The Art-Forms of Music, Letters: O-P

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In the liturgical sense, an antiphon in the mass which introduces the more sacred part or missa fidelium, as the analogous introit does the missa catechumenorum. It is taken from the Psalms (since the thirteenth century limited to a single verse, except in requiem masses), and varies with the season or festival. it is immediately followed by the oblation of the bread and wine: hence the name, which is incorrectly applied by many people to the collection sometimes taken up at this stage of the service. The name is also used for the musical composition which is rendered at that time, and which may be an anthem, motet, or even a purely instrumental selection.


In a general sense, an introduction, especially to an opera. The first operas had no overtures. They either began directly with the action or were preceded by a prologue which was sung. With the development of instruments it became customary to open an operatic performance with an instrumental prelude. These introductions, however, were nothing more than arrangements of popular madrigals for instruments. The oldest form of the overture originated in France, and here we can distinctly see the influence of the vocal style. Lully (1633-87) established this. Alessandro Scarlatti (1659-1725) began with an Allegro, which was followed by a Grave and ended with another Allegro, or Presto. This form is known as the Italian overture. At that time, however, it was simply designated as Sinfonia. Such Sinfonie were soon used for concert performances, and composers began to write instrumental Sinfonie. It was but a step to the separation of the three parts into as many distinct movements. Hence the modern Symphony. The modern overture may be divided into three distinct classes. (1) The concert overture, a work in sonata-form. But there is no repetition of the first, or exposition section. To this class belong the overtures of Beethoven, such as Egmont, Coriolanus. (2) The opera overture, consisting of a combination of various (generally the most melodious) themes from the opera. This was chiefly cultivated by Rossini, but with a more serious and artistic purpose b y Weber. (3) An overture built upon themes from the opera, but with the definite purpose of giving a resume of the action. The most famous example of this kind of overture is that to Tannhauser, in which Wagner makes use of two principal themes, the chorus of the elder Pilgrims and the Venus-music. In this third class of overtures we may also place the preludes of Wagner's later dramas, which they lead directly, without a close, into the first act. See LEITMOTIV; PRELUDE.

PASSION, or Passion Music

From the earliest times it was customary in the Church to chant the story of the passion of Christ during Holy Week. As a musical art-form the passion first appears in Germany about 1570. At the same time Italy originated the form of the oratorio, and for the next half century no marked distinction appears between the two forms. Then the passion began to assume characteristic traits which distinguish it from the oratorio. These traits are the frequent introduction of chorales, the retention of the character of the 'narrator' (which entirely disappeared from the oratorio), and the use of the chorus for contemplation and reflection upon the events related. See ORATORIO; SACRED MUSIC.


In music, a term applied to works that are patched up from various earlier works of a composer. In the eighteenth century operatic composers did not always trouble themselves to compose new music to a new text. They took arias or choruses from their other earlier operas and adapted them to a new text. Gluck's Piramo e Tisbe is such a pasticcio in which the composer used the best arias of operas previously written by him. Handel made liberal use of this inartistic device, even in some of his best works. Thus the famous chorus from the Messiah, "For unto us a child is born," is not original, but the music is taken note for note from a madrigal composed by Handel himself in 1712 to a text representing a jealous lover.


An instrumental selection played after the conclusion of Divine service, while the congregation is passing out of the church. The term postlude is also applied to the closing instrumental measures at the end of a vocal composition.


In music, a selection of favorite pieces strung together without much connection, so as to form a sort of medley. Such arrangements generally have very little artistic value.


In music, a short preface or introduction to a more extended movement or composition, or to a dramatic performance or church service. It is in the same key with the selection which it is to introduce, and to which it is intended as a preparation. For a long time the prelude constituted an essential portion of the older sonata and suites. In the seventeenth century Correlli in his Sonate da Camera introduced the custom of beginning all such works with preludio in slow time; hence the introduction in our modern sonatas and symphonies. The German composers developed this idea. In some of the suites of J.S. Bach the prelude is as important as any of the regular movements. When this master wrote the Well-Tempered Clavichord he prefaced each fugue with a prelude. Bach's organ preludes are masterpieces, notably the magnificent one in E flat introducing the Saint Ann's fugue. Mendelssohn followed Bach in his six Preludes and Fugues for piano (op. 35). Chopin wrote a book of preludes which rank among the most beautiful of his shorter compositions, but they are entirely independent compositions, complete in themselves. Richard Wagner, from the time of his writing Lohengrin, uses the word prelude (Vorspiel) instead of overture. He aimed to give in the orchestra introduction to his dramatic works either a complete synopsis of the drama or its fundamental idea. He has, indeed, done this also in his overtures to The Flying Dutchman and Tannhauser. Only in Lohengrin does the prelude end with a complete cadence; in all the other works the prelude leads without a cadence directly into the first act. See FORM, OVERTURE.


A term in music applied to purely instrumental works which are intended to reproduce by musical tones a series of definite ideas or events. The idea of reproducing characteristic sounds of nature by means of music is very old. We have a composition by Jannequin, Cris de Paris, published in 1529, in which are imitated the cries of Parisian fish-mongers and venders of various commodities. In another, La Bataille, the same composer imitates the rattling of musketry, trumpet-signals, etc. In his "Pastoral Symphony" Beethoven reproduces the murmuring of the brook and the calls of various birds. Schubert in his famous song Gretchen am Spinnrad imitates admirably the hum and buzz of the spinning-wheel by the figure in the accompaniment. But Schumann went further; he gave some purely instrumental works (Carneval) suggestive titles. These instances do not in reality constitute programme music. This form began with Liszt, who wrote long orchestral works (symphonic poems) where every bar is meant to depict some definite emotion or event. He found his inspiration in works of poetry or the plastic arts. Thus Die Hunnenschlacht is intended to reproduce in musical tones the impression aroused by Kaulbach's famous picture. In his Dante and Faust symphonies Liszt has taken certain episodes from Dante and Goethe, and he intends to say in music what the two poets have said in words. This school of programme music has had many followers and is still very powerful. (see STRAUSS, RICHARD.) Opinions differ as to the value of such music. In Schumann's sense Raff and Saint-Saens, and even Schubert and Beethoven, have written programme music. But these masters never forced music beyond its natural limits. Wagner occupies a distinct position. In one sense his music is programme music, but it is dramatic, and always accompanies and illustrates the spoken word. And even in the purely instrumental passages, such as the Preludes, Siegfried's Rhine-Journey, Funeral March (Gotterdammerung), his method of leading motives enables the hearer to follow every bar in detail. Richard Strauss also has taken up this idea of leading motives and applied it to purely instrumental works (Death and Apotheosis, Till Eulenspiegel, Ein Heldenleben, etc.). See SYMPHONY; INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC.



Website: The History
Article Name: The Art-Forms of Music Letter: O-P
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: The New International Encyclopedia; 1902-1905 Dodd, Mead and Company-New York Total of 21 Volumes
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