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The first of the great harmonists of this æra, the mafter of the still greater Jusquin de Prez, was John Okenheim, a Netherlander; of whom none of the musical writers of the 16th century forget to mention the Motet, in thirty fix parts, which he composed, but which is not come down to us. A song, however, of our countryman, Bird (or father Talls] in forty parts, is still preserved; a copy of it being now in the poffeffion of Mr. Bremner in the Strand. While he is treating on this subject, the Author observes, that if there had been more frequent rehearsals of the Miferere of Leo, in eight real parts, which was performed, under the direction of Anjani last year, 1781, at the Pantheon, by more than forty voices; he conceives, from such of the movements as were correctly executed, that the effects of the whole would have been wonderful, and greatly have furpassed all the expectation which the high reputation of the compofer, and the uncommon magnitude of the enterprise, bad excited. There can be little melody,' the Author adds, in any of these multiplied parts ; but to make them move at all, with out violation of rule, requires great meditation and experience.'
Jusquin de Prez is represented to us by the Author, as the type of all musical excellence, at the time in which he lived.'
The laws and difficulties of Canon, Fugue, Augmentation, Diminution, Reversion, and almost every other species of learned contrivance, allowable in ecclefiaftical compositions for voices, were never so well observed, or happily vanquished, as by Jufquin; who may justly be called the Father of modern harmony, and the inventor of almost every ingenious contexture of its constituent parts, near 100 years before the time of Palestrina, Orlando di Lallo, Tallis or Bird, the great musical luminaries of the 16th century.'-Rabelais mentions him at the head of all the fifty-nine Yoyeulx Musiciens whom he had formerly heard. Among musicians, he was the giant of his time, and his com pofitions seem to have been as well known, and as much practised thoughout Europe, at the beginning of the 16th century, as Handel's were in England, about forty years ago,
In the mufic-book of Prince Henry (afterwards Henry VIII.), now at Cambridge, there are several of his compofitions; as likewise in a very beautiful manuscript in the British Museum, But the most capital collection of his works, and of cotemporary Contrapuntifts, which, the Author believes, is now subliftingi is likewise preferved in the British Museum : and as these productions are not only precious from their age and scarcity, but likewise from their intrinsic worth, he has been exceedingly and properly ample in his extracts and accounts of them. In his examination of them, he was so drawn on, and amused, by this Author's ingenious and curious contrivances, that he scored se
veral whole masses, which he regards as the moft fubtle and elaborate productions that he has ever seen in this kind of writing.
There are some who, indiscriminately abusing all the musical compofitions of the present age, confine all mufieal excellence to the æra now under confideration *; while others treat these learned productions with the utmost contempt. Though the Author does not enter into any formal discussion of the respective merits of this old, and our present mufic; he ascertains the Teal value of these ancient compositions with such candour, and just discrimination, that we cannot relift the temptation of tranfcribing a confiderable part of his observations on the learned Counterpoint of the 16th century. These reflections contain, at the same time, its eloge and its apology. Notwithstanding what we have said on a former occasion t, we willingly subscribe to both.
• This species of laboured compofition has been frequently censured and stigmatised by the name of pedantry, and Gothic barbarism, which, perhaps it would now deserve, out of the church; but in the time of Josquin, when there was little melody, and no grace in the arrangement, or measure of single notes, the science of harmony, or ingenuity of contrivance in the combination of simultaneous sounds, or music in parts, as it was the chief employment of the student, and ambition of the composer, so the merit of both, and the degree of regard bestowed upon them by posterity, should be proportioned to their success in what was their chief object, and not in what had no existence at the time in which these muficians lived.'
" With respect to some of Josquin's contrivances, such as Augmentations, Diminutions, and Inversions of the melody, expreiled by the barbarous Latin verb, Cancrizare, from the retrograde motion of the crab; they were certainly pursued to an excess; but to subdue difficulties has been esteemed a merit of a certain kind, in all the arts, and treated with respect by artists. Michael Angelo, in delineating the difficult attitudes into which he chose to throw many figures in his works, and which other artists had not courage, or, perhaps, abilities to attempt, procured himself a great name among the judges of corre&t drawing, and bold design; though a great part of the spectator's pleafure in viewing them, muft arise from reflecting on the difficulty of the undertaking. There are different roads to the temple of fame in every art'; and that which 'was followed by Josquin, and his emulators, was too full of thorns, brambles, and impediments, to be pursued by men of common diligence and abilities. Painting and sculpture, which are to delight and deceive
• See M, Review, February 1777, p. 137, &c. + See M, Review, August 1777, p. 161, &c.
the eye, do not, any more than music, confine their powers to the mere endeavour at pleasing the sense of which they are the object; and there are pictures, ftatues, and musical compofitions, which afford very little pleasure to the eye or ear but what is intellectual, and arises from refleding on the learning, correctness, and great labour which the artist must have bestowed on them.
• Canons of difficult folution were, to musicians, a species of problem, and served more to exercise the mind than please the sense; and, though a peculiar genius, or penetration, be requifite for the quick discovery of riddles or rebuses; yet still more cunning is necessary to their production: and, however contemptuously these harmonical contrivances may be treated by the lazy lovers of more airy and simple compositions, the study of them is still of fuch use to musical students, in their private exercises, that a profound and good Contrapuntift has, perhaps, never yet been made by other means.- Indeed a great composer has, we imagine, never existed since the invention of counterpoint, who, at his moments of leisure, has not attempted to manifest superior learning and skill in the production of canons, and other difficult arrangements and combinations of found who, if he suceeded, was not vain of his abilities.
• Before the cultivation of Dramatic Music, as Canon and Fugue were universally studied and reverenced, they were brought to such a degree of perfection as is wonderful; and though good taste has long banilhed them from the theatre, yet the church and chamber ftill, occasionally, retain them with great propriety : in the church, they preclude levity; and, in the chamber, exercise ingenuity.'
Though, by transcribing these passages, we have done full juftice, to the music of this period, we are willing to go a step further, and to acknowledge, that the best Canons and Fugues of the 16th century are much superior to any modern compofitions of that kind; and that too for an evident reason: the Authors of them having bestowed their whole time and attention, and exerted all their powers, on the artful and laboured construction of these complicated compositions. Modern composers have voluntarily declined the difficult pursuits in which their forefathers were engaged ; and of which, the conquering, premeditared, and conventional difficulties often conftituted the principal merit. In following this course, they have furely much better consulted the interests of the car to the gratification of which their art ougbt certainly to be principally appropriated by inventing new and agreeable melodies, in every posible variety of style, and by cultivaring modulation, grace, expression, accent, rythm, and by irring the powers of fancy; nay, we may add, by giving us friking and pleasing specimens of art and contrivance,
even in point of harmony (considered, however, only as an alifent to melody) without suffering that art to manifest itself, otherwise than by its effects on the ear.
We may perhaps partly account for the total apathy which the composers of this period exhibit, with respect to the natural charms of air or melody, by observing, that Counterpoint was even yet, as it were, a new art, a “ Novitium Inventum," as it was called by writers of the middle ages ;--and every faculty such was the fashion of the times-was exclusively directed to the turning it to account, in every possible shape, till at length the ear had little or no concern in the matter. The invention of new and agreeable melodies was, at this time, so far neglected, that, as the Author tells us, the business of our best composers for keyed-instruments, such as Bird, Morley, Bull, Giles, Farnaby, and Gibbons, was to make variations upon old and wellknown tunes :-a fashion, says he, which was carried to such excess, that these melodies, which were in themselves so easy, that “plowmen whiftled them o'er the furrowed land,” by a mere multiplication of notes, without accent, grace, or meaning, became so difficult, that the greatest players in Europe of the present age, who are so frequently accuted of levity, caprice, and tricks, are utterly unable to perform them :'--and yet, adds the Author, this has been pointed out as the period of perfection and true fomplicity in music; while modern musicians are said, “ by a variety of treble instruments, and a vicious taste, to have given harmony its mortal wound *."-We wish the Author, among his other curiosities, had given us a short specimen or two of the ungraceful gambols of these square-toed gentry, when they dropped for a while the working of Canons, rectè and retro, and were disposed to be frisky:
-When “ My grave Lord Keeper led the brawls,
Gray's Long Story. We must not omit to mention the Author's curious recoma mendation of this old music to such of his readers as have been fatiated with modern melody, harmony, and modulation; which is, that it is become new by excess of antiquity.'— Few or none of the passages have been retained in modern music; and the harmony and modulation having been regulated by the ecclefiaftical tones, or modes, which have been so long exploded in this country; every thing would be as new to a Dilettante of the present age, as if he only now heard mufic for the firft time : so that, those who can tolerate nothing but what is ancient, and those who are in constant search of something new,
• See Notes to Walton's Angler, p. 238. edit. of 1760; and M, Review, Vol. LVI. February 1777, p. 137.
will, in these Authors, find music equally adapted to their fevesal taftes, and be likewise furnished with an excuse for their faftidiousness.'
The Author terminates his history of this period, and indeed the volume, with an account of the state of secular and church mufic in England. Those who are desirous of seeing what kind of air, and harmony, our countrymen produced at this time, in their Lyric compositions, will be able to form a judgment from some specimens selected from a curious and valuable manuscript, now in the poffefion of a Mr. White, and which once belonged to Dr. Robert Fayrfax, an eminent English composer, during the reigns of Henry VII. and VIII.
The specimens of our Church Music which the Author has given, composed in the time of Henry VII. or at least before the reformation, have been taken by him from a set of books containing mafies and services to Latin words, preserved in the Music-school at Oxford. They are the works of the founders of our church music, and are extremely difficult to read, or transcribe in score. Anthony Wood says that they were thought illegible even by the musicians of his time. In our Author's estimation, they shew, that, at this time, our Counter point and Church Music had attained a degree of perfection, with respect to art, contrivance, and corre Etness of harmony, which at least equalled the best of any other country; however inelegant, uncouth, and imperfect our Lyric compositions may have been, till after the middle of the fixteenth century.
At the close of this volume, the Author, with his usual judge ment, asigns a reason why, before the Reformation, or at least when Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne (in 1558), ' a school or Counterpoint was formed in this country, that was equal, at least, to that of any other part of Europe. He observes, that, previous to this æra, the choral music of every Christian country approached perfection by nearly equal ftrides. . Before the Reformation, as there was but one religion, there was but one kind of music in Europe, which was Plain Chant, and the Dir ant built upon that found, ation; and as this music was likewise only applied to one language, the Latin, it accounts for the compositions of Italy, France, Spain Germany, Flanders, and England, keeping pace with each other in style and excellence. All the arts seem to have been the companions, if not the produce, of successful commerce; and they will, in general, be found to have pursued the same course, which an admirable modern historian * has so well delineated; that is, like commerce, they will be found, upon enquiry, to have appeared first in Italy ; [Ecclefiafticl music, * Hiftory of Charles V. vol. i, fect.