WOMAN'S WORK IN MUSIC
Being an Account of Her Influence on the Art, in Ancient as well as Modern Times; A Summary of Her Musical Compositions, in the Different Countries of the Civilized World; and an Estimate of Their Rank in Comparison with Those of Men
By Arthur Elson
Author of "A Critical History of Opera," "Modern Composers of Europe," etc.
L C PAGE & COMPANY BOSTON PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1903 By L. C. Page & Company (INCORPORATED)
All rights reserved
Third Impression, April, 1908
COLONIAL PRESS Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co. Boston, U. S. A.
TO Mrs. Louis C. Elson TRUE TYPE OF SELF-SACRIFICING WIFE AND MOTHER IN A MUSICAL FAMILY, THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED BY HER SON
Acknowledgments are due to Mr. Otto Fleishner, of the Boston Public Library, for his kindness in furnishing lists of periodical articles bearing on the subject of this book.
I. Ancient and Mythical 11 II. Mediaeval 35 III. Wives of the Composers 61 IV. Clara and Robert Schumann 90 V. Other Musical Romances 111 VI. England 132 VII. Germany 154 VIII. France 174 IX. America 195 X. Other Countries 211 XI. Conclusion 234
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Clara (Weick) Schumann Frontispiece Eleanor of Aquitaine 50 Richard and Cosima Wagner 88 Marie Wieck 91 Marie Antoinette 114 Sybil Sanderson 130 Maggie Okey 144 Louisa Adolpha Lebeau 164 Adele Aus der Ohe 171 Cecile-Louise-Stephanie Chaminade 174 Augusta Mary Ann Holmes 178 Mrs. H. H. A. Beach 196 Julia Rive-King 204 Ingeborg von Bronsart 220 Teresa Carreno 232
WOMAN'S WORK IN MUSIC
ANCIENT AND MYTHICAL
The Church of Rome, though admitting no women to a share in performing its services, has yet made a woman the patron saint of music. The religions of antiquity have paid even more homage to the weaker sex in the matter, as the multitude of musical nymphs and fostering goddesses will show.
Of Saint Cecilia herself little is known accurately. The very apocryphal legend states that about the year 230 a noble Roman lady of that name, who had been converted to Christianity, was forced into an unwilling marriage with a certain Valerian, a pagan. She succeeded in converting her husband and his brother, but all were martyred because of their faith. This it is stated, took place under the Prefect Almacus, but history gives no such name. It is unfortunate, also, that the earliest writer mentioning her, Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers, speaks of her as having died in Sicily between the years 176 and 180. It is doubtful whether she would have been known at all, in connection with the art, but for a passing phrase in her story, which relates that she often united instrumental music to that of her voice in sounding the praises of the Lord. Because of these few words, she is famed throughout musical Christendom, half the musical societies in Europe are named after her, and Raphael's picture, Dryden's ode, Stefano Maderno's statue, and a hundred other great art works have come into existence.
The earliest inferences of woman's influence in music are to be drawn from the Hindoo mythology. According to the tabular schedule of all knowledge, found in the ancient Brahmin records, music as an art belongs in the second chief division of lesser sciences, but on its mathematical and philosophical side it is accorded a much higher position, and is treated of in the oldest and most sacred Hindoo work, the Veda. This authority tells us that when Brahma had lain in the original egg some thousand billion years, he split it by the force of his thought, and made heaven and earth from the two fragments. After this, Manu brought into being ten great forces, whence came all the gods, goddesses, good and evil spirits. Among the lesser deities were the genii of music (Gandharbas) and those of the dance (Apsarasas), who furnished entertainment for the gods before man possessed the art.
About this time the female element began to assert itself. At Brahma's command, his consort, Sarisvati, goddess of speech and oratory, brought music to man, incidentally giving the Hindoos their finest musical instrument, the vina. The demigod Nared became the protector of the art, but Maheda Chrishna performed a more material service by allowing five keys, or modes, to spring from his head, in the shape of nymphs, while his wife, Parbuti, produced one more. Then Brahma helped the cause along by adding thirty lesser keys, or modes, all of them in the form of nymphs also.
These modes varied in character, some of them being too fiery to be attempted by mortals. It is related that Akbar, the emperor, once ordered the famous singer, Naik Gobaul, to sing the Raagni, or improvisation, of the mode of fire. The poor singer entreated for a less dangerous task, but in vain. Then he plunged up to his neck in the waters of the river Jumna, and began. Before he had finished half of the song, the water around him began to boil. He paused, but, finding the emperor's curiosity relentless, continued the strain, until at the close his body burst into flames and was consumed. Another melody caused the formation of clouds and the fall of rain, and a female singer is said once to have saved Bengal from drought and famine by means of this lay. Many other refrains had a similar power over the forces of nature; one could make the sun disappear and bring on night at midday, while others could change winter to spring, or rain to sunshine.
In all Indian legends, the charm of music is described as of immense potency. All animate and inanimate nature is represented as listening with ecstasy to the singing of Chrishna and Parbuti. When Chrishna was on earth, in the form of a shepherd, there were sixteen thousand pastoral nymphs, or shepherdesses, who fell in love with him. They all tried to win his heart by the power of music, and each one sang to him in a different manner. Hence arose the sixteen thousand different keys which were said to have existed at one time in India.
The Hindoo musical system of to-day is likewise ascribed largely to female sources. The scale consists of seven chief tones, which are represented by as many heavenly sisters. The names of the tones (sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, corresponding to our do, re, mi, etc.) are merely abbreviations of the names of the nymphs who preside over them. The tones of the scale are divided into quarters, and the number of quarters in the diatonic scale intervals is four, three, two, four, four, three, and two. Thus the number of possible modes is vastly greater than in our own scale, which has only semitones. There are six chief modes, represented by six genii, while each one is married to five of the thirty nymphs who typify the lesser modes. Each one of the genii has eight sons, and these are wedded to a nymph apiece, making forty-eight in all. Every member of this prolific musical family presides over something, if it is only one of the quarter tones that form the scale.
To illustrate the method of naming, the four quarters of the fifth scale tone (pa, or Panchama) belong to the nymphs Malina, Chapala, Lola, and Serveretna. The next full tone (dha) is owned by Santa and her sisters. If the higher tone, dha, should be flatted, giving it the same pitch as the upper quarter of the lower tone, pa, the Hindoo musician would not speak of dha as being flat, but would say instead, "Serveretna has been introduced to the family of Santa and her sisters."
The Hindoo music of to-day is not as potent as in mythical times. The people themselves acknowledge the decline of their art, and admit that even in the last century or two it has deteriorated. As for the miracle-working Ragas, or improvised songs, the people in Bengal will say that they can probably be heard in Cashmere, while the inhabitants of Cashmere will send the inquirer back to Bengal. Woman, too, has a less important position than of old. "When the ancient sages made our musical system," says an eminent Brahmin in an interview at San Francisco, "there were many women among them; but now not one can accomplish anything in the art."
In the traditions of ancient Egypt, music is entirely under the patronage of male gods. Thoth, the Egyptian Hermes, invented the lyre by striking the tendons of a dead tortoise, which had dried and stretched in the shell. Osiris, too, the chief of the Egyptian gods, protected the art, although Strabo says music was not allowed in his temple at Abydos. While travelling in Ethiopia, the story runs, Osiris met a troupe of revelling satyrs, and, being fond of singing, he admitted them to his train of musicians. In their midst were nine young maidens, skilled in music and various sciences, evidently the prototype of the Grecian Muses. Horus, the son of Osiris (equivalent to the Greek Apollo) was considered the god of Harmony.
An important mythical character was Maneros, son of the earliest Egyptian king. He seems to hold the same position as Linus, son of Apollo, among the Greeks. The first song of Egyptian music was a dirge for his untimely end, and a lament for the swift passing away of youth, spring, joy, and so on. Gradually the song itself, instead of the king's son, began to be called Maneros, and became the well-known banquet song of the social feasts, calling upon the guests to enjoy life while they might. In time the song became a symbol of gaiety and merriment instead of grief.
In most of the ancient civilizations, the songs appear to have been accompanied by clapping of hands, to mark the rhythm. There were many actual dances, also, in ancient Egypt, as is fully proven by a number of the old paintings. Some were like our jigs, break-downs, or clog-dances, while others consisted of regular figures, such as forward and back, swing, and so on, the latter kind being restricted to the lower orders. In all of these, women must have taken a large part, and doubtless they were responsible for some of the music. They were not allowed to play the flute, but could indulge in the tabor and other instruments. Some of the scenes depicted closely resemble the modern stage, and it is more than probable that, when the audiences of to-day applaud our own ballet scenes, they are enjoying themselves in the old Egyptian manner.
There can be no doubt that woman played an important part in music, possibly even in composition, in many civilizations which apparently allowed her only a restricted field of action. The Empress of Germany recently defined woman's sphere as consisting of four subjects,—children, clothes, cooking, and church; yet the German women have far more influence than this official utterance would indicate. It is not surprising, then, to find in the folios of Lepsius a reproduction of something analogous to our conservatories of music. It represents a course of musical instruction in the school of singers and players of King Amenhotep IV., of the eighteenth dynasty. There are several large and small rooms, connected with each other, and containing furniture and musical instruments. In some are the musicians practising and teaching. One teacher sits listening to the singing of a young girl, while another pupil is playing the accompaniment on a harp. Still another girl stands attentively listening to the teacher's instructions, as in a modern class. In another place are two girls practising a dance with harp music. In one room is a young lady having her hair dressed, while in another a young girl has placed aside her harp and is sitting down to lunch with a companion. All this goes to show that different civilizations often resemble one another more than would appear at first sight, and very probably woman's part in ancient Egyptian music was much like that which she plays in our own to-day.
The earliest Hebrew music was undoubtedly modelled after that of Egypt. In later Biblical times, however, there were many national instruments, and the style of the music must have been characteristic. The Old Testament, even in its earlier books, contains many examples of the songs of the people. Their ancient folk-music showed three principal styles,—the joyous bridal song, the cheerful harvest or vintage song, and the wailing funeral song; and there are many examples of each in the Scriptures. As there was no definite notation among the ancient Hebrews, the actual tunes that were sung with these songs will never be known. But it may be possible that the melodies have been preserved by rote, for it is certain that these three schools of singing exist to-day in Arabia and Syria. Whole villages are known to unite in a seven-day festival of rejoicing, not unlike the one at the wedding of Samson, as described in the fourteenth chapter of Judges.
The Song of Solomon presents an entire set of bridal songs in the popular vein. A good example of the mourning song is found in the opening chapter of the second book of Samuel, where David laments the death of Saul and Jonathan. It is somewhat exceptional because of its being rendered by a man, for in Eastern countries the professional mourners were always women, hired for the occasion. The men might join in the chorus of woe if they wished, but the main part of the song was always given by the women, who were not unlike the "Keeners," heard in Ireland on similar occasions, even down to recent times. The book of Lamentations presents a series of funeral songs, written in imitation of the professional lays of grief, and containing many allusions to the mourning women. In the fifth chapter of Amos, in Habakkuk, and many other books, are further illustrations of such folk-songs. The fifth chapter of Isaiah begins with the cheerful style of the vintage song, and then suddenly changes to a song of grief, forming an artistic contrast that must have been highly effective.
In the Hebrew songs, as in the Egyptian, there must have been much dramatic action united with the vocal work. When the word "dancing" occurs, it generally means only gesture and pantomime. Its use is made evident in the song of Moses, in Exodus XV. It requires little imagination to picture Miriam using a folk-song with which her hearers were familiar, improvising words to suit the occasion, and illustrating the whole with successive gestures of pride, contempt, sarcasm, and triumph, while the assembled multitude joined in the chorus at every opportunity.
Still more evident does this union of voice and action become in the song of Deborah and Barak, in Judges V. A possible description of the performance of this musical comedy is given by Herder, who suggests that "Probably verses 1-11 were interrupted by the shouts of the populace; verses 12-27 were a picture of the battle, with a naming of the leaders with praise or blame, and mimicking each one as named; verses 28-30 were mockery of the triumph of Sisera, and the last verse was given as a chorus by the whole people." According to this, the tune must certainly have been a familiar one. The whole scene, with its extemporized words, its clapping of hands to mark the rhythm, and its alternation of solo and chorus, was probably not unlike the singing at some of the negro camp-meetings on the Southern plantations.
Foremost among the patrons of the art in Grecian mythology are the Muses. These were not always nine in number. Originally, at Mount Helicon, in B[oe]otia, three were worshipped,—Melete (meditation), Mneme (memory), and Aoide (song). Three Muses were also recognized at Delphi and Sicyon. Four are mentioned as daughters of Jupiter and Plusia, while some accounts speak of seven Muses, daughters of Pierus. Eight was the number known in Athens, until finally the Thracian worship of nine spread over the whole of Greece. The parentage of these divinities is given with as many variations as their number. Most commonly they were considered daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory), born in Pieria at the foot of Mount Olympus. Some call them daughters of Uranus and Gaea, others of Pierus and Antiope, still others of Apollo or of Jupiter and Minerva. The analogy between the Muses and the nine maidens in the Egyptian troupe of Osiris has already been noted.
In Homer's poems, the Muses have already attained their well-known abode on Olympus, where they sing the festive songs at the banquets of the immortals. They were supposed to inspire the mind of the bards, and in early times the poets were perfectly sincere in invoking them and believing in their inspiration. The Muses, in presiding over the various branches of Grecian art, appeared unable to brook any rivalry. Thamyris, an ancient Thracian bard, boldly challenged them to a trial of skill, and, on being overcome by them in the contest, was deprived by them of his sight and of the power of singing. He is represented in art as holding a broken lyre. The nine daughters of King Pierus of Macedonia fared no better, and after an unsuccessful contest were changed into birds. The Muses were closely connected with Apollo, who was looked upon as their leader. Many mountains, as well as grottos, wells, and springs in various parts of Greece, were sacred to them.
The Sirens were another personification of the marvellous power of music among primitive peoples. Their parentage also is variously given, though they are usually mentioned as daughters of the river god, Achelous. They are generally represented as maidens, with a more or less extensive equipment of wings and other plumage. These wings were obtained at their request when Proserpine was carried off, that they might be better able to hunt for her. But another account says that they refused their sympathy to Ceres, and were given their feathery coating by her in punishment. Some writers say it was due to Aphrodite, who was angered at their virginity. The Sirens, as well as other ambitious performers, were rash enough to attempt a contest with the Muses, and met with the customary defeat. The victorious nine then pounced upon the unfortunate trio, and tore off wings and feathers.
The Sirens' chief occupation consisted in sitting on the rocks by the sea and singing to passing mariners. According to Homer, their island lay between AEaea and the rock of Scylla, or near the southwestern coast of Italy; but the Roman poets place them on the Campanian coast. Their magic power to charm all hearers was to last only until some one proved himself able to resist their spell; and here again accounts differ. Homer gives the credit to Ulysses, who stuffed his mariners' ears with wax, and had them bind him to the mast. Apollonius Rhodius, however, in the Argonautica, claims the credit for Orpheus, who saved the expedition of the Argonauts by singing the Sirens into silence, after which the musical damsels fell from their heights and were themselves changed into rocks. If some of our modern musicians were put to the same test, and condemned to death if they failed to charm their auditors, the results would be beneficial both to art and to the cemeteries. The power of the Sirens lasted after their death, and, like their cousins in Egyptian and Indian lore, they used their music to charm the souls of the blessed dead.
Leaving the realms of the supernatural, the only great name that the student will find among the musical women of Greece is that of Sappho. The story of her life is known only in its general outlines, and even these have been the subject of many learned disputes. She was born near the close of the seventh century B.C., either at Mytilene or at Eresos in the island of Lesbos. She grew to maturity at the former place, and became one of the two great leaders of the AEolian school of lyric poetry. From the fragments of her poetry, and those of her great rival, Alcaeus, it is evident that the two were not envious of each other's fame, but lived in the most friendly intercourse. Of the events of her life, we have only two. One, referred to in the Parian marble and by Ovid, is her flight from Mytilene to Sicily, between 604 and 592, to escape from some unknown danger. The other is the well-known story that, being in love with Phaon, and finding her love unrequited, she cast herself from the Leucadian rock. This rock is a promontory on the island of Leucas, upon which was a temple to Apollo. At the annual festival of the god, it was the custom to cast down a criminal from this rock into the sea. To break his fall, birds of all kinds were attached to him, and, if he reached the sea uninjured, boats were ready to pick him up. This apparently was a rite of expiation, and as such gave rise to the well-known story that unfortunate lovers leaped from this rock to seek relief from their distress. The story of Sappho and Phaon is one of these, but it has been claimed that its authenticity vanishes at the first breath of criticism.
It is fair to class Sappho as a musician, for in ancient Greece poetry and music were inseparable. Of her poems, which filled nine books, only a few fragments remain, of which the most important is a splendid ode to Aphrodite. At Mytilene she appears to have gathered about her a large and elegant circle of young women, who were her pupils in poetry, music, and personal cultivation. Her influence must have been widespread, for the list of her disciples includes names from all parts of Greece. Her work of teaching, in the midst of her fair followers, has been compared with that of Socrates surrounded by the flower of the Athenian youth. The power of her poetry is shown by the story of its effect on the rugged character of Solon, the lawmaker. Hearing for the first time one of her pieces, sung to him by his nephew, he expressed in the most impassioned terms the wish that he might not die before having learned such a beautiful song.
The career of Sappho is made more wonderful by the fact that woman's work in ancient Greece was supposed to consist only of family duties. She taught her sons in childhood until they were sent to their regular masters, and she guided her daughters and set them an example in doing household duties. According to Pericles, that woman was most to be prized of whom no one spoke, either in praise or blame. Because of Sappho's prominence and social activity, but more especially because of the ardent character of some of her poems, her good name has been assailed by many modern critics. The majority, however, consider the accusations as groundless.
Alcman, the great lyric poet of Sparta (Lydian by birth), brought the so-called Lydian measure to its highest perfection. He was always ready to praise women in his verses, and wrote some choruses especially for the—
"Honey-voiced, lovely singing maidens,"
which were sung by female voices only. B[oe]otia could boast of two great poetesses. Myrtis, a native of Anthedon, is reported to have been the instructress of Pindar, and is said to have contended with him for the palm of superiority. She was famous through the whole of Greece, and many places possessed statues in honour of her. The second poetess was Corinna, of Tanagra, sometimes called the Theban because of her long residence at Thebes. She flourished about 490 B.C., and was a contemporary of Pindar. Like Myrtis, she is said to have instructed him, and is credited with having gained a victory over him in the public games at Thebes. Only a few fragments of her work have been preserved to us. But Pausanias, who states that she defeated Pindar no less than five times, thinks that her personal charms may have had something to do with the matter.
While teaching Pindar, Corinna once offered to beautify his earlier efforts with mythological allusions. The pupil, nettled by this criticism, soon brought to his instructress a new poem, of which the first six stanzas touched upon every part of Theban mythology; whereupon she cooled his enthusiasm by remarking with a smile: "One must sow seed by the handful, not by the bagful."
Whether the character of these earlier poetesses was above reproach or not, it is certain that in the later days of Grecian civilization music was handed over to the most degraded classes. In Egypt the caste of professional musicians was not held in any respect, and the art was often merely an added accomplishment to enhance the value of slaves. So, too, in Greece, the practice of music was given over to the Hetaerae, or courtesans. That these women were at times able to win a high position is amply proven by the case of Aspasia. A native of Miletus, she came to live in Athens, and there gained the affections of the great leader Pericles, not more by her beauty than by her high mental accomplishments. The story of her life, and of the literary and philosophical circle which she drew around her, is too well known to need repetition. Another famous courtesan, though less well endowed mentally, and evidently on a much lower plane of character, was the famous flute-player Lamia. It was her beauty rather than her intellect that won the great honours which she attained; and a temple dedicated to her as Venus Lamia, as well as a signet upon which her portrait has been preserved, bear witness to this fact.
The character of Greek music can only be conjectured. At first simple, it was regulated on a mathematical basis by Pythagoras, who understood the laws of vibration. Later on it developed into something more rich and varied, and, while still devoted to unison, or melodic, effects, it was undoubtedly full of beauty, as is the old Scotch music. Its great development, as well as the use of many small instruments (kithara, flute, etc.), go far to prove that music must have formed a larger part of woman's domestic life than the actual records show.
Roman civilization borrowed much from Greece, especially in the matter of art. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the musical status of Rome, especially in her later days, was a mere replica of that of Greece. In the instrumental field, we find the lyre of less importance, but the flute (a term that included reed instruments also) was constantly used in ceremonial and sacrificial music. Trumpets were in use at all triumphal processions, while in the days of the empire the well-known but problematical water-organ became popular. Although the Roman domestic conditions admitted of more freedom than those of Greece, it is doubtful if the women took any important part in performance or composition of music. There are no great poetesses on the Roman roll of honour, while there are many on that of Greece.
Rome differed from Greece in having its poetry and music written by different authors, while in Greece both words and notes emanated from the same brain. But even among men the Romans possessed no important composers. The names of those who wrote music to the plays of Terence and Plautus (the plays themselves being imitations of the Greek) are known to history, but the composers possessed no position of consequence. If the men received no great homage, there must have been little incentive for women to strive in the musical field.
As in Greece, female slaves played a large part in the world of art,—with this difference, that in Rome the masters were usually on a lower plane of cultivation than their own slaves. Dancing was an adjunct to music, though often practised as a separate branch of entertainment, and brought to a high state of perfection in its pantomimic form.
The position of woman in the far East was inferior even to her station in Greece and Rome. In China, for example, everything feminine was held in contempt. This had its influence on the musical system of the Chinese, according to one of their legends. After the invention of music, the formation of various instruments, and the composition of many songs, all due to more or less mythical emperors, Hoang-Ti, who reigned about the year 2600 B. C., decided to have the art scientifically investigated and its rules formulated. In his day music was practised, but not understood in its natural elements. The emperor therefore ordered Ling-Lun to look into the matter.
This dignitary, about whose work many anecdotes exist, travelled to Northwestern China, and took up his abode on a high mountain, near a bamboo grove. On cutting a stalk and excavating the pith between two of the joints, he found that the tube gave the exact pitch of the normal human voice, and also the sound given by the waters of the Hoang-Ho, which had its source near the scene. Thus was discovered the fundamental tone of the scale.
Meanwhile, the Foang-Hoang, or sacred bird of Chinese mythology, appeared with its mate and perched upon a neighbouring tree. The male bird sang a scale of several tones, while the female sang another composed of different tones. The first note of the male bird coincided in pitch with Ling-Lun's bamboo tube, and by cutting other tubes the erudite investigator proceeded to reproduce all the tones of both. By combining these, he was able to form a complete chromatic scale. But, owing to the prejudice against the weaker sex, the tones of the female (called feminine tones even to-day) were discarded in favour of those of the male bird. The latter, the basis of Chinese music, correspond to the black keys of our piano, while the former were equivalent to the white, or diatonic, notes of our scale.
That Chinese music, based on this pentatonic scale, need not be at all displeasing, is proved by many of the old Scotch tunes, which are built on the same system. An excellent illustration of its rhythmic structure, frequent iterations, and melodic character may be found in our own familiar tune, "There is a happy land, far, far away." The harsh quality that Europeans often find in Chinese performances is undoubtedly not a necessary adjunct, as the same criticism may be made upon many of our own street singers or brass bands.
The Chinese, like many other ancient nations, have a great contempt for the caste of musicians and actors, although enjoying the drama keenly. Parents have almost unlimited power over their children, and may sell them as slaves, or even in some cases kill them; but they are not allowed to sell them to the troupes of strolling comedians or to magicians. Any one convicted of doing this, or aiding in the transaction, is punished by one hundred blows of the bamboo. Any person of free parentage marrying an actor or actress receives the same punishment. Yet, while musicians connected with the stage are held under the ban, those who devote themselves to the religious rites receive the highest esteem. These, however, cannot be women.
The music of Japan, though built on the chromatic scale, was much the same as that of China. Actors and musicians command hardly more respect in the island than on the Continent. Women play a negative part in both countries, if we except the Geishas, who entertain in the tea-houses. But Japan has made such rapid strides in civilization recently that it may not be impossible for woman to develop the activity that she has already shown in Western lands.
The position of woman among the northern races that overthrew the Roman power was wholly different from that which she held in the more ancient epoch, but even under the newer regime it was no enviable one. In many of the earlier Germanic systems, wives were bought by a definite payment of goods or of cattle. That this was a recognized practice is shown in the laws of Ethelbert, which state that if a man carry off a freeman's wife, he must at his own expense procure another for the injured husband. Usually women had no rights of inheritance, though in some cases they could inherit when there were no male children, and in others they could transmit the right of inheritance to their male descendants. Sometimes they were allowed to inherit movable property of a certain sort, probably largely the result of their own handiwork. The evident idea of the Salic law was to allow woman a marriage portion only, and as soon as she was safely bestowed upon some neighbouring group of people, neither she nor her children had any further claim upon the parent group.
Great cruelty was evident in the treatment of female slaves. According to the laws of Athelstan, if one of these were convicted of theft, she should in punishment be burned alive by eighty other such slaves. A similar example of stern discipline is afforded by the ecclesiastical provision, occurring no less than three times, that, if a woman scourged her slave to death, she should do penance. It is little wonder that under these conditions the female slaves would sing in a rather forced manner, if at all, and the women themselves would hardly indulge in the gentle art of composing music.
The early Christian Church, too, afforded no encouragement for women to exert their musical abilities. When the earliest meetings occurred in the catacombs, the female members of the congregation took their part in singing the hymns, but, when organized choirs were formed, they were allowed no place. The singing-schools founded in Rome by the Popes Sylvester I. and Hilary, at the end of the fourth century, were devoted solely to the training of male voices. In describing the earlier music, St. John Chrysostom says: "The psalms which we sing unite all the voices in one, and the canticles arise harmoniously in unison. Young and old, rich and poor, women, men, slaves, and citizens, all of us have formed but one melody together." But the custom of permitting women to join with men in the singing was abolished by the Synod of Antioch in the year 379.
In the music of the Celtic and Gaelic races, also, woman had no place. Their songs, like their lives, were martial in character. The harpists of Ireland and Wales, and the bagpipers of Scotland, were all men, and they made strict rules about the admission of new members to their guilds. Even among the early English minstrels, who devoted their powers to the milder art of love-songs and Christmas carols, no women are to be found. The wandering life of these bards and singers was too rude at first to admit of participation by the gentler sex, and it was only under more stable conditions of civilization that woman at last gained the opportunity of showing and developing her talents.
With the advent of chivalry, she found herself at once in a more exalted position. In this epoch, when cultivated minds began to devote their energies to other things besides fighting in war and carousing in peace, music found new and worthier subjects in nature and love and the beauty of woman. Under the new system she became the arbiter of all knightly disputes, the queen to whom all obedience was due. From this extreme worship arose the schools of the Minnesingers and the Troubadours, who paid her manifold homage in the shape of poetry and song.
According to the general statements of history, the Minnesingers began their career in the time of Frederick Barbarossa, of Germany. This would place their origin in the latter part of the twelfth century. Yet it is a strange fact that Heinrich of Veldig, usually accounted the pioneer in this new school of singing, utters a complaint about the loss of the good old times, and bewails the decay of the true greatness of the art to which he devoted himself. The original song in which he expresses this sentiment is still extant, and the particular stanza in question runs as follows:
"Do man der rehten minne pflag Da pflag man ouch der ehren; Nu mag man naht und tag Die boesen sitte leren; Swer dis nu siht, und jens do sach, O we! was der nu clagen mag Tugende wend sich nu verkehren."
That many of the early songs of the Minnesingers have been preserved is due to the forethought of Ruediger of Manesse, a public officer of Zurich in the fourteenth century. He made a thorough collection of all specimens of the style of the Minnesingers, and many subsequent works, such as that of Von Der Hagen, are based upon his researches.
The language ordinarily used by the Minnesingers was that of Suabia, which was that employed at the imperial and many lesser courts of Germany. They used it with a skill and delicacy which was generally far superior to the style of the Troubadours. In performing their works, they did not, like their western brethren, have recourse to hired accompanists, or Jongleurs, but supported the vocal part by playing on a small viol. The Jongleurs were essentially a French institution, and no class of musicians similar to them existed in Germany. The Minnesingers, like the Troubadours, were amateurs, and aimed to keep free from the taint of professionalism. Men of the highest rank were proud to belong to this order of musicians, and emperors, princes, and famous knights are found among them.
The love-songs of the Minnesingers, as already intimated, were less fiery than those of the Troubadours. While the Provencal minstrel allowed his homage to his chosen lady to proceed to extreme lengths, his German brother paid a less excessive but far purer tribute to the object of his affections. Very often, too, the German poets rose to a still higher level, and sang praises of the ideal qualities of womanhood in general. Thus the singers of Germany caused far less domestic discord than those of France.
That there was still some unlicensed gallantry, however, can be seen from the type of music known as "Wacht-Lieder," or watch-songs. In these the amorous knight is represented as pleading with the watchman of the castle for admission to his lady-love. Sometimes the song took the form of a warning from the watchman, telling that daylight was near and the knight must depart.
Besides giving the world a host of shorter songs, the period of the Minnesingers brought forth some really great poets who were successful in the larger forms. The author, or authors, of the famous "Nibelungenlied" are unknown; but the work remains to us as the greatest epic of Germany. Foremost in point of fame stands Wolfram von Eschenbach, author of the familiar "Parzifal." In depicting his characters, he strikes a note of idealistic beauty. Another great poet was Gottfried of Strasburg, almost as famous as Wolfram, and in some respects his opposite. His characters are endowed with life and vigour, and eager to seize the pleasures of earth while they last. His best work was "Tristan and Isolde."
The legend of Tannhaeuser, which has crystallized and been handed down to us in story, has an undoubted basis of fact. The existence of the cave of Venus, in the Thuringian hill of Hoerselburg, may be taken as not proven; but there certainly was a tournament of song at the castle of the Wartburg, and many famous knights probably took part in it. Whether Tannhaeuser himself was real is an open question; but there can be no doubt about Walther von der Vogelweide, who was one of Germany's greatest masters in the shorter forms.
Examples of still another style in the work of the Minnesingers are almost surely a direct imitation of the work of the Trouveres of Northern France. These examples consist of more or less lengthy fables, or sometimes tales with a pleasing moral attached. Many stories of Roman history are found among these, and many of the proverbs which we use without thinking of their authorship date from this time. Among the latter are, "Set not the wolf to guard the sheep," "Never borrow trouble,"
"The king must die, And so must I,"
and many other such gems of wisdom.
In all this the women had some share, if they did not play so important part as their sisters in France. Their position as hostesses, or as the objects of poetical tribute, enabled them to comment and criticize, and, if they did little actual composing, they were allowed to take a prominent part in the performance of music. We find in the old books of rules and codes of education that the woman of rank and position was possessed of many accomplishments, if not exactly those that are expected to-day. One of these codes, or Essenhamens, as they were called, gives the four chief duties of women, and, making allowance for the change in civilization, they correspond fairly well with those already quoted from the present German Empress. The cooking and sewing remain the same, but, instead of amusing the children, the women were expected to care for children of a larger growth, by obtaining a knowledge of surgery. The chatelaine was supposed to take full charge of her lord if he returned wounded from tourney or battle. Instead of church matters, the final accomplishment was the secular game of chess.
Another work of the time gives rules of behaviour for women, inculcating a submissive demeanour that is hardly practised to-day. The usual modesty of deportment was prescribed; women were always to direct their glances discreetly downward, and in the case of a stranger were to speak only when addressed. If a room were full of women, and a man should suddenly enter, the rules of decorum compelled them to rise immediately, and remain standing until he should seat himself.
The extent of knightly devotion to women in the age of chivalry can hardly be exaggerated. The work of Ulrich von Lichtenstein, for instance, in his "Frauendienst," is full of the most absurd performances, which any sensible lady would have been justified in repudiating. The Troubadours indulged in even greater vagaries, and one Pierre Vidal, in love with a certain Louve de Penautier, whose first name meant "she-wolf," adopted the name of Loup, and actually assumed a wolf skin as his garment. To prove his sincerity even more, he insisted upon being completely wrapped in this hide and hunted by hounds and horsemen. After the dogs had caught him, he would not allow them to be pulled off, but insisted upon enduring their attacks for the glory of his lady-love. When nearly dead, he was rescued and taken to her castle, where he recovered health if not mental balance.
More noble than any of these was the tribute paid to women by the Minnesinger Henry of Meissen. Declining to single out any one fair Muse, he sang of womankind as a whole, and never ceased to praise their purity, their gentleness, and their nobility. Through his life he was honoured by them with the title of "Frauenlob" (praise of women), and at his death they marched in the funeral procession, and each threw a flower into his grave, making it overflow with blossoms.
The royal house of Suabia did its best to encourage the art of the Minnesingers, allowing them a liberty of criticism that would ordinarily be undreamed of in court life. It is in an epoch little later than this that we find a singer expressing one of his objections to royalty in the following verse:
"King Rudolf is a worthy king, All praise to him be brought; He likes to hear the masters play and sing, But after that he gives them naught."
The rise of the Troubadours is due wholly to Oriental influences. There may have been some native poetry among the pastoral races of the sunny land of Provence, where the guild flourished, but not a single line of it remains to us. Moreover, it is certain that the Eastern minstrels left their impress in Spain, and that the Crusaders brought back from the Orient, among many other novelties, the custom of encouraging minstrelsy. The Arabian bards sang chiefly of love, as they well might in a land where female loveliness received such excessive worship. At the Saracenic courts, the bards were ever ready to win gratitude, and even more substantial rewards, by praising the latest favourite at the expense of former beauties. Provence, with its dazzling sun and glowing climate, possessed a striking resemblance to the Eastern countries, and among its inhabitants were many who could boast an Oriental ancestry. No less than five times did Saracen emirs lead their hosts into the country, endeavouring to overcome it not only by force of arms, but by the more peaceful and more certain method of introducing their own industries and customs. Provence itself was a land of peace and repose, and could better encourage gentler arts than the warlike nations of Northern Spain. We may find the Troubadours definitely established there in the early part of the twelfth century.
The language of their songs is the beautiful "Langue d'oc," so called from the use of the word "oc" to mean yes, and thus distinguished from the "Langue d'oil" of Northern France and the "Lingua di si" of Italy. The "Langue d'oc" was spoken in the entire southern part of France, and has given its name to a province of the present. So when the nobles of Provence, in the lordly retirement of their ancestral castles, sought an entertainment suited to their refined and sympathetic natures, they were soon imitated by the greater part of the nation.
The songs of the Troubadours were in many cases taken directly from Eastern models. In early Arabian times it was customary for two shepherds to converse in music by intoning responsive phrases on their flutes; and it soon became customary for two minstrels to sing in like manner. In the early songs of the Bible, too, are many verses whose second half answers the first, and, in fact, the Hebrew words for "answer" and "sing" are said to be identical. Among the Troubadours, this species of musical dialogue took the form of the tenson, or contention. The use of answering couplets in solo songs is another point of resemblance. Another favourite Arabian form was the casida, or stanza constructed with only one rhyme, and the rich and melodious Provencal tongue lent itself excellently to poems of this structure. So successful were the Troubadours in using it that sometimes their compositions were over a hundred lines in length. The short but brilliant Arabian lyrics, called "Maouchah," or embroidery, were well imitated by dainty and sparkling lyrics of the Troubadours. The Oriental mourning song became the Planh, or dirge. The evening tribute of the Arabian minstrels to their chosen loves became the serenade, while the Troubadours went still further in this vein by originating the aubade, or morning song. Among the other forms used, the verse was merely a set of couplets, the chanson was divided into several stanzas, while the sonnet was much freer in form than at present. When more than two singers took part in a tenson, it became a tournament. The sirvente was a song of war or politics, sometimes satirical, sometimes in praise of the exploits of a generous patron. The sixtine contained six stanzas of six lines each, with the rhymes holding over from one stanza to the next, and occurring in a different order in each stanza. The rhymes in the sirvente differed from what we consider correct by consisting always of a repetition of the same word. The discord was a sort of free fantasia, sometimes in several dialects. The pastorelle was of pastoral character, usually consisting of short lines and containing a dialogue.
Among the more narrative forms are found the ballad, more especially favoured by the Trouveres, or minstrels of the "Langue d'oil" regions. It gave rise to the various metres used in the epics, and sometimes formed the basis of these longer works. In general, the Trouveres devoted themselves to fiction and story, while their southern brethren sang of love. The novel, used largely in the south, was a short poem containing some brilliant anecdote of gallantry, couched in neat phrase. The romance, or long narrative, was by reason of its size the most permanent of all the poetry of this age. Though written by both Troubadours and Trouveres, the latter were far superior in style and invention, and it is mostly their work which has survived. These romances were sometimes in prose, but more often in poetry of extremely smooth and flowing metre.
The romances grouped themselves in three principal cycles,—first, the Carlovingian, including the stories of Charlemagne, of Roland and the twelve peers, of Fierabras, and so on; second, the Arthurian, dealing with the legends of the Round Table; and third, the Alexandrian, containing tales of antiquity, chiefly of Alexander the Great. In the first group, "Brut d'Angleterre" contains the mythical story of all the early English kings. It was adapted from lower Brittany by Robert Wace. A Saxon Trouvere continued this to his own time, imbuing his work with thorough hatred of the Normans. Walter Map, Archdeacon of Oxford under Henry II., wrote many Arthurian tales, while Chretien de Troyes wrote the greater part of "Sir Perceval de Galles" in Norman-French. "Floriant and Florete" is another Arthurian tale, while "Aucassin and Nicolette," of unknown authorship, is a charming romance of love in Southern France and captivity among the Saracens.
The life of the Troubadour forms a pleasing picture in the book of mediaeval history. He was essentially a gentleman by birth, scorning to take pay for his songs, and often distributing the gifts he received among his servants. He had to maintain a large retinue, and give sumptuous entertainments, with the result that he often used up his entire patrimony. The usual course in such cases was a trip to Palestine with the Crusaders, and a gallant death in battle with the infidel. But before reaching that end, his career must have been decidedly pleasant. He would pass the winter in his castle, training himself in feats of arms and in musical composition. At the advent of spring, he would issue forth, followed by a train of Jongleurs singing his songs, and proceed through field and wood to the nearest castle. Here in the evening a great feast would be arranged, with the Jongleurs in a special minstrels' gallery. Next day there would be music on the ramparts, or in fair weather brocade carpets would be spread in the meadows, and knights and ladies would listen to more songs. Here the Troubadour himself at times deigned to perform, thus affording his hearers an unusual privilege. Here, too, the women had a chance to show their own skill; for, if there were no woman Trouveres, there were plenty who were well able to hold their own in the shorter forms of the Troubadours.
That kings and princes did not disdain to become Troubadours is proved by the example of Richard of England and the Dauphin of Auvergne. But it is more unexpected to find a queen among their ranks, and that no less a queen than Eleanor, wife of Henry II. of England. Her grandfather, William of Poitou, was one of the earliest patrons of the art, and she inherited his tastes. Her career, like his, is one of boldness and adventure. When wife of Louis VII., before her marriage with Henry, she set an example to chivalry by going to the Crusades with that French king, and not in the capacity of wife, but rather as an Amazon warrior. She gathered around her a troupe of kindred spirits, and, equipped in the most graceful array that armourers and milliners could devise, started off at the head of her husband's knights. Her campaign was conducted on principles of pleasure rather than of strategy. In Asia Minor, where she led the van during the march, she chose her route according to the beauty of the landscape rather than safety of position, and more than once brought the army into grave danger. She varied the monotony of the advance by several romantic love episodes, notably with a young emir in the train of the Sultan Noureddin. She conducted her career in much the same style as the light opera heroine of to-day, who pauses in the midst of the action to sing a song, pursue an amour, or bask in the favour of all beholders.
Chief among her admirers was Bernard de Ventadour, whose verse has received high praise from the poet Petrarch. Of humble birth, he won the interest of the viscount of the castle, who gave him a good education. In those days this training consisted in knowing how to be courteous and well behaved, and how to compose a song and sing it. Bernard, after exercising his growing powers on the beauties of spring, the fragrance of flowers, and the music of the nightingale, turned his attentions to the charms of the young viscountess, which he sung with such success that one day the object of his praises, in a fit of rapture, bestowed a kiss upon him. Enraptured by this, he sang his eulogies with still more boldness, until he roused the jealousy of the lord of the castle, who locked up his young spouse, and drove the Troubadour from the district. He took refuge at the court of Eleanor, for whom he conceived a second and more passionate adoration, and whom he followed to England. But Henry was either more indulgent or more indifferent, and no further quarrels came.
The atmosphere of refinement brought into the rude life of the castle by the Troubadours is more than offset by the domestic infelicity they caused. Each of these knight-errants of literature was supposed to choose a lady-love, and it made no difference if she were already married. Thus conjugal fidelity was at a very low ebb, while amorous intrigues were openly encouraged by what amounted to a definite system of civilization. To settle the many vexed questions arising from this state of affairs, the Courts of Love were formed, at which noble ladies decided all disputed points. Most famous of these courts was that of Queen Eleanor herself, while among the others were those of the ladies of Gascony, the Viscountess of Narbonne, the Countess of Champagne, and the Countess of Flanders. Disputes before these courts usually took the form of the tenson, or contention, already described.
Many are the legendary accounts of the laws upon which these courts based their decisions. There are fables of knights riding in magic forests and finding scrolls attached by golden chains to the necks of fiery dragons, or the feet of fleet birds. These laws, if not applicable in our present civilization, show in the most interesting fashion how the subject of love was regarded in the twelfth century. Among them are found the following startling statements:
"Marriage cannot be pleaded as an excuse for refusing to love."
"A person who cannot keep a secret can never be a lover."
"No one can really love two people at the same time," says one rule; but another adds, "Nothing prevents one lady being loved by two gentlemen, or one gentleman by two ladies."
Two years was the required period of mourning for a dead lover. But such constancy may not have been demanded in the case of the living, for, according to rule, "A new love-affair banishes the old one completely."
Lovers in those days were expected to show the most definite symptoms of their malady; for, according to law, "Every lover is accustomed to grow pale at the sight of his lady-love;" "At the sudden and unexpected prospect of his lady-love, the heart of the true lover invariably palpitates;" and "A real lover is always the prey of anxiety and malaise." Also, "A person who is the prey of love eats little and sleeps little."
There are many maxims on the best way of keeping true love alive, and many more on the subject of jealousy. That the love of the Troubadours was none too permanent is indicated by the statement, "A moderate presumption is sufficient to justify one lover in entertaining grave suspicions of the other."
Among the celebrated decisions is one given by the Countess of Champagne upon the question, "Can real love exist between married people?" Basing her decision on the fact that love implies a free granting of all favours, while marriage enforces constraint, the fair arbiter decided for the negative. Another decree, of wider application, was pronounced by Queen Eleanor. A lover, after entreating his lady's favour in vain, sent her a number of costly presents, which she accepted with much delight. Yet even after this tribute to her charms, she remained obdurate, and would not grant him the slightest encouragement. He accordingly brought the case before the Court of Love, on the ground that the lady, by accepting his presents, had inspired him with false hopes. Eleanor gave the decision wholly in his favour, saying that the lady must refuse to receive any gifts sent as love-tokens, or must make compensation for them. The story does not tell whether the lady in question accepted the suitor or returned the gifts.
The absurdity to which these laws were carried is shown by another decision of Eleanor's. A gentleman became deeply smitten with a lady who had given her love to another, but who would have been pleased to return his devotion if ever deprived of her first lover. Soon after, the original pair were married. The gentleman, citing the decision that real love cannot exist between married people, claimed that the lady was now free to reward his fidelity. The lady declared that she had not lost the love of her first suitor by marrying him, but Queen Eleanor upheld the decision cited, and ordered the lady to grant her new lover the favours he desired.
The Troubadours at times treated subjects far different from the usual short lyrics or long romances. Many of these minstrels performed the unusual task of setting the laws in poetic form. It is not unusual to find lawyers becoming good poets, but in this case the legal minstrels drew from the codes of their native land enough inspiration for long effusions. Moral and religious precepts, too, were often put in the form of lengthy poems. Of even greater interest to the student of old customs are the so-called "Essenhamens," or collections of rules for behaviour for young ladies. In one of these, by Amanieus des Escas, called the god of love, the poet gives his counsel to a young lady in the train of some great countess. He meets her in one of her walks, whereupon she addresses him and asks for certain rules to guide her conduct. The poet, after apologetically insisting that she must know more about it, having ten times as much common sense as he has, overcomes his scruples, and proceeds to pour forth much undiluted wisdom.
From his verses we learn to approve of the well-known system of early rising and early retiring, with many minor points about washing, dressing, caring for the teeth and nails, and other mysteries of the toilet. Then follow rules for behaviour in church, with directions to preserve a quiet demeanour, and avoid improper use of the eyes or the tongue. From the church the writer conducts his pupil to the dinner-table, reciting many important details in carving, passing the dishes properly, and performing the correct ablutions. He closes this episode with the excellent advice that no harm can come from tempering wine with water. After this comes the conversation in the drawing-room, and many naive methods of raising interesting discussions are suggested.
Less highly gifted than the Troubadours were the Jongleurs, who composed their retinue. These musical jacks-of-all-trades began as accompanists, singing the songs of their master at the castles he visited. But soon they grew numerous and independent, and occupied a station varying from that of our public entertainers to that of the humblest street musician. Nothing came amiss to them,—singing, playing all instruments, dancing, imitating the calls of animals and birds, and even the juggling that has derived its name from them. In the wandering life that they led, they were often forced to take their wives and children along, and thus women grew accustomed to take some part in the performances.
The glee-maidens were essentially an English institution, and no doubt they were more sure of courtesy and protection in that country than on the Continent. They were by far the most romantic figures of the minstrel world. Often they would wander about the country alone and unguarded, braving or avoiding the dangers of the road. Sometimes their only escort was a pet dog or a goat. They arrayed themselves in small garments of bright colours, often adorned with silver, while on their feet were leather buskins. They were at home in the courtyards of castles and monasteries no less than in the midst of villages and towns, and, mounting on some slight knoll, they would entertain gentles and commoners with voice and violin. They are often introduced into the romances of early England, and many famous glee-maidens are found on the pages of history. One of the most celebrated was Adeline, who lived in the time of William the Conqueror, and was successful enough to be rewarded by him with an estate.
In the reign of Henry III. we find one really great figure among the glee-maidens,—Marie de France. She was the Jongleuse of William Longsword, son of Henry II. and Fair Rosamond, and he certainly deserves the gratitude of the literary world for discovering and fostering her wonderful talent. Born probably in Brittany, her life and works identified her with the English. She was familiar with the Breton tongue, and also with Latin. Her first production was a set of lays in French verse, that met with instant popularity throughout England. The courts of the nobles reechoed with her praises, and ladies as well as knights were never weary of listening to her songs. Twelve of them are now in the British Museum, among them a beautiful one dealing with King Arthur and the Round Table. These works are of rare charm, no less for their pleasing style and depth of feeling than for their simplicity of expression and clearness of narrative. Her second effort was a poetical rendering of many of AEsop's fables, done either as a favour or a tribute of love for her protector. This was followed by a translation of the Purgatory of St. Patrick in Ireland, taken from the Latin.
Few of the glee-maidens were so richly gifted or so highly placed as Marie. Most of them travelled about, either alone or in the company of glee-men, and were content with more ordinary compositions. At times they were accompanied by dancing bears, who went through their figures with the maidens, while the glee-men played, and tripped a fantastic toe, if not exactly a light one.
The existence of the Jongleurs gradually undermined that of the Troubadours, as the former grew more and more proficient. In the thirteenth century we find Guirant Riquier, often called the last of the Troubadours, requesting King Alfonso X. of Castile to make a definite classification of Jongleurs, and title the best, thus preventing the indiscriminate mixing of high and low musicians in the public mind. The king made some effort to do so, but met with little success, for the whole institution was gradually decaying. A more tragic fate awaited the Troubadours of Provence, the home of the art. Espousing the cause of the Albigenses, they used their wit with such telling effect that they brought down upon themselves the deadly hatred of the Papists; and in the short but bloody war that followed, they were almost wholly exterminated in the cruel slaughter caused by the forces of religious intolerance. Don Pedro of Aragon, who came to aid his brother Troubadours, met with defeat and death, and after his loss the victors started on a career of cruelty, torture, and indiscriminate murder. The castles of the minstrel knights, once the home of beauty and song, were razed to the ground, and the Troubadours were blotted from the page of history.
WIVES OF THE COMPOSERS
Among the women who have influenced music without actually creating it, none have had greater chances to use their power than the wives of the famous composers. Often they have been endowed with no inconsiderable musical genius themselves, but have sacrificed their claim to renown upon the altar of domestic duty. Sometimes, in rare instances, they have had the ability to perform the double task of caring for the household and continuing their own musical labours. Their story is an interesting one, and from the time of the great John Sebastian Bach, who stands as a model of domestic purity, down even to the present day, they have played a large part in shaping the musical destinies of the world.
From the twelfth to the seventeenth century is a long gap, and music underwent many changes during this period. After the passing of the minstrel knights, popular music fades out of sight. That it had an existence, however, is amply proven. The Jongleurs must have continued long after their masters were stamped out, for their direct successors are with us to-day, and our hand-organ is the descendant of their fearful and wonderful organistrum. The entire school of English national music saw its palmiest days during this epoch. Even on the Continent, the great schools of contrapuntists delighted to show their skill by employing as their cantus firmus, or chief part, some well-known popular song, such as "L'Homme Arme," for example.
In Germany, the mantle of the Minnesingers fell upon the guilds of musical amateurs in the growing commercial cities. Less poetic than their predecessors, these Mastersingers, as they named themselves, often took refuge in arbitrary rules and set metrical forms that made a poor substitute for real inspiration. That there was some genuine poetic feeling and humour among them is shown by the work of Hans Sachs, the greatest of their number. He wrote many poems and plays, of which the "Fassnachtspiele" were the most popular and the most mirth-provoking. Contrary to the version of his life given in Wagner's opera, he succeeded in making a second marriage late in life; and contrary to the general experience in such cases, the marriage was a happy one, for his young wife was exceedingly proud of her famous husband. But in the actual creative work of the Mastersingers woman played no part.
Sacred music and the science of composition flourished as never before. There is an appropriate saying that old music was horizontal, while now it is vertical; and the contrast between the interweaving of parts, proceeding smoothly together, and our single melodies supported by massive chords, is aptly illustrated by the remark. This very interweaving led to a style of music that was extremely complex, affording chances for intellectual and mathematical skill rather than emotional fervour. It has been customary to say that this style of composition was unsuited to women, and to pass over the epoch with the casual remark that no women composers appear within its limits. But modern research has shown the futility of this statement.
The records of the Netherland schools are meagre, so it is to Italy that we must turn for the earliest examples of skilled women composers. The first great name is that of Maddalena Casulana, who was born at Brescia about 1540. Her published compositions took the shape of two volumes of madrigals, issued in 1568 and 1583. Next in point of time comes Vittoria Aleotti, a native of Argenta. Her magnum opus was published at Venice, in 1593, under the flowery title, "Ghirlanda dei Madrigali a 4 Voci." Francesca Baglioncella, born at Perugia in the same century, is another exponent of the art, while Orsina Vizzani, who first saw the light of day at Bologna in 1593, not only composed many pieces in this form, but by playing her own and others' works did much to make it popular with all music-lovers in Italy.
The year 1600 saw the beginning of opera, due to the work of Peri and his Florentine compeers in trying to—
"Revive the just designs of Greece."
Among the early operatic composers is found the charming and accomplished Francesca Caccini, daughter of that Giulio Caccini who was Peri's friend and most formidable rival. Born at Florence in 1581, and educated in the most thorough manner, she was for many years the idol of her native city, not only because of her great talent in singing and composition, but also on account of the exquisite beauty of her Latin and Tuscan poetry. Among other musical works by her are two examples of the new form,—"La Liberazione di Ruggiero" and "Rinaldo Innamorato,"—both of which are preserved to us. A later composer in the same field was Barbara Strozzi, whose opera, "Diporti d'Euterpe," was successfully received at Venice in 1659. In Ricordi's modern collection of old Italian songs are some charming examples of her skill in other directions.
In the domain of Italian sacred music, too, the women were not inactive. Catterina Assandra, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, wrote a number of religious works, of which "Veni Sancte Spiritus," for two voices, achieved more than passing fame. Margarita Cozzolani and Lucrezia Orsina Vezzana, both Catholic sisters, won renown by their motets and other sacred works. Cornelia Calegari, born at Bergamo in 1644, won the plaudits of her nation by her wonderful singing and organ-playing, as well as by her many compositions. Her first book of motets was published in her fifteenth year, and met with universal success. The highest forms possessed no difficulties for her, and among her works are several masses for six voices, with instrumental accompaniment. These names are enough to show that woman was able to hold her own, even in a period when music had apparently banished those emotional qualities with which she is said to be most in sympathy.
The women of other countries were not idle in this period of musical activity. Germany, in spite of her meagre records, can show at least one great name. Madelka Bariona, who lived during the sixteenth century, upheld the musical reputation of her country by publishing seven five-voiced psalms at Altdorf, in 1586. Bernarda Ferreira de Lacerda was of Portuguese nationality. She won great renown by her writings and her knowledge of languages. Philip II. of Spain wished to entrust her with the education of his children, but she declined, alleging as her reason that she wished to devote all her time to study. Many of her manuscript compositions and musical writings are preserved in the Royal Library at Madrid.
France can boast of a real genius in Clementine de Bourges, who was born at Lyons in the sixteenth century. Such authorities as Mendel and Grove accord her a rank with the very greatest of her time. She held a high position among the intellectual leaders of that day, as much by her great learning as by her musical skill. She shows complete mastery of many instruments, and her gifts in composition are amply proven by her four-part chorus, which can be found in J. Paix's organ collection. Her career was brought to an untimely end by grief. She was engaged to Jean de Peyrat, a royal officer, who met his death in a skirmish with the Huguenots in 1560. Her sorrow at this disaster proved incurable, and she died in the next year.
Although the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, belongs to a more northern land, the credit of her talents may be fairly accorded to France, where she received her education. She made no musical attempts in the more ambitious forms, but wrote many songs, among which "Las! en mon doux Printemps" and "Monsieur le Provost des Marchands" met with considerable success in their day.
With the advent of Bach, music was no longer the dry mathematical study that it had been during the later middle ages, for in his hands it became imbued with true feeling. Descended from a famous family of musicians, he was born at the little German town of Eisenach, in 1685. Receiving his early education at Ohrdruf, he showed himself endowed with unusual genius. Forced to make his way when fifteen years old, he supported himself in the Convent School of St. Michael's, at Luneburg, by means of his musical talents. After a short term as court musician at Weimar, he became organist of the New Church at Arnstadt, and here he met the woman who was to be his first wife. Almost the earliest mention of her is made in a report of the consistory, criticizing the young organist for certain breaches of discipline. From this report, it appears that he had asked for four weeks' leave for study, and had stayed away four months; he had played interludes that the reverend board considered too long and too intricate; and, on being reproved, he had made them too short; and once, during the sermon, he had gone forth and spent these stolen moments in a wine-cellar. The final charge asks by what authority he has latterly allowed a strange maiden to appear, and to make music in the choir. This "strange maiden," who made music with Bach in the solitude of the empty church, was none other than his cousin, Maria Barbara. A year later (1707) he married her, and took her to Muehlhausen, where he had found a less troublesome post as organist in the Church of St. Blasius.
The domestic life of Bach and his wife was a pattern for married couples of all time. All his friends unite in calling him an especially excellent "Haus-Vater," a term of commendation applied to those men who remember their duty to their own families, and do not sacrifice domestic happiness to fame and fortune. Personally he was pleasant to every one, mere acquaintances as well as intimate friends, and his house was always the centre of a lively gathering. With his wife, he took sedulous care of the education of his children, of whom there were no less than six at her early death in 1720.
Bach was not the man to remain long a widower, and in the next year the bereaved composer's fancy lightly turned to thoughts of a second marriage. His choice fell upon Anna Magdalena Wulken, a Coethen court singer of twenty-one years, and the happy consummation occurred on December 3d. She was a good musician, and did much to enliven the domestic circle by her beautiful soprano voice. Not content with merely taking part in her husband's works, she learned from him to play the clavier and read figured bass, and rendered him valuable aid by copying music for him.
Soon after the marriage, Bach and his wife started a manuscript music book, entitled "Clavier Buechlein von Anna Magdalena Bach, Anno 1720." On the first page was written a playful denunciation of the melancholy and hostility to art that were so often inculcated by the Calvinism of that time. This book and another of the kind, which followed it five years later, are both preserved in the Royal Berlin Library. In them are a series of clavier pieces, by Bach, Gerhard, and others; a number of hymns and sacred songs; one of several humourous song's, describing the reflections of a smoker; and still others, apparently addressed to his wife, and giving fresh proofs of his devotion to her. Her portrait was painted by Cristofori, but disappeared after being in the possession of one of the sons.
As a result of his second marriage, Bach was blessed with thirteen more children, six sons and seven daughters. All his children loved him, and his kindness and sincerity enabled him to retain their respect as well as their affection. In all his activity he was never too busy to save some time for the family circle, where, in later life, he would take the viola part in the concerted music that cheered his domestic hearth. It is sad to think of the poor wife's fate in contrast with so much family happiness. After Bach's death, in 1750, she struggled bravely to support her children, but became gradually poorer, and was forced to end her days in an almshouse, and be buried in a pauper's grave.
Less happy than Bach in his married life was Franz Josef Haydn. After a boyhood of poverty and struggles, he obtained a position as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count Morzin. This post was none too lucrative, however, for it brought the composer only about one hundred dollars a year, while his teaching could not have provided him with much extra wealth, and his compositions brought him nothing. Yet his financial troubles did not deter him from seeking those of matrimony, in spite of the fact that Count Morzin never kept married men in his service. According to the poet Campbell, marriage looks like madness in nine cases out of ten; and Haydn's venture was certainly no exception.
The one upon whom the composer's affections lighted was the younger daughter of a barber named Keller. He had met her while a choir-boy in the Church of St. Stephen, at Vienna, and she had afterward become one of his pupils. For some unexplained reason,—let us hope it was not because of the young composer's love,—she took to the veil, and renounced the wickedness and the marriages of the world. The barber, possibly hoping to lighten the suitor's disappointment, and very probably wishing to have both daughters off his hands, promptly suggested to the young lover that he take the elder sister instead. Apparently realizing that marriage at best is but a lottery, Haydn accepted the proposition.
The wedding took place at St. Stephen's, on November 26, 1760. Whether Count Morzin would have made an exception in Haydn's case, and retained him in spite of this event, there is no means of telling, for that nobleman met with financial reverses, and was forced to give up his musical establishment. Fortunately for the young genius, some of his works had been heard and admired by the Prince Paul Esterhazy, who showed his musical discernment by taking Haydn into his service and becoming a lifelong patron of the composer.
There was little real affection between Haydn and his wife at the start of their life journey together. He declared, however, that he really began to have some feeling for her, and would have come to entertain still warmer sentiments toward her if she had behaved at all reasonably. But unfortunately, she did not seem to be capable of behaving reasonably. The wives of great men are usually proud of the attainments of their husbands, and take no pains to conceal this fact. But the barber's daughter of Vienna was totally lacking in any real appreciation of her gifted consort. As Haydn himself observed once, it would have made no difference if he had been a shoemaker instead of an artist. She used his manuscript scores as curl-papers and underlays for the family pastry; she made continual use of the conjugal privilege of going through his pockets and abstracting the cash; and once, when he was in London, her calm selfishness rose to the point of asking him to buy a certain house, which she admired, so that she might have a home provided for her widowhood.
Through all his troubles, Haydn preserved a dignified silence about his domestic unhappiness, and in his letters it is mentioned only twice. For a long time he bore the trials patiently, but at length was forced to give up the household and live apart from his domestic tormentor. The woman who had hoped for a permanent home in her widowhood ended her lonely existence in 1800, nine years before the close of her husband's career.
With these facts in view, it is not surprising to find that Haydn at times sought elsewhere the consolation he was denied at home. He was fond of feminine companions, especially when they were well endowed with personal attractions. He must have possessed ingratiating manners, for he certainly could not boast of great personal attractions, and he himself admitted that his fair admirers were, "At any rate, not tempted by his beauty." His natural tenderness showed itself in a passionate fondness for children,—a blessing denied to his own home.
One of his most violent friendships had for its object a young Italian singer of nineteen, Luigia Polzelli. Apparently she was not happy with her husband, and a bond of mutual sympathy drew the composer to her. After the death of her husband, she persuaded Haydn to sign a promise to marry her if his wife should die, but the composer afterward repudiated the agreement, very likely not wishing to repeat his first matrimonial blunder.
Another romance is found in the love-letters sent to the composer by a charming London widow named Schroeter. Without overstepping the bounds of propriety, he was able to draw some profit from this episode, for he gave lessons to his fair admirer, and allowed her to do manuscript copying for him. Apparently the friendship was more of her seeking than of his own, as her letters to him bear witness. These are copied neatly in one of his note-books, along with various amusing "Anectods," a description of a London fog, "thick enough to be spread on bread," and an excellent receipt for making the Prince of Wales's punch.
Mozart was another musical genius who was forced to accept as second choice the sister of his first love, though in his case the results were not so disastrous as with Haydn. It was in Mannheim, on the way to Paris, that Mozart made the acquaintance of the copyist Weber, and succumbed to the charms of his daughter, Aloysia. But Leopold Mozart, wisely playing the role of stern father, soon sped the susceptible youth on his way to the French capital. It is a French proverb that tells us,—
"Nous revenons toujours A nos premiers amours,"—
and a year later he returned. But Aloysia, now famous by her singing, soon made it plain that his affection was no longer returned. Mozart seems to have borne the blow well, and soon after her marriage to the actor Lange, who proved a jealous husband, he wrote home his decision to wed her younger sister, Constance. After much opposition from members of both families, he carried out his intention.
As in Haydn's case, the young couple were forced to live on "bread and cheese and kisses," with none too much of the first two articles. Mozart, more than any other composer, met with undeserved hardships. On every side his music was praised and his genius admired, but nobles and princes, and even the emperor, would give him no material aid. He made a devoted husband, and much of the money that disappeared so readily from his hands was probably used for the benefit of his wife, whose health was not of the best. Their life (in Vienna at first) was a continual effort to solve the old vexed problem of making both ends meet, and Constance must be given high praise for the wonderful skill with which she managed the small and uncertain income of her husband. Several times the young couple were brought face to face with the direst need, but their patience and cheerfulness carried them through the crisis. On one occasion, when there was no fuel on hand and no money to buy any, a visitor found the pair busily engaged in waltzing about their bare room in order to keep warm. At another time they were rescued from their extremity only by the kindness of their friend, the Baroness Waldstaetten, who intervened just in time to save them from beggary. After three years, Leopold Mozart relented enough to visit his daughter-in-law, whom he found far more deserving than he had expected; but he himself was not well off, and could be of little financial help.
That Constance was of great aid to her husband, in spite of an easy-going nature, cannot be doubted. She possessed the faculty of telling interesting stories and novelettes, and with this apparently inexhaustible fund of invention she would amuse him between his periods of work. The description that we have of the composition of the great "Don Giovanni" overture gives a pleasing illustration of this phase of the family life. Owing to rehearsals and other work, the day before the performance arrived with no overture yet written. In the evening, according to his custom, Mozart began the task by sketching out the themes and a general plan of construction for the work. Near him sat his wife, ready to entertain him with her pleasing tales when he looked up from his work. For one or two hours he did indulge in actual repose; but all through the rest of the night he continued the work, relieving his mental concentration by listening to the storiettes or occasionally sipping a glass of his favourite punch. The manuscript was completed and ready for the copyist the next morning at seven o'clock, and along with the other numbers scored a complete success in the evening.
Some blame has attached to Constance for the lack of exact knowledge about Mozart's grave. At the hour of his burial, in the public cemetery, a violent storm drove away all the mourners. There was a cholera scare in Vienna at the time, which kept many people away from the graveyard. Her own neglect of the matter may have been caused by illness, but, whatever the reason, the fact remains that when public interest was aroused the exact location of Mozart's grave could no longer be defined.
The life of Carl Maria von Weber was tinged in its earlier years with the romance that seemed to pervade all phases of life in his native country. Germany had just passed through one of her rare but regular periods of national awakening, and every one was full of a keen spirit of patriotic originality in life, letters, and art, as well as in music. Gifted with unusual talents, trained in the paternal hope of his becoming a boy prodigy like Mozart, and urged by the need of making his own career, he soon made a name for himself by his personal charms as well as his talents. A welcome guest in the homes of aristocracy and cultivation, he possessed a roving disposition and a spirit of adventure that made his life not unlike that of the early Troubadours.