OMEBODY ONCE described a “fake musician” as one who waits for the newspaper review to find out whether he enjoyed the concert. I’ve always liked that definition, and I believe the authenticity of our contributors is something readers appreciate. There have always been fake musicians. For example, Louis Moreau Gottschalk got tired of a certain Boston critic (John Sullivan Dwight) attacking his compositions, so he replaced his own composition with a Beethoven Bagatelle—without telling anyone—and Dwight fell right into his trap, because he couldn’t tell the difference! Rather than judging a piece by intrinsic value, fake musicians look at the composer’s name to determine its worth. Speaking of Beethoven, in 1927 Ignaz Friedman played Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto in London (with Felix Weingartner). Following that performance, a London Times critic ruthlessly excoriated Friedman for his choice of cadenza. He was too ignorant to realize the cadenza he was attacking was a lesser-known work by Ludwig van Beethoven!
In a moment, I will return to the subject of “fake musicians”—but first I want to release a very important Roman Catholic collection of Propers by Tozer:
* PDF Download • Second Volume (429 pages)
—Commune Sanctorum, Missae Votivae, and Proprium Sanctorum.
Full Title: The Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Holidays | Set to Simple Music by Augustus Edmonds Tozer | Vol. II: Common of the Saints (Commune Sanctorum), Votive Masses (Missae Votivae), and Proper of the Saints (Proprium Sanctorum). —Notice how Tozer spells it both ways: “Holidays” and “Holydays.”
This is Tozer Volume 2, generously donated by Mr. Patrick Melling (Belmont, Western Australia) who grew up singing these Tozer settings during the 1960s. We scanned and uploaded Tozer’s First Volume back in 2014. The first volume appeared in 1906, followed by the second in 1908. Notice that thirty-seven years after Augustus Edmonds Tozer died, Francis Cardinal Spellman (Archbishop of New York) gave the book an additional IMPRIMATUR on 18 June 1947. In the context of vernacular settings of the Mass Propers, we have talked about the concept of Double IMPRIMATUR, and even Triple IMPRIMATUR.
Earlier, I explained how “fake musicians” judge a composition based upon the composer’s name. In olden times, dishonest people falsely attributed compositions to Josquin des Prez (d. 1521) and Joseph Haydn (d. 1809) because they were quite famous. It is pointless to try to argue with someone who refuses to look at the music itself. I have found this to be true of certain people who grew up Anglican; whatever they sang as a child is “the best,” and it’s pointless to argue with them—at least that’s been my experience. I once knew a man who believed whatever appeared in the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal was absolutely perfect and unsurpassable. When I showed him a word spelled incorrectly, he replied: “No, that’s not an incorrect spelling because if it occurs in the 1940 Hymnal it cannot be wrong.” To argue was pointless. 1 A good reputation is important, but it’s okay to criticize anyone if the critique is based upon sound principles. Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand where a reputation comes from; e.g. Paderewski was the most famous pianist of his age, but almost every professional who heard him was puzzled because—according to their analysis—Paderewski could barely play the piano.
Augustus Edmonds Tozer had a huge reputation. If you look through old journals, you will see that Tozer—or whoever was in charge of his advertisements—had quite a high opinion of the various hymnals he edited. Tozer had been raised as an Anglican, but he converted to the True Faith sometime before 1890. He died at a rather young age. Earlier, I said it’s pointless to critique the music of Anglicans—because they always prefer whatever they were brought up singing—but Tozer is “fair game” because he converted. By the way, just because I make a few criticisms, that doesn’t mean this PDF is unimportant.
Problems with Tozer’s Vocal Lines
In spite of the huge reputation of Tozer, I think his part-writing is problematic. For instance, look what is on the very first page:
Below are several more errors—I say “errors” according to the style in which Tozer is writing. (By the way, despite what some assert, there is such a thing as “adopting” a particular style, and when this is done the rules must be observed.)
We are still on the very first page, yet we discover more bad things:
I’m not going to spend time going through the entire book pointing out errors. In general, I think many of Tozer’s problems would have been solved if he had obeyed elementary rules, such as never allowing “hidden fifths” or “hidden octaves” between outer voices (unless the Soprano moves by step). I would be interested to hear the opinions of a professional theorist, such as Charles Weaver, about three items on page 360:
The rules of composition are important, and should not be ignored. They exist for a reason: viz. they help make good music. The venerable rules of composition are not arbitrary.
One reason it took five years to produce the Brébeuf hymnal had to do with the organ accompaniment volumes; it was necessary to have expert theorists and composers pore over each harmonization repeatedly, assuring a product of the highest quality. I admit that many Catholics still can’t even name the five Mass Propers (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, Communion) and we must avoid obsessing over minutiae. I also admit there are different ways of approaching music; e.g. listen to Józef Hofmann and Alfred Cortot interpret Chopin’s 4th Ballade and you will hear two wildly divergent—yet equally valid—approaches toward every phrase. Nonetheless, we will never “solve” the current crisis in Catholic music if we forget that good intentions alone are not sufficient; we must study the methods of the masters.
Without question, Tozer’s collection contains decent things; e.g. several bright melodies demonstrate good part-writing. Tozer excels in items such as STABAT MATER DOLOROSA (page 366), although this is written in a very “Victorian” style which I find rather horse-and-buggy. In conclusion, I’m thrilled to have yet another source of Mass Propers from which to draw inspiration, because 90% of our success as choirmasters comes from choosing the right repertoire for our choirs.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to talk about a particular passage of Lucretius, which tells of an Egyptian king who relinquished all relations with his friend Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos, because his prosperity had no flaws in it, “something of bitterness which springs up in the midst of the fountain of sweetness.” If my friend had quoted this, perhaps I could have been persuaded…