THERE are many operas on subjects from our Shakespeare by German composers. That industrious fellow, the German, studies our Shakespeare rather more thoroughly than wo do ourselves.
Nieolai, the composer of The Merry Wives of Windsor, was one of the adventurous young people who ran away from home. He had the good luck to fall into kindly hands and to be given a first-rate education in music under the same master as the great Mendelssohn, and his career throughout was a happy and successful one. He held several posts as conductor and director, of which he might have made use to produce his own works, but made himself responsible rather for the best possible performances of the great classics.
This Overture is made up principally of music from the third act of the opera, in which the scene is laid in Windsor Forest, and where Falstaff and the rest join in a crazy fancy-dress frolic. The quiet little tune of the opening which the violoncellos begin suggests the moon rising over the forest, and all the other lighthearted
!tunes concern themselves with the merrymaking with which the opera ends.
THE music of Sibelius, the representative composer of Finland, is strongly national in spirit, and of none of his work is this more true than of the Tone Poem which bears his native country's name. Composed in 1894, before he was quite thirty, it is a tone picture of an exile's impressions of home on his return after a long absence. It has long ago ceased to be merely national music, although it will always be the deep sincerity of its national feeling by which it will make its strongest appeal.
A short theme, of stern character, powerfully announced by the brasses, introduces the work. This is answered by the woodwinds, and a sorrowful tune is heard on the strings. In the quick section which follows, the first theme appears again, played by the strings against a strongly-marked rhythm, and then a broad-flowing tune on the strings introduces the main part of the piece. It, too, has something of the stern character of the opening. The second main tune, more peaceful, is heard first on the woodwinds and afterwards from the strings.
The whole piece is clear and simple, one is tempted to say rugged, in its simplicity.
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