi; the plots lost in
dignity and significance, but gained in absurdity and violence.
Francesco Cavalli, a pupil of Monteverdi, developed the solo aria as the
most delectable feature of the performance; soon the audiences demanded
a succession of dramatic airs, and bore the intervals impatiently.
Castrated boys or men took many soprano or contralto parts, but prima
donnas now began to rival queens. Milton addressed Latin lyrics to
Leonora Baroni, and Naples turned out en masse to welcome Leonora's
mother, Adriana Basile, the most thrilling soprano of her time. Stage
machinery probably reached its 'ne plus ultra', in this age: in
seventeenth-century Venice, according to Molmenti, the Theater of San
Cassiano could show on demand a royal palace, a forest, an ocean,
Olympus, and heaven; and in one case a ballroom, fully illuminated, with
all its furniture and dancers, was suspended over the permanent stage,
and was lowered to it, or raised out of view, as the story required.
Marcantonio Cesti sought to rescue opera from the aria; he gave more
scope and prominence to the overture, more logic and sobriety to the
story, and varied the singing with recitative. Both Cesti and Corelli
were musical missionaries, bringing Italian opera the one to Paris under
Louis XIV, the other to Vienna under Leopold I. Operatically Europe
north of the Alps was an Italian colony.

The dominant figure in the composition of operas was now Alessandro
Scarlatti. His son Domenico, has crowded out the father in current
repute, but until recently "Scarlatti" meant Alessandro, and Domenico
was an arpeggio to a famous name. Born in Sicily (1659), Alessandro
came to Rome when he was thirteen, studied for a while under Carissimi,
composed cantatas, was stirred by the work and career of Stradella, and,
at the age of twenty, produced his first known opera, 'L'errore
innocente'. Christina of Sweden liked it, took Alessandro under her
wing, and produced his next operas in her private theater. In 1684 he
accepted appointment as 'maestro di cappella' to the Spanish Viceroy at
Naples. He remained there for eighteen years, producing operas in such
rapid succession that by the time of his death they numbered at least
114, of which only half survive. It was probably in this period that
Solimena painted the remarkable portrait that hangs in the Naples
Conservatorio di Musica -- a slender face, all sensitivity,
concentration, and resolution.

The War of the Spanish Succession disturbed Naples, and threw
Scarlatti's salary so far in arrears that he removed to Florence with
his wife and family, and composed and produced operas under the
patronage of Prince Ferdinand. A year later he passed to Rome as
'maestro di cappella' to Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a gay and
accomplished ecclesiastic who had succeeded Christina as center and
patron of the arts in Rome, and who divided his profane energies among
art, literature, music, and mistresses. In 1707 Alessandro went to
Venice, where he produced his masterpiece, 'Mitridate Eupatore', an
opera distinguished by complete absence of love interest. In that year
Naples came under Austrian rule; the new Viceroy invited Scarlatti to
return to his former post; he agreed, and spent there the next decade of
his life, at the zenith of his fame.

His operas set a style that endured for half a century. Scarlatti
made the overture a substantial composition unconnected with the opera,
and divided it into three movements that remained standard till Mozart:
allegro, adagio, and allegro. To the aria he gave its typical
eighteenth-century dominance and its 'da capo' form, in which the third
section repeats the first; he infused it with passion, tenderness, and
romantic coloratura, and made it a vehicle for 'castrato' feats of
virtuosity and improvisation, but its frequency artificially interrupted
the feeling and the action. He resisted for a time the popular demand
for sentimental airs; finally he yielded to it, and for fifty years the
music drama enjoyed a thousand triumphs without producing works capable
of buffeting the tides of taste. Opera declined till Gluck startled it
to new life and form, in Vienna (1762) and Paris, with the haunting
loveliness of 'Orfeo ed Euridice'.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 8: "The Age of Louis XIV"
Chapter 15, The Fallow South
pages 442-445
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-23 19:49:58 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 1018 lines ]

English Music and Handel

by Will and Ariel Durant

The Musicians

It is one of the puzzles of history why England, which has
contributed so richly to economic and political development and theory,
to literature, science, religion, and philosophy, has been relatively
barren in the more complex forms of musical composition since the age of
Elizabeth I. The passage from Catholicism may serve as a partial
explanation: the new faiths offered less inducement to lofty musical
productions; and though Lutheran ritual in Germany and the Anglican in
England called for music, the severer forms of Protestantism in England
and the Dutch Republic gave little encouragement to any music above the
congregational hymn. The legends and liturgy of the Roman Church, often
stressing the joys of faith, were replaced by somber predestinarian
creeds stressing the fear of hell; and only Orpheus could sing in the
face of hell. The madrigals of Elizabethan England died in the Puritan
frost. The Restoration brought a merrier spirit from France, but after
the death of Purcell a pall fell upon English music again.

Except for songs. These ranged from the corporate sonorities of
glee clubs to the airy delicacy of lyrics from Shakespeare's plays. The
word 'glee' was the Anglo-Saxon 'gleo', meaning music; it did not
necessarily imply joy. Usually it was applied to unaccompanied songs
for three or more parts. Glee clubs flourished for a century, reaching
their peak toward 1780 in the heyday of the chief composer of glees,
Samuel Webbe. More beautiful were Thomas Arne's settings for
Shakespeare's songs -- "Blow, blow, thou winter wind," "Under the
greenwood tree," and "Where the bee sucks, there suck I"; these are
still heard in England. It was the melodious Arne who put to music
Thomson's "Rule, Britannia!" Now, or earlier, some unknown patriot
composed the national anthem of Britain, "God Save the King." So far as
we know, this was first publicly sung in 1745, when news came that the
forces loyal to George II had been defeated at Prestonpans by the Scots
under the Young Pretender, and the Hanoverian dynasty seemed doomed. In
its earliest known form (differing only slightly from the current words
and melody), it asked God for victory over the Jacobite faction in
English politics as well as over the Stuart army advancing from

God save our Lord the King,
Long live our noble King [George II],
God save the King.
Send him victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the King.

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter his enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politicks,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On him [now Thee] our hopes are fixed;
O save us all.

The melody was adopted for varying periods by nineteen other countries
for patriotic songs, including Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and the
United States of America, which in 1931 replaced "America" as national
anthem by "The Star-Spangled Banner," sung to an unmanageable tune from
an old English drinking song.

The popularity of exquisite songs in England shows a widespread
musical taste. A harpsichord was in nearly every home except among the
poor. Almost everyone played some instrument, and there were performers
numerous enough to provide, for the Handel commemoration program of 1784
in Westminster Abbey, ninety-five violins, twenty-six violas, twenty-one
violoncellos, fifteen double basses, six flutes, twenty-six oboes,
twelve trumpets, twelve horns, six trombones, and four drums, plus a
choir of fifty-nine sopranos, forty-eight altos, eighty-three tenors,
and eighty-four basses -- enough to make Handel tremble in his Abbey
tomb. The clarinet was not admitted till later in the century. There
were magnificent organs, and great organists like Maurice Greene, whose
anthems and Te Deums -- along with those of Handel and Boyce -- were
almost the only memorable church music of England in that age.

William Boyce, though his hearing was impaired in youth, rose to be
master of the King's Band (i.e., orchestra) and organist in the Chapel
Royal. He was the first maestro to conduct standing; Handel and other
contemporaries conducted from the organ or harpsichord. Some of his
anthems -- especially "By the Waters of Babylon" -- are still heard in
Anglican churches; and English homes still hear at least two of his
songs: "Hearts of Oak," which he wrote for one of Garrick's pantomimes,
and "Softly Rise, O Southern Breeze," an aria in the cantata 'Solomon'.
His symphonies sound weak and thin to our macerated ears.

The only excitement in the English musical world at the outset of
the eighteenth century was the coming of opera. There had been such
performances as far back as 1674, but opera took the English fancy only
when, in 1702, Italian singers came from Rome. In 1708 a renowned
'castrato', Nicolini, shocked and charmed London with his soprano voice.
Some other 'castrati' came; England became accustomed to them, and went
wild over Farinelli. By 1710 there were enough Italian singers in
London to present there the first opera completely in their language.
Many protests were raised against the invasion. Addison devoted the
eighteenth number of 'The Spectator' to it, proposing to

deliver down to posterity a faithful account of the
Italian opera.... Our great-grandchildren will be very
curious to know the reason why their forefathers used to
sit together like an audience of foreigners in their own
country, to hear whole plays acted before them in a
tongue which they did not understand.

He concluded from the plots that in opera "nothing is capable of
being well set to music, that is not nonsense." He laughed at scenes
where the hero made love in Italian and the heroine answered him in
English -- as if language mattered in such crises. He objected to
lavish scenery -- to actual sparrows flying about the stage, and
Nicolini shivering in an open boat on a pasteboard sea.

Addison had a grudge: he had written the libretto for Thomas
Clayton's English opera 'Rosamond', which had failed. His blast (March
21, 1711) was probably set off by the premiere, on February 24, of an
Italian opera, 'Rinaldo', at the Haymarket opera house. To complicate
the insult, while the words were Italian the music was by a German
recently arrived in England. To Addison's dismay the new opera was a
great triumph: within three months it was produced fifteen times, always
to packed houses; London danced to excerpts from its music, and sang its
simpler arias. So began the English phase of the most spectacular
career in the history of music.

Handel: 1685-1759

1. Growth

The most famous composer of Johann Sebastian Bach's time was Georg
Friedrich Handel. [* In Germany he signed himself Handel [umlaut on the
'a']; in Italy and England, Hendel.] He triumphed in Germany, he
brought musical Italy to his feet, he was the life and history of music
in England for the first half of the eighteenth century. He took his
supremacy for granted, and no one questioned him. He bestrode the world
of music like a commanding colossus, weighing 250 pounds.

He was born in Halle, Upper Saxony, February 23, 1685, just twenty-
six days before Johann Sebastian Bach, and eight months before Domenico
Scarlatti. But whereas Bach and Scarlatti were baptized in music,
fathered by famous composers, and reared to an obbligato of scales,
Handel was born to parents indifferent to tones. His father was
official surgeon at the court of Duke Johann Adolf of Saxe-Weissenfels;
his mother was the daughter of a Lutheran minister. They frowned upon
the boy's addiction to the organ and the harpsichord; but when the Duke,
hearing him play, insisted that he should receive musical training, they
allowed him to study with Friedrich Zachau, organist of the
Liebfrauenkirche in Halle. Zachau was a devoted and painstaking
teacher. By the age of eleven Georg was composing sonatas (six of these
survive), and was so skilled an organist that Zachau and the resigned
parents sent him to Berlin to perform before Sophia Charlotte, the
cultured Electress of Brandenburg, soon to be queen of Prussia. When
Georg returned to Halle (1697), he found that his father had just died.
His mother survived till 1729.

In 1702 he entered the University of Halle, ostensibly to prepare
for the practice of law. A month later the authorities at the Calvinist
cathedral in Halle engaged him to replace their hard-drinking organist.
After a year there the restless young genius, craving a wider sphere,
pulled up all his Halle roots except his abiding love for his mother,
and set out for Hamburg, where music was almost as popular as money.
Hamburg had had an opera house since 1678. There Handel, aged eighteen,
found a place as second violinist. He became friends with the twenty-
two-year-old Johann Mattheson, the leading tenor at the opera and later
the most famous musical critic of the eighteenth century. Together they
made an expedition to Lubeck (August, 1703) to hear the aging Buxtehude
play, and to explore the possibility of succeeding him as organist in
the Marienkirche. They found that the successor must marry Buxtehude's
daughter. They looked and came away.

Their friendship collapsed in a duel as absurd as in any play. On
October 20, 1704, Mattheson produced and starred in his own opera,
'Cleopatra'. It was a decided success, and was often repeated. In
these performances Handel conducted orchestra and singers from the
harpsichord. On some occasions Mattheson, drunk with glory, came down
from the stage after dying as Antony, displaced his friend as conductor
and harpsichordist, and shared happily in the final applause. On
December 5 Handel refused to be so replaced. The friends expanded the
opera with a warm dispute, and after the stage performance was over they
proceeded to the public square, drew their swords, and fought to the
plaudits of opera patrons and passers-by. Mattheson's weapon struck a
metal button on Handel's coat, buckled, and broke. The tragedy became a
comedy to all but the principals; they nursed their grievances until the
director of the company accepted Handel's opera 'Almira', which required
Mattheson in the tenor role. The success of the opera (January 8, 1705)
made the enemies friends again.

Having forty-one arias in German and fifteen in Italian, 'Almira'
was so popular that it was repeated twenty times in seven weeks.
Reinhard Keiser, who controlled the company and had composed most of its
operas, turned jealous. The Hamburg opera declined in popularity, and
for two years Handel lived at a reduced rate. Meanwhile Prince Giovan
Gastone de' Medici, passing through Hamburg, had advised him to go to
Italy, where everyone was mad about music, and waiters warbled 'bel
canto'. With two hundred ducats in his wallet, and a letter from
Gastone to his brother Ferdinand, patron of opera in Florence, Handel
dared the snows of the Alps in December, and reached Florence toward the
end of 1706. Finding Ferdinand's pockets buttoned, he passed down to
Rome. There, however, the opera house had been closed by Pope Innocent
XII as a center of immorality. Handel played the organ in the Church of
San Giovanni Laterano, and was acclaimed as a virtuoso; but as no one
would produce his new opera, he returned to Florence. Gastone was now
there, and pleaded for him; Ferdinand opened his purse, 'Rodrigo' was
staged; everyone was pleased, Ferdinand gave the young composer a
hundred sequins ($300?) and a dinner service of porcelain. But Florence
had no public opera house; Venice had sixteen. Handel went on to

It was the fall of 1707. The Queen of the Adriatic was under the
spell of Alessandro Scarlatti, and was applauding his greatest opera,
'Mitridate Eupatore'; there was no opening for a young German just
beginning to learn the secrets of Italian melody. Handel studied
Scarlattl's operas, and found a good friend in Alessandro's son. Story
has it that when Handel, masked, played the harpsichord at a Venetian
masquerade, Domenico Scarlattl exclaimed, "That is either the marvelous
Saxon or the Devil." The lasting friendship between the two greatest
harpsichordists of the age is a moment of harmony amid the discords of
history. Together they left Venice to older masters, and went off to
Rome (January, 1708?).

This time Handel was better received. The news of 'Rodrigo' had
reached the capital; princes and cardinals opened their doors to him,
more disturbed by his German accent than by his Lutheran faith. The
Marchese di Ruspoli built a private theater in his palace to produce
Handel's first oratorio, 'La Risurrezione'; the music was a revelation
in its power, complexity, and depth; soon all cultural Rome was talking
about 'il gran Sassone," the tall and mighty Saxon. But his scores were
more difficult than Italian performers liked. When Cardinal Pietro
Ottoboni produced Handel's 'Serenata' the music troubled Arcangelo
Corelli, who played first violin and conducted the orchestra; he
murmured politely, "'Caro Sassone', this music is in the French style,
which I do not understand." Handel took the violin from Corelli's hands
and played with his usual dash. Corelli forgave him.

Naples remained to be conquered. An unreliable tradition describes
Handel, Corelli, and both the Scarlattis as traveling to that city
together (June, 1708). Another dubious story ascribes a love affair to
Handel there; but cautious history regrettably admits that it has no
sound evidence of any love affair anywhere in Handel's life, except for
his mother and music. It seems incredible that the man who could write
such ardent arias had no flame of his own; perhaps expression dispersed
its heat on the wings of song. So far as we know, the major event in
this Neapolitan sojourn was Handel's meeting with Cardinal Vincenzo
Grimani, Viceroy of Naples and scion of a rich Venetian family. He
offered the composer the libretto of an opera on the old theme of Nero's
mother. In three weeks Handel completed the work. Grimani arranged for
its performance in the theater of his family at Venice; Handel hurried
thither with the score.

The premiere of 'Agrippina' (December 26, 1709) was the most
exhilarating triumph that Handel had yet experienced. The generous
Italians were not jealous that a German had beaten them at their own
game, showing them splendors of harmony, audacities of modulation,
devices of technique seldom achieved even by their favorite, Alessandro
Scarlatti; they cried out, "Viva il caro Sassone!" Part of the ovation
went to the remarkable basso, Giuseppe Boschi, whose voice ranged
smoothly over a gamut of twenty-nine notes.

Handel was now courted. Charles Montagu, Earl of Manchester,
British ambassador at Venice, advised him to go to London; Prince Ernest
Augustus, younger brother of Elector George Louis, offered him the post
of 'Kapellmeister' at Hanover. Venice was lovely, it breathed music,
but how long could one eat out of one opera, and how long could you
depend upon those temperamental Italians? At Hanover there would be fog
and clouds and gutturals, but also a fine opera house, a steady salary,
substantial German food; and he could ride off now and then to visit his
mother at Halle. On June 15, 1710, age twenty-five, Handel was
appointed 'Kapellmeister' at Hanover, with an annual salary of fifteen
hundred crowns, and permission for occasional absences. In the autumn
of that year he asked and obtained permission to visit England,
promising to return soon.

2. The Conquest of England

London opera was in trouble. An Italian company was singing there,
with basso Boschi, his contralto wife, and male soprano Nicolini, whom
Charles Burney, zealous historian of music, judged to be "the first
truly great singer who has ever sung in our theater." But both the
Haymarket opera house (then called Her Majesty's Theatre) and the Drury
Lane Theatre were in a rough section of the city, where pockets were
picked and heads were broken; "society" hesitated to risk its wigs and
purses there.

Hearing that Handel was in London, Aaron Hill, impresario, offered
him a libretto drawn from Tasso's 'Gerusalemme liberata'. Handel set to
work with his massive energy, borrowed freely from his own compositions,
and in a fortnight completed 'Rinaldo'. Produced on February 24, 1711,
it was repeated fourteen times to full houses before the end of the
season on June 22. Addison and Steele attacked it, but London took to
it, and sang its arias in the streets; two especially, "Lascia ch'io
pianga" and "Cara sposa," touched sentimental chords, and can move us
even today. John Walsh made fourteen hundred guineas by publishing the
songs from 'Rinaldo'; Handel wryly suggested that for the next opera
Walsh should write the music and let him publish the score. Soon this
best of Handel's operas was produced in Dublin, Hamburg, and Naples. In
London it held the stage for twenty years.

Sipping his success, Handel stretched his leave of absence to a
year; then, reluctantly, he returned to Hanover (June, 1711). There he
was not a lion in drawing rooms but a servant in the Elector's palace;
the opera house was closed for the season; he composed 'concerti grossi'
and cantatas while his imagination soared in operas. In October, 1712,
he asked leave for another "short" visit to England. The Elector
indulged him, perhaps feeling that England was soon to be a Hanoverian
appanage in any case. Handel reached London in November, and stayed
forty-six years.

He brought with him a new opera, 'il Pastor Fido' ('The Faithful
Shepherd'), whose pleasant overture still charms our air. It was
produced on November 22, and failed. Stimulated rather than
disheartened, he began at once on another theme, 'Teseo' ('Theseus').
The premiere (January 10, 1713) was a triumph, but after the second
night the manager absconded with the box office receipts. Another
manager, John Heidegger, took over, carried 'Teseo' to thirteen
performances, and rewarded the unpaid composer by arranging a benefit
for "Mr. Hendel," with the composer starring at the harpsichord. The
Earl of Burlington, an enthusiastic auditor, invited Handel to make
Burlington House his home; Handel accepted, was well lodged and too well
fed, and met Pope, Gay, Kent, and other leaders in literature and art.

Good fortune crowded upon him. Queen Anne had longed for an end to
the War of the Spanish Succession; it came with the Treaty of Utrecht;
Handel pleased Anne with his "Utrecht Te Deum," and with a "Birthday
Ode" for her anniversary; in these he showed that he had studied
Purcell's choruses. The kindly Queen rewarded him with a pension of two
hundred pounds. Comfortable and prosperous, he rested on his oars for a
truant year.

On August 1, 1714, Anne died, and Elector George Louis of Hanover
became George I of England. Handel looked with some apprehension upon
this turn of events; he had in effect deserted Hanover, and might expect
the royal shoulder to be cold. It was, but George held his peace. The
Haymarket house was now renamed His Majesty's Theatre; the King felt
obliged to patronize it; but it was playing the truant's 'Rinaldo'. He
went in disguise except for his accent, and enjoyed the performance.
Meanwhile Handel had written another opera, 'Amadigi di Gaula';
Heidegger produced it on May 25, 1715; George liked it. Soon thereafter
the Italian violinist and composer Francesco Geminiani, being invited to
perform at court, asked for Handel as the only harpsichordist in England
who could fitly accompany him. He had his way; Handel outdid himself;
the King forgave him, and raised his pension to four hundred pounds a
year. Princess Caroline engaged him to teach her daughters, and added a
pension of two hundred pounds. He was now the best-paid composer in

When George I left London (July 9, 1716) for a visit to Hanover he
took Handel with him. The musician visited his mother at Halle, and
began his periodic gifts of money to the impoverished widow of his old
teacher Zachau. King and composer returned to London early in 1717.
James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon -- later, Duke of Chandos -- invited
Handel to live at his sumptuous palace, Canons, in Middlesex, and to
replace as its music master Dr. Johann Pepusch, who took delayed revenge
by writing the music for 'The Beggar's Opera'. There Handel composed
'Suites de Pieces pour le Clavecin' -- harpsichord fantasies in the
style of Domenico Scarlatti and Couperin -- some 'concerti grossi',
twelve "Chandos Anthems," music for Gay's masque 'Acis and Galatea', and
an opera, 'Radamisto'.

But who would produce the opera? Attendance at His Majesty's
Theatre had fallen off; Heidegger was nearing bankruptcy. To rescue him
and opera a group of nobles and rich commoners formed (February, 1719)
the Royal Academy of Music, financing it with fifty shares offered to
the public at two hundred pounds each; George I took five shares. On
February 21 a London weekly announced that "Mr. Hendel, a famous Master
of Music, is gone beyond the sea, by order of His Majesty, to collect a
company of the choicest singers in Europe for the Opera in the
Haymarket." Handel raided various companies in Germany, and visited his
mother again. A few hours after he left Halle for England, Johann
Sebastian Bach appeared in the town, having walked some twenty-five
miles from Cothen, and asked if he might see the great German who had
conquered England. It was too late; the two masters never met.

On April 27, 1720, 'Radamisto' was performed before the King, his
mistress, and a house brilliant with titles and jewelry; pedigreed
persons fought for admission; "several gentlemen," Mainwaring reported,
"were turned back who had offered forty shillings for a seat in the
gallery." The English audience rivaled in its applause the Venetians
who had acclaimed 'Agrippina' eleven years before. Handel was again the
hero of London.

Not quite. A rival group of music lovers, led by Handel's former
patron the Earl of Burlington, preferred Giovanni Battista Bononcini.
They persuaded the Royal Academy of Music to open its second season with
Bononcini's opera 'Astarto' (November 19, 1720); they secured for its
leading role a male soprano now more adored than Nicolini; this
"Senesino" (Francesco Bernardi), offensive in manners, captivating in
voice, carried 'Astarto' to triumph and a run of ten performances;
Bononcini's admirers hailed him as superior to Handel. Neither composer
was responsible for the war that now divided London's operatic public
into hostile groups, but London, in this year of the bursting South Sea
Bubble, was as excitable as Paris. The King and the Whigs favored
Handel, the Prince of Wales and the Tories played up Bononcini, and the
wits and pamphleteers crowded to the fray. Bononcini seemed to certify
his supremacy with a new opera, 'Crispo' (January, 1722), which was so
successful that the Academy followed it with another Bononcini triumph,
'Griselda'. When the great Marlborough died (June), Bononcini, not
Handel, was chosen to compose the funeral anthem; and the Duke's
daughter settled upon the Italian an annuity of five hundred pounds a
year. It was Bononcini's year.

Handel fought back with 'Ottone', and a new soprano whom he lured
from Italy by an unprecedented guarantee of two thousand pounds.
Francesca Cuzzoni, as Horace Walpole saw her, "was short and squat, with
a doughy cross face but fine complexion; was not a good actress; dressed
ill; and was silly and fantastical"; but she warbled ravishingly. A
contest of wills and tempers enlivened her rehearsals. "Madame," Handel
told her, "I well know that you are a veritable female devil; but I
myself, I will have you know, am Beelzebub, chief of the devils." When
she insisted on singing an aria contrary to his instructions, he took
hold of her and threatened to throw her out the window. As the two
thousand pounds would have followed her, she yielded. In the premiere
(January 12, 1723) she sang so well that one enthusiast cried out from
the gallery 'in mediis rebus', "Damme, she has a nest of nightingales in
her belly." Senesino rivaled her, and Boschi's basso helped. On the
second night seats sold for five pounds more. About this time John Gay
wrote to Jonathan Swift:

As for the reigning amusement of the town, it is
entirely music; real fiddles, bass viols, and hautboys;
not poetical harps, lyres, and reeds. There's nobody
allowed to say 'I sing' but an eunuch, or an Italian
woman. Everybody now is grown as great a judge of music
as they were, in your time, of poetry; and folks that
could not distinguish one tone from another now daily
dispute about the different styles of Handel, Bononcini,
and Attilio [Ariosti].... In London and Westminster, in
all polite conversation, Senesino is daily voted the
greatest man that ever lived.

Again 'in excelsis', Handel bought a house in London (1723) and
became a British citizen (1727). He continued till 1728 the operatic
war. He combed history for subjects, and put Flavius, Caesar,
Tamerlane, Scipio, Alexander, and Richard I on the stage; Bononcini
countered with Astyanax, Erminia, Pharnaces, and Calpurnia; a third
composer, Ariosti, set Coriolanus, Vespasian, Artaxerxes, and Darius to
music; never had history been so harmonious. In 1726 the triune
conflict took on added fire with the arrival of Faustina Bordoni, a
mezzo-soprano who had already overcome Venice, Naples, and Vienna. She
had not the tender and dulcet tones of Cuzzoni, but her voice was
seconded by her face, her figure, and her grace. In 'Alessandro' (May
5, 1726) Handel brought the two divas together, gave them the same
number of solos, and carefully balanced them in a duet. For some
evenings the audience applauded them both; then it divided; one part
hissed while the other applauded; a new dimension was added to the
tuneful war. On June 6, 1727, when the rival 'prime donne' sang in
Bononcini's 'Astianatte', the supporters of Cuzzoni broke out in a
disgraceful pandemonium of hisses, boos, and roars when Bordoni tried to
sing. A fight flared up in the pit and spread to the stage; the divas
joined in it and tore at each other's hair; spectators joyfully smashed
the scenery -- all in the presence of the humiliated Caroline, Princess
of Wales.

This 'reductio ad absurdum' might of itself have killed Italian
opera in England. The 'coup de grace' was struck by one of the gentlest
spirits in London. On January 29, 1728, in Lincoln's Inn Fields
Theatre, John Gay presented 'The Beggar's Opera'. We have described its
jolly, witty, ribald lyrics, but only those who have heard them sung to
the music that Johann Pepusch composed or borrowed for them can
understand why the theater-going public turned almost en masse from
Handel, Bononcini, and Ariosti to Pepusch, Polly, and Gay. Night after
night for nine weeks 'The Beggar's Opera' played to full houses, while
the sirens and eunuchs at His Majesty's Theatre sang to empty seats.
Moreover, Gay had satirized Italian opera: he had made fun of the silly
plots, the coloratura trills and ornaments of sopranos of either sex; he
had taken thieves, beggars, and prostitutes as his dramatis personae
instead of kings, nobles, virgins, and queens; and he offered English
ballads as better songs than Italian arias. The public was delighted
with words that it could understand, especially if the words were a bit
risque. Handel, came back with more operas -- 'Siroe' and 'Tolomeo',
'Re d'Egitto' (1728); they had fine moments but paid no bills. On June
5 the Royal Academy of Music declared bankruptcy and expired.

Handel did not admit defeat. Deserted by the nobles, who blamed him
for their losses, he formed with Heidegger (June, 1728) the "New Academy
of Music," put into it ten thousand pounds -- nearly all his savings --
and received from the new King, George II, a pledge of a thousand a year
in support. In February he set out on another Continental tour to
recruit new talent, for Cuzzoni, Bordoni, Senesino, Nicolini, and Boschi
had deserted his sinking ship and were trilling Venice. In their place
Handel engaged new chanticleers and nightingales: Antonio Bernacchi, a
male soprano, Annibale Fabri, tenor, Anna Maria Strada del Po, soprano.
On his way back he stopped to see his mother for the last time. She was
now seventy-nine, blind and almost paralyzed. While he was in Halle he
was visited by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, who brought him an invitation to
visit Leipzig, where the 'Passion according to St. Matthew' had just
received its first performance. Handel had to refuse. He had barely
heard of Johann Sebastian Bach, and never dreamed that this man's fame
would one day eclipse his own. He hurried back to London, picking up on
the way the Hamburg basso Johann Riemenschneider.

The new cast appeared in 'Lotario' on December 2, 1729, without
success. He tried again on February 24 with 'Partenope', without
success. Bernacchi and Riemenschneider were restored to the Continent;
Senesino was recalled from Italy; with him and Strada del Po, and a
libretto by Metastasio, Handel's 'Poro' -- on which he had lavished some
of his most moving arias -- caught the ear of London (February 2, 1731).
His Majesty's Theatre filled again. Two further operas, 'Ezio' and
'Sosarme', were favorably received.

But the struggle to keep an English audience with Italian opera was
becoming ever more arduous; it appeared now to be a blind alley, in
which physical and financial exhaustion was always around the corner.
Handel had conquered England, but now England was apparently conquering
him. His operas were too much alike, and were bound to wear thin. They
were exalted by magnificent arias; but these were only tenuously related
to the plot, they were in an unintelligible, however mellifluous,
language, and many of them were composed for male sopranos, who were
increasingly hard to find. Rigid rules and artistic jealousy governed
the distribution of arias, and added to the artificiality of the tale.
If Handel had continued on this Italian line he would hardly be
remembered today. A series of accidents jolted him off his beaten
track, and turned him into the field where he was to remain, even to our
time, unsurpassed.

3. Defeat

On February 23, 1732, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, Bernard Gates,
to celebrate the composer's forty-seventh birthday, gave a private
production of Handel's 'Esther, an Oratorio'. It drew so profitable an
audience that Gates repeated it twice -- once for a private group, then
(April 20) for the public; this was the first public performance of an
oratorio in England. Princess Anne suggested that 'Esther' should be
presented at His Majesty's Theatre with costumes, scenery, and action;
but the bishop of London protested against turning the Bible into opera.
Handel made now one of the pivotal decisions of his career. He
announced that he would produce 'The Sacred Story of Esther' as "an
Oratorio in English" at the Haymarket theater on May 2, but added that
there would be "no action on the stage," and that the music was "to be
disposed after the Manner of the Coronation Service"; so he
distinguished oratorio from opera. He provided his own chorus and
orchestra, and taught La Strada and other Italians to sing their solos
in English. The royal family attended, and 'Esther' bore five
repetitions in its first month.

Another oratorio, 'Acis and Galatea' (June 10), failed to please,
and Handel turned back to opera. 'Orlando' (January 27, 1733) had a
good run; even so, the partnership with Heidegger faced bankruptcy.
When Handel produced his third oratorio, 'Deborah' (March 17), he tried
to regain solvency by doubling the price of admission; an anonymous
letter to 'The Craftsman' denounced this measure, and called for a
revolt against the domination of London's music by the "Insolent, ...
imperious, and extravagant Mr. Hendel." As Handel had won the patronage
of the King, he automatically lost the good will of Frederick, Prince of
Wales, son and foe of George II. Handel, whose manners often yielded to
his temper, made the mistake of offending Frederick's drawing master,
Joseph Goupy; Goupy took revenge by drawing a caricature of the composer
as a monstrous glutton with the snout of a boar; copies of this were
circulated through London, and added to Handel's misery. In the spring
of 1733 the Prince of Wales encouraged his courtiers to form a rival
company, the "Opera of the Nobility." It brought from Naples the most
famous singing teacher of the age, Niccolo Porpora; lured Senesino from
Handel and Cuzzoni from Italy; and on December 29, at the Lincoln's Inn
Fields Theatre, it produced Porpora's 'Arianna' with great acclaim.
Handel met this new challenge with an opera on a defiantly similar
theme, 'Arianna in Creta' (January 26, 1734); it too was well received.
But at the end of the season his contract with Heidegger expired;
Heidegger leased His Majesty's Theatre to the Opera of the Nobility; and
Handel moved his company to John Rich's Covent Garden Theatre.

Porpora scored by calling upon the world's most renowned 'castrato',
Carlo Broschi, known to all Europe as "Farinelli." On this man's
singing we may dilate when we meet him in his native Bologna; here it
need hardly be said that when (October 29) he joined Senesino and
Cuzzoni in Porpora's 'Artaserse' it was an event in the music history of
England; the opera was repeated forty times during Farinelli's three-
year stay. To compete with it Handel offered 'Ariodante' (January 8,
1735), one of his finest operas, uniquely rich in its instrumental
music; it earned ten performances in two months, and promised to make
ends meet. But when Porpora produced 'Polifemo' (February 1) with
Farinelli in the leading role, the King, the Queen, and the court could
not stay away; its run exceeded that of 'Artaserse', while Handel's
'Alcina' (April 16) was soon playing to empty seats -- though a suite
from its score still appears on programs today. For half a year Handel
retired from the battlefield to nurse his rheumatic pains with the
waters of Tunbridge Wells.

On February 19, 1736, he returned to Covent Garden with an oratorio
set to Dryden's "Alexander's Feast." A contemporary reported that the
capacity audience of thirteen hundred received the oratorio with
applause "such as had seldom been heard in London"; Handel was comforted
with receipts of £450; but though he gave a stirring organ recital in
the intermission the ode was too slight to bear more than four
repetitions; and the desperate composer-impresario-conductor-virtuoso
turned again to opera. On May 12 he offered 'Atalanta' as a pastoral
play celebrating the marriage of the Prince of Wales. He had summoned
from Italy a new 'castrato', 'Gizziello' (Gioacchino Conti), for the
soprano role, and had distinguished the part with an aria, "Care selve,"
which is one of the most lovely and enduring of his songs. Frederick
was so pleased that he transferred his patronage from Porpora's company
to Handel's; but this victory was made sorrowful when the King, hearing
of his son's move, canceled his annual subscription of a thousand pounds
to Handel's enterprise.

Porpora gave up the battle in the spring of 1736. Handel filled his
theater by alternating operas with oratorios, and adding to the cast of
'Giustino' (February 16, 1737) "bears, fantastic animals, and dragons
vomiting fire." But the strain of his diverse responsibilities broke
him down. In April he suffered a nervous collapse, and a stroke that
for a time paralyzed his right arm. On May 18 he staged 'Berenice', the
last of the operas that he wrote for his company. He closed his theater
on June 1, owing many debts, and vowing to pay them all in full; he did.
Ten days later the rival Opera of the Nobility disbanded, owing twelve
thousand pounds. The great age of opera in England was over.

Handel's health was among the ruins. Rheumatism in his muscles,
arthritis in his bones, gout in his extremities were capped in the
summer of 1737 with a passing attack of insanity. He left England to
take the waters at Aachen. There, reported Sir John Hawkins,

he submitted to such sweats, excited by the vapor baths,
as astonished everyone. After a few essays of this
kind, during which spirits seemed to rise rather than
sink under an excessive perspiration, his disorder left
him; and a few hours after ... he went to the great
church of the city, and got to the organ, on which he
played in such a manner that men imputed his cure to a

In November he returned to London, to solvency and honors.
Heidegger had again engaged His Majesty's Theatre. He paid Handel a
thousand pounds for two new operas; one of them, 'Serse' (April 15,
1738) contained the famous "Largo," "Ombra mai fu." The lessee of
Vauxhall Gardens paid Roubillac three hundred pounds for a statue
showing the composer strumming a lyre; on May 2 this figure, ungainly in
pose and stupid in expression, was unveiled in the Gardens with a
musical entertainment. More pleasing to Handel must have been the
benefit tendered him on March 28, bringing over a thousand pounds in
receipts. Handel now paid off the more urgent of his creditors, one of
whom was threatening to put him in the debtors' jail. Despite all
honors, he was near the end of his financial rope. He could no longer
look to Heidegger, who announced (May 24) that he had not received
sufficient subscriptions to warrant his producing operas in 1738-39.
Without a commission and without a company, Handel, aged fifty-three and
shaken with ailments, entered upon his greatest period.

4. The Oratorios

This relatively modern form had grown out of medieval chorales
representing events in Biblical history or the lives of the saints. St.
Philip Neri had given the form its name by favoring it as a means of
devotion and religious instruction in the 'oratorio', or prayer chapel,
of the Fathers of the Oratory in Rome. Giacomo Carissimi and his pupil
Alessandro Scarlatti developed the oratorio in Italy; Heinrich Schutz
brought it from Italy into Germany; Reinhard Keiser raised the genre to
high excellence before his death (1739). This was the heritage that in
1741 culminated in Handel's Messiah.

Part of Handel's success came from his adaptation of the form to
English taste. He continued to choose the subjects of his oratorios
from the Bible, but he gave them, now and then, a secular interest, as
with the love theme in 'Joseph and His Brethren' and in 'Jephtha'; he
emphasized the dramatic rather than the religious character, as in
'Saul' and 'Israel in Egypt'; and he used an entirely English text, only
partly Biblical. It was in good part religious music, but it was
independent of churches and liturgy; it was performed on a stage under
secular auspices. Moreover, Handel used Biblical themes to symbolize
English history: "Israel" stood for England; the Great Rebellion of 1642
and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 could be heard in the struggle of
the Jews for liberation from Egyptian (Stuart) bondage and Hellenistic
(Gallic) domination; the Chosen People was really the English nation,
and the God of Israel was the same who had led the English people
through trial to victory. Like the Puritans, Handel thought of God as
the mighty Jehovah of the Old Testament, not as the forgiving Father of
the New. England felt this, and responded proudly to Handel's

The ascent to the 'Messiah' began with 'Saul', produced at His
Majesty's Theatre January 16, 1739. "The solemn and majestic Dead March
would alone immortalize this work." But the audience was not accustomed
to the oratorio form; 'Saul' could sustain only six performances. With
unbelievable energy Handel composed and presented (April 4) another
masterwork, 'Israel in Egypt'. Here he made the chorus the hero, the
voice of a nation in birth, and wrote what many consider his supreme
music. It proved too vast and heavy for the current appetite, and
Handel finished this historic season with new debts.

On October 23, 1739, England plunged into war with Spain for
Jenkins' ear. Amid the turmoil Handel hired a small theater, and on the
feast of the patron saint of musicians he offered his setting of
Dryden's "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" (November 22, 1739). Even in the
cold and chaos of that wintry night London could not resist the bright
melodious overture, the ethereal soprano aria in the third stanza, or
the "soft complaining flute" and "warbling lute" in the fifth; while the
"double double double beat of the thund'ring drum" accorded with the
spirit of war that was rumbling through the streets. Handel took heart
again, and tried an opera, 'Imeneo' ( 1740), which failed; he tried
another, 'Deidamia' (1741); it too failed; and the tired giant retired
for almost two years from the London musical scene.

These two years were his finest. On August 22, 1741, he began to
compose the 'Messiah'. The text was adapted by Charles Jennens from the
books of Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Lamentations, Haggai, Zechariah, and
Malachi in the Old Testament, and, in the New, the Gospels of Matthew,
Luke, and John, the Epistles of Paul, and the Book of Revelation. The
score was completed in twenty-three days; in some of these, he told a
friend, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God
himself." Having no early prospect of finding an audience for it, he
went on to write another major oratorio, 'Samson', based on the 'Samson
Agonistes' of Milton. At an unknown date during these ecstasies he
received an invitation to present some of his works in Dublin. The
proposal seemed to come from an appreciative Providence; actually it
came from William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, Lord Lieutenant of

He reached Dublin November 17, 1741. He engaged the best singers he
could find, including Susannah Maria Cibber, the accomplished daughter
of Thomas Arne. Several charitable organizations arranged six concerts
for him; these were so successful that a second series was presented.
On March 27, 1742, two Dublin periodicals carried an announcement that

for the relief of the Prisoners in the several Gaols,
and for the support of Mercer's Hospital, ... on Monday
the 12th of April, will be performed, at the Musick Hall
in Fishamble-street, 'Mr. Hendel's new Grand Oratorio',
called the Messiah, in which the Gentlemen of the Choir
of both cathedrals will assist, with some Concertos on
the Organ by Mr. Hendel.

Tickets were sold also for the rehearsal on April 8, which 'Faulkner's
Journal' reported as "performed so well that it ... was allowed by the
greatest Judges to be the finest Composition of Musick that ever was
heard." To this was added a notice postponing the Monday performance to
Tuesday, and requesting the ladies "please to come without Hoops [hoop-
skirts], as it will greatly increase the Charity, by making room for
more Company." A later item requested the men to come without their
swords. In these ways the seating capacity of the Music Hall was raised
from six hundred to seven hundred seats.

At last, on April 13, 1742, the most famous of all major musical
compositions was presented. On April 17 three Dublin papers carried an
identical review:

On Tuesday last Mr. Hendel's Sacred Grand Oratorio,
the Messiah, was performed.... The best Judges allowed
it to be the most finished piece of musick. Words are
wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to
the admiring crowded Audience. The Sublime, the Grand,
and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestic
and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the
ravished Heart and Ear. It is but justice to Mr. Hendel
that the world should know he generously gave the money
arising from this Grand Performance to be equally shared
by the Society of relieving Prisoners, the Charitable
Infirmary, and Mercer's Hospital, for which they will
ever gratefully remember his Name.

The 'Messiah' was repeated in Dublin on June 3. It has been
repeated a thousand times since; yet who has yet grown weary of those
muted or majestic arias, with their subdued and gracious accompaniments
-- " He Shall Feed His Flock," "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth," "He
Shall Be Exalted," "He Was Despised and Rejected"? When, at the Dublin
premiere, Mrs. Cibber sang this last air, an Anglican clergyman cried
out from the audience, "Woman, for this thy sins be forgiven thee!" All
the depth and fervor of religious hope, all the tenderness of pious
song, all the art and feeling of the composer came together to make
these arias the supreme moments in modern music.

On August 13, replenished in spirit and purse, Handel left Dublin,
resolved to conquer England again. He must have been comforted to find
that Pope, in the fourth book of 'The Dunciad' (1742), had gone out of
his way to praise him:

Strong in new arms, lo! giant Handel stands,
Like bold Briareus, with a hundred hands [the orchestra]:
To stir, to rouse, to shake the soul he comes,
And Jove's own thunders follow Mars's drums.

So on February 18, 1743, at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, the
rejuvenated composer presented his oratorio 'Samson'. George II led
London's elite to the premiere; the lovely overture pleased everyone but
Horace Walpole, who was resolved 'nil admirari'; the noble aria "O God
of Hosts" was almost of 'Messiah'nic splendor; 'Samson', like Samson,
"brought down the house." But when, a month later (March 23), the
'Messiah' itself was offered to London even the King, who then
established a lasting custom by rising to his feet at the Hallelujah
Chorus, could not lift the oratorio to acceptance. The clergy condemned
the use of a theater for religious music; the nobility, still smarting
from the failure of their opera company, stayed away. The 'Messiah' was
offered only three times in the next two years, then not again till
1749. In that year Handel, who was a philanthropist between
bankruptcies, presented a handsome organ to the foundlings' hospital so
dear to his friend Hogarth; and on May 1, 1750, he gave the first of
many annual performances of the 'Messiah' for the benefit of those lucky

On June 27, 1743, George II led his army to victory at Dettingen.
When he returned to London the city greeted him with parades,
illuminations, and music, and the Chapel Royal in the Palace of St.
James resounded with the 'Dettingen Te Deum" that Handel had composed
for the occasion (November 27). It was a product of genius and
scissors, for it contained passages pilfered from earlier and minor
composers; but it was a miracle of agglutination. The King was pleased.

Encouraged by royal smiles, Handel renewed his efforts to recapture
the ear of London. On February 10, 1744, he presented another oratorio,
'Semele'. It contained the exquisite song "Where'er You Walk," which
England and America still sing, but it could not exceed four
performances. The nobles remained hostile; many titled ladies made a
point of entertaining lavishly on the evenings scheduled for a concert
by Handel; rowdies were hired to tear down his advertisements. On April
23, 1745, he canceled the eight concerts that he had announced; he
closed his theater, and retired to Tunbridge Wells. Rumor had it that
he was insane. "Poor Hendel," wrote the current Earl of Shaftesbury
(October 24), "looks a little better. I hope he will recover
completely, though his mind has been entirely deranged."

The rumor may have erred, for Handel, now sixty years old, responded
with all his powers to an invitation from the Prince of Wales to
commemorate the victory of the Prince's younger brother, the Duke of
Cumberland, over the Stuart forces at Culloden. Handel took as a
symbolic subject Judas Maccabaeus' triumph (166-161 B.C.) over the
Hellenizing schemes of Antiochus IV. The new oratorio was so well
received (April 1, 1747) that it bore five repetitions in its first
season. The Jews of London, grateful to see one of their national
heroes so nobly celebrated, helped to swell the attendance, enabling
Handel to present the oratorio forty times before his death. Grateful
for this new support, he took most of his oratorio subjects henceforth
from Jewish legend or history: 'Alexander Balus', 'Joshua', 'Susanna',
'Solomon', 'Jephtha'. By contrast 'Theodora', a Christian theme, drew
so small an audience that Handel ruefully remarked, "There was room
enough to dance." Chesterfield left before the conclusion, excusing
himself on the ground that he "did not wish to disturb the King in his

5. Prometheus

The oratorios are but one species of the genus Handel. His
polymorphous spirit turned with almost spontaneous accord to any of a
dozen musical forms. Songs that still touch the chords of sentiment,
keyboard pieces of exquisite delicacy, sonatas, suites, quartets,
concertos, operas, oratorios, ballet music, odes, pastorals, cantatas,
hymns, anthems, Te Deums, Passions -- almost everything but the nascent
symphony is there, rivaling the profuse immensity of Beethoven or Bach.
The 'Suites de Pieces pour le Clavecin' sound today, on the harpsichord,
like the voices of happy children still unacquainted with history. A
second set of suites began with that prelude which Brahms frolicked with
in "Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel."

Just as he had taken the oratorio from Carissimi and Keiser and
brought it to its peak, so Handel took from Torelli and Corelli the
'concerto grosso' -- for two or more solo or duo instruments with a
chamber orchestra. In Opus 6 he left twelve such 'concerti grossi',
pitting two violins and a violoncello against an ensemble of strings;
some of them strike us as monotonous today, some come close to Bach's
Brandenburg Concertos. There are also, in Handel, delightful concertos
for a single solo instrument -- harpsichord, organ, violin, viola, oboe,
or harp. Those for keyboards were performed by Handel himself in
preludes or interludes. Sometimes he left place in the concerto scores
for what we should now call a cadenza, wherein the performer could free
his imagination and display his skill. Handel's improvisations in such
openings were the wonder of many days.

In July, 1717, George I arranged a royal "progress" in decorated
barges on the Thames. The 'Daily Courant' of July 19, 1717, reveals the

On Wednesday evening at about eight the King took
water at Whitehall in an open barge, wherein were also
the Duchess of Newcastle, the Countess of Godolphin,
Madam Kilmanseck, and the Earl of Orkney, and went up
the river towards Chelsea. Many other barges with
persons of quality attended, and so great a number of
boats that the whole river in a manner was covered. A
city company's barge was employed for the music, wherein
were fifty instruments of all sorts, who played all the
way from Lambeth ... the finest symphonies, composed
express for the occasion by Mr. Hendel, which his
Majesty liked so well that he caused it to be played
over three times in going and returning.

This is the 'Water Music' that is today the hardiest and most pleasant
survivor of Handel's instrumental compositions. Apparently there were
originally twenty-one movements -- too many for modern auditors lacking
barges and hours; generally we hear only six. Some are a bit tiresome
in their melodious wandering; but most of them are healthy, joyous,
sparkling music, as if flowing from a fountain to make a lullaby for
royal mistresses. The 'Water Music' is the oldest piece in today's
orchestral repertoire.

A full generation later, for a second George, Handel dignified
another outdoor occasion. To celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle the
government arranged a display of fireworks in the Green Park, and
commissioned Handel to write the 'Royal Fireworks Music'. When this was
rehearsed in Vauxhall Gardens (April 21, 1749) twelve thousand persons
paid the then considerable sum of two shillings each to hear it; so
great was the congestion that traffic on the approach over London Bridge
was held up for three hours -- "probably the most stupendous tribute any
composer ever received." On April 27 half of London pushed its way into
the Green Park; sixteen yards of its wall had to be torn down to let
them enter in time. A "band" of a hundred musicians played Handel's
music, and fireworks sparkled in the sky. A building erected for the
occasion caught fire; the crowd panicked; many persons were injured; two
died. All that remained of the festivity was Handel's music. Designed
to commemorate a victorious war and to be heard at a distance, it is a
blare of bravos and a din of drums, too noisy for an adagio ear; but one
largo movement falls gratefully upon tired nerves.

England at last came to love the old German who had striven so hard
to be an Englishman. He had failed, but he had tried, even to swearing
in English. London had learned to forgive his massive corpulence, his
broad face and swelling cheeks, his bow legs and heavy gait, his velvet
scarlet greatcoat, his gold-knobbed cane, his proud and haughty air;
after all his battles this man had the right to look like a conqueror,
or at least a lord. His manners were rough, he disciplined his
musicians with love and rage; he scolded his audience for talking at
rehearsals; he threatened divas with violence. But he muffled his guns
with humor. When Cuzzoni and Bordoni took to fisticuffs on the stage,
he said calmly, "Let them fight it out"; and he accompanied their
tantrums with a merry obbligato on the kettledrums. When a singer
threatened to jump upon the harpsichord because Handel's accompaniments
attracted more attention than the singing, Handel asked him to name the
date of this proposed performance, so that it might be advertised, for,
he said, "more people will come to see you jump than to hear you sing."
His bon mots were as remarkable as Jonathan Swift's, but one had to know
four languages to enjoy them.

In 1752 he began to lose his eyesight. While he was writing
'Jephtha' his vision became so blurred that he had to stop. On the
autograph manuscript in the British Museum are strange irregularities --
"stems placed at some distance from the notes to which they belonged,
and notes which had obviously lost their way." At the foot of the page
appears a line by the composer: "Have got so far, Wednesday, 13th
February. Prevented from continuing because of my left eye." Ten days
later he wrote on the margin: "The 23rd February, am a little better.
Resumed work." Then he composed the music for the words "Our joy is
lost in grief, ... as day is lost in night." On November 4 'The General
Advertiser' reported: "Yesterday George Frederic Hendel, Esq., was
couched [for cataract] by Wm. Bromfield, Esq., surgeon to her Royal
Highness the Princess of Wales." The operation seemed successful, but
on January 27, 1753, a London newspaper announced that "Mr. Hendel has
at length, unhappily, quite lost his sight." Later reports indicate
that he retained some vestiges of vision till his death.

He continued composing and conducting for seven years more. In six
weeks (February 23 to April 6, 1759) he gave two performances of
'Solomon', one of 'Samson', two of 'Judas Maccabaeus', three of the
'Messiah'. But on leaving the theater after the 'Messiah' of April 6 he
fainted, and had to be carried to his home. Regaining consciousness, he
asked for one more week of life; "I want to die on Good Friday, in the
hope of rejoining the good God, my sweet Lord and Saviour, on the day of
His Resurrection." He added to his will a codicil bequeathing a
thousand pounds to the Society for the Support of Decayed Musicians and
Their Families, and substantial bequests to thirteen friends, and "to my
maidservants each one year's wages." He died on Holy Saturday, April
14, 1759. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on April 20, before "the
greatest Concourse of People of all Ranks ever seen upon such or indeed
upon any other Occasion."

He left an unparalleled quantity of music: forty-six operas, thirty-
two oratorios, seventy overtures, seventy-one cantatas, twenty-six
'concerti grossi', eighteen organ concertos, and so much else that the
whole fills a hundred bulky volumes, almost equaling the works of Bach
and Beethoven combined. Some of it was repetition, and some of it was
theft, for Handel plagiarized, without acknowledgment, from at least
twenty-nine authors to help him meet a deadline; so the minuet in the
overture to 'Samson' was taken, so to say, 'notatim' from Keiser's
opera' Claudius'.

It is difficult to estimate Handel, for only a small part of his
'oeuvre' is offered to us today. The operas, except for some
captivating arias, are beyond resurrection; they were adjusted to
Italian modes that seem irrevocably gone; their extant scores are
incomplete, and use symbols and abbreviations now largely
unintelligible; they were written for orchestras of quite other
constitution than ours, and for voices of a third sex quite different
from the intermediate sexes of our time. The concertos remain, a happy
hunting ground of forgotten treasures, and the 'Water Music', and the
oratorios. But even the oratorios are "dated," having been written for
embattled Englishmen and grateful Jews; those massive choruses and
proliferated vowels require a musicological stomach for their digestion
-- though we should be glad to hear 'Jephtha' and 'Israel in Egypt'
again. Musicians tell us that in the neglected oratorios there is a
solemn grandeur, a sublimity of feeling, a power of conception,
expression, and drama, a variety and skill in compositional technique,
never again reached in the literature of that form. The 'Messiah'
survives its repetitions and dismemberments partly because it enshrines
the central doctrines of Christianity, dear even to those who have shed
them, but chiefly because its profound chants and triumphal choruses
make it, all in all, the greatest single composition in the history of

England realized his greatness when he was gone. As the anniversary
of his birth approached, the nobility, once hostile, joined with King
and commoners to commemorate it with three days of his music. As his
birth had fallen in 1684 by the English calendar, the first performance
was given on May 26, 1784, in Westminster Abbey; the second and third on
May 27 and 29. These having failed to meet the demand, two more were
given in the Abbey on June 3 and 5. The singers numbered 274, the
orchestra 251; now began the custom of making Handel overwhelmingly
monumental. Similar immensities celebrated later Handel anniversaries,
until in 1874 the number of performers swelled to 3,500. Burney, who
heard one of these enormities, thought that the quantity of sound had
not injured the quality of the music. In any case these were the most
massive commemorations that any musician has ever received. Now that
they have subsided it may be possible to hear Handel's music again.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 9: "The Age of Voltaire"
Chapter 6, Art and Music
pages 224-245
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-09-30 19:59:37 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 528 lines ]

Morals and Manners in Voltaire's France

by Will and Ariel Durant

... In a once famous 'Traite des etudes' (1726-28) Charles Rollin,
rector of the University of Paris, defended the classical curriculum and
the stress on religion. The chief goal of education, he held, is to
make men better. Good teachers "have little regard for the sciences
where these do not conduce to virtue; they set no store by the deepest
erudition when it is not accompanied by probity. They prefer an honest
man to a man of learning." But, said Rollin, it is difficult to form
moral character without basing it on religious belief. Hence "the aim
of our labors, the end of all our teaching, should be religion." The
'philosophes' would soon call this in question; the debate on the
necessity of religion for morality would continue throughout the
eighteenth century, and through the next. It is alive today.


Rollin's argument seemed to be borne out by the class differences in
morality. The peasants, who clung to their religion, lived a relatively
moral life; this, however, may have been due to the fact that the family
was the unit of agricultural production, the father was also the
employer, and family discipline was rooted in an economic discipline
enforced by the sequence of the seasons and the demands of the soil. In
the middle classes too religion actively survived, and supported
parental authority as the basis of social order. The conception of the
nation as an association of families through generations of time gave
the strength of solidarity and tradition to middle-class morality. The
bourgeois wife was a model of industry, piety, and motherhood. She took
childbearing in her stride, and was soon at her work again. She was
content with her home and her neighborly associations, and rarely
touched that gilded world in which fidelity was smiled at as passe; we
seldom hear of adultery in the middle-class wife. Father and mother
alike set an example of steady habits, religious observance, and mutual
affection. This was the life that Chardin lovingly commemorated in such
pictures as 'Le Benedicite'.

All classes practiced charity and hospitality. The Church collected
and distributed alms. The antireligious 'philosophes' preached
'bienfaisance', which they based on love of humanity rather than of God;
modern humanitarianism was the child of both religion and philosophy.
Monasteries handed out food to the hungry, and nuns tended the sick;
hospitals, almshouses, orphanages, and homes of refuge were maintained
by state, ecclesiastical, or guild funds. Some bishops were worldly
wastrels, but some, like the bishops of Auxerre, Mirepoix, Boulogne, and
Marseilles, gave their wealth and their lives to charity. State
officials were not mere place seekers and sinecure parasites; the
provosts of Paris distributed food, firewood, and money to the poor, and
at Reims a municipal councilor gave 500,000 livres to charity. Louis XV
had strains of sympathy and timid tenderness. When 600,000 livres were
allotted for fireworks to celebrate the birth of the new Duke of
Burgundy (1751), he canceled the display and ordered the sum to be
divided as dowries for the six hundred poorest girls of Paris; and other
cities followed his example. The Queen lived frugally, and spent most
of her income on good works. The Duc d'Orleans, son of the riotous
Regent, gave most of his fortune to charity. The seamier side of the
story appears in the corruption and negligence that marred the
management of charitable institutions. There were several cases in
which hospital directors pocketed money sent them for the care of the
sick or the poor.

Social morality reflected the nature of man -- selfish and generous,
brutal and kind, mingling etiquette and carnage on the battlefield. In
the lower and upper classes men and women gambled irresponsibly,
sometimes losing the fortunes of their families; and cheating was
frequent. In France, as in England, the government profited from this
gambling propensity by establishing a national lottery. The most
immoral feature of French life was the heartless extravagance of the
court aristocracy living on revenues from peasant poverty. The
bedsheets of the Duchesse de La Ferte, lavish with lace, cost 40,000
crowns; the pearls of Mme. d'Egmont were worth 400,000. Dishonesty in
office was normal. Offices continued to be sold, and were used by the
purchasers for illegal reimbursement. A large part of the money
collected in taxes never reached the treasury. Amid this corruption
patriotism flourished; the Frenchman never ceased to love France, the
Parisian could not long live outside Paris. And almost every Frenchman
was brave. At the siege of Mahon, to stop drunkenness among his troops,
the Marechal de Richelieu decreed: "Anyone among you who in future is
found drunk will not have the honor of taking part in the assault";
drinking almost stopped. Dueling persisted despite all prohibitions.
"In France," said Lord Chesterfield, "a man is dishonored by not
resenting an affront, and utterly ruined by resenting it."

Homosexual acts were punishable with burning at the stake, but this
law was enforced only among the poor, as upon a muleherd in 1724. The
Abbe Desfontaines, who had taught in a Jesuit college for fifteen years,
was arrested on such a charge in 1725. He appealed to Voltaire for
help; Voltaire rose from a sickbed, rode to Fontainebleau, and persuaded
Fleury and Mme. de Prie to secure a pardon; for the next twenty years
Desfontaines was one of Voltaire's most active enemies. Some of the
King's pages were deviates; one of them, La Tremouille, appears to have
made the sixteen-year-old ruler his Ganymede.

Prostitution was popular among the poor and the rich. In the towns
employers paid their female help less than the cost of necessaries, and
allowed them to supplement their daily labor with nocturnal
solicitation. A contemporary scribe reckoned the prostitutes in Paris
at forty thousand; another estimate said sixty thousand. Public
opinion, except in the middle classes, was lenient to such women; it
knew that many nobles, clerics, and other pillars of society helped to
create the demand that generated this supply; and it had the decency to
condemn the poor vendor less than the affluent purchaser. The police
looked the other way except when some private or public complaint was
made against the 'filles'; then a wholesale arrest would be made to
clear the skirts of the government; the women would be herded before
some judge, who would condemn them to jail or hospital; they would be
shaved and disciplined, and soon released, and their hair would grow
again. If they gave too much trouble, or offended a man of power, they
could be sent to Louisiana. Insolent courtesans displayed their
carriages and jewels on the Cours-la-Reine in Paris or on the promenade
at Longchamp. If they secured membership, even as supernumeraries, in
the Comedie-Francaise or the Opera, they were usually immune to arrest
for selling their charms. Some of them rose to be artists' models or
the kept women of nobles or financiers. Some captured husbands, titles,
fortunes; one became the Baronne de Saint-Chamond.

Love marriages, without parental consent, were increasing in number
and in literature, and they were recognized as legal if sworn to before
a notary. But in the great majority of cases, even in the peasantry,
marriages were still arranged by the parents as a union of properties
and families rather than as a union of persons. The family, not the
individual, was the unit of society; hence the continuity of the family
and its property was held more important than the passing pleasures or
tender sentiments of precipitate youth. Moreover, said a peasant to his
daughter, "chance is less blind than love."

The legal age of marriage was fourteen for boys, thirteen for girls,
but they might be legally betrothed from the age of seven, which
medieval philosophy had fixed as beginning the "age of reason." The
hounds of desire were so hot in the chase that parents married off their
daughters as soon as practicable to avoid untimely deflowering; so the
Marquise de Sauveboeuf was a widow at thirteen. Girls in the middle and
upper classes were kept in convents until their mates had been chosen;
then they were hurried from nunnery to matrimony, and had to be well
guarded on the way. In this immoral regime nearly all women were
virgins at marriage.

Since the French aristocracy disdained commerce and industry, and
feudal revenues seldom paid for court residence and display, the
nobility resigned itself to mating its land-rich, money-poor sons with
land-poor, money-rich daughters of the upper bourgeoisie. When the son
of the Duchesse de Chaulnes objected to marrying the richly dowered
daughter of the merchant Bonnier, the mother explained to him that "to
marry advantageously beneath oneself is merely taking dung to manure
one's acres." Usually, in such unions, the titled son, while using his
wife's livres, periodically reminded her of her lowly origin, and soon
took a mistress to certify his scorn. This too was remembered when the
middle classes aided the Revolution.

No social stigma, in the aristocracy, was attached to adultery; it
was accepted as a pleasant substitute for the divorce that the national
religion forbade. A husband serving in the army or the provinces might
take a mistress without giving his wife an acceptable reason for
complaint. He or she might be separated by attendance at court or
duties on the manor; again he might take a mistress. Since marriage was
contracted with no pretense that sentiment could override property, many
noble couples lived much of their lives apart, mutually licensing each
other's sins, provided these were gracefully veiled and, in the woman's
case, confined to one man at a time. Montesquieu made his Persian
traveler report that in Paris "a husband who would wish to have sole
possession of his wife would be regarded as a disturber of public
happiness, and as a fool who should wish to enjoy the light of the sun
to the exclusion of other men." The Duc de Lauzun, who for ten years
had not seen his wife, was asked what he would say if his wife sent him
word that she was pregnant; he answered like an eighteenth-century
gentleman: "I would write and tell her that I was delighted that Heaven
had blessed our union; be careful of your health; I will call and pay my
respects this evening." Jealousy was bad form.

The champion adulterer and model of fashion in this age was Louis
Francois Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, grandnephew of
the austere Cardinal. A dozen titled ladies fell in turn into his bed,
drawn by his rank, his wealth, and his reputation. When his ten-year-
old son was rebuked for slow progress in Latin, he retorted, "My father
never knew Latin, and yet he had the fairest women in France." This did
not prevent the Duke's election to the French Academy twenty-three years
before his friend and creditor Voltaire, who was two years his senior.
Public opinion frowned, however, when he served as procurer of
concubines for the King. Mme. Geoffrin barred him from her circle as an
"epluchure [select assemblage] des grands vices." He lived to the age
of ninety-two, escaping the Revolution by one year.

Such being the relations of spouses, we can imagine the fate of
their children. In the nobility they were frankly treated as
impediments. They were dismissed at birth to wet nurses; they were
brought up by governesses and tutors; they only intermittently saw their
parents. Talleyrand said he had never slept under the same roof as his
father and mother. Parents thought it wise to maintain a respectful
distance between themselves and their progeny; intimacy was exceptional,
familiarity was unheard of. The son always addressed his father as
"monsieur"; the daughter kissed her mother's hand. When the children
grew up they were sent off to the army, to the Church, or to a nunnery.
As in England, nearly all the property went to the eldest son.

This way of life continued in the court nobility till the accession
of Louis XVI in 1774. It revealed in another aspect the loss of
religious belief in the upper classes; the Christian conception of
marriage, like the medieval ideal of chivalry, was quite abandoned; the
pursuit of pleasure was more nakedly "pagan" than at any time since
Imperial and decadent Rome. Many works on morality were published in
eighteenth-century France, but books of deliberate indecency abounded,
and circulated widely, though clandestinely. "The French," wrote
Frederick the Great, "and above all the inhabitants of Paris, were now
sybarites enervated by pleasure and ease." The Marquis d'Argenson,
about 1749, saw in the decline of moral sensibility another omen of
national disaster:

The heart is a faculty of which we despoil ourselves
every day by giving it no exercise, while the mind is
continually sharpened and refined. We become more and
more intellectual.... I predict that this realm will
perish from the extinction of the faculties that derive
from the heart. We have no more friends; we no longer
love our mistresses; how shall we love our country? ...
Men lose daily some part of that fine quality which we
call sensibility. Love, and the need to love,
disappear.... Calculations of interest absorb us
continually; everything is a commerce of intrigue....
The interior fire goes out for lack of nourishment; a
paralysis creeps over the heart.

It is the voice of Pascal speaking for Port-Royal, the voice of Rousseau
a generation before Jean Jacques, the voice of sensitive spirits in any
age of intellectual ferment and liberation. We shall hear it again.


Never was a reckless morality so gilded with refinement of manners,
elegance of dress and speech, variety of pleasures, the charm of women,
the flowery politeness of correspondence, the brilliance of intellect
and wit. "Never before had there been in France, nor was there in
contemporary Europe, nor ... has there ever been in the world since, a
society so polished, so intelligent, so delightful, as French society of
the eighteenth century." "The French," said Hume in 1741, "have in a
great measure perfected that art, the most useful and agreeable of any,
'l'art de vivre', the art of society and conversation." It was toward
the end of this period that the word 'civilization' came into use. It
did not appear in Johnson's 'Dictionary' in 1755, nor in the 'Grand
Vocabulaire' published in thirty volumes in Paris in 1768.

The French felt especially civilized in their dress. Men quite
rivaled women in the care they took with their clothes. In the upper
classes fashion required them to wear a large three-cornered hat, with
feathers and gold braid; but as this disturbed their wigs they usually
wore it under the arm. Wigs were smaller now than under the Great King,
but they were more general, even among artisans. There were twelve
hundred wig shops in Paris, with six thousand employees. Hair and wig
were powdered. Male hair was usually long, caught behind the neck by a
ribbon or in a bag. A long coat of fancy coloring and material --
generally of velvet -- covered the inner costume, which showed a vest
open at the throat, a fluffy silk shirt, a wide cravat, and sleeves
spreading into ornate ruffles at the wrists. Knee breeches ('culottes')
were colored; stockings were of white silk, shoes were buckled with
silver clasps. Courtiers, as a distinguishing mark, wore shoes with red
heels. Some of them used whalebones to keep their coattails in proper
spread; some wore diamonds in their buttonholes; all carried a sword,
and some a cane. The wearing of a sword was forbidden to servants,
apprentices, and musicians. The bourgeois dressed simply, in coat and
culottes of plain dark cloth, with stockings of black or gray wool, and
shoes with thick soles and low heels. Artisans and household help took
on the discarded garments of the rich; the elder Mirabeau grumbled that
he could not tell a blacksmith from a lord.

Women still enjoyed the freedom of their legs within the spacious
sanctum of their farthingales. The clergy denounced as "she-monkeys"
and "clerks of the Devil" the women who wore such hoopskirts, but the
ladies loved them for the majesty they gave to their figures even when
'enceintes'. Mme. de Crequi tells us, "I could not whisper to Mme.
d'Egmont,because our hoops prevented our being near together." Milady's
high-heeled shoes -- of colored leather set off with embroidery of
silver or gold -- made her feet entrancing if unseen; her bootmakers
rose into the upper bourgeoisie by such artistry; romances were written
about a pretty foot, which was usually a pretty shoe. Almost as
exciting were the flowered heelless "mules" which Milady wore at home.
Useful also were the flounces, ribbons, fans, and 'pretintailles', or
ornamental "pretties," that caught the male's roving eye or disguised
the female's roving form. Corsets of whalebone molded that form to
fashionable shape. Enough of the bosom was shown to certify a cozy
amplitude. Coiffures were low and simple; the tower hairdo waited till
1763. Cosmetics doctored hands, arms, face, and hair; but men fell
little short of women in using perfume. Every ladylike face was painted
and powdered, and strategically patched with beauty-spot 'mouches'
(flies) made of black silk and cut in the shape of hearts, teardrops,
moons, comets, or stars. A great lady would wear seven or eight of
these pasted on the forehead, on the temples, near the eyes, and at the
corners of the mouth; she carried a patch-box with additional 'mouches'
in case any should fall off. A rich lady's boudoir table shone with
'necessaires' -- boxes of gold or silver or lapis lazuli designed to
hold toiletries. Costly jewels sparkled on arms, throat, and ears, and
in the hair. Favored males were admitted to the boudoir to converse
with Milady as her maids equipped her for the campaigns of the day. In
the aristocracy men were slaves to women, women were slaves to fashion,
and fashion was determined by couturiers. Attempts to control fashion
or dress by sumptuary laws were abandoned in France after 1704. Western
Europe generally followed French fashions, but there was also a reverse
flow: so the marriage of Louis XV with Marie Leszczynska brought in
styles 'a la Polonaise'; the war against Austria-Hungary introduced
'hongrelines'; and the marriage of the Dauphin to the Infanta Maria
Teresa Rafaela (1745) restored the mantilla to popularity in France.

Meals were not as ornate as dress, but they required as subtle and
varied a science, as delicate an art. French cooking was already the
model and peril of Christendom. Voltaire warned his countrymen in 1749
that their heavy repasts would "eventually numb all the faculties of the
mind"; he gave a good example of simple diet and nimble wits. The
higher the class, the more was eaten; so a typical dinner at the table
of Louis XV included soup, a roast of beef, a cut of veal, some chicken,
a partridge, a pigeon, fruit, and preserves. "There are very few
peasants," Voltaire tells us, "who eat meat more than once a month."
Vegetables were a luxury in the city, for it was difficult to keep them
fresh. Eels were in fashion. Some 'grands seigneurs' spent 500,000
livres a year on their cuisine; one spent 72,000 on a dinner given to
the King and the court. In great houses the maitre d'hotel was a person
of impressive majesty; he was richly clad, wore a sword, and flashed a
diamond ring. Women cooks were contemned. Cooks were ambitious to
invent new dishes to immortalize their masters; so France ate 'filet de
volaille a la Bellevue' (Pompadour's favorite palace), 'poulets a la
Villeroi', and 'sauce mayonnaise' which commemorated the victory of
Richelieu at Mahon. The main meal was taken at three or four in the
afternoon; supper was added at nine or ten.

Coffee now rivaled wine as a drink. Michelet must have loved
coffee, for he thought that its mounting influx from Arabia, India, the
island of Bourbon, and the Caribbean contributed to the exhilaration of
spirit that marked the Enlightenment. Every apothecary sold coffee in
grain or in a drink at the counter. There were three hundred cafes in
Paris in 1715, six hundred in 1750, and a proportionate number in the
provincial towns. At the Cafe Procope -- called also the Cave, because
it was always kept dark -- Diderot spilled ideas and Voltaire came in
disguise to hear comments on his latest play. Such coffeehouses were
the salons of the commoners, where men might play chess or checkers or
dominoes, and, above all, talk; for men had grown lonelier as city
crowds had increased.

Clubs were private cafes, restricted in membership and tending to
specific interests. So the Abbe Alari established (c. 1721) the Club de
l'Entresol (a mezzanine in the abbe's home) where some twenty statesmen,
magistrates, and men of letters gathered to discuss the problems of the
day, including religion and politics. Bolingbroke gave it its name, and
so brought the word 'club' into the French language. There the Abbe de
Saint-Pierre expounded his plans for social reforms and perpetual peace;
some of these worried Cardinal Fleury, who ordered the disbandment of
the club in 1731. Three years later Jacobite refugees from England
founded in Paris the first French Freemasonry lodge. Montesquieu joined
it, and several members of the high nobility. It served as a refuge for
deists and as a center of political intrigue; it became a channel of
English influence, and prepared the way for the 'philosophes'.

Bored with the round of domestic toil, men and women flocked to the
promenades, dance halls, theaters, concerts, and opera; the rich took to
the hunt, the bourgeoisie to 'fetes champetres'. The Bois de Boulogne,
the Champs-Elysees, the Jardins des Tuileries, the Luxembourg Gardens,
and the Jardin des Plantes -- or "Jardin du Roi," as it was then called
-- were favorite resorts for carriage rides, walks, lovers' haunts, and
Easter parades. If people stayed home they amused themselves with
indoor games, dances, chamber concerts, and private theatricals.
Everyone danced. Ballet had become a complex and royal art, in which
the King himself occasionally pranced a part. Ballet dancers like La
Camargo and La Gaussin were the toast of the town and the delicacies of


Music in France had declined since Lully had outdone Moliere in
amusing the Great King. There was not here the same madness about music
that made Italy forget its political subjection, nor that laborious
devotion to compositional technique which was creating the massive
Masses and prolonged Passions of Bach's Germany. French music was in
transition from classic form to baroque decoration to rococo grace, from
complex counterpoint mutilating words to fluent melodies and tender
themes congenial to French character. Popular composers still issued
amorous, satirical, or melancholy songs deifying lasses, defying kings,
deprecating virginity and delay. Patronage of music was spreading from
kings requiring majesty to financiers apologizing for their fortunes
with concerts, dramas, and poetry open to the influential few.
Rousseau's opera 'Les Muses galantes' was produced in the home of the
[tax-] farmer general 'La Popeliniere'. Some rich men had orchestras of
their own. Performances open to the public for an admission charge were
regularly offered in Paris by the Concerts Spirituels, organized in
1725; and other cities followed suit. Opera was presented in the
Palais-Royal, usually in late afternoon, concluding by 8:30 p.m.; then
the audience, in evening dress, promenaded in the Tuileries Gardens, and
singers and instrumentalists entertained them in the open air; this was
one of many charming features of Paris life.

We perceive in reading Diderot's 'Le Neveu de Rameau' how many
composers and executants were then the rage who are forgotten now. Only
one French composer in this period left behind him works that still
cling to life. Jean Philippe Rameau had every impulse to music. His
father was organist in the Church of St.Ettienne at Dijon. Enthusiastic
biographers assure us that Jean at seven could read at sight any music
placed before him. At college he so absorbed himself in music that the
Jesuit fathers expelled him; thereafter he hardly ever opened a book
except of or on music. Soon he was so proficient on organ, harpsichord,
and violin that Dijon had nothing more to teach him. When he strayed
into love, his father, thinking this a waste of talent, sent him to
Italy to study its secrets of melody (1701).

Back in France, Jean served as organist in Clermont-Ferrand,
succeeded his father in Dijon (1709-14), returned to Clermont as
organist of the cathedral (1716), and settled in Paris in 1721. There,
in 1772, aged thirty-nine, he wrote the outstanding work of musical
theory in eighteenth-century France -- 'Traite de l'harmonie reduite a
ses principes naturels'. Rameau argued that in a proper musical
composition there is always, whether scored or not, a "fundamental base"
from which all chords above it can be derived; that all chords can be
deduced from the harmonic series of partial tones; and that these chords
may be inverted without losing their identity. Rameau wrote in a style
intelligible only to the most obdurate musicians, but his ideas pleased
the mathematician d'Alembert, who gave them a more lucid exposition in
1752. Today the laws of chordal association formulated by Rameau are
accepted as the theoretical foundation of musical composition.

Opposed by the critics, Rameau fought back with compositions and
expositions until he was finally revered for having reduced music to law
as Newton had reduced the stars. In 1726, aged forty-three, he married
Marie Mangot, aged eighteen. In 1727 he put to music Voltaire's lyric
drama 'Samson', but its production was forbidden on the ground that
Biblical stories should not be reduced to opera. Rameau had to butter
his bread by serving as organist in the Church of St.-Croix-de-la-
Bretonnerie. He was fifty before he conquered the operatic stage.

In that year (1733) Abbe Pellegrin offered him a libretto,
'Hippolyte et Aricie', founded on Racine's 'Phedre', but he exacted from
Rameau a bill for five hundred livres as security in case the opera
should fail. When it was rehearsed the abbe was so delighted with the
music that he tore up the bill at the end of the first act. The public
performance at the Academie de Musique surprised the audience with bold
departures from the modes that had become a sacred tradition since
Lully. Critics protested Rameau's novel rhythms, heretical modulations,
and orchestral elaborations; even the orchestra resented the music. For
a time Rameau thought of abandoning all attempts at opera, but his next
effort, 'Les Indes galantes' (1735), won the audience by its flow of
melody, and his 'Castor et Pollux' (1737) was one of the great triumphs
in French operatic history.

Success spoiled him. He boasted that he could turn any libretto
into a good opera, and that he could set a newspaper to music. He
produced a long succession of indifferent operas. When the managers of
the Academie de Musique tired of him, he composed pieces for the
harpsichord, violin, or flute. Louis XV -- or Mme. de Pompadour -- came
to his aid by engaging him to write the music for Voltaire's 'La
Princesse de Navarre', which had a reassuring success at Versailles
(1745). He was restored to favor at the Academie, and wrote more
operas. As Paris became familiar with his style it forgot Lully, and
acclaimed Rameau as the unrivaled monarch of the musical world.

Then in 1752 he found himself faced with a new challenge. Virtuosos
and composers had come in from Italy, and a noisy war began between
French and Italian music, which would culminate in the seventies with
Piccini versus Gluck. An Italian troupe presented at the Paris Opera,
as an intermezzo, Pergolesi's 'La serva padrona', one of the classics of
comic opera. The friends of French music countered with pamphlets and
Rameau. The court divided into two camps; Mme. de Pompadour supported
French music, the Queen defended the Italian; Grimm attacked all French
opera (1752), and Rousseau declared French music impossible. The final
sentence of Rousseau's 'Lettre sur la musique francaise' (1753) was
characteristic of his emotional unbalance:

I believe I have made it evident that there is
neither measure nor melody in French music, because the
language does not allow them; that French singing is
only a continued barking and complaining, unbearable to
any unprepossessed ear; that its harmony is rough
['brute'], without expression, and feeling only what it
has learned from its teacher; that French arias are not
arias, that French recitative is no recitative. Whence
I concluded that the French have no music, and cannot
have any, or that if ever they have any, it will be so
much the worse for them.

The partisans of French music retaliated with twenty-five pamphlets, and
burned Rousseau in effigy at the Opera door. Rameau was unwillingly
used as the 'piece de resistance' in this 'Guerre des Bouffons', or War
of Buffoons. When it subsided, and he was pronounced victor, he
acknowledged that French music had still much to learn from the Italian;
and were he not so old, he said, he would go back to Italy to study the
methods of Pergolesi and other Italian masters.

He was now at the height of his popularity, but he had many enemies,
old and new. He added to them with a pamphlet exposing the errors in
the articles on music in the 'Encyclopedie'. Rousseau, who had written
most of the articles, turned upon him with hatred; and Diderot, father
of the 'Encyclopedie', abused the old composer with respectful
discrimination in 'Le Neveu de Rameau', which Diderot had the grace not
to publish:

The famous musician who delivered us from the
plainsong of Lully that we had intoned for over a
century, and who wrote so much visionary gibberish and
apocalyptic truth about the theory of music -- writings
which neither he nor anyone else ever understood. We
have from him a number of operas in which one finds
harmony, snatches of song, disconnected ideas, clatter,
flights, triumphal processions, spears, apotheoses, ...
and dance tunes that will last for all time.

When, in 1760, aged seventy-seven, Rameau appeared in a box at the
revival of his opera 'Dardanus', he received an ovation that almost
rivaled that which would be given to Voltaire eighteen years later. The
King gave him a patent of nobility, and Dijon, proud of its son,
exempted him and his family from municipal taxes to the end of time. At
the height of his glory he caught typhoid fever, wasted away quickly,
and died, September 12, 1764. Paris accorded him a ceremonial interment
in the Church of St.-Eustache, and many towns in France held services in
his honor.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 9: "The Age of Voltaire"
Chapter 8, Morals and Manners
pages 287-298
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-07 17:54:22 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 758 lines ]

The Germany of Bach


by Will and Ariel Durant

I. The German Scene

IT was not to be expected that Voltaire, as he passed through Germany,
could discipline his volatile Parisian mind to an appreciation of German
bodies, features, manners, speech, Gothic letters, music, and art. He
had probably never heard of Johann Sebastian Bach, who died on July 18,
1750, eighteen days after Voltaire reached Berlin. And presumably he
had not seen Hume's description of Germany in 1748 as "a fine country,
full of industrious honest people; were it united it would be the
greatest power ... in the world."

It was fortunate for France and England that these virile folk,
numbering then some twenty millions, were still divided into more than
three hundred practically independent states, each with its sovereign
prince, its own court, policy, army, coinage, religion, and dress; all
in various stages of economic and cultural development; the whole
agreeing only in language, music, and art. Sixty-three of the
principalities -- including Cologne, Hildesheim, Mainz, Trier, Speyer,
Wurzburg -- were ruled by archbishops, bishops, or abbots. Fifty-one
cities -- chiefly Hamburg, Bremen, Magdeburg, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Ulm,
and Frankfurt-am-Main -- were "free," i.e., loosely subject, like the
princes, to the head of the Holy Roman Empire.

Outside of Saxony and Bavaria, most of the German land was
cultivated by serfs legally bound to the soil they tilled, and subject
to nearly all the old feudal dues. As late as 1750, of the eight
thousand peasants in the bishopric of Hildesheim 4,500 were serfs.
Class divisions were sharp, but they were so mortised in time that the
commonalty accepted them with very little complaint; and they were
mitigated by a greater survival and honoring of seignorial obligations
to protect the peasant in misfortune, to care for him in sickness and
old age, to look after widows and orphans, and to maintain order and
peace. The 'Junker' landlords in Prussia distinguished themselves by
competent management of their domains, and their quick adoption of
improved agricultural techniques.

Now that Germany had had sixty-seven years to recover from the
Thirty Years' War, industry and commerce were reviving. The Leipziger
Messe was the best-attended fair in Europe; it surpassed the Frankfurt
fair even in the sale of books. Frankfurt and Hamburg reached in this
century a degree of mercantile activity equaled only by Paris,
Marseilles, London, Genoa, Venice, and Constantinople. The merchant
princes of Hamburg used their wealth not merely for luxury and display,
but for the enthusiastic patronage of opera, poetry, and drama; here
Handel had his first triumphs, Klopstock found shelter, and Lessing
wrote his 'Hamburgische Dramaturgie' -- essays on the Hamburg theater.
The German cities were then, as now, the best administered in Europe.

Whereas in France and England the king had succeeded in bringing the
nobles into subservience to the central government, the electors,
princes, dukes, counts, bishops, or abbots who ruled the German states
had deprived the emperor of any real power over their domains, and had
brought the lower nobility into attendance at the princely courts.
Aside from the free cities, these courts ('Residenzen') were the centers
of cultural as well as political life in Germany. The wealth of the
landowners was drawn to them, and was spent in immense palaces,
sumptuous expenditure, and magnificent uniforms that in many cases were
half the man and most of his authority. So Eberhard Ludwig, Duke of
Wurttemberg, commissioned J.F. Nette and Donato Frizoni to build for
him (1704-33) at Ludwigsburg (near Stuttgart) an alternative 'Residenz'
so lordly in design and decoration, and so replete with elegant
furniture and objects of art, as must have cost his subjects many
thalers and arduous days. The great 'Schloss', or castle, at
Heidelberg, begun in the thirteenth century, added in 1751 a cellar vat
with a capacity for brewing 49,000 gallons of beer at a time. At
Mannheim Duke Charles Theodore, during his long rule as Elector Palatine
(1733-99), spent 35 million florins on artistic and scientific
institutions, museums, and libraries, and in support of architects,
sculptors, painters, actors, and musicians. Hanover was not large or
magnificent, but it had a resplendent opera house, luring Handel.
Germany was as mad about music as Mother Italy herself.

Munich too had a great opera house, financed by a tax on playing
cards. But the duke-electors of Bavaria made their capital famous also
for architecture. When his duchy was overrun by Austrians in the War of
the Spanish Succession, Maximilian Emanuel had found refuge in Paris and
Versailles; when he returned to Munich (1714) he brought with him a
flair for art and the rococo style. With him came a young French
architect, Francois de Cuvillies, who built for the next Elector,
Charles Albert, in the park of Nymphenburg, that masterpiece of German
rococo, the little palace called the Amalienburg (1734-39). Simple
without, it is a wilderness of ornament within: a domed and dazzling
Hall of Mirrors (Spiegelsaal), with silvered stucco carved in
latticework and arabesques; and a Yellow Room (Gelbes Zimmer) where the
gilt stucco baffles the eye that tries to follow its intricate design.
In the same overwhelming style Josef Effner began and Cuvillies
completed the Empire Rooms (Reichen Zimmer) in the ducal residence at
Munich. Cuvillies had left France at the age of twenty, before
acquiring the full discipline of French taste; unchecked by him, the
German artists elaborated the stucco with amateur abandon, achieving
retail perfection within gross exaggeration. The Empire Rooms were
shattered in the Second World War.

Frederick Augustus I "the Strong," Elector of Saxony (r. 1694-1733),
was not to be outdone by any 'Munchner' duke. Despite passing to Warsaw
(1697) as King Augustus II of Poland, he found time to tax the Saxons
sufficiently to make Dresden "the Florence on the Elbe," leading all
German cities in expenditure on art. "The town is the neatest I have
seen in Germany," reported Lady Mary Montagu in 1716; "most of the
houses are new built; the Elector's palace very handsome." Augustus
collected pictures almost as avidly as concubines; his son, Elector
Frederick Augustus II (r. 1733-63), poured out money on horses and
pictures, and, said Winckelmann, "brought the arts to Germany." In 1743
this younger Augustus sent Algarotti to Italy with ducats to buy
paintings; soon afterward the Elector bought for 100,000 sequins
($500,000?) the collection of Duke Francesco III of Modena; and in 1754
he bought Raphael's 'Sistine Madonna' for twenty thousand ducats, a then
unprecedented price. So the great Gemaldegalerie of Dresden took form.

A handsome opera house rose in Dresden in 1718; its company must
have excelled, for Handel raided it for his English ventures in 1719;
and under Johann Hasse its orchestra was among the best in Europe. It
was in Dresden that Meissen porcelain was born -- but that must have a
story of its own. In the architecture of the Saxon capital the great
name was Matthaus Daniel Poppelmann. For Augustus 'der Starke' he built
in 1711-22 the famous Zwinger Palace as a festival center for the court:
a brilliant baroque complex of columns, arches, lovely mullioned
windows, balconies, and crowning cupola. The Zwinger was destroyed by
bombing in 1945, but the magnificent gate has been rebuilt on the
original design. For the same inexhaustible Elector the Roman architect
Gaetano Chiaveri raised in Italian baroque the Hofkirche, or Court
Church (1738-51); this too was largely ruined and successfully restored.
History is a contest between art and war, and art plays the part of

II. German Life

Germany was now leading Europe in elementary education. In 1717
King Frederick William I of Prussia made primary education compulsory in
his kingdom, and during the next twenty years he founded 1,700 schools
to instruct and indoctrinate the young. These schools were usually
taught by laymen; the role of religion in education was diminishing.
Stress was laid on obedience and industry, and flogging was 'de
rigueur'. One schoolmaster reckoned that in fifty-one years of teaching
he had given 124,000 lashes with a whip, 136,715 slaps with the hand,
911,527 blows with a stick, and 1,115,800 boxes on the ear. In 1747
Julius Hecker, a Protestant clergyman, established in Berlin the first
'Realschule', so named because it added mathematics and industrial
courses to Latin, German, and French; soon most German cities had
similar institutions.

In the universities the study of Greek rose to new prominence,
laying the foundations for later German supremacy in Hellenic
scholarship. Additional universities rose at Gottingen (1737) and
Erlangen (1743). Financed by the Elector of Hanover (become King of
England), Gottingen followed the University of Halle in according
freedom of teaching to its professors, and expanding instruction in
natural science, social studies, and law. University students now
discarded the academic gown, wore cloak, sword, and spurs, fought duels,
and took instruction from the looser ladies of the town. Except in
philosophy and theology, German was the language of education.

Nevertheless the German language was now in bad repute, for the
aristocracy was adopting French. Voltaire wrote from Berlin (November
24, 1750): "I find myself here in France; no one talks anything but
French. German is for the soldiers and the horses; it is needed only on
the road." The German theater presented comedies in German, tragedies
in French -- usually from the French repertoire. Germany was then the
least nationalistic of European states, because it was not yet a state.

German literature suffered from this lack of national consciousness.
The most influential German author of the age, Johann Christoph
Gottsched, who gathered about him a literary circle that made Leipzig "a
little Paris," used German in his writings, but he imported his
principles from Boileau, denounced baroque art as a glittering chaos,
and called for a return to the classical rules of composition and style
as practiced in the France of Louis XIV. Two Swiss critics, Bodmer and
Breitinger, attacked Gottsched's admiration of order and rule; poetry,
they felt, took its power from forces of feeling and passion deeper than
reason; even in Racine a world of emotion and violence welled up through
the classic form. "The best writings," Bodmer urged, "are not the
result of rules; ... the rules are derived from the writings."

Christian Gellert, who exceeded all German writers in popularity,
agreed with Bodmer, Breitinger, and Pascal that feeling is the heart of
thought and the life of poetry. He deserved his Christian name; he was
so respected for the purity of his life and the gentleness of his ways
that kings and princes attended his lectures on philosophy and ethics at
the University of Leipzig, and women came to kiss his hands. He was a
man of unashamed sentiment, who mourned the dead at Rossbach instead of
celebrating Frederick's victory; yet Frederick, the greatest realist of
the age, called him "le plus raissonable de tous les savans allemans" --
the most reasonable of all German savants. Frederick, however, probably
preferred Ewald Christian von Kleist, the virile young poet who died for
him in the battle of Kunersdorf (1759). The King's judgment of German
literature was harsh but hopeful: "We have no good writers whatever;
perhaps they will arise when I am walking in the Elysian Fields.... You
will laugh at me for the pains I have taken to impart some notions of
taste and Attic salt to a nation which has hitherto known nothing but
how to eat, drink, and fight." Meanwhile Kant, Klopstock, Wieland,
Lessing, Herder, Schiller, and Goethe had been born.


One German of the time won Frederick's active sympathy. Christian
von Wolff, son of a tanner, rose to be professor at Halle. Taking all
knowledge as his specialty, he tried to systematize it on the basis of
Leibniz' philosophy. Though Mme. du Chatelet called him "un grand
bavard," a great babbler, he pledged himself to reason, and in his
stumbling way began the 'Aufklarung', the German Enlightenment. He
broke precedent by teaching science and philosophy in German. Just to
list his sixty-seven books would clog our course. He began with a four-
volume treatise on "all the mathematical sciences" (1710); he translated
these volumes into Latin (1713); he added a mathematical dictionary
(1716) to facilitate the transition to German. He proceeded with seven
works (1712-25) on logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, physics,
teleology, and biology, each title beginning bravely with the words
'Vernunftige Gedanke', "reasonable thoughts," as if to fly the flag of
reason at his mast. Aspiring to a European audience, he covered the
same vast area in eight Latin treatises, of which the most influential
were the 'Psychologia empirica' (1732), the 'Psychologia rationalis'
(1734), and the 'Theologia naturalis' (1736). After surviving all these
pitfalls he explored the philosophy of law (1740-49); and to crown the
edifice he wrote an autobiography.

The systematic march of his scholastic style makes him hard reading
in our hectic age, but now and then he touched vital spots. He rejected
Locke's derivation of all knowledge from sensation, and served as a
bridge from Leibniz to Kant by insisting on the active role of the mind
in the formation of ideas. Body and mind, action and idea, are two
parallel processes, neither influencing the other. The external world
operates mechanically; it shows many evidences of purposive design, but
there are no miracles in it; and even the operations of the mind are
subject to a determinism of cause and effect. Ethics should seek a
moral code independent of religious belief; it should not rely on God to
terrify men into morality. The function of the state is not to dominate
the individual, but to widen the opportunities for his development. The
ethics of Confucius are especially to be praised, for they based
morality not on supernatural revelation but on human reason. "The
ancient emperors and kings of China were men of a philosophical turn,
... and to their care it is owing that their form of government is of
all the best."

Despite Wolff's earnest avowals of Christian belief, many Germans
thought his philosophy dangerously heterodox. Some members of the Halle
faculty warned Frederick William I that if Wolff's determinism were to
be accepted, no soldier who deserted could be punished, and the whole
structure of the state would collapse. The frightened King ordered the
philosopher to leave Prussia in forty-eight hours on "pain of immediate
death." He fled to Marburg and its university, where the students
hailed him as the apostle and martyr of reason. Within sixteen years
(1721-37) over two hundred books or pamphlets were published attacking
or defending him. One of the first official acts of Frederick the Great
after his accession (1740) was his warm invitation to the exile to
return to Prussia and Halle. Wolff came, and in 1743 he was made
chancellor of the university. He grew more orthodox as he aged, and
died (1754) with all the piety of an orthodox Christian.

His influence was far greater than one would judge from his present
paltry fame. France made him an honorary member of her Academie des
Sciences; the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg named him professor
emeritus; the English and the Italians translated him assiduously; the
King of Naples made the Wolffian system obligatory in his universities.
The younger generation of Germans called him the Sage, and felt that he
had taught Germany to think. The old Scholastic methods of teaching
declined, academic freedom increased. Martin Knutzen took the Wolffian
philosophy to the University of Konigsberg, where he taught Immanuel

The development of science and philosophy, and the disillusioning
consequences of Biblical research, shared with powerful secularizing
forces in weakening the influence of religion on German life. Deistic
ideas, coming in from England through translations and through the
connection of England with Hanover, spread among the upper classes, but
their effect was negligible compared with the result of the
subordination of the Church -- Catholic as well as Protestant -- to the
state. The Reformation had for a time strengthened religious belief;
the Thirty Years' War had injured it; now the subservience of the clergy
to the ruling princes deprived them of the godly aura that had
sanctified their power. Appointments to ecclesiastical office were
dictated by the prince or the local feudal lord. The nobility, as in
England, affected religion as a matter of political utility and social
form. The Lutheran and Calvinist clergy lost status, and Catholicism
slowly gained ground. In this period the Protestant states of Saxony,
Wurttemberg, and Hesse passed under Catholic rulers; and the agnostic
Frederick had to conciliate Catholic Silesia.

Only one religious movement prospered in Protestant areas -- that of
the Unitas Fratrum, the Moravian Brethren. In 1722 some of its members,
oppressed in Moravia, migrated to Saxony and found refuge on the estate
of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Himself a godson of Philipp
Jakob Spener, the young Count saw in the refugees a chance to revive the
spirit of Pietism. He built for them on his lands the village of
Herrnhut ("the Lord's hill"), and spent nearly all his fortune in
printing Bibles, catechisms, hymnbooks, and other literature for their
use. His travels in America (1741-42), England (1750), and elsewhere
helped to establish colonies of the Unitas Fratrum in every continent;
indeed, it was the Moravian Brethren who inaugurated the modern
missionary activity in the Protestant churches. Peter Bohler's meeting
with John Wesley in 1735 brought a strong influence of the Brethren into
the Methodist movement. In America they settled near Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania, and in Salem, North Carolina. They kept their faith and
discipline almost untouched by winds of doctrine and fashions of dress,
perhaps at the cost of some hardness of spirit in their family
relations; but the skeptic must respect the strength and sincerity of
their belief, and its exceptional accord with their moral life.

Morals in this age were generally more wholesome in Germany than in
France, except where imitation of France passed from language to
lechery. In the middle classes family life was subject to an almost
fanatical discipline; fathers habitually whipped their daughters,
sometimes their wives. Frederick William I kept the court of Berlin in
fearsome order, but his daughter described the Saxon court at Dresden as
quite up to that of Louis XV in adultery. Augustus the Strong, we are
assured on dubious authority, had 354 "natural" children, some of whom
forgot their common parentage in incestuous beds. Augustus himself was
alleged to have taken, as one of his mistresses, his bastard daughter
Countess Orczelska, who later taught the 'ars amoris' to Frederick the
Great. In the early eighteenth century the faculty of law at the
University of Halle issued a pronouncement defending princely

Manners were strict, but laid no claim to Gallic grace or
conversational charm. The nobles, shorn of political power, warmed
themselves with uniforms and titles. "I have known," wrote Lord
Chesterfield in 1748, "many a letter returned unopened because one title
in twenty had been omitted in the direction." Oliver Goldsmith's
judgment was patriotically harsh: "Let the Germans have their due; if
they are dull, no nation alive assumes a more laudable solemnity, or
better understands the decorum of stupidity"; and Frederick the Great
agreed with him. Eating continued to be a popular way of spending the
day. Furniture took over the styles of carving and marquetry then
flourishing in France, but there was nothing in France or England quite
as jolly as the gaily colored ceramic stoves that roused the envy of
Lady Mary Montagu. German gardens were Italianate, but German houses,
with their half-timbered fronts, mullioned windows, and protective
eaves, gave to German towns a colorful charm revealing a keen, however
unformulated, aesthetic sense. And indeed it was a German, Alexander
Baumgarten, who in his 'Aesthetic' (1750) established the modern use of
that term, and announced a theory of beauty and art as a part and
problem of philosophy.

III. German Art

Pottery was here a major art, for in this period the Germans showed
Europe how to make porcelain. Augustus the Strong hired Johann
Friedrich Bottger to transmute base metals into gold; Bottger failed;
but with Spinoza's old friend Walter von Tschirnhaus he established a
faience factory in Dresden, and made experiments that at last succeeded
in producing the first European hard-paste porcelain. In 1710 he moved
the manufacture to Meissen, fourteen miles from Dresden, and there he
continued to refine his methods and products till his death (1719).
Meissen porcelain was painted in rich colors on a white background with
delicate designs of flowers, birds, genre, landscapes, marine views, and
exotic snatches from Oriental dress and life. Under Johann Joachim
Kandler the process was further improved; sculpture in porcelain was
added to painting under glaze; fantastic figurines preserved the persons
of German folklore and comedy; and imaginative masterpieces like the
"Swan Service" of Kandler and Eberlein showed that art could rival in
brightness and smoothness the varied armory of woman. Soon all
aristocratic Europe, even in France, was adorning its rooms with
humorously satirical figures in Meissen porcelain. The town retained
its leadership in the art till 1758, when it was sacked by the Prussian
army in the Seven Years' War.

From Augsburg, Nuremberg, Bayreuth, and other centers the German
potters poured into German homes a baroque profusion of ceramic
products, from the loveliest faience and porcelain to jolly jugs that
made even beer drinking an aesthetic experience. Through most of the
eighteenth century Germany led Europe not only in porcelain but in
glass. Nor were the German ironworkers anywhere surpassed in this age;
at Augsburg, Ebrach, and elsewhere they made wrought-iron gates rivaling
those that Jean Lamour was raising at Nancy. The German goldsmiths were
excelled only by the very best in Paris. German engravers
(Knobelsdorff, Glume, Rugendas, Ridinger, Georg Kilian, Georg Schmidt)
cut or burned exquisite designs into copper plates.


German painters in this period did not win the international renown
still awarded to Watteau, Boucher, La Tour, and Chardin. It is part of
our unavoidable parochialism that non-Germans are not acquainted with
the paintings of Cosmas Asam, Balthasar Denner, Johann Fiedler, Johann
Thiele, Johann Ziesenis, Georg de Marees; let us at least recite their
names. Better known to us than these is a French artist domiciled in
Germany, Antoine Pesne, who became court painter to Frederick William I
and Frederick the Great. His masterpiece pictures Frederick as a still
innocent child of three, with his six-year-old sister Wilhelmine; if
this had been painted in Paris all the world would have heard of it.

One family garnered fame in three fields -- painting, sculpture, and
architecture. Cosmas Damian Asam, in the Church of St. Emmeram in
Regensburg, pictured the assumption of St. Benedict into Paradise,
giving him the help of a lofty launching pad. Cosmas joined his brother
Egid in designing the interior of the Church of St. Nepomuk in Munich --
architecture overlaid with sculpture in wildest baroque. Egid carved in
stucco 'The Assumption of Mary' for an abbey church at Rohr in Bavaria.
A fine Italian hand showed in the imposing Neptune Fountain set up in
Dresden by Lorenzo Mattielli; this was a famous feature in the splendor
of the Saxon capital. Balthasar Permoser spoiled his sculptured
'Apotheosis of Prince Eugene' with a confusion of symbolical figures; he
decorated with a like extravagance the pavilion of the Dresden Zwinger;
he achieved an almost Michelangelic dignity and force in the 'Apostles'
grouped around the pulpit of the Hofkirche in Dresden; and his linden-
wood 'St. Ambrose' in that church ranks near the top of European
sculpture in the first half of the eighteenth century. Georg Ebenhecht
imagined a slim German beauty in the lovely 'Bacchus and Ariadne' that
he carved for the park at Sanssouci. German parks and gardens abounded
in sculpture; a connoisseur of baroque estimated that "there is a bigger
proportion of good garden statues in Germany than in the whole of the
rest of Europe put together."


But it was only in architecture that German artists caught the eye
of European artists in this age. Johann Balthasar Neumann left his mark
in a dozen places. His masterpiece was the 'Residenz' of the Prince-
Bishop of Wurzburg; others collaborated in the design and execution
(1719-44), but his was the guiding hand. The Venetian Room and the
Mirror Room, resplendent in their decoration, were shattered in the
Second World War, but four rooms remain to attest the splendor of the
interior; and the lordly staircase, known to all the art world for its
ceiling frescoes by Tiepolo, was one of several such structures that
helped to give Neumann his pre-eminence among the architects of his
time. Quite different, but almost as fine, was the staircase he built
for the episcopal palace in Bruchsal -- another casualty of the national
suicide. Perhaps more beautiful than either was the double staircase
made by him for the Augustusburg at Bruhl, near Cologne. Staircases
were his passion; he lavished his art on still another in a monastery at
Ebrach. Interrupting his ascents and descents, he built the
'Wallfahrtskirche' (pilgrimage church) of Vierzehnhieiligen on the Main;
he decorated in ornate baroque the Paulinuskirche in Trier and the
Kreuzbergkirche near Bonn; and to the cathedral at Wurzburg he added a
chapel whose exterior is as nearly perfect as baroque can be.

Ecclesiastical architecture now specialized in massive monasteries.
The Kloster Ettal, a Benedictine cloister which Emperor Louis of Bavaria
founded in 1330 in a picturesque valley near Oberammergau, was restored
in 1718 by Enrico Zuccalli, and was crowned with a graceful dome. The
abbey church was destroyed by fire in 1744; it was rebuilt in 1752 by
Josef Schmuzer; the interior was elaborately adorned in gold-and-white
rococo style, with frescoes by Johann Zeiller and Martin Knoller;
sumptuous side altars were added in 1757, and an organ celebrated for
its handsome case. The most impressive of these prayerful monuments is
the incredibly rich 'Klosterkirche', or cloister church, of the
Benedictine monastery at Ottobeuren, southeast of Memmingen. Here
Johann Michael Fischer organized the ensemble, Johann Christian
contributed the gilt carvings, and Martin Hormann provided the choir
stalls -- the pride of German wood carving in this century. Fischer
worked intermittently on this enterprise from 1737 till his death in

The ruling classes were as loath as the monks to wait for a heaven
beyond the grave. Some stately town halls were erected, as at Luneburg
and Bamberg; but the major efforts of secular architecture were devoted
to castles and palaces. Karlsruhe had, as 'Residenz' of the Margrave of
Baden-Durlach, a unique 'Schloss' in the shape of a fan -- the ribs
radiating out from a garden handle into the city streets. This palace,
like much of the city, was laid in ruins by the Second World War; the
great Schloss Berlin, built by Andreas Schluter and his successors
(1699-1720), fell in the same tragedy; still another victim was the
Schloss Monbijou, near the Spandau Gate of Berlin; the castle at Bruhl,
designed for the Archbishop of Cologne, was partly destroyed; the
Schloss Bruchsal was a total loss. At Munich Josef Effner raised the
Preysing Palace, and at Trier Johann Seitz housed the ruling Archbishop
in the Kurfurstliches Palais (Electoral Palace) -- a model of modest
beauty. For the Bishop-Elector of Mainz Maximilian von Welsch and
Johann Dientzenhofer put up near Pommersfelden another great castle, the
Schloss Weissenstein, in which Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt installed a
famous double staircase where dignitaries could go up and down without

Frederick the Great capped the secular architecture of Germany in
the eighteenth century by commissioning Georg von Knobelsdorff and
others to build at Potsdam (sixteen miles out of Berlin), on a design
laid out by the King himself, three palaces that in their ensemble
almost rivaled Versailles: the Stadtschloss, or State House (1745-51),
the Neues Palais (1755), and Frederick's summer residence, which he
spelled "Schloss Sanssouci." From the River Havel a broad avenue of
gently rising steps led in five stages through a terraced park to this
"Castle without Care," whose mullioned windows and central dome took
some hints from Dresden's Zwinger Palace. One wing contained an
extensive art gallery; under the dome ran a circle of handsome
Corinthian columns; and a 'Bibliothek' adorned with rococo scrollwork
and gleaming with glass-enclosed books offered a retreat from politics
and generals. It was chiefly in Sanssouci that Voltaire met his match
in the philosopher-king who could govern a state, defy the church,
design a building, sketch a portrait, write passable poetry and
excellent history, win a war against half of Europe, compose music,
conduct an orchestra, and play the flute.

IV. German Music

From the birth of Handel and Bach in 1685 to the death of Brahms in
1897 German music was supreme; at any time in those 212 years the
greatest living composer, except in opera, was a German. Two musical
forms, the oratorio and the fugue, attained their highest development in
the work of Germans in the first half of the eighteenth century; and
some would add that the Roman Catholic Mass received its final
expression at the hands of a German Protestant. The age of painting
ended; the age of music began.

Music was part of the religion, as religion was so great a part of
music, in every German home. There was hardly a family, except in the
poorest class, that could not sing part song, hardly an individual who
could not play one or more instruments. Hundreds of amateur groups
called 'Liebhaber' performed cantatas that professional singers now
consider discouragingly difficult. Manuals of music were as popular as
the Bible. Music was taught with reading and writing in the common
schools. Musical criticism was further advanced than in any other
country but Italy, and the leading musical critic of the century was a

Johann Mattheson was probably more famous and unpopular among German
musicians than any German composer. His vanity clouded his
achievements. He knew the classical and the modern literary languages,
he wrote on law and politics, he played the organ and the harpsichord so
well that he could turn down a dozen invitations to exalted posts. He
was an elegant dancer, an accomplished man of the world. He was an
expert fencer, who nearly killed Handel in a duel. He sang successfully
in the Hamburg Opera; composed operas, cantatas, Passions, oratorios,
sonatas, and suites; and developed the cantata form before Bach. For
nine years he served as 'Kapellmeister' for the Duke of Holstein; then,
becoming deaf, he resigned himself to writing. He published eighty-
eight books, eight of them on music, and added a treatise on tobacco.
He founded and edited (1722-25) 'Critica musica', the earliest known
critical discussion of past and current compositions, and compiled a
biographical dictionary of contemporary musicians. He died at eighty-
three (1764), having powerfully stimulated the musical world.

Musical instruments were in continuous evolution and change, but the
organ was still their unchallenged chief. Usually it had three or four
manuals or keyboards, plus a pedal board of two and a half octaves, plus
a variety of stops that could imitate almost any other instrument. No
finer organs have been built than those made by Andreas Silbermann of
Strasbourg and Gottfried Silbermann of Freiberg. But string instruments
were mounting in popularity. The clavichord (that is, key and string)
used a manual of keys to manipulate levers armed with little "tangents"
of brass to strike the strings; this instrument was already three
centuries old, perhaps more. In the harpsichord (which the French
called 'clavecin', and the Italians 'clavi-' or 'gravicembalo') the
strings were 'plucked' by a tongue of quill or leather attached to
levers moved by (usually) a double manual of keys, aided by two pedals
and three or four stops. The term 'clavier' was applied in Germany to
any keyboard instrument -- clavichord, harpsichord, or piano -- and to
the manuals of an organ. The harpsichord was essentially a harp in
which the fingers plucked the strings through the media of keys, levers,
and plectra. It produced sounds of a delicate charm, but since the
plectrum rebounded as soon as it had struck the string, this instrument
had no means of holding a note or varying its intensity. To get two
degrees of tone it had to resort to a double manual -- the upper one for
'piano' (soft), the lower for 'forte' (loud). The pianoforte grew out
of efforts to overcome these limitations.

In or before 1709 Bartolommeo Cristofori made at Florence four
'gravicembali col piano e forte' -- "clavichords with soft and loud."
In these the plucking plectrum was replaced by a little leather hammer
whose contact with the string could be continued by keeping the key
depressed, while the loudness of the note could be determined by the
force with which the finger struck the key. In 1711 Scipione di Maffei
described the new instrument in his 'Giornale dei letterati d'Italia';
in 1725 this essay appeared at Dresden in a German version; in 1726
Gottfried Silbermann, inspired by this translation, built two
pianofortes on Cristofori's principles. About 1733 he showed an
improved model to Johann Sebastian Bach, who pronounced it too weak in
the upper register, and requiring too heavy a touch. Silbermann
admitted these defects and labored to remove them. He succeeded so well
that Frederick the Great bought fifteen of his pianofortes. Bach played
one of these when he visited Frederick in 1747; he liked it, but judged
himself too old to adopt the new instrument; he continued through his
remaining three years to prefer the organ and the harpsichord.

The orchestra was used mainly in the service of opera or choir;
music was seldom composed for it alone except in the form of overtures.
Oboes and bassoons were more numerous than in our orchestras today; the
woodwinds dominated the strings. Public concerts were as yet rare in
Germany; music was almost entirely confined to the church, the opera,
the home, or the streets. Semipublic concerts of chamber music were
given in Leipzig from 1743 in the homes of prosperous merchants; larger
and larger quarters were taken, the performers were increased to
sixteen, and in 1746 a Leipzig directory announced that "on Thursdays a
Collegium Musicum, under the direction of the worshipful Company of
Merchants and other persons, is held from five to eight o'clock at the
Three Swans [an inn]"; these concerts, it added, "are fashionably
frequented, and are admired with much attention." From this Collegium
Musicum evolved in 1781 the Grosses Konzert in the Leipzig Gewandhaus
(Drapers' Hall) -- the oldest concert series now in existence.

Only a small minority of musical compositions were written for
instruments alone; but some of these productions shared in developing
the symphony. At Mannheim a school of composers and performers -- many
of them from Austria, Italy, or Bohemia -- took a leading part in this
development. There the Elector Palatine Charles Theodore (r. 1733-99),
a patron of all the arts, gathered an orchestra that was generally
reputed to be the best in Europe. For that group Johann Stamitz, a
virtuoso of the violin, composed true symphonies: orchestral
compositions divided into three or more movements, of which at least the
first followed "sonata form" -- exposition of contrasted themes, their
"free elaboration," and their recapitulation. Following the lead of
Neapolitan composers, the new form took normally the sequence of fast,
slow, and fast movements -- allegro, andante, allegro; and from the
dance it sometimes added a minuet. So the age of polyphonic music,
based on one motif and culminating in J.S. Bach, passed into the
symphonic age of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

The human voice remained the most magical of instruments. Karl
Philipp Emanuel Bach, Karl Heinrich Graun, and others put to music the
passionate love poems of Johann Christian Gunther; and Johann Ernst Bach
of Weimar found inspiration for several fine lieder in the poetry of
Christian Gellert. Opera flourished in Germany now, but it was
predominantly Italian in form, importing its compositions and singers
from Italy. Every major court had its opera hall, usually open only to
the elite. Hamburg, controlled by its merchants, was an exception: it
offered German opera, opened the performances to the paying public, and
recruited its divas from the market place. In Hamburg Reinhard Keiser
ruled the Gansemarkt (Goosemarket) Theater for forty years. During his
reign he composed 116 operas, mostly Italian in text and style, but some
of them German. For in 1728 Mattheson's 'Musikalischer Patriot' raised
a battle cry against the Italian invaders: "Out, barbarians! ['Fuori
barbari!'] Let the [operatic] calling be forbidden to the aliens who
encompass us from east to west; let them be sent back again across their
savage Alps to purify themselves in the furnace of Etna!" But the lure
of Italian voices and melodies proved irresistible. Even in Hamburg the
rage for Neapolitan operas stifled native productions. Keiser
surrendered and moved to Copenhagen; the Hamburg theater closed in 1739
after sixty years of existence; and when it reopened in 1741 it was
frankly devoted to Italian opera. When Frederick restored opera to
Berlin (1742), he chose German composers but Italian performers. "A
German singer!" he exclaimed. "I would as soon hear my horse neigh."

Germany produced in this age one operatic composer of the first
rank, Johann Adolf Hasse, but he too wooed Italy. For ten years he
studied there with Alessandro Scarlatti and Niccolo Porpora; he married
the Italian singer Faustina Bordoni (1730) ; he wrote the music for
Italian librettos by Apostolo Zeno, Metastasio, and others. His early
operas were so enthusiastically received in Naples and Venice that Italy
called him 'il caro Sassone," the lovable Saxon. When he returned to
Germany he passionately defended Italian opera. Most Germans agreed
with him, and honored him above the absent Handel and far above the
obscure Bach; Burney ranked him and Gluck as the Raphael and
Michelangelo of music in German lands. No one, not even the Italians,
equaled the richness of his hundred operas in melodic or dramatic
invention. In 1731 he and his wife, the greatest diva of her time, were
invited to Dresden by Augustus the Strong; Faustina captured the capital
with her voice, Hasse with his compositions. In 1760 he lost most of
his property, including his collected manuscripts, in the bombardment of
Dresden by Frederick the Great. The ruined city gave up opera, and
Hasse and his wife moved to Vienna, where, by now seventy-four, he
competed with Gluck. In 1771, at the marriage of the Archduke Ferdinand
in Milan, he shared the musical program with the fourteen-year-old
Mozart. "This boy," he is reported to have said, "will throw us all
into the shade." Soon afterward he and Faustina went to spend their
remaining years in Venice. There they both died in 1783, he aged
eighty-four, she ninety. The harmony of their lives surpassed the
melody of their songs.

While Italian music triumphed in the opera houses of Germany, church
music flourished despite Frederick's ridicule of it as "old-fashioned"
and "debased." We shall see Catholic music prospering in Vienna; and in
the north the surviving fervor of Protestantism inspired a multitude of
cantatas, chorales, and Passions, as if a hundred composers were
preparing the way and the forms for Bach. Organ music predominated, but
many church orchestras included violins and violoncellos. The influence
of opera appeared not only in the enlargement of church orchestras and
choirs, but also in the increasingly dramatic character of church

The most famous composer of religious music in Bach's Germany was
Georg Philipp Telemann, who was born four years before Bach (1681) and
died seventeen years after him (1767). Mattheson considered Telemann
superior to all his German contemporaries in musical composition; Bach,
with one exception, may have agreed, for he transcribed whole cantatas
by his rival. Telemann was a child prodigy. At an early age he learned
Latin and Greek, the violin and the flute; at eleven he began to
compose; at twelve he wrote an opera, which was performed in a theater
with himself singing one of the roles. At twelve he composed a cantata,
and conducted it standing on a bench so that the players could see him.

He grew into a robust and jolly Teuton, bubbling with humor and
melody. In 1701, passing through Halle, he met the sixteen-year-old
Handel, and loved him at first sight. He went on to Leipzig to study
law, but relapsed into music as organist for the Neuekirche (1704). A
year later he accepted the post of 'Kapellmeister' in Sorau; then to
Eisenach, where he met Bach; in 1714 he served as godfather to Johann
Sebastian's son Karl Philipp Emanuel. In 1711 his young wife died,
taking his heart with her, he said; but three years later he married
again. In 1721 he advanced to Hamburg, where he served as
'Kapellmeister' for six churches, directed musical instruction in the
'Gymnasium', took charge of the Hamburg Opera, edited a journal of
music, and organized a series of public concerts which continued into
our own time. Everything prospered with Telemann, except that his wife
preferred Swedish officers.

His productivity rivaled any man's in that age of musical giants.
For all the Sundays and feast days of thirty-nine years he composed
sacred music -- Passions, cantatas, oratorios, anthems and motets; he
added operas, comic operas, concertos, trios, serenades; Handel said
that Telemann could compose a motet in eight parts as quickly as one
writes a letter. He took his style from France, as Hasse took his from
Italy, but he added his own peculiar verve. In 1765, aged eighty-four,
he wrote a cantata, 'Ino', which Romain Rolland thought equal to the
similar productions of Handel, Gluck, and Beethoven. But Telemann was
the victim of his own fertility. He composed too rapidly for
perfection, and did not have the patience to revise, or the courage to
destroy, the imperfect products of his genius; a critic accused him of
"incredible immoderation." Today he is almost forgotten; but now and
then he comes to us as a disembodied spirit through the air, and we find
all his resurrected utterances beautiful.

Frederick was not alone in preferring Karl Heinrich Graun to
Telemann and Bach. Karl first reached fame by his soprano voice; this
failing, he turned to composition, and at the age of fifteen he wrote a
'Grosse Passionskantata' (1716) which was performed in the Kreuzschule
at Dresden. After a period as 'Kapellmeister' at Brunswick he was
engaged by Frederick (1735) to direct music at Rheinsberg. He continued
during his remaining fourteen years to serve the Prussian court, for
even his religious music pleased the skeptical King. 'Der Tod Jesu', a
Passion first performed in the Berlin cathedral in 1755, achieved a
renown in Germany rivaled only by that of Handel's 'Messiah' in England
and Ireland; it was repeated annually in Holy Week till our own time.
All Protestant Germany joined Frederick in mourning Graun's
comparatively early death.

Meanwhile half a hundred Bachs had laid the seed and scene for their
most famous heir. Johann Sebastian himself drew up his family tree in
'Ursprung der musikalisch Bachischen Familie', which reached print in
1917; the meticulous Spitta has devoted 180 pages to charting that
Orphean stream. The towns of Thuringia were sprinkled with Bachs,
traceable as far back as 1509. The oldest 'musikalischer' Bach, with
whom Johann Sebastian began his list, was his great-great-grandfather
Veit Bach (d. 1619). From him descended four lines of Bachs, many of
them prominent as musicians; these were so numerous that they formed a
kind of guild, which met periodically to exchange notes. One of them,
Johann Ambrosius Bach, received from his father the violin technique
which he transmitted to his children. In 1671 he succeeded his cousin
as 'Hofmusikus', court musician, at Eisenach. In 1668 he had married
Elisabeth Lammerhirt, daughter of a furrier who became a town councilor.
By her he had two daughters and six sons. The oldest son, Johann
Christoph Bach, rose to be organist at Ohrdruf. Another, Johann Jakob
Bach, joined the Swedish army as oboist. The youngest was ...

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 9: "The Age of Voltaire"
Chapter 12, The Germany of Bach
pages 397-412
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-14 18:45:41 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 895 lines ]

Johann Sebastian Bach: 1685-1750

by Will and Ariel Durant

1. Chronology

He was born on March 21, 1685, at Eisenach, in the duchy of Saxe-
Weimar. In the Cottahaus on the Lutherplatz the great reformer had
lived as a boy; on a hill overlooking the town stood the Wartburg, the
castle where Luther hid from Charles V (1521) and translated the New
Testament; Bach's works are the Reformation put to music.

His mother died when he was nine; his father died eight months
later; Johann Sebastian and his brother Johann Jakob were taken into the
family of their brother Johann Christoph. In the 'Gymnasium' at
Eisenach Sebastian learned much catechism and some Latin; in the
'Lyceum' at neighboring Ohrdruf he studied Latin, Greek, history, and
music. He stood high in his classes, and was rapidly advanced. His
father had taught him the violin, his brother Christoph taught him the
clavier. He took eagerly to these musical studies, as if music ran in
his blood. He copied note for note a large number of musical
compositions not regulary available to him; so, some think, began the
impairment of his sight.

At the age of fifteen, to relieve the pressure on Johann Christoph's
growing family, Sebastian set forth to earn his own living. He found
employment as a soprano singer in the school of the Convent of St.
Michael at Luneburg; when his voice changed he was kept as a violinist
in the orchestra. From Luneburg he visited Hamburg, twenty-eight miles
away, perhaps to attend the opera, certainly to hear the recitals of
Johann Adam Reinken, the seventy-seven-year-old organist of the
Katharinenkirche. Opera did not attract him, but the art of the organ
appealed to his robust spirit; in that towering instrument he felt a
challenge to all his energy and skill. By 1703 he was already so
accomplished that the Neuekirche at Arnstadt (near Erfurt) engaged him
to play, three times a week, the great organ recently installed there,
which continued in service till 1863. Free to use the instrument for
his studies, he now composed his first significant works.

Ambition kept him always alert to improve his art. He knew that at
Lubeck, fifty miles away, the most renowned organist in Germany,
Dietrich Buxtehude, would give a series of recitals between Martinmas
and Christmas in the Marienkirche. He asked his church's consistory for
a month's leave of absence; it was granted; he delegated his duties and
fees to his cousin Johann Ernst, and set out on foot (October, 1705) for
Lubeck. We have seen Handel and Mattheson making a similar pilgrimage.
Bach was not tempted to marry Buxtehude's daughter as the price of
inheriting his post; he wanted only to study the master's organ
technique. This or something else must have fascinated him, for he did
not get back to Arnstadt till the middle of February. On February 21,
1706, the consistory reproved him for extending his leave, and for
introducing "many 'wunderliche' variations" in his preludes to the
congregational hymns. On November 11 he was admonished for failure to
train the choir adequately, and for privately allowing "a stranger
maiden to sing in the church." (Women were not yet permitted to sing in
church.) The alien lass was Maria Barbara Bach, his cousin. He made
what excuses he could, but in June, 1707, he resigned, and accepted the
post of organist in the Church of St. Blasius at Muhlhausen. His yearly
salary, exceptionally good for the time and place, was to be eighty-five
gulden, thirteen bushels of corn, two cords of wood, six trusses of
brushwood, and three pounds of fish. On October 17 he made Maria
Barbara his wife.

But Muhlhausen proved as uncomfortable as Arnstadt. Part of the
city had burned down; the harassed citizens were in no mood for
wonderful variations; the congregation was torn between orthodox
Lutherans who loved to sing and Pietists who thought that music was next
to godlessness. The choir was in chaos, and Bach could transform chaos
into order only with notes, not with men. When he received an
invitation to become organist and director of the orchestra at the court
of Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar he humbly begged his Muhlhausen
employers to dismiss him. In June, 1708, he moved to his new post.

At Weimar he was well paid -- 156 gulden a year, raised to 225 in
1713; now he could feed the brood that Maria Barbara was hatching. He
was not quite content, for he was subordinate to a 'Kapellmeister',
Johann Drese; but he profited from the friendship of Johann Gottfried
Walther, organist in the town church, author of the first German
dictionary of music (1732), and composer of chorales hardly inferior to
Bach's. Perhaps through the learned Walther he undertook now a careful
study of French and Italian music. He liked Frescobaldi and Corelli,
but was especially charmed by the violin concertos of Vivaldi; he
transcribed nine of these for other instruments. Sometimes he
incorporated bits of the transcriptions into his own compositions. We
can feel the influence of Vivaldi in the Brandenburg Concertos, but we
feel in them, too, a deeper spirit and richer art.

His chief duty at Weimar was to serve as organist in the
Schlosskirche, or Castle Church. There he had at his disposal an organ
small but fully equipped. For that instrument he composed many of his
greatest organ pieces: the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, the best of
the toccatas, most of the major preludes and fugues, and the
'Orgelbuchlein', or 'Little Book for the Organ'. His fame thus far was
as an organist, not as a composer. Observers, including the critical
Mattheson, marveled at his agility with keys, pedals, and stops; one
declared that Bach's feet "flew over the pedal board as if they had
wings." He was invited to perform in Halle, Cassel, and other cities.
At Cassel (1714) the future Frederick I of Sweden was so impressed that
he took from his finger a diamond ring and gave it to Bach. In 1717, at
Dresden, Bach met Jean Louis Marchand, who as organist to Louis XV had
achieved an international renown. Someone proposed a contest between
the two. They agreed to meet in the home of Count von Flemming; each
was to play at sight any organ composition placed before him. Bach
appeared at the appointed hour; Marchand, for reasons now unknown, left
Dresden before that time, giving Bach an unpleasant victory by default.

Despite his industry and his growing fame, he was passed over when
the Weimar 'Kapellmeister' died; the office was transmitted to the dead
man's son. Bach was in a mood to try another court. Prince Leopold of
Anhalt-Cothen offered him the post of 'Kapellmeister'. The new Duke of
Saxe-Weimar, Wilhelm Augustus, refused to let his organist go; Bach
insisted; the Duke imprisoned him (April 6, 1717); Bach persisted; the
Duke released him (December 2); Bach hurried with his family to Cothen.
As Prince Leopold was a Calvinist, and disapproved of church music,
Bach's function was to direct the court orchestra, in which the Prince
himself played the viola da gamba. Consequently it was in this period
(1717-23) that Bach composed much of his chamber music, including the
French and English suites. In 1721 he dispatched to Margrave Christian
Ludwig of Brandenburg the concertos that bear that name.

Those were mostly happy years, for Prince Leopold loved him, took
him along on various journeys, proudly displayed Bach's talent, and
remained his friend when history parted their ways. But on July 7,
1720, Maria Barbara died, after giving Bach seven children, of whom four
survived. He mourned her for seventeen months; then he took as his
second wife Anna Magdalena Wulcken, daughter of a trumpeter in his
orchestra. He was now thirty-six, she was only twenty; yet she
acquitted herself well of the task assigned to her -- to be a faithful
mother to his children. Moreover she knew music, aided him in his
composition, copied his manuscripts, and sang for him in what he called
"a very clear soprano." She bore him thirteen children, but seven died
before reaching the age of five; there were many heartbreaks in that
wonderful family. As his children grew in number and years, the problem
of their education disturbed him. He was a hearty Lutheran; he disliked
the gloomy Calvinism that reigned in Cothen; he refused to send his
offspring to the local school, which taught the Calvinist creed.
Besides, his beloved Prince married (1721) a young princess whose
demands upon Leopold lessened his interest in music. Once again Bach
thought it time for a change. He was a restless spirit, but his
restlessness made him; if he had remained at Cothen we should never have
heard of him.

In June, 1722, Johann Kuhnau died, after filling for twenty years
the post of cantor in the Thomasschule at Leipzig. This was a public
school with seven grades and eight teachers, giving instruction
especially in Latin, music, and Lutheran theology. The students and
graduates, under the direction of the cantor, were expected to provide
the music for the churches of the city. The cantor was subject to the
rector of the school and to the municipal council, which paid the

The council asked Telemann to take the vacated post, for it favored
the Italian style which characterized Telemann's compositions, but
Telemann declined. It then offered the place to Christoph Graupner,
'Kappellmeister' at Darmstadt, but Graupner's employer refused to
release him from his contract. On February 7, 1723, Bach presented
himself as a candidate, and submitted to various tests of his
competence. No one doubted his ability as an organist, but some members
of the council thought the style of his compositions unduly
conservative. One proposed that "as the best musicians are not
available, we must take a man of moderate ability." Bach was engaged
(April 22, 1723) on condition that he would teach Latin as well as
music, that he would lead a modest and retired ('eingezogen') life,
subscribe to the Lutheran doctrine, show the council "all due respect
and obedience," and never leave the city without the burgomaster's
permission. On May 30 he was installed with his family in the
residential wing of the school, and began his official tasks. He stayed
at that burdensome post till his death.

Henceforth most of his compositions, except the Mass in B Minor,
were composed for use in the two main churches of Leipzig -- St. Thomas'
and St. Nicholas'. Church services on Sunday began at 7 a.m. with an
organ prelude; then the minister intoned the Introit, the choir sang the
Kyrie, the minister and the choir -- and sometimes the congregation --
sang the Gloria in German, the worshipers sang a hymn, the minister
chanted the Gospel and the Credo, the organist "preludized," the choir
sang a cantata, the congregation sang the hymn "Wir glauben all' in
einem Gott" (We All Believe in One God); the minister preached for an
hour, prayed, and blessed; there followed Holy Communion, and another
hymn. This service concluded at ten in winter, at eleven in summer. At
eleven the students and faculty ate dinner in the school. At 1:15 p.m.
the choir returned to the church for vespers, prayers, hymns, a sermon,
and the German form of the Magnificat. On Good Friday the choir sang
the Passion. To perform the music for all these services Bach trained
two choirs, each of some twelve members, and an orchestra of some
eighteen pieces. Soloists were part of the choir, and sang with it
before and after their arias and recitatives.

For his complex services at Leipzig Bach received a salary averaging
seven hundred thalers per year. This included his share of the
students' tuition fees, and his honorariums for providing music at
weddings and funerals. The year 1729, which gave us 'The Passion
according to St. Mattkew', was reckoned by Bach as a bad year, for the
weather was so good that there was a dearth of deaths. Occasionally he
earned some extra thalers by conducting public concerts for the
Collegium Musicum. He tried to improve his income by claiming control
over the music in the Paulinerkirche attached to the University of
Leipzig; some competitors objected, and for two years he carried on a
controversy with the university authorities, achieving at last a
compromise unsatisfactory to everybody concerned.

He fought another long battle with the municipal council, which
appointed students to the Thomasschule; the councilors tended to send
him scholars chosen through political influence rather than for musical
capacity; he could make neither treble nor bass out of such newcomers,
and on August 23, I730, he lodged a formal protest with the council. It
retorted that he was an incompetent teacher and a poor disciplinarian,
that he lost his temper in scolding the students, that disorder was rife
in the choirs and the school. Bach wrote to a friend at Luneburg for
help in finding another post. None being open to him, he appealed (July
27, 1733) to Augustus III, the new King of Poland, to give him a court
position and title that might shield him from the "undeserved affronts"
that he received. Augustus took three years to comply; finally
(November 19, 1736) he conferred upon Bach the title of 'koniglicher
Hofkomponist' -- composer for the royal court. Meanwhile the new
director of the Tomasschule, Johann August Ernesti, contested with Bach
the right to appoint, discipline, and flog the choir prefects. The
dispute dragged on for months; Bach twice ejected Ernesti's appointee
from the organ gallery; at last the King confirmed Bach's authority.

So his life as cantor in Leipzig was not a happy one. His spirit
and energy were absorbed in his compositions and their performance;
little remained for pedagogy or diplomacy. He found some consolation in
his spreading fame as composer and organist. He accepted invitations to
play at Weimar, Cassel, Naumburg, and Dresden; he received fees for
these incidental performances, and for testing organs. In 1740 his son
Karl Philipp Emanuel was engaged as cembalist in the chapel orchestra of
Frederick the Great; in 1741 Bach visited Berlin; in 1747 Frederick
invited him to come and try the pianofortes recently bought from
Gottfried Silbermann. The King was astonished by "old Bach's"
improvisations; he challenged him to extemporize a fugue in six parts,
and was delighted with the response. Returning to Leipzig, Bach
composed a trio for flute, violin, and clavier, and sent it, with some
other pieces, as a 'Musical Offering' -- 'Musikalisches Opfer' --
dedicated to the royal flutist as "a sovereign admired in music as in
all other sciences of war and peace." Aside from such exciting
interludes, he gave himself with exhausting devotion to his duties as
cantor, to his love for his wife and children, and to the expression of
his art and soul in his works.

2. Compositions

a. Instrumental

How shall we be excused for venturing, without professional
competence, to survey the magnitude and variety of Bach's production?
Nothing is possible here except a catalogue graced with affection.

First of all, then, the organ works, for the organ remained his
abiding love; there he was unmatched except by Handel, who was lost
beyond the seas. Sometimes Bach would pull out all its stops, just to
test its lungs and feel its power. On it he disported himself as with
an instrument completely under his control, subject to all his
fantasies. But in his imperious fashion he set a limit to the
willfulness of performers by specifying, through underlying numerals,
the chords to be used with the written bass notes; this is the "figured"
or "thorough" bass that indicated the 'continuo' by which the organ or
harpsichord should accompany other instruments or the voice.

During his stay at Weimar Bach prepared for his oldest son and other
students a "little organ book" -- 'Orgelbuchlein' [BWV 599-644] --
composed of forty-five chorale preludes and dedicated "to the Highest
God alone for His honor, and to my neighbor that he may teach himself
thereby." The function of a chorale prelude was to serve as an
instrumental preface to a congregational hymn, to outline its theme and
set its mood. The preludes were arranged to form fit sequences for
Christmas, Passion Week, and Easter; these events of the ecclesiastical
year remained to the end the proccupation of Bach's organ and vocal
music. And here at the outset, in the chorale "Alle Menschen mussen
sterben" [BWV 643] -- All Men Must Die -- we meet one of Bach's
recurrent subjects, always tempered with the resolution to face death
with faith in Christ's resurrection as a promise of our own. Years
later we shall hear the same note in the somber chorale "Komm, susser
Tod" [BWV 478] -- Come, Sweet Death. Along with this enveloping piety
there is in these preludes, and generally in Bach's instrumental
compositions, a healthy humor; sometimes he runs friskily over the keys
in a merriment of variations that recalls the complaints of the Arnstadt

Altogether Bach left 143 chorale preludes, which students of music
rank the most characteristic and technically perfect of his works. They
are his lyrics, as the Masses and Passions are his epics. He ran the
gamut of musical forms, omitting opera as alien to his place, his
temperament, and his conception of music as primarily an offering to
God. To give his art freer range he added a fugue to the prelude,
letting a theme in the bass run after the same theme in the treble, or
vice versa, in an intricate game that delighted his contrapuntal soul.
So the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor [BWV 548] begins with inviting
simplicity, then soars to an almost frightening complexity of richness
and power. The Prelude and Fugue in D Minor [BWV 539] is already Bach
at his best in structure, technical workmanship, thematic development,
imaginative exuberance, and massive force. Perhaps finer still is the
Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor [BWV 582]. The Spaniards gave the name
'pasacalle' to a tune played by a musician "passing along a street"; in
Italy it became a dance form; in Bach it is a majestic flow of harmony,
at once simple, meditative, and profound.

For the organ or the clavichord Bach wrote a dozen toccatas -- i.e.,
pieces that could exercise the "touch" of a performer. Usually they
included rapid runs over the keyboard, brave fortissimi, delicate
pianissimi, and a fugue of notes playfully treading upon one another's
heels. In this group the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor [BWV 565] has won
the widest audience, partly through orchestral transcriptions more
congenial than the organ to the modern unecclesiastical ear. Of the
seven toccatas for clavichord or harpsichord, the Toccata in C Minor
[BWV 911] is again Bach in all his confident mastery of technique -- a
frolic of counterpoint followed by an adagio of serene and stately

It is difficult for us, with underprivileged fingers and half-
illiterate ears, to appreciate the pleasure that Bach took and gave in
his compositions for the clavier -- which for him usually meant the
clavichord. First of all, we should have to understand the principles
of structure that he followed in developing a few notes of theme or
motive into a complex but orderly elaboration -- like the arabesque
which, in a Persian carpet or a mosque mihrab, wanders from its base in
seeming abandon, yet always with a logic that adds an intellectual
satisfaction to the sensual enjoyment of the form. And again, we should
have to borrow Bach's manual magic, for he invented a playing technique
that called for the full use of all the fingers (including the thumb) of
each hand, whereas his predecessors had seldom used or required more
than the middle three in their compositions for the clavier. Even in
the position of the hand he caused a revolution. Players had tended to
keep the hand flat in striking the keys; Bach taught his pupils to curve
the hand, so that all the finger tips would strike the keys at the same
level. Without that technique Liszt would have been impossible.

Finally, adopting a system proposed by Andreas Werckmeister in 1691,
Bach demanded that the strings in the instruments be tuned to equal
"temperament" -- i.e., that the octave be divided into twelve exactly
equal semitones, so that no dissonance might occur in modulation. In
many cases he insisted on himself tuning the clavichord that he was to
play. So he wrote 'Das wohltemperirte Klavier' , or 'The Well-tempered
[properly tuned] Clavichord' (Part I [BWV 846-869], 1722; Part II [BWV
870-893], 1744): forty-eight preludes and fugues -- two for each major
and minor key -- "for the use and practice of young musicians who desire
to learn, as well as for those who are already skilled in this study, by
way of amusement," as the original title read. The pieces are of great
technical interest to musicians, but many of them, too, can convey to us
Bach's gay caprice or meditative feeling; so Gounod adopted the Prelude
in C Major [BWV 846], in a corrupted form, as the obbligato for his "Ave
Maria." Some profound spirits, like Albert Schweitzer, have found in
these preludes and fugues a "world of peace" amid the turmoil of human

Endless in fertility, Bach issued in 1731 the first part of the
'Klavierubung', which he described as "exercises consisting of preludes,
'allemandes', courantes, sarabands, 'gigues', minuets, and other
'galanteries', composed for the mental recreation of art lovers." In
later years he added three further installments, so that this 'Clavier
Practice' finally included several of his most famous compositions:
"inventions," "partitas," sinfonie, the "Goldberg Variations," the
"Italian Concerto," and some new chorale preludes for the organ. The
"inventions," said the manuscript, were offered as "an honest guide by
which lovers of the clavier ... are shown a plain way ... not only to
acquire good ideas ('inventiones'), but also to work them out
themselves, ... to acquire a 'cantabile' style of playing, and ... to
gain a strong predilection for composition." By these examples the
student could see how a theme or motive, once found, might be
elaborated, usually by counterpoint, through a logical development to a
unifying conclusion. Bach played with his themes like a jolly juggler,
throwing them into the air, turning them inside out, tumbling them
upside down, then setting them soundly on their feet again. Notes and
themes were not only his meat and drink and atmosphere, they were also
his relaxation and his holidays.

The partitas were similar diversions. The Italians had applied the
term 'partita' to a dance composition in several diverse parts. So the
Partitas in D Minor and B Major [BWV 825] used five dance forms: the
'allemande', or German dance, the French courante, the saraband, the
minuet, and the 'gigue'. The influence of Italian performers appears
here, even to the crossing of hands, a favorite device with Domenico
Scarlatti. These pieces seem slight to us now; we must remember that
they were composed not for the mighty pianoforte but for the frail
clavichord; if we do not ask too much of them they can still give us a
unique delight.

More difficult of digestion are the "Goldberg Variations" [BWV 988].
Johann Theophilus Goldberg was clavichord player for Count Hermann
Kayserling, the Russian envoy at the Dresden court. When the Count
visited Leipzig he brought Goldberg along to soothe him to sleep with
music. On these occasions Goldberg cultivated the acqaintance of Bach,
eager to learn his keyboard technique. Kayserling expressed the wish
that Bach would write some clavichord pieces of a character "that would
brighten him up a little on his sleepless nights." Bach obliged with
the "Aria with Thirty Variations," which has proved to be a specific for
insomnia. Kayserling rewarded him with a golden goblet containing a
hundred louis d'or. It was probably he who secured for Bach the
appointment as court composer to the Saxon Elector-King.

Bach's art was in these variations, but hardly his heart. With more
feeling and pleasure he dedicated to the clavier seven toccatas, many
sonatas, a wonderfully lively and lovely "Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue"
in D minor [BWV 903], and an "Italian Concerto" [BWV 971] in which, with
amazing vitality and spirit, he tried to transfer to the keyboard the
effects of a small orchestra.

One form found its way into nearly all his orchestral compositions
-- the fugue. The fugue, like most musical forms, had come from Italy;
the Germans followed it with an impassioned pursuit that dominated their
music till Haydn. Bach experimented with it in 'Die Kunst der Fuge'
[BWV 1080]: he took a single theme and built from it fourteen fugues and
four canons in a contrapuntal labyrinth illustrating every type of fugal
technique. He left the manuscript unfinished at his death; his son Karl
Philipp Emanuel published it (1752); only thirty copies were sold. The
age of polyphony and the fugue was dying with its greatest master;
counterpoint was giving place to harmony.

He was not as fond of the violin as of the organ and clavichord. He
had begun as a violinist, and he sometimes played the viola in the
ensembles that he at the same time conducted; but as no contemporary and
no son mention his violin playing, we may assume that he was not at his
best on that instrument. Yet he must have been proficient, since he
composed for the violin and the viola music of extreme difficulty, which
presumably he was ready to play himself. All the Western musical world
knows the 'chaconne' with which he concluded a Partita in D Minor for
solo violin [BWV 1004]; it is a 'tour de technique' that every violinist
used to look to as his supreme challenge. To some of us it is
distasteful showmanship of prestidigitation -- a horse torturing a cat
at several removes. To Bach it was a daring attempt to achieve on the
violin the polyphonic depth and force of the organ. When Busoni
transcribed the piece for the piano the polyphony became more natural,
and the result was magnificent. (We must not be supercilious about
transcriptions, for then we should have to condemn Bach himself.)

When we come to Bach's compositions for his dainty orchestras, even
the unprofessional ear finds a dozen odes to joy. The 'Musikalisches
Opfer' [BWV 1079] must have delighted Frederick the Great with its
sparkling melodies, and startled him with its meditative, half-Oriental
strains. In addition to the partitas or suites in the 'Klavierubung'
Bach wrote fifteen suites for dances. Six were called English, for
reasons now unknown; six were more understandably called French, since
they followed French models and used French terms, including 'suite'
itself. In some of them technique predominates; then even the string
instruments emit chiefly wind. Yet the simplest soul amongst us can
feel the solemn beauty of the famous "Arioso," or "Air for G String,"
which forms the second movement of Suite No. 3 [BWV 1068]. These
compositions were almost forgotten after Bach's death, until Mendelssohn
played parts of them to Goethe in 1830, and persuaded the Gewandhaus
Orchestra of Leipzig to revive them in 1838.

Bach adopted the concerto form as practiced by Vivaldi, and used it
in a dozen varieties of instrumental combinations. For one who was born
andante the stately slow movement makes the violin Concerto in D Minor
[BWV 1052r] particularly pleasant, and it is, again the adagio of the
violin Concerto No. 2 in E [BWV 1042] that moves us with its somber
depth and meditative tenderness. Perhaps the most delectable of these
pieces is the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins [BWV 1043]; the
'vivace' is all design without color, like a winter elm; but the largo
is an ethereal snatch of pure beauty -- beauty standing in its own
right, without "program" or any intellectual alloy.

The Brandenburg Concertos [BWV 1046-1051] have their own special
history. On March 23, 1771, Bach sent them to an otherwise forgotten
prince with the following letter in French, phrased in the manner of the

To His Royal Highness, Christian Ludwig, Margrave Of


As I had the honor of playing before your Royal
Highness a couple of years ago, and as I observed that
you took some pleasure in the small talent that Heaven
had given me for music, and in taking leave of me your
Royal Highness honored me with a command to send you
some pieces of my composition, I now, according to your
gracious orders, take the liberty of presenting my very
humble respects to your Royal Highness, with the present
concertos, ... humbly praying you not to judge their
imperfection by the severity of the fine and delicate
taste that everyone knows you to have for music, but
rather to consider benignly the profound respect and
very humble obedience to which they are meant to
testify. For the rest, Monseigneur, I very humbly beg
your Royal Highness to have the goodness to continue
your graces toward me, and to be convinced that I have
nothing so much at heart as the wish to be employed in
matters more worthy of you and your service, for, with
zeal unequaled, Monseigneur, I am your Royal Highness's
most humble and most obedient servant,

Jean Sebastien Bach.

We do not know whether the Margrave acknowledged or rewarded the gift;
probably he did, for he was devoted to music, and maintained an
excellent orchestra. At his death (1734) the six concertos, in Bach's
most careful and elegant hand, were listed among 127 concertos in an
inventory found by Spitta in the royal archives at Berlin. In the
inventory each of the 127 concertos was valued at four groschen

The Brandenburg Concertos follow the form of the Italian 'concerto
grosso' -- compositions in several movements, played by a small group of
predominating instruments (the 'concertino') accompanied by and
contrasted with an orchestra of strings (the 'ripieno' or 'tutti').
Handel and the Italians used two violins and a violoncello for the
'concertino'; Bach varied this with his usual audacity, putting forward
a violin, an oboe, a trumpet, and a flute as the leading instruments in
the second concerto, a violin and two flutes in the fourth, and a
clavichord, a violin, and a flute in the fifth; and he developed the
structure into a complex interplay of 'concertino' with 'ripieno' in a
lively debate -- of separation, opposition, interpenetration, union --
whose art and logic only the professional musician can understand and
enjoy. The rest of us may find some passages wearisomely repetitious,
reminiscent of a village orchestra beating time for a dance; but even we
can feel the charm and delicacy of the dialogue, and find in the slow
movements a calming peace more congenial to aging hearts and laggard
feet than in the vivacious roulette of the allegros. And yet the second
concerto begins with a captivating allegro; the fourth is made
delightful by a frolicsome flute; and the fifth is Bach 'in excelsis'.

b. Vocal

When Bach composed for the voice he could not lay aside all the arts
and legerdemain that he had developed on the keyboard, or the
tantalizing feats that he demanded of his orchestras; he wrote for
voices as if they were instruments of almost limitless dexterity and
range, and he made only a grudging concession to the singer's desire to
breathe. He followed the custom of his time in stretching one syllable
over half a dozen notes ("Kyrie ele-e-e-e-e-eison"); such proliferation
is no longer in style. Nevertheless it is through his production for
the voice that Bach achieved his present repute as the greatest composer
in history.

His trustful faith in the Lutheran creed gave him as warm an
inspiration as any that Palestrina had found in the Catholic Mass. He
wrote some twenty-four hymns and six motets; it was in hearing one of
these six -- "Singet dem Herrn" [BWV 225] -- that Mozart first felt the
depth of Bach. For the congregations and his choirs he wrote powerful
chorales that would have rejoiced Luther's kindred heart: "An
Wasserflussen Babylons" [BWV 267] (By the Waters of Babylon), "Wenn wir
in hochsten Noten sind" [BWV 431/432] (When we Are in Direst Need),
"Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele" [BWV 180] (Make Yourself Beautiful,
Beloved Soul); this last so affected Mendelssohn that he told Schumann,
'If life were to deprive me of hope and faith, this one chorale would
bring them back."

For the feasts of Christmas, Easter, and the Ascension Bach composed
oratorios -- massive songs for choruses, soloists, organ, or orchestra.
The 'Weihnachts Oratorium' [BWV 248], as he called the first, was
performed in the Thomaskirche in six parts in six days between Christmas
and Epiphany, 1734-35. Assuming full right to his own property, he took
some seventeen arias or choruses from his earlier works, and wove them
into a two-hour story of the birth of Christ. Some of the self-
plagiarisms hardly harmonized with the new text, but one could forgive
many faults in a composition that presented, almost at the outset, the
chorus "How Shall I Fitly Meet Thee?"

Essentially the oratorios were combinations of cantatas. The
cantata itself was a chorale interspersed with arias. Since the
Lutheran service frequently invited cantatas, Bach composed about three
hundred, of which some two hundred survive. Their intimate connection
with the Lutheran ritual has limited their audience in our time, but
many of the airs embedded in them have a beauty transcending any
theology. At Weimar, in his twenty-sixth year (1711), Bach wrote his
first outstanding cantata, "Actus tragicus" [BWV 106], mourning the
tragedy of death but rejoicing in the hope of resurrection. In 1714-17
he commemorated the divisions of the ecclesiastical year with some of
his finest cantatas: for the first Sunday in Advent, 1714, "Nun komm, du
Heiden Heiland" [BWV 61/62] (Now Come, Thou Saviour of the Heathen); for
Easter of 1715, "Der Himmel lacht, die Erde jubilieret" [BWV 31] (The
Heavens Laugh, the Earth Rejoices), in which he used three trumpets, a
kettledrum, three oboes, two violins, two violas, two violoncellos, a
bassoon, and a keyboard 'continuo' to help the chorus, and persuade the
congregation, to shake with joy over the triumph of Christ; for the
fourth Sunday in Advent, 1715, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" [BWV
147] (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life), with the familiar lilting
chorale and oboe obbligato, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"; and for the
sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, 1715, "Komm, du susse Todesstunde" [BWV
161] (Come, Thou Sweet Hour of Death). At Leipzig he composed another
paean to Christ's resurrection -- "Christ lag in Todesbanden" [BWV
277/8/9] (Christ Lay in Death's Dark Prison). And for the bicentennial
(1730) of the Augsburg Confession he put Luther's hymn "Ein' feste Burg
ist unser Gott" [BWV 80] into the form of a cantata as powerful as the
hymn, but perhaps too wildly furious to be a fit expression of faith.

Religious though he was, and wedded to piety by his tasks, Bach had
in him a healthy sense of earthly joys, and could laugh as heartily as
he could mourn. Secular elements crept into his religious compositions;
so some strains from the operas of his time have been detected in the B-
Minor Mass. He did not hesitate to lavish the resources of his art upon
purely secular cantatas, of which twenty-one exist. He composed a "Hunt
Cantata" [BWV 208], a "Coffee Cantata" [BWV 211], a "Wedding Cantata"
[BWV 202, and others], and seven cantatas for civic ceremonies. In
1725, for the birthday of Professor August Muller of Leipzig University,
he wrote a full-length cantata, "Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus" [BWV
205], celebrating, perhaps with a sly metaphor, the liberation of the
winds. In 1742 he gave his music to a frankly burlesque "Peasants'
Cantata" [BWV 212], with boisterous villagers dancing, drinking, and
making love. After 1740 church music ceased to predominate in Leipzig,
and public concerts increasingly presented secular compositions.

Before religious music entered into its decline Bach carried it to
heights never reached before in Protestant lands. Among the many
survivals of Catholic liturgy in the Lutheran service was the singing of
the Magnificat on the Feast of the Visitation (July 2). This
commemorated the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, when, according
to the Gospel of St. Luke (i, 46-55), the Virgin uttered her
incomparable song of thanksgiving:

Magnificat anima mea dominum,
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent onmes generationes

-- "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my
Saviour, for He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden; behold,
henceforth all generations will call me blessed." Bach twice set these
and subsequent lines to music [BWV 243/a]; in the present form probably
for the Christmas service at Leipzig in 1723. Here religion, poetry,
and music all reach the same summit in a noble unity.

Six years later he touched those heights again and again in 'The
Passion according to St. Matthew'. To set to music the story of
Christ's sufferings and death had for centuries been part of Catholic
ritual. Many Protestant composers in Germany had adapted the cantata
form to this purpose; two of them had already used the Gospel of St.
Matthew as their text. Bach wrote at least three Passions, following
severally the narratives of John (1723), Matthew (1729), and Mark
(1731). Of this last only fragments remain. The 'Johannespassion' [BWV
245] suffers from an illogical sequence of scenes and mingling of
events, and from a Teutonic tendency to thunderous declamations; but the
later parts subside to a tenderness and delicacy of feeling, a somber
depth of contemplation, as moving as anything in music. The aria "Es
ist vollbracht" (It Is Accomplished) is a profound rendering of the
crucial event in the Christian story; there could be no greater test of
a composer or a painter.

On Good Friday afternoon, April 15, 1729, in the Thomaskirche at
Leipzig, Bach produced the greatest of his compositions. In this
'Matthauspassion' [BWV 244] he had the advantage of a good German
libretto, based on Matthew's relatively full account, and arranged by a
local litterateur, Christian Friedrich Henrici, pennamed "Picander."
Bach himself seems to have written the text for several of the choruses.
Some have thought these choruses an unwarranted interruption of the
Gospel narrative; but, like the chorus in a Greek play, they add to the
drama by comment and interpretation, and their somber harmonies both
express and purge our emotions -- which are two functions of the highest
art. Whereas so much of Bach's music is the proclamation of skill or
power, nearly all the 'Passion according to St. Matthew' is the voice of
sorrow, gratitude, or love -- in the tender somber refrain of the
recurring chorale, in the delicacy of the arias, in the haunting
melodies of flutes singing as if from another world, in the reverent
restraint of accompaniments winding around the words and amid the voices
like some gold-and-silver illumination of a medieval missal. Here Bach
opens to us depths of feeling and significance revealed elsewhere only
in the original narrative itself. For to us in Western civilization
this remains the most moving of all tragedies, since it does not merely
represent the crucifixion of a noble idealist by our fellow men, but
symbolizes also his daily crucifixion in Christendom, and the slow
death, in many of us, of the faith that loved him as its God.

Bach almost succeeded in touching again, in the B-Minor Mass [BWV
232], the heights of emotion and artistry reached in the
'Matthauspassion'. But he could not feel so fully in harmony with his
new enterprise. The Gospel Passion was the root and pivot of the
Protestant creed, and Bach was irrevocably immersed in that creed. The
Mass, however, was a Roman Catholic development; the Credo itself voiced
unmistakable commitment to "unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam
ecclesiam." Though the Lutheran ritual still retained much of the Roman
Catholic Mass, this much was an uncomfortable vestige which had already
discarded the Agnus Dei. In Bach's time and churches the Mass was being
part by part replaced by cantatas, and Latin remnants were being
progressively eliminated from the liturgy. Bach's Passions were sung in
German; he had inserted four German hymns among the Latin verses of his
Magnificat; but the Mass was so traditionally Latin that any German
interpolations risked the reproach of incongruity. He had risked this
challenge by writing four partial Masses with such German adjuncts, to
an unsatisfactory result. He studied with care the Catholic Masses
composed by Palestrina and other Italians. His connection with the
Dresden court suggested that he might please the Catholic Elector-King
by composing a Catholic Mass. When he sent to Augustus III (1733) an
appeal for a court post and title, he included a Kyrie and a Gloria,
which later became parts of the B-Minor Mass. The King apparently took
no notice of them. Bach performed them in the churches of Leipzig; they
were favorably received; and he proceeded (1733-38) to add a Credo, a
Sanctus, an Osanna, a Benedictus, an Agnus Dei, and a "Dona nobis
pacem." When the whole was complete it was a Mass in Catholic form.
Probably Bach hoped that Augustus III would have it performed in Poland,
but this was not to be; it has never been sung in a Catholic church.
Bach presented it piecemeal, on divers occasions, in the Thomaskirche or
the Nikolaikirche of eipzig.

Shall we expose the hesitant reservations with which we admire this
massive Mass in B Minor? Bach's power overrides in many numbers the
humility that should infuse an address to the Deity; sometimes it seems
that he must have thought God hard of hearing, as having been so long
silent in so many languages. The Kyrie drags along its rumbling and
confused immensity, until at last we too cry "Eleison -- have mercy!"
The Gloria is often exquisite in its orchestral accompaniment, and moves
on to a lovely aria, the "Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris"; but then it
becomes raucous with horns in the "Quoniam tu solus sanctus," and treats
the "Cum Sancto Spiritu" with such staccato thunder as must have made
the Holy Spirit tremble lest this mighty Teuton should take heaven by
storm. Strange to say, the Credo -- whose doctrinal niceties, dividing
Christendom, do not naturally lend themselves to music -- produces the
supreme moments of the B-Minor Mass: the "Et incarnatus est" and the
Crucifixus, where Bach catches again the hushed reverence of the 'St.
Matthew Passion'. Then the "Et resurrexit" brings out all the impatient
fortissimi of trumpets and drums to shout and roar with jubilation over
Christ's conquest of death. The Benedictus calms us with its delicate
tenor aria and its heavenly violin solo; the orchestral accompaniment to
the Agnus Dei is profoundly beautiful; but the "Dona nobis pacem" is a
proof of power rather than a gift of peace. ---- These are frank
reactions of no critical worth. Only those can fully appreciate the B-
Minor Mass who, to a Christian rearing that has not lost its emotional
overtones, add the technical competence to discern and enjoy the
structure, tonalities, and workmanship of the composition, the variety
of resources used, the complexity of the orchestration, and the
adaptation of musical motives to the ideas of the text.

Some professional musicians criticized Bach in his lifetime. In
1737 Johann Adolf Scheibe (later 'Kapellmeister' to the King of Denmark)
published an anonymous letter praising Bach as an organist, but
suggesting that "this great man would be the admiration of all nations
if he had more amenity, and if his works were not made unnatural by
their turgid and confused character, and their beauty obscured by too
much art." A year later Scheibe renewed the attack: "Bach's church
pieces are constantly more artificial and tedious, and by no means so
full of impressive conviction, or of such intellectual reflection, as
the works of Telemann and Graun." Scheibe had tried to obtain the post
of organist at Leipzig; Bach had commented unfavorably on his test
performance, and had satirized him in a cantata; there may have been
some spite in Scheibe's critique. But Spitta, the most zealous of
Bach's admirers, tells us that many of Scheibe's contemporaries shared
his views. Some of the critics may have represented the reaction of the
new generation in Germany against the contrapuntal music that had
reached in Bach an excellence beyond which nothing seemed possible
except imitations; the twentieth century has seen a similar reaction
against the symphony.

Scheibe would probably have preferred Handel to Bach. But Handel
was so lost to England that Germans must have found it difficult to
compare him with Bach. When this was done it was always to place Handel
first. Beethoven expressed the German view when he said, "Handel is the
greatest of us all"; but that was before Bach had been quite resurrected
from oblivion. It is a pity that these two giants -- the chief glories
of music and of Germany in the first half of the eighteenth century --
never met; they might have influenced each other beneficently. Both men
stemmed from the organ, and were recognized as the greatest organists of
their time; Bach continued to favor that instrument, while Handel,
moving among divas and 'castrati', gave supremacy to the voice. Handel
wedded Italian melody to German counterpoint, and opened a road to the
future; Bach was the completion and perfection of the polyphonic, fugal,
contrapuntal past. Even his sons felt that no further movement was open
on that line.

Nevertheless there was something healthy in that old music, which
men like Mendelssohn would recall with longing; for it was still infused
with trustful faith, not yet disturbed by doubts that would reach to the
heart of the consoling creed. It was the voice of a culture "in form,"
as the consistency and culmination of a tradition and an art. It
reflected the ornamental elaboration of baroque, and of a now
unchallenged aristocracy. Germany had not yet entered its 'Aufklarung',
nor heard any chanticleers of revolution. Lessing was still young;
nearly every German took for granted the Nicene Creed; only Prince
Frederick of Prussia preferred Voltaire. Soon the magnificent structure
of inherited beliefs and ways was to be shaken almost to collapse by the
agitations of innovating minds; that old ordered peace, that stability
of classes, that marvelous and unquestioning faith, which had written
the music of Bach, would pass away; and all things, even music, would
change, always excepting man.

3. Coda

His isolation and domestication in Leipzig enabled him to inherit
the past without resentment or revolt. His religious faith was, next to
his music, his comfort and refuge. He had eighty-three volumes of
theology, exegesis, or homilies in his library. To his masculine and
orthodox Lutheranism he added some tinge of mysticism, perhaps from the
Pietist movement of his time -- even though he opposed Pietism as
hostile to any church music but hymns. Most of his music was a form of
worship. Usually he began to compose by praying "Jesu juva" (Jesus help
me). He prefaced or ended nearly all his works by dedicating them to
the honor and glory of God. He defined music as "eine wohlklingende
Harmonie zur Ehre Gottes und zulassigen Ergotzung des Gemuths" -- "an
agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delight of
the soul."

The portraits that survive show him in his later years as a typical
German, broad-shouldered, stout, with full and ruddy face and majestic
nose; add arched eyebrows that gave him an imperious, half-irritated,
half-challenging look. He had a temper, and fought stoutly for his
place and views; otherwise he was an amiable and kindly bear, who could
unbend his dignity in humor when opposition ceased. He took no part in
the social life of Leipzig, but he did not stint in hospitality to his
friends, among whom he numbered many rivals like Hasse and Graun. He
was a family man, doubly absorbed in his work and his home. He trained
all his ten surviving children to music, and provided them with
instruments; his house contained five claviers, a lute, a viola da
gamba, and several violins, violas, and violoncellos. As early as 1730
he wrote to a friend: "I can already form a concert, both vocal and
instrumental, from my own family." We may see later how his sons
carried on his art and surpassed his fame.

In his final years his eyesight failed. In 1749 he consented to an
operation by the same doctor who had treated Handel with apparent
success; this time it failed, and left him totally blind. Thereafter he
lived in a darkened room, for the light that he could not see hurt his
eyes. Like the deaf Beethoven, he continued to compose despite his
affliction; now he dictated to a son-in-law the chorale prelude "Wenn
wir in hochsten Noten sind" [BWV 431/432]. He had long prepared himself
for death, had disciplined himself to accept it as, in its due time, a
gift of the gods: so he composed the moving "Komm, Susser Tod" [BWV

Come, kindly Death, blessed repose,
Come, for my life is dreary,
And I of earth am weary.
Come, for I wait for thee,
Come soon and calm thou me;
Gently mine eyelids close;
Come, blest repose.

On July 18, 1750, his eyesight seemed miraculously restored; his family
gathered around in joy. But suddenly, on July 28, he died of an
apoplectic stroke. In the hopeful language of the time, "he fell calmly
and blessedly asleep in God."

After his death he was almost forgotten. Part of this oblivescence
was due to the confinement of Bach to Leipzig, part to the difficulty of
his vocal compositions, part to the decline of taste for religious music
and contrapuntal forms. Johann Hiller, who in 1789 occupied Bach's
place as cantor of the Thomasschule, sought "to inspire the pupils with
abhorrence of the crudities of Bach." The name Bach, in the second half
of the eighteenth century, meant Karl Philipp Emanuel, who regretted the
old-fashioned character of his father's music. By 1800 all memory of
Johann Sebastian Bach seemed to have disappeared.

Only his sons remembered his work. Two of them described it to
Johann Nicolaus Forkel, director of music at the University of
Gottingen. Forkel studied several of the compositions, became
enthusiastic, and published in 1802 an eighty-nine-page biography which
declared that

the works that Johann Sebastian Bach has left us are a
priceless national heritage, of a kind that no other
race possesses.... The preservation of the memory of
this great man is not merely a concern of art, it is a
concern of the nation.... This man, the greatest
musical poet and the greatest musical theoretician that
has ever existed, and that probably will ever exist, was
a German. Be proud of him, O Fatherland!

This appeal to patriotism opened Bach's grave. Karl Zelter,
director of the Singakademie in Berlin, bought the manuscript of the
'Matthauspassion'. Felix Mendelssohn, Zelter's pupil, prevailed upon
him to let him conduct, at the Singakademie, the first non-church
performance of the composition (March 11, 1829). A friend of
Mendelssohn remarked that the 'St. Matthew Passion' had come to light
almost exactly a hundred years after its first presentation, and that a
twenty-year-old Jew was accountable for its resurrection. All the
performers gave their services free. Mendelssohn added to the revival
by including other works of Bach in his recitals. In 1830 he was for a
time the guest of Goethe, who kept him busy playing Bach.

The revival fell in with the Romantic movement, and with the renewal
of religious faith after the Napoleonic Wars. Rationalism had had its
day; it had been associated with the murderous Revolution, and with that
terrible "Son of the Revolution" who had so often humiliated Germany on
the battlefield; now Germany was victorious, and even Hegel joined in
acclaiming Bach as a hero of the nation. In 1837 Robert Schumann
appealed for the complete publication of Bach's works; in 1850 the
Bachgesellschaft was formed; Bach manuscripts were collected from every
source; in 1851 the first volume was issued, in 1900 the forty-sixth and
last. Brahms said that the two greatest events in German history during
his lifetime were the foundation of the German Empire and the complete
publication of Bach. Today these compositions are more frequently
performed than those of any other composer, and the ranking of Bach as
"the greatest musical poet that has ever existed" is accepted throughout
the Western world.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 9: "The Age of Voltaire"
Chapter 12, The Germany of Bach
pages 412-430
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-21 19:06:07 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 204 lines ]

Music in Italy: 1715-59

by Will and Ariel Durant

Europe acknowledged the supremacy of Italian music, accepted its
instruments and forms, welcomed its virtues, crowned its 'castrati', and
surrendered to its melodious opera before, despite of, and after Gluck.
Gluck, Hasse, Mozart, and a thousand others went to Italy to study its
music, to learn the secrets of 'bel canto' from Porpora, or to receive
Padre Martini's accolade.

In Venice, said Burney, "if two persons are walking together arm in
arm, it seems as though they converse only in song. All the songs there
are duets." In the Piazza di San Marco," reported another Englishman,
"a man from the people -- a shoemaker, a blacksmith -- strikes up an
air; other persons of his sort, joining him, sing this air in several
parts, with an accuracy and taste which one seldom encounters in the
best society of our Northern countries."

Lovers under a window plucked at a guitar or mandolin and a maiden's
heart. Street singers carried their strains into coffeehouses and
taverns; in the gondolas music caressed the evening air; salons,
academies, and theaters gave concerts; churches trembled with organs and
choirs; at the opera men melted and women swooned over some diva's or
castrato's aria. At a symphony concert given in Rome under the stars
(1758) Morellet heard such exclamations as "O benedetto! O che gusto!
Piacer di morir! -- O blessed one! Oh, what delight! One could die of
pleasure!" It was not unusual, at the opera, to hear sobbing in the

Musical instruments were loved with more than sexual fidelity.
Money was lavished to make them objects of art, precisely fashioned in
precious wood, inlaid with ivory, enamel, or jewelry; diamonds might be
seen on harps or guitars. Stradivari had left in Cremona pupils like
Giuseppe Antonio Guarneri and Domenico Montagnana, who carried on the
secret of making violins, violas, and violoncellos with souls. The
harpsichord (which the Italians called 'clavicembalo') remained to the
end of the eighteenth century the favorite keyboard instrument in Italy,
though Bartolommeo Cristofori had invented the 'piano-forte' at Florence
about 1709. Virtuosi of the harpsichord like Domenico Scarlatti, or of
the violin like Tartini and Geminiani, had in this age an international
reputation. Francesco Geminiani was the Liszt of the violin, or, as his
rival Tartini called him, I1 Furibondo -- "the madman" of the bow.
Coming to England in 1714, he became so popular in the British Isles
that he stayed there through most of his final eighteen years.

The rise of such virtuosi encouraged the production of instrumental
music; this was the golden age of Italian compositions for the violin.
Now -- chiefly in Italy -- overture, suite, sonata, concerto, and
symphony took form. All of them stressed melody and harmony rather than
the polyphonic counterpoint which was culminating and dying with Johann
Sebastian Bach. As the suite grew out of the dance, so the sonata grew
out of the suite. It was something sounded, as the cantata was
something sung. In the eighteenth century it became a sequence of three
movements -- fast (allegro or presto), slow (andante or adagio), and
fast (presto or allegro), with sometimes the interpolation of a scherzo
("joke") recalling the merry gigue, or a graceful minuet recalling the
dance. By 1750 the sonata, at least in its first movement, had
developed "sonata form" -- the exposition of contrasting themes, their
elaboration through variation, and their recapitulation toward the
close. Through the experiments of G.B. Sammartini and Rinaldo di Capua
in Italy, and of Johann Stamitz in Germany, the symphony evolved by
applying sonata form to what had formerly been an operatic overture or
recitative accompaniment. In these ways the composer provided pleasure
for the mind as well as for the senses; he gave to instrumental music
the added artistic quality of a definite structure limiting and binding
the composition into logical order and unity. The disappearance of
structure -- of the organic relation of parts to a whole, or of
beginning to middle and end -- is the degeneration of an art.

The concerto (Latin 'concertare', to contend) applied to music that
principle of conflict which is the soul of drama: it opposed to the
orchestra a solo performer, and engaged them in harmonious debate. In
Italy its favorite form was the 'concerto grosso', where the opposition
was between a small orchestra of strings and a 'concertino' of two or
three virtuosi. Now Vivaldi in Italy, Handel in England, and Bach in
Germany brought the 'concerto grosso' to ever finer form, and
instrumental music challenged the pre-eminence of song.

Nevertheless, and above all in Italy, the voice continued to be the
favorite and incomparable instrument. There it had the advantage of a
euphonious language in which the vowel had conquered the consonant; of a
long tradition of church music; and of a highly developed art of vocal
training. Here were the alluring prima donnas who yearly mounted the
scales in weight and wealth, and the plump 'castrati' who went forth to
subdue kings and queens. These male sopranos or contraltos combined the
lungs and the larynx of a man with the voice of a woman or a boy.
Emasculated at the age of seven or eight, and subjected to a long and
subtle discipline of breathing and vocalization, they learned to perform
the trills and flourishes, the quavers and runs and breathtaking
cadenzas, that sent Italian audiences into a delirium of approval,
sometimes expressed by the exclamation "Evviva il coltello!" (Long live
the little knife!) The ecclesiastical opposition (especially at Rome)
to the employment of women on the stage, and the inferior training of
female singers in the seventeenth century, had created a demand which
the little knife supplied by cutting the seminal ducts. So great were
the rewards of successful 'castrati' that some parents, with the
victim's induced consent, submitted a son to the operation at the first
sign of a golden voice. Expectations were often disappointed; in every
city of Italy, said Burney, numbers of these failures could be found,
"without any voice at all." After 1750 the vogue of the 'castrati'
declined, for the prima donnas had learned to surpass them in purity of
tone and rival them in vocal power.

The most famous name in eighteenth-century music was not Bach, nor
Handel, nor Mozart, but Farinelli -- which was not his name. Carlo
Broschi apparently assumed the name of his uncle, who was already well
known in musical circles. Born in Naples (1705) of pedigreed parentage,
Carlo would not normally have entered the ranks of the unmanned; we are
told that an accident that befell him while riding compelled the
operation that resulted in the finest voice in history. He studied
singing with Porpora, accompanied him to Rome, and appeared there in
Porpora's opera 'Eumene'. In one aria he competed with a flutist in
holding and swelling a note, and so outpuffed him that invitations came
to him from a dozen capitals. In 1727, at Bologna, he met his first
defeat; he divided a duo with Antonio Bernacchi, acknowledged him as
"King of Singers," and begged him to be his teacher. Bernacchi
consented, and was soon eclipsed by his pupil. Farinelli now went from
triumph to triumph in city after city -- Venice, Vienna, Rome, Naples,
Ferrara, Lucca, Turin, London, Paris. His vocal technique was a wonder
of the age. The art of breathing was one secret of his skill; more than
any other singer he knew how to breathe deeply, quickly, imperceptibly,
and could hold a note while all musical instruments gave out. In the
aria "Son qual nave" he began the first note with almost inaudible
delicacy, expanded it gradually to full volume, and then reduced it by
degrees to its first faintness. Sometimes an audience, even in staid
England, would applaud this 'curiosa felicitas' for five minutes. He
won his hearers also by his pathos, grace, and tenderness; and these
qualities were in his nature as well as in his voice. In 1737 he made
what he thought would be a brief visit to Spain; he remained in or near
Madrid for a quarter of a century. We shall look for him there.

With 'castrati' like Farinelli and Senesino, with divas like
Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni, opera became the voice of Italy,
and, as such, was heard with delight everywhere in Europe except in
France, where it stirred a war. Originally 'opera' was the plural of
opus, and meant works; in Italian the plural became singular, still
meaning work; what we now call opera was termed 'opera per musica' -- a
musical work; only in the eighteenth century did the word take on its
present meaning. Influenced by traditions of the Greek drama, it had
been designed originally as a play accompanied by music; soon, in Italy,
the music dominated the play, and arias dominated the music. Operas
were planned to give display solos to each prima donna and each 'primo
uomo' in the cast. Between these exciting peaks the auditors conversed;
between the acts they played cards or chess, gambled, ate sweets, fruit,
or hot suppers, and visited and flirted from box to box. In such feasts
the libretto was regularly drowned in an intermittent cascade of arias,
duets, choruses, and ballets. The historian Lodovico Muratori denounced
this submergence of poetry (1701); the librettist Apostolo Zeno agreed
with him; the composer Benedetto Marcello satirized this tendency in
'Teatro alla moda' (1721). Metastasio for a time stemmed the torrent,
but rather in Austria than in Italy; Jommelli and Traetta struggled
against it, but were repudiated by their countrymen. The Italians
frankly preferred music to poetry, and took the drama as mere
scaffolding for song.

Probably no other art form in history ever enjoyed such popularity
as opera in Italy. No enthusiasm could compare with an Italian audience
welcoming an aria or a cadenza by a singer of renown. To cough during
such a ceremony was a social felony. Applause began before the familiar
song was finished, and was reinforced by canes beating upon floors or
the backs of chairs; some devotees tossed their shoes into the air.
Every Italian town of any pride (and which of them was without pride?)
had its opera house; there were forty in the Papal States alone.
Whereas in Germany opera was usually a court function closed to the
public, and in England it limited its audience by high prices of
admission, in Italy it was open to all decently dressed persons at a
modest charge, sometimes at no charge at all. And as the Italians were
devoted to the enjoyment of life, they insisted that their operas,
however tragic, should have a happy ending. Moreover, they liked humor
as well as sentiment. The custom grew to interpolate comic intermezzi
between the acts of an opera; these interludes developed into a genus of
their own, until they rivaled 'opera seria' in popularity, and sometimes
in length. It was an opera buffa -- Pergolesi's 'La serva padrona' --
that charmed Paris in 1752, and was acclaimed by Rousseau as attesting
the superiority of Italian music over French.

'Buffa' or 'seria', Italian opera was a force in history. As Rome
had once conquered Western Europe with her armies, as the Roman Church
had conquered it again with her creed, so Italy conquered it once more,
with opera. Her operas displaced native productions in Germany,
Denmark, England, Portugal, Spain, even in Russia; her singers were the
idols of almost every European capital. Native singers, to win
acceptance at home, took Italian names. That enchanting conquest will
go on as long as vowels can outsing consonants.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 9, Italia Felix
pages 220-224
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-21 19:10:54 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 358 lines ]

The Venice of Vivaldi

by Will and Ariel Durant

Between Milan and Venice some minor cities lolled in the sun.
Bergamo had to be content, in this half century, with painters like
Ghislandi, composers like Locatelli. Verona presented operas in her
Roman theater, and had an outstanding man in Marchese Francesco Scipione
di Maffei. His poetic drama 'Merope' (1713) was imitated by Voltaire,
who honorably dedicated his own 'Merope' to him as "the first who had
courage and genius enough to hazard a tragedy without gallantry, a
tragedy worthy of Athens in its glory, wherein maternal affection
constitutes the whole intrigue, and the most tender interest arises from
the purest virtue." Even more distinguished was Maffei's scholarly
'Verona illustrata' (1731-32), which set a pace for archaeology. His
city was so proud of him that it raised a statue to him in his lifetime.
-- Vicenza, with its buildings by Palladio, was a goal of pilgrimage for
architects reviving the classic style. -- Padua had a university then
especially noted for its faculties of law and medicine, and it had
Giuseppe Tartini, acknowledged by all (except Geminiani) to be at the
head of Europe's violinists; who has not heard Tartini's "Devil's

All these cities were part of the Venetian Republic. So, in the
north, were Treviso, Friuli, Feltre, Bassano, Udine, Belluno, Trento,
Bolzano; so in the east was Istria; in the south the state of Venezia
extended through Chioggia and Rovigo to the Po; across the Adriatic it
held Cattaro, Preveza, and other parts of today's Yugoslavia and
Albania; and in the Adriatic it held the islands of Corfu, Cephalonia,
and Zante. Within this complex realm dwelt some three million souls,
each the center of the world.

Venetian Life

Venice herself, as the capital, contained 137,000 inhabitants. She
was now in political and economic decline, having lost her Aegean empire
to the Turks, and much of her foreign commerce to Atlantic states. The
failure of the Crusades; the unwillingness of the European governments,
after the victory at Lepanto (1571), to help Venice defend the outposts
of Christendom in the East; the eagerness of those governments to accept
from Turkey commercial privileges denied to her bravest enemy -- these
developments had left Venice too weak to maintain her Renaissance
splendor. She decided to cultivate her own garden -- to give to her
Italian and Adriatic possessions a government severe in law, political
censorship, and personal supervision, but competent in administration,
tolerant in religion and morals, liberal in internal trade.

Like the other republics of eighteenth-century Europe, Venice was
ruled by an oligarchy. In the flotsam of diverse stocks -- Antonios,
Shylocks, Othellos -- with a populace poorly educated, slow to think and
quick to act, and preferring pleasure to power, democracy would have
been chaos enthroned. Eligibility to the Gran Consiglio was generally
restricted to some six hundred families listed in the 'Libro d'oro'; but
to that native aristocracy some judicious additions were made from the
ranks of merchants and financiers, even though of alien blood. The
Great Council chose the Senate, which chose the powerful Council of Ten.
A swarm of spies circulated silently among the citizens, reporting to
the 'Inquisitori' any suspicious action or speech of any Venetian -- of
the doge himself. The doges were now usually figureheads, serving to
polarize patriotism and adorn diplomacy.

The economy was fighting a losing battle against foreign
competition, import dues, and guild restraints. Venetian industry did
not expand into free enterprise, free trade, and capitalistic
management; it was content with the fame of its crafts. The wool
industry, which had fifteen hundred employees in 1700, had only six
hundred at the end of the century; the silk industry declined in the
same period from twelve thousand to one thousand. The glass workers of
Murano resisted any change in the methods that had once brought them
European renown; their secrets escaped to Florence, France, Bohemia,
England; their rivals responded to advances in chemistry, to experiments
in manufacture; the Murano ascendancy passed. The lace industry
similarly succumbed to competitors beyond the Alps; by 1750 the
Venetians themselves were wearing French lace. Two industries
flourished: fisheries, which employed thirty thousand men, and the
importation and sale of slaves.

Religion was not allowed to interfere with the profits of trade or
the pleasures of life. The state regulated all matters concerning
ecclesiastical property and clerical crime. The Jesuits, expelled in
1606, had been recalled in 1657, but under conditions that checked their
influence in education and politics. Despite a governmental ban on the
importation of works by the French philosophers, the doctrines of
Voltaire, Rousseau, Helvetius, and Diderot found their way, if only by
visitors, into Venetian salons, and in Venice, as in France, the
aristocracy toyed with the ideas that sapped its power. The people
accepted religion as an almost unconscious habit of ritual and belief,
but they played more often than they prayed. A Venetian proverb
described Venetian morals with all the inadequacy of an epigram: "In the
morning a little Mass, after dinner a little gamble, in the evening a
little woman." Young men went to church not to worship the Virgin but
to examine the women, and these, despite ecclesiastical and governmental
fulminations, dressed decollete. The perennial war between religion and
sex was giving sex the victory.

The government permitted a regulated prostitution as a measure of
public safety. The courtesans of Venice were famous for their beauty,
good manners, rich raiment, and sumptuous apartments on the Grand Canal.
The supply of 'cortigiane' was considerable, but still fell short of the
demand. Thrifty Venetians, and aliens like Rousseau, clubbed together,
two or three, to maintain one concubine. Despite these facilities, and
not content with 'cavalieri serventi', married women indulged in
'liaisons dangereuses'. Some of them frequented the casinos, in which
every convenience was provided for assignations. Several noble ladies
were publicly reproved by the government for loose conduct; some were
ordered confined to their homes; some were exiled. The middle classes
showed more sobriety; a succession of offspring kept the wife busy, and
filled her need for receiving and giving love. Nowhere did mothers
lavish more ardent endearments upon their children -- "I1 mio leon di
San Marco! La mia allegrezza! Il mio fior di primavera!" (My lion of
St. Mark! My joy! My flower of spring!)

Crime was less frequent in Venice than elsewhere in Italy; the arm
ready to strike was held back by the abundance and watchfulness of
constables and gendarmes. But gambling was accepted as a natural
occupation of mankind. The government organized a lottery in 1715. The
first 'ridotto', or gambling casino, was opened in 1638; soon there were
many, public or private, and all classes hastened to them. Clever
sharpers like Casanova could live on their gambling gains; others could
lose the savings of a year in a night. The players, some masked, bent
over the table in a silent devotion more intense than love. The
government looked on amiably (till 1774), for it taxed the 'ridotti',
and received some 300,000 lire from them in annual revenue.

Moneyed idlers came from a dozen states to spend their savings, or
their declining years, in the relaxed morals and plein-air gaiety of the
piazzas and the canals. The abandonment of empire lowered the fever of
politics. No one here talked of revolution, for every class, besides
its pleasures, had its stabilizing customs, its absorption in accepted
tasks. Servants were pliant and faithful, but they brooked no insult or
contumely. The gondoliers were poor, but they were the lords of the
lagoons, standing on their gilded barks in the confident pride of their
ancient skill, or rounding a turn with lusty esoteric cries, or
murmuring a song to the sway of their bodies and the rhythm of their

Many different nationalities mingled in the piazzas, each keeping
its distinctive garb, language, and profanity. The upper classes still
dressed as in the heyday of the Renaissance, with shirts of finest
linen, velvet breeches, silk stockings, buckled shoes; but it was the
Venetians who in this century introduced to Western Europe the Turkish
custom of long trousers -- pantaloons. Wigs had come in from France
about 1665. Young fops took such care of their dress, hair, and smell
that their sex was imperceptible. Women of fashion raised upon their
heads fantastic towers of false or natural hair. Men as well as women
felt undressed without jewelry. Fans were works of art, elegantly
painted, often encrusted with gems or enclosing a monocle.

Every class had its clubs, every street its 'caffe'; "in Italy,"
said Goldoni, "we take ten cups of coffee every day." All kinds of
amusement flourished, from prize fights ('pugni') to masked balls. One
game, 'pallone' -- tossing an inflated ball about with the palm of the
hand -- gave us our word balloon. Water sports were perennial. Ever
since 1315 a regatta had been held on January 25 on the Grand Canal -- a
race between galleys rowed by fifty oars and decorated like our
"floats"; and the festival was climaxed by a water polo game in which
hundreds of Venetians divided into shouting and competing groups. On
Ascension Day the doge sailed in glory from San Marco to the Lido on the
richly decorated ship of state, the 'Bucintoro' ('Bucentaur'), amid a
thousand other craft, to remarry Venice to the sea.

Saints and historical anniversaries lent their names and memories to
frequent holidays, for the Senate found that bread and circuses were an
acceptable substitute for elections. On such occasions picturesque
processions passed from church to church, from square to square;
colorful carpets, garlands and silks were hung from windows or balconies
on the route; there was intelligible music, pious or amorous song, and
graceful dancing in the streets. Patricians chosen for high office
celebrated their victories with parades, arches, trophies, festivities,
and philanthropies costing sometimes thirty thousand ducats. Every
wedding was a festival, and the funeral of a dignitary was the grandest
event in his career.

And there was Carnival -- the Christian legacy from the Saturnalia
of pagan Rome. Church and state hoped that by allowing a moral holiday
they could reduce, for the remainder of the year, the tension between
the flesh and the Sixth Commandment. Usually, in Italy, Carnevale
extended only through the last week before Lent; in eighteenth-century
Venice, from December 26 or January 7 to Martedi Grasso ("Fat Tuesday,"
Mardi Gras); perhaps from that final day of permissible meat-eating the
festival took its name -- 'carne-vale', farewell to flesh food. Almost
every night in those winter weeks the Venetians -- and visitors
converging from all Europe -- poured into the piazzas, dressed in gay
colors, and hiding age, rank, and identity behind a mask. In that
disguise many men and women laughed at laws, and harlots thrived.
Confetti flew about, and artifical eggs were cast around to spread their
scented waters when they broke. Pantalone, Arlechino, Columbine, and
other beloved characters from the comic theater pranced and prattled to
amuse the crowd; puppets danced, rope walkers stopped a thousand
breaths. Strange beasts were brought in for the occasion, like the
rhinoceros, which was first seen in Venice in the festivities of 1751.
Then, at midnight before Ash Wednesday (Mercoledi della Ceneri), the
great bells of San Marco tolled the end of Carnival; the exhausted
reveler returned to his legal bed, and prepared to hear his priest tell
him on the morrow, "Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem
redieris" (Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt


Venice and Naples were the rival foci of music in Italy. In its
theaters Venice heard twelve hundred different operas in the eighteenth
century. There the most renowned divas of the age, Francesca Cuzzoni
and Faustina Bordoni, fought their melodious battles for supremacy; and
each from one foot of board moved the world. Cuzzoni sang opposite
Farinelli in one theater, Bordoni sang opposite Bernacchi in another,
and all Venice was divided between their worshipers. If all four had
sung together the Queen of the Adriatic would have melted into her

At antipodes to these citadels of opera and joy were the four
'ospedali', or asylums, in which Venice cared for some of her orphan or
illegitimate girls. To give function and meaning to the lives of these
homeless children they were trained in vocal and instrumental music, to
sing in choirs, and to give public concerts from behind their semi-
monastic grills. Rousseau said he had never heard anything so touching
as these girlish voices singing in disciplined harmony; Goethe thought
he had never heard so exquisite a soprano, or music "of such ineffable
beauty." Some of the greatest of Italy's composers taught in these
institutions, wrote music for them, and conducted their concerts:
Monteverdi, Cavalli, Lotti, Galuppi, Porpora, Vivaldi ...

To supply her theaters with operas, to furnish her 'ospedali',
orchestras, and virtuosi with vocal and instrumental music, Venice
called upon the cities of Italy, sometimes of Austria and Germany. She
herself was the mother or nurse of Antonio Lotti, organist and then
'maestro di capella' at St. Mark's, author of indifferent operas but of
a Mass that brought tears to Protestant Burney's eyes; of Baldassare
Galuppi, famous for his 'opera buffe', and for the splendor and
tenderness of his operatic airs; of Alessandro Marcello, whose concertos
rank high in the compositions of his time; of his younger brother
Benedetto, whose musical setting of fifty psalms "constitute one of the
finest productions of musical literature"; and of Antonio Vivaldi.

To some of us the first hearing of a Vivaldi concerto was a
humiliating revelation. Why had we been ignorant of him so long? Here
was a stately flow of harmony, laughing ripples of melody, a unity of
structure and a cohesion of parts, which should have won this man an
earlier entry into our ken, and a higher place in our musical histories.
[* The 1928 edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians gave
him one column; the 1954 edition gave him twelve; judge from this the
sudden expansion of Vivaldi's reputation. Is fame a whim of chance?]

He was born about 1678, son of a violinist in the orchestra of the
Doges' Chapel in St. Mark's. His father taught him the violin, and
obtained a place for him in the orchestra. At fifteen he took minor
orders; at twenty-five he became a priest; he was called Il Prete Rosso
because his hair was red. His passion for music may have conflicted
with his sacerdotal ministrations. Enemies said that "one day, when
Vivaldi was saying Mass, a subject for a fugue came to his mind; he at
once left the altar, ... and repaired to the sacristy to write out the
theme; then he came back to finish Mass." A papal nuncio charged him
with keeping several women, and finally (it was said) the Inquisition
forbade him to say Mass. Antonio in later years gave quite a different

It was twenty-five years ago that I said Mass for
... the last time, not due to interdiction, ... but by
my own decision, because of an ailment that has burdened
me since birth. After being ordained a priest I said
Mass for a year or a little more; then I ceased to say
it, having on three occasions been compelled by this
ailment to leave the altar without completing it.

For this same reason I nearly always live at home,
and I only go out in a gondola or coach, because I can
no longer walk on account of this chest condition, or
rather this tightness in the chest ['strettezza di
petto', probably asthma]. No nobleman invites me to his
house, not even our prince, because all are informed of
my ailment. My travels have always been very costly
because I have always had to make them with four or five
women to help me.

These women, he added, were of spotless repute. "Their modesty was
admitted everywhere. ... Every day of the week they made their

He could not have been much of a rake, for the Seminario Musicale
dell' Ospedale della Pieta kept him through thirty-seven years as
violinist, teacher, composer, or 'maestro di coro' -- rector of the
choir. For his girl students he composed most of his nonoperatic works.
The demands were great; hence he wrote in haste and corrected at what
leisure he could find; he told de Brosses that he could "compose a
concerto faster than a copyist could copy it." His operas were equally
hurried; one of them bore on the title page the boast (or excuse) "Fatto
in cinque giorni" -- Done in five days. Like Handel, he saved time by
borrowing from himself, adapting past performances to meet present

In the interstices of his work at the Ospedale he composed forty
operas. Many contemporaries agreed with Tartini that they were
mediocre; Benedetto Marcello made fun of them in his 'Teatro alla moda';
but audiences in Venice, Vicenza, Vienna, Mantua, Florence, Milan, and
Vienna welcomed him, and Vivaldi often deserted his girls to travel with
his women through northern Italy, even to Vienna and Amsterdam, to
perform as a violinist, or to conduct one of his operas, or to supervise
its staging and decor. His operas are now dead, but so are nearly all
those composed before Gluck. Styles, manners, heroes, voices, sexes
have changed.

History knows of 554 compositions by Vivaldi; of these 454 are
concertos. A clever satirist said that Vivaldi had not written six
hundred concertos, but had written the same concerto six hundred times;
and sometimes it seems so. There is in these pieces much sawing of
strings, much hurdy-gurdy 'continuo', an almost metronomic beating of
time; even in the famous series called 'The Seasons' (1725) there are
some deserts of monotony. But there are also peaks of passionate
vitality and wintry blasts, oases of dramatic conflict between soloists
and orchestra, and grateful streams of melody. In such pieces Vivaldi
brought the 'concerto grosso' to an unprecedented excellence, which only
Bach and Handel would surpass.

Like most artists, Vivaldi suffered from the sensitivity that fed
his genius. The power of his music reflected his fiery temper, the
tenderness of his strains reflected his piety. As he aged he became
absorbed in religious devotions, so that one fanciful record described
him as leaving his rosary only to compose. In 1740 he lost or resigned
his post at the Ospedale della Pieta. For reasons now unknown he left
Venice and went to Vienna. We know nothing further of him except that
there, a year later, he died, and received a pauper's funeral.

His death passed unnoticed in the Italian press, for Venice had
ceased to care for his music, and no one ranked him near the top of his
art in his land and time. His compositions found a welcome in Germany.
Quantz, flutist and composer for Frederick the Great, imported Vivaldi's
concertos, and frankly accepted them as models. Bach so admired them as
to transpose at least nine for the harpsichord, four for the organ, and
one for four harpsichords and a string ensemble. Apparently it was from
Vivaldi and Corelli that Bach derived the tripartite structure of his

Throughout the nineteenth century Vivaldi was almost forgotten
except by scholars tracing the development of Bach. Then in 1905 Arnold
Schering's 'Geschichte des Instrumentalkonzerts' restored him to
prominence; and in the 1920s Arturo Toscanini gave his passion and
prestige to Vivaldi's cause. Today the Red Priest takes for a time the
highest place among the Italian composers of the eighteenth century.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 9, Italia Felix
pages 228-234
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-21 19:15:57 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 228 lines ]

Neapolitan Music: 1715-59

by Will and Ariel Durant

Naples reversed Pythagoras, and judged music to be the highest
philosophy. Said Lalande, the French astronomer, after a tour of Italy
in 1765-66:

Music is the special triumph of the Neapolitans. It
seems as if in that country the membranes of the eardrum
are more taut, more harmonious, more sonorous than
elsewhere in Europe. The whole nation sings. Gestures,
tone, voice, rhythm of syllables, the very conversation
-- all breathe music. ... So Naples is the principal
source of Italian music, of great composers and
excellent operas; it is there that Corelli, Vinci,
Rinaldo, Jommelli, Durante, Leo, Pergolesi, ... and so
many other famous composers have brought forth their

Naples, however, was supreme only in opera and vocal melody; in
instrumental music Venice led the way; and music fanciers complained
that the Neapolitans loved the tricks of the voice more than the
subtleties of harmony and counterpoint. Here reigned Niccolo Porpora,
"perhaps the greatest singing teacher who ever lived." Every Italian
warbler aspired to be his pupil, and, once accepted, bore humbly with
his imperious eccentricities; so, said a story, he kept Gaetano
Caffarelli for five years at one page of exercises, and then dismissed
him with the assurance that he was now the greatest singer in Europe.
Second only to Porpora as a teacher was Francesco Durante, who taught
Vinci, Jommelli, Pergolesi, Paisiello, and Piccini.

Leonardo Vinci seemed handicapped by his name, but he won early
acclaim by his setting of Metastasio's 'Didone abbandonata'; Algarotti
felt that "Virgil himself would have been pleased to hear a composition
so animated and so harrowing in which the heart and soul were at once
assailed by all the powers of music." Still more famous was Leonardo
Leo, in 'opera seria' and 'buffa', oratorio, Masses, and motets; Naples
oscillated for some time between laughing at his comic opera 'La finta
Fracastana' and weeping over the "Miserere" that he composed for the
Lenten services of 1744.

When, about 1735, Leo heard a cantata by Niccolo Jommelli, he
exclaimed, "A short time, and this young man will be the wonder and
admiration of Europe." Jommelli almost verified the prophecy. At
twenty-three he won the plaudits of Naples with his first opera; at
twenty-six he earned a similar triumph in Rome. Passing to Bologna, he
presented himself as a pupil to Padre Martini; but when that reverend
teacher heard him extemporize a fugue in all its classic development he
cried out, "Who are you, then? Are you making fun of me? It is I who
should learn from you." At Venice his operas aroused such enthusiasm
that the Council of Ten appointed him music director of the Scuola degli
Incurabili; there he wrote some of the best religious music of that
generation. Moving on to Vienna (1748) he composed in close friendship
with Metastasio. After further victories in Venice and Rome he settled
down in Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg (1753-68) as 'Kapellmeister' to the
Duke of Wurttemberg. Here he modified his operatic style in a German
direction, giving more complexity to his harmony, more substance and
weight to the instrumental music; he discarded the 'da capo' repetition
of arias, and provided orchestral accompaniment for recitatives.
Probably under the influence of Jean-Georges Noverre, the French ballet
master at Stuttgart, he gave ballet a prominent part in his operas. In
some measure these developments in Jommelli's music prepared the way for
the reforms of Gluck.

When the aging composer returned to Naples (1768) the audience
resented his Teutonic tendencies, and decisively rejected his operas.
Mozart, hearing one of them there in 1770, remarked: "It is beautiful,
but the style is too elevated, as well as too antique, for the theater."
Jommelli fared better with his church music; his "Miserere" and his
'Mass for the Dead' were sung throughout the Catholic world. William
Beckford, after hearing the Mass in Lisbon in 1787, wrote: "Such august,
such affecting music I never heard, and perhaps may never hear again."
Having saved his earnings with Teutonic care, Jommelli retired to his
native Aversa, and spent his final years in opulent corpulence. In 1774
all the prominent musicians of Naples attended his funeral.

Naples laughed even more than it sang. It was with a comic opera
that Pergolesi conquered Paris after that proud city, alone among the
European capitals, had refused to submit to Italy's 'opera seria'.
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi did not fight that battle in person, for he
died in 1736 at the age of twenty-six. Born near Ancona, he came to
Naples at sixteen. By the age of twenty-two he had written several
operas, thirty sonatas, and two Masses much admired. In 1733 he
presented an opera, 'Il prigioniero', and as an interlude to this he
offered 'La serva padrona' -- "the maid" become "mistress" of the
house. The libretto is a jolly story of how Serpina, the servant,
maneuvers her master into marrying her; the music is an hour of gaiety
and agile arias. We have seen how this artful frolic captured the mood
and heart of Paris in the Guerre des Bouffons of 1752, when it ran for a
hundred performances at the Opera, and then, in 1753, for ninety-six
more at the Theatre-Francais. Meanwhile Pergolesi conducted his opera
'L'Olimpiade' in Rome (1735). It was hailed with a storm of hoots, and
with an orange accurately aimed at the composer's head. A year later he
went to Pozzuoli to be treated for tuberculosis, which had been made
worse by his profligate life. His early death atoned for his sins, and
he was buried in the local cathedral by the Capuchin friars among whom
he had spent his last days. Rome, repentant, revived 'L'Olimpiade', and
applauded it rapturously. Italy honors him not so much for his joyous
intermezzi as for the tender sentiment of his "Stabat Mater," which he
did not live to complete. Pergolesi himself was made the subject of two

Domenico Scarlatti, like Pergolesi, has been slightly inflated by
the winds of taste, but who can resist the sparkle of his
prestidigitation? Born in the 'annus mirabilis' of Handel and Bach
(1685), he was the sixth child of Alessandro Scarlatti, then the Verdi
of Italian opera. He breathed music from his birth. His brother
Pietro, his cousin Giuseppe, his uncles Francesco and Tommaso, were
musicians; Giuseppe's operas were produced in Naples, Rome, Turin,
Venice, Vienna. Fearing lest Domenico's genius be stifled by this
plethora of talent, the father sent him, aged twenty, to Venice. "This
son of mine," he said, "is an eagle whose wings are grown. He must not
remain in the nest, and I must not hinder his flight."

In Venice the youth continued his studies, and met Handel. Perhaps
together they passed to Rome, where, at the urging of Cardinal Ottoboni,
they engaged in an amiable competition on the harpsichord and then on
the organ. Domenico was already the best harpsichordist in Italy, but
Handel, we are told, equaled him; while on the organ Scarlatti frankly
owned 'il caro Sassone's superiority. The two men became fast friends;
this is extremely difficult for leading practitioners of the same art,
but, a contemporary tells us, "Domenico had the sweetest temper and the
genteelest behavior," and Handel's heart was as big as his frame. The
shy modesty of the Italian deterred him from giving public displays of
his harpsichord mastery; we know it only from reports of private
musicales. One auditor in Rome (1714) "thought ten thousand devils had
been at the instrument"; never before had he heard "such passages of
execution and effect." Scarlatti was the first to develop the keyboard
potentialities of the left hand, including its crossing over the right.
"Nature," he said, "gave me ten fingers, and as my instrument has
employment for all, I see no reason why I should not use them."

In 1709 he accepted appointment as 'maestro di capella' to the
former Queen of Poland, Maria Kazimiera. On the death of her husband,
Jan Sobieski, she had been banished as a troublesome intriguer; coming
to Rome in 1699, she resolved to set up a salon as brilliant with genius
as that of Queen Christina of Sweden, who had died ten years before. In
a palace on the Piazza della Trinita dei Monti she gathered many of
Christina's former circle, including several members of the Arcadian
Academy. There (1700-14) Scarlatti produced several of his operas.
Encouraged by their success, he presented 'Amleto' ('Hamlet') in the
Teatro Capranico. It was not well received, and Domenico never again
offered an opera to an Italian public. His father had set a standard
too high for him to reach.

For four years (1715-19) he directed the Cappela Giulia at the
Vatican, and officiated at the organ in St. Peter's; now he composed a
"Stabat Mater" which has been pronounced "a genuine masterpiece." In
1719 he conducted his opera 'Narciso' in London. Two years later we
find him in Lisbon as chapelmaster to John V, and as teacher to the
King's daughter Maria Barbara, who became a skilled harpsichordist under
his tutelage; most of his extant sonatas were composed for her use.
Returning to Naples (1725), he married, age forty-two, Maria Gentile,
age sixteen; and in 1729 he took her to Madrid. In that year Maria
Barbara married Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Spain. When she moved with
him to Seville Scarlatti accompanied her, and he remained in her service
till her death.

Scarlatti's wife died in 1739, leaving him five children. He
married again, and soon the five were nine. When Maria Barbara became
queen of Spain (746) she brought the Scarlatti family with her to
Madrid. Farinelli was the favorite musician of the royal pair, but the
singer and the virtuoso became good friends. Scarlatti's position was
that of a privileged servitor, providing music for the Spanish court.
He obtained leave to go to Dublin in 1740 and to London in 1741; but
mostly he lived in quiet content in or near Madrid, almost secluded from
the world, and probably with no suspicion that he would become a
favorite with pianists in the twentieth century.

Of the 555 "sonatas" that now precariously support his fame on their
tonal filigree, Scarlatti in his lifetime published only thirty. Their
modest title, 'Esercizii per gravicembalo', indicated their limited aim
-- to explore the possibilities of expression through harpsichord
technique. They are sonatas only in the older sense of the term, as
instrumental pieces -- to be "sounded," not sung. Some have contrasted
themes, and some are paired in major and minor keys, but they are all in
single movements, with no attempt at thematic elaboration and
recapitulation. They represent the emancipation of harpsichord music
from the influence of the organ, and the reception, by keyboard
compositions, of influences from opera. The vivacity, delicacy, trills,
and tricks of sopranos and 'castrati' are here surpassed by agile
fingers obeying a playful and prodigal imagination. Scarlatti literally
"played" the harpsichord. "Do not expect," he said, "any profound
learning, but rather an ingenious jesting with art." Something of the
Spanish dance -- its prancing feet and swirling skirts and tinkling
castanets -- is in these ripples and cascades, and everywhere in the
sonatas is the abandon of a performer to pleasure in mastery over his

That joy in the instrument must have been one source of solace to
Scarlatti in those serving years in Spain. It was rivaled by his
delight in gambling, which consumed much of his pension; the Queen had
repeatedly to pay his debts. After 1751 his health failed, and his
piety increased. In 1754 he returned to Naples, and there, three years
later, he died. The good Farinelli provided for his friend's
impoverished family.

We have left to a later chapter the strange career of Farinelli in
Spain. He and Domenico Scarlatti, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo,
were among the gifted Italians who, with the almost Italianate Mengs,
brought Italian music and art into the Spanish quickening. In 1759 the
King of Naples followed or preceded them. In that year Ferdinand VI
died without issue, and his brother Charles IV of Naples inherited the
Spanish throne as Charles III. Naples was sorry to see him go. His
departure, in a fleet of sixteen ships, was a sad holiday for the
Neapolitans; they gathered in great throngs along the shore to see him
sail away, and many, we are told, wept in bidding farewell to "a
sovereign who had proved himself the father of his people." He was to
crown his career by rejuvenating Spain.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 9, Italia Felix
pages 254-258
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-28 17:25:00 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 441 lines ]

The Spain of Farinelli and Scarlatti

by Will and Ariel Durant

AT his death in 1700 Charles II, last of the Spanish Hapsburgs,
bequeathed Spain and all its global empire to the age-long enemy of the
Hapsburgs -- Bourbon France. The grandson of Louis XIV, as Philip V of
Spain, fought bravely during the War of the Spanish Succession (1703-12)
to maintain that empire unimpaired; nearly all Europe rose in arms to
prevent so dangerous an aggrandizement of Bourbon power; in the end
Spain had to yield Gibraltar and Minorca to England, Sicily to Savoy,
and Naples, Sardinia, and "Belgium" to Austria.

Moreover, the loss of sea power left Spain only a precarious hold on
the colonies that nourished her commerce and her wealth. Wheat in
Spanish America gave from five to twenty times the yield per acre that
came from the soil of Spain. From those sunny lands came mercury,
copper, zinc, arsenic, dyes, meat, hides, rubber, cochineal, sugar,
cocoa, coffee, tobacco, tea, quinine and a dozen other medicaments. In
1788 Spain exported to her American colonies goods valued at 158,000,000
reales; she imported from them goods valued at 804,000,000 reales; this
"unfavorable balance of trade" was wiped out by a stream of American
silver and gold. The Philippines sent cargoes of pepper, cotton,
indigo, and sugar cane. At the end of the eighteenth century Alexander
von Humboldt estimated the population of the Philippines at 1,900,000,
of Spanish America at 16,902,000; Spain herself, in 1797, had
10,541,000. It is one credit to Bourbon rule that this last figure
almost doubled the population of 5,700,000 in 1700.

Geography favored Spain only for maritime commerce. In the north
the land was fertile, fed with rains and the melting snows of the
Pyrenees; irrigation canals (mostly bequeathed to their conquerors by
the Moors) had reclaimed Valencia, Murcia, and Andalusia from aridity;
the rest of Spain was discouragingly mountainous or dry. The gifts of
nature were not developed by economic enterprise; the most venturesome
Spaniards went to the colonies; Spain preferred to buy industrial
products from abroad with her colonial gold and the yield of her own
mines of silver, copper, iron, or lead; her industries, still in the
guild or domestic stage, lagged far behind those of the industrious
North; and many of her rich mines were operated by foreign management
for the profit of German or English investors. The production of wool
was monopolized by the Mesta, an association of flock owners privileged
by the government, entrenched in tradition, and dominated by a small
minority of nobles and monasteries. Competition was stifled,
improvements lagged. A meager proletariat festered in the towns,
serving as domestics to the great or as journeymen in the guilds. Some
Negro or Moorish slaves adorned affluent homes. A small middle class
lived in dependence upon the government, the nobility, or the Church.

Of the agricultural land 51.5 per cent was owned in vast tracts by
noble families, 16.5 per cent by the Church, 32 per cent by communes
(towns) or peasants. The growth of peasant proprietorship was retarded
by an old law of entail, which required that an estate should be
bequeathed intact to the eldest son, and that no part of it should be
mortgaged or sold. Through most of the century, except in the Basque
provinces, three quarters of the soil was tilled by tenants paying
tribute in rent, fees, service, or kind to aristocratic or
ecclesiastical landlords whom they rarely saw. As rents were raised
according to the productivity of the farm, the tenants had no incentive
to inventiveness or industry. The owners defended the practice by
alleging that the progressive depreciation of the currency forced them
to raise rents to keep pace with rising prices and costs. Meanwhile a
sales tax on such necessaries as meat, wine, olive oil, candles, and
soap fell heavily upon the poor (who spent most of their income on
necessaries), more lightly upon the rich. The result of these
procedures, of hereditary privilege, and of the natural inequality of
human ability, was a concentration of wealth at the top, and at the
bottom a somber poverty that continued from generation to generation,
alleviated and abetted by supernatural consolations.

The nobility was jealously divided into grades of dignity. At the
top (in 1787) were 199 grandees -- 'grandes de Espana'. We may guess at
their wealth from the probably exaggerated report of the contemporary
British traveler Joseph Townsend that "three great lords -- the dukes of
Osuna, Alba, and Medinaceli -- cover [own] almost the whole province of
Andalusia. Medinaceli received one million reales yearly from his
fisheries alone; Osuna had an annual income of 8,400,000 reales; the
Count of Aranda had nearly 1,600,000 reales a year. Below the grandees
were 535 'titulos' -- men who had been given hereditary titles by the
king on condition of remitting half their income to the Crown. Below
these were the 'caballeros' -- chevaliers or knights named by the king
to lucrative membership in one of the four military orders of Spain:
Santiago, Alcantara, Calatrava, and Montesa. The lowliest of the nobles
were the 400,000 hidalgos, who owned modest tracts of land, were exempt
from military service and from imprisonment for debt, and had the right
to display a coat of arms and be addressed as Don. Some of them were
poor, some joined the beggars in the streets. Most of the nobles lived
in the cities, and named the municipal officials.

As the divine guardian of the status quo the Spanish Church claimed
a comfortable share of the gross national product. A Spanish authority
reckoned its annual income, after taxes, at 1,101,753,000 reales, and
that of the state at 1,371,000,000. A third of its revenues came from
land; large sums from tithes and first fruits; petty cash from
christenings, marriages, funerals, Masses for the dead, and monastic
costumes sold to pious people who thought that if they died in such
robes they might slip unquestioned into Paradise. Monastic mendicants
brought in an additional 53,000,000 reales. The average priest, of
course, was poor, partly because of his number; Spain had 91,258 men in
orders, of whom 16,481 were priests and 2,943 were Jesuits. In 1797
sixty thousand monks and thirty thousand nuns lived in three thousand
monasteries or convents. The Archbishop of Seville and his staff of 235
aides enjoyed an annual revenue of six million reales; the Archbishop of
Toledo, with six hundred aides, received nine million. Here, as in
Italy and Austria, ecclesiastical wealth aroused no protest from the
people; the cathedral was their creation, and they loved to see it
gorgeously adorned.

Their piety set a standard for Christendom. Nowhere else in the
eighteenth century was the Catholic theology so thoroughly believed, or
the Catholic ritual so fervently observed. Religious practices rivaled
the pursuit of bread, and probably exceeded the pursuit of sex, as part
of the substance of life. The people, including the prostitutes,
crossed themselves a dozen times a day. The worship of the Virgin far
surpassed the adoration of Christ; images of her were everywhere; women
lovingly sewed robes for her statues, and crowned her head with fresh
flowers; in Spain above all rose the popular demand that her "immaculate
conception " -- her freedom from the stain of original sin -- be made a
part of the defined and required faith. The men almost equaled the
women in piety. Many men, as well as women, heard Mass daily. In some
religious processions (until it was forbidden in 1777) men of the lower
classes flogged themselves with knotted cords ending in balls of wax
containing broken glass; they professed to be doing this to prove their
devotion to God or Mary or a woman; some thought such bloodletting was
good for the health and kept Eros down.

Religious processions were frequent, dramatic, and colorful; one
humorist complained that he could not take a step in Madrid without
coming upon such a solemnity; and not to kneel when it passed was to
risk arrest or injury. When the people of Saragossa rose in revolt in
1766, sacking and looting, and a religious procession appeared with a
bishop holding the Sacrament before him, the rioters bared their heads
and knelt in the streets; when the retinue had filed by they resumed the
sack of the town. In the great Corpus Christi procession all the
departments of the government took part, sometimes led by the king.
Throughout Holy Week the cities of Spain were draped in black, theaters
and cafes were closed, churches were crowded, and supplementary altars
were set up in public squares to accommodate the overflow of piety. In
Spain Christ was king, Mary was queen, and the sense of divine presence
was, in every waking hour, part of the essence of life.

Two religious orders especially prospered in Spain. The Jesuits,
through their learning and address, dominated education and became
confessors to royalty. The Dominicans controlled the Inquisition, and
though this institution had long since passed its heyday it was still
strong enough to terrify the people and challenge the state. When some
remnants of Judaism appeared under Bourbon laxity the Inquisition
snuffed them out with autos-da-fe. In seven years (1720-27) the
Inquisitors condemned 868 persons, of whom 820 were accused of secret
Judaism; seventy-five were burned, others were sent to the galleys, or
merely scourged. In 1722 Philip V testified his adoption of Spanish
ways by presiding over a sumptuous auto-da-fe in which nine heretics
were burned in celebration of the coming of a French princess to Madrid.
His successor, Ferdinand VI, showed a milder spirit; during his reign
(1746-59) "only" ten persons -- all "relapsed" Jews -- were burned

The Inquisition exercised a strangling censorship over all
publication. A Dominican monk reckoned that there was less printing in
Spain in the eighteenth century than in the sixteenth. Most books were
religious, and the people liked them so. The lower classes were
illiterate, and felt no need for reading or writing. Schools were in
the hands of the clergy, but thousands of parishes had no schools at
all. The once great Spanish universities had fallen far behind those of
Italy, France, England, or Germany in everything but orthodox theology.
Medical schools were poor, ill-staffed, ill-equipped; therapy relied
upon bloodletting, purging, relics, and prayer; Spanish physicians were
a peril to human life. Science was medieval, history was legend,
superstition flourished, portents and miracles abounded. The belief in
witchcraft survived to the end of the century, and appeared among the
horrors that Goya drew.

Such was the Spain that the Bourbons came from France to rule.

Philip V: 1700-46

Felipe Quinto was a good man within his lights, which had been
limited by his education. As a younger son to the Dauphin he had been
trained to modesty, piety, and obedience, and he never overcame these
virtues sufficiently to meet half a century of challenges in government
and war. His piety led him to accept in Spain a religious obscurantism
that was dying in France; his docility made him malleable by his
ministers and his wives.

Maria Luisa Gabriela, daughter of Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, was
only thirteen when she married Philip (1701), but she was already adept
in feminine wiles; her beauty and vivacity, her tantrums and tears
reduced the King to an exhausted subjection, while she and her chief
lady in waiting manipulated the politics of their adopted land. Marie
Anne de La Tremoille, Princesse des Ursins, French widow of a Spanish
grandee, had helped the girl Queen to marriage and power. Ambitious but
tactful, she became for a decade a power behind the throne. She could
not rely upon beauty, for she was fifty-nine in 1701, but she provided
the knowledge and subtlety lacking in the Queen, and after 1705 she
determined policy. In 1714 Maria Luisa, aged twenty-six, died, and
Philip, who had learned to love her devotedly, sank into a morbid
melancholy. Mme. des Ursins thought to salvage her power by arranging
his marriage with Isabella (Elizabeth) Farnese, daughter of Duke Odoardo
II of Parma and Piacenza. She went to meet the new Queen at the Spanish
border, but Isabella curtly ordered her to leave Spain. She withdrew to
Rome and died eight years later in wealth and oblivion.

Isabella did not admit that the Renaissance was over; she had all
the force of will, keenness of intellect, fire of temper, and scorn of
scruples that had marked the women, as well as the men, who had
dominated sixteenth-century Italy. She found in Philip a man who could
not make up his mind, and who could not sleep alone; their bed became
her throne, from which she ruled a nation, directed armies, and won
Italian principalities. She had known almost nothing of Spain, nor did
she ever take to the Spanish character, but she studied that character,
she made herself familiar with the needs of the country, and the King
was surprised to find her as informed and resourceful as his ministers.

In his first years of rule Philip had used Jean Orry and other
French aides to reorganize the government on lines set by LouiS XIV:
centralized and audited administration and finance, with a trained
bureaucracy and provincial intendants, all under the legislative,
judicial, and executive authority of the royal council, here called the
Consejo de Castilla. Corruption diminished, extravagance was checked --
except in the building operations of the King. To these French
ministers there succeeded in 1714 an able and ambitious Italian, the
Abate Gulio Alberoni, whose energy made the Spanish shudder. Son of a
Piacenza gardener, he had reached Spain as secretary to the Duc de
Vendome. He had been the first to suggest Isabella Farnese as Philip's
second wife; grateful, she eased his way to power. Together they kept
the King away from affairs, and from any counsel but their own.
Together they planned to build up Spain's armed forces, and use them to
drive the Austrians out of Italy, restore Spanish ascendancy in Naples
and Milan, and set up ducal thrones to be graced, someday, by the
farseeing Isabella's sons.

Alberoni asked five years for preparation. He replaced titled
sluggards with middle-class ability in the leading posts; he taxed the
clergy and imprisoned rebellious priests; he scrapped worn-out vessels
and built better ones; he set up forts and arsenals along coasts and
frontiers; he subsidized industry, opened up roads, accelerated
communication, abolished sales taxes and traffic tolls. The British
ambassador in Madrid warned his government that with a few more years of
such advances Spain would be a danger to other European powers. To
soothe such fears Alberoni pretended that he was raising forces to help
Venice and the papacy against the Turks. Indeed, he sent six galleys to
Clement XI, who rewarded him with a red hat (1717). "The Spanish
monarchy," wrote Voltaire, "has resumed new life under Cardinal

Everything was granted him but time. He hoped to win French and
English consent to Spanish aims in Italy, and offered substantial
concessions in return, but the careless King spoiled these maneuvers by
revealing his desire to replace Philippe d'Orleans as ruler of France.
Philippe turned against Felipe, and joined England and the United
Provinces in a pact to maintain the territorial arrangements fixed by
the Treaty of Utrecht. Austria violated that treaty by compelling Savoy
to give her Sicily in exchange for Sardinia. Alberoni protested that
this placed athwart the Mediterranean a power whose head still claimed
the crown of Spain. Cursing the undue acceleration of events, he
resigned himself to premature war. His newborn fleet captured Palermo
(1718), and his troops soon brought all Sicily under Spanish control.
Austria thereupon joined England, France, and Holland in a Quadruple
Alliance against Spain. On August 11, 1718, a British squadron under
Admiral Byng destroyed the Spanish fleet off the coast of Sicily;
Spain's best troops were bottled up in that island while French armies
invaded Spain. Philip and Isabella sued for peace; it was granted on
condition of Alberoni's banishment. He fled to Genoa (1719), made his
way in disguise through Austrian-held Lombardy to Rome, took part in the
conclave that elected Innocent XIII, and died in 1752, aged eighty-
eight. On February 17, 1720, a Spanish envoy signed in London a treaty
by which Philip resigned all claim to the throne of France, Spain
surrendered Sicily to Austria, England promised to restore Gibraltar to
Spain, and the Allies pledged to Isabella's offspring the right of
succession to Parma and Tuscany.

In the kaleidoscope of international politics allies soon become
enemies, and foes may formally become friends. To cement peace with
France, Philip had betrothed his two-year-old daughter, Maria Ana
Victoria, to Louis XV in 1721, and had sent her -- all wondering -- to
France (1722). But in 1725 France sent her back so that Louis might
marry a woman who could at once undertake the task of giving him an
heir. Insulted, Spain allied herself with Austria; the Emperor Charles
VI promised to help recapture Gibraltar; when a Spanish army tried to
take that bastion Austrian help did not come; the attempt failed, and
Spain not only made peace with England, but restored to her the Asiento
monopoly of selling slaves to Spanish colonies; in return Britain
pledged to put Isabella's son Don Carlos on the ducal throne of Parma.
In 1731 Carlos and six thousand Spanish troops were escorted to Italy by
an English fleet. Austria, to secure British and Spanish support for
the accession of Maria Theresa to the Imperial throne, yielded Parma and
Piacenza to Carlos. In 1734 Carlos promoted himself to Naples.
Isabelia's triumph was complete.

Philip, however, sank into a melancholy mood that, after 1736,
lapsed now and then into insanity. He shrank into a corner of his room,
thinking that all who entered planned to kill him. He was loath to eat
for fear of being poisoned. For a long time he refused to leave his bed
or be shaved. Isabella tried a hundred ways to heal or soothe him; all
failed but one. In 1737 she coaxed Farinelli to come to Spain. One
night, in an apartment adjoining the King's, she arranged a concert in
which the great 'castrato' sang two arias by Hasse. Philip rose from
his bed to look through a doorway and see what agency could make such
captivating sounds. Isabella brought Farinelli to him; the monarch
praised and caressed him, and bade him name his reward; nothing would be
refused. Previously instructed by the Queen, the singer asked only that
Philip should let himself be shaved and dressed, and should appear at
the royal council. The King consented; his fears subsided; he seemed
miraculously healed. But when the next evening came he called for
Farinelli, and begged him to sing those same two songs again; only so
could he be calmed to sleep. So it continued, night after night, for
ten years. Farinelli was paid 200,000 reales a year, but was not
allowed to sing except at the court. He accepted the condition
gracefully, and though his power over the King was greater than that of
any minister, he never abused it, always used it for good; he remained
untouched by venality, and won the admiration of all.

In 1746 Philip, ordered 100,000 Masses to be said for his salvation;
if so many should not be needed to get him into heaven the surplus
should be applied to poor souls for whom no such provision had been
made. In that year he died.

Ferdinand VI: 1746-59

His second son by his first wife succeeded him, and gave Spain
thirteen years of healing rule. Isabella survived till 1766; she was
treated with kindness and courtesy by her stepson, but she lost her
power to influence events. Ferdinand's wife, Maria Barbara, Scarlatti's
pupil, was now the woman behind the throne; though she loved food and
money beyond reason, she was a gentler spirit than Isabella, and gave
most of her energies to encouraging music and art. Farinelli continued
to sing for the new rulers, and Scarlatti's harpsichord could not rival
him. King and Queen worked to end the War of the Austrian Succession;
they accepted the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), though it gave
Tuscany to Austria; and a year later they terminated the 136-year-old
Asiento by paying £100,000 to the South Sea Company for the loss of its
privileges in the slave trade.

Ferdinand was a man of good will, kindly and honest, but he had
inherited a delicate constitution and was subject to fits of passion, of
which he was painfully ashamed. Conscious of his limitations, he left
administration to two able ministers -- Don Jose de Carvajal and Zenon
de Somodevilla, Marques de la Ensenada. Ensenada improved agricultural
methods, subsidized mining and industry, built roads and canals,
abolished internal tolls, rebuilt the navy, replaced the hated sales tax
by a tax on income and property, reorganized the finances, and broke
down the intellectual isolation of Spain by sending students abroad.
Partly through Ensenada's diplomacy a concordat was signed with the
papacy (1753), reserving to the King the right to tax ecclesiastical
property and to appoint bishops to Spanish sees. The power of the
Church was reduced, the Inquisition was subdued, public autos-da-fe were

The two ministers diverged in foreign policy. Carvajal felt the
charm of the devoted British ambassador, Sir Benjamin Keene, and took a
peaceful pro-British line; Ensenada favored France, and moved toward war
with England. Ferdinand, appreciating his energy and ability, was long
patient with him, but finally dismissed him. While nearly all Europe
fell into seven years of war, Ferdinand gave his people a longer period
of tranquillity and prosperity than Spain had enjoyed since Philip II.

In 1758 Maria Barbara died. The King, who had loved her as if
politics had had nothing to do with their marriage, fell into a state of
melancholy and unshaved dishevelment strangely recalling that of his
father; in his final year he too was insane. Toward the end he refused
to go to bed, fearing that he would never get up again. He died in his
chair, August 10, 1759. Everyone mourned the royal lovers, for their
rule had been a rare blessing to Spain.

The Enlightenment Enters Spain

The story of the Enlightenment in Spain is a case of a resistible
force encountering an immovable body. The Spanish character, and its
blood-written pledge to its medieval faith, turned back sooner or later
all winds of heresy or doubt, all alien forms of dress or manners or
economy. Only one economic force favored foreign thought -- Spanish
merchants who daily dealt with strangers, and who knew to what power and
wealth their like had risen in England and France. They were willing to
import ideas if these could weaken the hold that nobles and clergy had
inherited on the land, life, and mind of Spain. They knew that religion
had lost its power in England; some had heard of Newton and Locke; even
Gibbon was to find a few readers in Spain.

Of course the strongest Enlightenment breezes came from France. The
French aristocrats who followed Philip V to Madrid were already touched
by the irreligion that hid its head under Louis XIV but ran rampant
during the Regency. In 1714 some scholars founded the Real Academia
Espanola in emulation of the French Academy; soon it began work on a
dictionary; in 1737 the 'Diario de los literatos de Espana' undertook to
rival the 'Journal des savants'. The Duke of Alba, who directed the
Real Academia for twenty years (1756-76), was a warm admirer of Jean-
Jacques Rousseau. In 1773 he subscribed eight louis d'or for Pigalle's
statue of Voltaire; "Condemned to cultivate my reason in secret," he
wrote to d'Alembert, "I take this opportunity to give public testimony
to my gratitude and admiration for the great man who first showed me the

Gratuitous advertisement was given to Rousseau's 'Emile' by its
ceremonious burning in a Madrid church (1765). Young Spaniards
acquainted with Paris, like the Marques de Mora who loved Julie de
Lespinasse, came back to Spain with some rubbing of the skepticism that
they had encountered in the salons. Copies of works by Voltaire,
Diderot, or Raynal were smuggled into Spain, and aroused some innovating
minds. A Spanish journalist wrote in 1763: "Through the effect of many
pernicious books that have become the fashion, such as those of
Voltaire, Rousseau, and Helvetius, much cooling of faith has been felt
in this country." Pablo Olavide openly expressed Voltairean ideas in
his Madrid salon (c. 1766). On the shelves of the Sociedades Economicas
de los Amigos del Pais in Madrid were works by Voltaire, Rousseau,
Bayle, d'Alembert, Montesquieu, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume. Abbe Clement,
touring Spain in 1768, reported a wide spread of religious indifference,
even unbelief, covered with external observance of Catholic ritual. In
1778 the Inquisition was informed that the highest officials of the
court read the French philosophes.

It was of considerable importance to Spanish history that Pedro
Abarca, Conde de Aranda, traveling in France, became a friend of
Voltaire. We may judge of his connections by his later activity as
Spanish ambassador to Versailles; he mixed freely with the
Encyclopedists in Paris, formed an admiring intimacy with d'Alembert,
and crossed France to visit Voltaire at Ferney. In Spain he professed
fidelity to the Church, but it was he who persuaded Charles III to expel
the Jesuits. Under his guidance Charles joined the ranks of those
"enlightened despots" to whom the philosophes were looking as their
likeliest aides in the spread of education, liberty, and reason.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 11, Spain and the Enlightenment
pages 273-281
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-28 17:26:58 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 164 lines ]

The Spanish in the Eighteenth Century

by Will and Ariel Durant

What sort of people were they, these Spaniards of the eighteenth
century? By all reports their morals were good, compared with their
peers in England or France. Their intense religion, their courage and
sense of honor, their family coherence and discipline provided strong
correctives to their sexual sensitivity and their pugnacious pride, even
while sanctioning a passionate chauvinism of race and faith. Sexual
selection promoted courage, for Spanish women, desiring protection, gave
their most intoxicating smiles to those men who dared the bulls in the
arena or the streets, or who quickly resented and avenged an insult, or
who returned with glory from the wars.

Sexual morality had softened with the influx of French ideas and
ways. Girls were closely guarded, and parental consent (after 1766) was
a legal requisite for marriage; but after marriage the women in the
larger cities indulged in flirtations. The 'cortejo' or 'cicisbeo' --
courtier or attendant cavalier -- became a necessary appendage to a
woman of fashion, and adultery increased. One small group, the 'majos'
and 'majas', constituted a unique aspect of Spanish life. The 'majos'
were men of the lower class who dressed like dandies, wore long capes,
long hair, and broad-rimmed hats, smoked big cigars, were always ready
for a fight, and lived a Bohemian life financed as often as possible by
their 'majas' -- their mistresses. Their sexual unions paid no
attention to law; often the 'maja' had a husband who supported her while
she supported her 'majo'. Half the world knows the 'maja', garbed or
not, from Goya's brush.

Social morality was relatively high. Political and commercial
corruption existed, but not on the scale known in France or England; a
French traveler reported that "Spanish probity is proverbial, and it
shines conspicuously in commercial relations." The word of a Spanish
gentleman was moral tender from Lisbon to St. Petersburg. Friendship in
Spain was often more lasting than love. Charity was plentiful. In
Madrid alone religious institutions daily distributed thirty thousand
bowls of nourishing soup to the poor. Many new hospitals and almshouses
were established, many old ones were enlarged or improved. Almost all
Spaniards were generous and humane, except to heretics and bulls.

Bullfights rivaled religion, sex, honor, and the family as objects
of Spanish devotion. Like the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome, they
were defended on two grounds: courage had to be developed in men, and
bulls had to die before being eaten. Charles III forbade these
contests, but they were resumed soon after his death. Skillful and
riskful toreadors were the idols of all classes. Each had his
following; the Duchess of Alba favored Costillares, the Duchess of Osuna
favored Romero, and these factions divided Madrid as Gluck and Piccini
divided Paris. Men and women wagered their earnings on the fate of the
bulls, and on almost everything else. Gambling was illegal but
universal; even private homes held gambling soirees, and the hostesses
pocketed the fees.

Genteel male dress gradually abandoned the somber black garb and
stiff collar of an earlier generation for the French habit of colored
coat, long vest of satin or silk, knee breeches, silk stockings, buckled
shoes, all crowned with a wig and a three-cornered hat. Usually the
Spanish woman made a sacred mystery of her charms by swathing them in
lace bodices and long -- sometimes hoop -- skirts, and using mantilla
veils to hide eyes in whose dark depths some Spaniard would gladly sink
his soul. But whereas in the seventeenth century a lady rarely allowed
her feet to be seen by a man, now her skirts were shortened to a few
inches above the floor, and the formerly heelless slippers were
displaced by sharp-pointed high-heeled shoes. Preachers warned that
such indecent exposure of female feet added dangerous fuel to the
already combustible male. The women smiled, adorned their shoes,
flashed their skirts, and waved their fans, even on winter days.
Isabella Farnese had an armory of 1,626 fans, some of them painted by
artists of national renown.

Social life was restrained in everything but the dance. The evening
assemblies avoided serious discussion, preferring games, the dance, and
gallantry. Dancing was a major passion in Spain, and sprouted varieties
that became famous in Europe. The fandango was danced to a triple
measure with castanets; the 'seguidilla' was performed by two or four
couples, with castanets and usually with song; its derivative, the
bolero, took form toward 1780, and soon acquired a mad popularity. In
the 'contradanza' a line of men faced a line of women in alternating
approach and retreat, as if symbolizing the tactics of the eternal war
between woman and man; or four couples formed and enclosed a square in
the stately 'contradanza cuadrada' -- the quadrille. Masquerade balls
sometimes drew 3,500 eager dancers, and in Carnival time they danced
till dawn.

These dances made motion a living poetry and a sexual stimulus. "It
was said that a Spanish woman dancing the 'seguidilla' was so seductive
that even a pope and the whole College of Cardinals would be swept off
their dignity." Casanova himself found something to learn in Spain:

About midnight the wildest and maddest of dances
began.... It was the fandango, which I fondly supposed
I had often seen, but which [here] was far beyond my
wildest imaginings.... In Italy and France the dancers
are careful not to make the gestures which render this
the most voluptuous of dances. Each couple, man and
woman, make only three steps, then, keeping time to the
music with their castanets, they throw themselves into a
variety of lascivious attitudes; the whole of love from
its birth to its end, from its first sigh to its last
ecstasy, is set forth. In my excitement I cried aloud.

He marveled that the Inquisition allowed so provocative a dance; he was
told that it was "absolutely forbidden, and no one would dare to dance
it if the Conde de Aranda had not given permission."

Some of the most popular forms of Spanish music were associated with
the dance; so the 'cante flamenco', or gypsy ("Flemish") singing, used a
plaintive and sentimental tone with which all gypsy singers accompanied
the 'seguidilla gitana'. Perhaps these mournful melodies echoed old
Moorish airs, or reflected the somber quality of Spanish religion and
art, or the irritating inaccessibility of the female form, or the
disillusionment following realization. A more joyous strain came in
with Italian opera (1703) and Farinelli's arias. The old 'castrato',
after trilling through two reigns, lost favor under Charles III, who
dethroned him with a line: "Capons are good only to eat." The Italian
influence continued with Scarlatti, and triumphed again with Boccherini,
who arrived in 1768, dominated the music of the court under Charles III
and Charles IV, and remained in Spain till his death (1805).

By a reverse movement Vicente Martin y Solar, after making a name in
Spain, successfully produced Italian opera in Florence, Vienna, and St.
Petersburg. Antonio Soler's harpsichord sonatas rivaled Scarlatti's;
and Don Luis Mison developed the 'tonada', or vocal solo, into the
'tonadillo' as an intermezzo of song between the acts of a play. In
1799 a royal order ended the reign of Italian music in Spain by
forbidding the performance of any piece not written in Castilian
language and presented by Spanish artists.

We cannot sum up the Spanish character in one homogeneous mold. The
Spanish soul varies with the scenery from state to state, and the
'afrancesados', or Frenchified Spaniards, who gathered in Madrid, were
quite another type than those natives who had been mortised and tenoned
in Spanish ways. But if we set aside exotic minorities, we may
recognize in the Spanish people a character indigenous and unique. The
Spaniard was proud, but with a silent force that took little from
chauvinism or nationality; it was a pride of individuality, a resolute
sense of solitary struggle against earthly injury, personal insult, or
eternal damnation. To such a spirit the external world could seem of
secondary moment, not worth bothering about or toiling for; nothing
mattered but the fate of the soul in the conflict with man and in the
search for God. How trivial, then, were the problems of politics, the
race for money, the exaltation of fame or place! Even the triumphs of
war had no glory unless they were victories over the enemies of the
faith. Rooted in that faith, the Spaniard could face life with a stoic
tranquillity, a fatalism that waited quietly for eventual Paradise.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 11, Spain and the Enlightenment
pages 290-293
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-10-28 17:28:55 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 173 lines ]

Music in Italy: 1760-89

by Will and Ariel Durant

Church music had declined with the growing secularization of life,
and had suffered infection from operatic forms. Instrumental music was
prospering, partly through the improvement of the pianoforte, but still
more with the increasing popularity of the violin. Virtuosi like
Pugnani, Viotti, and Nardini conquered Europe with a bow. Muzio
Clementi, who went from Italy to live for twenty years in England,
toured the Continent as organist and pianist, competed with Mozart in
Vienna, and may have profited from Mozart's comment that his playing was
too mechanical. He was the most successful piano teacher of the
eighteenth century, and he established the nineteenth-century style of
piano technique with his famous series of exercises and studies, 'Gradus
ad Parnassum' -- steps to the home of the Muses from whom music took its
name. Gaetano Pugnani inherited his master Tartini's violin artistry,
and passed it on to his pupil Giovanni Battista Viotti, who traversed
Europe triumphantly. Viotti's Violin Concerto in A Minor can still be
enjoyed by our old-fashioned ears.

Like so many Italians, Luigi Boccherini left a land crowded with
musicians to seek an audience abroad. From 1768 till his death in 1805
he charmed Spain with his cello as Farinelli had charmed it with his
voice and Scarlatti with his harpsichord. For a generation his
instrumental compositions rivaled those of Mozart in international
acclaim; Frederick William II of Prussia, himself a cellist, preferred
Boccherini's quartets to Mozart's. In his sixty-two years he composed
ninety-five string quartets, fifty-four trios, twelve piano quintets,
twenty symphonies, five concertos for the cello, two oratorios, and some
religious music. Half the world knows his "Minuet" -- a movement from
one of his quintets; but all the world should know his Concerto in B
Flat for violoncello and orchestra.

Europe surrendered without a struggle (again excepting Paris) to the
'bel canto' of Italy. From a dozen cities of the Magic Boot prima
donnas like Caterina Gabrielli and 'castrati' like Gasparo Pacchierotti
poured across the Alps to Vienna, Munich, Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin, St.
Petersburg, Hamburg, Brussels, London, Paris, and Madrid. Pacchierotti
was among the last of the famous emasculates; for a generation he
rivaled Farinelli's career. He held London captive for four years; his
acclaim there still echoes in Fanny Burney's 'Diary', and in her
father's 'General History of Music'.

Italian composers and conductors followed the singers. Pietro
Guglielmi wrote two hundred operas, and moved from Naples to Dresden to
Brunswick to London to conduct them. Another Neapolitan, Nicco1o
Piccini, has come down to us disfigured by his unwilling contest with
Gluck in Paris; but Galiani described him as 'un tres honnete homme' --
a thoroughly honorable man. His 'opere buffe' were for a decade the
rage of Naples and Rome; even the 'Serva padrona' of Pergolesi won no
such popularity as Piccini's 'La cecchina' (1760). Jommelli, Pergolesi,
Leo, and Galuppi had set to music Metastasio's 'Olimpiade'; Piccini did
likewise, and, by common consent, excelled them all. In 1776 he
accepted a call to Paris; the wild war that ensued there must wait its
geographical turn; through it all Piccini carried himself with complete
courtesy, remaining friends with his rivals Gluck and Sacchini even
though their partisans threatened his life. When the Revolution drowned
out this 'opera buffa' Piccini returned to Naples. There he was placed
under house arrest for four years because of sympathy with France; his
operas were hooted from the stage, and he lived in a poverty disgraceful
to his country. After Napoleon's conquest of Italy he was again invited
to Paris (1798); the First Consul gave him a modest sinecure, but a
paralytic stroke broke him down in body and spirit, and he died in Paris
in 1800.

Antonio Sacchini was born to a fisherman at Pozzuoli, and was being
trained to succeed his father when Francesco Durante heard him sing, and
carried him off to Naples as pupil and protege. His 'Semiramide' was so
well received at the Teatro Argentino in Rome that he remained with that
theater for seven years as its composer of operas. After a stay in
Venice he set off to conquer Munich, Stuttgart, ... and London (1772).
His operas were applauded there, but hostile cabals damaged his
popularity, and his dissolute habits ruined his health. Moving to
Paris, he produced his masterpiece, 'Oedipe a Colone' (1786), which held
the boards of the Opera through 583 representations in the next fifty-
seven years; we can still hear it, now and then, on the air. He adopted
several of Gluck's reforms; he abandoned the Italian style of making an
opera a patchwork of arias; in 'Oedipe' the story controls the arias,
and the choruses, inspired by Handel's oratorios, lend grandeur to both
the music and the theme.

The melodious conquest went on with Antonio Salieri, foe of Mozart
and friend of the young Beethoven. Born near Verona, he was sent at the
age of sixteen to Vienna (1766); eight years later Joseph II appointed
him composer to the court, and in 1788 Kapellmeister. In this post he
preferred other composers to Mozart, but the story that this opposition
caused Mozart's collapse is a myth. After Mozart's death Salieri
befriended the son and promoted his musical development. Beethoven
submitted several compositions to Salieri, and accepted his suggestions
with unwonted humility.

"The most radiant star in the Italian operatic firmament during the
second half of the eighteenth century" was Giovanni Paisiello. Son of a
veterinary surgeon at Taranto, his voice so impressed his Jesuit
teachers there that they persuaded his father to send him to Durante's
conservatory in Naples (1754). When he took to composing operas he
found the Neapolitan audiences so enamored of Piccini that he accepted
an invitation from Catherine the Great. In St. Petersburg he wrote
(1782) 'Il barbiere di Siviglia'; it had so lasting a success throughout
Europe that when Rossini offered in Rome (February 5, 1816) an opera on
the same subject it was damned by the public as an ungentlemanly
intrusion upon territory sacred to Paisiello, who was still alive. On
his way back from Russia in 1784, Paisiello stopped long enough in
Vienna to write twelve "symphonies" for Joseph II, and to produce an
opera, 'Il re Teodoro', which soon won Europe-wide acceptance. Then he
returned to Naples as 'maestro di cappella' to Ferdinand IV. Napoleon
persuaded Ferdinand to "lend" him Paisiello; when the composer arrived
in Paris (1802) he was received with a magnificence that made him many
enemies. In 1804 he returned to Naples, under the patronage of Joseph
Bonaparte and Murat.

We should note, in passing, how patiently these Italians prepared
their careers. Paisiello studied for nine years at Durante's
Conservatorio di San Onofrio; Cimarosa studied for eleven years in the
Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto, and later at Naples. After long
tutelage under Sacchini, Piccini, and others, Domenico Cimarosa produced
his first opera, 'Le stravaganze del conte'. Soon his operas were heard
in Vienna, Dresden, Paris, and London. In 1787 he took his turn at St.
Petersburg, where he delighted the polyandrous Empress with 'Cleopatra'.
Invited by Leopold II to succeed Salieri as 'Kapellmeister' at Vienna,
he produced there his most celebrated opera, 'Il matrimonio segreto'
(1792). It so pleased the Emperor that at its close he ordered supper
to be served to all those present, and then commanded a repetition of
the whole. In 1793 he was called back to Naples as 'maestro di
cappella' for Ferdinand IV. When the King was deposed by a French
Revolutionary army (1799) Cimarosa hailed the event with enthusiasm;
when Ferdinand was restored Cimarosa was condemned to death. The
sentence was commuted to exile. The composer set out for St.
Petersburg, but died on the way at Venice (1801). He left, in addition
to many cantatas, Masses, and oratorios, some sixty-six operas, which
were far more applauded than Mozart's, and which even now must be
reckoned second only to Mozart's in the 'opere buffe' of the eighteenth

If melody is the heart of music, Italian music is supreme. The
Germans had preferred polyphonic harmony to a simple melodic line; in
this sense Italy won another victory over Germany when the German Mozart
subordinated polyphony to melody. But the Italians gave melody so
dominant a place that their operas tended to be a succession of tuneful
arias rather than musical dramas such as the first Italian opera
composers (c. 1600) had had in mind in their attempt to rival the
dramatic art of the Greeks. In Italian opera the significance of the
action, and often of the words, was lost in the glory of the song; this
was beautiful, but if, as we used to think, art is the replacement of
chaos with order to reveal significance, opera, in Italian hands, had
fallen short of its highest possibilities. Some Italians, like Jommelli
and Traetta, acknowledged this, and strove to mold the music and the
play into a united whole; but that achievement had to await, for its
clearest form, the operas of Gluck. So, in the pendulum of life, the
Italian conquest of Europe with melody ended when, in 1774, Gluck
produced at Paris an 'Iphigenie en Aulide' which subordinated the music
to the play. But the conflict between melody and drama went on; Wagner
won a battle for drama, Verdi captured new trophies for melody. May
neither side win.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 12: Vale, Italia
pages 332-335
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-11-04 19:34:49 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 803 lines ]

Music Reformed

by Will and Ariel Durant

WE do not readily think of the embattled Joseph II as a musician. Yet
we are told that he received a "thorough musical education," had a fine
bass voice, heard a concert almost daily, and was "a skillful player
from score" on the violoncello, the viola, and the clavier. Many
[Austrian] nobles were musicians, many more were patrons of music. The
middle classes followed suit; every household had a harpsichord;
everyone learned to play some instrument. Trios and quartets were
performed in the streets; open-air concerts were given in the parks and,
on St. John's Day, from illuminated boats on the Danube Canal. Opera
flourished at the court and in the National Opera Theater founded by
Joseph II in 1778.

Vienna rose to its early-nineteenth-century sovereignty as the
musical capital of Europe because in the late eighteenth century it
brought together the rival musical traditions of Germany and Italy.
From Germany came polyphony, from Italy melody. From Germany came the
'Singspiel' -- a mixture of comic drama, spoken dialogue, incidental
music, and popular songs; from Italy came 'opera buffa'; at Vienna the
two forms coalesced, as in Mozart's 'The Abduction from the Seraglio'.
Generally the Italian influence overcame the German in Vienna; Italy
conquered Austria with arias, as Austria conquered North Italy with
arms. In Vienna 'opera seria' was chiefly Italian until Gluck came, and
Gluck was formed on Italian music.

I. Christoph Willibald Gluck: 1714-87

He was born at Erasbach, in the Upper Palatinate, to a Catholic
forester who in 1717 moved the family to Neuschloss in Bohemia. In the
Jesuit school at Komotau Christoph received instruction in religion,
Latin, the classics, singing, violin, organ, and harpsichord. Moving to
Prague in 1732, he took lessons on the violoncello, and supported
himself by singing in churches, playing the violin at dances, and giving
concerts in nearby towns.

Every clever boy in Bohemia gravitated to Prague, and some still
cleverer found a way to Vienna. Gluck's way was to secure a place in
the orchestra of Prince Ferdinand von Lobkowitz. In Vienna he heard
Italian operas, and felt the magnetism of Italy. Prince Francesco Melzi
liked his playing, and invited him to Milan (1737). Gluck studied
composition under Sammartini, and became devoted to Italian styles. His
early operas (1741-45) followed Italian methods, and he conducted their
premieres in Italy. These successes won him an invitation to compose
and produce an opera for the Haymarket Theatre in London.

There he presented 'La caduta de' giganti' (1746). It was dismissed
with faint praise, and gruff old Handel said that Gluck knew "no more
counterpoint than mein cook"; but the cook was a good basso and Gluck's
fame was not to rest on counterpoint. Burney met Gluck, and described
him as "of a temper as fierce as Handel's.... He was horribly scarred
by smallpox, ... and he had an ugly scowl. Perhaps to balance his
budget Gluck announced to the public that he would give "a concerto on
twenty-six drinking glasses tuned [by filling them to different levels]
with spring water, accompanied with the whole band [orchestra], being a
new instrument of his own invention, upon which he performs whatever may
be done on a violin or harpsichord." Such a "glass harmonica," or
"musical glasses," had been introduced in Dublin two years before.
Gluck evoked the notes by stroking the rims of the glasses with
moistened fingers. The performance (April 23, 1746) appealed to the
curious, and was repeated a week later.

Saddened with this success, Gluck left London December 26 for Paris.
There he studied the operas of Rameau, who had moved toward reform by
integrating the music and the ballet with the action. In September he
conducted operas at Hamburg, had a liaison with an Italian singer, and
contracted syphilis. He recovered so slowly that when he went to
Copenhagen (November 24) he was unable to conduct. He returned to
Vienna, and married Marianne Pergia (September 15, 1750), daughter of a
rich merchant. Her dowry made him financially secure; he took a house
in Vienna, and disappeared into a long rest.

In September, 1754, Count Marcello Durazzo engaged him as
'Kapellmeister' at two thousand florins per year to compose for the
court. Durazzo had tired of conventional Italian opera, and
collaborated with Gluck in a musical drama, 'L'innocenza giustificata',
in which the story was no mere scaffolding for music, and the music no
mere assemblage of arias, but the music reflected the action, and the
arias -- even the choruses -- entered with some logic into the plot.
The premiere (December 8, 1755) was therefore the herald and first
product of the reform that history associates with Gluck's name. We
have seen elsewhere the contributions made by Benedetto Marcello,
Jommelli, and Traetta to this development, and the appeal made by
Rousseau, Voltaire and the Encyclopedists for a closer union of drama
and music. Metastasio had helped by proudly insisting that the music
should be servant to the poetry. Winckelmann's passion for restoring
Greek ideals in art may have affected Gluck, and composers knew that
Italian opera had begun as an attempt to revive the classic drama, in
which the music was subordinated to the play. Meanwhile Jean-Georges
Noverre (1760) pleaded for an elevation of the ballet from mere rhythmic
prancing to dramatic pantomimes that would express "the passions,
manners, customs, ceremonies, and costumes of all the peoples on earth."
By the mysterious alchemy of genius Gluck wove all these elements into a
new operatic form.

One secret of success is to seize a propitious chance. What was it
that brought Gluck to abandon the librettos of Metastasio and take
Raniero da Calzabigi as the poet for 'Orfeo ed Euridice'? The two men
had been born in the same year, 1714, but far apart -- Calzabigi in
Livorno. After some adventures in love and finance he came to Paris,
published there an edition of Metastasio's 'Poesie drammatiche (1755),
and prefaced it with a "Dissertazione" expressing his hope for a new
kind of opera -- "a delightful whole resulting from the interplay of a
large chorus, the dance, and a scenic action where poetry and music are
united in a masterly way." Moving to Vienna, he interested Durazzo with
his ideas on opera; the Count invited him to write a libretto; Calzabigi
composed 'Orfeo ed Euridice'; Durazzo offered the poem to Gluck, who saw
in the simple and unified plot a theme that could elicit all his powers.

The result was presented to Vienna on October 5, 1762. For the role
of Orpheus Gluck was able to secure the leading 'castrato' contralto of
the time, Gaetano Guadagni. The story was as old as opera; a dozen
librettists had used it between 1600 and 1761; the audience could follow
the action without understanding Italian. The music dispensed with
unaccompanied recitatives, 'da capo' arias, and decorative flourishes;
otherwise it followed the Italian style, but it rose to lyric heights of
a purity seldom attained before or since. The despondent cry of Orpheus
after losing his beloved a second time to death -- "Che faro senz'
Euridice?" -- is still the loveliest aria in opera; on hearing this, and
the threnody of the flute in the "Dance of the Blessed Spirits," we
wonder that the stormy Bohemian could have found such delicacy in his

'Orfeo' was not enthusiastically received in Vienna, but Maria
Theresa was deeply moved by it, and sent Gluck a snuffbox stuffed with
ducats. Soon he was chosen to teach singing to the Archduchess Maria
Antonia. Meanwhile he and Calzabigi worked on what some have rated
their most perfect opera, 'Alceste'. In a preface to the published
form, written for Gluck by Calzabigi, the composer declared the
principles of his operatic reform:

When I undertook to write the music for 'Alceste' I
resolved to divest it entirely of all those abuses ...
which have so long disfigured Italian opera.... I have
striven to restrict music to its true office of serving
poetry by means of expression, and by following the
situations of the story, without interrupting the action
or stifling it with useless superfluity of comments....
I did not think it my duty to pass quickly over the
second section of an aria -- of which the words are
perhaps the most impassioned and important -- in order
to repeat regularly ... those of the first part.... I
have felt that the overture should apprize the
spectators of the nature of the action that is to be
represented, and to form, so to speak, its argument; ...
that the orchestral instruments should be introduced in
proportion to the interest and intensity of the words,
and not leave that sharp contrast between the aria and
the recitative in the dialogue, ... [which] wantonly
disturbs the force and heat of the action.... I
believed that my greatest labor should be devoted to
seeking a beautiful simplicity.

In short, the music was to serve and intensify the drama, and not make
the drama a mere scaffolding for vocal or orchestral displays. Gluck
put the matter extremely by saying that he was "trying to forget that I
am a musician"; he was to be one person with the librettist in composing
a 'dramma per musica'. -- The story of 'Alceste' is a bit beyond belief,
but Gluck redeemed it with a somber overture that prefigured and led
into the tragic action; with scenes of touching sentiment between
Alceste and her children; with her invocation to the underworld gods in
the aria "Divinites du Styx"; with majestic chorales and spectacular
ensembles. The Viennese audience gave the opera sixty hearings between
its premiere, December 16, 1767, and 1779. The critics, however, found
many faults in it, and the singers complained that it gave them
insufficient scope to display their art.

Poet and composer tried again with 'Paride ed Elena' (November 30,
1770). Calzabigi took the plot from Ovid, who had made the story of
Paris and Helen a personal romance instead of an international tragedy.
The work received twenty performances in Vienna, one in Naples, none
elsewhere. Calzabigi assumed the blame for the comparative failure, and
renounced the writing of librettos. Gluck sought other soil for his
seed. A friend in the French embassy at Vienna, Francois du Rollet,
suggested that Paris audiences might welcome the compliment of a French
opera by a German composer. Following suggestions by Diderot and
Algarotti that Racine's 'Iphigenie' offered an ideal subject for an
opera, Du Roller molded the play into a libretto, and submitted this to
Gluck. The composer found the material perfectly suited to his taste,
and at once set to work.

To pave the way to Paris Du Rollet addressed to the director of the
Opera a letter -- printed in the 'Mercure de France' for August 1, 1772
-- telling how indignant "Monsieur Glouch" was at the idea that the
French language did not lend itself to music, and how he proposed to
prove the opposite with 'Iphigenie en Aulide'. Gluck softened the
expected ire of Rousseau (then living quietly in Paris) by sending the
'Mercure' a letter (February 1, 1773) expressing his hope that he might
consult with Rousseau about "the means I have in view to produce a music
fit for all the nations, and to let the ridiculous distinctions of
national music disappear." To complete this masterpiece of advertising,
Marie Antoinette, remembering her old teacher, used her influence at the
Opera. The manager agreed to produce 'Iphigenie'; Gluck came to Paris,
and put singers and orchestra through such arduous and disciplined
rehearsals as they had rarely experienced before. Sophie Arnould, the
reigning diva, proved so intractable that Gluck threatened to abandon
the project; Joseph Legros seemed too weakened by illness to play the
mighty Achilles; Gaetan Vestris, the current god of the dance, wanted
half the opera to be ballet. Gluck tore at his hair, or his wig,
persisted, and triumphed. The premiere (April 19, 1774) was the musical
sensation of the year. We can feel the agitation of the ebullient
capital in a letter of Marie Antoinette to her sister Maria Christina in

A great triumph, my dear Christine! I am carried
away with it, and people can no longer talk of anything
else. All heads are fermenting as a result of this
event; ... there are dissensions and quarrels as though
it were .... some religious dispute. At court, though
I publicly expressed myself in favor of this inspired
work, there are partisanships and debates of a
particular liveliness; and in the city it seems to be
worse still.

Rousseau repaid Gluck's advances by announcing that "Monsieur Gluck's
opera had overturned all his ideas; he was now convinced that the French
language could agree as well as any other with a music powerful,
touching, and sensitive." The overture was so startlingly beautiful
that the first night's audience demanded its repetition. The arias were
criticized as too many, interrupting the drama, but they were marked by
a complex depth of feeling characteristic of Gluck's music; of one of
them, Agamemnon's "Au faite des grandeurs," Abbe Arnaud exclaimed, "With
such an air one might found a religion."

Gluck now rivaled the dying Louis XV as the talk of Paris. His
burly figure, his rubicund face and massive nose were pointed out
wherever he went, and his imperious temper became the subject of a
hundred anecdotes. Greuze painted his portrait, showing the jovial good
nature behind the lines of strife and strain. He ate like Dr. Johnson,
and drank only less than Boswell. He made no pretense about scorning
money, and joined readily in appreciation of his work. He treated
courtiers and commoners alike -- as inferiors; he expected noble lords
to hand him his wig, his coat, his cane; and when a prince was
introduced to him, and Gluck kept his seat, he explained, "The custom in
Germany is to rise only for people one respects."

The director of the Opera had warned him that if 'Iphiginie en
Aulide' was accepted, Gluck would have to write five more operas in
quick order, since 'Iphiginie' would drive all other operas from the
stage. This did not frighten Gluck, who had a way of conscripting parts
of his older compositions to squeeze them into new ones. He had 'Orfeo
ed Euridice' translated into French; and since no good contralto was
available, he rewrote the part of Orpheus for the tenor Legros. Sophie
Arnould, become tractable, played Eurydice. The Paris premiere was a
heartening success. Marie Antoinette, now Queen of France, awarded a
pension of six thousand francs to "mon cher Gluck." He returned to
Vienna with his head in the stars.

In March, 1776, he was back in Paris with a French version of
'Alceste', which was produced to mild applause on April 23. Gluck,
inured to success, reacted to this setback with angry pride: "Alceste is
not the kind of work to give momentary pleasure, or to please because it
is new. Time does not exist for it; and I claim that it will give equal
pleasure two hundred years hence if the French language does not
change." In June he retreated to Vienna, and soon thereafter he began
to put to music Marmontel's revision of Quinault's libretto 'Roland'.

Now began the most famous contest in operatic history. For
meanwhile the management of the Opera had commissioned Niccolo Piccini
of Naples to set to music the same libretto, and to come to Paris and
produce it. He came (December 31, 1776). Informed of this commission,
Gluck sent to Du Rollet (now in Paris) a letter of Olympian wrath:

I have just received your letter ... exhorting me to
continue my work on the words of the opera 'Roland'.
This is no longer feasible, for when I heard that the
management of the Opera, not unaware that I was doing
Roland, had given the same work to M. Piccini to do, I
burned as much of it as I had already done, which
perhaps was not worth much.... I am no longer the man
to enter into competition, and M. Piccini would have too
great an advantage over me, since -- his personal merit
apart, which is assuredly very great -- he would have
that of novelty.... I am sure that a certain politician
of my acquaintance will offer dinner and supper to three
quarters of Paris in order to win him proselytes.

For reasons not now clear this letter, obviously private, was published
in the 'Annee litteraire' for February, 1777. It became,
unintentionally, a declaration of war.

Gluck reached Paris May 29 with a new opera, 'Armide'. The rival
composers met at a dinner; they embraced, and conversed amicably.
Piccini had come to France with no notion that he was to be a pawn in a
mess of partisan intrigue and operatic salesmanship; he himself warmly
admired Gluck's work. Despite the friendliness of the protagonists the
war went on in salons and cafes, in streets and homes; "no door was
opened to a visitor," reported Charles Burney, "without the question
being asked, previous to admission, 'Monsieur, estes vous Picciniste ou
Gluckiste?'" Marmontel, d'Alembert, and Laharpe led in acclaiming
Piccini and the Italian style; the Abbe Arnaud defended Gluck in a
'Profession de foi en musique'; Rousseau, who had begun the war with his
pro-Italian 'Lettre sur la musique francaise' (1753), supported Gluck.

'Armide' was produced on September 23, 1777. Subject and music were
reversions to modes established before Gluck's reform; the story was
from Tasso, exalting the Christian Rinaldo and the pagan Armida; the
music was Lully restored with romantic tenderness; the ballet was
Noverre 'in excelsis'. The audience liked the mixture; it gave the
opera a good reception; but the 'Piccinistes' condemned 'Armide' as a
refurbishing of Lully and Rameau. They waited anxiously for their
standard-bearer's 'Roland'. Piccini dedicated it to Marie Antoinette
with apologies: "Transplanted, isolated, in a country where all was new
to me, intimidated in my work by a thousand difficulties, I needed all
my courage, and my courage forsook me." At times he was on the verge of
abandoning the contest and returning to Italy. He persevered, and had
the comfort of a successful premiere (January 27, 1778). The two
victories seemed to cancel each other, and the public war went on. Mme.
Vigee-Lebrun saw it at first hand. "The usual battlefield was the
garden of the Palais-Royal. There the partisans of Gluck and Piccini
quarreled so violently that many a duel resulted."

Gluck returned to Vienna in March, stopping at Ferney to see
Voltaire. He took home with him two librettos: one by Nicolas-Francois
Guillard based on the 'Iphigenia in Tauris' of Euripides, the other by
Baron Jean-Baptiste de Tschoudi on the Echo and Narcissus theme. He
worked on both books, and by the fall of 1778 he felt ready for another
battle. So in November we find him in Paris again; and on May 18, 1779,
he presented at the Opera what most students consider his greatest
composition, 'Iphigenie en Tauride'. It is a somber story, and much of
the music is monotonously plaintive; at times we tire of Iphigenia's
high-keyed laments. But when the performance is over, and the
incantation of the music and the lines has stilled our skeptic reason,
we realize that we have experienced a profound and powerful drama. A
contemporary remarked that there were many fine passages in it. "There
is only one," said Abbe Arnaud, "-- the entire work." The first night's
audience gave the piece a wild ovation.

Gluck challenged the gods by hurrying to offer his other piece,
'Echo et Narcisse' (September 21, 1779). It failed, and the maestro
left Paris in a huff (October), declaring that he had had enough of
France, and would write no more operas. If he had remained he could
have heard another 'Iphigenie en Tauride', produced by Piccini after two
years of labor. The premiere (January 23, 1781) was well received, but
on the second night Mlle. Laguerre, who sang the title role, was so
obviously drunk that Sophie Arnould destroyed the performance by calling
it 'Iphigenie en Champagne'. This contretemps ended the operatic war;
Piccini handsomely admitted defeat.

Gluck, in Vienna, dreamed of other victories. On February 10, 1780,
he wrote to Goethe's Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar: "I have grown very
old, and have squandered the best powers of my mind upon the French
nation; nevertheless I feel an inward impulse to write something for my
own country." Now he put some odes of Klopstock to music that prepared
for the finest lieder. In April, 1781, he suffered a stroke, but he was
comforted by Vienna's reception of 'Iphigenie in Tauris' and the revival
of 'Orfeo' and 'Alceste'. On November 15, 1787, while entertaining
friends, he drank at one gulp a glass of strong liquor, which had been
forbidden him. He fell into convulsions, and died within four hours.
Piccini, in Naples, tried in vain to raise funds for annual concerts in
his rival's memory. Italy, pursuing melody, ignored Gluck's reforms;
Mozart followed the Italians, and must have been shocked at the idea of
making music the servant of poetry. But Herder, coming at the end of
this creative era, and looking back upon it with limited knowledge of
Bach, Haydn, and Mozart, called Gluck the greatest composer of the

II. Joseph Haydn: 1732-1809

It is easier to love Haydn, for here was a man who quarreled with no
one but his wife, hailed his competitors as his friends, suffused his
music with gaiety, and was constitutionally incapable of tragedy.

He had no advantages of birth. His father was a wagonmaker and
house painter at Rohrau, a little town on the Austro-Hungarian frontier.
His mother had been cook for the counts of Harrach. Both parents were
of Slavic-Croatian, not German, stock, and many of Haydn's melodies echo
Croatian songs. He was the second of twelve children, of whom six died
in infancy. He was baptized Franz Josef Haydn; however, it was
customary to call children by their second name.

Aged six, he was sent to live with a relative, Johann Matthias
Franck, who kept a school in Hainburg. There his day began with classes
from seven to ten, then Mass, then home for dinner, then classes from
twelve to three, then instruction in music. He was trained to piety,
and never lost it. His mother longed to make him a priest, and she was
deeply grieved when he chose the hazardous life of a musician. Franck
encouraged the boy's predilection for music, taught him all that was in
his own range, and held him to a severe regimen of study. In old age
Haydn recalled and forgave: "I shall be grateful to that man as long as
I live for keeping me so hard at work, though I used to get more
floggings than food." After two years with Franck, Joseph was taken to
Vienna by Georg Reutter, 'Kapellmeister' at St. Stephen's; Reutter
thought his "weak, sweet voice" could find some modest place in a choir.
So, at the age of eight, the timid-eager lad went to live in the
Kantorei, or Singers' School, adjoining the stately cathedral. There he
received lessons in arithmetic, writing, Latin, religion, singing, and
violin. He sang in the cathedral and in the Imperial Chapel, but he was
so poorly fed that he welcomed calls to sing in private homes, where he
could fill his stomach besides singing his songs.

In 1745 his brother Michael, five years his junior, joined him in
the Kantorei. About this time Joseph's voice began to break. He was
invited to keep his soprano by having himself castrated, but his parents
refused consent. Reutter kept him as long as possible; then, in 1748,
Joseph, now sixteen, found himself free and penniless, and with no grace
of person to win fortune's smile. His face was pitted with smallpox,
his nose was outstanding, his legs were too short for his body, his
dress was shabby, his gait awkward, his manner shy. He was not yet
skilled in any instrument, but he was already turning over compositions
in his head.

A fellow chorister offered him an attic room, and Anton Buchholz
lent him 150 florins, which honest Haydn later repaid. He had to fetch
water up to his garret every day, but he secured an old clavier, took
pupils, and survived. On most days he worked sixteen hours, sometimes
more. He played the violin in a church; he played the organ in the
private chapel of Count Haugwitz, minister to Maria Theresa; he sang
tenor, now and then, in St. Stephen's. The famous Metastasio had an
apartment in the same building; he secured Haydn as music teacher for
the daughter of a friend; through Metastasio Haydn met Porpora; Haydn
agreed to serve this prince of singing masters in any capacity, in
return for instruction in composition. He received the precious
lessons, cleaned the maestro's shoes, coat, and wig, and provided
clavier accompaniment for Porpora and pupils. Said Haydn in retrospect:
"Young people can learn from my example that something can come out of
nothing. What I am is all the result of the direst need."

Through his new friends he became acquainted with Gluck and
Dittersdorf, and several members of the nobility. Karl Joseph von
Furnberg took him (1755) for a long stay at his country house,
Weinzierl, near Melk; there Haydn found an orchestra of eight pieces,
and some leisure to compose. Now he wrote his first quartets. To the
sonata structure of three movements, which he adopted from Karl Philipp
Emanuel Bach, he added a minuet, scored the four movements for four
pieces, and gave the instrumental quartet its modern form. He returned
to Vienna in 1756, attracted distinguished pupils like the Countess von
Thun, and (1759) accepted the post of 'Musikdirektor' for Count
Maximilian von Morzin, whose private orchestra of twelve to sixteen
pieces played at Vienna in winter and, in summer, in the Count's villa
at Lukavec in Bohemia. For this ensemble Haydn wrote his first symphony

As he was now earning two hundred florins per year, with board and
lodging, he thought he could risk the gamble of marriage. Among his
pupils were two daughters of a wigmaker; he fell in love with the
younger one, but she became a nun, and the father prevailed upon Haydn
to marry the sister, Maria Anna (1760). She was thirty-one, he twenty-
eight. She proved to be quarrelsome, bigoted, wasteful and barren.
"She doesn't care a straw," said Haydn, "whether her husband is an
artist or a cobbler." He began to look at other women.

The audience in Morzin's home occasionally included Prince Pal Anton
Esterhazy. When Morzin disbanded his orchestra the Prince engaged Haydn
(1761) as assistant music director for his country seat at Eisenstadt in
Hungary. The contract called for four hundred florins per year with a
seat at the officers' table; and "it is especially observed that when
the orchestra shall be summoned to perform before company, the ...
musicians shall appear in uniform, ... in white stockings, white linen,
and ... a queue or a tiewig." At Eisenstadt the 'Kapellmeister', Gregor
Werner, busied himself with church music; Haydn prepared concerts and
composed music for them. He had under him fourteen musicians, seven
singers, and a chorus chosen from the servants of the Prince. The small
size of the orchestra, and the character of the audience, shared in
determining the light and amiable quality of the music written by Haydn
for the Esterhazy family. His genial spirit made him popular with the
musicians; they called him "Papa Haydn" soon after his coming to
Eisenstadt, though he was then only twenty-nine. For them he composed
sonatas, trios, quartets, concertos, songs, cantatas, and some thirty
symphonies. Many of these compositions, though by contract they
belonged to the Prince, were published or circulated in manuscript, in
Vienna, Leipzig, Amsterdam, Paris, and London, and gave Haydn, by 1766,
an international reputation.

When Pal Anton died (March 18, 1762) he was succeeded, as head of
the Esterhazy family, by his brother Miklos Jozsef, who loved music
almost as much as his diamond-studded uniform. He played well on the
viola di bordone (a variant of the viola da gamba), and was a kindly
master to Haydn in the nearly thirty years of their association. Said
Haydn: "My Prince was always satisfied with my works. I not only had
the encouragement of constant approval, but as conductor of an orchestra
I could make experiments, observe what produced an effect and what
weakened it, and was thus in a position to improve, alter, ... and be as
bold as I pleased. I was cut off from the world, there was no one to
confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original."

Werner died on March 5, 1766, and Haydn became 'Kapellmeister'.
Soon afterward the household moved into the new palace -- the Schloss
Esterhazy -- which Miklos had built at the southern end of the
Neusiedler See in northwestern Hungary. The Prince was so fond of this
place that he lived there from early spring through autumn; in winter he
removed, sometimes with his musicians, to Vienna. The players and
singers resented this rural isolation, especially since they were
separated, for three seasons of the year, from their wives and children;
but they were well paid, and dared not complain. Once, to hint to
Miklos that his musicians were longing for a leave of absence, Haydn
composed the 'Farewell Symphony' (No. 5), in which, toward the end, one
instrument after another disappeared from the score, the musician put
out his candle, took up his music and his instrument, and left the
stage. The Prince saw the point, and arranged for an early departure of
the troupe to Vienna.

Haydn, by exception, was allowed to have his wife with him at
Esterhaza, but he did not appreciate the privilege. In 1779 he fell in
love with Luigia Polzelli, a mediocre singer who had been engaged for
Esterhaza along with her violinist husband Antonio. Haydn seems to have
felt that since the Catholic Church did not allow him to divorce his
troublesome wife, it should, in mercy, permit him a diversion or two;
and he made little effort to conceal his liaison. Antonio was too old
and ill to make effective protest, and knew that he was kept on the
rolls only because the 'Kapellmeister' relished Luigia. She had come to
Esterhaza with a two-year-old son; in 1783 she bore another boy, whom
gossip credited to Papa Haydn; he took both the boys to his heart, and
helped them throughout his life.

During those busy years at Esterhaza Haydn, lacking outside stimulus
and competition, developed slowly as a composer. He produced nothing
memorable till he was thirty-two -- an age at which Mozart had completed
his 'oeuvre' except for 'The Magic Flute' and the 'Requiem'. Haydn's
finest works came after he was fifty: his first major symphony when he
was nearly sixty, 'The Creation' when he was sixty-six. He wrote
several operas for performance at Esterhaza, but when Prague invited him
to present an opera there, in a series that was to include 'The Marriage
of Figaro' and 'Don Giovanni', he demurred in a letter of noble modesty
(December, 1787):

You desire an 'opera buffa' from me.... If you
intend to stage it at Prague I cannot oblige you. My
operas are inseparable from the company for which I
wrote them, and would never produce their calculated
effect apart from their native surroundings. It would
be quite another matter if I had the honor of being
commissioned to write a new opera for your theater.
Even then, however, it would be a risk to put myself in
competition with the great Mozart. If I could only
inspire every lover of music, especially among the
great, with feelings as deep, and comprehension as
clear, as my own, in listening to the inimitable works
of Mozart, then surely the nations would contend for the
possession of such a jewel within their borders. Prague
must strive to retain this treasure within her grasp,
but not without fitting reward. The want of this often
saddens the life of a great genius, and offers small
encouragement for further efforts and future times. I
feel indignant that Mozart has not yet been engaged at
any imperial or royal court. Pardon my wandering from
the subject; Mozart is a man very dear to me.

Haydn himself was longing for some court where his talent might more
widely spread its wings, but he had to be content with royal
compliments. Gifts arrived from Ferdinand IV of Naples, Frederick
William II of Prussia, and the Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia.
In 1781 Charles III of Spain sent him a golden snuffbox set with
diamonds, and the Spanish ambassador at Vienna traveled to Esterhaza to
present the little treasure in person. Perhaps Boccherini, then settled
in Madrid, had a hand in this, for he so zealously adopted Haydn's style
that he was nicknamed "Haydn's wife." When the cathedral chapter at
Cadiz decided to commission a musical setting for the "Seven Last Words
of Our Saviour" it applied to Haydn, who responded with an oratorio
(1785) that was soon performed in many lands -- in the United States as
early as 1791. In 1784 a Paris producer asked for six symphonies; Haydn
obliged with six 'Paris Symphonies'. Several invitations came to him to
conduct concerts in London. Haydn felt bound to Esterhaza by loyalty as
well as contract, but his private letters revealed his increasing
eagerness for a larger stage.

On September 28, 1790, Prince Miklos Jozsef died. The new Prince,
Anton Esterhazy, cared little for music; he dismissed nearly all the
musicians, but kept Haydn nominally in his service, gave him a yearly
pension of fourteen hundred florins, and allowed him to live wherever he
pleased. Haydn almost precipitately moved to Vienna. Several proposals
were now made to him, most urgently from Johann Peter Salomon, who
announced, "I have come from London to fetch you; we shall conclude our
accord tomorrow." He offered £300 for a new opera, £300 more for six
symphonies, £200 more for their copyright, £200 more for twenty concerts
in England, £200 more for a concert to be given there for Haydn's
benefit -- £1,200 in all. Haydn knew no English, and dreaded the
Channel crossing. Mozart begged him not to take on such labors and
risks: "Oh, Papa, you have had no education for the wide world, and you
speak so few languages!" Haydn answered, "But my language is understood
all over the world." He sold the house Prince Miklos Jozsef had given
him in Eisenstadt, provided for his wife and his mistress, and set off
on the great adventure. He spent with Mozart the final days before
departure. Mozart wept to see him go; "I'm afraid, Papa, that this will
be our last farewell."

Haydn and Salomon left Vienna December 15, 1790, and reached London
January 1, 1791. His first concert (March 11) was a triumph. The
'Morning Chronicle' ended its report by saying: "We cannot suppress our
very anxious hope that the first musical genius of the age may be
induced by our liberal welcome to take up his residence in England."
All the concerts went well, and on May 16 a benefit concert gladdened
Haydn with £350. In that month he attended the Handel Commemoration
Concert in Westminster Abbey and heard the 'Messiah'; he was so
impressed that he wept, saying, humbly, "Handel, the master of us all."
Burney suggested that Oxford give the new Handel an honorary degree; it
was offered; Haydn went up to the university in July, became a doctor of
music, and conducted there his Symphony in G Major (No. 92); he had
composed it three years before, but henceforth history knew it as the
Oxford Symphony. Its lovely slow movement recalls the old English
ballad "Lord Randall."

Having had a view of the English countryside as a divine
transfiguration of seed and rain, Haydn, after returning to London,
gladly accepted invitations to country houses. There and in the city he
won many friends by his cheerful readiness to play and sing at private
gatherings. He took advanced pupils to teach them composition. One of
these was a comely and wealthy widow, Johanna Schroeter. Though he was
sixty the aura of his fame went to her head, and she tendered him her
love. He said later, "In all likelihood I should have married her if I
had been single." Meanwhile his wife importuned him to come home. In a
letter to Luigia Polzelli he grumbled: "My wife, that infernal beast,
wrote me so many things that I was forced to answer that I was never
coming back."

Despite three women on his conscience and his purse, he worked hard
and now composed six (Nos. 93-98) of his twelve London Symphonies. They
show a remarkable development from his productions at Eisenstadt and
Esterhaza. Perhaps Mozart's symphonies had stimulated him, or he had
been put on his mettle by the reception given him in England, or hearing
Handel had stirred in him depths untouched by his quiet environment in
the Hungarian hills, or his love affairs had moved him to tender
sentiments as well as simple joy. He found it difficult to leave
England, but he was under contract with Prince Anton Esterhazy, who now
insisted that Haydn return to share in the festivities prepared for the
coronation of the Emperor Francis II. So, toward the end of June, 1792,
he braved the Channel again, passed from Calais to Brussels to Bonn, met
Beethoven (then twenty-two), attended the coronation at Frankfurt, and
reached Vienna July 29.

No newspaper mentioned his return, no concerts were arranged for
him, the court ignored him. Mozart would have welcomed him, but Mozart
was no more. Haydn wrote to the widow, offered gratis lessons to
Mozart's son, and urged publishers to print more of Mozart's music. He
went to live with his wife in the house which is now preserved as a
Haydn museum (Haydngasse 19). The wife wished him to put the property
in her name; he refused. His quarrels with her were intensified.
Beethoven came in December, 1792, to study with him. The two geniuses
did not harmonize: Beethoven was proud and domineering; Haydn called him
"that great Mogul," and was too absorbed in his own work to correct his
pupil's exercises conscientiously. Beethoven secretly found another
teacher, but continued to take lessons from Haydn. "I have learned
nothing from him," said the young Titan; however, many of his early
pieces follow Haydn's style, and some were dedicated to the old master.

Appreciation of Haydn grew in Austria, and at Rohrau, in 1792, Count
von Harrach set up a monument to the town's now famous son. But the
memory of triumphs and friendships in England was still warm, and when
Salomon offered him a second engagement in London, with a commission to
write six new symphonies, the composer readily agreed. He left Vienna
on January 19, 1794, and reached London on February 4. This stay of
eighteen months in England was as heartening a success as the first.
The second set of 'London Symphonies' (Nos. 99-104) was well received, a
benefit concert netted Haydn £400, pupils paid him a guinea per lesson,
and Mrs. Schroeter lived nearby. He was again a favorite with the
aristocracy; both the King and the King's enemy, the Prince of Wales,
received him; the Queen offered him a residence at Windsor for the
summer if he would remain in England for another season. He excused
himself on the ground that the new Prince Esterhazy was summoning him,
and he could not so long absent himself from his wife (!). Prince Anton
had died; his successor, Prince Miklos II, wished to restore orchestral
performances at Eisenstadt. So, his trunks packed and his pockets full,
Haydn left London August 15, 1795, and made his way home.

After a visit to his own statue at Rohrau, he reported to Miklos II
at Eisenstadt, and organized music for various occasions there. Except
for summer and autumn, however, he lived in his own house on the
outskirts of Vienna. In the years 1796-97 Napoleon was driving the
Austrians before him in Italy, and the rise of revolutionary sentiment
in Austria threatened the Hapsburg monarchy. Haydn recalled how the
emotion aroused by the singing of "God Save the King" had strengthened
the Hanoverian dynasty in England; might not a national anthem do
likewise for Emperor Francis II? His friend Baron Gottfried van Swieten
(son of Maria Theresa's physician) suggested this to Count von Saurau,
minister of the interior; Saurau appointed Leopold Haschka to compose a
text; the poet responded with "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, unsern
guten Kaiser Franz!" Haydn adapted to these words the tune of an old
Croat song, and the result was a simple but stirring anthem. It was
first publicly sung on the Emperor's birthday, February 12, 1797, in all
the principal theaters of the Austro-Hungarian realm. It continued,
with some change of words, to be the Austrian national hymn until 1938.
Haydn developed the melody, with variations, into the second movement of
his string quartet Opus 76, No. 3.

Still under the spell of Handel, Haydn tried next to rival the
'Messiah'. Salomon had offered him a libretto compiled from Milton's
'Paradise Lost'; van Swieten translated the libretto into German, and
Haydn composed his massive oratorio 'Die Schopfung'. 'The Creation' was
performed before an invited audience in the palace of Prince von
Schwarzenberg April 29-30, 1798. So great a crowd gathered outside the
palace that fifty mounted police (we are assured) were needed to keep
order. The Prince financed a public performance in the National Theater
March 19, 1799, and gave all the proceeds (four thousand florins) to the
composer. The auditors greeted the music with almost religious fervor;
soon the oratorio was heard in almost every major city in Christendom.
The Catholic Church condemned the composition as too lighthearted for so
august a theme, and Schiller agreed with Beethoven in ridiculing Haydn's
mimicry of Eden's animals; but Goethe acclaimed the work, and in Prussia
it was more frequently performed in the nineteenth century than any
other choral composition.

Van Swieten offered another libretto, adapted from James Thomson's
'The Seasons'. Haydn labored over it for nearly two years (1799-1801),
at much cost to his health; 'The Seasons', he said, "has broken my
back." The premiere (April 24, 1801) was well received, but the piece
aroused no wide or lasting enthusiasm. After conducting 'The Seven Last
Words of Christ' for a hospital benefit, Haydn retired from active life.

His wife had died on March 20, 1800, but he was now too old to enjoy
his freedom, though not too old to enjoy his fame. He was recognized as
the dean of composers; a dozen cities voted him honors; famous musicians
-- Cherubini, the Webers, Ignaz Pleyel, Hummel -- came to pay him
homage. Nevertheless rheumatism, dizziness, and other ailments left him
melancholy, irritable, and fearfully pious. Camille Pleyel, visiting
him in 1805, found him "holding a rosary in his hands, and I believe he
passes almost the whole day in prayer. He says always that his end is
near.... We did not stay long, for we saw that he wished to pray." In
that year a false report spread that Haydn had died. Cherubini wrote a
cantata on his death, and Paris planned a memorial concert with Mozart's
'Requiem'; then word came that the old man was still alive. When Haydn
heard of this he remarked, "I would have traveled to Paris to conduct
the 'Requiem' myself."

He made his last public appearance on March 27, 1809, when 'The
Creation' was sung at the University of Vienna to celebrate his
approaching seventy-sixth birthday. Prince Esterhazy sent his carriage
to take the invalid to the concert; Haydn was borne in an armchair into
the hall amid an audience of nobles and celebrities; princesses wrapped
their shawls around his shivering body; Beethoven knelt and kissed his
hand. Emotion overcame the old composer; he had to be taken home in the

On May 12, 1809, Napoleon's artillery began to bombard Vienna. A
cannonball fell near Haydn's house, shaking it and the inmates, but
Haydn assured them, "Children, don't be frightened; where Haydn is no
harm can come to you." It proved true except for himself; the
bombardment shattered his nervous system. When the French took the city
Napoleon ordered a guard of honor to be placed before the composer's
home. A French officer, entering, sang an aria from 'The Creation' in
"so manly and sublime a style" that Haydn embraced him. On May 31 he
died, aged seventy-seven. All the major cities of Europe held services
in his memory.

Haydn's historic achievement was in the development of musical
forms. He gave the orchestra a new vitality by balancing the strings
with wind and percussion instruments. Building upon the work of
Sammartini, Stamitz, and Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, he established the
structure of the sonata as the exposition, elaboration, and
recapitulation of contrasted themes. He prepared the 'divertimento' for
Mozart as less formal than the suite, and better adapted for social
gatherings. He gave the string quartet its classic configuration by
extending it to four movements, and by giving the first movement "sonata
form." Here his successors had to use the same number and quality of
instruments that Haydn had employed, and he achieved in several
instances a cheerful and tender loveliness to which some of us return
with relief from the laborious involutions of Beethoven's later

Nine or ten of the 104 Haydn symphonies still live. The names they
bear were not his choice, but were applied by commentators or editors.
We have noted elsewhere the evolution of the sinfonia (i.e., assembled
sounds) from the overture through the experiments of Sammartini and
Stamitz; many others preceded Haydn in molding the structure of the
"classic" symphony; and when he emerged from Esterhaza into a wider
world he was not too old to learn from Mozart how to fill out the
structure with significance and feeling. The 'Oxford Symphony' marks
his rise to greater amplitude and power, and the 'London Symphonies'
show him in his fullest symphonic reach. No. 101 (the 'Clock Symphony')
is delightful, and No. 104 is quite up to Mozart.

Generally we perceive in his music a kindly, gracious nature which
may never have felt the depths of grief or love, and which had been
compelled to produce too rapidly to permit the maturing of concept,
theme, or phrase. Haydn was too happy to be profoundly great, and spoke
too often to say much. And yet there is a treasure of pure and placid
delight in these playful scores; here, as he put it, "the weary and
worn, or the man burdened with affairs, may enjoy some solace and

Haydn fell out of fashion soon after his death. His works reflected
a stable feudal world, and an environment of aristocratic security and
ease; they were too gay and self-content to satisfy a century of
revolutions, crises, and romantic ecstasies and despair. He came back
into favor when Brahms praised him and Debussy wrote 'Homage a Haydn'
(1909). Men then realized that though the Raphael and the Michelangelo
of music who followed him poured deeper thought with subtler mastery
into their compositions, they were able to do this because Haydn and his
predecessors had molded the forms to receive their gold. "I know that
God has bestowed a talent upon me," Haydn said, "and I thank Him for it.
I think I have done my duty, and been of use; ... let others do the
same. "

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 14, Music Reformed
pages 367-381
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-11-11 16:18:25 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 785 lines ]


[Part 1 of 2]

by Will and Ariel Durant

1. The Wonderful Boy: 1756-66

SALZBURG, like Prague and Pressburg and Esterhaza, was a musical outpost
of Vienna. It had its own character, partly from the salt mines that
explain its name, partly from its environing mountains and its bisecting
Salzach River, partly from having grown up around the monastery and
episcopal see founded there about A.D. 700 by St. Rupert of Worms. The
archbishop had been made an Imperial prince in 1278, and from that time
till 1802 he was the civic as well as the ecclesiastical ruler of the
city. In 1731-32 some thirty thousand Protestants had been forced to
migrate, leaving Salzburg thoroughly and theocratically Catholic.
Otherwise the archiepiscopal rule rested lightly on an orthodox
population which, assured of eternal certainties, devoted itself to
epidermal contacts and other worldly joys. Sigismund von Schrattenbach,
archbishop during Mozart's youth, was especially genial and kindly,
except to heretics.

To this lovely town Leopold Mozart had come in 1737, aged eighteen,
from his native Augsburg, presumably to study theology and become a
priest. But he lost his heart to music, served for three years as
musician and valet in a patrician's home, and in 1743 became fourth
violinist in the Archbishop's orchestra. When he married Anna Maria
Pertl (1747) he and she were rated the handsomest couple in Salzburg.
He composed concertos, Masses, symphonies, and wrote a long-honored
textbook of violin technique. In 1757 he was appointed court composer
to the Archbishop. Of his seven children only two survived childhood:
Maria Anna (Marianna, "Nannerl"), born 1751, and Wolfgang Amadeus, born
January 27, 1756. (The boy's full name -- soliciting the intercession
of several saints -- was Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus
Mozart; Theophilus was translated from Greek into Latin as Amadeus,
Lover of God.) Leopold was a good husband and father, devoted and
industrious. His letters to his son are warm with love, and not wanting
in wisdom. The Mozart home -- allowing for a little obscenity -- was a
haven of mutual affection, parental piety, childish pranks, and music
without end.

Every German child was expected to become in some measure, on some
instrument, a musician. Leopold taught his children music with their
ABC's. Marianna was already at eleven a virtuoso at the clavichord.
Wolfgang, stimulated by her lead, took eagerly to the clavier: at three
he picked out chords; at four he played several pieces from memory; at
five he invented compositions which the father put on paper as they were
played. Leopold refrained, at some cost, from taking other pupils,
wishing to give full attention to his children. He did not send "Wolf"
to school, for he proposed to be his teacher in everything. Presumably
some German discipline was used, but not much was needed in this case;
the boy would of his own accord remain at the keyboard for hours on end
till forced away. Years later Leopold wrote to him:

Both as a child and as a boy you were serious rather
than childlike; and when you were at the clavier, or
otherwise engaged with music, you would not suffer the
least joking to go on with you. Your very countenance
was so serious that many observant persons prophesied
your early death, on the ground of your precocious
talent and earnest mien.

In January, 1762, while Germany was still torn with war, Leopold
took daughter and son to Munich to display their artistry before the
Elector Maximilian Joseph; and in September he led them to Vienna. They
were invited to Schonbrunn; Maria Theresa and Francis I were delighted
with the children; Wolfgang leaped into the Empress' lap, hugged and
kissed her; challenged by the Emperor, he played the violin with one
finger, and played the clavichord unerringly though the keys were
covered with a cloth. Romping with the princesses, Wolfgang stumbled
and fell; the Archduchess Maria Antonia, seven years old, picked him up
and comforted him. "You are good," he said, and gratefully added, "I
will marry you." A dozen aristocrats opened their homes to the Mozarts,
marveled at the music they heard, and rewarded the trio with money and
gifts. Then the boy was bedded for a fortnight with scarlet fever --
the first of many illnesses that were to mar his travels. In January,
1763, the troupe returned to Salzburg.

The indulgent Archbishop overlooked the fact that Leopold had
exceeded his leave of absence; indeed, he promoted him to be 'Vize-
Kapellmeister'. But on June 9, forfeiting further promotion, Leopold
took to the road again, this time with his wife, to show his brood to
Europe; after all, they could not remain child prodigies forever. At
Mainz the children gave two concerts, at Frankfurt four; sixty years
later Goethe recalled that he had heard one of these, and how he had
marveled at "the little man with wig and sword" -- for so Leopold had
accoutered his son. Wolfgang was exploited by his father as almost a
circus wonder. An announcement in a Frankfurt newspaper of August 30,
1763, promised that in the concert of that evening

the little girl, who is in her twelfth year, will play
the most difficult compositions of the greatest masters;
the boy, who is not yet seven, will perform on the
clavichord or harpsichord; he will also play a concerto
for the violin, and will accompany symphonies on the
clavier, the keyboard being covered with a cloth, with
as much facility as if he could see the keys. He will
instantly name all notes played at a distance, whether
singly or in chords, on the clavier or on any other
instrument -- bell, glass, or clock. He will finally,
both on the harpsichord and the organ, improvise as long
as may be desired, and in any key.

Such demands upon the boy's talents may have done some damage to his
health or nerves, but he seems to have enjoyed the applause as much as
his father enjoyed the florins.

They played at Coblenz, were disappointed at Bonn and Cologne, but
had a concert at Aachen. At Brussels they expected that the governor-
general, Prince Charles of Lorraine, would honor their performance with
his presence, but he was busy. Leopold angrily reported:

We have now been nearly three weeks in Brussels ...
and nothing has happened.... His Highness does nothing
but hunt, gobble, and swill, and we may in the end
discover that he has no money.... I own that we have
received sundry presents here, but we do not wish to
convert them into cash.... What with snuffboxes and
leather cases and such-like gewgaws, we shall soon be
able to open a stall.

The Prince finally agreed to attend; a concert was given, florins were
collected, and the troupe encoached for Paris.

On November 15, 1763, they arrived in Paris after tumbling three
days on rough and rutted roads. They had letters of introduction to
many notables, but none proved so valuable as the one to Melchior Grimm.
He arranged to have the Mozarts received by Mme. de Pompadour, by the
royal family, finally by Louis XV and Queen Marie Leszczinska. Now the
most lordly homes were opened to the visitors, private and public
concerts went off well, and Grimm wrote enthusiastically to his

True miracles are rare, but how wonderful it is when
we have the opportunity to see one! A Salzburg
Kapellmeister by the name of Mozart has just come here
with two of the prettiest children in the world. His
daughter, aged eleven, plays the piano in the most
brilliant fashion, performs the longest and most
difficult pieces with astounding precision. Her
brother, who will be seven next February, is such an
extraordinary phenomenon that you can hardly believe
what you see with your own eyes.... His hands are
hardly big enough to take a sixth.... He improvises for
an hour, yielding himself to the inspiration of his
genius, with a wealth of delightful ideas.... The most
consummate Kapellmeister cannot possibly have so deep a
knowledge of harmony and modulation as this child....
It is nothing for him to decipher whatever you put
before him. He writes and composes with marvelous ease,
and does not find it necessary to go to the piano and
look for his chords. I wrote out a minuet for him and
asked him to put a bass to it. He seized a pen, and
without going to the piano he wrote the bass.... The
child will turn my head if I listen to him much more....
What a pity that so little is understood of music in
this country!

After many triumphs in Paris the family departed for Calais (April
10, 1764). In London they were received by George III. For four hours,
on May 19, before King and court, Wolfgang played Handel and Bach and
other masters at sight; he accompanied Queen Charlotte's singing, and
improvised a new melody to the bass of a Handel aria. Johann Christian
Bach, who had settled in London in 1762, placed the boy on his knee and
played a sonata with him, each playing a bar in turn, "with so much
precision that no one would have suspected two performers." Bach began
a fugue, Wolfgang pursued it, again as if the two geniuses were one.
Thereafter, for several years, Mozart's compositions showed the
influence of Johann Christian Bach. On June 5 the children gave a
concert which gladdened Leopold with a hundred guineas net. But the
father was afflicted with severe inflammation of the throat, and the
family retired to Chelsea for seven weeks' rest, during which Wolfgang,
now eight, composed two symphonies (K. 16 and 19).

On July 24, 1765, they left London for Holland, but at Lille both
father and son took sick, and the tour was halted for a month, though
Archbishop von Schrattenbach had long ago called for Leopold's return.
They reached The Hague on September 11, but on the next day Marianna
fell ill in her turn, and soon worsened so that on October 21 she
received the last sacrament. On September 30 Wolfgang gave a concert
without his sister's aid. She had scarcely recovered when he was seized
with a fever, and the family had to live in costly idleness till
January, 1766. On January 29 and February 26 they gave concerts at
Amsterdam; now for the first time a Mozart symphony (K. 22) was publicly
performed. During these months the boy composed furiously. In May they
returned to Paris, where much of their baggage had been left; Grimm
secured comfortable lodgings for them; they again performed at
Versailles and in public; not till July 9 did they tear themselves away
from the fascinating capital.

They dallied at Dijon as guests of the Prince de Conde; they spent
four weeks at Lyons, three at Geneva, one in Lausanne, another in Bern,
two in Zurich, twelve days at Donaueschingen; then brief stops at
Biberach, Ulm, and Augsburg; a longer stay at Munich, where Wolfgang
again took sick. At last, toward the end of November, 1766, after an
absence of three and a half years, the family regained Salzburg. The
old Archbishop forgave them, and they could now appreciate the comforts
of home. All seemed well, but Mozart was never quite healthy again.

II. Adolescence: 1766-77

Leopold was an unrelenting taskmaster. He put his son through a
hard course of instruction in counterpoint, thorough bass, and such
other elements of composition as had come down to him from German and
Italian music. When the Archbishop heard that Wolfgang composed, he
wondered was not the father co-operating. To settle the question he
invited the boy to stay with him for a week; he isolated him from all
outside help, gave him paper, pencil, and harpsichord, and bade him
compose part of an oratorio on the First Commandment. At the close of
the week Mozart presented the result; the Archbishop was told that it
merited praise; he commissioned his 'Konzertmeister', Michael (brother
of Joseph) Haydn, to compose a second part, and his organist to compose
a third; the whole was performed at the archiepiscopal court on March
12, 1767, and was judged worthy of repetition on April 2. Mozart's part
is now included as No. 35 in Kochel's catalogue. [* This was originally
issued at Leipzig in 1862 as 'Chronologisch-thematisches Verzeichniss
sammtlicher Tonwerke W.A. Mozarts'. We use the revision by Alfred
Einstein in 'Mozart, His Character and His Work' (London, 1957),

Learning that the Archduchess Maria Josepha was soon to marry King
Ferdinand of Naples, Leopold thought the ceremonies to be held at the
Imperial court would offer a new opportunity for his children. On
September 11, 1767, the family left for Vienna. They were admitted to
the court, with the result that both Wolfgang and Marianna caught
smallpox from the bride. The unhappy parents took their prodigies to
Olmutz in Moravia, where Count Podstatsky gave them shelter and care.
Mozart was blind for nine days. On January 10, 1768, the family was
back in Vienna; both the Empress and Joseph II received them cordially,
but the court was mourning the death of the bride, and concerts were out
of the question.

After a long and unprofitable absence the family returned to
Salzburg (January 5, 1769). Mozart continued his studies with his
father, but toward the end of the year Leopold decided that he had
taught the boy all that he could, and that what Wolfgang needed now was
acquaintance with the musical life of Italy. Having secured letters of
introduction to Italian 'maestri' from Johann Hasse and others, father
and son set out on December 13, 1769, leaving Marianna and mother to
keep a footing in Salzburg. On the next evening Mozart gave a concert
at Innsbruck; he played at sight an unfamiliar concerto placed before
him as a test of his skill; the local press acclaimed his "extraordinary
musical attainments." At Milan they met Sammartini, Hasse, and Piccini,
and Count von Firmian secured for Wolfgang a commission for an opera;
this meant a hundred ducats for the family coffers. At Bologna they
heard the still marvelous voice of Farinelli, who had returned from his
triumphs in Spain, and they arranged with Padre Martini that Wolfgang
should return to take the tests for the coveted diploma of the Accademia
Filarmonica. At Florence, at the court of the Grand Duke Leopold,
Mozart played the harpsichord to Nardini's violin. Then father and son
hurried on to Rome for the Holy Week music.

They arrived on April 11, 1770, in a storm of thunder and lightning,
so that Leopold could report that they had been "received like grand
people with a discharge of artillery." They were just in time to go to
the Sistine Chapel and hear the "Miserere" of Gregorio Allegri, which
was sung there annually. Copies of this famous chorale, written for
four, five, or nine parts, were hard to get; Mozart listened to it twice
and wrote it out from memory. They stayed four weeks in Rome, giving
concerts in the homes of the civil or ecclesiastical nobility. On May 8
they undertook the journey to Naples; robbers made the road perilous;
the Mozarts traveled with four Augustinian monks to secure divine
protection or an emergency viaticum. Naples held them for a full month,
for the aristocracy, from Tanucci downward, invited them to soirees and
placed lordly equipages at their disposal. When Wolfgang played at the
Conservatorio della Pieta the superstitious audience ascribed his
prowess to some magic in the ring he wore; they were amazed when, having
discarded the ring, he played as brilliantly as before.

After enjoying Rome again they crossed the Apennines to worship the
Virgin in her Santa Casa at Loretto; then they turned north to spend
three months at Bologna. Almost daily Mozart received instruction from
Padre Martini in the arcana of composition. Then he took the test for
admission to the Accademia Filarmonica: he was given a piece of
Gregorian plain chant, to which, while he was shut up alone in a room,
he was required to add three upper parts in 'stile osservato' -- strict
traditional style. He failed, but the good padre corrected his work,
and the revised form was accepted by the jury "in view of the special
circumstances" -- Presumably Mozart's youth.

On October 18 father and son were in Milan. There Wolfgang had his
first triumph as a composer, but after hard work and much tribulation.
The subject for his commissioned opera was 'Mitridate, re di Ponto'; the
libretto was taken from Racine. The fourteen-year-old youth toiled so
hard in composing, playing, and rewriting that his fingers ached; his
enthusiasm became a fever, and his father had to restrict his hours of
work and cool his agitation with an occasional walk. Mozart felt that
this, his first 'opera seria', was a far more critical test than that
antiquarian trial at Bologna; his career as an operatic composer might
depend upon the outcome. Now, though not much inclined to piety, he
begged his mother and sister to pray for the success of this venture,
"so that we may all live happily together again." At last, when he was
near exhaustion with rehearsals, the opera was presented to the public
(December 26, 1770); the composer conducted, and his triumph was
complete. Every important aria was received with wild applause, some
with cries of "Evviva il maestro! Evviva il maestrino!" The opera was
repeated twenty times. "We see by this," wrote the proud and pious
father, "how the power of God works in us when we do not bury the
talents that He has graciously bestowed upon us."

Now they could go home with their heads high. On March 28, 1771,
they reached Salzburg. They had hardly arrived when they received a
request from Count von Firmian, in the name of the Empress, that
Wolfgang write a serenata or cantata, and come to Milan in October to
conduct it as part of the ceremonies that were to celebrate the marriage
of Archduke Ferdinand to the Princess of Modena. Archbishop Sigismund
consented to another absence of Leopold from his duties; and on August
13 'pater et filius' set out again for Italy. Arrived in Milan, they
found that Hasse was there, preparing an opera for the same ceremonies;
perhaps without intending it so, the managers had arranged a battle of
genius between the most renowned living composer of Italian opera, who
was in his seventy-third year, and the fifteen-year-old lad who had
barely tried his operatic wings. Hasse's 'Ruggiero' was performed to
great applause on October 16. On the next day Mozart's cantata,
'Ascanio in Alba', was sung under his baton, and "the applause was
extraordinary." "I am sorry," wrote Leopold to his wife, "that
Wolfgang's serenata should have so entirely eclipsed Hasse's opera."
Hasse was generous; he joined in the praise of Mozart, and made a famous
prophecy: "Questo ragazzo ci fara dimenticar tutti" (This boy will
throw us all into oblivion).

Father and son returned to Salzburg (December 11, 1771). Five days
later the good Sigismund died. His successor as archbishop, Hieronymus
von Paula, Count von Colloredo, was a man of intellectual culture, an
admirer of Rousseau and Voltaire, an enlightened despot eager to carry
out the reforms that Joseph II was preparing. But even more than Joseph
he was despotic as well as enlightened, demanding discipline and
obedience, and intolerant of opposition. For his ceremonial
installation on April 29, 1772, he asked nothing less than an opera from
Mozart. The now famous youth responded hastily with 'I1 sogno di
Scipione' (The Dream of Scipio); it served its turn and is forgotten.
Colloredo forgave it, and appointed Wolfgang concertmaster with a yearly
salary of 150 florins. The youth busied himself for some months with
composing symphonies, quartets, and religious music, but also he worked
on an opera, 'Lucio Silla', which Milan had ordered for 1773.

By November 4, 1772, Leopold and his moneymaker were again in the
Lombard capital, and soon Wolf was laboring to find compromises between
his musical ideas and the caprices and capacities of the singers. The
prima donna began by being imperious and hard to satisfy; the
'maestrino' was patient with her; she ended by loving him, and declared
herself "enchanted by the incomparable way Mozart had served her." The
premiere (February 26, 1772) was not so certain a success as 'Mitridate'
two years before; the tenor fell ill during rehearsals, and had to be
replaced by a singer with no stage experience; nevertheless the opera
bore nineteen repetitions. The music was difficult; the arias were
strung too high with passion; perhaps some strain of Germany's Sturm und
Drang had made here an incongruous entry into Italian opera. In
exchange, Mozart brought back with him the 'bel canto' clarity of
Italian song, and his naturally happy spirit was further brightened by
Italian skies and plein-air life. He learned in Italy that 'opera
buffa', as he heard it in the works of Piccini and Paisiello, could be
high art; he studied the form, and in 'Figaro' and 'Don Giovanni' he
perfected it. To his alert mind and ears every experience was

March 13, 1773, saw 'pere et fils' again in Salzburg. The new
Archbishop was not as tolerant of their long absences as Sigismund had
been. He saw no reason for rewarding Leopold with promotion, and
treated Wolfgang as merely one of his household retinue. He expected
the Mozarts to supply his choir and his orchestra with music prompt,
new, and good; and for two years they labored to satisfy him. But
Leopold wondered how he could support his family without additional
tours, and Wolfgang, accustomed to applause, could not adjust himself to
being a musical servant. Besides, he wanted to write operas, and
Salzburg had too small a stage, too small a choir, orchestra, and
audience, to let the bright fledgling flap his expanding wings.

The clouds broke for a while when Elector Maximilian Joseph of
Bavaria commissioned Mozart to write an 'opera buffa' for the Munich
Carnival of 1775, and secured the Archbishop's consent to a leave of
absence for the composer and his father. They left Salzburg on December
6, 1774. Wolfgang suffered from the severe cold, which brought on a
toothache more severe than either music or philosophy could mitigate.
But the premiere of 'La finta giardiniera' (The Pretended Garden Girl),
January 13, 1775, led Christian Schubart, a prominent composer, to
predict: "If Mozart does not turn out to be a hothouse plant [too
rapidly developed by intensive domestic care], he will undoubtedly be
one of the greatest composers that ever lived." His head swirling with
success, Mozart returned to Salzburg to serve what he felt to be an
unworthy vassalage.

The Archbishop ordered a music drama to celebrate the expected visit
of Maria Theresa's youngest son, the Archduke Maximilian; Mozart took an
old libretto by Metastasio and composed 'Il re pastore' (The Shepherd
King). It was performed on April 23, 1775. The story is silly, the
music is excellent; excerpts from it still show up in the concert
repertoire. Meanwhile Mozart was pouring forth sonatas, symphonies,
concertos, serenades, Masses; and some of the compositions of these
unhappy years -- e.g., the Piano Concerto in E Flat (K. 271) and the
Serenade in B (K. 250) -- are among his enduring masterpieces. The
Archbishop, however, told him that he knew nothing of the composer's
art, and should go to study at the Naples Conservatory.

Unable to bear the situation longer, Leopold asked permission to
take his son on a tour; Colloredo refused, saying he would not have
members of his staff go on "begging expeditions." When Leopold asked
again the Archbishop dismissed him and his son from their employment.
Wolfgang rejoiced, but his father was frightened at the prospect of
being flung, aged fifty-six, upon the indiscriminate world. The
Archbishop relented and reinstated him, but would not hear of any
absence from his work. Who now would go with Wolfgang upon the
extensive foray that had been planned? Mozart was twenty-one, just the
age for sexual adventure and marital imprisonment; more than ever he
needed guidance. So it was decided that his mother should accompany
him. Marianna, trying to forget that she too had been a genius,
remained to give her father the most loving care. On September 23,
1777, mother and son left Salzburg to conquer Germany and France.

III. Music and Marriage: 1777-78

From Munich, on September 26, Mozart wrote to his father a paean of
liberation: "I am in my very best spirits, for my head has been as light
as a feather ever since I got away from all that humbug; and what is
more, I have become fatter." That letter must have crossed one from
Leopold, whose emotion may remind us again that the events of history
were written upon human flesh:

After you both had left, I walked up our steps very
wearily, and threw myself down on a chair. When we said
good-by I made great efforts to retain myself in order
not to make our parting too painful, and in the rush and
flurry I forgot to give my son a father's blessing. I
ran to the window and sent my blessing after you, but I
did not see you.... Nannerl wept bitterly.... She and
I send greetings to Mamma, and we kiss you and her
millions of times.

Munich taught Wolfgang that he was no longer a prodigy, but just one
musician in a land where the supply of composers and performers was
outrunning the demand. He had hoped to secure a good place in the
Elector's musical retinue, but all places were filled. Mother and son
passed on to Augsburg, where they wore themselves out with visiting, at
Leopold's urging, the friends of Leopold's youth; but the survivors were
now mostly fat and stodgy, and Wolfgang found no interest in them except
with a merry cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, whom he was to
immortalize with obscenities. More to his purpose was Johann Andreas
Stein, maker of pianofortes; here for the first time Mozart, who had
hitherto used the harpsichord, began to appreciate the possibilities of
the new instrument; by the time he reached Paris he had made his
transition to the piano. At a concert in Augsburg he played both the
piano and the violin, to great applause but little profit.

On October 26 mother and son moved on to Mannheim. There Mozart
enjoyed the company and stimulus of skilled musicians, but the Elector
Karl Theodor could find no opening for him, and rewarded his performance
at court with only a gold watch. Mozart wrote to his father: "Ten
carolins would have suited me better.... What one needs on a journey is
money; and, let me tell you, I now have five watches.... I am seriously
thinking of having a watch pocket on each leg of my trousers; when I
visit some great lord I shall wear both watches, ... so that it will not
occur to him to give me another." Leopold advised him to hurry on to
Paris, where Grimm and Mme. d'Epinay would help him; but Wolfgang
persuaded his mother that the trip would be too arduous for her in the
winter months. Assuming that they were soon leaving for Paris, Leopold
warned Wolfgang to beware of the women and the musicians there, and
reminded him that he was now the financial hope of the family. Leopold
had gone into debt for seven hundred gulden; he was taking pupils in his
old age,

and that, too, in a town where this heavy work is
wretchedly paid.... Our future depends upon your
abundant good sense.... I know that you love me, not
merely as your father, but also as your truest and
surest friend; and that you understand and realize that
our happiness and unhappiness, and, what is more, my
long life or my speedy death, are, ... apart from God,
in your hands. If I have read you aright, I have
nothing but joy to expect from you, and this alone must
console me when I am robbed by your absence of a
father's delight in hearing you, seeing you, and folding
you in my arms.... From my heart I give you my paternal

To one of Leopold's letters (February 9, 1778) "Nannerl," now twenty-
six, dowerless and facing spinsterhood, added a note that rounds out the
picture of this loving family:

Papa never leaves me room enough to write to Mamma
and yourself.... I beg her not to forget me.... I wish
you a pleasant journey to Paris, and the best of health,
I do hope, however, that I shall be able to embrace you
soon. God alone knows when that will happen. We are
both longing for you to make your fortune, for that, I
know for certain, will mean happiness for us all. I
kiss Mamma's hands and embrace you, and trust that you
will always remember us and think of us. But you must
do so only when you have time, say for a quarter of an
hour when you are neither composing nor teaching.

It was in this mood of great expectations and loving trust that
Leopold received a letter written by Wolfgang on February 4, announcing
the arrival of Cupid. Among the minor musicians at Mannheim was
Fridolin Weber, who was blessed and burdened with a wife, five
daughters, and a son. Frau Weber was casting nets to snare husbands,
especially for the oldest daughter, Josefa, nineteen and nervously
nubile. Mozart, however, fancied Aloysia, sixteen, whose angelic voice
and swelling charms made her a young musician's dream. He hardly
noticed Constanze, fourteen, who was to be his wife. For Aloysia he
composed some of his tenderest songs. When she sang them he forgot his
own ambitions, and thought of accompanying her -- and Josefa and their
father -- to Italy, where she could get vocal instruction and operatic
opportunities, while he would help to support them by giving concerts
and writing operas. All this the brave young lover explained to his

I have become so fond of this unfortunate family
that my dearest wish is to make them happy.... My
advice is that they should go to Italy. So now I should
like you to write to our good friend Lugiati, and the
sooner the better, and inquire what are the highest
terms given to a prima donna in Verona.... As far as
Aloysia's singing is concerned, I would wager my life
that she will bring me renown.... If our plan succeeds,
we -- Herr Weber, his two daughters, and I -- will have
the honor of visiting my dear sister for a fortnight on
our way through Salzburg.... I will gladly write an
opera for Verona for fifty zecchini ($650?), if only in
order that she may make her name.... The eldest
daughter will be very useful to us, for we could have
our own menage, as she can cook. Apropos, you must not
be too much surprised when you learn that I have only
forty-two gulden left out of seventy-seven. This is
merely the result of my delight at being again in the
company of honest and like-minded people....

Send me an answer soon. Do not forget how much I
desire to write operas. I envy anyone who is composing
one. I could really weep for vexation when I hear ...
an aria. But Italian, not German; 'seria', not
'buffa'!... I have now written all that is weighing on
my heart. My mother is quite satisfied with my
ideas.... The thought of helping a poor family, without
injury to myself, delights my very soul. I kiss your
hands a thousand times and remain until death your most
obedient son.

Leopold replied on February 11:

My dear son! I have read your letter of the 4th
with amazement and horror.... For the whole night I
have been unable to sleep.... Merciful God!... Those
happy moments are gone when, as a child or a boy, you
never went to bed without standing on a chair and
singing to me, ... and kissing me again and again on the
tip of my nose, and telling me that when I grew old you
would put me in a glass case and protect me from every
breath of air, so that you might always have me with you
and honor me. Listen to me, therefore, in patience! ...

He went on to say that he had hoped Wolfgang would defer marriage until
he had made a secure place for himself in the musical world; then he
would get a good wife, bring up a fine family, help his parents and his
sister. But now, infatuated with a young siren, this son forgets his
parents, and thinks only of following a girl to Italy, as part of her
entourage. What incredible nonsense!

Off with you to Paris! and that soon! Find your
place among great people. 'Aut Caesar aut nihil'!...
From Paris the name and fame of a man of great talent
resounds through the whole world. There the nobility
treat men of genius with the greatest deference, esteem,
and courtesy; there you will see a refined manner of
life, which forms an astonishing contrast to the
coarseness of our German courtiers and their ladies; and
there you may become proficient in the French tongue.

Mozart answered humbly that he had not taken very seriously the plan
to escort the Webers to Italy. He said a tearful goodbye to the Webers,
and promised to see them on his way home. On March 14, 1778, he and his
mother set off in the public coach for Paris.

IV. In Paris: 1778

They arrived on March 23, just in time to be engulfed in the
apotheosis of Voltaire. They took simple lodgings, and Mozart ran about
seeking commissions. Grimm and Mme. d'Epinay bestirred themselves to
draw some attention to the youth whom Paris had acclaimed as a prodigy
fourteen years before. Versailles offered him the post of court
organist at two thousand livres for six months' service per year;
Leopold advised him to take it; Grimm opposed; Mozart refused it as too
poorly paid, and perhaps as uncongenial to his talent. Many homes were
opened to him if he would play the piano for a meal, but even to get to
those homes required an expensive cab ride through muddy streets. One
noble, the Duc de Guines, looked promising; for him and his daughter
Mozart composed the glorious Concerto in C for flute and harp (K. 299),
and he gave the young lady lessons in composition at a good fee; but
soon she married, and the Duke paid only three louis d'or ($75?) for a
concerto that should have laid Paris at Mozart's feet. For the first
time in his life Mozart lost courage. "I am tolerably well," he wrote
to his father on May 29, "but I often wonder whether life is worth
living." His spirits revived when Le Gros, director of the Concerts
Spirituels, engaged him to write a symphony (K. 297). It was performed
on June 18 with success.

Then, on July 3, his mother died. She had begun by enjoying her
vacation from Salzburg and housewifery; soon she was longing to return
to her home and the daily tasks and contacts that had given substance
and significance to her life. The nine days' trip to Paris in a jolting
coach and jarring company and drenching rain had broken her health; and
the failure of her son to find a berth in Paris had cast a gloom over
her usually buoyant spirit. Day after day she had sat solitary amid
strange surroundings and unintelligible words, while her son went to
pupils, concerts, operas ... Now, seeing her fade quietly away, Mozart
spent the last weeks at her side, caring for her tenderly, and hardly
believing that she could die so soon.

Mme. d'Epinay offered him a room in her home with Grimm, a place at
her table, and the use of her piano. He did not quite harmonize with
Grimm so near; Grimm idolized Voltaire, Mozart despised him, and was
shocked at the assumption of his hosts and their friends that
Christianity was a myth useful in social control. Grimm wanted him to
accept small commissions as a road to larger ones, and to play gratis
for influential families; Mozart felt that such a procedure would sap
his strength, which he preferred to give to composing. Grimm thought
him indolent, and so informed Leopold, who agreed. The situation was
made worse by Mozart's repeated borrowing from Grimm, to a total of
fifteen louis d'or ($375?). Grimm told him that repayment could be
indefinitely postponed; it was.

The situation was resolved by a letter (August 31, 1778) from Mozart
'pere' that Archbishop Colloredo had offered to make the father
'Kapellmeister' if Wolfgang would serve as organist and concertmaster,
each to receive five hundred florins per year; moreover, "the Archbishop
has declared himself prepared to let you travel where you will if you
want to write an opera." As irresistible bait Leopold added that
Aloysia Weber would probably be invited to join the Salzburg choir, in
which case "she must stay with us." Mozart replied (September 11):
"When I read your letter I trembled with joy, for I felt myself already
in your embrace. It is true, as you will acknowledge, that it is not
much of a prospect for me; but when I look forward to seeing you, and
embracing my very dear sister, I think of no other prospect."

On September 26 he took the coach to Nancy. At Strasbourg he earned
a few louis d'or with arduous concerts to almost empty houses. He
dallied at Mannheim, hoping to be appointed conductor of German opera;
this too failed. He went on to Munich, dreaming of Aloysia Weber. But
she had found a place in the Elector's choir, perhaps in his heart; she
received Mozart with a calm that showed no desire to be his bride. He
composed and sang a bitter song, and resigned himself to Salzburg.

V. Salzburg and Vienna: 1779-82

He reached home in mid-January, and was welcomed with festivities
saddened by the now keenly realized death of the mother. Soon he was in
harness as organist and concertmaster, and soon he was fretting. He
later recalled:

In Salzburg work was a burden to me, and I could
hardly ever settle down to it. Why? Because I was
never happy.... In Salzburg -- for me at least -- there
is not a farthing's worth of entertainment. I refuse to
associate with a good many people there -- and most of
the others do not think me good enough. Besides, there
is no stimulus for my talent. When I play, or when any
of my compositions is performed, it is just as if the
audience were all tables and chairs. If only there were
even a tolerably good theater in Salzburg!

He longed to write operas, and gladly accepted the request of
Elector Karl Theodor to compose one for the next Munich festival. He
began work on 'Idomeneo, re di Creta', in October, 1780; in November he
went to Munich for rehearsals; on January 29, 1781, the opera was
produced with success, despite its unusual length. Mozart remained six
weeks more in Munich, relishing its social life, until a summons came
from Archbishop Colloredo to join him in Vienna. There he had the
pleasure of living in the same palace with his employer, but he ate with
the servants. "The two valets sit at the head of the table, and I have
the honor to be placed above the cooks." This was the custom of the
time in the homes of the nobility; Haydn bore it with silent resentment,
Mozart rebelled against it ever more audibly. He was pleased to have
his music and his talent displayed in the homes of the Archbishop's
friends, but he fumed when Colloredo refused most of his requests to let
him accept outside engagements that might have brought him added income
and wider fame. "When I think of leaving Vienna without at least a
thousand florins in my pocket, my heart sinks within me."

He made up his mind to quit Colloredo's service. On May 2, 1781, he
went to live as a lodger with the Webers, who had moved to Vienna. When
the Archbishop sent him instructions to return to Salzburg, he replied
that he could not leave till May 12. An interview followed, in which
the Archbishop (as Mozart reported to his father)

called me the most opprobrious names -- oh, I really
cannot bring myself to write you all! At last, when my
blood was boiling, I could hold out no longer, and said,
"Then your Serene Highness is not satisfied with me?"
"What! do you mean to threaten me, you rascal, you
villain? There is the door; I will have nothing more to
do with such a wretched fellow!" At last i said,
"Neither will I with you." "Then be off!" As I went I
said, "Let it be so, then; tomorrow you shall hear from
me by letter." Tell me, dear father, should I not have
had to say this sooner or later?...

Write to me privately that you are pleased -- for
indeed you may be so -- and find fault with me heartily
in public, so that no blame may attach to you. But if
the Archbishop offers you the least impertinence, come
to me at once in Vienna. We can all three live on my

Leopold was plunged into another crisis. His own position seemed
imperiled, and it was not for some time yet that he would receive
reassurances from Colloredo. He was alarmed at the news that his son
was rooming with the Webers. The father of that family was now dead;
Aloysia had married the actor Joseph Lange; but the widow had another
daughter, Constanze, waiting for a husband. Was this another blind
alley for Wolfgang? Leopold begged him to apologize to the Archbishop,
and come home. Mozart now for the first time refused to obey his
father. "To please you, my dear father, I would renounce my happiness,
my health, and life itself, but my honor comes before all with me, and
so it must be with you. My dearest, best of fathers, demand of me what
you will, only not that." On June 2 he sent Leopold thirty ducats as an
earnest of future aid.

Three times he went to the Archbishop's Vienna residence to submit
his formal resignation. Colloredo's chamberlain refused to transmit it,
and on the third occasion he "threw him [Mozart] out of the antechamber
and gave him a kick in the behind" -- so Mozart described the scene in
his letter of June 9. To appease his father he left the Weber home and
took other lodgings. He assured Leopold that he had only "had fun" with
Constanze: "if I had to marry all those with whom I have jested, I
should have two hundred wives at least." However, on December 15 he
informed his father that Constanze was so sweet, so simple and domestic,
that he wished to marry her.

You are horrified at the idea? But I entreat you,
dearest, most beloved father, to listen to me.... The
voice of nature speaks as loud in me as in others --
louder, perhaps, than in many a big, strong lout of a
fellow. I simply cannot live as most young men do in
these days. In the first place, I have too much
religion; in the second place I have too much love of my
neighbor and too high a feeling of honor to seduce an
innocent girl; and in the third place I have too much
horror and disgust, too much dread and fear of diseases,
and too much care for my health, to fool about with
whores. So I can swear that I have never had relations
of that sort with any woman.... I stake my life on the
truth of what I have told you....

But who is the object of my love?... Surely not one
of the Webers? Yes, ... Constanze, ... the kindest-
hearted, the cleverest, the best of them all.... Tell
me whether I could wish myself a better wife.... All
that I desire is to have a small assured income (of
which, thank God, I have good hopes), and then I shall
never cease entreating you to allow me to save this poor
girl and to make myself and her -- and, if I may say so,
all of us -- very happy. For surely you are happy when
I am? And you are to enjoy one half of my fixed
income.... Please take pity on your son!

Leopold did not know what to believe. He used every effort to
dissuade his almost penniless son from marriage, but Mozart felt that
after twenty-six years of filial obedience it was time for him to have
his own way, to lead his own life. Through seven months he pleaded in
vain for parental consent; finally, on August 4, 1782, he married
without it. On August 5 it came. Now Mozart was free to discover how
far one could support a family by composing the most varied assemblage
of superb music in man's history.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 15, Mozart
pages 382-395
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-11-18 20:38:01 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 69 lines ]

Westfield, Silverstein and the WTC Golden Goose

by Fintan Dunne, coEditor, PsyOpNews.com
Research by Kathy McMahon
Thursday 4 October 2001

The World Trade Center is a gold mine. And Larry Silverstein knows it.

Silverstein already owned number Seven WTC, but he led a consortium
that just months ago signed a new $3.2 billion US, 99-year lease on the
WTC complex. That was the first time the WTC had changed hands in its
thirty year history.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey signed the deal with
the Silverstein-led Westfield America on the 26th April, 2001.
Westfield America leased the concourse mall, and Silverstein the office

The deal was finalized and celebrated on the 23rd July -- just seven
weeks before almost the entire complex was destroyed. Port Authority
officers gave a giant set of keys to the complex to Silverstein and to
Westfield CEO Lowy.

Silverstein was ecstatic at that time. "This is a dream come true,"
he had said. "We will be in control of a prized asset, and we will seek
to develop its potential, raising it to new heights." An ironic choice
of words, in retrospect.

The leased buildings included Numbers One and Two (the Twin Towers),
Four, Five and 400,000 square feet of retail space. The Marriott Hotel
(3WTC), US Customs building (6WTC) and Silverstein's own 47-story office
building were already under lease.

Despite the transfer to private hands, the tax payments would still
come from the Port Authority -- who had been making yearly $25 million
payments in lieu of taxes to New York City. The proper figure should be
more like $100 million according to city administrators.

Silversteen is undeterred by the demolition of the complex. He
already has somewhat insensitive plans to rebuild. Four towers this
time. Although the complex was not insured against an act of war, new
policies insured against terrorist damage.

Which leaves everybody financially consoled, even if not emotionally
so. The vendors still have the $3.2 billion they made on the sale. The
purchasers lease deal had spanking new insurance -- with new
beneficiaries -- for capital value and loss of income.

Silverstein has insurance money to rebuild and get the $110 million
of annual rental income flowing again. Or double that with his planned
four towers. Nice money if you can get it. Can he?

Not if the insurers could help it. They are the big losers. And
they detest having to pay a claim on a policy taken out only weeks
before. Indeed, they often delay payment to investigate cases where
immediate claims are made against brand new policies.


( PsyOp News )
2006-11-18 20:41:47 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 753 lines ]


[Part 2 of 2]

by Will and Ariel Durant

VI. The Composer

He had reason for confidence, for he had already won reputation as a
pianist, had acquired some paying pupils, and had produced successful
operas. Just a month after leaving the Archbishop's service he received
from Count Orsini-Rosenberg, director of court theaters for Joseph II, a
commission to compose a Singspiel -- a spoken drama interspersed with
songs. The result was presented on July 16, 1782, in the presence of
the Emperor, as 'Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail' ('The Abduction from the
Seraglio'). A hostile clique condemned it, but nearly all the audience
was won over by the vivacious arias that adorned an aged theme: a
Christian beauty captured by pirates, sold to a Turkish harem, and
rescued by her Christian lover after incredible intrigues. Joseph II
commented on the music, "Too beautiful for our ears, my dear Mozart, and
far too many notes"; to which the reckless composer answered, "Exactly
as many, your Majesty, as are needed." The operetta was repeated
thirty-three times in Vienna in its first six years. Gluck praised it,
though he perceived that it quite ignored his "reform" of the opera; he
admired the instrumental compositions of the impetuous youth, and
invited him to dinner.

Mozart took inspiration rather from Italy than from Germany; he
preferred melody and simple harmony to complex and erudite polyphony.
Only in his final decade did he feel strong influences from Handel and
Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1782 he joined the musicians who, under the
aegis of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, gave concerts, chiefly of Handel
and Bach, in the National Library or in van Swieten's home. In 1774 the
Baron had brought from Berlin to Vienna 'The Art of the Fugue', 'The
Well-tempered Clavichord', and other works of J.S. Bach. He deprecated
Italian music as amateurish; real music, he thought, required strict
attention to fugue, polyphony, and counterpoint. Mozart, though he
never allowed structure, rule, or form to be an end in itself, profited
from van Swieten's counsel and concerts, and carefully studied Handel
and the major Bachs. After 1787 he conducted Handel concerts in Vienna,
and took some liberties in adjusting Handel's scores to Viennese
orchestras. In his later instrumental music he wedded Italian melody
and German polyphony in a harmonious union.

A glance at Kochel's catalogue of Mozart's compositions is an
impressive experience. Here are listed 626 works -- the largest body of
music left by any composer except Haydn, all produced in a life of
thirty-six years, and including masterpieces in every form: 77 sonatas,
8 trios, 29 quartets, 5 quintets, 51 concertos, 96 divertimenti, dances
or serenades, 52 symphonies, 90 arias or songs, 60 religious
compositions, 22 operas. If some of those near Mozart thought him
indolent, it may have been because they did not quite realize that the
labor of the spirit can exhaust the flesh, and that without intervals of
lethargy genius would slip into insanity. His father told him,
"Procrastination is your besetting sin," and in many cases Mozart waited
till almost the last hour before putting to paper the music that had
been taking form in his head. "I am, so to speak, steeped in music," he
said; "it is in my mind the whole day, and I love to dream, to study, to
reflect on it." His wife reported, "He was always strumming upon
something -- his hat, his watch fob, the table, the chair, as if they
were the keyboard." Sometimes he carried on this silent composition
even while apparently listening to an opera. He kept scraps of music
paper in his pockets, or, when traveling, in the side pocket of the
carriage; on these he made fragmentary notes; usually he carried a
leather case to receive such 'obiter scripta'. When he was ready to
compose he sat not at a keyboard but at a table; he "wrote music like
letters," said Constanze, "and never tried a movement until it was
finished." Or he would sit at the piano for hours on end, improvising,
leaving his musical fancy seemingly free, but half unconsciously
subjecting it to some recognizable structure -- sonata form, aria, fugue
... Musicians enjoyed Mozart's improvisations because they could detect,
with esoteric delight, the order hidden behind the apparently whimsical
strains. Niemetschek said in old age, If I dared to pray for one more
earthly joy it would be that I might hear Mozart improvise."

Mozart could play almost any music at sight, because he had seen
certain combinations and sequences of notes so often that he could read
them as one note, and his habituated fingers played them as one musical
phrase or idea, just as a practiced reader takes in a line as if it were
a word, or a paragraph as if it were a line. Mozart's trained memory
was allied with this capacity to perceive aggregates, to feel the logic
that compelled the part to indicate the whole. In later years he could
play almost any one of his concertos by heart. At Prague he wrote the
drum and trumpet parts of the second finale in 'Don Giovanni' without
having at hand the score for the other instruments; he had kept that
complex music in his memory. Once he wrote down only the violin part of
a sonata for piano and violin; the next day, without a rehearsal, Regina
Strinasacchi played the violin part at a concert, and Mozart played the
piano part purely from the memory of his conception, without having had
time to set it down upon paper. Probably no other man in history was
ever so absorbed in music.

We think of Mozart's sonatas as rather slight and playful, hardly in
a class with Beethoven's passionate and powerful pronouncements in the
same genre; this may be because they were written for pupils of limited
legerdemain, or for harpsichords of minor resonance, or for a piano that
had no means of continuing a note. The favorite of our childhood, the
Sonata in A (K. 331), with its engaging "Minuetto" and its "Rondo alla
Turca," is still (1778) in harpsichord style.

Mozart did not at first care for chamber music, but in 1773 he came
upon Haydn's early quartets, envied their contrapuntal excellence, and
imitated them with something short of success in the six quartets that
he composed in that year. In 1781 Haydn published another series;
Mozart was again stirred to rivalry, and issued (1782-85) six quartets
(K. 387, 421, 428, 458, 464-65) that are now universally recognized as
among the supreme examples of their kind. Performers complained that
they were abominably difficult; critics especially condemned the sixth
for its clashing dissonances and its turbulent mixture of major and
minor keys. An Italian musician returned the score to the publisher as
obviously full of gross mistakes, and one purchaser, when he found that
the discords were deliberate, tore up the sheets in a rage. Yet it was
after playing the fourth, fifth, and sixth of these quartets with
Mozart, Dittersdorf, and others that Haydn said to Leopold Mozart,
"Before God, and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the
greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has
taste, and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition."
When the six quartets were published (1785) Mozart dedicated them to
Haydn with a letter that shines out even in a brilliant correspondence:

A father who had decided to send his sons out into
the great world thought it his duty to entrust them to
the protection and guidance of a man who was very
celebrated at the time, and who, moreover, happened to
be his best friend. In like manner I send my six sons
to you, most celebrated and very dear friend. They are
indeed the fruit of a long and laborious study; but the
hope which many friends have given me that their toil
will be in some degree rewarded, ... flatters me with
the thought that these children may one day prove a
source of consolation to me.

During your last stay in this capital you ...
expressed to me your approval of these compositions.
Your good opinion encourages me to offer them to you,
and leads me to hope that you will not consider them
unworthy of your favor. Please then receive them
kindly, and be to them a father, guide, and friend.
From this moment I surrender to you all my rights over
them. I entreat you, however, to be indulgent to those
faults which may have escaped their composer's partial
eye, and, in spite of them, to continue your generous
friendship towards one who so highly appreciates it.

Mozart had a particular fondness for his quintets. He thought his
Quintet in E Flat for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon (K. 452)
"the best work I have ever composed," but that was before he had written
his major operas. "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" was originally (1787)
composed as a quintet, but it was soon taken up by small orchestras, and
is now classed among Mozart's serenades. He valued, as "rather
carefully" written, the Serenade in E Flat (K. 375), with which he
himself was serenaded one evening in 1781, but musicians rank above it
the Serenade in C Minor (K. 388) -- which is as somber as the
'Pathetiques' of Beethoven and Tchaikowsky.

Having discovered the orchestra, Mozart turned it to a hundred
experiments: overtures, nocturnes, suites, cassations (variants of the
suite), dances, 'divertimenti'. The last were usually intended to serve
a passing purpose rather than to echo in the halls of history; they are
not to be weighed but enjoyed. Even so, Divertimenti No. 15 (K. 287)
and No. 17 (K. 334) are substantial works, more delightful than most of
the symphonies.

For his symphonies Mozart, like Haydn, used a "band" of thirty-five
pieces; hence they fail to convey their full worth to ears accustomed to
the multiplied sonority of twentieth-century orchestras. Pundits praise
No. 25 (K. 183) as "impassioned" and "a miracle of impetuous
expression," but the earliest Mozart symphony of note is the 'Paris'
(No. 31, K. 297), which Mozart adapted to the French taste for
refinement and charm. The 'Haffner Symphony' (No. 35, K. 385) was
originally composed in haste to grace the festivities planned by
Sigismund Haffner, former burgomaster of Salzburg, for the wedding of
his daughter (1782); Mozart later added parts for flute and clarinet,
and presented it at Vienna (March 3, 1783) at a concert attended by
Joseph II. The Emperor "gave me great applause," and twenty-five
ducats. In this and No. 36, written at Linz in November, 1783, Mozart
still kept to the form and stamp -- always pleasant, seldom profound --
that Haydn had laid upon the symphony; in both cases the slow movement
comes most gratefully to aging ears. We must speak more respectfully of
No. 38, which Mozart composed for Prague in 1786; here the first
movement pleases the musician with its structural logic and contrapuntal
skill, and the andante, adding contemplation to melody, has stirred
experts to speak of its "undying perfection" and its "enchanted world."

By common consent the greatest of Mozart's symphonies are the three
that he poured forth in a torrent of inspiration in the summer of 1788
-- at a time of depressing poverty and mounting debts. The first is
dated June 26, the second July 25, the third August 10 -- three births
in three months. So far as we know, none of them was ever played in his
lifetime; he never heard them; they remained in that mysterious realm in
which black spots on a sheet were for the composer "ditties of no sound"
-- notes and harmonies heard only by the mind. The third, misnamed the
'Jupiter' (No. 41 in C, K. 551), is usually accounted the best; Schumann
equated it with Shakespeare and Beethoven, but it does not lend itself
to amateur appreciation. No. 40 in G Minor (K. 550) begins with a vigor
that presages the 'Eroica', and it proceeds to a development that has
led commentators -- struggling in vain to express music in words -- to
read into it a 'Lear' or 'Macbeth' of personal tragedy; yet to simpler
ears it seems almost naively joyous. To the same ears the most
satisfying of the symphonies is No. 39 in E Flat (K. 543). It is not
burdened with woe, nor is it tortured with technique; it is melody and
harmony flowing in a placid stream; it is such music as might please the
gods on a rural holiday from celestial chores.

The 'sinfonia concertante' is a cross between the symphony and the
concerto; it grew out of the 'concerto grosso' by opposing two or more
instruments to the orchestra in a dialogue between melody and
accompaniment. Mozart raised the form to its apex in the Sinfonia
Concertante in E Flat (K. 364) for flute, violin, and viola (1779); this
is as fine as any of his symphonies.

All the concertos are delightful, for in them the solo passages help
the untrained ear to follow themes and strains that in the symphonies
may be obscured by technical elaboration or contrapuntal play. Debate
is interesting, and all the more so when, as in the form of the concerto
as proposed by Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach and developed by Mozart, the
contest is of one against all -- 'solo contra tutti'. Since Mozart
relished such harmonious confrontations, he wrote most of his concertos
for the piano, for in these he played the solo part himself, usually
adding, toward the end of the first movement, a cadenza that allowed him
to frolic and shine as a virtuoso.

He first touched excellence in this form with Piano Concerto No. 9
in E Flat (K. 271). The earliest of his still popular concertos is No.
20 in D Minor (K. 466), famous for its almost childlike "Romanze"; in
this slow movement, we might say, the Romantic movement in music began.
Whether through laziness or distractions, Mozart did not complete the
score of this concerto till an hour before the time appointed for its
performance (February 11, 1785); copies reached the players just before
the recital, allowing no time for practice or rehearsal; yet the
performance went so well, and Mozart played his part so expertly, that
many repetitions were called for in the ensuing years.

Mozart offered noble music for other solo instruments. Perhaps the
melodious Concerto in A for clarinet (K. 622) comes over the air more
frequently than any other of his compositions. In his merry youth
(1774) he had great fun with a Concerto in B Flat for the bassoon. The
horn concertos were bubbles gaily blown upon the score -- which
sometimes bore humorous directions for the performer: "da bravo!,"
"coraggio!," "bestia!," "ohime!" -- for Mozart was familiar with more
wind instruments than one. Then the Concerto for Flute and Harp (K.
299) lifts us to the stars.

In 1775 Mozart, aged nineteen, composed five violin concertos, all
of them beautiful, three of them still in living repertoires. No. 3 in
G (K. 216) has an adagio that sent an Einstein into ecstasy, No. 4 in D
is one of music's masterpieces, and No. 5 in A has an andante cantabile
that rivals the miracle of a woman's voice.

Little wonder that Mozart produced, especially in the years of his
love for Aloysia Weber, some of the most delectable airs in all the
literature of song. They are not full-blown lieder, such as found their
ripe development in Schubert and Brahms; they are simpler and shorter,
often adorning silly words; but when Mozart found a real poem, like
Goethe's "Das Veilchen," he rose to the peak of the form (K. 476). A
violet, trembling with joy at the approach of a pretty shepherdess,
thinks how sweet it would be to lie upon her breast; but as she walks
along, gaily singing, she crushes it unseen under her foot. Was this a
memory of the cruel Aloysia? For her Mozart had written one of his
tenderest arias -- "Non so d'onde viene." But he attached little
importance to such isolated songs; he kept the secret resources of his
vocal art for the arias in his operas and his compositions for the

His religious music was rarely heard outside Salzburg, for the
Catholic Church frowned upon the operatic qualities apparently expected
by the archbishops whom Mozart served. High Mass in Salzburg was sung
to an accompaniment of organ, strings, trumpets, trombones, and drums,
and passages of merriment broke out in the most solemn places in
Mozart's Masses. Yet the religious spirit must surely be moved by the
motets "Adoramus Te" (K. 327) and "Santa Maria Mater Dei" (K. 341b); and
the most hauntingly beautiful strain in all of Mozart appears in the
"Laudate Dominum" in the fourth of the "Vesperae solennes di confessore"
(K. 339).

All in all, Mozart's music is the voice of an aristocratic age that
had not heard the Bastille fall, and of a Catholic culture undisturbed
in its faith, free to enjoy the charms of life without the restless
search to find new content for an emptied dream. In its lighter aspects
this music harmonizes with the elegance of rococo ornament, with the
pictorial romances of Watteau, the calmly floating Olympus of Tiepolo,
the smiles and robes and pottery of Mme. de Pompadour. It is, by and
large, serene music, touched now and then by suffering and anger, but
raising neither a humble prayer nor a Promethean challenge to the gods.
Mozart began his work in childhood, and a childlike quality lurked in
his compositions until it dawned upon him that the Requiem which he was
writing for a stranger was his own.

VII. Spirit and Flesh

Mozart was not physically attractive. He was short, his head was
too large for his body, his nose was too large for his face, his upper
lip overlapped the lower, his bushy brows darkened his restless eyes;
only his abounding blond hair impressed. In later years he sought to
offset the shortcomings of his stature and features by splendid dress:
shirt of lace, blue coat with tails, gold buttons, knee breeches, and
silver buckles on his shoes. Only when he performed at the piano was
his physique forgotten; then his eyes burned with intense concentration,
and every muscle of his body subordinated itself to the play of his mind
and hands.

As a boy he was modest, good-natured, trustful, loving; but his
early fame, and an almost daily diet of applause, developed some faults
in his character. "My son," Leopold warned him (1778), "you are hot-
tempered and impulsive, ... much too ready to retort in a bantering tone
to the first challenge." Mozart admitted this and more. "If anyone
offends me," he wrote, "I must revenge myself; unless I revenge myself
with interest, I consider I have only repaid my enemy and not corrected
him." And he yielded to no one in appreciating his genius. "Prince
Kaunitz told the Archduke that people like myself come into the world
only once in a hundred years."

A sense of humor prevailed in his letters, and appeared in his
music, till his dying year. Usually it was harmlessly playful;
sometimes it became sharp satire; occasionally, in youth, it ran to
obscenity. He passed through a stage of fascination with defecation.
When he was twenty-one he wrote to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart
nineteen letters of incredible vulgarity. A letter to his mother
celebrated flatulence in prose and verse. She was not squeamish, for in
a letter to her husband she counseled him, "Keep well, my love; into
your mouth your arse you'll shove." Apparently such fundamental phrases
were standard procedure in the Mozart family and their circle; they were
probably an heirloom from a lustier generation. They did not prevent
Mozart from writing to his parents and his sister letters of the
tenderest affection.

He was, on his own word, a virgin bridegroom. Was he a faithful
husband? His wife accused him of "servant gallantries." According to
his devoted biographer:

Rumor was busy among the public and in the press,
and magnified solitary instances of weakness on his part
into distinguishing features of his character. He was
credited with intrigues with every pupil he had, and
with every singer for whom he wrote a song; it was
considered witty to designate him as the natural
prototype of Don Juan.

The frequent confinements of his wife, her repeated trips to health
resorts, his own absence from her on concert tours, his sensitivity to
all the charms of women, his association with bewitching singers and
uninhibited actresses, created a situation in which some adventure was
well-nigh inevitable. Constanze related how he had confessed such an
"indiscretion" to her, and why she forgave him -- "he was so good it was
impossible to be angry with him"; but her sister reports violent
outbreaks now and then. Mozart seems to have been very fond of his
wife; he bore patiently her deficiencies as a housewife, and wrote to
her, during their separations, letters of almost childish endearment.

He was not a success socially. He judged some rivals harshly.
"Clementi's sonatas are worthless.... He is a charlatan, like all
Italians." "Yesterday I was fortunate enough to hear Herr Freyhold play
a concerto of his own wretched composition. I found very little to
admire." On the other hand, he praised the quartets recently published
by Ignaz Pleyel, though they competed with his own. His father
reproached him for getting himself disliked because of his arrogance;
Mozart denied the arrogance, but it cannot be denied that he had very
few friends among Viennese musicians, and that his proud spirit raised
obstacles to his advancement. In Austria and Germany a musician's fate
depended upon the aristocracy, and Mozart refused to give precedence to
birth over genius.

He suffered another handicap in having never gone to school or
university. His father had allowed him no time for general education.
Mozart had among his few books some volumes of poetry by Gessner,
Wieland, and Gellert, but he seems to have used them chiefly as a source
of possible librettos. He cared little for art or literature. He was
in Paris when Voltaire died; he could not understand why the city had
made such a fuss over the old rebel's visit and death. "That godless
rascal Voltaire," he wrote to his father, "has pegged out like a dog,
like a beast! That is his reward." He imbibed some anticlericalism
from his Masonic confreres, but he took part, candle in hand, in a
Corpus Christi procession.

Perhaps it was the simplicity of his mind that made him lovable
despite his faults. Those who were not his rivals in music found him
sociable, cheerful, kind, and usually serene. "All my life," his
sister-in-law Sophie Weber wrote, "I have never seen Mozart in a temper,
still less angry"; but there were contrary reports. He was the life of
many a party, always willing to play, always ready for a joke or a game.
He liked bowling, billiards, and the dance; at times he seemed prouder
of his dancing than of his music. If he was not generous to his
competitors, he was almost thoughtlessly liberal to everybody else.
Beggars were seldom repulsed by him. A piano tuner repeatedly borrowed
from him and failed to repay. Mozart talked frankly about his high
regard for money, but that was because he had so little time or
inclination to think of it that he often had none. Thrown upon his own
moneymaking resources, and called upon to support a family by competing
with a hundred jealous musicians, he neglected his finances, allowed his
earnings to slip unheeded through his fingers, and fell into despondent
destitution just when, in his last three symphonies and his last three
operas, he was writing the finest music of his time.

VIII. Apogee: 1782-87

He began his free-lance career in Vienna with heartening success.
He was well paid for the lessons he gave; each of his concerts in
1782-84 brought him some five hundred gulden. Only seventy of his
compositions were published in his lifetime, but he was reasonably paid.
The publisher Artarin gave him a hundred ducats for the six quartets
dedicated to Haydn -- a handsome sum for those days. Another publisher,
Hoffmeister, lost money by printing Mozart's piano quartets in G Minor
(K. 478) and E Flat (K. 493); the musicians found them too difficult
(they are now considered easy), and Hoffmeister warned Mozart, "Write
more popularly, or else I can neither print nor pay for anything more of
yours." Mozart received the usual fee, a hundred ducats, for his
operas; for 'Don Giovanni' he was paid 225 ducats plus the proceeds of a
benefit concert. He had in these years "a very good income." His
father, visiting him in 1785, reported: "If my son has no debts to pay,
I think that he can now lodge two thousand gulden in the bank."

But Mozart did not put those gulden in the bank. He spent them on
current expenses, entertainment, good clothes, and in meeting the needs
of mendicant friends. For these and more obscure reasons he fell into
debt at the height of the demand for his services and his compositions.
As early as February 15, 1783, he wrote to the Baroness von Waldstadten
that one of his creditors had threatened to "bring an action against
me.... At the moment I cannot pay -- not even half the sum!... I
entreat your Ladyship, for Heaven's sake, to help me keep my honor and
my good name." He was temporarily relieved by the success of a concert
given for his benefit in March, which brought in sixteen hundred gulden.
Out of this he sent a gift to his father.

In May, 1783, he moved to a good house at No. 244 in the Judenplatz.
There his first child was born (June 17) -- "a fine, sturdy boy, as
round as a ball." This event, and the gift, softened paternal
resentment of the marriage; Wolfgang and Constanze took advantage of the
thaw to visit Leopold and Nannerl in Salzburg, leaving the infant in
Vienna with a nurse. On August 19 the child died. Its parents remained
in Salzburg, for Mozart had arranged for the performance there of his
Mass in C Minor, in which Constanze was to sing. Wolfgang and Constanze
outstayed their welcome, for Leopold had to count every penny, and
thought three months were too long a visit. On their way back to Vienna
they stopped at Linz, where Count von Thun commissioned Mozart to write
a symphony.

Home again, he worked hard, teaching composing, performing,
conducting. In two months (February 26 to April 3, 1784) he gave three
concerts and played in nineteen others. In December he joined one of
the seven Freemason lodges in Vienna; he enjoyed their meetings, and
readily consented to write music for their festivals. In February his
father, mollified by the birth of another son to Constanze, came for a
long visit. And in 1785 Lorenzo da Ponte entered Mozart's life.

This Lorenzo had almost as adventurous a life as his friend
Casanova. He had begun life in 1749 as the son of a tanner in the
ghetto of Ceneda. When he was fourteen Emmanuele Conegliano and two
brothers were taken by their father to Lorenzo da Ponte, bishop of
Ceneda, to be baptized into the Catholic Church. Emmanuele adopted the
bishop's name, became a priest, had an affair at Venice with a married
woman, was banished, moved to Dresden, then to Vienna, and was engaged
in 1783 as poet and librettist to the National Theater.

Mozart suggested to him the possibility of making an opera libretto
out of Beaumarchais' recent comedy 'Le Mariage de Figaro'. This had
been translated into German with a view to staging it in Vienna, but
Joseph II forbade it as containing revolutionary sentiments that would
scandalize his court. Could the Emperor, who was himself quite a
revolutionary, be persuaded to allow an opera judiciously abstracted
from the play? Ponte admired Mozart's music; he was to speak of him
later as one who, "although endowed with talents surpassing those of any
composer, past, present, or future, had not been able as yet, owing to
the intrigues of his enemies, to utilize his divine genius in Vienna."
He eliminated the radical overtones of Beaumarchais' drama, and
transformed the remainder into an Italian libretto rivaling the best of

The story of 'Le nozze di Figaro' was the old maze of disguises,
surprises, and recognitions, and the clever hoodwinking of masters by
servants: all familiar in comedy since Menander and Plautus. Mozart
took readily to the theme, and composed the music almost as fast as the
libretto took form; both were completed in six weeks. On April 29,
1786, Mozart wrote the overture; on May 1 the premiere went off
triumphantly. Part of the success may have been due to the jovial,
stentorian basso, Francesco Benucci, who sang the part of Figaro; more
must have been due to the vivacity and fitness of the music, and to such
arias as Cherubino's plaintive "Voi che sapete" and the Countess'
intense yet restrained appeal to the god of love in "Porgi amor." So
many encores were demanded that the performance took twice the usual
time; and at the end Mozart was repeatedly called to the stage.

The income from the production of 'Figaro' in Vienna and Prague
should have kept Mozart solvent for a year had it not been for his
extravagance, and the illnesses and pregnancies of his wife. In April,
1787, they moved to a less expensive house, Landstrasse 224. A month
later Leopold died, leaving his son a thousand gulden.

Prague commissioned another opera. Ponte suggested for a subject
the sexual escapades of Don Juan. Tirso de Molina had put the legendary
Don on the stage at Madrid in 1630 as 'El burlador de Sevilla' ('The
Deceiver of Seville'); Moliere had told the story in Paris as 'Le Festin
de pierre' ('The Feast of Stone', 1665); Goldoni had presented it in
Venice as 'Don Giovanni Tenorio' (1736); Vincente Righini had staged 'Il
convitato di pietra' in Vienna in 1777; and at Venice, in this very year
1787, Giuseppe Gazzaniga had produced, under the same title, an opera
from which Ponte stole many lines, including the jaunty catalogue of
Giovanni's sins.

The "greatest of all operas" (as Rossini called it) had its premiere
at Prague on October 29, 1787. Mozart and Constanze went up to the
Bohemian capital for the event; they were feted so fully that he
deferred the composition of the overture till the eve of the premiere;
then, at midnight, "after spending the merriest evening imaginable," he
composed a piece which is almost Wagnerian in foreshadowing the tragic
and comic elements of the play. The score reached the orchestra just in
time for the performance. The Vienna 'Zeitung' reported: "On Monday
Kapellmeister Mozart's long-expected opera, 'Don Giovanni', was
performed ... Musicians and connoisseurs are agreed that such a
performance has never before been witnessed in Prague. Herr Mozart
himself conducted, and his appearance in the orchestra was the signal
for cheers, which were renewed at his exit."

On November 12 the happy couple were back in Vienna. Gluck died
three days later, and Joseph II appointed Mozart to succeed him as
'Kammermusikus' -- chamber musician -- to the court. After much trouble
with the singers 'Don Giovanni' was produced in Vienna on May 7, 1788,
to scanty applause. Mozart and Ponte made further alterations, but the
opera never attained in Vienna the success it had in Prague, Mannheim,
Hamburg... A Berlin critic complained that the 'dramma giocoso' was an
offense against morals, but he added: "If ever a nation might be proud
of one of its children, Germany may be proud of Mozart, the composer of
this opera." Nine years later Goethe wrote to Schiller: "Your hopes for
opera are richly fulfilled in 'Don Giovanni'"; and he mourned that
Mozart had not lived to write the music for Faust.

IX. Nadir: 1788-90

The proceeds from 'Don Giovanni' were soon used up, and Mozart's
modest salary hardly paid for food. He took some pupils, but teaching
was an exhausting, time-consuming task. He moved to cheaper quarters in
suburban Wahringerstrasse; debts multiplied nevertheless. He borrowed
wherever he could -- chiefly from a kindly merchant and fellow Mason,
Michael Puchberg. To him Mozart wrote in June, 1788:

I still owe you eight ducats. Apart from the fact
that at the moment I am not in a position to pay you
back this sum, my confidence in you is so boundless that
I dare implore you to help me out with a hundred gulden
until next week, when my concerts in the Casino are to
begin. By that time I shall certainly have received my
subscription money, and shall then be able quite easily
to pay you back 136 gulden with my warmest thanks.

Puchberg sent the hundred gulden. Encouraged, Mozart appealed to him
(June 17) for a loan of "one or two thousand gulden for a year or two at
a suitable rate of interest." He had left unpaid the arrears of rent at
his former home; the landlord threatened to have him jailed; Mozart
borrowed to pay him. Apparently Puchberg sent less than was asked, for
the desperate composer made further appeals in June and July. It was in
those harassed months that Mozart composed the three "Great Symphonies."

He welcomed an invitation from Prince Karl von Lichnowsky to ride
with him to Berlin. For that trip he borrowed a hundred gulden from
Franz Hofdemel. Prince and pauper left Vienna April 8, 1789. At
Dresden Mozart played before Elector Frederick Augustus, and received a
hundred ducats. At Leipzig he gave a public performance on Bach's
organ, and was stirred by the Thomasschule choir's singing of Bach's
motet "Singet dem Herrn" [BWV 225]. At Potsdam and Berlin (April 28 to
May 28) he played for Frederick William II, and received a gift of seven
hundred florins, with commissions for six quartets and six sonatas. But
his gains were spent with mysterious celerity; an unverified rumor
ascribed part of the outlet to a liaison with a Berlin singer, Henriette
Baronius. On May 23 he wrote to Constanze: "As regards my return, you
will have to look forward to me more than to the money." He reached
home June 4, 1789.

Constanze, pregnant again, needed doctors and medicines and an
expensive trip to take the waters at Baden-bei-Wien. Mozart again
turned to Puchberg:

Great God! I would not wish my worst enemy to be in
my present position. If you, most beloved friend and
brother [Mason] forsake me, we are altogether lost --
both my unfortunate and blameless self and my poor sick
wife and children.... All depends ... upon whether you
will lend me another five hundred gulden. Until my
affairs are settled, I undertake to pay back ten gulden
a month; and then I shall pay back the whole sum....
Oh, God! I can hardly bring myself to dispatch this
letter, and yet I must! -- For God's sake forgive me,
only forgive me!

Puchberg sent him 150 gulden, most of which went to pay Constanze's
bills at Baden. On November 16, at home, she gave birth to a daughter,
who died the same day. Joseph II helped by commissioning Mozart and
Ponte to write a 'dramma giocoso' on an old theme (used by Marivaux in
'Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard', 1730): two men disguise themselves to
test the fidelity of their fiancees; they find them pliable, but forgive
them on the ground that "cosi fan tutte" -- "so do all" women; thence
the opera's name. It was hardly a subject fit for Mozart's tragic mood
(except that Constanze had flirted a bit at Baden), but he provided for
the clever and witty libretto music that is the very embodiment of
cleverness and wit; seldom has nonsense been so glorified. It had a
moderately successful premiere on January 26, 1790, and four repetitions
in a month, bringing Mozart a hundred ducats. Then Joseph II died
(February 20), and the Vienna theaters were closed till April 12.

Mozart hoped that the new Emperor would find work for him, but
Leopold II ignored him. He ignored Ponte too, who went off to England
and America, and ended (1838) as a teacher of Italian in what is now
Columbia University in New York. Mozart made further appeals to
Puchberg (December 29, 1789, January 20, February 20, April 1, 8, and
23, 1790), never in vain, but seldom receiving all that he asked. Early
in May he pleaded for six hundred gulden to pay rent due; Puchberg sent
a hundred. He confessed to Puchberg on May 17, "I am obliged to resort
to moneylenders"; in that letter he numbered his pupils as only two, and
asked his friend "to spread the news that I am willing to give lessons."
However, he was too nervous and impatient to be a good teacher.
Sometimes he failed to keep appointments with his pupils; sometimes he
played billiards with them instead of giving a lesson." But when he
found a student of promising talent he gave himself unreservedly; so he
gladly and successfully taught Johann Hummel, who came to him (1787) at
the age of eight and became a famous pianist in the next generation.

Serious illnesses added pains to Mozart's griefs. One physician
diagnosed his ailments as "excretory pyelitis with pyonephritis, latent
focal lesions of the kidneys, tending inescapably toward eventual total
nephritic insufficiency" -- i.e., a disabling pus-forming inflammation
of the kidneys. "I am absolutely wretched today," he wrote to Puchberg
on August 14, 1790. "I could not sleep at all last night because of
pain.... Picture to yourself my condition -- ill, and consumed with
worries and anxieties.... Can you not help me with a trifle? The
smallest sum would be very welcome." Puchberg sent him ten gulden.

Despite his physical condition Mozart undertook a desperate
expedient to support his family. Leopold II was to be crowned at
Frankfurt October 9, 1790. Seventeen court musicians were in the
Emperor's retinue, but Mozart was not invited. He went nevertheless,
accompanied by Franz Hofer, his violinist brother-in-law. To defray the
expense he pawned the family's silver plate. At Frankfurt on October 15
he played and conducted his Piano Concerto in D (K. 537), which he had
composed three years before, but which the whim of history has named the
"Coronation Concerto" -- hardly among his best. "It was a splendid
success," he wrote to his wife, "from the point of view of honor and
glory, but a failure as far as money was concerned." He returned to
Vienna having earned little more than his expenses. In November he
moved to cheaper lodgings at Rauhensteingasse 70, where he was to die.

X. Requiem: 1791

He was kept alive for another year by three commissions coming in
crowded succession. In May, 1791, Emanuel Schikaneder, who produced
German operas and plays in a suburban theater, offered him the sketch of
a libretto about a magic flute, and appealed to his brother Mason to
provide the music. Mozart agreed. When Constanze, pregnant once more,
went to Baden-bei-Wien in June, he accepted Schikaneder's invitation to
spend his days in a garden house near the theater, where he could
compose 'Die Zauberflote' under the manager's prodding. In the evenings
he joined Schikaneder in the night life of the town. "Folly and
dissipation," Jahn tells us, "were the inevitable accompaniments of such
an existence, and these soon reached the public ear, ... covering his
name for several months with an amount of obloquy beyond what he
deserved." Amid these relaxations Mozart found time to drive to Baden
(eleven miles from Vienna) to visit his wife, who on July 26 gave birth
to Wolfgang Mozart II.

In that month a request came from an anonymous stranger, offering a
hundred ducats for a Requiem Mass to be secretly composed and to be
transmitted to him without any public acknowledgment of its authorship.
Mozart turned from the merriment of 'The Magic Flute' to the theme of
death, when, in August, he received a commission from Prague for an
opera, 'La clemenza di Tito', to be performed there at the approaching
coronation of Leopold II as king of Bohemia. He had barely a month to
set Metastasio's old libretto to new music. He worked at it in shaky
coaches and noisy inns while journeying to Prague with his wife. The
opera was sung on September 6 to mild applause. Mozart had tears in his
eyes as he left the one city that had befriended him, and as he realized
that the Emperor had witnessed his failure. His only consolations were
the two hundred ducats' fee and the later news that the repetition of
the opera at Prague on September 30 was a complete success.

On that day he conducted from the piano the premiere of 'Die
Zauberflote'. The story was in part a fairy tale, in part an exaltation
of Masonic initiation ritual. Mozart gave his best art to the
composition, though he kept most of the arias to a simple melodic line
congenial to his middle-class audience. He lavished coloratura
pyrotechnics on the Queen of the Night, but privately he laughed at
coloratura singing as "cut-up noodles." The March of the Priests,
opening the second act, is Masonic music; the aria of the high priest,
"In diesen heiligen Hallen" -- "In these holy halls we know nothing of
revenge, and love for their fellow men is the guiding rule of the
initiated" -- is the claim of Freemasonry to have restored that
brotherhood of man which Christianity had once preached. (Goethe
compared 'The Magic Flute' to Part II of 'Faust', which also preached
brotherhood; and, himself a Mason, he spoke of the opera as having "a
higher meaning which will not escape the initiated." The first
performance had an uncertain success, and the critics were shocked by
the mixture of fugues and fun; soon, however, 'The Magic Flute' became
the most popular of Mozart's operas, and of all operas before Wagner and
Verdi; it was repeated a hundred times within fourteen months of its

This last triumph came when Mozart already felt the hand of death
touching him. As if to accentuate the irony, a group of Hungarian
nobles now assured him an annual subscription of a thousand florins, and
an Amsterdam publisher offered him a still larger sum for the exclusive
right to print some of his work. In September he received an invitation
from Ponte to come to London; he replied: "I would gladly follow your
advice, but how can I?... My condition tells me that my hour strikes; I
am about to give up my life. The end has come before I could prove my
talent. Yet life was beautiful."

In his final months he gave his failing strength to the 'Requiem'.
For several weeks he worked at it feverishly. When his wife sought to
turn him to less gloomy concerns he told her, "I am writing this Requiem
for myself; it will serve for my funeral service." He composed the
Kyrie and parts of the Dies Irae, the Tuba Mirum, the Rex Tremendae, the
Recordare, the Confutatis, the Lacrimosa, the Domine, and the Hostias;
these fragments were left unrevised, and reveal the disordered state of
a mind facing collapse. Franz Xaver Sussmayr completed the 'Requiem'
remarkably well.

In November Mozart's hands and feet began to swell painfully, and
partial paralysis set in. He had to take to his bed. On those evenings
when 'The Magic Flute' was performed he laid his watch beside him and
followed each act in imagination, sometimes humming the arias. On his
last day he asked for the score of the 'Requiem'; he sang the alto part,
Mme. Schack sang the soprano, Franz Hofer the tenor, Herr Gerl the bass;
when they came to the Lacrimosa, Mozart wept. He predicted that he
would die that night. A priest administered the last sacrament. Toward
evening Mozart lost consciousness, but shortly after midnight he opened
his eyes; then he turned his face to the wall, and soon suffered no more
(December 5, 1791).

Neither his wife nor his friends could give him a fitting funeral.
The body was blessed in St. Stephen's Church on December 6, and was
buried in the churchyard of St. Mark's. No grave had been bought; the
corpse was lowered into a common vault made to receive fifteen or twenty
paupers. No cross or stone marked the place, and when, a few days
later, the widow came there to pray, no one could tell her the spot that
covered Mozart's remains.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 15, Mozart
pages 395-408
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-11-28 19:45:57 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 168 lines ]

After Bach

by Will and Ariel Durant

Germany was blessed and excited with music beyond any other nation
but Italy. A family without musical instruments was an abnormality.
Schools taught music almost on a par with religion and reading. Church
music was in decline because science and philosophy, cities and
industry, were secularizing minds; the great Lutheran hymns still
resounded, but song was passing from church choirs to lieder,
'Singspiele', and opera. Johann Peter Schulz opened a new era in song
with his 'Lieder im Volkston' (1782); henceforth Germany enjoyed an
unquestioned leadership in this application of music to lyric poetry.

The mechanical improvement of the piano stimulated the spread of
concerts and the rise of instrumental virtuosi. Performers like Johann
Schobert, Abt Vogler, and Johann Hummel conquered a dozen cities. On
March 10, 1789, Hummel, then eleven years old, gave a piano recital at
Dresden; he did not know that Mozart was to be in the audience; during
the concert he saw and recognized his former teacher; as soon as his
piece was finished he made his way through the applauding assemblage and
embraced Mozart with warm expressions of homage and joy. Abt (i.e.,
Abbot) Vogler won his title by being ordained as a priest (1773); at
Mannheim he was both court chaplain and music director. As a writer on
music he was one of the most original and influential of the century; as
a virtuoso on the organ he won the jealousy of Mozart; as a teacher he
formed Weber and Meyerbeer; as a papal legate he made Mannheim laugh by
wearing blue stockings, carrying his breviary with his music, and
sometimes keeping his audience waiting while he finished his prayers.

Mannheim's orchestra was now a group of seventy-six select
musicians, ably led by Christian Cannabich as teacher, conductor, and
solo violinist. Famous was Lord Fordyce's remark that Germany stood at
the head of the nations for two reasons: the Prussian army and the
Mannheim orchestra. Only less renowned was the Gewandhaus orchestra in
Leipzig. Concerts were gigantic -- three or four, sometimes six,
concertos on one program; and they were everywhere -- in theaters,
churches, universities, palaces, taverns, and parks. The symphony now
competed with the concerto in the orchestral repertoire; by 1770 -- even
before Haydn -- it was accepted as the highest form of instrumental

Half the famous composers of this period came from the strong heart
and loins of Johann Sebastian Bach. By his first wife he had seven
children, of whom two, Wilhelm Friedemann and Karl Philipp Emanuel,
achieved international celebrity. By his second wife he had thirteen
children, of whom two, Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian,
became prominent in music. Johann Christoph Friedrich begot a minor
composer, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, so that Johann Sebastian gave
the world five men who secured a place in music history. A distant
relative, Johann Ernst Bach, studied with the master at Leipzig, became
'Kapellmeister' at Weimar, and left several compositions to oblivion.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was born at Weimar. The first part of his
father's 'Wohltemperirte Klavier' was written for his instruction. He
progressed rapidly, and was already a composer at sixteen. At twenty-
three he was appointed organist at the Sophienkirche in Dresden; and as
his duties there were light, he wrote several sonatas, concertos, and
symphonies. He rose in stipend and fame by being chosen (1746) organist
at the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle. There he remained eighteen years; so
he came to be called the "Halle Bach." He loved drink only next to
music; he resigned in 1764, and for twenty years he drifted from town to
town, living literally from hand to mouth by giving recitals and taking
pupils. In 1774 he settled in Berlin, where he died in poverty in 1784.

Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach was lefthanded, and so had to confine his
musical performance to the organ and the piano. In 1734, aged twenty,
he entered the University of Frankfurt; there he enjoyed the friendship
of Georg Philipp Telemann, who had been one of his godfathers and had
given him part of his name. In 1737 he played some of his compositions
before an audience that included Frederick William I of Prussia.
Knowing that Crown Prince Frederick loved music, he went to Rheinsberg
and presented himself, with no immediate result; but in 1740 Frederick,
now king, appointed him cembalist in the chapel orchestra at Potsdam.
He found it irritating to accompany Frederick's temperamental flute and
to accept his royal authority in music. After sixteen years of service
in the orchestra he retired to specialize in teaching. His 'Versuch
uber die wahre Art des Klaviers zu spielen' (1753 f.) marked the
beginning of modern pianoforte technique; Haydn formed his piano
artistry on this manual, and because of it Mozart said of this "Berlin
Bach": "He is the father, we are his boys ('Buben'); those of us who
know anything correctly have learned from him, and any [student] who
does not, confess this is a rascal [Lump]." In his compositions Emanuel
consciously diverged from his father's contrapuntal style to a simpler
homophonic treatment and melodic line. In 1767 he accepted the post of
director of church music at Hamburg; there he spent the remaining
twenty-one years of his life. In 1795 Haydn came to Hamburg to see him,
only to find that the greatest of Johann Sebastian's sons was seven
years dead.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, after studying with his father and
at the University of Leipzig, became at eighteen (1750) 'Kammermusikus'
at Buckeburg to Wilhelm, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe; at twenty-six he was
'Konzertmeister'. The great event in his twenty-eight years at this
court was the coming of Herder (1771) as preacher; Herder provided him
with inspiring texts for oratorios, cantatas, and songs. Johann
Christoph followed his father's methods and spirit, and was lost in the
changefulness of time.

In contrast, the youngest son, Johann Christian Bach, gave his
musical allegiance to Italy. Only fifteen when his father died, he was
sent to Berlin, where his half-brother Wilhelm Friedemann gave him
support and instruction. At nineteen he went to Bologna, where Conte
Cavaliere Agostino Litta paid for his studies under Padre Martini. The
youth was so charmed by Italian life and Catholic music that he became a
convert, and for six years devoted his compositions chiefly to the
Church. In 1760 he was made organist in the Milan cathedral, and became
the "Milan Bach." Meanwhile Italian opera had aroused his ambition to
excel in secular as well as ecclesiastical music; he produced operas at
Turin and Naples (1761), and his Milan employers complained that the
'galanterie' of these compositions discorded with his position in the
cathedral. Johann Christian changed his foot of earth to London (1762),
where his operas had unusually long runs. Soon he was appointed music
master to Queen Charlotte Sophia. He welcomed the seven-year-old Mozart
to London in 1764, and frolicked with him at the piano. The boy loved
the now fully accomplished musician, and took many hints from him in
composing sonatas, operas, and symphonies. In 1778 Bach went to Paris
to present his 'Amadis des Gaules'; there he again met Mozart, and the
youth of twenty-two was as delighted with him as he had been fifteen
years before. "He is an honest man, and does people justice," Wolfgang
wrote to his father; "I love him from my heart."

All in all, this Bach dynasty, from the Veit Bach who died in 1619
to the Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach who died in 1845, is the most
remarkable in cultural history. Of some sixty Bachs known by name among
the relatives of Johann Sebastian, fifty-three were professional
musicians; eight of his ancestors and five of his progeny were of
sufficient caliber to warrant special articles in a dictionary of music.
Several of the sons won greater fame and reputation in their lifetimes
than Johann Sebastian had enjoyed. Not that they monopolized musical
fame; the executants, as usual, received the greater acclaim when alive,
and were sooner forgotten when dead; and composers like Karl Friedrich
Fasch and Christian Friedrich Schubart rivaled Bach's sons in renown.

Looking back upon this second half of the eighteenth century we
perceive some special lines of musical evolution. The growing range and
power of the piano freed music from subservience to words, and
encouraged instrumental compositions. The widened audience for
concerts, and the lessening of ecclesiastical dominance, led composers
away from the polyphony of Johann Sebastian Bach to the more easily
appreciated harmonies of his successors. The influence of Italian opera
made for melody even in instrumental pieces, while, by a contrasting
movement, the lieder gave a new complexity to song. The revolt against
Italian opera culminated in Gluck, who proposed to subordinate music to
drama, but rather ennobled drama with music; by another avenue the
revolt developed the 'Singspiel', which reached its peak in 'The Magic
Flute'. The 'concerto grosso' passed into the concerto for one solo
instrument and orchestra; the sonata, in Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach and
Haydn, took its classic form, and the quartet evolved into the symphony.
Everything was prepared for Beethoven.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 20, Frederick's Germany
pages 525-528
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-11-28 19:55:01 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 303 lines ]

Moses Mendelssohn

(by Will and Ariel Durant

was the first major voice of a Judaism emerging from protective
isolation into contact with modern thought.

Friend and opponent of Kant, friend and inspirer of Lessing, the
grandfather of Felix Mendelssohn was one of the noblest figures of the
eighteenth century. His father, Menahem Mendel, was a clerk and teacher
in a Jewish school at Dessau. Born there on September 6, 1729, the
"third Moses" grew up with such a passion for study that he suffered a
lasting curvature of the spine. At fourteen he was sent to Berlin for
further study of the Talmud; there he followed almost literally the
Talmudic command 'Eat bread with salt, drink water by measure, sleep on
the hard earth, live a life of privations, and busy thyself with the
Law." For seven years he contented himself with a garret room, marked
his weekly loaf of bread with lines for his daily allowance, and earned
a pittance by copying documents in his elegant hand. In Berlin he pored
over the works of Maimonides, found courage in the career of that
"second Moses," and learned from him and life to control his pride to
modesty and cool his hot temper to gentleness and courtesy. His Berlin
associates taught him Latin, mathematics, and logic; he read Locke in a
Latin translation, passed on to Leibniz and Wolff, and was soon enamored
of philosophy. He learned to write German with a smooth clarity rare in
the literature of his country in his time.

His poverty ended when, aged twenty-one, he became tutor in the
family of Isaac Bernhard, who owned a milk plant in Berlin. Four years
later he was made bookkeeper, then a traveling agent of the firm,
finally a partner. He kept this business relation actively to the end
of his life, for he was resolved not to be dependent upon the popularity
and monetary returns of his books. Probably in 1754 he met Lessing,
apparently in a game of chess; so began a friendship that endured,
despite philosophical differences, till Lessing's death. On October 16,
1754, Lessing wrote to another friend: "Mendelssohn is a man of five-
and-twenty, who, without any [university] education, has acquired great
attainments in languages, mathematics, philosophy, and poetry. I
foresee in him an honor to our nation if he is allowed to come to
maturity by his co-religionists.... His candor and his philosophical
spirit cause me to regard him, in anticipation, as a second Spinoza."
For his part Mendelssohn said that a friendly word or look from Lessing
banished from his mind all grief or gloom.

In 1755 Lessing arranged the publication of Mendelssohn's
'Philosophische Gesprache', which expounded and defended both Spinoza
and Leibniz. In the same year the two friends collaborated in an essay,
'Pope ein Metaphysiker?', in which they argued that the English poet had
had no philosophy of his own, but had merely versified Liebniz. Also in
1755 Mendelssohn published 'Briefe uber die Empfindungen' ('Letters on
the Feelings'); this anticipated Kant's view that the sense of beauty is
quite independent of desire. These publications won the young Jew full
welcome into the not quite "serene brotherhood of philosophes" in
Berlin. Through Lessing he met Friedrich Nikolai; he and Nikolai
studied Greek together, and soon he was reading Plato in the original.
He helped Nikolai to establish the 'Bibliothek der Schonen
Wissenschaften und der Freien Kunste' ('Library of Belles-Lettres and
Fine Arts'), and contributed to this and other periodicals articles that
strongly influenced current ideas in the criticism of literature and

Mendelssohn now felt sufficiently secure to set up a home of his
own. In 1762, thirty-three years old, he married Fromet Gugenheim,
twenty-five. Both had reached the age of reason, and the union brought
them much happiness. On their honeymoon he began work in competition
for a prize offered by the Berlin Academy for the best essay on "Whether
the Metaphysical Sciences Are Susceptible of Such Evidence as the
Mathematical." Among other contestants was Immanuel Kant.
Mendelssohn's contribution won (1763), bringing him fifty ducats and
international renown.

One of the contestants was Thomas Abt, a professor in Frankfurt-am-
Oder. In a long correspondence with Mendelssohn he expressed doubts as
to the immortality of the soul, and mourned that the loss of that belief
might undermine the moral code and deprive misfortune of its last
consolation. Partly as a result of this exchange, Mendelssohn composed
his most famous work: 'Phaidon, oder Uber die Unsterblichkeit der
Seele'. Like its Platonic exemplar, it was cast in dialogue form and
popular style. The soul of man (ran the argument) is clearly different
from matter; we may therefore believe that it does not share the body's
fate; and if we believe in God we can hardly suppose that he would
deceive us by implanting in our minds a hope without basis in truth.
Moreover [as Kant was to hold] the soul has a natural drive toward self-
perfection; this cannot be attained in our lifetime; God must surely
allow the soul to survive the death of the body. "Without God,
Providence, and immortality," Mendelssohn felt, "all the goods of life
would lose their worth in my eyes, and our earthly life would be ...
like wandering in wind and weather without the consoling prospect of
finding cover and protection at night." The demonstrations were
fragile, but the style of the work delighted many readers; the charm of
Plato's dialogues seemed to have been recaptured; indeed, "the German
Plato" became another name for Mendelssohn. The little book ran through
fifteen editions, and was translated into nearly all European languages
as well as Hebrew; it was, in its time, the most widely read nonfiction
book in Germany. Herder and Goethe joined in its praise. Lavater
visited the author, examined his head and face, and announced that every
bump and line revealed the soul of Socrates.

Christians of diverse sects applauded the eloquent Jew, and two
Benedictine friars asked for his spiritual counsel. But in 1769
Lavater, who was as ardent a theologian as he was a phrenologist, caused
a flurry by making a public appeal to Mendelssohn to become a Christian.
Mendelssohn replied in 'Schreiben an den Herrn Diaconus Lavater' (1770).
He admitted defects in Judaism and Jewish life, but pointed out that
such abuses develop in every religion in the course of its history; he
asked Lavater to consider the hardships suffered by the Jews in
Christendom, and added: "He who knows the state in which we now are, and
has a humane heart, will understand more than I can express"; and he
concluded: "Of the essentials of my faith I am so firmly ... assured
that I call God to witness that I will adhere to my fundamental creed as
long as my soul does not assume another nature." Lavater was moved, and
humbly apologized for having issued his appeal. But a swarm of
pamphleteers denounced Mendelssohn as an infidel, and some orthodox Jews
condemned him for admitting that abuses had crept into Jewish religious
usages. For a time the controversy generated more discussion than
national politics or the decline of Frederick's health.

Mendelssohn's own health suffered from the turmoil; for several
months in 1771 he had to refrain from all mental activity. On
recovering his strength he devoted more of his time than before to the
relief of his co-religionists. When some cantons in Switzerland were
preparing further restrictions against the Jews he asked Lavater to
interfere; Lavater did, with good effect. When the Dresden authorities
planned to expel several hundred Jews Mendelssohn used his friendship
with a local official to secure an accommodation. He began in 1778 to
publish his German translation of the Pentateuch; issued in 1783, this
aroused another storm. To write some of the commentaries on the text
Mendelssohn had engaged Herz Homberg, who was associated with Berlin
Jews quite estranged from the synagogue. Several rabbis banned the
translation, but it found its way into the Jewish communities; young
Jews learned German from it, and the next generation of Jews moved into
active participation in German intellectual life. Meanwhile (1779)
Lessing published his drama 'Nathan der Weise', which hundreds of
readers interpreted as an exaltation of his Jewish friend.

Now at the height of his fame and influence Mendelssohn persuaded
Marcus Herz to translate into German that 'Vindication of the Jews'
which Manasseh ben Israel had addressed to the English people in 1656.
To the translation he added a preface on "The Salvation of the Jews"
(1782), in which he pleaded with the rabbis to abandon their right of
excommunication. He followed this in 1783 with an eloquent work called
'Jerusalem, oder Uber religiose Macht und Judenthum' ('On Religious
Authority and Judaism'), in which he reaffirmed his Judaic faith, called
upon the Jews to come out of the ghetto and take their part in Western
culture, urged the separation of church and state, condemned any
compulsion of belief, and proposed that states be judged by the degree
in which they relied on persuasion rather than force. Kant, now too at
his zenith, wrote to the author a letter that deserves a place in the
annals of friendship:

I consider this book the herald of a great reform,
which will affect not alone your people but also others.
You have succeeded in combining your religion with such
a degree of freedom of conscience as was never imagined
possible.... You have, at the same time, so clearly and
thoroughly demonstrated the necessity of unlimited
freedom of conscience in every religion, that ultimately
our [Lutheran] Church will also be led to consider how
to remove from its midst everything that disturbs or
oppresses conscience.

The book was attacked by orthodox leaders Christian or Jewish, but it
contributed immensely to the liberation and Westernization of the Jews.

In 1783 Mendelssohn was only fifty-four, but he had always been
frail in physique and health, and he felt that he had not much longer to
live. In his final years he delivered to his children and some friends
lectures defining his religious creed; these were published in 1785 as
'Morgenstunden, oder Vorlesungen uber das Dasein Gottes' ('Morning
Hours, or Lectures on the Existence of God'). In his last year he was
shocked to learn, from a book by Jacobi, that his dear friend Lessing,
now dead, had long adhered to Spinoza's pantheism. He could not believe
it. He wrote a passionate defense of Lessing -- 'An die Freunde
Lessings'. While taking the manuscript to the publishers he caught a
cold; and in the course of that sickness he died of an apoplectic
stroke, January 4, 1786. Christians joined with Jews in erecting a
statue to him in Dessau, the city of his birth.

He was one of the most influential figures of his generation.
Inspired by his writings and his successful crossings of religious
frontiers, young Jews came out of the ghetto, and soon made their mark
in literature, science, and philosophy. Marcus Herz went to the
University of Konigsberg as a medical student; he took several of Kant's
courses, and became the great epistemolog's assistant and friend; it was
he who, reading the 'Critique of Pure Reason' in manuscript, stopped
halfway for fear that if he continued he would go insane. Back in
Berlin, he developed a large practice as a physician, and gave lectures
in physics and philosophy to audiences of Christians and Jews. His
wife, Henrietta, beautiful and accomplished, opened a salon which, at
the turn of the century, was a leading rendezvous of intellectual
Berlin; there came Wilhelm von Humboldt, Schleiermacher, Friedrich
Schlegel, Mirabeau 'fils' ... The resultant mixture of ideas might not
have pleased Mendelssohn. Several of his children became converts to
Christianity. Two of his daughters joined Henrietta Herz and others in
a "Tugenbund," or Band of Virtue, which honored "elective affinities"
above marital fidelity. Henrietta carried on a liaison with
Schleiermacher; Dorothea Mendelssohn left her husband to be the mistress
and then loyal wife of Friedrich Schlegel, and ended as a Roman
Catholic; Henrietta Mendelssohn also accepted the Roman creed; and
Abraham Mendelssohn caused his children, including Felix, to be baptized
as Lutherans; the orthodox rabbis claimed that their fears had been
justified. These were incidental results of the new freedom; the more
lasting aspects of Mendelssohn's influence appeared in the intellectual,
social, and political liberation of the Jews.

Toward Freedom

Intellectually, the liberation took at this time the form of the
Haskalah -- a word which meant wisdom, but which came in this context to
signify the Jewish Enlightenment, the revolt of a rising number of Jews
against rabbinical and Talmudic domination, and their resolve to enter
actively into the stream of modern thought. These rebels learned
German, and some of them, especially in the families of merchants or
financiers, learned French; they read German freethinkers like Lessing,
Kant, Wieland, Herder, Schiller, and Goethe, and many of them delved
into Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Helvetius, and d'Holbach. A division
arose between liberal Jews, eager for modernity, and conservative Jews
who felt that devotion to the Talmud and the synagogue was the only way
to preserve the religious, ethnical, and ethical integrity of the Jewish

The Haskalah movement spread from Germany southward into Galicia and
Austria, eastward into Bohemia, Poland, and Russia. In Austria it was
accelerated by Joseph II's Toleranzpatent, which invited the Jews to
enter non-Jewish schools. When conservative rabbis opposed this,
Naphtali Wessely, a Jewish poet of Hamburg, pleaded with them, in an
eloquent Hebrew manifesto, to sanction the participation of Jews in
secular education; he urged the younger generation to replace Yiddish
with Hebrew and German, and to study science and philosophy as well as
the Bible and the Talmud. His views were rejected by the rabbis of
Austria; they were accepted by Jewish leaders in Trieste, Venice,
Ferrara, and Prague. From that time to ours the Jews have contributed
to science, philosophy, literature, music, and law far beyond their
proportion in the population.

Intellectual and economic developments promoted Jewish emancipation.
Catholic scholars like Richard Simon made rabbinical learning known to
Christian students of the Bible, and the Protestant theologian Jacques
Basnage wrote a friendly 'History of the Religion of the Jews' (1707).
The growth of commerce and finance brought Christians and Jews into
contacts that sometimes stimulated, but often reduced, racial hostility.
Jewish financiers played helpful and patriotic roles in several

Christian voices now rose to propose an end to religious
persecution. In 1781 Christian Wilhelm Dohm, a friend of Mendelssohn,
published at his suggestion the epochal tract 'Uber die bugerliche
Verbesserung der Juden in Deutschland' ('On the Civil Betterment of the
Jews in Germany'). The occasion for it was a plea sent to Mendelssohn
by Alsatian Jews, asking him to formulate a protest against their
disabilities. Dohm undertook the task, and enlarged it into a general
appeal for Jewish liberation. He described in impressive detail the
handicaps suffered by the Hebrews in Europe, and pointed out what a loss
it was to Western civilization that it made so little use of the
intellectual gifts of the Jews. "These principles of exclusion, equally
opposed to humanity and politics, bear the stamp of the Dark Ages, and
are unworthy of the enlightenment of our times." Dohm proposed that the
Jews be admitted to full freedom of worship, to educational
institutions, to all occupations, and to all civil rights except, for
the present, eligibility to office, for which they were not yet

His treatise aroused comment in many countries. Some opponents
charged him with having sold his pen to the Jews, but several Protestant
clergymen came to his defense. Johannes von Muller, the Swiss
historian, supported him, and asked that the works of Maimonides be
translated into German or French. The Toleration Patent of 1782 in
Austria and the political emancipation of the Jews in the United States
(1783) gave impetus to the liberation movement. The French government
responded meagerly by removing (1784) personal taxes that had burdened
the Jews. The Marquis de Mirabeau shared with Malesherbes in securing
this relief; and his son, the Comte de Mirabeau, helped with his essay
'On Mendelssohn and the Political Reform of the Jews' (1787). The Abbe
Henri Gregoire advanced the matter with a prize-winning essay, 'Sur la
regeneration physique, morale, et politique des Juifs' (1789).

Final political emancipation came only with the Revolution. The
Declaration of the Rights of Man proclaimed by the National Assembly
(August 27, 1789) implied it, and on September 27, 1791, the Constituent
Assembly voted full civil rights to all the Jews of France. The armies
of the Revolution or of Napoleon brought freedom to the Jews of Holland
in 1796, of Venice in 1797, of Mainz in 1798, of Rome in 1810, of
Frankfurt in 1811. For the Jews the Middle Ages had at last come to an

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 10: "Rousseau and Revolution"
Chapter 25, The Jews
pages 637-642
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-12-20 23:08:24 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 1014 lines ]

Life under the Revolution


[Part 1 of 2]

by Will and Ariel Durant

I. The New Classes

HERE we stop time in its flight, and look at a people suffering
concentrated history. Like the twenty years between Caesar's crossing
of the Rubicon and the accession of Augustus (49-29 B.C.), the twenty-
six years between the taking of the Bastille and the final abdication of
Napoleon (1789-1815) were as rich in memorable events as centuries had
been in less convulsive and remolding periods. Nevertheless, under the
tremors of government, the flux of institutions, and the exaltations of
genius, the elements and graces of civilization carried on: the
production and distribution of food and goods, the quest and
transmission of knowledge, the discipline of instinct and character, the
exchanges of affection, the mitigations of toil and strife with art,
letters, charity, games, and song; the transmutations of imagination,
faith, and hope. And indeed were not these the reality and continuum of
history, beside which the surface agitations of governments and heroes
were the incidental and evanescent contours of a dream?

1. The peasantry. Many of them, in 1789, were still day laborers
or sharecroppers, working other men's land; but by 1793 half the soil of
France was owned by peasants, most of whom had bought their acres at
bargain prices from the confiscated properties of the Church; and all
but a few peasants had freed themselves from feudal dues. The stimulus
of ownership turned labor from drudgery into devotion, daily adding to
the surplus that built homes and comforts, churches and schools -- if
only the taxgatherer could be propitiated or deceived. And taxes could
be paid with assignats -- government paper money -- at their face value,
while products could be sold for assignats multiplied a hundred times to
equal their nominal worth. Never had the French earth been so zealously
and fruitfully tilled.

This liberation of the largest class in a now casteless society was
the most visible and lasting effect of the Revolution. These sturdy
providers became the strongest defenders of the Revolution, for it had
given them the land, which a Bourbon restoration might take away. For
the same reason they supported Napoleon, and for fifteen years gave him
half of their sons. As proud property owners they allied themselves
politically with the bourgeoisie, and served, throughout the nineteenth
century, as conservative ballast amid the repeated paroxysms of the

Pledged to equality of rights, the Convention (1793) abolished
primogeniture, and ruled that property must be willed in equal shares to
all the testator's children, including those born out of wedlock but
acknowledged by the father. This legislation had important results,
moral and economic: reluctant to condemn their heirs to poverty by
periodic divisions of the patrimony among many children, the French
cultivated the old arts of family limitation. The peasants remained
prosperous, but the population of France grew slowly during the
nineteenth century -- from 28 million in 1800 to 39 million in 1914,
while that of Germany rose from 21 million to 67 million. Prospering on
the land, French peasants were slow to move into towns and factories; so
France remained predominantly agricultural, while England and Germany
developed industry and technology, excelled in war, and dominated

2. The proletariat. Poverty remained, and was most severe, among
the landless peasants, the miners, and the workers and tradesmen in the
towns. Men delved into the earth to find the metals and minerals for
industry and war; saltpeter was necessary to gunpowder, and coal
increasingly replaced wood as a generator of motive power. Towns were
bright and lively by day, dark and subdued at night, till 1793, when the
communes installed street lighting in Paris. Craftsmen worked in their
candle-lit shops; tradesmen displayed, and peddlers hawked, their goods;
at the center an open market; near the summit a castle and a church; on
the outskirts a factory or two. Guilds were abolished in 1791, and the
National Assembly declared that henceforth every person was to be "free
to do such business, exercise such profession, art, or trade, as he may
choose." The "Law of Le Chapel" (in 1791) forbade workers to combine
for united economic action; this prohibition remained in effect till
1884. Strikes were forbidden but frequent and sporadic. The workers
struggled to keep their wages from being diluted by inflation of the
currency; generally, however, they kept their wages abreast of rising
prices. After the fall of Robespierre the employers tightened their
control, and the condition of the proletariat worsened. By 1795 the
sansculottes were as poor and harassed as before the Revolution. By
1799 they had lost faith in the Revolution, and in 1800 they submitted
hopefully to the dictatorship of Napoleon.

3. The bourgeoisie triumphed in the Revolution because it had more
money and brains than either the aristocracy or the plebs. It purchased
from the state the most lucrative portions of the property that had been
confiscated from the Church. Bourgeois wealth was not tied up in
immobile land; it could be transferred from place to place, from purpose
to purpose, from person to person, and from anywhere to any legislator.
The bourgeoisie could pay for troops and governments and insurrectionary
crowds. It had acquired experience in the administration of the state;
it knew how to collect taxes, and it influenced the Treasury through its
loans. It was more practically educated than the nobility or the
clergy, and was better equipped to rule a society in which money was the
circulating blood. It looked upon poverty as the punishment for
stupidity, and upon its own riches as the just reward of application and
intelligence. It took no stock in government by sansculottes; it
denounced the interruption of government by proletarian uprisings as an
intolerable impertinence. It was resolved that when the sound and fury
of revolution subsided, the bourgeoisie would be master of the state.

It was in France a commercial rather than an industrial bourgeoisie.
There was no such replacement of farms by pasturage as was then driving
English peasants from their fields to the towns to form a cheap labor
force for factories; and the British blockade prevented in France the
export trade that could sustain expanding industries. So the factory
system developed more slowly in France than in England. There were some
substantial capitalistic organizations in Paris, Lyons, Lille,
Toulouse..., but most French industry was still in the craft and shop
stage, and even the capitalists delegated much handwork to rural or
other homes. Except for wartime authoritarian flurries, and some
Jacobin flirtations with socialism, the Revolutionary government
accepted the Physiocratic theory of free enterprise as the most
stimulating and productive economic system. The peace treaties with
Prussia in 1795 and Austria in 1797 released the restrictions upon the
economy, and French capitalism, like the English and the American,
entered the nineteenth century with the blessings of a government that
governed least.

4. The aristocracy had lost all power in the direction of the
economy or the government. Most of its members were still 'emigres',
living abroad in humiliating occupations; their properties had been
confiscated, their incomes had stopped. Of those nobles who had
remained or had returned, many were guillotined, some joined the
Revolution, the rest, till 1794, hid in precarious obscurity and
repeated harassment on their estates. Under the Directory these
disabilities were lessened; many 'emigres' came back; some recovered
part of their property; and by 1797 many voices whispered that only a
monarchy, supported and checked by a functioning aristocracy, could
restore order and security to French life. Napoleon agreed with them,
but after his own fashion, and in his own time.

5. Religion in France, as the Revolution neared its end, was
learning to get along without the help of the state. Protestants, then
five percent of the population, were freed from all civil disabilities;
the limited freedom of worship granted them by Louis XVI in 1787 was
made complete by the Constitution of 1791. A decree of September 28,
1791, extended all civil rights to the Jews of France, and set them on a
legal equality with all other citizens.

The Catholic clergy, formerly the First Estate, now suffered from
the hostility of a Voltairean anticlerical government. The upper
classes had lost belief in the doctrines of the Church; the middle
classes had acquired most of its landed wealth; by 1793 the property of
the Church, once valued at two and a half billion livres, had been sold
to its enemies. In Italy the Papacy had been deprived of its states and
their revenues, and Pius VI had been made a prisoner. Thousands of
French priests had fled to other countries, and many of them were living
on Protestant alms. Hundreds of churches had been closed, or had had
their treasures confiscated. Church bells had been silenced or melted
down. Voltaire and Diderot, Helvetius and d'Holbach had apparently won
their war against the Church.

The victory was not clear. The Church had lost its wealth and
political power, but its vital roots remained in the loyalty of the
clergy and the needs and hopes of the people. Many males in the large
cities had strayed from the faith; yet nearly all became churchgoers for
a day on Christmas and Easter; and at the height of the Revolution (May,
1793), when a priest carried the consecrated Host along a Paris street,
all onlookers (an eyewitness reported) -- "men, women, and children --
fell on their knees in adoration." Even skeptics must have felt the
mesmerism of the ceremony, the never-fading beauty of the tale; and they
may have pondered Pascal's "wager" -- that one would be wise to believe,
since in the end the believer would lose nothing, unbelievers
everything, if proved wrong.

Under the Directory the French nation was divided between a people
slowly returning to its traditional faith and a government resolved to
establish, by law and education, a purely secular civilization. On
October 8, 1798, the purged and newly radical Directory sent to all
teachers in the departmental schools the following instructions:

You must exclude from your teaching all that relates
to the dogmas or rites of any religion or sect whatever.
The Constitution certainly tolerates them, but the
teaching of them is not part of public instruction, nor
can it ever be. The Constitution is founded on the
basis of universal morality; and it is this morality of
all times, all places, all religions -- this law
engraven on the tablets of the human family -- it is
this that must be the soul of your teaching, the object
of your precepts, and the connecting link of your
studies, as it is the binding knot of Society.

Here, clearly put, was one of the most difficult enterprises of the
Revolution, as it is one of the difficult problems of our time: to build
a social order upon a system of morality independent of religious
belief. Napoleon was to judge the proposal impracticable; America was
to cleave to it till our time.

6. Education. So the state took control of the schools from the
Church, and strove to make them the nursery of intelligence, morality,
and patriotism. On April 21, 1792, Condorcet, as chairman of public
instruction, presented to the Legislative Assembly an historic report
pleading for the reorganization of education, so that the "ever-
increasing progress of enlightenment may open an inexhaustible source of
aid to our needs, of remedies for our ills, of means to individual
happiness and common prosperity." War delayed the implementation of
this ideal, but on May 4, 1793, Condorcet renewed the appeal, though on
a narrower basis. "The country," he said, "has a right to bring up its
own children; it cannot confide this trust to family pride nor to the
prejudices of individuals.... Education [should be] common and equal
for all French people.... We stamp upon it a great character, analogous
to the nature of our government and the sublime doctrines of our
republic." This formulation seemed to substitute one form of
indoctrination for another -- nationalist instead of Catholic;
nationalism was to be the official religion. On October 28, 1793, the
Convention ordained that no ecclesiastic could be appointed as teacher
in state schools. On December 19 it proclaimed that all primary schools
were to be free, and attendance at them was made compulsory on all boys.
Girls were expected to get education from their mothers, or from
convents or tutors.

The reorganization of secondary schools had to wait for peace; even
so, on February 25, 1794, the Convention began to establish those
"Ecoles Centrales" which were to be the departmental lycees, or high
schools, of the future. Special schools were opened for mines, public
works, astronomy, music, arts and crafts; and on September 28, 1794, the
Ecole Polytechnique began its prestigious career. The French Academy
was suppressed on August 8, 1793, as an asylum of old reactionaries, but
on October 25, 1795, the Convention inaugurated the Institut National de
France, which was to include various academies for the encouragement and
regulation of all sciences and arts. Here gathered the scientists and
scholars who carried on the intellectual traditions of the
Enlightenment, and gave lasting significance to Napoleon's foray into

7. The "Fourth Estate" -- the journalists and the press -- may have
been more influential than the schools in forming the mind and the mood
of France in these effervescent years. The people of Paris -- and,
somewhat less so, of France -- swallowed newsprint greedily every day.
Satirical sheets prospered, goring politicians and pundits to the
delight of the commonalty. The Revolution, in the Declaration of the
Rights of Man, had pledged itself to maintain the freedom of the press;
it did so throughout the rule of the National and Constituent Assemblies
(1789-91); but as the heat of party strife rose, each side signalized
its victories by limiting the publications of its enemies; in effect the
liberty of the press died with the execution of the King (January 21,
1793). On March 18 the Convention decreed death for "whosoever should
propose an agrarian law, or any law subversive of territorial,
commercial, or industrial property"; and on March 29 the triumphant
regicides persuaded the Convention to decree death for "whosoever should
be convicted of having composed or printed works or writings which might
provoke the ... reestablishment of royalty, or any other power
injurious to the sovereignty of the people." Robespierre had long
defended the freedom of the press, but after sending Hebert, Danton, and
Desmoulins to the guillotine he put an end to the journals that had
supported them. During the Terror all liberty of speech disappeared,
even in the Convention. The Directory restored freedom of the press in
1796, but revoked it a year later after the 'coup d'etat' of the 18th
Fructidor, and deported the editors of forty-two journals. Liberty of
speech and press was not destroyed by Napoleon; it was dead when he came
to power.

II. The New Morality

1. Morality and Law

Having discarded the religious basis of morals -- love and fear of a
watchful, recording, rewarding, and punishing God, and obedience to laws
and commandments ascribed to him -- the liberated spirits of France
found themselves with no defense, except through the ethical echoes of
their abandoned creeds, against their oldest, strongest, most
individualistic instincts, ingrained in them by primitive centuries of
hunger, greed, insecurity, and strife. Leaving the Christian ethic to
their wives and daughters, they cast about for a new conception that
might serve as a moral anchor in a sea of turbulent individuals who
feared nothing but force. They hoped to find this in 'civisme' --
citizenship in the sense of accepting the duties as well as the
privileges of belonging to an organized and protective society; in every
moral choice the individual, in return for that protection and many
communal services, must recognize the good of the community to be the
overriding law -- 'salus populi suprema lex'. It was a noble attempt to
establish a natural ethic. Going back across Christian centuries, the
philosopher deputies -- Mirabeau, Condorcet, Vergniaud, Roland, Saint-
Just, Robespierre -- discovered in classical history or legend the
models they sought: Leonidas, Epaminondas, Aristides, the Brutuses,
Catos, and Scipios; these were men to whom patriotism was the sovereign
obligation, so that a man might righteously kill his children or his
parents if he thought it necessary for the good of the state.

The first round of revolutionaries fared reasonably well with the
new morality. The second round began on August 10, 1792: the Paris
populace deposed Louis XVI, and assumed the irresponsible absolutism of
power. Under the Old Regime some graces of the aristocracy, some
touches of the humanitarianism preached by philosophers and saints, had
mitigated the natural tendencies of men to despoil and attack one
another; but now there followed, in macabre procession, the September
Massacres, the execution of the King and the Queen, and the spread of
the Terror and the guillotine in what one victim, Mme. Roland, described
as "a vast Golgotha of carnage." The Revolutionary leaders became
profiteers of war, making the liberated regions pay liberally for the
Rights of Man; the French armies were told to live on the conquered
regions; the art treasures of the liberated or the defeated belonged to
victorious France. Meanwhile legislators and army officers connived
with suppliers to cheat the government and the troops. In the 'laissez-
faire' economy, producers, distributors, and consumers labored to mulet
one another, or to evade the maximum allowable price or wage. These or
analogous deviltries had of course existed for some millenniums before
the Revolution; but in the attempt to control them the new morality of
'civisme' seemed as helpless as the fear of the gods.

As the Revolution increased the insecurity of life and the
instability of laws, the rising tensions in the people expressed
themselves in crime, and sought distraction in gambling. Duels
continued, but less frequently than before. Gambling was forbidden by
edicts of 1791 and 1792, but secret 'maisons de jeu' multiplied, and by
1794 there were three thousand gambling houses in Paris. During the
upper-class affluence of the Directory years men wagered large sums, and
many families were ruined by the turn of the wheel. In 1796 the
Directory entered the game by restoring the Loterie Nationale. In a
petition to the Convention the Tuileries section of the Paris Commune
asked for a law suppressing all gambling houses and brothels. "Without
morals," it argued, "there can be no law and order; without personal
safety, no liberty."

The Revolutionary governments labored to give a new system of laws
to a people excitable, violent, and left morally and legally unmoored by
the decline of faith and the death of the King. Voltaire had called for
a total revision of French law, and a unifying reconciliation of the 360
provincial or district codes into one coherent digest for all of France.
That call was not heard amid the uproar of revolution; it had to wait
for Napoleon. In 1780 the Academy of Chalons-sur-Marne offered a prize
for the best essay on "The Best Way of Mitigating the Harshness of
French Penal Law Without Endangering Public Safety." Louis XVI
responded by abolishing torture (1780), and in 1788 he announced his
intention to have all French criminal law revised into a consistent
national code; moreover, "we shall seek all means of mitigating the
severity of punishments without compromising good order." The
conservative lawyers then dominating the parlements of Paris, Metz, and
Besancon opposed the plan, and the King, fighting for his life, laid it

The 'cahiers' presented to the States-General of 1789 appealed for
several legal reforms: trials should be public, the accused should be
allowed the help of counsel, 'lettres de cachet' [arrest without trial]
should be banned, trial by jury should be established. In June the King
announced an end to 'lettres de cachet', and the other reforms were soon
made law by the Constituent Assembly. The jury system, which had
existed in medieval France, was restored. The legislators were now
sufficiently immune to ecclesiastical influence, and alert to business
needs, to proclaim, October 3, 1789 (centuries after the fact), that the
charging of interest was not a crime. Two laws of 1794 freed all slaves
in France and her colonies, and gave Negroes the rights of French
citizens. On the ground that "an absolutely free state cannot allow any
corporation within its bosom," diverse laws of 1792-94 forbade all
fraternities, academies, literary societies, religious organizations,
and business associations. Strangely enough, the Jacobin clubs were
spared, but labor unions were forbidden. The Revolution was rapidly
replacing the absolute monarch with the omnipotent state.

The diversity of old legislation, the enactment of new laws, and the
growing complexity of business relations fostered the multiplication of
lawyers, who now replaced the clergy as the first estate. Since the
dissolution of the 'parlements' they were not formally organized, but
their knowledge of the law in all its loopholes, and of legal procedure
in all its devices and delays, gave them a power which the state --
itself a conglomerate of lawyers -- found it hard to control. Citizens
began to protest against the law's delays, the subtleties of attorneys,
and the expensive legislation that made exasperatingly unreal the
equality of all citizens before the courts. The successive assemblies
tried various measures to reduce the number and the power of the
attorneys. In a fury of antilawyer laws they suppressed notaries
(September 23, 1790), closed all schools of law (September 15, 1793),
and decreed (October 24, 1793): "The office of attorney-at-law is
abolished, but litigants may empower mere mandatories to represent
them." These regulations, often evaded, remained on the books until
Napoleon reinstated the attorneys on March 18, 1800.

The Revolution made better headway in reforming the criminal code.
Procedure was made more public; there was to be an end (for a while) to
secrecy of examinations and anonymity of witnesses. Prisons ceased to
be prime instruments of torture; in many prisons the inmates were
allowed to bring in books and furniture, and to pay for imported meals;
persons jailed as suspects, but not yet convicted, might visit one
another, play games, and at least play at love; we hear of some warm
affairs, like that of prisoner Josephine de Beauharnais with prisoner
General Hoche. The Convention, which had sanctioned hundreds of
executions, announced at its final session (October 26, 1795): "The
penalty of death will be abolished throughout the French Republic from
the day of the proclamation of peace."

Meanwhile the Revolution could claim that it had improved the method
of capital punishment. In 1789 Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, member of
the States-General, proposed to replace the hangman and the axe man with
a massive mechanical blade whose fall would separate a man from his head
before he had any time to feel physical pain. The idea was not new; it
had been used in Italy and Germany since the thirteenth century. After
some experimental use of the doctor's knife on dead bodies, the
"guillotine" was erected (April 25, 1792) in the Place de Greve (now the
Place de la Hotel de Ville) and then elsewhere, and executions were
accelerated. For a time they attracted large crowds, some of them
merry, and including women and children; but soon they were so frequent
that they became a negligible commonplace; "people," reported a
contemporary, "just went on working in their shops when the tumbrils
passed, not even bothering to raise their heads." Lowered heads lasted

2. Sexual Morality

Between the tumbrils, among the ruins, love and venery survived.
The Revolution had neglected the hospitals, but there, and on
battlefields and in the slums, charity eased pain and grief, goodness
countered evil, and parental affection survived filial independence.
Many sons wondered at parental inability to understand their
revolutionary ardor and new ways; some of them threw off the old moral
restraints, and became careless epicureans. Promiscuity flourished,
venereal disease spread, foundlings multiplied, perversions floundered

Comte Donatien-Alphonse-Francois de Sade (1740-1814) came of a
highplaced Provencal family, rose to be governor general of the
districts Bresse and Bugey, and seemed destined for the life of a
provincial administrator. But he seethed and fermented with sexual
imagery and desires, and sought for a philosophy that might justify
them. After an affair involving four girls, he was sentenced to death
at Aix-en-Provence (1772) for "crimes of poisoning and sodomy." He
escaped, was captured, escaped, committed further enormities, fled to
Italy, returned to France, was arrested in Paris, was imprisoned in
Vincennes (1778-84), in the Bastille, and at Charenton (1789). Released
in 1790, he supported the Revolution; in 1792 he was secretary of the
Section des Piques. During the Terror he was arrested on the false
assumption that he was a returned 'emigre'. He was released after a
year, but in 1801, under Napoleon, he was imprisoned for having
published Justine (1791) and Juliette (1792). These were novels of
sexual experience, normal and abnormal; the author preferred the
abnormal, and spent his considerable literary skill in defending it; all
sexual desires, he argued, are natural, and should be indulged with a
clear conscience, even to deriving erotic pleasure from the infliction
of pain; in this last sense he became immortal with a word. He spent
the last years of his life in various prisons, wrote clever plays, and
died in the insane asylum at Charenton.

We hear of homosexuality among college students during the
Revolution, and may presume its popularity in jails. Prostitutes and
brothels were especially numerous near the Palais-Royal, in the Gardens
of the Tuileries, in the Rue St.-Hilaire and the Rue des Petits Champs;
they could be found also at theaters and the opera, and even in the
galleries of the Legislative Assembly and the Convention. Pamphlets
were circulated giving the addresses and fees of houses and women. On
April 24, 1793, the Temple section issued an order: "The General
Assembly, ... desiring to put a stop to the incalculable misfortune
caused by the dissoluteness of public morals, and by the lubricity and
immodesty of the female sex, hereby nominates commissioners," etc.
Other sections took up the campaign; private patrols were formed, and
some careless offenders were arrested. Robespierre supported the
effort, but after his death the assiduity of the guardians relaxed, the
'filles' reappeared, and prospered under the Directory, when women of
wide sexual experience became leaders of fashion and society.

The evil may have been mitigated by the increasing facility of early
marriage. No priest was necessary; after September 20, 1792, only civil
marriage was legal; and this required merely a mutual pledge signed
before a civil authority. In the lower classes there were many cases of
a couple living together unwed and unmolested. Bastards were plentiful;
in 1796 France recorded 44,000 foundlings. Between 1789 and 1839,
twenty-four percent of all brides in the typical town of Meulan were
pregnant when they came to the altar. As in the Ancien Regime, adultery
in the husband was often condoned; men of means were likely to have
mistresses, and under the Directory these were displayed as openly as
wives. Divorce was legalized by a decree of September 20, 1792;
thereafter it could be obtained through mutual agreement before a
municipal officer.

Paternal authority was lessened by the moderate growth of women's
legal rights, and still more by the self-assertion of emancipated youth.
Anne Plumptre, who traveled in France in 1802, reported a gardener as
telling her:

"During the Revolution we dared not scold our
children for their faults. Those who called themselves
patriots regarded it as against the fundamental
principles of liberty to correct children. This made
these so unruly that very often, when a parent presumed
to scold his child, the latter would tell him to mind
his own business, adding, 'We are free and equal; the
Republic is our only father, and no other.' ... It will
take a good many years to bring them back to minding."

Pornographic literature abounded, and (according to a contemporary
newspaper) was the favorite reading of the young. Some previously
radical parents began by 1795 (as in 1871) to send their sons to schools
directed by priests, in the hope of saving them from the general
loosening of manners and morals. For a time it seemed that the family
must be a casualty of the French Revolution, but the restoration of
discipline under Napoleon reprieved it until the Industrial Revolution
fell upon it with more gradual but more sustained and fundamental force.

Women had held a high place in the Old Regime through the grace and
refining influence of their manners, and by the cultivation of their
minds; but these developments were mostly confined to the aristocracy
and the upper middle class. By 1789, however, the women of the
commonalty visibly emerged into politics; they almost made the
Revolution by marching to Versailles and bringing King and Queen back to
Paris as the captives of a commune bursting with its newly discovered
power. [* Legend has probably exaggerated the role played in these
events by the exuberant courtesan Therese de Mericourt (1762-1817).] In
July, 1790, Condorcet published an article "On the Admission of Women to
the Rights of the State." In December an attempt was made by a Mme.
Aelders to establish clubs devoted to woman's liberation. Women made
themselves heard in the galleries of the Assemblies, but attempts to
organize them for the advancement of their political rights were lost in
the excitement of war, the fury of the Terror, and the conservative
reaction after Thermidor. Some gains were made: the wife, like the
husband, could sue for divorce, and the mother's consent, as well as the
father's, was required for the marriage of her children under age.
Under the Directory, women, though voteless, became an open power in
politics, promoting ministers and generals, and proudly displaying their
new freedom in manners, morals, and dress. Napoleon, aged twenty-six,
described them in 1795:

The women are everywhere -- at plays, on public
walks, in libraries. You see very pretty women in the
scholar's study room. Only here [in Paris], of all the
places on earth, do women deserve such influence, and
indeed the men are mad about them, think of nothing
else, and live only through and for them. A woman, in
order to know what is due her, and what power she has,
must live in Paris for six months.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 11: "The Age of Napoleon"
Chapter 7, Life under the Revolution
pages 124-134
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-12-20 23:12:58 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 1014 lines ]

Life under the Revolution


[Part 2 of 2]

by Will and Ariel Durant

III. Manners

Like almost everything else, manners felt the swing of the pendulum
to revolt and return. As the aristocracy fled before the leveling storm
they took with them their lordly titles, courteous address, perfumed
language, flowery signatures, confident ease, and leisurely grace. Soon
the suavity of the salon, the decorum of the dance, and the diction of
the Academy became stigmata of the nobility, which might incur, for
their practitioners, detention as suspect antediluvians who had escaped
the flood. By the end of 1792 all Frenchmen in France had become
'citoyens', all Frenchwomen 'citoyennes', in careful equality; no one
was 'Monsieur'ed or 'Madam'ed; and the courtly 'vous' of singular
address was replaced by the 'tu' and 'toi' of the home and the street.
Nevertheless, as early as 1795, this 'tutoiement' was passing out of
style, 'vous' was back in fashion, 'Monsieur' and 'Madame' were
displacing 'Citoyen' and 'Citoyenne'. Under Napoleon, titles
reappeared; by 1810 there were more of them than ever before.

Dress changed more slowly. The well-to-do male had long since
adopted, and now refused to discard, the once noble accouterment of the
three-cornered high-crowned hat, silk shirt, flowing bow tie, colored
and embroidered waistcoat, full-dress coat reaching to the knee,
breeches ending at various levels below the knees, silk stockings, and
square-toed buckled shoes. In 1793 the Committee of Public Safety tried
to "modify the present national costume, so as to render it appropriate
to republican habits and the character of the Revolution"; but only the
lower middle class adopted the long trousers of the workingmen and
tradesmen. Robespierre himself continued to dress like a lord, and
nothing surpassed in splendor the official costumes of the Directors,
paced by Barras. Not till 1830 did pantaloons win the battle against
knee breeches ('culottes'). Only the sansculottes wore the red bonnet
of revolution, and the carmagnole. [* The carmagnole led a double life:
it was the song and jig made popular by the workers of southern France,
and also the short woolen jacket worn by immigrant laborers from Italy.
Carmagnola is a town in Piedmont.]

The dress of women was affected by the Revolution's belief that it
was following in the footsteps of republican Rome and Periclean Greece.
Jacques-Louis David, who dominated French art from 1789 to 1815, took
classic heroes for his early subjects, and dressed them in classic
styles. So the fashionable women of Paris, after the fall of the
puritan Robespierre, discarded petticoats and chemises, and adopted as
their principal garment a simple flowing gown transparent enough to
reveal most of the soft contours that charmed the never satiated male.
The waistline was unusually high, supporting the breasts; the neckline
was low enough to offer an ample sample; and the sleeves were short
enough to display enticing arms. Caps were replaced by bandeaux, and
high-heeled shoes by heelless slippers. Doctors reported the deaths of
gaily dressed women who had been exposed, at the theater or on
promenade, to the quickly falling temperature of Paris evenings.
Meanwhile the Incroyables and the Merveilleuses -- Unbelievable male and
Marvelous female dandies -- labored to win attention by extravagant
garb. One group of women, appearing in male attire before the Council
of the Paris Communes in 1792, received a gentle reprimand from
Chaumette, its 'procureur general': "You rash women, who want to be men,
aren't you content with your lot as it is? What more do you want? You
dominate our senses; the legislator and the magistrate are at your feet,
your despotism is the only one our strength cannot combat, because it is
the despotism of love, and consequently a work of nature. In the name
of that very nature, remain as nature intended you."

Women, however, were sure they could improve upon nature. In an
advertisement in the 'Moniteur' for August 15, 1792, Mme. Broquin
announced that she had not yet run out of her "famous powder for dyeing
red or white hair chestnut or black, on a single application." If
necessary, unsatisfactory hair was covered with a wig -- made, in many
cases, from the cut tresses of guillotined young women. In 1796 it was
quite ordinary for men of the upper and middle strata to wear their hair
long and in a braid.

During the first two years of the Revolution the 800,000 population
of Paris carried on its usual life, with only incidental attention to
what was going on in the Assembly or the jails. Life was pleasant
enough then for the upper classes: families continued to exchange visits
and dinners, to attend dances, parties, concerts, and plays. Even
during the violent period between the September Massacres of 1792 and
the fall of Robespierre in July 1794, when there were 2,800 executions
in Paris, life for nearly all the survivors went its customary round of
work and play, of sexual pursuit and parental love. Sebastien Mercier
reported in 1794:

Foreigners reading our newspapers imagine us all
covered with blood, in rags, and living wretched lives.
Judge of their surprise when they reach that magnificent
avenue in the Champs Elysees, on either side of which
are elegant phaetons and charming, lovely women; and
then ... that magical perspective opening out over the
Tuileries and ... those splendid gardens, now more
luxuriant and better tended than ever!

There were games -- ball games, tennis, riding, horse races,
athletic contests ... There were amusement parks like the Tivoli
Gardens, where -- like twelve thousand others on a pleasant day -- you
could get your fortune told, buy dispensables in the boutiques, watch
fireworks, tight-rope walkers, or balloon ascensions, hear concerts, or
put your youngsters on the merry-go-round to play the 'jeu de bagues'
(catching the rings). You might sit in an open-air cafe, or under the
pavilion of the Cafe de Foy, or in a high-class cafe like Tortoni's or
Frascati's, or follow the tourists into night spots like the Caveau
(Cellar), or the Sauvage, or Les Aveugles (where blind musicians
entertained). You could go to a club to read or chat or hear political
debate. You could attend one of the complex and colorful festivals
organized by the state and decorated by famous artists like David. If
you wished to try the new dance -- the waltz -- just imported from
Germany, you could find a partner in some one of the three hundred
public ballrooms in the Paris of the Directory.

Now (1795), in the subsiding years of the Revolution, some 'emigres'
were allowed to return; hidden nobles ventured from their protective
lairs, and the bourgeoisie displayed its wealth in expensive homes and
furniture, in jeweled women and lavish entertainments. The people of
Paris emerged from their apartments and tenements to sample the sun or
the evening air in the gardens of the Tuileries or the Luxembourg, or
along the Champs-Elysees. Women blossomed out in their recklessly
charming costumes, their pictured fans that said more than words, their
gracefully shaped shoes that made concealed feet alluring. "Society"

But the hundred or so families that now constituted it were not the
pedigreed gentry and world-famous 'philosophes' who had sparkled in the
salons of pre-Revolution nights; they were mostly the 'nouveaux-riches'
who had garnered livres from ecclesiastical realty, army contracts,
mercantile monopolies, financial finesse, or political friends. Some
scattered survivors from Bourbon days came to the homes of Mme. de
Genlis or the widows Condorcet and Helvetius; but most of the salons
that opened after the death of Robespierre (Mme. de Stael's circle
excepted) had no talent for brilliant conversation, and lacked the ease
that in older times had come from long security in landed wealth. The
top salon now was the one that met in the comfortable rooms of Director
Barras in the Luxembourg Palace, or at his Chateau de Grosbois; and its
allure was not in the lore of philosophers but in the beauty and smiles
of Mmes. Tallien and Josephine de Beauharnais.

Josephine was not yet Bonaparte, and Mme. Tallien was no longer
Tallien's wife. Married to him on December 26, 1794, and acclaimed for
a while as "Notre Dame de Thermidor," she had left the fading Terrorist
soon afterward, and had become the mistress of Barras. Some journalists
gibed at her morals, but most of them returned her smiles, for there was
nothing haughty in her beauty, and she was known for many kindnesses to
women as well as to men. The Duchesse d'Abrantes described her later as
"the Capitoline Venus, but even more lovely than the work of Pheidias;
for you perceived in her the same perfection of features, the same
symmetry in arms, hands, and feet, the whole animated by a benevolent
expression." [* She married, in 1805, the Comte de Caraman (the future
Prince de Chimay), and died in 1835.] It was one virtue of Barras that
he was generous to her and to Josephine, appreciated their beauty in no
merely sexual way, shared it, in his receptions, with hundreds of
potential rivals, and put his blessing upon Napoleon's capture of

IV. Music and Drama

Every grade of music flourished. You could get encores from a
street singer for a coin, or you could join a crowd and frighten the
bourgeois with "The Carmagnole" or "Ca ira," or you could shake the
frontiers with "The Marseillaise," of which Rouget de Lisle had written
all but the title. In the Concert-Feydeau you could marvel at Dominique
Garat, the Caruso of his time, whose voice could evoke tremors in hearts
and rafters, and was famous throughout Europe for its range. Amid the
Terror of 1793 the Convention inaugurated the Institut National de
Musique, and two years later it expanded this into the Conservatoire de
Musique, granting it 240,000 livres per year for the free tuition of six
hundred students. On the night when Robespierre was shot a Parisian
could have heard 'Armide' at the Opera, or 'Paul et Virginie' at the

Opera flourished during the Revolution. Besides putting Bernardin
de Saint-Pierre's idyl to music in 1794, Jean-Francois Lesueur
(1760-1837) scored another success, in the same year, with Fenelon's
'Telemaque'; he aroused all France with the noise and terror of 'La
Caverne', which received seven hundred performances; he continued to
produce during Napoleon's ascendancy, and lived long enough to teach
Berlioz and Gounod. In a much shorter life Etienne Mehul (1763-1817)
wrote over forty operas for the Opera-Comique, while his massive
chorales -- 'Hymne a la raison' (1793) and 'Chant du depart' (1794) --
made him the musical idol of the Revolution. [ * During the Revolution
the term 'opera-comique' ceased to mean a musical comedy, and was
applied to any opera, tragic or comic, that contained spoken dialogue.
The Theatre de l'Opera-Comique was henceforth allowed to compete with
the Academie de Musique in producing "serious" opera. About this time,
too, some composers, like Mehul in 'Ariodant' (1799), arranged to
associate certain recurring orchestral passages with corresponding
personages or situations; so began the leitmotif.]

The greatest music-maker in the France of the Revolution was Maria
Luigi Carlo Salvatore Cherubini. Born in Florence in 1760, "I began to
learn music at six, and composition at nine." By the age of sixteen he
had composed three Masses, a Magnificat, a Te Deum, an oratorio, and
three cantatas. In 1777 Leopold, the benevolent grand duke of Tuscany,
granted him an allowance to study with Giuseppe Sarti at Bologna; in
four years Cherubini became a master of contrapuntal composition. In
1784 he was invited to London, but he did not do well, and in 1786 he
moved to Paris, which, except for short intervals, remained his home
till his death in 1842. In his first opera there, 'Demophon' (1788), he
abandoned the lighthearted Neapolitan style of subordinating the story
and the orchestra to arias, and followed Gluck into "grand opera," in
which the arias were kept secondary to the development of the theme, and
to choral and orchestral music. His greatest successes in the Paris of
the Revolution were 'Lodoiska' (1791) and 'Medee' (1797). With his
still more famous 'Les Deux Journees' (1800) he began a troubled career
under Napoleon. We may rejoin him under that shooting star.

There were over thirty theaters in Revolutionary Paris, and nearly
all were crowded night after night, even during the Terror. Actors had
been freed by the Revolution from the disabilities long since laid upon
them by the Church; they could smile at excommunications, and at the
exclusion of their cadavers from Christian cemeteries. But they were
subjected (1790-95) to a more alert censorship: the Convention required
that no comedy should contain any aristocratic hero or sentiments; the
theater was made an instrument of government propaganda. Comedy sank to
a low level, and new tragedies followed the revolutionary line as well
as the classic unities.

As usual the leading actors were more famous than the statesmen, and
some, like Francois-Joseph Talma, were much more loved. His father was
a valet who became a dentist, went to London, prospered, and sent his
son to France for an education. After graduation Francois returned to
serve as assistant to his father. He learned English, read Shakespeare,
saw him performed, and joined a troupe of French actors playing in
England. Back in France, he was admitted to the Comedie-Francaise, and
made his debut in 1787 as Seide in Voltaire's 'Mahomet'. His well-
proportioned figure, his classically chiseled features, his thick black
hair and brilliant black eyes, helped him to advance, but his support of
the Revolution alienated most of the company, which owed its existence
to the favor of the King.

In 1785 Talma saw David's picture 'The Oath of the Horatii'; he was
struck not only by its dramatic power but by its careful fidelity to
ancient dress. He resolved to introduce the same veracity into the
costumes for his stage appearances. He astonished his confreres when he
appeared in tunic and sandals, and with bare arms and legs, to play
Proculus in Voltaire's 'Brutus'.

He became friends with David, and absorbed some of his revolutionary
ardor. When he played Marie-Joseph de Chenier's 'Charles IX' (November
4, 1789) he put such passion into the into the antimonarchical passages
-- which pictured the young King as ordering the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew's Eve -- that he shocked most of his audience, and many of
his companions, who still felt some loyalty to Louis XVI. As the
Revolution warmed, the conflict between the "Reds" and the "Blacks" in
the company and in the audience became so violent -- leading to duels --
that Talma, Mme. Vestris (the leading tragedienne), and other actors
broke away from the royally privileged Comedie-Francaise, and set up
their own company in the Theatre de la Republique Francaise near the
Palais-Royal. There Talma improved his art by studying the history,
character, and dress of each person and period in his repertoire. He
practiced control of his features to accompany every change of feeling
or thought; he reduced the declamatory tone of his speeches and the
theatrical expression of emotion; eventually he became the acknowledged
master of his art.

In 1793 the older company, renamed the Theatre de la Nation,
produced 'L'Ami des lois', a play salted with satire and ridicule of the
Revolutionary leaders. On the night of September 3-4 the whole troupe
was arrested. Talma's company accepted a rigid censorship: the plays of
Racine were banned; the comedies of Moliere were subjected to cuts and
alterations; aristocratic titles -- even 'Monsieur' and 'Madame' -- were
expunged from permitted plays; and a similar purification was demanded
in all the theaters of France. After the fall of Robespierre the
arrested actors were released. On May 31, 1799, as the Revolution
neared its end, the old company and the new were united in the Comedie-
Francaise, and made their home in the Theatre Francais of the Palais-
Royal, where it lives and prospers today...


...IX. Afterthoughts

Having told the story of the French Revolution as impartially as old
age allowed, it remains to face, within the same limitations, the
questions that philosophy would ask: Was the Revolution justified by its
causes or results? Did it leave any significant gains for the French
people or humanity? Could its gains have been achieved without their
cost in chaos and suffering? Does its record suggest any conclusions
about revolutions in general? Does it shed any light upon the nature of
man? We speak here only of political revolutions -- rapid and violent
changes of government in personnel and policy. A development without
violence we should call an evolution; a quick and violent or illegal
change of personnel without a change in the form of government would be
a 'coup d'etat'; any open resistance to an existing authority is a

The causes of the French Revolution were, in summary: (1) the
rebellion of the 'parlements', weakening the authority of the King and
the loyalty of the nobility of the robe; (2) the ambition of Philippe
d'Orleans to replace Louis XVI on the throne; (3) the rebellion of the
bourgeoisie against the financial irresponsibility of the state, the
interference of the government with the economy, the uncooperative
wealth of the Church in the face of national bankruptcy, and the fiscal,
social, and appointive privileges of the aristocracy; (4) the rebellion
of the peasantry against feudal dues and charters, state taxes, and
church tithes; (5) the rebellion of the Paris populace against class
oppression, legal disabilities, economic shortages, high prices, and
military threats. The bourgeoisie and Philippe d'Orleans supplied the
money that paid for the propaganda of journals and orators, the
management of crowds, the reorganization of the Third Estate into a
National Assembly which dictated a revolutionary constitution. The
commonalty provided the courage, muscle, blood, and violence that
frightened the King into accepting the Assembly and the constitution,
and the aristocracy and the Church into surrendering their dues and
tithes. Perhaps we should add as a minor cause the humanity and
vacillation of a King averse to shedding blood.

The results of the French Revolution were so many, so complex,
various, and lasting, that one would have to write a history of the
nineteenth century to do them justice.

1. The political results were obvious: the replacement of feudalism
by a free and partially propertied peasantry; of feudal by civil courts;
of absolute monarchy by a property-limited democracy; of a titled
aristocracy by a business bourgeoisie as the dominant and administrative
class. Along with democracy came -- at least in phrase and hope --
equality before the law and in opportunity, and freedom of speech,
worship, and press. These liberties were soon lessened by the natural
inequality of men in ability, and their environmental inequality in
homes, schools, and wealth. Almost as remarkable as these political,
economic, and legal emancipations was their extension to north Italy,
the Rhineland, Belgium, and Holland by the armies of the Revolution; in
those regions too the feudal system was swept away, and it did not
return when Napoleon fell. In this sense the conquerors were
liberators, who tarnished their gifts with the exactions of their rule.

The Revolution completed that unification of semi-independent
provinces -- with their feudal baronies and tolls, their diverse
origins, traditions, moneys, and laws -- into a centrally governed
France with a national army and a national law. This change, as
Tocqueville pointed out, had been going on under the Bourbons; it would
probably have been achieved, without the Revolution, by the unifying
influence of a nationwide commerce which increasingly ignored provincial
boundaries -- very much as a national economy in the United States
compelled the erosion of "states' rights" by a federal government
compelled to be strong.

In like manner the emancipation of the peasantry, and the rise of
the bourgeoisie to economic ascendancy and political power, would
probably have come without the Revolution, though more slowly. The
Revolution under the National Assembly (1789-91) was amply justified by
its lasting results, but the Revolution under the governments of 1792-95
was a barbaric interlude of murder, terror, and moral collapse,
inadequately excused by foreign conspiracies and attacks. When, in
1830, another revolution ended in the establishment of a constitutional
monarchy, the result was approximately what had been achieved in 1791.

The gain made by the Revolution in unifying France as a nation was
offset by the growth of nationalism as a new source of group animosity.
The eighteenth century had tended, in the educated classes, to a
cosmopolitan weakening of national differences in culture, dress, and
language; armies themselves were largely international in their leaders
and men. The Revolution replaced these polyglot warriors with national
conscripts, and the nation replaced the dynasty as the object of loyalty
and the font of war. A military brotherhood of generals succeeded to an
aristocratic caste of officers; the power of patriotic troops overcame
the spiritless employees of old regimes. When the French Army developed
its own discipline and pride it became the only source of order in a
chaotic state, the sole refuge from a babel of governmental incompetence
and popular insurgency.

The Revolution unquestionably promoted liberty in France and beyond;
for a while it extended the new freedom to the French colonies, and
emancipated their slaves. But individual freedom contains its own
nemesis; it tends to increase until it overruns the restraints necessary
for social order and group survival; freedom unlimited is chaos
complete. Moreover, the kind of ability needed for a revolution is
quite different from the kind required for building a new order: the one
task is furthered by resentment, passion, courage, and disregard for
law; the other calls for patience, reason, practical judgment, and
respect for law. Since new laws are not buttressed by tradition and
habit, they usually depend upon force as their sanction and support; the
apostles of freedom become, or yield to, wielders of power; and these
are no longer the leaders of destructive mobs but the commanders of
disciplined builders protected and supervised by a martial state.
Fortunate is the revolution that can evade or shorten dictatorship and
preserve its gains of liberty for posterity.

2. The economic results of the Revolution were peasant
proprietorship and capitalism, each begetting endless effects of its
own. Wedded to property, the peasants became a powerful conservative
force, nullifying the socialistic drive of the propertyless proletariat,
and serving as an anchor of underlying stability in a state -- and
through a century -- turbulent with aftershocks of the Revolution. So
protected in the countryside, capitalism developed in the towns; mobile
money replaced landed wealth as an economic and political power; free
enterprise escaped from governmental control. The Physiocrats won their
battle for the determination of prices, wages, products, successes, and
failures by competition in the "market" -- the play of economic forces
unimpeded by law. Goods moved from province to province without being
harassed or delayed by internal tolls. Industrial wealth grew, and was
increasingly concentrated at the top.

Revolution -- or legislation -- repeatedly redistributes
concentrated wealth, and the inequality of ability or privilege
concentrates it again. The diverse capabilities of individuals demand
and necessitate unequal rewards. Every natural superiority begets
advantages of environment or opportunity. The Revolution tried to
reduce these artificial inequalities, but they were soon renewed, and
soonest under regimes of liberty. Liberty and equality are enemies: the
more freedom men enjoy, the freer they are to reap the results of their
natural or environmental superiorities; hence inequality multiplies
under governments favoring freedom of enterprise and support of property
rights. Equality is an unstable equilibrium, which any difference in
heredity, health, intelligence, or character will soon end. Most
revolutions find that they can cheek inequality only by limiting
liberty, as in authoritarian lands. In democratic France inequality was
free to grow. As for fraternity, it was knifed by the guillotine, and
became, in time, an agreement to wear pantaloons.

3. The cultural results of the Revolution are still influencing our
lives. It proclaimed freedom of speech, press, and assembly; it
severely reduced this, and Napoleon ended it, under stress of war, but
the principle survived and fought repeated battles through the
nineteenth century, to become an accepted practice or pretense in
twentieth-century democracies. The Revolution planned and began a
national system of schools. It encouraged science as a world-view
alternative to theology. In 1791 the Revolutionary government appointed
a commission, headed by Lagrange, to devise, for a newly unified France,
a new system of weights and measures; the resultant metric system was
officially adopted in 1792, and was made law in 1799; it had to fight
its way through the provinces, and its victory was not complete till
1840; it is painfully displacing the duodecimal system in Great Britain

The Revolution began the separation of Church and state, but this
proved difficult in a France overwhelmingly Catholic and traditionally
dependent upon the Church for the moral instruction of its people. The
separation was not completed till 1905, and today it is weakening again
under the pressure of a life-sustaining myth. Having attempted the
divorce, the Revolution struggled to spread a natural ethic; we have
seen that this failed. In one aspect the history of France in the
nineteenth century was a long and periodically convulsive attempt to
recover from the ethical collapse of the Revolution. The twentieth
century approaches its end without having yet found a natural substitute
for religion in persuading the human animal to morality.

The Revolution left some lessons for political philosophy. It led a
widening minority to realize that the nature of man is the same in all
classes; that revolutionists, raised to power, behave like their
predecessors, and in some cases more ruthlessly; compare Robespierre
with Louis XVI. Feeling in themselves the strong roots of savagery
perpetually pressing against the controls of civilization, men became
skeptical of revolutionary claims, ceased to expect incorruptible
policemen and saintly senators, and learned that a revolution can
achieve only so much as evolution has prepared and as human nature will

Despite its shortcomings -- and perhaps because of its excesses --
the Revolution left a powerful impression upon the memory, emotions,
aspirations, literature, and art of France, and of other nations from
Russia to Brazil. Even to 1848 old men would be telling children of the
heroes and terrors of that exciting time, that reckless, merciless
questioning of all traditional values. Was it any wonder that
imaginations and passions were stirred as seldom before, and that
recurring visions of happier states spurred men and women to repeated
attempts to realize the noble dreams of that historic decade? Tales of
its brutalities led souls to pessimism and loss of every faith; there
were to be Schopenhauers and Leopardis, Byrons and Mussets, a Schubert
and a Keats, in the next generation. But there would be hopeful and
invigorating spirits too -- Hugo, Balzac, Gautier, Delacroix, Berlioz,
Blake, Shelley, Schiller, Beethoven -- who would share intensely in the
Romantic uprising of feeling, imagination, and desire against caution,
tradition, prohibition, and restraint. For twenty-six years France
would wonder and waver under the spell of the Revolution and Napoleon --
the greatest romance and greatest romantic of all; and half the world
would be frightened or inspired by that event-full quarter century in
which an exalted and suffering nation touched such heights and depths as
history had rarely known before, and has never known since.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 11: "The Age of Napoleon"
Chapter 7, Life under the Revolution
pages 134-139, 151-155
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-12-23 18:10:05 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 651 lines ]



[Part 1 of 2]

by Will and Ariel Durant


Behind the walls of war lived the peaceable and
amiable people of Vienna, a reasonably tolerant mixture
of Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats,
Moravians, French, Italians, Poles, and Russians --
190,000 souls. The great majority were Roman Catholic,
and, when they could, worshiped the city's patron saint
in St. Stephen's Church. The streets were mostly
narrow, but there were some spacious and well-paved
boulevards. A congeries of majestic buildings focused
on the palatial Schonbrunn, which housed the Emperor,
his family, and the main offices of the government. The
"blue" Danube passed along the edge of the city,
carrying commerce and pleasure in amiable confusion.
Sloping toward the river, the park called the Prater
(meadow) gave old and young a place for carriage drives
or promenades. And just outside the city gates the
Wienerwald, or Vienna Woods, invited those lucky walkers
who loved trees and trysts, the smell of foliage, the
song and chatter of winged residents.

All in all the Viennese were a docile and well-
behaved people, quite unlike the Parisians, who, with or
without revolution, lived on excitement, resented
marriage, hated their nobles, suspected their King, and
doubted God. There were nobles here too, but they
danced and musicked in their palaces, respected
pedestrians, indulged in no snobbery, and died
gallantly, however ineffectually, before Napoleon's
businesslike warriors. Class consciousness was keenest
in the upper middle class, which was making fortunes by
supplying the Army, or lending to aristocrats
impoverished by a feudalism without stimulus, or to a
state always fighting and losing wars.

A proletariat was beginning to form. By 1810 there
were over a hundred factories in or near Vienna,
employing in all some 27,000 men and women, nearly all
at wages that sufficed to keep them alive and
multiplying. As early as 1811 there were complaints
that oil refineries and chemical plants were polluting
the air. Commerce was developing, helped by access to
the Adriatic at Trieste, and by the Danube that touched
a hundred towns plus Budapest and reached the Black Sea.
After 1806 Napoleon's attempt to exclude British goods
from the Continent, and French control of Italy,
hampered Austrian commerce and industry, and left
hundreds of families to unemployment and penury.

Finance was mostly managed by Jews, who, excluded
from agriculture and most industry, became experts in
the handling of money. Some Jewish bankers in Austria
rivaled the Esterhazys in the splendor of their
establishments; some became the cherished friends of
emperors; some were honored as saviors of the state.
Joseph II ennobled certain Jewish bankers in
appreciation of their patriotism. The Emperor liked
especially to visit the home of the financier Nathan von
Arnstein, where he could discuss literature and music
with the banker's pretty wife. This was the versatile
and cultivated Fanny Itzig, who maintained one of the
most favored salons in Vienna.

The government was administered by the nobility with
middling competence and inconsiderable honesty. Jeremy
Bentham, in a letter of July 7, 1817, mourned this
"utter moral rottenness of the Austrian state," and he
despaired of finding "an honorable person." No commoner
could rise to a commanding post in the armed services or
the government; consequently there was little stimulus
to soldiers or bureaucrats to take pains or risks for
promotion's sake. The ranks of the Army were filled by
shiftless volunteers, or by conscription through
lottery, or by the impressment of beggars, radicals, or
criminals; no wonder these Austrian armies were
periodically routed by French legions in which any
private might rise to leadership, and even join
Napoleon's covey of dukes.

Social order was maintained by the Army, the police,
and religious belief. The Hapsburg rulers rejected the
Reformation, remained loyal to the Catholic Church, and
depended upon its well-trained clergy to man the
schools, censor the press, and bring up every Christian
child in a creed that sanctified hereditary monarchy as
a divine right, and comforted poverty and grief with the
consolations and promises of the faith. Great fanes
like the Stefanskirche and the Karlskirche offered a
ritual solemn with song and censer and collective
prayer, and exalted by Masses that Protestants like Bach
and skeptics like Beethoven were eager to provide.
Religious processions periodically brought drama to the
streets, renewing the public memory of martyrs and
saints, and celebrating the merciful mediation of
Vienna's queen, the Virgin Mother. Aside from the
disciplinary fear of hell, and some unpleasant pictures
of saintly tortures, it was as comforting a religion as
has ever been offered to mankind.

Education, primary and secondary, was left to the
Church. The Universities of Vienna, Ingolstadt, and
Innsbruck were manned by learned Jesuits. The press was
strictly controlled; all Voltaireana were stopped at the
nation's borders or the city gates. Freethinkers were
rarities. Some Freemason lodges had survived Maria
Theresa's attempt to destroy them; but they confined
themselves to a moderate anticlericalism which even a
good Catholic might allow, and a program of social
reform which an emperor could endorse. So Mozart, a
firm Catholic, was a Freemason; and Joseph II joined the
secret order, approved the principles of reform, and
made some of them laws. A more radical secret society,
the Illuminati -- which Adam Weishaupt, an ex-jesuit,
had founded at Ingolstadt in 1776 -- survived, but in
comparative decay. Leopold II renewed his mother's
prohibition of all secret societies.

The Church accomplished well the task of training
the people to patriotism, charity, social order, and
sexual restraint. Mme. de Stael reported in 1804: "You
never met a beggar.... The charitable establishments
are regulated with great order and liberality.
Everything bears the mark of a parental, wise, and
religious government." Sexual morals were fairly firm
among the commonalty, much looser in the upper classes,
where the men had mistresses and the wives had lovers.
Beethoven, Thayer tells us, protested against "the
practice, not uncommon in the Vienna of his time, of
living with an unmarried woman as a wife." But family
unity was usual, and parental authority was maintained.
Manners were genial, and gave little welcome to
revolutionary sentiments. Beethoven wrote, on August 2,
1794: "It is my belief that as long as the Austrian has
his dark beer and sausage he will not revolt."

The typical Viennese preferred to be entertained
rather than reformed. He readily surrendered his
kreuzers or groschen (pennies) for simple amusements,
such as watching Niklos Roger, "the incombustible
Spaniard," who claimed to be immune to fire. If he
could spare a bit more he might play billiards or bowl.
Vienna and its outskirts abounded in cafes -- so called
from the coffee that was now rivaling beer as the
favorite drink. These were the clubs of the poor;
Viennese of ascending status went to 'Bierhallen', which
had gardens and fine rooms; the well-to-do could lose
their money in gambling halls, or go to a masquerade
ball -- perhaps in the Redoutensaal, where hundreds of
couples could dance at the same time. Even before the
days of Johann Strauss (1804-49) the men and women of
Vienna lived to dance. The restrained and stately
minuet was yielding to the waltz; now the man might
enjoy electric contact with his severed half, and lead
her into the exciting whirl that had given the dance its
name. The Church protested, and forgave.

The Arts

The theater flourished in Vienna, in all degrees
from twopenny sketches on impromptu stages to classic
dramas in sumptuous housing and decor. The oldest
regular playhouse was the Karntnerthor, which had been
built by the municipality in 1708; here the actor-
playwright Joseph Anton Stranitsky (d. 1726), building
on the Italian Arlecchino (Harlequin), created and
developed the character of Hanswurst, or John Boloney,
the hilarious buffoon in whom the Germans, north and
south, satirized their own beloved absurdities. In 1776
Joseph II sponsored and financed the Burgtheater, whose
classic facade promised the best ancient and modern
plays. Most sumptuous of all was the Theater-an-der-
Wien (on the River Wien), built in 1793 by Johann
Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto for -- and
acted Papageno in -- Mozart's 'Magic Flute' (1791). He
equipped his theater with every mechanical device known
to the scene shifters of his time; he astonished his
audiences with dramatic spectacles outmatching reality;
and he won for his playhouse the distinction of
presenting the premiere of Beethoven's 'Fidelio'.

Only one art now rivaled drama in Vienna. It was
not architecture, for Austria had finished by 1789 its
golden age of baroque. It was not literature, for the
Church weighed too heavily on the wings of genius, and
the age of Grillparzer (1791-1872) had yet to come. In
Vienna, Mme. de Stael reported, "the people read
little"; as in some cities today a daily newspaper
supplied their literary needs; and both the 'Wiener
Zeitung' and the 'Wiener Zeitschrift' were excellent.

Of course the supreme art of Vienna was music. In
Austria and Germany -- as befitted a people who
cherished the home as the fount and citadel of
civilization -- music was more a domestic and amateur
art than a public performance by professionals. Almost
every educated family had musical instruments, and some
could offer a quartet. Now and then a concert was
organized for prepaying subscribers, but concerts open
to the general public for an admission charge were rare.
Even so, Vienna was crowded with musicians, who starved
one another by their number.

How did they survive? Mostly by accepting
invitations to perform in private homes, or by
dedicating their compositions -- with or without
prearranged payment -- to wealthy nobles, clerics, or
businessmen. The love, practice, and patronage of music
had been a tradition with Hapsburg rulers for two
centuries; it was actively continued in this period by
Joseph II, Leopold II, and Leopold's youngest son, the
Archduke Rudolf (1788-1831), who was both a pupil and a
patron of Beethoven. The Esterhazy family provided a
succession of generations supporting music; we have seen
Prince Miklos Jozsef Esterhazy (1714-90) keeping Haydn
for thirty years as conductor of the orchestra
maintained in the Schloss Esterhazy, the "Versailles of
Hungary." His grandson Prince Miklos Nicolaus Esterhazy
(1765-1833) engaged Beethoven to compose music for the
family orchestra. Prince Karl Lichnowsky (1753-1814)
became an intimate friend and patron of Beethoven, and
for a time gave him lodging in his palace. Prince Jose
Fran Lobkowitz, of an old Bohemian family, shared with
Archduke Rudolf and Count Kinsky the honor of
subsidizing Beethoven till his death. To these we
should add Baron Gottfried van Swieten (1734-1803), who
helped musicians not so much with money as with his
energy and skill in getting engagements and patrons; he
opened London to Haydn and received the dedication of
Beethoven's First Symphony; and he founded in Vienna the
Musikalische Gesellschaft -- twenty-five nobles pledged
to help bridge the gaps between composers, music
publishers, and audiences. It was in part due to such
men that the most disagreeable composer in history
survived to make himself the unchallenged music master
of the nineteenth century.

I. Youth in Bonn: 1770-92

HE was born on December 16, 1770. Bonn was the seat of the prince-
archbishop elector of Cologne, one of those Rhineland principalities
which, before Napoleon "secularized" them, were ruled by Catholic
archbishops engagingly secular and inclined to support well-behaved
artists. A considerable part of Bonn's 9,560 population was dependent
upon the electoral establishment. Beethoven's grandfather was a bass
singer in the Elector's choir; his father, Johann van Beethoven, was a
tenor there. The family, of Dutch stock, had come from a village near
Louvain. The Dutch 'van' indicated place of origin, and did not, like
the German 'von' or the French 'de', indicate titled and propertied
nobility. Grandfather and father were inclined to excessive drinking
and something of this passed down to the composer.

In the year 1767 Johann van Beethoven married the young widow Maria
Magdalena Keverich Laym, daughter of a cook in Ehrensbreitstein. She
developed into a mother much beloved by her famous son for her soft
heart and easy ways. She gave her husband seven children, four of whom
died in infancy. The survivors were the brothers Ludwig, Caspar Karl
(1774-1815), and Nikolaus Johann (1776-1848).

The father's salary of three hundred florins as "Electoral Court
tenorist" was apparently his sole income. The family lived in a poor
quarter of Bonn, and the young Beethoven's surroundings and associations
were not of a kind to make him a gentleman; he remained a roughhewn
rebel to the end. Hoping to improve the family income by developing a
son into a child prodigy, Beethoven's father induced or compelled the
four-year-old boy to practice at the clavier or on the violin many hours
in the day, occasionally at night. Apparently the boy had no
spontaneous urge to music, and (according to divers witnesses) he had to
be urged on by a severe discipline that sometimes brought him to tears.
The torture succeeded, and the boy came to love the art that had cost
him so many painful hours. At the age of eight, with another pupil, he
was displayed in a public concert, March 26, 1778, with financial
results unrecorded. In any case the father was encouraged to engage
teachers who could lead Ludwig into the higher subtleties of music.

Aside from this he received little formal education. We hear of his
attending a school where he learned enough Latin to salt some of his
letters with humorous Latin inventions. He picked up enough French
(which was the Esperanto of the time) to write it intelligibly. He
never learned to spell correctly in any language, and seldom bothered to
punctuate. But he read some good books, ranging from Scott's novels to
Persian poetry, and copied into his notebooks morsels of wisdom from his
reading. His only sport was in his fingers. He loved to improvise, and
in that game only Abt Vogler could match him.

In 1784 Maria Theresa's youngest son, Maximilian Francis, was
appointed elector of Cologne, and took up his residence in Bonn. He was
a kindly man, enthusiastic about food and music; he became "the fattest
man in Europe," but also he brought together an orchestra of thirty-one
pieces. Beethoven, aged fourteen, played the viola in that ensemble,
and was also listed as "deputy court organist," with a salary of 150
gulden ($750?) per year. A report to the Elector in 1785 described him
as "of good capability, ... of good, quiet behavior, and poor."

Despite some evidence of sexual ventures, [* The post-mortem
examination of Beethoven revealed various internal disorders which
'Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians' (3d ed., I, 271b) described
as "most probably the result of syphilitic affections at an early period
of his life." Thayer, biographer par excellence of Beethoven, put the
matter politely: Beethoven "had not escaped the common penalties of
transgressing the laws of strict purity." The matter is still
debated.*] the good behavior and growing competence of the youth led to
his receiving from the Elector (1787) permission and funds for a trip to
Vienna for instruction in musical composition. Soon after his arrival
he was received by Mozart, who heard him play, and praised him with
disappointing moderation, apparently thinking that the piece had been
long rehearsed. Suspecting this suspicion, Beethoven asked Mozart to
give him, on the piano, a theme for variations. Mozart was astonished
at the youth's fertility of invention and sureness of touch, and said to
his friends, "Keep your eyes on him; someday he will give the world
something to talk about"; but this story has too familiar an air.
Mozart appears to have given the boy some lessons, but the death of
Mozart's father, Leopold (May 28, 1787), and news that Beethoven's
mother was dying, cut this relationship short. Ludwig hurried back to
Bonn, and was at his mother's bedside when she died (July 17).

The father, whose tenor voice had long since decayed, wrote to the
Elector, describing his extreme poverty, and appealing for help. No
answer is recorded, but another singer in the choir came to the rescue.
In 1788 Ludwig himself added to the family income by giving piano
lessons to Eleonore von Breuning and her brother Lorenz. Their widowed,
wealthy, cultured mother received the young teacher into full equality
with her children, and the friendships so formed helped in some measure
to smooth the sharp corners of Beethoven's character.

Helpful, too, was the kindness of Count Ferdinand von Waldstein
(1762-1823), himself a good musician, and a close friend of the Elector.
Learning of Beethoven's poverty, he sent him occasional gifts of money,
pretending that they were from the Elector. Beethoven later dedicated
to him the piano sonata (Opus 53 in C Major) that bears his name.

Ludwig needed help more than ever now, for his despondent father had
surrendered to alcohol, and had been with difficulty rescued from arrest
as a public nuisance. In 1789 Beethoven, not yet nineteen, took upon
himself the responsibility for his younger brothers, and became legal
head of the family. A decree of the Elector (November 20) ordered that
the services of Johann van Beethoven should be dispensed with, and that
half of his annual salary of two hundred reichsthalers should be paid
him, and the other half to his eldest son. Beethoven continued to earn
a small sum as chief pianist and second organist in the Elector's

In 1790, flush with a triumph in London, Franz Joseph Haydn stopped
at Bonn on his way home to Vienna. Beethoven presented to him a cantata
that he had recently composed; Haydn praised it. Probably some word of
this reached the Elector's ear; he listened favorably to suggestions
that he allow the youth to go to Vienna for study with Haydn, and to
continue for some months to receive his salary as a musician on the
Elector's staff. Probably Count von Waldstein had won this boon for his
young friend. He wrote in Ludwig's album a farewell note: "Dear
Beethoven, you are traveling to Vienna in fulfillment of your long-
cherished wish. The genius of Mozart [who had died on December 5, 1791]
is still weeping and bewailing the death of her favorite.... Labor
assiduously and receive Mozart's spirit from the hands of Haydn. Your
true friend Waldstein."

Beethoven left Bonn, father, family, and friends on or about
November 1, 1792. Soon afterward French Revolutionary troops occupied
Bonn, and the Elector fled to Mainz. Beethoven never saw Bonn again.

II. Progress and Tragedy: 1792-1802

Arrived in Vienna, he found the city alive with musicians competing
for patrons, audiences, and publishers, looking askance at every
newcomer, and finding no disarming beauty in the youth from Bonn. He
was short, stocky, dark-complexioned (Anton Esterhazy called him "the
Moor"), pockmarked, front upper teeth overlapping the lower, nose broad
and flat, eyes deepset and challenging, and head "like a bullet,"
wearing a wig and a 'van'. He was not designed for popularity, with
either the public or his competitors, but he was rarely without a
rescuing friend.

Soon came news that his father had died (December 18, 1792). Some
difficulty having developed about Beethoven's share in his father's
small annuity, he petitioned the Elector for its continuance; the
Elector responded by doubling it, and adding: "He is further to receive
three measures of grain ... for the education of his brothers" (Karl and
Johann, who had moved to Vienna). Beethoven, grateful, made some good
resolutions. In a friend's album, May 22, 1793, he wrote, using the
words of Schiller's 'Don Carlos': "I am not wicked -- Hot blood is my
fault -- my crime is that I am young.... Even though wildly surging
emotions may betray my heart, yet my heart is good." He resolved "to do
good wherever possible, to love liberty above all else, never to deny
the truth, even before the throne."

He kept his expenditures to a stoic minimum: for December, 1792,
fourteen florins ($35?) for rent; six florins for rent of a piano;
"eating, each time 12 kreuzer" (six cents); "meals with wine, six and a
half florins" ($16.25??). Another memorandum lists "Haidn" at various
times as costing two groschen (a few cents); apparently Haydn was asking
little for his lessons. For a while the student accepted correction
humbly. But as the lessons continued, Haydn found it impossible to
accept Beethoven's reported deviations from orthodox rules of
composition. Toward the end of 1793 Beethoven quit his aging master,
and went three times a week to study counterpoint with a man more famous
as teacher than as composer, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger.
Concurrently, three times a week, he studied violin with Ignaz
Schuppanzigh. In 1795, having taken all that he felt need of from
Albrechtsberger, he applied to Antonio Salieri, then director of the
Vienna Opera, for instruction in composition for the voice. Salieri
charged nothing to poor pupils; Beethoven presented himself as such, and
was accepted. All four of these teachers found him a difficult
disciple, bursting with ideas of his own, and resenting the formalism of
the musical theory offered him. We can imagine the shudders generated
in "Papa Haydn" (who lived till 1809) by the irregularities and
sonorities of Beethoven's compositions.

Despite -- perhaps because of -- his deviations from traveled roads,
Beethoven's performances won him, by 1794, a reputation as the most
interesting pianist in Vienna. The pianoforte had won its battle with
the harpsichord; Johann Christian Bach in 1768 had begun performing
solos on it in England; Mozart adopted it, Haydn followed suit in 1780,
Muzio Clementi was composing concertos definitely designed for the piano
and its new flexibility between piano and forte, between staccato and
sostenuto. Beethoven made full use of the piano's powers and his own,
especially in his improvisations, where no printed notation hampered his
style. Ferdinand Ries, pupil of both Haydn and Beethoven, later
declared: "No artist that I ever heard came at all near the height which
Beethoven attained in this branch of playing. The wealth of ideas which
forced themselves on him, the caprices to which he surrendered himself,
the variety of treatment, the difficulties, were inexhaustible."

It was as a pianist that the patrons of music first appreciated him.
At an evening concert in the home of Baron van Swieten, after the
program had been completed, the host (biographer Schindler relates)
"detained Beethoven and persuaded him to add a few fugues of Bach as an
evening blessing." Prince Karl Lichnowsky -- the leading amateur
musician in Vienna -- so liked Beethoven that he regularly engaged him
for his Friday musicales, and for a time entertained him as a house
guest; Beethoven, however, could not adjust himself to the Prince's meal
hours, and preferred a nearby hotel. The most enthusiastic of the
composer's titled patrons was Prince Lobkowitz, an excellent violinist,
who spent nearly all his income on music and musicians; for years he
helped Beethoven, despite quarrels, and he took in good spirit
Beethoven's insistence on being treated as a social equal. The ladies
of these helpful nobles enjoyed his proud independence, took lessons and
scoldings from him, and allowed the poor bachelor to make love to them,
in letters. They and their lords accepted his dedications, and rewarded
him moderately.

So far his fame was only as a pianist, and, as such, it reached
Prague and Berlin, to which he made visits as a virtuoso in 1796. But
meanwhile he composed. On October 21, 1795, he published, as his Opus
1, 'Three Grand Trios', about which Johann Cramer, after playing them,
announced, "This is the man who is to console us for the loss of
Mozart." Stimulated by such praise, Beethoven wrote in his notebook:
"Courage! Despite all bodily weaknesses my spirit shall rule.... This
year must determine the complete man. Nothing must remain undone."

In 1797 Napoleon, unseen, first came into Beethoven's life. The
young general, having driven the Austrians from Lombardy, had led his
army over the Alps, and was nearing Vienna. The surprised capital
extemporized defense as well as it could with guns and hymns; now Haydn
wrote Austria's national anthem -- "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
unsern guten Kaiser Franz"; and Beethoven produced music for another war
song -- "Ein grosses deutsches Volk sind wir." These spirited
compositions were later to be worth many regiments, but they did not
move Napoleon, who exacted a humiliating peace.

A year later General Bernadotte came to Vienna as the new French
ambassador, and shocked the citizens by raising from his balcony the
French Revolutionary tricolor flag. Beethoven, who had frankly
expressed republican ideas, openly declared his admiration of Bonaparte,
and was often seen at the ambassador's receptions. Apparently it was
Bernadotte who suggested to Beethoven the idea of a composition honoring

Seeking to tap nearer services, Ludwig in 1799 dedicated his Opus
13, "Grande Sonate Pathetique," to Prince Lichnowsky, in gratitude for
favors received or hoped for. The Prince responded (1800) by putting
six hundred gulden at Beethoven's disposal "until I obtain a suitable
appointment." This sonata began simply, as if in humble filiation from
Mozart; then it proceeded to a difficult intricacy that would later seem
simple beside the almost aggressive complexity and power of the
Hammerklavier Sonatas or the "Appassionata." Still easy on eyes and
hands were the First Symphony (1800) and the "Moonlight Sonata" in C
sharp minor (1801). Beethoven did not give the latter piece its famous
name, but called it "Sonata quasi Fantasia." Apparently he had no
intention of making it a love song. It is true that he dedicated it to
the Countess Giulia Guicciardi, who was among the untouchable goddesses
of his reveries, but it had been written for another occasion, quite
unrelated to this divinity.

To the year 1802 belongs one of the strangest and most appealing
documents in the history of music. This secret "Heiligenstadt
Testament" -- which was not seen by others till found in Beethoven's
papers after his death -- is intelligible only through a frank
confrontation of his character. There had been many pleasant qualities
in it in his youth -- a buoyancy of spirit, a fund of humor, a devotion
to study, a readiness to help; and many of his Bonn friends -- his
teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe, his pupil Eleonore von Breuning, his
patron Count von Waldstein -- remained devoted to him despite his
growing bitterness against life. In Vienna, however, he alienated one
friend after another until he was left almost alone. When they heard
that he was dying they came back, and did what they could to ease his

His early environment scarred him lastingly; he could never forget,
and never forgive, the toilsome, anxious poverty, or the humiliation of
seeing his father surrender to failure and drink. He himself, as the
years saddened him, yielded more and more to the amnesia of wine. In
Vienna his stature (five feet five inches) invited wit, and his face was
no fortune; his hair thick, disheveled, bristling; his heavy beard
spreading up to his sunken eyes, and sometimes allowed to grow to half
an inch before shaving. "Oh God!" he cried in 1819, "what a plague it
is to one when he has so fatal a face as mine!"

These physical disadvantages were probably a spur to achievement,
but, after the first few years in Vienna, they discouraged care of his
dress, his body, his rooms, or his manners. "I am an untidy fellow," he
wrote (April 22, 1801); "perhaps the only touch of genius which I
possess is that my things are not always in very good order." He earned
enough to keep servants, but he soon quarreled with them, and seldom
kept them long. He was brusque with the lowly; with the highborn he was
sometimes obsequious, often proud, even arrogant. He was merciless in
assessing his rivals, and was rewarded by their almost unanimous
dislike. He was severe with his pupils, but taught some of them without

He was a misanthrope, judging every man basically base, but fondly
forgiving his troublesome nephew Karl, and loving every pretty pupil.
He gave to nature the unquestioning affection that he could not offer to
mankind. He frequently fell into melancholy moods, but almost as
frequently had spells of raucous jollity, with or without wine. He had
an often inconsiderate sense of humor (e.g., Letters 14, 22, 25, 30.
Edited by Emily Anderson, 3v. New York, 1961), punned at every
opportunity, and invented sometimes offensive nicknames for his friends.
He could laugh more readily than he could smile.

He tried, through worried years, to conceal from the world the
affliction that embittered his life. In a letter of June 29, 1801, he
revealed it to a friend of his youth, Franz Wegeler:

For the last three years my hearing has become
weaker and weaker. The trouble is supposed to have been
caused by the condition of my abdomen, which ... was
wretched even before I left Bonn, but has become worse
in Vienna, where I have been constantly afflicted with
diarrhea, and have been suffering in consequence from an
extraordinary disability.... Such was my condition
until the autumn of last year, and sometimes I gave way
to despair.
I must confess that I lead a wretched life. For
almost two years I have ceased to attend any social
functions, just because I find it impossible to say to
people: I am deaf. If I had any other profession I
might be able to cope with my infirmity; but in my
profession it is a terrible calamity. Heaven alone
knows what is to become of me. Already I have cursed my
Creator and my existence .... I beg you not to say
anything about my condition to anyone, not even to
Lorchen [Eleonore von Breuning].

Apparently in hopes of profiting from its sulfur baths, Beethoven
spent part of 1802 in Heiligenstadt, a small village near Gottingen.
Wandering in nearby woods, he saw, at a short distance, a shepherd
playing a pipe. As he heard no sound, he realized that now only the
louder sounds of an orchestra would reach him. He had already begun to
conduct as well as to perform and compose; and the implications of this
peasant's unheard pipe threw him into despair. He went to his room and
composed, on October 6, 1802, what is known as the "Heiligenstadt
Testament," a spiritual will and 'apologia pro vita sua'. Though he
captioned it "For my brothers Carl and ---- Beethoven," he carefully
concealed the document from all eyes but his own. It is here
transcribed in its essential lines:

O ye men who think and say that I am malevolent,
stubborn, or misanthropic, how greatly do ye wrong me,
you who do not know the secret cause of my seeming so.
From childhood my heart and mind were disposed to the
gentle feeling of good will, I was even ever eager to
accomplish great deeds, but reflect now that for 6 years
I have been in a hopeless case, aggravated by senseless
physicians, ... finally compelled to face the prospect
of a _lasting malady_ ... Born with an ardent and lively
temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of
society, I was compelled early to isolate myself, to
live in loneliness, when I at times tried to forget all
this, O how harshly was I repulsed by the doubly sad
experience of my bad hearing, and yet it was impossible
for me to say to men speak louder, shout, for I am deaf.
Ah how could I possibly admit an infirmity in the _one
sense_ which should have been more perfect in me than in
others ... O I cannot do it, therefore forgive me when
you see me draw back when I would gladly mingle with
you.... What a humiliation when one stood beside me and
heard a flute in the distance and I _heard nothing_ ....
Such incidents brought me to the verge of despair; but
little more and I would have put an end to my life --
only art it was that withheld me, ah, it seemed
impossible to leave the world until I had produced all
that I felt called upon to produce.... O Divine One
thou lookest into my inmost soul, and thou knowest it,
thou knowest that love of man and desire to do good
lives therein. O men, when someday you read these
words, reflect that ye did me wrong.... You my brothers
Carl and ---- as soon as I am dead if Dr. Schmid is
still alive ask him in my name to describe my malady and
attach this document to the history of my illness so
that so far as possible at least the world may become
reconciled with me after my death. At the same time I
declare you two to be the heirs of my small fortune....
It is my wish that your lives may be better and freer
from care than I have had, recommend _virtue_ to your
children, it alone can give happiness, not money, I
speak from experience, it was virtue that upheld me in
my misery, to it next to my art I owe the fact that I
did not end my life by suicide -- Farewell and love each
other ... with joy I hasten toward death.

In the margin he wrote: "To be read and executed after my death."

It was not a suicide note; it was both hopeless and resolute.
Beethoven proposed to accept and transcend his hardship, and bring to
other ears than his own all the music that lay silent within him.
Almost at once -- still in Heiligenstadt in November, 1802 -- he
composed his Second Symphony, in D, wherein there is no note of
complaint or grief. Only one year after his cry from the depths he
composed his Third Symphony, the 'Eroica', and entered with it his
second and most creative period.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 11: "The Age of Napoleon"
Chapter 28, Beethoven
pages 562-574
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-12-30 16:45:39 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 710 lines ]



[Part 2 of 2]

by Will and Ariel Durant

III. The Heroic Years: 1803-09

The learned musicologists who have been trailed in these hesitant
pages divide Beethoven's productive career into three periods:
1792-1802; 1803-16; 1817-24. In the first he worked tentatively in the
simple and placid style of Mozart and Haydn. In the second period he
made greater demands upon the performers in tempo, dexterity, and force;
he explored contrasts of mood from tenderness to power; he gave rein to
his inventiveness in variation, and to his flair for improvisation, but
he subjected these to the logic of affiliation and development; he
changed the sex of the sonata and the symphony from feminine sentiment
and delicacy to masculine assertiveness and will. As if to signalize
the change, Beethoven now replaced the minuet in the third movement with
a scherzo frolicking with notes, laughing in the face of fate. Now he
found in music an answer to misfortune: he could absorb himself in the
creation of music that would make the death of his body a passing
incident in an extended life. "When I am playing and composing, my
affliction ... hampers me least." He could no longer hear his melodies
with his physical ears, but he could hear them with his eyes, with the
musician's secret ability to transfer imagined tones into spots and
lines of ink, and then hear them, soundless, from the printed pages.

Almost all the works of this period became classics, appearing
through succeeding generations in orchestral repertoires. The "Kreutzer
Sonata," Opus 47, composed in 1803 for violinist George Bridgetower, was
dedicated to Rodolphe Kreutzer, teacher of the violin in the Paris
Conservatory of Music; Beethoven had met him in Vienna in 1798.
Kreutzer judged the piece alien to his style or mood, and seems never to
have played it publicly.

Beethoven ranked as the best of his symphonies the 'Eroica',
composed in 1803-04. Half the world knows the story about its original
dedication to Napoleon. Despite his titled friends and judicious
dedications, Beethoven remained to the end of his life a resolute
republican; and he applauded the seizure and reconstitution of the
French government by Bonaparte in 1799-1800 as a move toward responsible
rule. In 1802, however, he expressed his regret that Napoleon had
signed a concordat with the Church. "Now," he wrote, "everything is
going back to the old track." As to the dedication, let an eyewitness,
Ferdinand Ries, tell the tale:

In this symphony Beethoven had Bonaparte in his
mind, but as he was when he was First Consul. Beethoven
esteemed him greatly at the time, and likened him to the
greatest Roman consuls. I as well as several of his
more intimate friends saw a copy of the ['Eroica'] score
lying upon his table, with the word "Buonaparte" at the
extreme top of the title page, and at the extreme bottom
"Luigi van Beethoven" but not another word.... I was
the first to bring him the intelligence that Bonaparte
had proclaimed himself emperor, whereupon he flew into a
rage, and cried out, "Is then he too nothing more than
an ordinary human being? Now he will trample on all the
rights of man, and indulge only his ambition. He will
exalt himself above all others, become a tyrant."
Beethoven went to the table, took hold of the title page
by the top, tore it in two, and threw it on the floor.
The first page was rewritten and only then did the
symphony receive the title "Sinfonia eroica."

When the symphony was published (1805) it bore the title 'Sinfonia
eroica per festeggiare il sovvenira d'un gran uomo' -- "Heroic symphony
to celebrate the memory of a great man."

It received its first public performance April 7, 1805, in the
Theater-an-der-Wien. Beethoven conducted despite his defective hearing.
His style of conducting accorded with his character -- excitable,
demanding, "most extravagant. At a pianissimo he would crouch down so
as to be hidden by the desk; and then, as the crescendo increased, would
gradually rise, beating all the time, until at the fortissimo he would
spring into the air, with his arms extended as if wishing to float on
the clouds." The symphony was criticized for "strange modulations and
violent transitions, ... undesirable originality," and excessive length;
the critic advised Beethoven to go back to his earlier and simpler
style. Beethoven winced and growled, and worked on.

Giving another hostage to fortune, he tried his hand at opera; on
November 20, 1805, he conducted the premiere of 'Leonore'. But
Napoleon's troops had occupied Vienna on November 13; the Emperor
Francis and the leading nobles had fled; the citizens were in no mood
for opera; the performance was a resounding failure despite the applause
of the French officers in the scanty audience. Beethoven was told that
his opera was too long, and clumsily arranged. He shortened and revised
it, and offered it a second time on March 29, 1806; again it failed.
Eight years later, when the city teemed with the Congress of Vienna, the
opera, renamed 'Fidelio', was given a third trial, and achieved a
moderate success. Beethoven's mode of composition had become attuned to
instruments with greater range and flexibility than the human voice; the
singers, however anxious to break new barriers, simply could not sing
some soaring passages, and at last they rebelled. The opera is
occasionally staged today, borne on the wings of the composer's fame,
and with revisions that he can no longer revise.

From that difficult and unrewarding experience he passed to one
masterpiece after another. In 1805 he presented Piano Concerto in G,
No. 4, Opus 58, second only to the fifth in the affection of virtuosos.
He celebrated the year 1806 with the Sonata in F Minor, Opus 57, later
christened "Appassionata," and added three quartets, Opus 59, dedicated
to Count Andreas Razumovsky, Russian ambassador at Vienna. In March,
1807, Beethoven's friends, probably to console him for the failure of
his opera, organized a benefit concert for him; there he conducted his
Symphonies No. One, Two, and Three (the 'Eroica'), and his new Symphony
No. Four in B Flat, Opus 60. We are not told how the audience bore up
under this surfeit.

In 1806 Prince Mik1os Nicolaus Esterhazy commissioned Beethoven to
compose a Mass for the name day of his wife. Beethoven went to the
Esterhazy chateau at Eisenstadt in Hungary, and presented there his Mass
in C, Opus 86, on September 13, 1807. After the performance the Prince
asked him, "But, my dear Beethoven, what is this that you have done
again?" Beethoven interpreted the question as expressing
dissatisfaction, and he left the chateau before his invitation had run

He signalized 1808 with two symphonies now known throughout the
world: Symphony No. Five in C Minor, and the Sixth or 'Pastoral
Symphony' in F. They appear to have been composed concurrently through
several years, in alternations of mood between the brooding of the Fifth
and the gaiety of the Sixth; fitly they received their premiere together
on December 22, 1808. Frequent repetitions have lessened their charm,
even for old music lovers; we are no longer moved by 'Fate knocking at
the door," or birds warbling in the trees; but perhaps the fading of our
enchantment is due to lack of the musical education that might have
equipped us to follow with appreciation and pleasure the logic of
thematic contrasts and developments, the cooperation of counterpoint,
the playful rivalry of different instruments, the dialogue of winds and
strings, the mood of each movement, the structure and direction of the
whole. Minds are differently molded -- some to feelings, some to ideas;
it must have been as hard for Hegel to understand Beethoven as for
Beethoven -- or anyone -- to understand Hegel.

In 1808-09 he composed the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat, Opus 73,
known as the "Emperor." Of all his works this is the most lovable, the
most enduringly beautiful, the one of which we never tire; however often
we have heard it, we are moved beyond words by its sparkling vivacity,
its gay inventiveness, its inexhaustible fountains of feeling and
delight. In this concerto a man rising triumphantly out of apparent
disaster wrote an ode to joy far more convincing than the stentorian
chorus of the Ninth Symphony.

Perhaps the happiness of the "Emperor Concerto" and the 'Pastoral
Symphony' reflected Beethoven's increasing prosperity. In 1804 he had
been engaged as piano teacher by Archduke Rudolf, youngest son of the
Emperor Francis; so began a friendship that often helped the
increasingly discreet republican. In 1808 he received a flattering
offer from Jerome Bonaparte, king of Westphalia, to come and serve as
'Kapellmeister' in the royal choir and orchestra at Cassel. Beethoven
agreed to fill the post at six hundred gold ducats per year; apparently
he had still some faith in his dying ears. When word spread that he was
negotiating with Cassel, his friends protested against what they called
disloyalty to Vienna; he answered that he had toiled there for sixteen
years without receiving a secure position. On February 26, 1809, the
Archduke sent him a format agreement by which, in return for Beethoven's
remaining in Vienna, he would be guaranteed an annual sum of 4,000
florins, of which Rudolf would pay 1,500, Prince Lobkowitz 700, and
Count Kinsky 1,800; in addition Beethoven might keep whatever he earned.
He accepted, and stayed. In that year 1809 Papa Haydn died, and
Beethoven inherited his crown.

IV. The Lover

Having achieved economic stability, he returned to his lifelong
quest for a wife. He was a warmly sexual man. Presumably he found a
variety of outlets, but he had long felt the need for a permanent
companionship. In Bonn, according to his friend Wegeler, he was "always
loving." In 1801 he mentioned to Wegeler "a dear sweet girl who loves
me and whom I love." This is generally supposed to have been his
seventeen-year-old pupil Countess Gulia Guicciardi; however, she married
Count Gallenberg. In 1805 Beethoven centered his hopes upon the widowed
Countess Josephine von Deym, to whom he sent a passionate declaration:

Here I give you a solemn promise that in a short
time I shall stand before you more worthy of myself and
of you -- Oh, if only you would attach some value to
this -- I mean to founding my happiness by means of your
love.... Oh, beloved Josephine, it is no desire for the
other sex that draws me near to you, it is just you,
your whole self, with all your individual qualities --
this has compelled my regard -- this has bound all my
feelings -- all my emotional power -- to you.... You
make me hope that your heart will long beat for me --
Mine can only -- cease -- to beat for you -- when -- it
no longer beats.

Apparently the lady turned to other prospects. Two years later
Beethoven was still appealing to be admitted to her presence; she did
not reply.

In March, 1807, he paid such devout attentions to Mme. Marie Bigot
that her husband protested. Beethoven sent "Dear Maria, dear Bigot," a
letter of apology, declaring: "It is one of my chief principles never to
be in any other relationship with the wife of another man than that of

On March 14, 1809, expecting to be in Freiburg, he wrote to Baron
von Gleichenstein:

Now you can help me to look for a wife. Indeed, you
might find some beautiful girl at F---- who would
perhaps now and then grant a sigh to my harmonies....
If you do find one, please form the connection in
advance. -- But she must be beautiful, for it is
impossible for me to love anything that is not beautiful
-- or else I should have to love myself.

But this was presumably one of Beethoven's jokes.

More serious was his affair with Therese Malfatti. She was another
of his pupils, daughter of a distinguished physician. A letter to her
of May 8, 1810, has some of the air of an accepted lover. On May 2
Beethoven had sent an urgent request to Wegeler, then at Coblenz, to go
to Bonn and locate and send him the composer's baptismal certificate,
for "I have been said to be older than I am." Wegeler complied.
Beethoven made no acknowledgment, and in July Stephan von Breuning wrote
to Wegeler: "I believe his marriage project has fallen through, and for
this reason he no longer feels the lively desire to thank you for your
trouble." Till his fortieth year he insisted that he had been born in
1772. The baptismal certificate gave his birth year as 1770.

After his death three letters were found in a locked drawer which
are among the most tender and fervent love letters in history. They
were never sent. As they name no name, no year, and no address, they
remain a mystery that has produced its own literature. The first
letter, dated "July 6, in the morning," tells of Beethoven's hectic
three-day trip from Vienna to a woman in an unstated place in Hungary.
Some phrases:

My angel, my all, my very self.... Can our love
endure except through sacrifices -- except through not
demanding everything -- can you change it that you are
not wholly mine, I not wholly thine. Oh, God! look out
into the beauties of nature, and comfort yourself with
that which must be -- love demands everything.... We
shall soon surely see each other.... My heart is full
of many things to say to you -- ah, there are moments
when I feel that speech is nothing after all -- cheer up
-- remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am
Your faithful

The second and much briefer letter is dated "Evening, Monday, July 6,"
and ends: "Oh God! so near so far! Is our love not truly a celestial
edifice -- firm as heaven's vault." The third letter:

Good morning, on July 7

Though still in bed my thoughts go out to you, Meine
unsterbliche Geliebte [my immortal beloved], now and
then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or
not fate will hear us. I can live only wholly with you,
or not at all -- yes I am resolved to wander so long
away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that
I am really at home, send my soul enwrapped in you into
the land of spirits.... Oh God, why is it necessary to
part from one whom one so loves and yet my life in W[ien
-- Vienna] is now a wretched life -- your love makes me
at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men -- at my
age I need a steady, quiet life.... Be calm, only by a
calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our
purpose to live together -- be calm -- love me -- today
-- yesterday -- what tearful longings for you -- My life
-- my all -- farewell -- Oh, continue to love me --
never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved

Ever thine, ever mine, ever for each other.

Who was she? No one knows. The pundits are divided, chiefly
between the Countess Guicciardi-Gallenberg and the Countess Therese
Brunswig; nothing short of a countess would do. Apparently the lady was
married; if so, Beethoven, in wooing her, was forgetting the excellent
principle he had professed to the Bigots. However, the letters were not
sent; no harm was done; and music may have profited.

V. Beethoven and Goethe: 1809-12

In 1809 Austria was again at war with France. In May French
cannonballs were dropping on Vienna; court and nobility fled; Beethoven
sought refuge in a cellar. The city surrendered, the victors taxed the
commonalty a tenth of a year's income, the well-to-do a third.
Beethoven paid, but, from a safe distance, shook his fist at a
patrolling Gaul, and cried, "If I, as a general, knew as much about
strategy as I, the composer, know about counterpoint, I'd give you
something to do!"

Otherwise, the period from 1809 to 1815 shows Beethoven in
relatively good spirits. In those years he often visited the home of
Franz Brentano, prosperous merchant and patron of art and music, who
sometimes helped Ludwig with a loan. Franz's wife, Antonie, was at
times confined to her room with illness; more than once, during such
spells, Beethoven came in quietly, played the piano, then left without a
word, having spoken to her in his own language. On one such occasion he
was surprised, as he played, by hands placed upon his shoulders.
Turning, he found a young woman (then twenty-five), pretty, her eyes
glowing with pleasure over his playing -- even over his singing, to his
own music, Goethe's famous lyric about Italy, "Kennst du das Land." She
was Elisabeth -- "Bettina" -- Brentano, sister to Franz, and to the
Clemens Brentano whom we shall meet as a famous German author. She
herself was later to produce a number of successful books presenting
autobiography and fiction in a now inextricable mixture. She is our
only authority for the story just told, and for the later episode in
which, at a party in Franz's home, she heard Beethoven discourse not
only profoundly, but with an order and elegance not generally ascribed
to him, though sometimes appearing in his letters. On May 28, 1810, she
wrote enthusiastically about him to Goethe, whom she knew not merely
through neighborly relations with his family in Frankfurt, but through a
visit with him in Weimar. Some excerpts from this famous letter:

When I saw him of whom I shall now speak to you, I
forgot the whole world.... It is Beethoven of whom I
now wish to tell you, and who made me forget the world
and you.... He stalks far ahead of the culture of
mankind. Shall we ever overtake him? -- I doubt it, but
grant that he may live until the ... enigma lying in his
soul is fully developed, ... then surely he will place
the key to his heavenly knowledge in our hands....

He himself said, "When I open my eyes I must sigh,
for what I see is contrary to my religion, and I must
despise the world which does not know that music is a
higher revelation than wisdom and philosophy, the wine
which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am
the Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for
mankind and makes them spiritually drunken.... I have
no fear for my music -- it can meet no evil fate. Those
who understand it must be freed by it from all the
miseries which the others drag about with them....

"Music is the mediator between intellectual and
sensuous life. I should like to talk to Goethe about
this -- would he understand me? ... Speak to Goethe
about me; ... tell him to hear my symphonies, and he
will say that I am right in saying that music is the one
incorporeal entrance into the higher world of

Bettina transmitted to Goethe these raptures of Beethoven, and
added: "Rejoice me now with a speedy answer, which shall show Beethoven
that you appreciate him." Goethe replied on June 6, 1810:

Your letter, heartily beloved child, reached me at a
happy time. You have been at great pains to picture for
me a great and beautiful nature in its achievements and
its striving.... I feel no desire to contradict what I
can grasp of your hurried explosion; on the contrary I
should prefer for the present to admit an agreement
between my nature and that which is recognizable in
these manifold utterances. The ordinary human mind
might, perhaps, find contradictions in it; but before
that which is uttered by one possessed of such a demon,
an ordinary layman must stand in reverence.... Give
Beethoven my heartiest greetings, and tell him that I
would willingly make sacrifices to have his
acquaintance.... You may be able to persuade him to
make a journey to Karlsbad, whither I go nearly every
year, and would have the greatest leisure to listen to
him and learn from him.

Beethoven was unable to get to Karlsbad, but the two supreme artists
of their time met at Teplitz (a watering place in Bohemia) in July,
1812. Goethe visited Beethoven's lodgings there, and gave a first
impression in a letter to his wife: "A more self-centered, energetic,
sincere artist I never saw. I can understand right well how singular
must be his attitude toward the world." On July 21 and 23 he spent the
evenings with Beethoven, who, he reported, "played delightfully."
Familiar the story how, on one of their walks together,

there came towards them the whole court, the Empress [of
Austria] and the dukes. Beethoven said: "Keep hold of
my arm, they must make room for us, not we for them."
Goethe was of a different opinion, and the situation
became awkward for him; he let go of Beethoven's arm and
took a stand at the side with his hat off, while
Beethoven with folded arm walked right through the dukes
and only tilted his hat slightly while the dukes stepped
aside to make room for him, and all greeted him
pleasantly; on the other side he stopped and waited for
Goethe, who had permitted the company to pass by him
where he stood with bowed head. "Well," Beethoven said,
"I've waited for you because I honor and respect you as
you deserve, but you did those yonder too much honor."

This was Beethoven's account, according to Bettina, who adds: "Afterward
Beethoven came running to us and told us everything." We do not have
Goethe's account. Perhaps we should be skeptical, too, about the story
-- variously and inconsistently related -- that when Goethe expressed
vexation at interruptions of their conversation by greetings from
passersby, Beethoven answered him, "Do not let them trouble your
Excellency; perhaps the greetings are intended for me."

Dubious as they sound, both stories harmonize with authentic
expressions in which the two geniuses summarized their meetings. On
August 9 Beethoven wrote to his Leipzig publishers, Breitkopf and
Hartel: "Goethe is too fond of the atmosphere of the court, more so than
is becoming to a poet." On September 2 Goethe wrote to Karl Zelter:

I made Beethoven's acquaintance in Teplitz. His
talent amazed me. Unfortunately he is an utterly
untamed personality, not altogether in the wrong in
holding the world to be detestable, but who does not
make it any the more enjoyable either for himself or for
others by his attitude. He is very excusable, on the
other hand, and much to be pitied, as his hearing is
leaving him, which, perhaps, mars the musical part of
his nature less than the social. He is of a laconic
nature, and will become doubly so because of this lack.

VI. The Last Victories: 1811-24

Wherever he went he composed. In 1811 he gave final form to Opus 97
in B Flat, a trio for piano, violin and violoncello, and dedicated it to
the Archduke Rudolf -- whence its name. It is one of his brightest,
clearest, cleanest works, least confused by profusion, almost statuesque
in its organic form. His last appearance as a performer was at the
piano in a presentation of this classic in April, 1814. He was now so
deaf that he had lost the proper adjustment of hand and pedal pressure
to musical intent; some of the fortissimi drowned out the strings, while
some pianissimi were inaudible.

In May, 1812, while Napoleon was massing half a million men for
death in Russia, Beethoven issued his Seventh Symphony, which, less
often performed, seems now to wear better than the Fifth or the Sixth.
Here is a somber dirge for lost greatness and shattered hopes, and here,
too, is tenderness for fading but cherished loves, and a quest for
understanding and peace. As its funeral march was an unwitting "1812
overture" to Napoleon's disaster in Moscow, so its premiere, on December
8, 1813, was contemporary with the collapse of Napoleon's power in
Germany and Spain. The enthusiastic reception of this symphony
gladdened for a time the aging pessimist, who continued to produce
masterpieces that for him had to be like those on Keats's Grecian urn,
"ditties of no tone."

The Eighth Symphony, written in October, 1812, first performed on
February 27, 1814, was not so well received; the master had relaxed, and
had decided to be playful; it did not quite accord with the mood of a
nation watching its fate daily hanging on the fortunes of war. But now
we may delight in the jolly, prancing scherzando, whose persistent
punctuation apparently made fun of a recent invention, the metronome.

The most successful of Beethoven's compositions was "Die Schlacht
von Vittoria," offered in Vienna on December 8, 1813, to celebrate the
battle in which Wellington had definitely destroyed French power in
Spain. The news brought tardy satisfaction to the Austrian capital,
which had been repeatedly humiliated by the apparently invincible
Corsican. Now for the first time Beethoven became really famous in his
adopted city. The music, we are told, hardly deserved its triumph; 'die
Schlacht war schlecht'. Its subject and success made Beethoven popular
with the dignitaries who, in 1814, attended the Congress of Vienna. The
composer forgivably took the opportunity to organize a benefit concert
for himself; the imperial court, resplendent with victory, offered him
the use of its spacious Redoutensaal; Beethoven sent personal
invitations to the notables of the Congress; six thousand persons
attended; and Beethoven was enabled to hide a substantial sum to cushion
his future and his nephew's.

On November 11, 1815, his brother Karl died, after bequeathing a
small sum to Ludwig, and appointing him co-guardian, with the widow, of
an eight-year-old son, Karl. From 1815 to 1826 Beethoven carried on, in
letters and the courts, a searing contest with widow Theresia for
control of Karl's movements, education, and soul. Theresia had brought
Karl Senior a dowry and a house, but had lapsed into adultery; she
confessed to her husband, who forgave her. Beethoven never forgave her,
and considered her unfit to guide Karl's development. We shall not
follow that quarrel in its wearing length and sordid details. In 1826
Karl, torn between mother and uncle, tried to kill himself. Beethoven
finally acknowledged the failure of his loving rigor. Karl recovered,
joined the Army, and took care of himself reasonably well.


With the year 1817 Beethoven passed into the final period of his
creative life. Long a revolutionist in private politics, he now made
open war against classic norms, welcomed the Romantic movement into
music, and gave to the sonata and the symphony a looser structure that
subordinated the old rules to a rampant freedom of emotional and
personal expression. Something of the wild spirit that had spoken in
France through Rousseau and the Revolution, in Germany through Sturm und
Drang, in young Goethe's 'Werthers Leiden' and young Schiller's 'Die
Rauber', then in the poems of Tieck and Novalis, in the prose of the
Schlegels, in the philosophies of Fichte and Schelling -- something of
all this came down to Beethoven, and found rich soil in his natural
emotionalism and individualistic pride. An old system of law,
convention, and restraint collapsed in art as in politics, leaving the
resolute individual free to express or embody his feelings and desires
in a joyful bursting of old rules, bonds, and forms. Beethoven mocked
the masses as asses, the nobles as impostors, their conventions and
courtesies as irrelevant to artistic creation; he refused to be
imprisoned in molds fashioned by the dead, even by such melodious dead
as Bach and Handel, Haydn and Mozart and Gluck. He made his own
revolution, even his own Terror, and made his "Ode to Joy" a declaration
of independence even in expectation of death.

The three Hammerklavier Sonatas formed a bridge between the second
period and the third. Even their name was a revolt. Some angry
Teutons, tired of Italian domination in the language and income of
music, had proposed using German, instead of Italian, words for musical
notations and instruments. So the majestic pianoforte should discard
that Italian word for 'low' and 'strong', and be called 'Hammerklavier',
since the tones were produced by little hammers striking strings.
Beethoven readily accepted the idea, and wrote Sigmund Steiner,
manufacturer of musical instruments, on January 13, 1817: "Instead of
Pianoforte, Hammerklavier -- which settles the matter once for all."

The most remarkable of the Hammerklavier Sonatas is the second, Opus
106 in B Flat, written in 1818-19 as a "Grosse Sonata fur das
Hammerklavier." Beethoven told Czerny that it was to remain his
greatest piece for the piano, and this judgment has been confirmed by
pianists in every succeeding generation. It seems to express a somber
resignation to old age, illness, and a darkening solitude, and yet it is
a triumph of art over despair.

It was in further rejection of such despondency that Beethoven wrote
the Ninth Symphony. He began work on it in 1818, concurrently with the
'Missa solemnis' which was to be performed at the installation of
Archduke Rudolf as archbishop of Olmutz. The Mass was finished first,
in 1823, three years too late for the installation.

Anxious to add to the little hoard that he had accumulated as a
refuge against old age and as a bequest to nephew Karl, Beethoven
conceived the notion of selling subscriptions for pre-publication copies
of his Mass. He sent invitations to this effect to the sovereigns of
Europe, asking from each of them fifty ducats in gold. Acceptances came
in slowly, but by 1825 ten had come: from the rulers of Russia, Prussia,
France, Saxony, Tuscany, the Princes Golitsyn and Radziwill, and the
Caecilia Association of Frankfurt.

The 'Missa solemnis' is generally held to have justified its long
gestation and the strange bartering of its finished form. There is no
trace in it of the occasional blasphemies that interrupted his inherited
Catholic faith. Each moment of the liturgy is interpreted with
concordant music, and through it all is audible the dying man's
desperate faith, written by him in the manuscript score at the outset of
the Credo: "God above all -- God has never deserted me." The music is
too powerful to be an expression of Christian humility; but the
dedicated concentration on each part and phrase, and the sustained
majesty of the whole, make the 'Missa solemnis' the fit and final
offering of a great flawed spirit to an incomprehensible God.

In February, 1824, he completed the Ninth Symphony. Here his
struggle to express his final philosophy -- the joyful acceptance of
man's fate -- broke through all the trammels of classic order, and the
impetuous monarch let the pride of his power carry him to massive
exultations that sacrificed the old god order to the young god liberty.
In the profusion of shattered altars the themes that should have stood
out as pillars to the edifice disappeared from all but esoteric view;
the phrases seemed unduly insistent and repeated; an occasional moment
of tenderness or calm was overwhelmed by a sudden fortissimo flung as if
in rage at a mad and unresponsive world. Not so, a great scholar
replies [D.F. Tovey]; there is, in this apparent embarrassment of
riches, "an extreme simplicity of form, underlying an elaboration of
detail which may at first seem bewildering until we realize that it is
purely the working out, to its logical conclusions, of some ideas as
simple and natural as the form itself."

Perhaps the master deliberately abandoned the classic effort to give
lasting form to mortal beauty or veiled significance. He confessed his
surrender, and frolicked in the unregulated wealth of his imagination
and the lavished resources of his art. In the end he recaptured some
flair of youthful defiance, and enshrined in music that ode of
Schiller's which was not really to mere joy, but rather to joyful war
against despotism and inhumanity --

Fronting kings in manly spirit,
Though it cost us wealth and blood!
Crowns to naught save noblest merit;
Death to all the Liar's brood!

With his culminating masterpieces now complete, Beethoven longed for
an opportunity to present them to the public. But Rossini had so
captivated Austria in 1823, and Viennese audiences were now so enamored
of Italian melody, that no local impresario dared risk a fortune on two
compositions so difficult as the 'Missa solemnis' and the 'Choral
Symphony'. A Berlin producer offered to present them; Beethoven was
about to agree, when a combination of music lovers, led by the
Lichnowsky family, alarmed at the thought of Vienna's outstanding
composer being forced to go to a rival capital for the premiere of his
latest and most prestigious works, agreed to underwrite their production
at the Karntnerthor Theater. After hard bargaining on all sides the
concert was given on May 7, 1824, before a crowded house, and with a
stoic program: an overture ("The Consecration of the House"), four parts
of the 'Missa solemnis', and the Ninth Symphony with a stentorian German
chorus to crown it all. The singers, unable to reach the high notes
prescribed, omitted them. The Mass was received solemnly, the symphony
with enthusiastic acclaim. Beethoven, who had been standing on the
platform with his back to the audience, did not hear the applause, and
had to be turned around to see it.

VII. Comoedia Finita: 1824-27

He quarreled with Schindler and other friends about the small share
(420 florins) they gave him of the 2,200 taken at the concert; he
charged them with cheating him; they left him solitary now except for
the occasional presence of his nephew, whose attempt at suicide (1826)
topped the inspired bear's cup of grief. It was in those years that he
wrote the last five of his sixteen quartets.

The spark for these labors had come in 1823 from the offer of Prince
Nikolai Golitsyn to pay "any sum demanded" for one, two, or three
quartets to be dedicated to him. Beethoven agreed, for fifty ducats
each. Those three (Opp. 127, 130, and 132), and Opp. 131 and 135,
constitute the terminal quartets whose mysterious strangeness has
ensured their fame. Opus 130 was privately played in 1826, to the
avowed delight of the listeners, except that the performers found the
fourth movement beyond their powers; Beethoven wrote a simpler finale.
The rejected movement is now offered as "Grosse Fugue," Opus 133, which
a Beethoven scholar bravely interprets as expressing the composer's
final philosophy: Life and reality are composed of inseparable opposites
-- good and evil, joy and sorrow, health and sickness, birth and death;
and wisdom will adjust itself to them as the inescapable essence of
life. Most highly praised of the five, and considered by Beethoven to
be his greatest quartet, is Opus 131 in C Sharp Minor, finished on
August 7, 1826; here, we are told, "the mystical vision is most
perfectly sustained." Heard again recently, it seemed to be a long
weird wail, the pitiful moaning of a mortally wounded animal. The last
of the five, Opus 135, states a motto for its final movement: Muss es
sein? (Must it be?), and gives the answer: Es muss sein.

On December 2, 1826, racked by a tearing cough, Beethoven asked for
a doctor. Two of his former physicians refused to come. A third, Dr.
Wawruch, came, and diagnosed pneumonia. Beethoven took to his bed. His
brother Johann came to watch over him. Nephew Karl, with Beethoven's
blessing, left at the call of the Army. On January 11 Dr. Wawruch was
joined by Dr. Malfatti. He prescribed frozen punch to help the patient
sleep; Beethoven relished the liquor in it, and "abused the
prescription." Dropsy and jaundice developed; urine collected in
Beethoven's body instead of being excreted; twice he was tapped to
release the fluid; he compared himself to a geyser.

Resolved to make no use of the bank shares -- totaling ten thousand
florins -- which he had hidden for Karl, and faced by rapidly rising
expenses, Beethoven wrote, on March 6, 1827, to Sir George Smart of

What is to become of me? What am I to live on until
I have recovered my lost strength and can again earn my
living by means of my pen? ... I beg you to exert all
your influence to induce the Philharmonic Society to
carry out their former decision to give a concert for my
benefit. My strength is not equal to saying anything

The Society sent him a hundred pounds as an advance on the receipts of
the proposed concert.

By March 16 the physicians agreed that Beethoven had not long to
live. They and brother Johann asked his consent to summoning a priest.
"I wish it," he answered. His occasional bouts with God had been
forgotten; his letter of March 14 shows him ready to accept whatever
"God in His divine wisdom" might decree. On March 23 he received the
last sacrament, apparently in a docile mood; his brother later reported
that the dying man had said to him, "I thank you for this last service."
Soon after the ceremony Beethoven said to Schindler, "Comoedia finita
est" -- referring apparently not to the religious service but to life
itself; the phrase was used in the classic Roman theater to announce the
end of the play.

He died on March 26, 1827, after three months of suffering. A few
moments before his death a flash of lightning illuminated the room,
followed by a sharp clap of thunder. Aroused, Beethoven raised his
right arm and shook his clenched fist, apparently at the storm. Soon
thereafter his agony ended. We shall never know what that last gesture

The post-mortem examination revealed the complex of internal
disorders that had darkened his life and his temper. The liver was
shrunken and diseased. The arteries of the ears were clogged with fatty
particles, and the auditory nerves were degenerated. "The pains in the
head, indigestion, colic, and jaundice, of which he frequently
complained, and the deep depression which gives the key to so many of
his letters, would all follow naturally from the chronic inflammation of
the liver and the digestive derangements to which it would give rise."
Probably his love of walking and the open air had moderated these
ailments, and had given him most of the painless hours in his life.

His funeral was attended by thirty thousand persons. Hummel the
pianist and Kreutzer the violinist were among the pallbearers; Schubert,
Czerny, and Grillparzer were among the torchbearers. The tombstone bore
only the name BEETHOVEN and his dates of birth and death.

"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 11: "The Age of Napoleon"
Chapter 28, Beethoven
pages 574-586
by Will and Ariel Durant
2006-12-31 17:11:22 UTC
In the first he [Beethoven] worked tentatively in the
simple and placid style of Mozart and Haydn.
Anyone who can write the above sentence is, musically speaking, *an idiot*:
ignore him.

Mr M.
Peter T. Daniels
2006-12-31 17:24:01 UTC
Post by Lurkalot
In the first he [Beethoven] worked tentatively in the
simple and placid style of Mozart and Haydn.
ignore him.
Why this Sandy person is inflicting this text on us has not been
explained; Will and Ariel Durant's 10-volume "History of Civilization"
can be picked up in any usedbook store for $1 a volume or less (it was
a mainstay of every book club back in the day). It hardly reflected
current scholarship when it was written, and the last volume (probably
the one being retyped here -- they stopped at the French Revolution)
must be at least 30 years old.
2007-01-06 19:14:58 UTC
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 372 lines ]

A Performer Looks at Psychoanalysis

by Claudio Arrau

The following article by Claudio Arrau appeared
in the February 1967 issue of 'High Fidelity'.

Friends and pupils often have heard me say that in my ideal music
school, psychoanalysis would be a mandatory part of the general
curriculum. That and the art of dancing.

Psychoanalysis to teach a young artist the needs and drives of his
psyche; to make him come to know himself early rather than late and thus
sooner to begin the process of fulfilling himself, which until the end
of his life must become his main driving force as a human being and as
an artist. Indeed, only insofar as this will be his goal, his conscious
or unconscious goal, will he grow as an artist and become worthy of the
name. I would include the art of modern dance for the use of its
liberating, expressive movements in the release of psychophysiological
blocks, tensions, and inhibitions and for the greater awareness and
projection of feeling.

We have all heard of psychic blocks; of musicians suffering
breakdowns, of fingers, muscles, and memory suddenly collapsing and
refusing to function, of fear so acute that high notes in singers vanish
and all technique and mastery seem to evaporate. At such dire times, we
say that he or she needs psychoanalysis. Yes, indeed, but at such time
analysis usually comes too late. Only the most aware, the most
intensely driven by the will to live and the courage to be, ever make it
to full light and health. Others flounder in a perpetual half-light of
suffering, the mind's real Purgatorio.

In my ideal school, a young artist would never be driven to such an
impasse. Learning and guidance would light the way from the beginning,
the same as in ancient times the Mysteries helped initiate the Greek
neophyte into the stream of life. But, unfortunately, in our own
society today, with its insistence on the competitive and material
aspects of life above all else, growth and development are not the
natural order of things. Although, as Jung pointed out over and over,
life often does take matters into its own hands and carries us along,
sometimes to our good fortune, life can also play us terrible tricks --
putting out stumbling blocks when we are not looking, or bringing us to
dangerous precipices down which we sometimes fall, and from which only
the most heroic ever find the way back.

Psychoanalysis has come a long way since Freud published 'The
Interpretation of Dreams' in 1900. We know today that there are many
ways to self-knowledge and self-fulfillment, which in the end is the
cure of any neurosis (or at least must be the aim of any cure), whether
it be lengthy analysis going back to the age of one, or Tillich, or
Buber, or Zen, or sheer life-giving everyday good sense. But to me, the
most pertinent way for the life of the artist is a return to the ancient
knowledge and wisdom as embodied in the writings of Jung and expounded
in his idea of the Collective Unconscious.

This, as distinguished from the personal unconscious, is the sum of
man's total psychic history from the beginning of time, which has come
down to us in mythology, fairy tales, religion, and ancient customs and
rituals. As man's mind and soul evolved, as he fought his psychological
battles of attainment, renewal, realization, and conscious awareness and
gave them concrete form and symbol in his learning, art, and literature,
so was formed the whole mystical and mythological store of our entire
psychic past. Individually, in our own time and lives, we go through
the same psychic battles as recorded in mythology, only without the aid
of the Wise Old Man to guide us (save when we find one in the guise of
the analyst in time of need); we undertake heroic journeys just as the
great heroes of mythology -- Hercules, Perseus, and Theseus -- did, and
sometimes we are even helped in our tasks by similar miraculous advice,
forewarnings, and assistance. And like Prometheus, we challenge the
Gods, courting disaster, which we sometimes reap and sometimes triumph
over. Over and over again, we repeat what Man in his short and
dangerous passage from birth to death has undergone consciously and
unconsciously from the beginning of his history.


In the course of a lifetime of struggle and achievement, the artist,
creative and recreative, as society's culture bearer, carries out the
patterns of individual growth and development, and sometimes final
realization, more clearly than other people (or we see the patterns more
clearly, if for no more reason than that the life of the artist is more
often recorded).

If the artist's gifts are exceptional, he will often show in his
early years the qualities symbolized in the archetype of the Divine
Child, which, as Jung describes it, "is a personification of vital
forces quite outside the limited range of our conscious mind: of a
wholeness which embraces the very depth of Nature. It represents the
urge, the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely
the urge to realize itself. It is, as it were, an incarnation of the
/inability to do otherwise/ [Jung's italics], equipped with all the
powers of nature and instinct, whereas the conscious mind is always
getting caught up in its supposed ability to do otherwise."

This is the unconscious power of the child prodigy. But passing
over from the divine innocence of unconscious security to the young
manhood of conscious responsibility takes an act of supreme courage and
heroism. For the young artist, it represents one of the most difficult
periods of his life. He must pass through a great test in which he wins
his standing in society (the first prize in a competition usually as his
reward) along with the Princess, even as Tamino does in his Rite of
Initiation in Mozart's 'Magic Flute'. First he must slay the terrible
dragon (attain conscious understanding), then he must pass through the
test of fire and water (with Sarastro, the force of conscious knowledge
and commitment, as guide), and only then does he attain Pamina (his
soul), and his heart's desire. In doing so, the dark, terrible forces
of the unconscious (Queen of the Night), which always seek to drag him
down, sink into the deepest layers of his psyche from where he can then
begin to draw his creative power, but this time mastered by his
conscious mind.

If passing the heroic test -- usually preceded by such depression,
discouragement, and fear and trembling that the young artist often
contemplates suicide -- were all that had to be achieved, life would be
comparatively simple. But in the life of the artist, as well as life in
general, it is only the first of many essential tasks that he must

From the age of twenty to forty or fifty, man is in the full flush
of his life force. Eros is behind him and in him. His work makes
strides, he wins success and recognition, and he usually marries at this
time. But even with Eros within him and the drives of ego-attainment
running instinctively, each accomplishment, each success, must be a
conscious labor. No less than Ulysses, the artist must pass trial after
trial, until little by little he reaches his life's goal and finds his
soul in the guise of Penelope waiting for him.

This is if all goes well. Most of the time, as life goes, it
doesn't. Eros may be within us, but so is the Death Wish (in the
Jungian sense of the symbolic fear or urge to slip back into the dark
unconscious state of an earlier stage of development), and we do the
most inexplicable things. We frustrate ourselves constantly. Out of
fear -- fear of failure and, strange as it may seem, fear of success as
well -- we artists suddenly fall sick before major appearances. We
create frightful emotional upsets, we risk losing what we hold dearest.
We fall and break an arm. We have car accidents. Singers suddenly
become hoarse, can't make their high notes, and often tighten their neck
muscles into such a vise that it is amazing that their vocal cords can
function at all. Instrumentalists suddenly lose the use of some fingers
or suddenly can't play the simplest (or the most difficult) passages.
Or out of competitiveness and the wish for almightiness, as it were, the
least sign of imperfection can cause one to give up in the middle of an
otherwise fine performance. Worst of all, the struggle may suddenly
lose all meaning, and the artist, lost in a terrible maze of conflict
and despair, may give up performing altogether. This giving up is a
real death, the death of the soul. One descends into the abyss and the
return takes the most heroic battle with the Furies (the dark aspect of
the unconscious) which man is ever called upon to make and which
requires all the remaining power of his soul to overcome. If he wins,
he is a true hero who accomplishes his own rebirth.

The no less terrible, if less dramatic, effects arising from the
failure to deal with psychoneurotic blocks are the blocks of
communication. The blocks of emotional life and feeling which hinder
the flow of communication and expression are often the result of
teaching and upbringing, but more basically of the fear of commitment,
the fear of putting one's stamp on an interpretation, so to speak. In
the end the failure of communication is the failure of psychic growth
and development in general. Most often, communication is blocked
through unawareness and often through sheer vanity, where the artist
becomes the victim of his own success and, disconnecting himself from
his essential being, becomes increasingly isolated from the source of
his creative powers.

Fortunately, in young artists emotional blocks of communication
frequently can be broken through with the right kind of teaching. I
have been astonished many times to see pupils with seemingly nothing to
express, virtual emotional blanks, suddenly experience an inner
emotional explosion through the sheer means of playing with the whole
body instead of stiffly with only the fingers, arms rigidly at the
sides. It is as if the newfound freedom of movement works back on the
psyche to awaken and release the dormant creative imagination and enable
it to begin to grow and blossom. It goes without saying that the
potentialities of creativity must be there to begin with. Where there
are no such potentialities, a good psychic and physical shaking-up will
be a stimulant but only for the moment.

As the first half of an artist's life is dominated by Eros and the
outward driving instinct for work and attainment, so the second half of
life must be a time of stocktaking, a turning inward to the essence of
one's being where unessentials fall away and only the most meaningful
and deepest sides of our nature and gifts are fulfilled. This period of
life can be as much a crisis in an artist's life as the very first
gropings for the identity of self and purpose. Then there is the fear
before the demands and dangers of life. Now there is the terror of the
dissolution of life and the oncoming night of nothingness and death.

This does not mean that from the age of fifty or so an artist begins
to flag and accomplish less. Just the contrary happens if everything in
his psychic development has gone well. His energy is as enormous as
ever. Only now, if, as Jung describes it, the full process of
individuation has taken place, or is taking place -- the process by
which a man, through ever greater consciousness, effort, and wisdom
finally attains his complete selfhood in harmony with the cosmos -- does
he do his best and most meaningful work. If this last task is achieved,
it produces a new wave of creativity arising from still deeper sources
than anything before.

In our time, Picasso, Stravinsky, Chagall, Casals, Klemperer,
Rubinstein, Ansermet, among many other great old men, are the best
examples of the power of individuation, of what I call continuous and
endless evolvement, where the limits of one's persona begin to break
down and evaporate, leaving behind all vanity, which can lead into the
final fusion with the All. In the creative field, the continuous
invention, active imagination, endless curiosity, and the wisdom of
concentrated expression are wondrous facts in Picasso and Stravinsky
particularly. Only the greatest creative spirits ever attain so far --
the saying of more through less.

In creative life, or in the recreative, there are all kinds of
levels of realization and fulfillment and at all stages of development.
Mozart died not quite thirty-six, Schubert at thirty-one, and Beethoven
at fifty-seven. Yet each fulfilled himself creatively in the fullest
sense if quite differently. Mozart shows a creative power of such
magnitude from 'Idomeneo' to 'The Magic Flute' that one can virtually
say that he tossed out of himself one great masterwork after another.
Schubert's creative forces toward the end of his life grew in depth and
richness (the 'Great' C-major Symphony, the Quintet, Op. 163, and the
three Op. Post. piano sonatas among other major works) so that had he
lived, I feel he would have gone on to give us still more masterworks.
Beethoven underwent many rebirths and finally a complete transfiguration
at the end. Sometimes he even tried to fight the early battles over
again (on a higher level), as in Opus 106 when (probably tempted by the
new Broadwood piano under his hands) he tried to go back to the time of
the 'Appassionata' in an attempt to give birth to yet another heaven-
storming sonata. But he was now beyond such things and far on the way
to a spiritual transformation of the highest order, and the attempt
after the fiery opening proclamatory bars seems to break up under his
fingers. Instead, he goes on to the profoundest slow movement of his
entire corpus and then concludes -- the virtuoso once more to the fore
-- with the most ragingly difficult fugue imaginable, as if to say, "Now
that will show you." Beethoven always won every battle. That is why
his message to mankind and especially to young people is still so
powerful today.

Closer to our time, Mahler showed the same ability to overcome the
dark night of the soul and over and over again to transcend the death
wish, achieve rebirth and renewal on ever higher levels, and win through
to the final exaltation and apotheosis of the last symphonies. We know
today that Mahler consulted Freud about some of his most personal
problems and we can be certain that he was helped, at least to some
extent (even one good talk with a wise person can open a window to self-
understanding), for toward the end of Mahler's life his anguish and fear
of death had given way to a firm belief in the indestructibility of the
human soul and the divine possibility of man's fulfillment on earth.


When Jung wrote that life takes care of us, he uttered an often basic
truth, but only for those most positively and consciously oriented.
When we have the drive and courage to enter contests (never mind that
not everyone can win -- it's taking the risk that counts), when we take
on the responsibility of marriage and family, when we overcome obstacles
and win successes, that is life taking care of us. (At this point, what
with the renewed interest in contests vis-a-vis our political
competitiveness with the Soviet Union, it is most important to remind
young artists that contests are only a practical means in the launching
of a career and, while important psychologically as a test of endurance
and courage, are not the meaning of art. In my ideal school, young
artists would compete but there would be no first prizes, only many
prizes for different gifts.) When we need a guide and mentor most (our
own private Merlins) is when we come to crossroads and crises. Only the
most informed and aware get help out of their own beings. The rest are
fortunate if they have the luck to come across a helping hand.

From the time I was fifteen, when my teacher Martin Krause died,
until I was twenty, I went through the most difficult and unhappy years
of my life. I continued to work. I won the Liszt Prize twice in
succession at sixteen and seventeen, but hardly a day passed when I
didn't think of death. Then at twenty, twenty-one, after my first
United States tour and my return to Berlin, I was overwhelmed by the
difficulties of the struggle before me and wanted to give up then and
there. But a friend brought help. This friend had heard of how much
analysis had helped Edwin Fischer to continue to play (Fischer's problem
was a stage fright of paralyzing proportions -- when he was able to
overcome it, he gave some of the most demonic never-to-be-forgotten
performances I have ever heard), and since Fischer was Krause's older
and more famous pupil, I decided to go to an analyst too. Actually, at
that time I would have gone to a witch doctor if help had been promised.
My analyst, Dr. Hubert Abrahamsohn, not only helped me (in three years I
had enough interest in life to enter the Geneva Concours of 1927 and win
First Prize) but he has remained my friend and mentor to this day. His
help and teaching (he started out as a Freudian and came to Jung and
finally to what today is called Existential Psychology) opened so many
windows for me that I could finally interpret my own dreams -- or at
least recognize them as dreams of anxiety, forewarning, and, sometimes
in moments of despair, of a foretelling of fulfillment. Over a period
of thirty years, analysis helped clear my personal psychic jungle until
my full creative forces could flow freely. Layer after layer of
covering and unessentials were stripped away in a process which must
continue until one's death. In this sense the old saying that "when one
stops growing one dies" is literally true.

If so far I have not mentioned women artists, it is not an
oversight. The psychology of woman differs from man's as wholly as her
sex. The woman artist in today's world is not only confronted by the
problems of her own individual feminine psychological development but
with making her way in a man's world. Since man's goal is to achieve
his total personality through work, attainment, and family, a career is
his natural state -- nay his necessity. A woman artist must also
fulfill herself as a woman. If she can do that and succeed in her
career as well, without ambivalence, she is indeed blessed. But since a
woman artist's career can be no less demanding, no less ego-centered
than a man's -- the more demanding it is indeed, the greater will be the
conflict which will arise in the fulfillment of her personal life. Due
to her many ambivalences, a woman artist's chance to win through to a
great career is consequently more difficult than a man's. She has to
battle twice as hard, I think, and fairy tale and myth are rarely on her
side. (Patriarchally grounded, they are usually concerned only with the
princess who has no other aim in life than to live happily ever after
with her prince charming.)

Even in this day of rather waning patriarchy, when we seem to be on
the threshold of a new society based on the equally strong personalities
of both sexes, the normal man shuns the strong, independent woman; he
has no need of her. It takes an exceptional man to effect a happy
marriage with a woman artist, and lucky she is if she finds such a man.
But more often she doesn't find him; she wins him, as Psyche, through
trials of patience, courage, and love, finally wins back Amor.

In the Jung canon of the Collective Unconscious, the archetypes of
the Anima and the Animus figure prominently. The anima is man's womanly
aspect, the part of himself which he must not reject as unworthy but
which he has to absorb and integrate into his psyche to become a total
man. The less of this integration he accomplishes, the more of a child
he remains. The woman must absorb her animus, her masculine aspect, in
order to achieve full femininity.

The creative artist, I think, is among the few happy ones most able
to achieve the union of opposites into the total whole which is the goal
of the process of individuation -- the attainment of the unity of the
total self. In the artist, the tensions to be overcome may be greater,
but the union -- the whole -- can become more perfect. The dragon
slaying done with and the hero battles won, the artist can now allow
himself to remain open to the sources of his imagination, divination,
and creativity -- his unconscious -- which now no longer will appear as
an aspect of the dark dread but of beneficial wisdom. Without that
source, no amount of intellect, reason, ego-stability, and control would
ever have enough meaning in art.

One last thought. I am often asked by friends and pupils: isn't
psychoanalysis dangerous to artists, isn't it important for artists to
have conflicts and neuroses and problems and to suffer? Yes,
absolutely. But then psychoanalysis or self-analysis or group
psychotherapy doesn't do away with conflicts and suffering. It is the
finding of a 'modus vivendi' with conflict and suffering -- of how to
deal with them and live with them -- that matters. For the artist,
tensions and handicaps, once understood, conquered, or sublimated, are
important and need not be erased, for it is these very tensions that
give the creative process its intensity and are a vital source of
creative power. But what psychoanalysis can do is to eliminate the
handicaps of fear -- the fear of being unique, or of not being unique.
For the truth is that every artist, who in a greater or smaller way is a
true artist, is unique.

Arrau on Music and Performance
by Joseph Horowitz
Dover Publications, 1999
ISBN 0-486-40846-9
pages 237-248
2007-01-08 02:23:46 UTC
Excellent! Thanks for posting....
2007-01-08 14:43:19 UTC
Post by Sandy
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 372 lines ]
A Performer Looks at Psychoanalysis
by Claudio Arrau

Jeeezus, what a *mess*...!

Mr M.

2006-12-20 23:57:57 UTC
Sandy wrote:

Interesting, and I am an admirer of the Durants' great work,
but what does it have to do with music?
Gerald Place
2006-09-18 12:28:36 UTC
Why to this erudite newsgroup?
Post by Sandy
[ Print article using a 'typewriter' font (like Courier) 111 lines ]
English Music: 1558-1649
by Will and Ariel Durant
No one who knows only post-Puritan England can feel the joyous role of
music in Elizabethan days. From the home, the school, the church, the
street, the stage, the Thames, rose sacred or profane song-masses,
motets, madrigals, ballads, and delicate little lyrics of love such as
those that found a setting in Elizabethan plays. Music was a main
course in education; at Westminster School it received two hours a week;
Oxford had a chair of music (1627). Every gentleman was expected to
read music and play some instrument. In Thomas Morley's 'Plaine and
Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke' (1597) an imaginary untutored
Supper being ended, and musicke bookes, according to
the custome, being brought to the table, the mistresse
of the house presented me with a part, earnestly
requesting me to sing; but when, after many excuses, I
protested unfeignedly that I could not, everyone began
to wonder, some whispering to others, demanding how I
was brought up.
Barbershops provided instruments for waiting customers to play.
Elizabethan music was predominantly secular. Some composers, like
Tallis, Byrd, and Bull, remained Catholic despite the laws and wrote for
the Roman ritual, but such compositions were not publicly performed.
Many Puritans objected to church music as diverting piety; Elizabeth and
the bishops saved church music in England, as Palestrina and the Council
of Trent rescued it in Italy. The Queen supported with her wonted
determination the chapelmasters who organized large choirs and formal
music for the royal chapel and the cathedrals. The Book of Common
Prayer became a magnificent libretto for English composers, and the
Anglican services almost rivaled the Continental Catholic in polyphonic
splendor and dignity. Even the Puritans, following Calvin's lead,
approved psalm singing by the congregations; Elizabeth laughed at these
"Geneva jigs," but they matured into some noble hymns.
Since the Queen was a profanely secular spirit and loved to be
courted, it was fitting that the musical glory of her reign should be
the madrigal -- love in counterpoint, a part song unaccompanied by
instruments. Italian madrigals reached England in 1553 and set the key.
Morley tried his hand at the form, expounded it in his graceful
dialogue, and invited imitation. A madrigal for five voices, by John
Alas, what a wretched life this is, what a death,
Where the tyrant love commandeth!
My flowering days are in their prime declining,
All my proud hope quite fallen, and life entwining;
My joys each after other in haste are flying
And leave me dying
For her that scorns my crying;
Oh, she from here departs, my Love restraining,
For whom, all heartless, alas, I die complaining.
William Byrd was the Shakespeare of Elizabethan music, famous for
masses and madrigals, for vocal and instrumental compositions alike.
His contemporaries honored him as 'homo memorabilis'; Morley said he was
"never without reverence to be named among the musicians." Almost as
highly rated and versatile were Orlando Gibbons and John Bull,
royalchapel organists. These and Byrd joined (1611) in producing the
initial book of keyboard music in England, 'Parthenia, or The Maydenhead
of the first musicke that ever was printed for the Virginalls'.
Meanwhile the English sustained their reputation for composing solo
songs of a wholesome freshness redolent of the English countryside.
John Dowland, renowned as a virtuoso of the lute, won praise for his
'Songes or Ayres', and Thomas Campion gave him close rivalry. Who does
not know Campion's "Cherry Ripe"?
Musicians were organized in a strong union, disturbed under Charles
lute, harp, organ, virginal or spinet, clavichord or harpsichord, flute,
recorder (our flageolet), hautboy, cornet, trombone, trumpet, drums, and
many forms of viol, which was now giving place to the violin. The lute
was favored for virtuoso performance and to accompany songs; the
virginal, modest mother of the piano, was popular with young women, at
least before marriage. Instrumental music was intended chiefly for the
virginal, the viol, and the lute. A kind of chamber music was composed
for an ensemble or "consort" of viols varying in size and range.
Campion, in a masque for James I's Queen Anne, used an orchestra of
lutes, harpsichords, cornets and nine viols (1605). Much instrumental
music by Byrd, Morley, Dowland, and others has come down to us. It is
largely based on dance forms, follows Italian models, and excels in a
delicate and tender beauty rather than in vigor or range. Fugue and
counterpoint are developed, but no thematic variation, no ingenuity in
modulation, no resolved discords or chromatic harmonies. And yet when
our nerves are frayed with the pounding stimuli of modern life, we find
something cleansing and healing in Elizabethan music; no bombast, no
rasping dissonances, no thundering finales, only the voice of an English
youth or girl singing plaintively or merrily the timeless canticles of
impeded love.
"The Story of Civilization" (in 11 volumes)
Volume 7: "The Age of Reason Begins"
Chapter II, Merrie England: 1558-1625
pages 59-61
by Will and Ariel Durant