chapter  XIII
17 Pages

ITALIAN AND GERMAN SCHOOLS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

WHll,E the great Viennese masters excelled alike in opera and oratorio, in symphony and song, there remains one important field of activity in which the school must be conceded to have failed to equal its achievement in other directions, namely, in church music. The masses and other sacred oompositions of Haydn and Mozart undoubtedly contain a great deal of beautiful music, considered simply qua musio, but they are utterly unsuited to the purposes of the ritual. Indeed, they strike one as being distinctly pagan, both in style and sentiment. Those of Haydn, one feels, would be a more appropriate accompaniment to the bucolic rites of Ceres and Demeter than to those of the Catholic ohurch, while those of Mozart, not even excepting the famous Requiem-a fine but nevertheless somewhat overrated work-with their subtle, sensuous charm, suggest pagan divinities in disguise, like the Saint John and Saint Anne of, Leonardo da Vinci. whose characteristic sfumato style, incidentally. is strikingly analogous to the chromatically inflected style of Mozart. As for the great M issa Solemnis of Beethoven, it is pantheistic rather than Christian, mystical rather than religious, besides being quite unsuited to church performance both on account of its vast dimensions and its frequently dramatic, secular style; and much the same may be said of the masses of Schubert, despite their many pages of undeniably fine music. The highest achievements in church composition during this period are to be found in the work of Luigi Cherubini, whose masses in general. and his magnificent Requiem in particular, by virtue of their superb contrapuntal workmanship in the best traditional style coupled with their profoundly devotional feeling, are among the most conspicuous landmarks in the history of sacred music since the time of Palestrina.