The editors of the Harvard Musical Review are to be congratulated on the improved appearance of the February number. The aims of the editors are so high that the lack of umlauts and accents in the French and German phrases so noticeable in their last number, must have been a keen disappointment to them. Evidently the fonts of the printers (to whom the press-work was formerly entrusted) did not contain types necessary to the correct printing of foreign languages. Such a condition could not endure of course, and has been remedied, but the advance which has been made in the press-work is a decided one in other ways. The relative sizes of the different types is more agreeable, and appearance of the pages more artistic.
The number in general might be called an "Opera Number," so many of the pages are taken up with a discussion of that form of musical entertainment Mr. Moderwell questions its nobility but acknowledges its fascination. His article touches on the economic, dramatic, and literary sides of opera as well as the musical. We think he has gone astray in his economics, but his observations on the other aspects of opera are sometimes discriminating, often pertinent, and for the most part unusual. But how can opera be said to be caste-making?" Are those who attend "in society" and those who stay away outside the magic circle?
Mr. Spelman writes entertainingly of the opera of the future and presumes that his discussion is based on a "careful examination of the facts of the case." But we question the completeness of his knowledge of all the salient facts. After placing melody as the "divinest element" in music, he continues: "The next most important element in dramatic music is dissonance. The more acute the dissonance, the more intense the emotional effect." We are not sure what he means by this, but take it that he has reference to passages containing complex harmonies and unusual or complicated progressions. But therein, as the composer knows, the separate chords may not be dissonances; on the contrary, they must be capable of strict analysis, otherwise they cease to be music. Neither must progressions by too ambiguous on penalty of the effect being flat and dull. Mr. Spelman's notions of dissonance need revision, but it is not his fault: our whole musical nomenclature needs it before one may be sure what another is talking about.
Mr. Mechem makes a plea for more comic opera, and his observations are very sensible, but where are witty librettists? Provide them and scores of well-equipped composers will spring up ready and able to make adequate, even brilliant, musical settings.
There is a very appreciative notice of the "Jewels of the Madona" at the Boston Opera House.
Mr. Weston continues to instruct us how much we have missed by not knowing the music of Wilhelm Friedman Bach, who is called the "direct precursor of Beethoven." It would be interesting to know how much Beethoven knew about him. But for Mr. Weston, few of us could give much account of him today.