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to bim, at the publishers, Messrs. Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, Paternoster Row, London.
TO THE EDITOR.
As in your last number, page 215, you mentioned a volume of, Masses, which were published by the permission of the late Mr. Samuel Webbe, perhaps a few remarks on that volume may not be unacceptable to your readers, previous to which I shall hazard an. opinion as to how it happens that bis sacred music is generally considered inferior to his secular compositions. The following advertisement, prefixed to the volume itself, shews by inference the intention of Mr. Webbe in the composition.
ADVERTISEMENT. *“ The following compositions being well adapted to the powers of a small choir, have been eagerly sought after, both for public and private usc.
“On observing that Mr. Webbe had no intention of ever printing them himself, we solicited his permission to publish them, which he not only granted, but also offered to assist in correcting the plates.
“ With the view then of rendering them as useful as possible, we printed them in the pocket size; and also separately for general accommodation.
“Although the basses are not always figured, the hand of the skill. ful organist will seldom be at a loss for proper harmonies necessary for the accompaniments, as they will naturally arise from the progression of the melody, which (as all church music should be,) is as simple as possible, &c.”
In addition to science and a highly cultivated taste, which his secnilar compositions sufficiently indicate, Mr. Webbe has shewn, by the simplicity of his composition in the work above alluded to, that he possessed a clear idea of musical effect. He was well aware that music, in many parts, enriched with extraneous modulations, is not to be performed but by singers whose powers and abilities are of the very first rate; that such music is much better calculated for the
chamber than for the church, and that such choirs could not be es. pected out of London: He therefore so calculated his music as to producc, even in small choirs, a choral effect. A striking example of this may be found in the Portuguese Hymn "Adeste fideles." The universal joy at the birth of a Saviour manifested in this hymn, which is used only during the Christmas festivity, is but feebly expressed by a few select voices, uniting with the most exquisite precision, to give effect in a large building to the delicate and tender harmonies ani graceful passages with which Mr. Novello has adorned it. This delightful species of harmony is indeed well calculated for the chamber; but the nobly energetic arrangement of Mr. Webbe, admitting by its simplicity of an indefinite number of voices, is far better adapted to the expression and diffusion of that general exultation which actually operates upon every one assembled in the sacred cdifice on so joyous an occasion. I have selected this hymn, because generally known in the musical world, and for that reason best calculated to elucidate and enforce, by comparison, my idea of the sound judgment of the author, whose work is now under consideration. If it appears thus conspicuouslý in the arrangement of a piece not originally his own, we may surely give him credit for a due exercise of it in the compositions in question for his glees prove his powers ; and I bence draw the conclusion that, in his Masses, he has rendered those powers subservient to his judgment. The volume of them alluded to in your Magazine bas the following title page: “A Col. lection of Modern Church Music, consisting of Masses, &c. composed by the following masters, Webbe, Paxton, Ricci, and Dr. Arnc. Published by permission of Mr. Webbe, and under his immediate inspection,” The first five appear to be by Mr. Webbe ; the sixth is supposed to be by Dr. Arne, the seventh is by Ricci, and the eighth and ninth by Paxton. The first and fourth, in the keys of A and D major, appear to have been intended for common occasions. The second, which is in the key of Bb major, opens with a fine largo sostenuto movement, the third strain of which contains some fine though simple modulation. The “Gloria” cornmencing at « Et in terrâ Par” begins with the eighth tone of the Gregorian chants reduced to time, on the stile of which the whole appears to be founded. The soli and tutti are well contrasted. There are some fine modulations from “Qui tollis peccata mundi," to " Tu solus allissimus Jesu Christe," and “cum sancto" to the end, concludós the
hymn with a majesty well befitting the words. In the 6 Credo," which commences with “ Patrem omnipotentem," the eighth tone is again introduced, which also seems to influence the style of the whole. It contains many well imitated points. The “Genitum non factum” is a real canon of the eleventh above. The characteristics of the “ Crucifixus” are sublimity and expression in an eminent dogree, and the piece is well sustained throughout. The“ Sanctus,' more than any other part of this Mass, shiews Mr. Webbe's discrimination in choral effect. The words have furnished him with a favorable opportunity which he has not neglected. The “ Agnus Dei' is a fugata, and a fine movement. The “ Sicut erat” in the “ Domine salvum fac” contains a subject which is regularly answered the first time, and has some judicious imitations of it and of other points. The first strain of the “ Tantum ergo" is music well suited to the solemn occasion, and forms a striking contrast with the dignis fied Alla Breve movement which follows. I have dwelt more parti, cularly on this Mass, because, whilst the modulation is rich though simple, whilst the soli and tutti are well contrasted, whilst it abounds with judicious imitations, it is perhaps more devotional than any of the others.
The third Mass, which is in C major, seems, as well as the fifth and sixth, to have been intended for the more solemn festiyals of the year. The “Gloria" is as magnificent as can be well expected in a composition of two parts. The “ Et iterum venturus est cum gloria” is followed by a fine organ symphony, as is also "judicari vivos," which gives an impressive effect to the words when performed on an instrument which has the advantage of a trumpet stop. The “Cujus regni non erit finis” is a movement consisting of an imitation of three points: the effect of the repetition of the words “non erit finis," is heightened by the movement concluding with an ayersion of the imperfect cadence from the key note to its fifth. The “ Sanc. tus" is majestically introduced by a symphony, which contains an organ point, and other symphonies interspersed, add much to the force of the words. An equal and dignificd style is sustained throughout the remainder of the Mass.
The fifth Mass, which is in F major, differs in one particular from the preceding four, being divided not like them into strains, but generally into moyements. The Kyrie eleison contains some fine combinations of harmony. The effect of the “ Gloria in excelsis
Deo" is greatly enhanced by an interchange of words between the parts, which is a peculiar characteristic in the compositions of Mr. Webbe. The duets, solos, and chorusses, from “ Laudamus te” to “propter magnam gloriam tuam” are well worthy attention. This hymn is well concluded by a Fugata. The creed, although set in common time, has much of the effect of a chant, relieved only by a duet and three solos. The Benedictus is a continued solo, occasionally accompanied by a chorus of “ Hosanna,” another instance of Mr. Webbe's excellence in the management of his words. This Mass is enriched throughout with an organ bass. The stile of each of these five Masses is ably supported, and yet they vary so much from each other, that one would not imagine they were by the same composer.
The sixth Mass, which is in F major, is in three parts; alto, tenor and bass, and is a florid composition. The “Gloria” is opened by a symphony in the style of the coronation anthem, which introduces the succeeding chorus with surprising effect. This movement to “ propter mugnam gloriam tuam” is composed of chorusses, florid passages and points finely contrasted. “ Domine Deus Iber celestis"
opens with a bass solo, which continues to “ suscipe deprecationem nostram,” which is well calculated to shew a fine voice, and has a brilliant organ accompaniment interspersed with symphonies ; after which, a supplichevole movement is introduced to the words " Qui sedes ad dextram Patris," and the hymn is concluded with alternate solo and chorus, in the same bold style in which it begun. The credo is opened and continued in the same style to “ Qui propter nos homines,” which is an alto solo as far as the “ crucifixus.” It is directed to be performed con ammiratione, and by its simplicity, gives ample scope to the powers and judgment of a singer. A tenor solo occurs from the “ Et in Spiritum Sanclum,” which from the nature of the passages requires some powers in the singer; but though florid, they may be easily expressed in buildings much larger than chapels usually are. The remainder of the Creed, and indeed of the whole Mass, from the boldness of the passages, from the contrasts naturally arising from the words, and from the interspersion of solos, duetts, trios, and symphonies amongst the chorusses, seems eminently calculated to produce the effect undoubtedly intended by the author, that of giving additional solemnity to divine service on the greater festivals of the year.
The seventh Mass is by Riocı; but as Mr. Novello has added a counter and tenor parts, and as I am not in possession of that score, I should be unable to do it justice
The eighth and ninth Masses are by the late Mr. Paxton, and although their style is somewhat heavy, they are neither of them without their beauties. The“ Domine saltum fac," in the first, is a fine, bold, expressive, and devotional movement. Mr. Wesley seems to have been of the same opinion with all who have heard the “ Tantum ergo," having used it as a theme for variations, which, in the hands of a skilful organist, cannot fail to delight the hearer. In the second Hosanna" of the last Mass, an effect quite original, seems to be produced by a responsive arrangement of the words. Upon the whole, it is impossible to judge of these Masses from their simple appearance in notes; as, with a few exceptions, a large building and a number of voices are as essential to their proper effect, as a small room and select voices are necessary to that of the more delicate compositions of modern authors.
Besides these, MR. Webbe has published some other Masses, and a number of motetts, which last, although they in general require finer singing, and are many of them well calculated for the chamber, yet they are so composed as to produce, in divine service, the effect which he desired ; in proof of which I need only point out the following: “ Alma redemptoris," in D major ; solo ind chorus, “O Salutaris hostia,” a duett in F major ; “ () Sacrum ('onirium," a duett in G major; “ O Jesu Deus magne,
a duett for sopranos in Bb major. And in another publication Exaudi Domine preces servi lui," with a brilliant organ accompaniment. Many other examples might be quoted to shew that Mr Webbe has not descend, ed in his sacred music, but the above I hope will suffice.
I am, Sir,
James TAYLOR, No. 58, Pattergate-street, Norwich,
January 25th, 1819,