OF some recently published songs by Charles Gounod, one at least is sufficiently instructive in several ways to claim a more extended notice than its intrinsic merits would at first seem to warrant. Everything that M. Gounod does shows him to be a musician thoroughly versed in the ways and means of his art, —at the very least a man of great musical savoir faire. Moreover — his compositions show that exquisitely finished workmanship, that perfection of detail, that one now looks for as almost a matter of course from French composers of the modern school. But in spite of the many evidences he has given of genius, genuine depth of feeling, and natural, spontaneous inspiration, the instinctive, natural (and also national) tendency of the man towards the theatrical and artificial in art cannot be overlooked even by his warm admirers. In common with most of his countrymen, his habitual inner artistic life seems to be an artificial one ; he seems to be perpetually posing before his public, or, in default of a public, before himself; and one insensibly feels that he cannot trust himself far from a looking-glass. A Frenchman must be either on one side of the foot-lights or the other, either on the stage or the benches; and when anybody does his stageposing and gesticulating as well as does M. Gounod, we who sit on the benches must applaud with a will. Nay, these Frenchmen do so brilliantly improve upon nature in their artificial art, that for the time being we cannot but be cheated into enthusiasm, and almost believe in Bengal lights and stage lamps as the purest source of light; for do not the very stars themselves pale and grow sickly dim before a bunch of rockets and a couple of streetfuls of painted lamps ? But for anything purely artificial to have even a temporary hold upon us, it must be absolutely perfect in all its details, even more perfect than the reality that it mimics. However, to leave all mere abstractions, and come down to the case in hand, we heartily wish that M. .Gounod had never undertaken to write music to English words. The song Passed Away is, musically considered, a clever bit of forced sentimentality, worthless, perhaps, from any really high artistic point of view, but in no way inferior to many of his French songs, which any one of an easygoing artistic conscience would be willing to accept as thoroughly charming. The modulations are, for the most part, forced and unnatural, but yet skilfully and even gracefully forced with the light touch of a master. The music perfectly expresses the words ; but the text itself is what spoils the whole. Mr. Saunders’s verses express a sentiment not altogether new in the annals of poetry, — that of an unhappy swain who offers up to the departed spirit of his mistress a fixed determination never to be consoled till death do them reunite. To a man in this unhappy state of mind commonplace versification is no doubt an innocent anodyne ; and after having once made up his mind that he will be of no further use in the world either to himself or anybody else, we cannot blame him for eking out the remainder of his blighted existence with rhymed soliloquy. But he should not print it ! Especially not in the English tongue, in which commonplaces of the lovelorn sort inevitably cut their sublime moorings, and are washed hither and thither in the sea of the ridiculous in aimless wanderings. That M. Gounod, as a Frenchman, should be instinctively attracted by the tender, susceptible nature revealed in all this metrical woe is not surprising. The sentiment, and indeed the expression of it taken as a mental diagnosis, is not one whit inferior to much of the namby-pambier sort of French love-poetry which the world has voted respectable. But M. Gounod has vastly miscalculated his power of discriminating between poetry and doggerel in a foreign language. Mr. Saunders’s verses are, in fact, of the most outrageous doggerel.

When in the Early Morn is, perhaps, the weakest and most unmusician-like of the composer’s productions that we have yet seen. It would hardly reflect credit upon the most commonplace ballad-writer. On the other hand, Aprile is, everything considered, the most thoroughly fascinating song of Gounod’s that we know. The beautiful, passionate melody is rather unFrench in tone, and, strange to say, neither it nor the manner in which it is harmonized have much that is distinctly characteristic of the composer. Only in the inimitably beautiful transition from passionate intensity to most caressing tenderness at the words “D’arcano ardor mi sento acceso il cor ! ” (we are sorry not to be able to quote from the French original) do we recognize Gounod in one of his best and most characteristic moods. The whole song is written with rare spontaneity, every note and phrase seeming to have sprung into being in willing response to an artistic necessity, not to have been forced upon the paper by any mock-passionate “grasping at the thunder,” or in accordance with any artificial laws of dramatic effect. Yet the song is much more effective, not to mention its being more pure in character, than hosts of more elaborately written French love-songs in which the most carefully calculated effects, intended to portray all the various shades of passion, too often bear the stamp of the ingenious art manufacturer, rather than of the heaven-compelled artist.

Deep down within the Cellar is a slightly altered version of the old German drinking-song, Im Kühlen Keller, authorship, we suppose, not now discoverable. What we take to be the original melody is published in Leipzig in a collection of Old and New Students’ Songs, with Illustrations and Tunes, edited by L. Richter and A. E. Marschner, in which no hint is given as to the origin of either words or melody. The present edition, furnished with a piano-forte accompaniment and an English version of the text by John Oxenford, has not quite the uncouth, halftipsy simplicity of the original, is, in fact, rather an expurgated musical version, but is, nevertheless, vigorous and concise in melody and masterly in harmony. The only place where it has really suffered by the change is in the last bar but two of the air, at the words Ich halt’s empor. The half-maudlin, pot-valiant mock-dignity of the skip from B-flat up a tenth to high D and then to high F, in the original version, is too good to be lost. We can see the jolly toper boastfully holding up his glass, singing his own praises, a little dashed perhaps by the sudden change of register and the unexpected sound of his own voice in a high key, but yet retaining self-possession enough to finish his phrase with ich trinke, trinke, trinke, in dignified self-complacency and a hiccup or two down to low F. This effect is much weakened in Mr. Oxenford’s version, where the smooth arpeggio from B-flat to D lacks the drastic realism of the original.

Randegger’s A Mariner’s Home ’s the Sea is a good vigorous song ; not strikingly original, but well written and effective. The subject is rather a trite one, and belongs rather to the harmonic meeting and “ BackKitchen ” period of song-writing than to these degenerate days, when screw-steamers and a more extended acquaintance with the vasty deep have robbed it of much of its romantic charm. The song is, indeed, much better than its title would at first lead one to think, and may be ranked rather above average concert songs of the vagabond type.

Gay little Dandelion, Somebody, and Sunset, by George L. Osgood, show our sweet-voiced young tenor to be something more than a singer. However much good Mr. Osgood’s Italian training may have done him in respect to vocal culture, it has manifestly had little effect upon his writing. It is pleasant to find a singer writing music simply as music, without any eye to producing something merely effective and vocally astonishing, — to find that the virtuoso persistently aims at being an artist, and not merely an acrobat. Mr. Osgood has evidently written these songs with some higher intent than to faire briller la voix. Of the three, the Little Dandelion strikes us as the best. Here, as in Sunset, the strong influence the songs of Robert Franz have had upon the composer is unmistakable. The melody has a piquant grace, suggestive of the flower balancing itself upon its stem, that is quite fascinating ; and the playful, breezy triplets of the accompaniment, together with the unusually fine harmony, give the song a peculiar charm. Sunset is of a quiet, religious character, entirely unpretentious, yet neither flat nor commonplace. In the song called Somebody we feel the influence of Gounod rather than of Franz, In spite of many points of beauty, this song seems not quite up to the mark of the other two. With great singleness of general plan, it somehow wants unity of character, and some of the phrases verge dangerously upon the commonplace. Too many nationalities seem to have got mixed up in the music. Nevertheless, many places show the accomplished musician, especially in the harmonizing ; neither is a certain poetic flavor wanting. The best part of the song is the close, where the words, “ Through life, says somebody,” are repeated three times; first in the brilliant, sunshiny key of A major, then in the more reposeful innig key of F (the subdominant key of the song), and lastly in the tonic, C. This change from the first impetuous outburst of joy to a calmer, serener, but deeper expression of feeling is singularly beautiful.

Anton Krause’s Ten Piano-forte Studies are most excellent. They are admirably calculated to advance the pupil in reading music, while there is enough in them to develop strength and agility of finger and wrist, and particularly to train the pupil’s eye in judging distances on the keyboard. Musically they are unusually interesting. We notice with pleasure that Messrs Russell and Company are republishing in sheet form many things from Lebert and Stark’s Piano-forte School, written and arranged for the use of the Conservatory at Stuttgart. This will be a godsend to our piano-forte teachers, especially to those who have to do with young beginners, and whom a few more years of the eternal Kuhe, Beyer, & Co., “ easy and graceful transcriptions ” would undoubtedly drive to distraction. The same firm have published an excellent edition of Sebastian Bach’s two-part inventions and three-part symphonies for piano-forte. We would earnestly counsel all young pianists, who are of a kindly disposition towards Bach and to whom the “ well-tempered clavichord ” presents too many technical difficulties, to study these little two-voice compositions. As a study for acquiring perfect independence between the two hands they are unsurpassed, and as musical compositions they are really delightful. The threevoice inventions, or “ symphonies ” as they are called in the great Leipzig edition of Breitkopf and Härtel, are more difficult, from the additional obbligato part, but are musically all the more fascinating. To the contrapuntal student these inventions are invaluable examples of polyphonic writing in the purest style, though not conforming at all to the strict fugue and canon forms.

We hardly know whether to be glad or sorry that Mr. Sydney Smith has made a Paraphrase o Mendelssohn’s Scotch Symphony. At first sight this reducing a fine symphony to a potpourrie de salon strikes one as rather a desecration, to be deplored by the sincere art-lover. But after all, when we properly consider it, there seem to be no good reason why a symphony should not be made a medley of, as well as an opera ; unless, indeed, it be that there are so many poor popular operas, which it is no serious matter to chop up for parlor consumption, and so few really fine symphonies that can be treated in this manner. Possibly some interest in the higher music may be created in persons of weak musical digestion, to whom a “ whole symphony ” is a tough dose, by these diluted abridgments of the too strong original. Mr. Sydney Smith, in common with some few other pianist composers, has held a sort of middle ground between Thalberg, the founder of the school and its one shining light, and such men as Spindler, Oestcn, and other more purely mechanical sheetmusic purveyors. Sydney Smith’s transcriptions and salon-pieces have had great vogue in school exhibitions and like occasions, and are to be found on the music racks of most aesthetically minded young ladies, to the terror and boredom of musicians, whom his imitations of Thalberg fail to delight, in spite of his really clever handling of the instrument. He is, in fact, the burnt stick of the Thalberg rocket, interesting only to him upon whose head it happens to fall. In the transcription in hand he has done as well as might have been expected, and no better. As a simple piece of piano-forte writing, the piece is capital, the instrument exceedingly well treated, and the execution not difficult; as a mere piece of transcribing, it is in high degree commendable ; but as a treatment of the Scotch Symphony, it is simple butchery, wanting in coherence, fervor, and good taste.

  1. Passed Away. Song. Words by EDWIN SAUNDERS, music by CHARLES GOUNODBoston : G. D. Russell & Co.
  2. When in the Early Morn. Song. Words by EDWARD MAITLAND, music by CHARLES GOUNOD. Boston : O. Ditson & Co.
  3. Aprile. Song. Words by J. BARBIER, music by CHARLES GOUNOD. Boston : G. D. Russell & Co.
  4. Deep down within the Cellar, old German Drinking-Song. English Version by JOHN OXENFORD. Boston : G. D. Russell & Co.
  5. A Mariner’s Home ’s the Sea. Song. Words by J. P. WOOLER, ESQ , music by ALBERTO RANDEGGER. Boston : G D Russell & Co.
  6. Gay little Dandelion. Song. Words by GEORGE MACDONALD, music by G, L. OSGOOD. Op. 1. Boston : G. D. R ussell & Co.
  7. Somebody, Sunset. Songs. By GEORGE L. OSGOOD. Boston : G. D. Russell & Co.
  8. Ten Études for the Piano-forte. By ANTON KRAUSE. Op. 5. Boston : G. D. Russell & Co-
  9. Instructive Piano Pieces. Composed and graded expressly for the Stuttgart Conservatory. By S. LEBERT and L. STARK. Boston : G. D. Russell & Co.
  10. Inventions à 2 voix et 15 inventions à 3 voix pour piano. Par J. SEBASTIAN BACH. Boston: G. D. Russell & Co.
  11. Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony. Paraphrase for Piano-forte. By SYDNEY SMITH. Op. 101. Boston : Oliver Ditson & Co.