Celestial Music? Some Masterpieces of European Religious Musicby Wilfrid Mellers

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<ul><li><p>Celestial Music? Some Masterpieces of European Religious Music by Wilfrid MellersReview by: Christopher HatchNotes, Second Series, Vol. 59, No. 4 (Jun., 2003), pp. 907-909Published by: Music Library AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27669802 .Accessed: 15/06/2014 01:42</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>Music Library Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Notes.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 01:42:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=muliashttp://www.jstor.org/stable/27669802?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Book Reviews 907 </p><p>tions are on the same page as the text re </p><p>lated to them, but sometimes they are </p><p>many pages removed. Smith's discussion of </p><p>rosettes (pp. 87-89) would have been con </p><p>siderably enhanced by references to figure 10 (p. 24) or to the color plates following </p><p>page 94. Occasionally the musical examples are not specifically mentioned anywhere in </p><p>the text itself (e.g., p. 148 ex. 18). The list </p><p>of music examples (p. 365) is of little use, for it gives no more information on origi nal sources than citations for the examples themselves. One citation (p. 255 n. 32) even refers the reader to an engraving re </p><p>produced in ajournai article, ignoring the </p><p>fact that the same engraving has been re </p><p>produced at the bottom of the page itself! </p><p>Clearly, Smith was writing his text without </p><p>any awareness of which illustrations and </p><p>musical examples would be included. This </p><p>is perhaps understandable, but surely one </p><p>might reasonably expect better final copy </p><p>editing and coordination between text and </p><p>illustrative material than that found here. </p><p>Another more detrimental editorial deci </p><p>sion is the omission of parallel tablature </p><p>with the musical examples. There are a few </p><p>well chosen facsimiles, but it is quite disap </p><p>pointing to find so little tablature in a book </p><p>about the lute. (Surely this is not an indica </p><p>tion that we are retreating to an era of </p><p>scholarship when tablature was regarded as </p><p>a nuisance!) Far too much information is </p><p>shown in the original that cannot be con </p><p>veyed in staff notation. For example, Smith's </p><p>references to "rapid string changes" in the </p><p>music of Joan Ambrosio Dalza (p. 114) could be much more clearly shown?even to someone without ability to read tablature </p><p>?with the tablature itself. Another exam </p><p>ple (p. 177 ex. 26) purports to show, in </p><p>part, the use of the upper positions of the </p><p>instrument, but this is hardly evident from </p><p>the staff notation. While parallel transcrip tions would have added bulk to this already substantial volume, they were a most useful </p><p>feature of Matthew Spring's recent The Lute </p><p>in Britain: A History of the Instrument and Its </p><p>Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, </p><p>2001). This reader would have preferred that pitch names be given without the com </p><p>mon, but distracting, elision of hexachord </p><p>syllables ("G sol re ut" rather than </p><p>"Gsolreut," as on page 153). None of this should detract from the very </p><p>real value of the work and the fine prose </p><p>Smith brings to it, for this book is a must </p><p>for any library collection dealing with early music or serving the needs of lutenists or </p><p>classical guitarists. While it is not the last </p><p>word in lute research, it will serve as a wor </p><p>thy foundation for future study. As the au </p><p>thor aptly states, "Like musicians of the </p><p>Renaissance, today's lutenists look to music </p><p>of the distant past for inspiration. There is a vast repertory of lute music to inspire, and despite all the modern studies and edi </p><p>tions, still more to discover" (p. 307). </p><p>Gary R. Boye </p><p>Appalachian State University </p><p>Celestial Music? Some Masterpieces of </p><p>European Religious Music. By Wilfrid </p><p>Meilers. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: </p><p>Boydell Press, 2002. [xv, 320 p. ISBN 0 </p><p>851-15844-7. $50.] Music examples, index. </p><p>In 1936 Wilfrid Meilers started publish </p><p>ing his thoughts on musical matters, and </p><p>today a partial list of his writings contains </p><p>well over 150 items. In fact, his latest book, on religious music, profits from being "a </p><p>retrospect of material produced over . . . </p><p>sixty or more years" (p. ix). Reshaping what </p><p>he has drawn from this ample stockpile, Meilers has based Celestial Music? on some </p><p>powerful arguments that spring from a </p><p>deep familiarity with the masterpieces of </p><p>Western music combined with an amazing breadth of learning. </p><p>He wisely begins by asking "What Is </p><p>Religious Music?" and in this prologue ex </p><p>plains that it is quite separable from liturgi cal or sacred music. In one of his earliest </p><p>books a certain piece of vocal church music </p><p>by Fran?ois Couperin is said to produce "a </p><p>'celestial' radiance" (Fran?ois Couperin and </p><p>the French Classical Tradition [London: Denis </p><p>Dobson, 1950], 157). But such spirituality can shine forth even from purely instru </p><p>mental concert music, and for Meilers the </p><p>late quartets and piano sonatas of Beetho ven exemplify this (p. xii). Though cap tured in sound, the transcendent immateri </p><p>ality of these works connects, albeit </p><p>circuitously, with concepts such as music of </p><p>the spheres (pp. 308-9). In short, the nu </p><p>minous moments speak of things beyond the simply musical or earthly realms. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 01:42:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>908 Notes, June 2003 </p><p>The bulk of the book follows a chrono </p><p>logical course through a thousand years of European music?from Hildegard of </p><p>Bingen to Arvo Part, and concludes with </p><p>Aaron Copland. The series of twenty-eight </p><p>chapters is broken into five groups that sug </p><p>gest the religious temper of the changing times. At the outset, when organum was a </p><p>cutting-edge genre, religion firmly bound </p><p>the community together, though increased </p><p>self-consciousness made itself felt as early as </p><p>Guillaume Du Fay's Ave regina caelorum III </p><p>where an insertion made by the composer names him as a suppliant for God's mercy. Then the second set of chapters shows how, with operatic narrative techniques at hand, an age of more humanistic self-assurance was reached. The best exemplar here is </p><p>George Frideric Handel's Messiah, in which </p><p>"it is difficult to perceive any distinction be </p><p>tween Glory to Man, and Glory to God, in </p><p>the Highest" (p. 93). In the third group we </p><p>see that sonata form principles in music </p><p>and varied religious beliefs, or lack of </p><p>them, moved composers to write highly in </p><p>dividualized treatments of sacred texts. The </p><p>period features orthodox Christians such as </p><p>Joseph Haydn and Anton Bruckner as well as agnostics such as Gabriel Faur? and </p><p>Johannes Brahms. The last two groups deal </p><p>with music of the twentieth century and </p><p>represent conflicting tendencies in the </p><p>sphere of religious convictions during those years. While the fourth section fo </p><p>cuses on British composers from Edward </p><p>Elgar to Benjamin Britten, the fifth brings forward both English and continental </p><p>works in which a return to ritual and other </p><p>forms of impersonalization may be dis </p><p>cerned (e.g., in Olivier Messiaen, Igor </p><p>Stravinsky, Arvo Part, and John Tavener). Within this grand historical scheme a re </p><p>curring plan offers a welcome fixity. That is </p><p>to say, each and every chapter examines in </p><p>detail a single work or, at most, a handful </p><p>of them. Not surprisingly, Meilers discusses a number of Masses, including (1) settings of the Mass Ordinary by Guillaume de </p><p>Machaut, Franz Schubert, and, of course, </p><p>Johann Sebastian Bach (Mass in B Minor) and Ludwig van Beethoven (Missa solemnis) and (2) settings of the Requiem Mass by </p><p>Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hector Berlioz, and Giuseppe Verdi. Other liturgical or </p><p>biblical texts come into play for such pieces as Thomas Tallis's Lamentations of Jeremiah, </p><p>Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers (Vespro dette </p><p>Beata Vergine), Heinrich Sch?tz's St. </p><p>Matthew Passion, Sergey Rachmaninoff's </p><p>Vespers op. 37, William Byrd's Lullaby, My Swete Eitel Baby, Handel's Saul, and Haydn's Creation. If at a few points Meilers goes into </p><p>music that seems extraneous to his topic, he does argue strongly for the relevance of </p><p>Frederick Delius's Mass of Life, Stravinsky's </p><p>Oedipus Rex, and Copland's Twelve Poems of </p><p>Emily Dickinson. Only one entirely instru </p><p>mental piece, Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps, is addressed. All told, the musical </p><p>inclusiveness is extraordinary, despite an undeniable tendency to favor British </p><p>composers. Viewed singly, the chapters have the sta </p><p>tus of critical essays that carry descriptive musical analyses at their core. Mellers's </p><p>expository gifts allow him to verbalize the </p><p>impressions a certain passage makes while </p><p>at the same time objectifying the music </p><p>through the use of technical, theoretical terms. But no educated music-loving reader </p><p>will feel burdened by arcane minutiae. </p><p>Moreover, the descriptions seldom lose </p><p>sight of the book's larger questions, and </p><p>each is environed by pertinent biographical and historical as well as socio-religious com </p><p>mentary. Especially distinctive are the brief </p><p>excursions into myth and mysticism along with passing remarks on non-Western musi </p><p>cal subjects. From one point of view these </p><p>constitute nonpareil examples of program notes. That Meilers recognizes this aspect of his project is indicated by his advising readers to have the pertinent scores at </p><p>hand and by all but requiring them to lis </p><p>ten to recordings of the pieces. The music </p><p>examples in each chapter are far too few in </p><p>number to be substantially helpful to the </p><p>reader. </p><p>Mellers's musical readings show him rec </p><p>ognizing some intrinsic or quasi-intrinsic </p><p>meanings found in the harmonic and </p><p>melodic usages of the Western tradition. </p><p>Not only does the give-and-take of conso </p><p>nance and dissonance have for him an ex </p><p>pressive dimension, but he also attributes </p><p>fairly definite emotional coloration to spe cific major and minor keys. The stable </p><p>character of these meanings can support a </p><p>significant kinship between pieces whose </p><p>styles are quite different. </p><p>Even more broadly, Mellers's agile mind </p><p>seems to delight in discovering similarities </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 01:42:50 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Book Reviews 909 </p><p>hidden by the march of time or by the walls </p><p>that separate artistic media. Thus an or </p><p>ganum by P?rotin is likened to the improvi sations of John Coltrane and Omette </p><p>Coleman (p. 12) and in a moment from </p><p>Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, Machaut is </p><p>heard (p. 262). Bracketing a composer and a writer, Meilers finds Edward Elgar and Rudyard Kipling to be twins of a sort </p><p>(p. 174). Similarly, he sees Olivier Messiaen </p><p>creating a tonal perspective analogous to </p><p>the visual perspective employed by </p><p>Hieronymus Bosch (p. 235). Yet whereas Celestial Music? occasionally </p><p>discovers subtle parallels, it is dichotomous </p><p>thinking that permeates the volume. It op erates on the highest thematic levels where, for example, humanism is set against reli </p><p>giousness, and it is behind countless state </p><p>ments such as "Brahms's trigger to creation was a duality between </p><p>. . . romantic spon </p><p>taneity and a rage for order" (p. 164). Antitheses also emerge amid the musical </p><p>analyses, as when a "God-fugue" is described as balancing a "man-fugue" (pp. 262-64). </p><p>Furthermore, other forms of categorical </p><p>conceptualization are spread throughout the book, fostering such epigrammatic </p><p>phrases as: "Schubert was a composer of </p><p>Friendship as Bach was a composer of the </p><p>Church and Handel a composer of the </p><p>State" (p. 125). The prevailing orderliness, realized in arresting and flexible prose, </p><p>helps to govern Meilers's far-reaching and </p><p>diverse subject matter. For this reason </p><p>among many, Celestial Music? is a remark </p><p>able book, in which the author has skillfully marshaled his keen knowledge of how </p><p>music works and put it at the service of ever </p><p>venturesome ideas. </p><p>Christopher Hatch </p><p>Dorset, Vermont </p><p>Salons, Singers and Songs: A Back </p><p>ground to Romantic French Song, 1830-1870. By David Tunley. Alder </p><p>shot, Hants, England: Ashgate, 2002. </p><p>[xii, 283 p. ISBN 0-754-60491-8. </p><p>$79.95.] Music examples, bibliogra </p><p>phy, index. </p><p>Few aspects of French cultural life have </p><p>been as misunderstood or maligned as the </p><p>salons. Today, the expression "salon music" </p><p>carries connotations of superficiality and </p><p>sentimentality, while that of "salon com </p><p>poser" serves as a slight, if not an outright insult. Yet these epithets are more than </p><p>demeaning?they perpetuate the myth that </p><p>salons were just elitist entertainments </p><p>where innocuous trifles accompanied pleas ant conversation. </p><p>Fortunately, this inequity is being re </p><p>dressed. C?cile Tardif ("Faur? and the </p><p>Salons," in Regarding Faur?, ed. Tom </p><p>Gordon [Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach, </p><p>1999], 1-14) andjeanice Brooks ("Nadia </p><p>Boulanger and the Salon of the Princesse </p><p>de Polignac," in Journal of the American </p><p>Musicological Society 46 [1993]: 415-68), </p><p>among others, have demonstrated that the </p><p>late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Parisian gatherings fostered some of the </p><p>era's most distinguished music and artists. </p><p>Of course, not all of the pieces played or </p><p>sung at the salons had such high aspira tions. But failure to distinguish between </p><p>high art and divertissement is to be both </p><p>unfair and ignorant of the facts. </p><p>While we now have a better grasp of its </p><p>relatively recent past, salon culture of the </p><p>mid-nineteenth century remains rather </p><p>nebulous. Although further removed, this </p><p>social scene still matters much, as it set the </p><p>stage for the later artistic efflorescence and </p><p>fostered much creativity of its own, particu </p><p>larly in the form of the romance. Indeed, not since Frits Noske's French Song from Berlioz to Duparc, 2d ed. (trans. Rita Benton </p><p>[New York: Dover, 1970]) has the vocal mu </p><p>sic of that period attracted much serious </p><p>scholarship. Thus, David Tunley's Salons, Singers and </p><p>Songs: A Background to Romantic French Song, 1830-1870 offers welcome illumination of a </p><p>hazily known age. Complementing the au </p><p>thor's facsimile anthology of the epoch's vocal literature (Romantic French Song with </p><p>Translations and Commentaries, 6 vols. [New York: Garland, 1994-95]), this book offers </p><p>essential historical, social, and aesthetic </p><p>context for understanding that elegant and </p><p>musically enthusiastic period. Nine chapters, each...</p></li></ul>


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