Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Titel:
Essay on Perfect Intonation; with Remarks, Showing the Practicability of Attaining it in the Organ; Together with a Brief Description of the Enharmonic Organ, of Messrs. Alley and Poole
Person:
Poole, Henry Ward
PURL:
https://digitalesammlungen.uni-weimar.de/viewer/image/lit39335/20/
20 
Essay on Perfect Intonation. 
30. Undoubtedly, in perfect intonation, a certain key is fre¬ 
quently more appropriate for a given composition than any other 
key; but that a certain key gives to music performed in it, any 
such peculiarity as we have quoted, is (in our opinion) as fanciful 
as to suppose that the size of the canvas determines the character 
of the painting. We will suppose a composer has an idea which 
he would express in a soft and gentle air ; thinking that the char¬ 
acter of Ab, renders it the most appropriate key for the expres¬ 
sion of his idea, he writes his music in that key and arranges it 
for a quartette. He executes the music, thus arranged, on his 
piano-forte, and the soft and gentle effect desired is produced. 
He then gives it to a quartette to perform, without any accompa¬ 
niment. They take their pitch a semitone higher than his Ab, 
that is, exactly in his “pert” key of A. Would the composer 
himself perceive any difference in the effect of his music ? We 
think not; and say moreover, with confidence, that no one, in 
listening to an instrument, to the pitch of which he is not ac¬ 
customed, can, with any degree of certainty, decide in what key 
the music is played. A flute-player may judge correctly as to 
the key, when listening to an air performed on his own flute—per¬ 
haps a flute to which he is not accustomed—for different tones 
on the flute have different qualities; the E, for instance, has a 
different quality from the Eb; but this is admitted to be an im¬ 
perfection in that instrument, which art has endeavored to ob¬ 
viate. The character of music depends on other things than 
the key in which it is written. Many “soft and tender” com¬ 
positions have been written in Ab, and many of an opposite char¬ 
acter. 
One key is more appropriate for a composition than another, 
for the reason that there will be employed in that key, a range of 
sounds which are best adapted to the quality and compass of the 
voices, or instruments, for which the music was composed. Thus 
if a melody of this compass, (an octave and a fifth,) were written 
for a soprano or tenor voice, it would not probably be placed in 
the key of C, as in that key the highest notes would be too high, 
and the lowest notes too low for convenient execution. Such a 
still doubts the fact, we would refer him to a recent number of the London Quar¬ 
terly Review, vol. 83, p. 274, Am. ed., where, in an elegantly written article on “ Mu¬ 
sic,” the characters and complexions of the several keys afford the writer a theme 
for many sublime remarks, as if the theory had never been questioned. “ A whole 
Bridgewater treatise” this writer says, “ might have been not unworthily devoted to 
the wonderful varieties of keys alone. He [the composer] knows whether he re¬ 
quires the character of triumphant praise given by two sharps, as in the Hallelujah 
Chorus of Handel, or the Sanctus and Hosanna of Mozart’s Requiem; or the wild 
demoniac defiance (!) of C minor, as in the allegro of the Freischütz overture ; or the 
enthusiastic gladness of four sharps, as in the song of Di Piacer ; or the heart-chil¬ 
ling horror (!) of G minor, as in Schubert’s Erl King, and all the Erl kings that we 
have known.” A very proper reply to this writer in the Quarterly, can be found in 
an article on “Greek and Modern Notation of Music,” in the volume of the West¬ 
minster, to which we have already referred in a previous note.
        

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