THE GRAMOPHONE London O.Jtiu: 58, Frith Street, London, W. 1. Edited by COMPTON MACKENZIE
TBLlIPHOll'B: Reg6l1t 1383.
TBLBGlI.AMS : Parma.xto, Westoent, London.
MOST of us have at some t ime or other regretted that discouraging system of nomenclature in music which depends on opus numbers and keys, and I do feel that the t ime has come when, without offending the susceptibilities of purists, we might make some attempt to give easily remembered names to various pieces of music which . at present possess nothing except a number to dist inguish them from their peers. Think what a handicap i t would have been to the general appreciat ion of Charles Dickens if the Pickwick Papers had been called Opus I . Even the most modern painters, who pretend to scorn the representational, still cling to readable t i t les, however remotely such t i t les may seem to bear upon the subject depicted. Why is Schubert's Unfinished symphony the most popular in the world? Surely because at the back of many people's minds is the idea that death cut short his accomplishment. A romantic story has been woven into the very texture of the music, and many listeners find in i ts gentle melancholy an i l lustration of their own fanciful reflections. This is just the kind of melody, they feel of that second movement, which a young man at death's door might snatch from the threshold of eternity. Later on, when they find ( lU t more about Schubert, 'they learn that death 1Jad nothing to do with the unfinished state of this symphony, and that i t was unfinished only because Schubert never made up his mind how t~ finish i t . However, by the t ime this has been discovered the music has become familiar and the destruction of a pretty story does not matter. ' Which of the 1wo quintets is the more popular, and which so long as i t has a name will go on being the more popular? Th e Trout quintet. Yet the beauty of that last great quintet known as Opus 163, which actually was written almost at the point of death, is immeasurably greater, more poignant and more vital than the dainty charm of The T1'out quintet. Suppose now that the late Auguste Van Biene bad never toured the world with that play called The Broken Melodu, what a splendid t i t le " The Broken Melody " would have been for that last great quintet. Do you remember the way the sublime melody of the adagio is suddenly interrupted by a kind of feverish gaiety, as if the composer had been frightened by the unearthliness of the strain he had evoked and had tried to flee from i t back to ordinary l ife? I f there is anything in music more moving than this I have never heard i t . Yes, in spite of Van Biene, I feel inclined to call this quintet " The Broken Melody" quintet. Will any reader provide a more suitable name? The Trout quintet only got i ts name because Schubert used the theme of his song called The Trout for one of the movements, and for the same reason . one of his quartets is cailed Death and the Maiden.
It is significant, if we may judge from record catalogues, that this quartet in D minor is the most popular. Yet I am inclined to wager that the quartet in A/ninOT or the quartet in C minor would be equally popular i i· they had names instead of numbers and keys. The glorious trio in B flat gained i ts popularity on the gramophone from that remarkable recording of i t by H.M.V. with CasaIs, Thibaud, and Cortot. "I want that trio played by Casals, Thibaud, and Cortot," was the way most people ordered i t from their dealers. Will some reader suggest a name for that? The other trio of Schubert's in E flnt, which was one of the first records publIshed by the National Gramophonic Society, might appropriately be called the" Funeral of Beethoven" trio, because i t was composed about the t ime that Beethoven was buried, and th·e second movement is a funeral march. I ani prepared to be reminded that the most popular of all Beethoven's symphonies has never had a name. I allude to the Fifth, of course, but even if i t has never had a name i t has always had a fanciful story attached to i t , about" fate knocking at tn'e' aoor.~~ And I am sure that many people still think of the Fifth symphony in C MinOT as the one which begins with fate knodbng at the door. The two next mO'it popular symphonies of Beethoven are the Third and Sixth, both of which have names. The EToica symphony, in addition to having a name, has a story about Napoleon attached to i t , and the Pastoml symphony answers to i ts description so obviously that i t needs no story. Schumann described the Fourth symphony as a'3lim Greek maiden between those two Norse giants the Third and Filth. Why not call the FouTth the" Greek Maiden" symphony? I find myself now, after playing all the nine symphonies over and over again, considering the Fourth svmphony to be the one I love best of all, and I shall take this opportunity of reminding our readers once