Зображення сторінки

Having slaked our thirst from the clear running waters of St. Faith's Well, we turned our steps homeward. On the mountain sides above and below us, interspersed between chestnut woods and vineyards, are soft fushes of green spreading over the landscape; and the birds, though far less omnipresent than in England, are (at least in these early days of autumn) still singing in many a brake and thicket. Yet clouds have been gathering all the afternoon; and with the rising wind there blows up a storm that seems likely to overtake us. Nor was this somewhat romantic excursionromantic, that is, in regard both to the scenery and the white-clad denizens of the cloister, as well as the fanciful legend of the Fountain-much marred by the prospect of such a change in the weather. When leaving Conques behind in the east, separated from us by the restless and ruddy Dourdou, we had watched the clouds rolling up from the west, and piling themselves in vapoury folds over the hill crests. The sun, however, is still striving to show itself; and the uncertain lights thus shed over an angry sky and an expectant earth suffuse here and there, with fitful gleam, some favoured point of outstretching rock or patch of hilly sward. On one side, everything is veiled in mist: on the other, a well-defined landscape is momentarily illuminated, although the deepening shadows are fast creeping over yon tinted peak.

An ominous lull succeeds. Then the fresh breeze begins to whistle weirdly before bursting into a loud roar, and turning each gorge and hollow into a temple of the winds. Meanwhile the echoing thunderclaps follow one another in rapid succession ; and the drooping clouds pour back in a flood what they had received in a vapour. Our small party became temporarily scattered, there being something like a general stampede to get under shelter of any chance tree or ledge of rock. Nevertheless, one could not well regret the episode ; for, to say truth, the tempest had nowise damped our spirits, and we walked briskly homeward, the sheets of water, driven by the wind, beating freely against one's back. The air is so bracing, despite the downpour, and the incidents of the day (as well as of other days before and after) are so fresh and bright, that these quick alternations of an autumn in the highlands of "fair Guienne'make your tarrying amid them none the less pleasurable either at the time or in the memories they recall.




A Transition from the Music of Nature to that of Art.-Ecclesiasti

cal music in France and England compared.--Conventual choirs : Genoa-Guienne-Provence.-Concluding Remarks on Music and Musical Composers.

FROM the loud peal of thunderclap, and the harmonious uproar of wind and flood, let us once more shift the scene, and imagine ourselves standing beneath the shadow of the grand old abbatial church of Conques, solid and enduring as if hewn out of the rock. Strains of the pealing organ raised high upon a western loft are suunding forth processional marches and the full burst of triumph as on festive days; or, possibly, the rougher and more confused notes of a harmonium, hidden away in a nook of the chancel, are accompanying the choir in their daily office. Or, again, crossing the threshold of the adjacent cross-capped convent of Ste.-Foy, our ears may likely enough be struck by the melodious jingle of the pianoforte which the young secular organist (ordered off, by the by, a few weeks hence for a year's compulsory service in a cavalry regiment) touches oftentimes for practice, and when giving the choristers their daily singing lesson. Some remarks on the form and quality of the music commonly met with in church and convent may not, perhaps, be here out of place. To begin with, let us offer a word of comment upon the respective styles of Sacred Music prevailing in France and England.

Mixing with French connoisseurs of church music, or on glancing over any of their religious magazines, we shall continually meet with the antithesis between “ Plain Chant' (or Gregorian) on the one hand, and what they call 'faux bourdon' or simply “la musique' on the other, meaning by both these last expressions music of a more or less elaborate character set to accompany vocalists singing in parts. The difference between plain chant and 'faux bourdon' is thus equivalent to that between a simple melody with but short musical intervals given in the unison, and figured music in parts. Much the same contrast, in principle, as that presented by the plain congregational singing of an average English church or chapel compared with the complex harmonies of the Cathedral service. For the difference is no less marked in France than it is in England, between such music as is to be heard in the ordinary parish church and the trained choir of a Cathedral. So far as the writer's experience goes, however, the average music in French churches must be placed at a lower grade of merit than that of English, notwithstanding that congregational hymn-singing in England is sufficiently monotonous, and perhaps a trifle noisy. But what the foreign church music gains, it may be, in life and variety, it loses somehow through the too often shrill and tuneless shout of the devotees, and the harshness of the instrumentation. And here we may venture a remark or two on organs, as they are to be seen and heard in the two countries.

An organ builder of Toulouse gallantly remarked to one whom he readily recognized as an English traveller, ‘ England is the country for organs and organ players. There can be little hesitation in saying he was right about the latter point; and, on the principle of giving credence to experts in their own craft, it may perhaps be presumed he was not far wrong about the former. With regard to the method of playing, the practice generally obtaining in France is to draw out all the registers, and then to perform the lightest and most tripping airs from operas and the like-often enough mere polkas and jigs—at the full power of the instrument (the metallic quality of the reed stops being but little mellowed by a pedal obbligato),

« НазадПродовжити »