'SANS la musique un Etat ne peut subsister.' - MOLIERE.
Music of the Ancients
Inventor of the Modern Scale
Early Effects of Music
The Rich Harper
Wrath of Amurath Subdued
The Fiddler Nero
Assassins Charmed from their Purpose
Harp of the North
'Cold and Raw.'
Nature, and French Singing
Music and Politics
Effects of Music on Animals
'Think of Thy Servant.'
Claude le Jeune
Song of Birds
King of the Minstrels
Commemoration of Handel
Town and Country
Power of Music in Battle
'Monsieur Tres Mauvais.'
The Hindostan Girl
Deaf and Dumb Amateur
West Indian Harper
Adventures of Telemachus
Imperial Family of Austria
The New Zealanders
Examples for English Peasantry
Russian Musical Instruments
The Tonga Islanders
Pope's Opinion of Handel
Mr. John Davy
Senesino and Farinelli
Frederick the Great
The Horn Music of Russia
The Musical Smallcoal-Man
The Imitative Music
The Music of the Spheres
Ballad Singing Divine
Singing at Sight
Medicinal Effects of Music
Sense and Sound
Earl of Mornington
Modern Effects of Music
Signoras Cuzzoni and Bordoni
Haydn and Mozart
Antiquity of Fiddlesticks
Dr. John Bull
The Welsh Bards
Music of the Ancients.
Music, like all other arts, has been progressive, and its improvements may be traced through a period of more than three thousand years. Being common to all ages and nations, neither its invention nor refinement can., with propriety, be attributed to any single individual. The Hermes or Mercury of the Egyptians, surnamed Trismegistus, or thrice illustrious, who was, according to Sir Isaac Newton, the secretary of Osiris, is, however, commonly celebrated as the inventor of music.
From the accounts of Diodorus Siculus, and of Plato, there is reason to suppose, that in very ancient times, the study of music in Egypt was confined to the priesthood, who used it only in religious and solemn ceremonies. It was esteemed sacred, and forbidden to be employed on light or common occasions; and all innovation in it was strictly prohibited.
It is to be regretted that there are no traces by which we can form an accurate judgment of the style or relative excellence of this very ancient music. It is, unhappily, not with music in this respect, as with ancient sculpture and poetry, of which we have so many noble monuments remaining, for there is not even a single piece of musical composition existing, by which we can form a certain judgment of the degree of excellence to which the musicians. of old had attained. The earliest Egyptian musical instrument of which we have any record, is that on the guglia rotta at Rome, one of the obelisks brought from Egypt, and said to have been erected by Sesostris, at Heliopolis, about four hundred years before the siege of Troy. This curious relic of antiquity, which is a musical instrument of two strings, with a neck, resembles much the calascione still used in the kingdom of Naples, and proves that the Egyptians, at a very early period of their history, had advanced to a-considerable degree of excellence in the cultivation of the arts; indeed there is ample evidence, that at a time when the world was involved in savage ignorance, the Egyptians were possessed of musical instruments capable of much variety of expression.
We learn from Holy Scripture, that in Laban's time instrumental music was much in use in the country where he dwelt, that is, in Mesopotamia; since, among the other reproaches which he makes to his son-in-law, Jacob, he complains, that by his precipitate flight he had put it out of his power to conduct him and his family 'with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp.' The son of Sirach, in giving directions to the master of a banquet as to his behaviour, desires him, amongst other things, 'to hinder not the music;' and to this he adds, 'a concert of music in a banquet of wine, is as a signet of carbuncle set in gold; as a signet of emerald set in a work of gold, so is the melody of music with pleasant wine.' In speaking in the praise of Josias, he says, 'the remembrance of Josias is like the composition of the perfume, that is made by the art of the apothocary, it is as sweet as honey in all mouths; and as music in a banquet of wine.' Here we have a pleasing recollection, illustrated by a comparison with the gratification of three of the senses. Ossian, on an occasion a little different, makes use of the last comparison, but in an inverted order, when he says, 'The music of Caryl is like the memory of joys that are past, pleasing and mournful to the soul.'
The Hebrew instruments of music were principally those of percussion; so that on that account, as well as the harshness of the language, the music must have been coarse and noisy. The great number of performers too, whom it was the custom of the Hebrews to collect together, could, with such language and such instruments, produce nothing but clamour and jargon. According to Josepthus, there were two hundred thousand musicians at the dedication of the Temple of Solomon.
Music appears to have been interwoven through the whole tissue of religious ceremonies in Palestine. The priests appear to have been musicians hereditarily, and by office. The prophets accompanied their inspired effusions with music; and every prophet, like the present improvisatori of Italy, appears to have been accompanied by musical instrument.
Vocal and instrumental music constituted a principal part of the funeral ceremonies of the Jews. The pomp and expense on these occasions were prodigious. The number of flute players in he processions amounted sometimes to several hundreds, and the attendance of the guests continued frequently for thirty days.
It has been imagined, with much appearance of probability, that the occupation of the first poets and musicians of Greece, resembled that of the Celtic and German bards, and the Scalds of Iceland and Scandinavia. They sung their poems in the streets of cities, and in the palaces of princes. They were treated with great respect, and regarded as inspired persons. Such was the employment of Homer. In his poems so justly celebrated, music is always named with rapture; but as no mention is made of instrumental music, unaccompanied with poetry and singing, a considerable share of the poet's praises is to be attributed to the poetry. The instruments most frequently named are the lyre, the flute, and the syrinx. The trumpet does not appear to have been known at the siege of Troy, although it was in use in the days of Homer himself.
The invention of notation and musical characters, marked a distinguished era in the progress of music. There are a diversity of accounts respecting the person to whom the honour of that invention is due; but the evidence is strongest in favour of Terpander, a celebrated poet and musician, who flourished 671 years before Christ; and to whom music is much indebted. Before this valuable discovery, music being entirely traditional, must have depended much on the memory and taste of the performer.
The character of the Grecian music appears to have been noisy and vociferous in the extreme. The trumpet players at the Olympic games used to express an excess of joy when they found their exertions had burst a bloodvessel, or done them some other serious injury. Lucian relates of a young flute-player, Harmonides, that on his first public appearance at these games, he began a solo with so violent a blast, in order to surprise and elevate the audience, that he breathed his last breath into his flute, and died on the spot.
The musicians of Greece, who performed in public, were of both sexes; and the beautiful Lamia, who was taken prisoner by Demetrius, and captivated her conqueror, as well as many other females, are mentioned by ancient authors in terms of admiration.
The Romans like every other people, were, from their first origin as a nation, possessed of a species of music which might be distinguished as their own. It appears to have been rude and coarse, and probably was a variation of the music in use among the Etruscans, and other tribes around them in Italy, but as soon as they began to open a commucation with Greece, from that country, with their arts and philosophy they borrowed also their music and musical instruments.
The earliest of stringed instruments was the lyre. As it originally existed in Egypt and among the Greeks for several centuries, it consisted of only three strings. We have, in modern music, a specimen of an air by Rousseau, formed on three notes alone - the key note, with its second and third; and if we may judge from this, very pleasing and powerful effects might have been produced within such a compass. It is uncertain when, or by whom, the fourth string was added; but the merit of increasing the number to seven, is generally attributed to Terpander, who has also the reputation of having introduced notation into music. Two centuries later, Pythagoras or Simonides added an eighth string. The number was afterwards extended to two octaves; and Epigonus is said to have used a lyre of forty strings, or rather a harp, as he played without a plectrum. The lyre of eight strings comprehended an octave, corresponding pretty accurately with the notes of our natural scale, beginning with e. The key note was a, so that the melody appears to have borne usually a minor third, which has been also observed to be the case with the airs of most uncultivated nations.
The ancient modes of tuning the lyre were totally different from those of modern times; but it has been a matter of question whether they did not afford a more copious fund of striking, if not of pleasing melodies. In some of them intervals of about a quarter tone were employed; but this practice, on account of its difficulty, was soon abandoned - a difficulty which is not easily overcome by the most experienced of modern singers, although some great masters have been said to introduce a progression Of quarter tones, in pathetic passages, with surprising effect. The tibia of the ancients, as appears evidently from Theophrastus, although not from the misinterpretations of his commentators, and of Pliny, had a reed mouth-piece about three inches long, and, therefore, was more properly a clarionet than a flute; and the same performer generally played on two at once, and not in unison.
Pollux, in the time of Commodus, describes, under the name of the Tyrrhene pipe, exactly such an organ as is figured by Hawkins, composed of brass tubes, and blown by bellows; nor does he mention it as a new discovery. It appears from other authors to have been often furnished with several registers of pipes, and it is scarcely possible that the performer, who is represented by Julian as having considerable execution, should have been contented without occasionally adding harmony to his melody. That the voice was accompanied by thorough bass on the lyre, is undeniably proved by a passage of Plato; and that the ancients had some knowledge of singing in three parts is evident from Macrobius. It is indeed strongly denied by Martini and others that the ancients had any knowledge of counterpoint, nor is it absolutely necessary to suppose a very exquisite and refined skill in the intricacies of composition to produce all the effects that have, with any probability, been ascribed to the music of the ancients. It is well known that Rousseau and others have maintained that harmony is rather detrimental than advantageous to an interesting melody, in which true music consists; and it may easily be observed that an absolute solo, whether a passage or a cadence, is universally received, even by cultivated hearers, with more attention and applause than the richest modulations of a powerful harmony.
Whatever may have been the attainments of the ancients in harmonic science, it is certain that among the moderns it remained almost wholly unknown till about the fifteenth century. The foundations of it were laid by Muris, Fairfax, and Bird. Handel, Purcell, and Corelli afterwards gave it scale, system, and arrangement; and Haydn, to whom the completion of the work was reserved, spread out the edifice to the skies, and environed it with all the delights of melody.
We do not find any mention of an organ before the year 757 when Constantine Cupronymus, Emperor of the East, sent to Pepin, King of France, among other rich presents, a musical machine, which the French writers describe to have been composed of pipes and large tubes of tin, and to have imitated sometimes the roaring of thunder, and sometimes the warbling of a flute. A lady was so affected on first hearing it played on, that she fell into a delirium, and could never afterwards be restored to her reason.
In the reign of the Emperor Julian, these instruments had become so popular that Ammianus Marcellinus complains that they occasioned the study of the sciences to be abandoned.
Neither the name of the harpsichord, nor that of the spinet, of which it is manifestly but an improvement, occurs in the writings of any of the monkish musicians who wrote after Guido, the inventor of the modern method of notation. As little is there any notice taken of it by Chaucer, who seems to have occasionally mentioned all the various instruments in use in his time. Chaucer, indeed, speaks of an instrument called the citole in these verses:-
'He taught her, till she was certeyne,
Of harp, citole, and of ciote,
With many a tune, and many a note.'
And by an ancient list of the domestic establishment of Edward III., it appears that he had in his service a musician called a cyteller or cysteller. This citole (from citolla, a little chest) Sir John Hawkins supposes to have been 'an instrument resembling a box, with strings on the top or belly, which, by the application of the tastatura, or key board, borrowed from the organ and sacks, became a spinet.' Of the harpsichord, however, properly so called, the earliest description of it which has been yet met with occurs in the 'Musurgia' of Ottomanis Luscinius, published at Strasburgh in 1536.
Inventor of the Modern Scale.
Although there is scarcely a work on music which does not make mention of Guido Aretinus as the reformer of the ancient scale of music, and the inventor of the new method of notation, founded on the adaptation of the syllables ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, from a hymn of St. John the Baptist, yet, by a kind of fatality very difficult to account for, his memory lives almost solely in his inventions. He was a native of Arezzo, a city in Tuscany, and having been taught the practice of music in his youth, and probably retained, as a chorister in the service of the Benedictine monastery founded in that city, he became a monk professed, and a brother of the order of St. Benedict. In this retirement he seems to have devoted himself to the study of music, particularly the system of the ancients, and above all, to reform their method of notation. The difficulties that attended the instruction of youth in the church offices were so great that, as he himself says, ten years were generally consumed barely in acquiring a knowledge of the plain song; and this consideration induced him to labour after some amendment, some method that might facilitate instruction, and enable those employed in the choral office to perform the duties of it in a correct and decent manner. If we may credit those legendary accounts that are extant in monkish manuscripts, we should believe he was actually assisted in his pious intention by immediate communication from heaven. Some speak of the invention of the syllables as 'the effect of inspiration,' and Guido himself seems to have been of the same opinion, by his saying it was revealed to him by the Lord, or, as some interpret his words, in a dream. Graver historians say, that being at vespers in the chapel of his monastery, it happened that one of the offices appointed for that day was the above-mentioned hymn to St. John the Baptist, which commences with these lines:-
Ut queant laxis,
'We must suppose,' says Sir John Hawkins, 'that the converting of the tetrachords into hexachords, had previously been the subject of frequent contemplation with Guido, and a method of discriminating the tones and semi tones was the only thing wanting to complete his invention. During the performance of the above hymn, he remarked the iteration of the words, and the frequent returns of ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la; he observed likewise a dissimilarity between the closeness of the syllable mi and the broad open sound of fa, which he thought could not fail to impress upon the mind an idea of their congruity, and immediately conceived a thought of applying those Six syllables to his new-formed hexachord. Struck with the discovery, he retired to his study, and having perfected his system, began to introduce it into practice.'
The persons to whom Guido first communicated his invention were the brethren of his own monastery, from whom it met with but a cold reception. In an epistle from him to his friend Michael, a monk of Pomposa, he ascribes this to what was undoubtedly its true cause; envy. However, his interest with the abbot, and his employment in the chapel, gave him an opportunity of trying the efficacy of this method on the boys who were trained up for the choral service, and it exceeded his most sanguine expectations.
The fame of Guido's invention spread quickly abroad, and no sooner was it known than generally followed. We are told by Kircher that Hirmannus, Bishop of Hamburgh, and Elvericus, Bishop of Osnaburgh, made use of it; and by the author of the 'Histoire Litteraire de la France,' that it was received in that country, and taught in all the monasteries in the kingdom. It is certain that the reputation of his great skill in music had excited in the Pope a desire to see and converse with him, of which, and of his going to Rome for that purpose, and the reception he met with from the Pontiff, Guido has himself given a circumstantial account, in the epistle to his friend Michael before mentioned.
The particulars of this relation are very curious, and, as we have his own authority, there is no room to doubt the truth of it. It seems that John XX., or, as some writers compute, the nineteenth Pope of that name, having heard of the fame of Guido's school, and conceiving a desire to see him, sent three messengers to invite him to Rome. Upon their arrival, it was resolved by the brethren of the monastery that he should go thither, attended by Grimaddo, the Abbot, and Peter, the chief of the canons of the church of Arezzo. Arriving at Rome, he was presented to the holy father, and by him received with great kindness. The Pope had several conversations with him, in all of which he interrogated him as to his knowledge in music; and, upon sight of an antiphonary which Guido had brought with him, marked with the syllables according to his new invention, the Pope looked on it as a kind of prodigy, and ruminating on the doctrines delivered by Guido, would not stir from his seat till he had learned perfectly to sing off a verse, upon which he declared that he could not have believed the efficacy of the method, if he had not been convinced by the experiment he had himself made of it. The Pope would have detained him at Rome, but labouring under a bodily disorder, and fearing an injury to his health from the air of the place, and the heats of the summer, which was then approaching, Guido left that city, with a promise to revisit it, and to explain more at large to his holiness the principles of his new system. On his return homewards, he made a visit to the Abbot of Pomposa, who was very earnest to have Guido settle in the monastery of that place, to which invitation, it seems, he yielded, being, as he says, 'desirous of rendering so great a monastery still more famous by his studies there.'
Early Effects of Music.
The Greeks tell us that Orpheus and Amphion drew the wild beasts after them, made the trees and stones dance to the tune of their harps, and brought them together in such a manner as to form a regular wall, and enclose a great city. Stripped of its fable, this story, according to general interpretation, signifies that they subdued the savage dispositions of a barbarous people, who lived in caves, woods, and deserts, and by representing to them in their songs the advantages of society, persuaded them to build cities, and form a community. It is certain that there is no temper so fierce or brutish but what music, if properly applied, can soften and civilize; and the history of the ancients, long after it had ceased to consist of fable, abounds in instances which show that the art, even in its infancy, has produced some very extraordinary effects. Tyrteus, the Spartan poet, by certain verses which he sung to the accompaniment of flutes, so enflamed the courage of his countrymen, that they achieved a great victory over the Messenians, to whom they had submitted in several previous conflicts. Timotheus, with his flute, could move the passions of Alexander as he pleased, inspiring him at one moment with the greatest fury, and soothing him the next into a state the most gentle and placid. Pythagoras instructed a woman, by the power of music, to arrest the fury of a young man who came to set her house on fire; and his disciple, Empedocles, employed his lyre with success, to prevent another from murdering his father, when the sword was unsheathed for that purpose. The fierceness of Achilles was allayed by playing on the harp, on which account Homer gives him nothing else out of the spoils of Eetion. Damon, with the same instrument, quieted wild and drinking youths; and Asclepiades, in a similar manner, brought back seditious multitudes to temper and reason.
Music is reported to have been also efficacious in removing several dangerous diseases. Picus Mirandola observes, in explanation of its being appropriate to such an end, that music moves the spirits to act upon the soul and the body. Theophrastus, in his essay on Enthusiasm, reports many cures performed on this principle.
It is certain that the Thebans used the pipe for the cure of many disorders, which Galen called, Super loco affecto tibia cavere. So Zenocrates is said to have cured several mad-men, and among others, Sarpander and Arion.
The Rich Harper.
A rich man of Tarentum once took it into his head to distinguish himself at the Pythian games. Not having strength enough to shine as wrestler, nor agility enough for running, he chose to be considered a musical candidate. He made his appearance at Delphos, dressed in cloth of gold, with a crown, in the shape of a laurel, the leaves of which were of gold, adorned with the finest emeralds. His harp exhibited a proportionable grandeur; it was loaded with jewels, and decorated with figures of Orpheus, Apollo, and the Muses. The splendour of his appearance drew all eyes upon him, and every one expected something wonderful from one who had taken such pains to attract their notice. How great was their disappointment, when, on the magnificent harper's attempting to exert his powers, his voice and instruments both equally failed him, and all his efforts produced only the most jarring discords! Shouts of laughter rent the assembly, and the judges of the game whipped him out of the theatre, covered with confusion. The next candidate was one Eupolus of Elis. Although he was meanly dressed, and his harp was but of homely fabric, he drew forth sounds from it which charmed and delighted the whole assembly, and he was universally pronounced worthy of the prize. After receiving the laurel, Eupolus is said to have thus addressed his Tarentine competitor: 'You came crowned with gold and jewels, because you were rich; I, because I am poor, am only rewarded with laurel. But I am well satisfied. With that laurel I have the applause of all Greece, while your crown serves only to make you ridiculed and despised.'
Wrath of Amurath Subdued.
Sultan Amurath, a prince notorious for his cruelty, laid siege to Bagdad, and on taking it, gave orders for putting thirty thousand Persians to death, notwithstanding they had submitted and laid down their arms. Among the number of the victims was a musician, who entreated the officer to whom the execution of the sultan's orders was entrusted, to spare him for a moment, while he might speak to the author of the dreadful decree. The officer consented, and he was brought before Amurath, who permitted him to exhibit a specimen of his art. 'Like the musician in Homer, he took up a kind of psaltry, which resembles a lyre, and has six strings on each side, and accompanied it with his voice. He sung the capture of Bagdad, and the triumph of Amurath. The pathetic tones and exulting sounds which he drew from the instrument, joined to the alternate plaintiveness and boldness of his strains, rendered the prince unable to restrain the softer emotions of his soul. He even suffered him to proceed, until overpowered with harmony, he melted into tears of pity, and repented of his cruelty. In consideration of the musician's abilities, he not only directed his people to spare those among the prisoners who yet remained alive, but also to give them instant liberty.
The Fiddler Nero.
Nero was a striking instance that music has not always that humanizing effect which is generally ascribed to it. He was passionately devoted to the. art, and held public contentions for superiority, with the most celebrated professors of it in Greece and Rome. The solicitude with which this detestable tyrant cultivated his vocal powers, is curious, and seems to throw some light on the practices of singers in ancient times. He used to lie on his back with a thin plate of lead on his stomach; he took frequent emetics and cathartics, abstained from all kinds of fruit and from such meats as were held to be prejudicial to singing. Apprehensive of injuring his voice, he at length desisted from haranguing the soldiery and the senate; and after his return from Greece, he established an officer to regulate his tones in speaking.
Assassins Charmed from their Purpose.
Alexander Stradella, who flourished about the middle of the seventeenth century, was a fine singer, and an excellent performer on the harp. Having gained the affections of a young lady of rank, named Hortensia, they agreed to elope together. On discovering the lady's flight, the Venetian nobleman, under whose care she had been. had recourse to the usual methods of the country, for obtaining satisfaction for real or supposed injuries. He dispatched two assassins, with instructions to murder both Stradella and the lady, wherever they should be found, giving them a sum of money in hand, and making them the promise of a larger sum if they succeeded in the attempt. Having arrived at Naples, they were informed that the persons of whom they were in pursuit, were at Rome, where the lady passed as Stradella's wife. On this intelligence they wrote to their employer, requesting letters of recommendation to the Venetian ambassador - at Rome, in order to secure an asylum to which they could fly as soon as the deed was perpetrated. Having received these letters, they made the best of their way to Rome. On their arrival, they were informed, that on the evening of the succeeding day, Stradella was to give an Oratorio in the church of San Giovanni Latorano. They attended the performance, determined to follow the composer and his mistress out of the church, and seizing a convenient opportunity, to strike the fatal blow. The music soon afterwards commenced; but so affecting was the impression which it made upon them, that, long before it was concluded, they were seized with remorse, and reflected with horror on depriving a man of life who could give to his auditors so much delight as they had felt. In short, they were entirely turned from their purpose, and determined, instead of taking away his life, to exert all their efforts to preserve it. They waited his coming out of church, and, after first thanking him for the pleasure they had received from hearing his music, informed him of the sanguinary errand on which they had been sent, and concluded by earnestly advising that he and the lady should depart immediately from Rome, promising that they would forego the remainder of the reward, and would deceive their employer, by making him believe they had quitted that city on the morning of their arrival.
Harp of the North.
The harp was the favourite musical instrument among the Britons and other northern nations, during the middle ages, as is evident from their laws, and from every passage in their history, in which there is the least allusion to music. By the laws of Wales, a harp was one of the three things that were necessary to constitute a gentleman, that is, a freeman; and no person could pretend to that title, unless he had one of these favourite instruments, and could play upon it.
In the same laws, to prevent slaves from pretending to be gentlemen, it was expressly forbidden to teach, or to permit them to play upon the harp: and none but the king, the king's musicians, and gentlemen, were allowed to have harps in their possession. A gentleman's harp was not liable to be seized for debt; because the want of it would have degraded him from his rank, and reduced him to a slave.
The harp was in no less estimation and universal use among the Saxons and Danes; those who played upon this instrument, were declared gentlemen by law; their persons were esteemed inviolable, and secured from injuries by very severe penalties; they were readily admitted into the highest company, and treated with distinguished marks of respect wherever they appeared.
James the First of Scotland, whose youth was spent in captivity in England, is now, generally regarded as the inventor of that exquisite style of music, for which Scotland is so justly celebrated and admired. He is said by all our ancient chroniclers, to have been eminently skilled in music; Walter Bower assures us, that he 'excelled all mankind in the art, both vocal and instrumental.' The first writer who. speaks of him as the father of Scottish music, is Tassoni, an Italian writer, who flourished above a century after the death of James. 'We may reckon,' he says, 'among us moderns, James, King of Scotland, who not only composed many sacred pieces of vocal music, but also of himself invented a new kind of music, Plaintive and melancholy, different from all others, in which he has been imitated by Carlo Gessualdo, Prince of Venosa, who, in our age, has improved music with new and admirable inventions ('Pensieri Diversi,' lib. 10).' From this statement it is clear that at the time Tassoni wrote, James had the traditional reputation of being the inventor of 'a new kind of music;' and in representing that music as of a character 'plaintive and melancholy, different from all others,' it must be allowed, that the Italian author has described it by those features which are most distinctly characteristic of by far the greater part of the popular airs of Scotland.
It was at one time a commonly received opinion, that Rizzio, the minion of Queen Mary, had imparted to Scottish music those charms which have gained for it such general acceptance throughout the world; but this idea has long since been exploded. It does not appear that Rizzio was even a composer of any kind; he was a good fourth in a concert, but nothing more.
A strong resemblance has been observed between the music of the Welsh, the lrish, and the Scots, and yet they are all very distinguishable from one another. There is a remarkable difference of character even between the music of the north and the south of Scotland. The northern is generally martial, for the most part melancholy, and bears a strong resemblance to the Irish; the southern is pastoral and amorous, with such an air of tender melancholy, as love and solitude in a wild romantic country are apt to inspire.
Bower, who wrote in 1444-9, gives an account of the state of music in his time, and declares it as the opinion of many, that the Scottish music excelled that of the Irish; and the historian, John Major, who flourished about the latter end of the fifteenth century, asserts, that the musicians of Scotland were as perfect as those of England, although not so numerous.
The Highlanders,' says he, 'Iyra utuntur, cujus chordas ex acre, et non ex intestinis animalium faciunt, in qua dulcissime modulantur.'
In the families of the feudal chiefs, or heads of clans, in those times, the bard was a considerable personage, who, on festivals, or other solemn occasions, used to sing or rehearse the splendid actions of the ancestors of the family, accompanying his voice with the sweet sounds of the harp. At this time, too, there were itinerant or strolling minstrels, performers of the harp, who went about the country from place to place, reciting heroic ballads, and other popular episodes. To these sylvan minstrels we are perhaps indebted for the preservation of many fine old melodies.
The church music in Scotland, previous to the reformation, was of a highly respectable order. From some of the choral service books which survived the fury of the reformers, it appears to have consisted entirely of harmonic compositions, of from four to eight parts, all in strict counterpoint. Though deficient in air, such pieces were perfectly suited to the solemnities of religious adoration, and when performed by a full choir of voices, accompanied by the organ, must have had a very solemn and impressive effect.
After the reformation, it became a practice with the Scots clergy to adapt their enthusiastic rhapsodies to the tunes of the common songs, of which they, for the most part, preserved a few lines at the beginning. About the year 1590 a collection of these pieces was printed at Edinburgh by Andrew Hart, under the title of 'A compendious book of godly and spiritual Sanges, collectit out of sundrie parts of the Scripture, with sundrie of uther Ballats, changed out of prophaine Sanges, for avoiding of sinne,' &c. From this book we quote a specimen, being the first three verses of one of these godly songs, which certainly afford a curious specimen of the devotional exercises of the times.
'John come kiss me now.
John come kiss me now,
John come kiss me by and by,
And mak na mair'adow.
The Lord thy God I am,
That (John) does thee call,
John represents man
By grace celestial.
My prophets call, my preachers cry,
John come kiss me now,
John come kiss me by and by,
And mak na mair adow.'
A writer of later date, one William Geddes, minister of Wick, who published in 1683 a collection of hymns under the title of 'The Saint's Recreation,' alluding to these pious travesties, offers the following ingenious defence of them: 'I cannot omit,' says he, 'to obviate an objection which may be raised by some inconsiderate persons, which is this: "0!" say they, "we remember some of these airs or tunes were sung here before with amorous sonnets." To this I answer, first, that in this practice I have the precedent of some of the most pious, grave, and zealous divines of the kingdom, who, to very good purpose, have composed godly songs to the tunes of such old songs as these, The Bonny Broom, I'll never leave thee; We'll all go pull the Hadder; and such like; and yet without any challenge or disparagement. Secondly, it is alleged by some, and that not without some colour of reason, that many of our ayres or tunes are made by good angels, but the letter or lines of our songs by devils. We choose the part angelical, and leave the diabolical. Thirdly, it is as possible and probable that those vain profane men who composed these amorous naughty sonnets, have surreptitiously borrowed those grave sweet tunes from former spiritual hymns and songs; and why may we not again challenge our own, plead for restitution, and bring back to the right owner; applying those grave airs again to a divine and spiritual subject?'
Many fine Scots airs are to be found in the well-known collection of songs, by Tom d'Urfey, entitled, 'Pills to Purge Melancholy,' published in the year 1702; nor do they seem to have suffered much, if anything, by their passing through the hands of those English masters, who were concerned in the editing of that work.
'Cold and Raw.'
The old Scotch tune of 'Cold and Raw,' was much admired by Queen Mary, the consort of King William; and she is said to have once given great offence to Purcell, by requesting to have it sung to her when he was present. Her majesty resolving to have a concert one evening, had sent to Mr. Gostling, then one of the chapel, and afterwards Subdean of St. Paul's, to Mrs. Arabella Hunt, and to Purcell, with her commands to attend her. Mr. Gostling and Mrs. Hunt sung several compositions of Purcell, who accompanied them on the harpsichord; at length the queen beginning to grow tired, asked Mrs. Hunt if she could not sing the old Scots ballad, 'Cold and Raw?' Mrs. Hunt answered, yes, and sung it to her lute. Purcell sat all the while at the harpsichord, unemployed, and not a little nettled at the queen's preference of a vulgar ballad to his music. Observing, however, how much the queen was delighted with the tune, he determined that she should hear it upon another occasion; and, accordingly, in the next birthday song, viz. that for the year 1692, he composed an air to the words,
'May her bright example chase
Vice in troops out of the land;'
the base whereof is the tune of 'Cold and Raw.' It will be found printed in the second volume of the 'Orpheus Britannicus' and is note for note the same with the Scots tune.
Nature, and French Singing.
A young Greek lady being brought from her own country to Paris, was, soon after her arrival, carried to the Opera by some French ladies, who supposed that, as she had never heard any European music, she would be in raptures with it; but, contrary to their expectations, she declared that the singing only reminded her of the hideous howlings of the Calmuc Tartars; and as to the machinery, which it was thought would afford her great amusement, she declared her dislike of many parts of it, and was particularly scandalized by what she called the impious and wicked imitation of God's thunder. Soon after this experiment she went to Venice, where another was made upon her uncorrupted ears, at an Italian Opera, in which the famous Gizziello sung, at whose performance she was quite dissolved in pleasure, and was ever after passionately fond of Italian music.
A similar experiment was tried on a native of the newly-discovered island of Otaheite, called Putavia, who had been brought to Paris by M. Bougainville, 'I wish,' said a correspondent of Dr. Burney's, 'you had been there to have observed with me what a strange impression the French Opera made upon him. As soon as he returned to his lodgings, he mimicked what he had heard in the most natural and ridiculous manner imaginable; this he would repeat only when he was in good humour; but as it was just before his departure that I saw him, he was melancholy, and would not dance, however entreated. I proposed to send for music, and one of the servants was ordered to play on his bad fiddle just without the door of the room. Upon hearing this, Putavia suddenly sprang up, and seizing two of the candlesticks, placed them on the floor, and danced his own country dance. After this he gave the company a specimen of the French Opera; which was the most natural and admirable parody I have ever heard, and accompanied with all its proper gestures. I wished at this time to try the power of Italian music upon him, but there was no opportunity; for how could it be properly executed at Paris?'
Mr. Addison, in a paper in the Guardian, No. 67, after exhibiting a lively portrait of the celebrated Tom d'Urfey, whom he is pleased to call his old friend and contemporary, says, addressing himself to the ladies, that he had often made their grandmothers merry with his strains; and that his sonnets had perhaps lulled asleep many a toast among the ladies then living, when she lay in her cradle. D'Urfey was not merely a great writer of songs; for though labouring under an impediment in his speech, yet having a tolerable voice, he frequently sung his own songs at public feasts and meetings, and not seldom in the presence of King Charles II., who laying aside all state and reserve, would lean on his shoulder, and look over the paper. One of his 'Pills to Purge Melancholy' is thus entitled: 'Advice to the City; a famous Song, set to a tune of Signor Opdar, so remarkable, that I had the honour to sing it with King Charles at Windsor, he holding one part of the paper with me.' This 'Advice' is the well-known song beginning
'Remember, ye Whigs, what was formerly done.'
Nothing distinguished D'Urfey's songs more than the uncouthness and irregularity of the metre in which they are written; the modern Pindaric odes, which are humorously resembled to a comb with the teeth broken by frequent use, are nothing to them. Besides that, he was able to set English words to Italian airs, as in the instance of 'Blouzabella, my buxom Doxy,' which he made to the air of Bononcini, beginning,
'Pastorella che tra le selvei.'
He had the art of jumbling long and short quantities so dexterously together, that order resulted from confusion. Of this happy talent he has given us various specimens, in adapting songs to tunes composed in such measures, as scarcely any instrument but the drum could express; and, to be even with the musician, for giving him so much trouble, he composed songs in metres so broken and intricate that few could be found that were able to suit them with musical notes. It is said that he once challenged Purcell to set to music such a song as he should write, and gave him that wellknown ballad, 'One long Whitsun holiday;' which cost the latter more pains to fit with a tune than the composition of his 'Te Deum.'
Tom, at least in the early part of his life, was a Tory by principle, and never let slip an opportunity of representing his adversaries, the Whigs, in the most contemptible light. Mr. Addison says that the song of 'Joy to great Caesar,' gave them such a blow as they were never able to recover during the reign of King Charles II.
This song is set to a tune called 'Farinel's Ground.' Divisions were made upon it by some English master; it became a favourite tune; and D'Urfey set words to it, in which he execrates the Papists, and their attempts to disturb the peace of the kingdom. Farinelli was a Papist, a circumstance which gave occasion for a shrewd remark of Mr. Addison, that his friend Tom had made use of Italian tunes and sonatos for promoting the Protestant interest, and turned a considerable part of the Pope's music against himself.
Music and Politics.
Dr. Wise, the musician, being requested to subscribe his name to a petition against an expected prorogation of Parliament in the reign of Charles II., wittily answered, 'No, gentlemen, it is not my business to meddle with state affairs; but I'll set a tune to it, you please.'
Effects of Music on Animals.
A captain of the regiment of Navarre, being confined in prison for having spoken too freely of Louvois, the French minister, he begged leave of the governor to send for his lute, to soften his confinement. After four days' playing, he was greatly astonished to see the mice come out of their holes, and the spiders descend from their webs, and form a circle around him, as if to listen to him with the more attention. He was at first so struck with the sight that he dropped his lute, when the whole of his strange auditory instantly retired quietly into their lodgings.
On resuming the instrument, spiders and mice again crept forth and listened; and every day they increased in numbers, till at last there would be upwards of a hundred of these musical amateurs collected together. As the presence of such gentry was not at all times, however, equally agreeable, the officer procured from one of the gaolers a cat, which he shut up in a cage when he had no objections to see company, and set loose when he preferred to be alone; thus converting into a pleasant sort of comedy the passion of his mute associates for music.
'I long doubted the truth of this story,' says Sir John Hawkins, 'but it was confirmed to me by Mr. P., attendant of the Duchess of V., a man of merit and probity, who played upon several instruments with the utmost excellence. He told me that being at -, he went up into the chamber to refresh himself till supper time; he had not played a quarter of an hour, when he saw several spiders descend from the ceiling, who came and ranged themselves about the table to hear him play; at which he was greatly surprised; but this did not interrupt him, being willing to see the end of so singular an occurrence. They remained on the table till somebody came to tell him supper was ready; when having ceased to play, he told me these insects mounted to their webs, to which he would suffer no injury to be done. It was a diversion with which he often entertained himself out of curiosity.'
A still more incontestable proof of the power of music over animals, is furnished by a gentleman in the East India Company's service, who, in a letter from Patna, near Bengal, dated in 11788, speaking of the travelling Faquirs, who wander about the country, says: 'One of them called a few days ago at my house, who had a beautiful large snake in a basket, which he made to rise up, and dance to the tune of a pipe on which he played. My out-houses and farm-yard being much infested with snakes, who destroyed my poultry, and even my cattle, one of my servants asked the man if he could pipe these snakes out of their holes, and catch them? He answered in the affirmative: and being conducted to a place where a snake had been seen, he began to play on his pipe; in a short time the snake came dancing to him, and was caught. He then tried again, and had not continued five minutes, when an immense large Coune Capelle, the most venomous kind of serpent, popped his head out of a hole in the room; when the man saw it, he approached nearer, and piped more vehemently, until the snake was more than half out, and ready to dart up at him; he then piped in one hand only, and advanced the other under the snake, as it was raising itself to make a spring. When the snake sprung at him, he dexterously seized it by the tail, and held it fast until my servants despatched it. In the space of an hour, the Faquir caught five very venomous snakes close about my house '
'Think of Thy Servant.'
Josquin, a celebrated composer, was appointed master of the chapel to Louis XII. of France, who promised him a benefice, but, contrary to his usual custom, forgot him. Josquin, after suffering great inconvenience from the shortness of his majesty's memory, ventured, by a singular expedient, publicly to remind him of his promise, without giving offence. Being commanded to compose a motet for the chapel royal, he chose part of the 119th Psalm, beginning, 'Oh, think of thy servant as concerning thy word,' which he set in so supplicating and exquisite a manner, that it was universally admired, particularly by the king, who was not only charmed with music, but felt the force of the words so effectually, that he soon after granted his petition, by conferring on him the promised appointment.
Claude le Jeune.
Claude le Jeune, when at the wedding of the Duc de Joyeuse, in 1581, caused a spirited air to be sung, which so animated a gentleman present, that he clapped his hand upon his sword, and said it was impossible for him to refrain from fighting the first person he met; upon this, Le Jeune caused another air to be performed, of a more soothing kind, which soon restored him to his natural goodhumour.
Song of Birds.
Birds in a wild state do not commonly sing above ten weeks in the year, and it is the male birds alone which sing. Buffon, and some other naturalists, ascribe their singing to a desire of pleasing their mates during the period of incubation; but however agreeable to the fancy this theory may be, it cannot be reconciled with many known facts. No reason can be suggested why such an instinct, if it exists, should not be common to the whole feathered tribe, and yet by far the greater part of birds do not sing at all. Neither among those who do sing is the exercise of their vocal powers confined to periods of joy alone. Thus the nightingale often sings
Her sorrows through the night, and on the bough,
Sole sitting, still at every dying fall
Takes up again her lamentable strain
Of winding woe; till wide around the woods
Sigh to her song, and with her wail resound.' THOMSON.
To the human mind it seems as if few things were more calculated to silence the voice of song than the loss of liberty; yet the most vocal of birds appear to be little affected by it. An experienced catcher of nightingales assured Mr. Daines Barrington, that he has known these birds, on the instant they were caught, begin to jerk (an expression used to denote the short bursts of singing birds when they contend with each other); and he showed one which had only been a few hours in a cage, and was yet in a full roar of song. Nor has even the prospect of death itself, the power to subdue this vocal propensity. A bird which was on the point of perishing by a fire in the house where it was caged, sung till it was rescued; and another, which was unhappily starved to death, bust into an ecstasy of song just before it expired.
The continuance of the singing power in birds, when confined in a cage, is still more conclusive against the supposition of its arising from attention to their mates. It can be no inducement of this sort which makes them sing nearly the whole year round, even during the inclemency of winter; Mr. Barrington ascribes it, with great appearance of truth, to their having always plenty of food, and to the emulation inspired by the warblings of other birds confined in the same house, or stationed within hearing.
Most people who have not attended to the notes of birds, suppose that those of every species sing exactly the same notes and passages; but although there is certainly a general resemblance, many material variations may be discovered by a skilful ear; thus the London birdcatchers prefer the song of the Kentish goldfinches, and that of the Essex chaffinches; and the Surrey nightingales to those of Middlesex. These differences in the song of birds of the same species, cannot perhaps be compared to anything more apposite than the varieties of provincial dialects.
The nightingale seems to have been almost universally fixed upon as the most capital of singing birds. One reason for this preference may be, that it sings in the night; hence Shakspeare says,
'The nightingale if she should sing by day,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.'
But independently of this adventitious recommendation, the nightingale may, on other grounds, boldly challenge a superiority to all other birds. In the first place, it is infinitely more mellow in its tone than any other bird, while it can, at the same time, by a proper exertion of its musical powers, be excessively brilliant. Mr. Barrington had one that when it sung its whole song round displayed sixteen different beginnings and closes, while the intermediate notes were commonly altered in their succession with such judgment as to produce a most pleasing variety. Most other singing birds have not above four or five changes. It is not, however, in tone and variety alone that the nightingale excels. 'It sings,' says Mr. Barrington 'if I may so express myself, with superior judgment and taste. I have commonly observed that my nightingale began softly, like the ancient orators, reserving its breath to swell certain notes, which by this means had a most astonishing effect, and which eludes all verbal description. I have, indeed, taken down certain passages which may be reduced to our musical intervals, but though by these means one may form an idea of some of the notes used, yet it is impossible to give their comparative durations in point of musical time, upon which the whole effect must depend. I once procured a very capital player on the flute to execute the notes which Kircha has engraved in his "Musurgia" as being used by the nightingale, when, from want of not being able to settle their comparative duration, it was almost impossible to observe any traces of the nightingale's song.' The last point of superiority in the nightingale which deserves notice, is the length to which it can prolong its notes. Mr. Barrington has observed his bird continue its song for not less than twenty seconds at a time, and whenever respiration became necessary, it was taken, he assures us, with as much judgment as by an opera singer.
The bird which approaches nearest to the excellence of the nightingale, in all respects, is the skylark. It would, perhaps, be more on an equality with it did it not partake so much of the nature of the American mocking bird. The skylark, even after it has become perfect in its parent note, will catch the note of any other bird which hangs near it. For this reason bird-fanciers often place the skylark next one which has not been long caught, in order, as they term it, to keep the caged skylark honest.
Almost all travellers agree that the harmony of the groves of Europe is superior to that of the other parts of the globe. The poet of the Seasons in noticing this superiority in the European birds, regards it as a sort of compensation for their great inferiority in point of gaudy plumage. The canary, which ranks so high among our caged singing birds, forms no exception to this remark. Few persons who keep Canary birds are perhaps aware that they sing chiefly either the titlark or nightingale notes. Their plumage is of a foreign clinic, but their music is altogether European.
When imported directly from the Canary islands they have seldom any song at all, nor until they have the advantage of a Tyrolese education have they the least chance of rising into estimation as singers. It is not, however, by importation that the breed is now kept up; most of the canary birds which are brought over into England from the Continent, have been educated by parents, the progenitors of which were instructed by nightingales. The traffic in these birds makes a small article of Commerce; the chief place for breeding them is Inspruck and its environs, whence they are sent to every part of Europe. In Mr. Barrington's time there were four Tyrolese, who generally brought over to England sixteen hundred every year, and though they carried them on their backs a thousand miles, as well as paid a duty of ·2o on the whole number, they made a handsome profit by selling them at five shillings a piece.
The first attempt of birds to sing is termed by the bird catchers recording, a phrase probably derived from a musical instrument formerly used in England, called a recorder. They sometimes begin to record when they are not a month old. This first essay does not seem to have the least rudiment of the future song, but as the bird grows older and stronger one may begin to perceive what the nestling is aiming at. Whilst the scholar is thus endeavouring to form his song, at every passage which he is sure of he commonly raises his tone, but drops it again when he comes to a part which exceeds his powers, just as a singer raises his voice when he not only recollects certain parts of a tune with precision, but knows that he can execute them. What the nestling is not thus thoroughly master of he hurries over, lowering his tone as if he did not wish to be heard, and could not yet satisfy himself. At the end of ten or eleven months the bird is commonly able to execute every part of his song, which, once attained, continues ever after the same.
From numerous experiments which have been made, it would appear that notes in birds are no more innate than language is in man, and that what nestlings record, or learn, depends entirety upon the master under whom they are bred. so far as their organs will enable them to imitate the sounds which they have first an opportunity of hearing. Mr. D. Barrington educated a young linnet under a vengolina, an African bird, which sings better than any of those that are not European, except the American mocking bird, and the linnet imitated its African preceptor so exactly, without any mixture of the linnet song, that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other.
Queen Elizabeth was very partial to music; indeed, she is said to have been a great player, and to have amused herself with the lute, the virginals, and the violin. She was also particularly careful to have the royal chapel furnished with the best singing boys that could be procured in the kingdom, even by an extension of the royal prerogative very discordant to modern feelings of the liberty of the subject. In Sir Hans Sloane's collection of MSS. in the British Museum, No. 87, there is a royal warrant of her majesty authorizing Thomas Gytes, master of the children of the cathedral church of St. Paul, 'to take up such apt and meet children as are most fit to be instructed and framed in the art and science of music and singing as may be had and found out within any place of this our realm of England and Wales, to be, by his education and bringing up, made meet and liable to serve us in that behalf when our pleasure is to call them.' And the said Thomas Gyles was authorized, with his deputy or deputies, 'to take up in any cathedral or collegiate church, and in every other place or places of this our realm of England and Wales, such child or children as he or they, or any of them, shall find and like of, and the same child or children, by virtue hereof, for the use and service aforesaid, with them or any of them, to bring away without any contradictions, stay, or interruptions to the contrary.'
King of the Minstrels.
Every trade and occupation in France had, formerly, a superior Coryphaeus, who was dignified with the title of King. The mercers, joiners, barbers, shoemakers, and even chimney sweeps, had their particular monarch, until exactions and tyranny by degrees occasioned the annihilation of this mock royalty. The minstrels, more tenacious and exact, observers of ancient usages, have been the last to preserve this precious image of antiquity.
It is not known who was the first sovereign of the minstrels, whose power extends to the utmost limits of the kingdom; but it is recorded, that after the death of Constantine, a famous fiddler of the seventeenth century, the crown passed, in 1630, to Dumanoir I.; afterwards to Dumanoir ll., who, by a voluntary abdication, occasioned an interregnum in 1685. This monarchy had been so long agitated and torn by foreign and domestic broils, that Louis XIV. declared it should not be revived. The dancing masters, assisted by their chief, had been pleading for fifty years against the vile artizans who dishonoured their professions, by lavishing their talents unworthily at ale-houses; and insisted on having a string of their lyre cut off, in order to reduce it to its ancient form of a rebec with three strings.
No community was ever more disunited by discords and tumults; every court of justice rang with the noise of their divisions, and their quarrels enriched the law, Whilst they impoverished themselves. The interregnum which followed the abdication of Dumanoir II., lasted from 1685 to 1741, when Guignon, remarkable for the velocity of his fingers and bow on the violin, aspiring to royalty, the king honoured him with the minstrel crown: but this election stimulating him to the assumption of those prerogatives which formerly belonged to his high station, he had his right to defend against an army of lawyers employed by musicians, particularly organists, who obtained a complete victory over him. The office was at length abolished by an edict of the king in 1773.
When the celebrated Italian singer, Farinelli, attended his first private rehearsal in England in 1734, Lord Cowper, who was then the principal manager of the Opera, observing that the band did not follow him, but were all staring with wonder, desired them to be more attentive. They all confessed that they were unable to keep pace with him. having been not only disabled by astonishment, but overpowered by his talents.
Of all the excellences of Farinelli, there was none in which he so far surpassed all other singers, and astonished the public, as in the swell of his voice; which, by the natural formation of his lungs, and artificial economy of breath, he was able to protract to such a length, as to excite incredulity even in those who heard him. Some persons actually imagined that he had the latent help of some instrument by which the tone was continued, while he renewed his powers by respiration.
When Farinelli first visited the court of Philip V., King of Spain, where he became afterwards so great a favourite, that monarch was labouring under a total dejection of spirits, which rendered him incapable of attending council, or transacting the affairs of state: and had the still more singular effect of making him refuse to be shaved. The queen, who had in vain tried every common expedient that was likely to contribute to his recovery, determined that an experiment should be made of the effects of music upon the king, who was extremely sensible to its charms. Her majesty contrived that there should be a concert in a room adjoining to the king's apartment, in which Farinelli, who had never as yet performed before the king, should sing one of his most captivating songs. Philip appeared at first surprised, then moved; and at the end of the second air, called for Farinelli into the royal apartment, loaded him with compliments and caresses, asked him how he could sufficiently reward such talents, and assured him that he could refuse him nothing. Farinelli, as previously instructed, only begged that his majesty would permit his attendants to shave and dress him, and that he would endeavour to appear in council as usual. From this moment the king's disease abated; and the singer had, ere long, all the honour of effecting a complete cure. By singing to his majesty every evening, his favour increased to such a degree, that he was regarded as first minister; but what is still more extraordinary, instead of being intoxicated or giddy with his elevation, Farinelli, never forgetting that he was a musician, behaved to the Spanish nobles about the court with such humility and propriety, that instead of envying his favour, they honoured him with their esteem and confidence.
With the successor of Philip, Farinelli had the good fortune to be equally a favourite; but on the accession of Charles III., a great reverse took place. From the moment he ascended the Spanish throne, he never would suffer any Italian opera to be performed, either at Madrid or Aranjuez. Some of the grandees spoke to his majesty in favour of Farinelli, and were so generous as to recommend him as a truly honest man, who had never abused the confidence of their former masters, but constantly employed his credit to do all the good that was in his power. His majesty owned that all this was very well; but would, on no account, hear of his remainin-, in Spain. He was pleased, however, to order him a pension of two thousand doubloons. To some person who, after the departure of Farinelli, asked the king if he ever intended to order an opera for the diversion of the queen, who loved music? he sternly replied, Ni agora ni nunca; 'Neither now nor ever.'
Among many instances which are recorded of Farinelli's benevolence of disposition while resident at the court of Spain, there is perhaps none which gives a better insight into his character, than one of which his tailor was the hero. Having ordered a superb suit of clothes for a gala at court, the tailor brought it home, and he asked him for his bill. 'I have made no bill, sir,' says the tailor, 'nor shall I ever make one; but instead of money, I have to beg a favour. I know that what I ask is inestimable, and a gift worthy of a monarch; but since I have had the honour to work for a person of whom every one speaks with rapture, all the payment I shall ever require will be a song.' Farinelli tried in vain to prevail on the tailor to take his money. At length, after a long debate, giving way to the humble entreaties of the trembling tradesman, and flattered perhaps more by the singularity of the adventure than by all the applauses he had hitherto received, he took him into his music-room, and sung to him some of his most brilliant airs, taking pleasure in the astonishment of his ravished hearer; and the more he seemed surprised and affected, the more Farinelli exerted himself in every species of excellence. When he had done, the tailor, overcome with ecstasy, thanked him in the most rapturous and graceful manner, and prepared to retire. 'No,' says Farinelli, 'I am a little proud; and it is perhaps from that circumstance that I have acquired some small degree of superiority over other singers; I have given way to your weakness; it is but fair that, in your turn, you should indulge me in mine.' And taking out his purse, he insisted on his receiving a sum amounting to nearly double the worth of the suit of clothes.
Handel, the most sublime musical genius that any age or country has produced, was a native of Halle, in Upper Saxony. Like most eminent musicians, he exhibited a remarkable precocity of talents [see Anecdotes of Youth], so that while boys in general were learning the rudiments of the art, he had entitled himself to the rank of Professor; and was actually composer to the Opera at Hamburg, when he was in his fifteenth year.
After passing his early life on the continent, caressed and honoured at every court he visited, Handel fixed himself in England in the year 1712, where he, ere long, attained the very summit of fame by his oratorios.
In the early part of the reign of George I, a project was formed by the nobility, for erecting a musical academy in the Haymarket, with a view to secure a constant supply of operas, to be composed by Handel, and performed under his direction. There was, however, a strong party against Handel, and in favour of the Italians Buononcini and Attilio, who were composers for the Opera. In 1720, Handel obtained leave to perform his opera of Radamisto, which was received with the most extravagant applause. The crowds and tumults which had attended the performance of his operas at Venice, were hardly equal to those in London. Many ladies, who had forced their way into the house with an impetuosity but ill suited to their rank and sex, actually fainted through the excessive heat and closeness of it. Several gentlemen were turned back, who had offered forty shillings for a seat in the gallery, after having despaired of getting any in the pit or boxes.
The attempt to establish Handel's opera, produced great heats between his partizans, and those of Attilio and Buononcini. The succeeding winter brought this musical disorder to its crisis. In order to terminate all matters in controversy, it was agreed to put them on this fair issue. The several parties concerned were to be jointly employed in making an opera, in which each of them was to take a distinct act. And he who, by the general suffrage, should be allowed to have given the best proofs of his abilities, was to be put into possession of the house. The proposal was accepted, whether from choice or necessity is not certain. The event was answerable to the expectations of Handel's friends. His act was the last, and the superiority of it so very manifest, that there was not the least pretence for any further doubts or disputes. It should be mentioned, that as each made an overture, as well as an act, the affair seemed to be decided even by the overture with which Handel's began. The name of the opera was Muzio Scaevola.
The management of the Opera was, however, of no pecuniary advantage to Handel; on the contrary, after spending all he had on the concern, he was compelled to relinquish it. By employing his talents in composing operas for Covent Garden Theatre, he somewhat retrieved his affairs, though his prosperity was soon clouded by an indifference on the part of the public, which made him decide on visiting Dublin.
The conduct of the public on this occasion is happily stigmatized by Pope in his 'Dunciad.' He introduces the Italian muse (a lingering attachment to which, was the great obstacle to Handel's success) in the character of a female wanton, who, with mincing steps, languid eye, and fluttering attire, is attended by two singing peers, ever and anon exclaiming,
'0 Cara! 0 Cara! silence all that train,' &c
The muse proceeds to assert her pretensions; and after a great deal of boasting, thus concludes--
'But soon, ah! soon, rebellion will commence,
If music meanly borrows aid from sense;
Strong in new arms, lo! 'giant Handel stands,
Like bold Briareus, with an hundred hands;
To stir, to rouse, to shake the soul he comes,
And Jove's own thunders follow Mars's drums.'
The poet then apostrophizing the goddess Dulness, exclaims,
'Arrest him, Empress, or you sleep no more,
She heard, and drove him to the Hibernian shore.'
Handel remained eight or nine months in Ireland, where he extended his fame, and began to repair his fortune. The Messiah, now allowed to be the best of all his compositions, was listened to with rapture by the citizens of Dublin, although it had experienced but a cold reception in London. The news of the success of that unparalleled composition in the sister kingdom, opened the ears of the English; and it afterwards gained so rapidly on their esteem, as soon to become, what it well deserve to be, the greatest of their musical favourites.
On Handel's return to London, in the beginning Of 1742, as he had relinquished all thoughts of opposing the managers of the Opera, former enmities began to subside; and, when he recommenced his oratorios at Covent Garden, the Lent following, he found a general disposition in the public to countenance and support him. Samson was the first he performed that year, which was not only much applauded by crowded houses in the capital, but was soon disseminated, in single songs, throughout the kingdom.
Ever since the English public were first awakened to a sense of the solemnities of the Messiah, this great work has been heard in all parts of the kingdom with increasing reverence and delight; it has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan, and enriched succeeding managers of oratorios, more than any single musical production in this or any other country. This sacred oratorio, as it was first called, on account of the words being wholly composed of genuine texts of Scripture, appearing to stand in such high estimation with the public, Handel, actuated by motives of the purest benevolence and humanity, formed the laudable resolution of performing it annually for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital; which resolution was constantly put in practice to the end of his life, under his own direction; and, long after, under that of Mr. Smith and Mr. Stanley. In consequence of these performances, the benefactions to the charity from the years 1749 to 1759, by eleven performances under Handel's own direction, amounted to £6935 0 0 From 1760 to 1768, by eight performances under the conduct of Mr. John Christian Smith. 1332 0 0 From 1769 to 1777, nine performances under that of Mr. Stanley 2032 0 0 £10,299 0 0
The organ in the chapel of this hospital was likewise a present from Handel; and he bequeathed, as a legacy to this charity, a fair copy of the original score of the Messiah.
From the period of his quitting Ireland, he continued his oratorios to the time of his death; though late in life, like the great poets, Homer and Milton, he was afflicted by blindness; which, however it might dispirit and embarrass him at other times, had no effect on his nerves or intellects in public, as he continued to play concertos and voluntaries between the parts of his oratorios to the last, with the same vigour of thought and touch, for which he was ever so justly renowned. To see him, however, led to the organ, after this calamity, at upwards of seventy years of age, and then conducted towards the audience, to make his accustomed obeisance, was a sight so truly afflicting to persons of sensibility, as greatly diminished their pleasure in hearing him perform.
During the oratorio season, he practised almost incessantly; which must have been the case, or his memory uncommonly retentive. At last, however, he rather chose to trust to his inventive powers, than those of reminiscence; for giving the band only the skeleton or ritornels of each movement, he played all the solo parts extempore, while the other instruments left him ad libitum, waiting for a signal of a shake, before they played such fragments of a symphony as they found in their books.
Indeed, he not only continued to perform in public, after he was afflicted with blindness, but to compose in private; for we have been assured, that the duet and chorus in Judas Maccabaes, of
Sion now his head shall raise.
Tune your harps to songs of praise,
were dictated to Mr. Smith, by Handel, after the total privation of sight.
The last-oratorio at which he attended and performed, was on the 6th of April, and he expired on the 13th, 1759.
Handel being only a musician, was obliged to employ some person to write his operas and oratorios, which accounts for their being so very defective as poetical compositions. One of those versifiers employed by him, once ventured to suggest, in the most respectful manner, that the music he had composed to some lines of his, was quite contrary to the sense of the passage. Instead of taking this friendly hint as he ought to have done, from one who (although not a Pindar) was at least a better judge of poetry than himself, he looked upon the advice as injurious to his talents, and cried out, with all the violence of affronted pride, 'What! you teach me music? The music is good music: confound your Words! - Here,' said he, thrumming his harpsichord, 'are my ideas; go and make words to them.'
Handel became afterwards the proprietor of the Opera-house, London; and presided at the harpsichord in the orchestra (piano-fortes not being then known). His embellishments were, so masterly, that the attention of the audience was frequently diverted from the singing to the accompaniment, to the frequent mortification of the vocal professors. A pompous Italian singer was, on a certain occasion, so chagrined at the marked attention paid to the harpsichord, in preference to his own singing, that he swore, that if ever Handel played him a similar trick, he would jump down upon his instrument, and put a stop to the interruption. Handel, who had a considerable turn for humour, replied: 'Oh ! oh! you vil jump, vil you? very vell, sare; be so kind, and tell me de night ven you vill jump, and I vil advertishe it in de bills; and I shall get grate dale more money by your jumping, than I shall get by your singing.'
When George the Third was a child, he was frequently taken into the music-room at Leicester-house, which belonged to his royal mother, the Princess Dowager of Wales. Handel observing that the little prince was very attentive to his oratorio music, exclaimed, when the prince on one occasion had crept close to the double bass and organ, 'Ah! dat litel prince vil keep ub my music ven I am det and gone.' This prophecy was verified for the king did not relish later compositions; and Handel's music used to be performed to him by the Queen's band every evening at Windsor Castle, after the usual promenade on the Terrace.
Although he lived much with the great, Handel was no flatterer. He once told a member of the royal family, who asked him how he liked his playing on the violoncello? 'Vy, sir, your highness plays like a Prince!;' When the same prince had prevailed upon him to hear a minuet of his own composition, which he played himself on the violoncello, Handel heard him out very quietly; but when the prince told him, that he would call in his band to play it to him, that he might hear the full effect of his composition, Handel could contain himself no longer, and ran out of the room crying, 'Worsher and worsher, upon mine honour.'
One Sunday, having attended divine worship at a country church, Handel asked the organist to permit him to play the people out; to which, with a politeness characteristic of the profession, the organist consented. Handel accordingly sat down to the organ, and began to play in such a masterly manner, as instantly to attract the attention of the whole congregation, who instead of vacating their seats as usual, remained for a considerable space of time, fixed in silent admiration. The organist began to be impatient (perhaps his wife was waiting dinner); and at length addressing the performer, told him that he was convinced that he could not play the people out, and advised him to relinquish the attempt; which being done, a few strains in the accustomed manner operated like the reading of the Riot Act.
Commemoration of Handel.
The grandest and most extensive musical exhibition ever witnessed, was that at Westminster Abbey, in honour of Handel, on the centenary of his birth, in the year 1784. The plan originated in a conversation between Viscount Fitzwilliam, Sir Watkins Williams Wynne, and John Bates, Esq., who remarking that the number of eminent musical performers of all kinds, in London, both vocal and instrumental, had no, public occasion for collecting and consolidating them into one band, formed the project of uniting them in a performance of the most magnificent scale, and such as no part of the world could equal.
Such was the reverence for the 'Memory of Handel,' that no sooner was the project known, than most of the practical musicians in the kingdom eagerly manifested their zeal by offering their services; while many of the most eminent professors, waving all claims to precedence in the band, offered to perform in any subordinate station in which their talents might be most useful.
The governors of the Musical Fund, and the directors of the Concert of Ancient Music, readily gave the plan their support; and his majesty, hearing of the design, honoured it with his sanction and patronage. Mr. James Wyatt, the architect, was appointed to superintend the fitting up of Westminster Abbey on the occasion, like a royal musical chapel, with the orchestra terminating one end, and the accommodation for the royal family at the other.
In order to render the band as powerful and complete as possible, it was determind to employ every species of instrument that was capable of producing grand effects in a great orchestra and spacious building. Among these, the sacbut, or double trumpet, was sought; but so many years had elapsed since it was used in this kingdom, that neither the instrument nor a performer upon it could easily be found. After much useless enquiry not only in England, but by letters on the continent, it was discovered that in his majesty's military band there were six musicians who played the three several species of sacbut; tenor, bass, and double bass.
The performances were fixed on the 26th, 27th, and 29th May, and it was determined that the profits of the first day should be divided between the Musical Fund and the Westminster Infirmary; those of the subsequent days, to be applied to the use of the Foundling Hospital, to which Handel, when living, was a liberal contributor.
Westminster Abbey was so judiciously fitted up, and the places for the musicians and the public so admirably arranged, that the whole corresponded with the architecture of this venerable structure; and there was nothing visible, either for use or ornament, that did not harmonize with the principal tone of the building. The orchestra was so well contrived, that almost every performer, both vocal and instrumental, was in full view of the conductor and leader.
Few circumstances will seem more astonishing to veteran musicians, than that there was but one general rehearsal for each day's performance; an indisputable proof of the high state of cultivation to which practical music has attained in this country. At the first of these rehearsals in the Abbey, more than five hundred persons found means to obtain admission. This intrusion, which was very much to the dissatisfaction of the managers and conductor, suggested the idea of turning the eagerness of the public to some profitable account for the charity, by fixing the price of admission to the rehearsal, at half a guinea each person.
On the subsequent rehearsals, the audience was very numerous, and rendered the whole so popular, as to increase the demand for tickets for the grand performance so rapidly, that it was found necessary to close the subscription. Many families, as well as individuals, were attracted to the capital by this celebrity; and it was never remembered to have been so full, except at the coronation of his late majesty. Many of the performers came from the remotest part of the kingdom at their own expense, so eager were they to offer their services on this occasion.
The commemoration of Handel is not only the first instance of a band of such magnitude being assembled together, but of any band at all numerous, performing in a similar situation, without the assistance of a manu conductor, to regulate the measure: and yet the performances were no less remarkable for the multiplicity of voices and instruments employed, than for accuracy and precision. 'The pulsations in every limb,' says Dr. Burney, 'and ramifications of veins and arteries in an animal, could not be more reciprocal and isochronous, or more under the regulation of the heart, than the members of this body of musicians under that of the conductor and leader. The totality of sound seemed to proceed from one voice and one instrument; and its powers produced not only new and exquisite sensations in judges and lovers of the art, but were felt by those who never received pleasure from music before.'
Town and Country.
It is natural to suppose that persons living in the country must know more of the music of the groves, than such as have never wandered beyond the sound of Bow bells; and yet, strange as it may seem, the fact is precisely the reverse. Mr. Daines Barrington, who, more than perhaps any other writer, has made the music of birds a subject of philosophical enquiry. says, 'I am almost convinced (though it may seem rather paradoxical) that the inhabitants of London distinguish more accurately, and know more on this head, than other parts of this island taken together.
'This seems to arise from two causes.
'The first is, that we have not more musical ideas which are innate, than we have of language: and, therefore, those even who have the happiness to have organs which are capable of receiving a gratification from this sixth sense (as it has been called by some), require, however, the best instruction.
'The orchestra of the opera, which is confined to the metropolis, has diffused a good style of playing over the other bands of the capital, which is by degrees communicated to the fiddler and the ballad singer in the streets. The organs in every church, as well as those of the Savoyards, contribute likewise to this improvement of musical faculties in the Londoners.
If the singing of the ploughman in the country, is therefore compared with that of the London artisan, the superiority is infinitely on the side of the latter; and the same may be observed in comparing the voice of a country girl, and London housemaid, as it is very uncommon to hear the former sing tolerably in tune.
'I do not mean by this to assert, that the inhabitants of the country are not born with as good musical organs, but only that they have not the same opportunities of learning from others who play in tune themselves.
'The other reason for the inhabitants of London judging better in relation to the song of birds, arises from their hearing each bird sing distinctly, either in their own or their neighbours' shops; as also from a bird continuing much longer in song whilst in a cage than when at liberty.
'Those who live in the country, on the other hand, do not hear birds sing in their woods for above two months in the year, when the confusion of notes prevents their attending to the song of any particular bird: nor does he continue long enough in a place for the hearer to recollect his notes with accuracy.
'Besides this, birds in the spring sing very loud indeed; but they only give short jerks, and scarcely ever the whole compass of their song.
'For these reasons, I have never happened to meet with any person, who had not resided in London, whose judgment or opinion on this subject I could the least rely upon.'
The practice of ringing bells in change is said to have been originally peculiar to England, but the antiquity of it is not easily to be traced. Some of the most celebrated peals now known are not, however, of ancient date; having been composed about seventy years ago, by one Patrick, who was a maker of barometers in London.
Holland and the Low Countries are famed for their carillons or chimes. Dr. Burney, in the course of his travels in these countries, made the carillon science an object of very articular enquiry; but from the information he has collected respecting it, we are inclined to think with him that it must, after all, be a very 'Gothic invention,' and in most barbarous taste.' 'I soon found,' says Dr. B., 'that the chimes in those countries had a greater number of bells than those of the largest peal in England; but when I mounted the belfry (of Ghent) I was astonished at the great quantity of bells I saw; in short, there was a complete series or scale of tones and semi-tones, like those on the harpsichord or organ. The carilloneur was literally at work, and hard work indeed it must be; he was in his shirt, with collar unbuttoned, and in a violent sweat. There are pedals communicating with the great bells, upon which, with his feet, he played the bass to several sprightly and rather difficult airs, performed with his two hands upon an upper range of keys, communicating with the lesser bells, as those of the harpsichord and organ do with strings and pipes. These keys are projecting sticks, wide enough asunder to be struck with violence and velocity by either of the two hands edgeways, without the danger of hitting the neighbouring keys. The player has a thick leather covering for the little finger of each hand, otherwise it would be impossible for him to support the pain which the violence of the stroke necessary to be given to each key, in order to its being distinctly heard throughout a very large town, requires.' One might imagine that such Herculean labour could fall to the portion only of some hewer of wood, or drawer of water; and it is with equal surprise and regret that we read of a man of such undoubted genius as the late M. Pothoff, doomed to spend his life in the degrading employment of carilloneur to the Stadthuys or town house of Amsterdam. M. Pothoff was deprived of his sight by the small pox, when seven years of age; and this misfortune first suggested to his friends the thought of making music, which had hitherto afforded him no pleasure, his profession. It was not long before he began to take delight in his new pursuit, and he made such progress that at the age of thirteen, he was elected to the office of carilloneur. Dr. Burney, who had heard him play with great effect on the organ, thus describes his performance on the bells. 'He had very much astonished me,' he says, 'on the organ, after all I had heard through the rest of Europe; but in playing those bells, his amazing dexterity raised my wonder much higher, for he executed with his two hands passages that would be very difficult to play with the ten fingers; shakes, beats, swift divisions, triplets, and even arpeggios, he has contrived to vanquish.' 'I sometimes forgot both the difficulty and the defects of the instrument; he never played in less than three parts, marking the bass and the measure constantly with the pedals. I never heard a greater variety of passages in so short a time; he produced effects by the pianos and fortes, and the crescendo in the shake, both as to loudness and velocity, which I did not think possible upon an instrument that seemed to require little other merit than force in the performer. Yet surely this was a barbarous invention, and there is barbarity in the continuance of it. If M. Pothoff had been put into Dr. Dominicetti's hottest human cauldron for an hour, he could not have perspired more violently than he did after a quarter of an hour of this furious exercise. He stripped to his shirt, put on his night cap, and trussed up his sleeves for this execution; and he said he was forced to go to bed the instant it was over in order to prevent his catching cold, as well as to recover himself; he being usually too much exhausted as to be utterly unable to speak.
'The great convenience,' says Dr. Burney, of this kind of music, is, that it entertains the inhabitants of a whole town, while they are going about their ordinary occupations; but the want of something to stop the vibration of each bell at the pleasure of the player, like the valves of an organ, and the red cloth in the jerks of an harpsichord, is an intolerable defect to a cultivated ear; for, by the notes of one passage perpetually running into another, everything is rendered so inarticulate and confused, as to occasion a very disagreeable jargon.'
Besides these carillons a clavies, the Dutch and Flemings have also chimes played by clockwork. 'There is scarce a church,' says Dr. Burney, 'belonging to the Calvinists in Amsterdam, without its chimes, which not only play the same tunes every quarter of an hour for three months together, without their being changed; but by the difference of clocks, one has scarce five minutes quiet in the four-and-twenty hours, from these corals for grown gentlemen. In a few days' time I had so thorough a surfeit of them, that in as many months I really believe, if they had not first deprived me of hearing, I should have hated music in general.'
It is related of a gentleman who resided in London some years ago, that he possessed such extraordinary musical talents, that he could play upon two violins at one time, and imitate the French horn, clarionet, organ, and trumpets, in so astonishing a manner, as to make them appear a whole band, with the sound of different people singing at the same time. The pieces of music which he played were principally from Handel's oratorios. His imitative faculty was not confined to musical instruments. He could imitate a carpenter sawing and planing wood, the mail coach horn, a clap of thunder, a fly buzzing about a window, a flock of sheep with dogs after them, a sky-rocket going off, the tearing of a piece of cloth, the bagpipes, and the hurdy-gurdy. He generally finished his performance with the representation of beating a dog out of the room, which was accounted the most difficult, and, at the same time, the most natural imitation of all.
When Mozart, at six years of age, made his first musical tour through Germany, the Elector of Bavaria, by way of encouraging the boy, told him that he had nothing to fear from his august presence. 'Oh,' said the child, with great smartness, 'I have played before the empress.' Her majesty was one of the first who took notice of his extraordinary talents, and used to place him upon her knees while he played at the harpsichord.
When Mozart, two years afterwards, visited England, he published at London same sonatas for the harpsichord, which he dedicated to the queen, subscribing himself, 'Tres humble et tres obeissant petit serviteur.'
Mr. Daines Barrington having been informed that this youthful prodigy was often visited with musical ideas, to which, even in the midst of the night, he would give utterance on the harpsichord, told M. Mozart, the father, that he would be glad to hear some of the child's extemporary compositions. The father, says Mr. Barrington, 'shook his head at this, saying, that it depended entirely upon his being, as it were, musically inspired; but that I might ask him a if he was in a humour for such a composition.
'Happening to know that little Mozart was much taken notice of by Manzoli, the famous singer, who came over to England in 1764, I said to the boy, that I should be glad to hear an extemporary love song, such as his friend Manzoli might choose at the opera.
'The boy, (who continued to sit at the harpsichord), on this looked back with much archness, and immediately began five or six lines of a jargon recitative, proper to introduce a love song. He then played a symphony, which might correspond with an air played to the single word Affetto. It had a first and second part, which, with the symphonies, was of the length that opera songs generally last. If this extemporary composition was not amazingly capital, yet it was really above mediocrity, and showed most extraordinary readiness of invention. Finding that he was in humour, and as it were inspired, I then desired him to compose a song, such as might be proper for the opera stage. The boy again looked back with much archness, and began five or six lines of a jargon recitative, proper to precede a song, of anger. The word he pitched upon for his second extemporary composition was Perfido.
This lasted also about the same time with the song of love; and in the middle of it he had worked himself up to such a pitch, that he beat his harpsichord like a person possessed.'
After leaving England, young Mozart visited, among other courts, that of the Prince of Saltzburgh. His highness not believing that such masterly pieces as those which Mozart played to him, as of his own composition, could really be the production of so mere a child, shut him up for a week, during which he was not permitted to see any one, and was left only with music paper and the words of an oratorio. In that short space of time, he composed a very capital oratorio, which completely set at rest every doubt as to his extraordinary talents.
In a part of the trio between the Parcae, in the opera of Hippolitus, there is a stroke of the exharmonic of such difficult performance, that it could never be executed in the opera house at Paris, though Monsieur Rousseau assures us, 'it has been performed in other places by the consent and desire of the musicians, and had a surprising effect.' He assures us farther, that 'this kind of music met with an applause that shook the very earth; but he was so ill-used, as to be obliged to change it into common music.' Rousseau, however, declares himself of opinion, 'that a piece of music modulated in this manner, even let the execution be the most perfect, cannot have the smallest merit.'
Clement Jannequin, a French composer, who flourished in the early part of the sixteenth century, appears to have been the first to represent the clangour of arms, and the imitation of a battle by music. A more successful attempt at what may be called music painting, was made in London in 1783, by M. Kloefler. Jannequin endeavoured to do it by vocal music; but M. Kloefler, a German musician of genius, knowledge, and experience, undertook to introduce by instruments in a kind of musical pantomime, every circumstance belonging to an army, even to a council of war. It is said that the composer, with the assistance of an excellent band, kept his word in the most essential parts of his promise; much good music, much ingenuity of imitation, and far greater effects produced by musical painting, than was conceived possible.
But even this effort at imitative music has been far exceeded since, by the Bataglia of Signor Raimondi; and within the last few years, by the Battle Sinfonia of Beethoven, both of which have been often performed and justly applauded, not only for the intelligence and ingenuity with which military sensations have been excited, and military scenes described, but as elegant and agreeable compositions.
Power of Music in Battle.
Music has sometimes the effect of inspiring courage in the most timid dispositions, and thus even triumphing over nature. An old officer who served under the Duke of Marlborough, was naturally so timid, as to show the utmost reluctance to an engagement, until he heard the drums and trumpets; when his spirits were raised to such a degree, that he became most ardent to be engaged with the enemy, and would then expose himself to the utmost dangers.
'Monsieur Tres Mauvais.'
Volumir, who was by birth a Frenchman, possessed no particular talent as a composer, but was an excellent player on the violin. In 1713, he went from Berlin to Dresden, as leader of the concert. He possessed considerable discrimination in the choice of the hose which had a particular effect he placed in great order on music shelves; and over every department was written in large characters, the name of the composer. Such pieces, however, as had not undergone the ordeal, or had been rejected, he placed in a separate drawer, and wrote over them tres mauvais. After his death, when his music was to be sold in Dresden, a Polish musician inspected them, and was not a little astonished to behold so extensive a collection of celebrated masters. The lower department, however, from its superior bulk, attracted his attention most, and he was heard to exclaim, 'Ah! Monsieur Tres Mauvais, M. Tres Mauvais, very great composer indeed; composed more than all the rest put together!'
The lady of Sir Robert Walpole, enchanted with the strains and popularity of the two most celebrated Italian singers of the day, Cuzzoni and Faustini, invited them to assist at a concert at her house. The nobility who were present gave their hostess little trouble about precedence; but to prevail on either of the opera singers to relinquish the pas, was found impossible. In this dilemma, Lady Walpole very ingeniously invited Faustini to accompany her to a remote part of the house, under pretence of showing her some beautiful china; and during their absence, the company obtained a song from Cuzzoni, who supposed that her rival had quitted the field. A similar expedient was used with equal success to obtain the happiness of a song from Faustini.
The Hindostan Girl.
An officer in the East Indies, previous to his departure for England, being desirous of restoring to her parents an Hindoo girl, who had lived for several years in his family, sent her to them in a palanquin, some days' journey up the country. The girl was extremely attached to her master, and was so affected at parting with him, that, according to the relation of the bearers of the palanquin, she could not be prevailed on to receive any sustenance during the journey, and was incessantly singing a plaintive Hindoo air, to words expressive of her attachment. The air has since found its way to this country, and has been published, with English words adapted to it by Mrs. Opie.
In 1788, a musical prodigy of the name of Sophia Hoffman attracted the notice of the scientific and the curious. This child, when only nine months old, discovered so violent an attachment to musical sounds, that if taken out of a room where any person was playing on an instrument, it was frequently impossible to appease her but by bringing her back. The nearer she was carried to the performer the more delighted she appeared, and would often clap her little hands together in accurate time. Her father, who was a musician, cultivated her infantine genius so successfully that when she was a year and three-quarters old, she could play a march, a lesson, and two or three songs with tolerable correctness, and when two years and a half old, she could play several tunes. If she ever struck a wrong note, she did not suffer it to pass, but immediately corrected herself.
In the reign of Charles IX. of France music was much patronized, and Mersennus gives a curious description of a viol, sufficiently spacious to contain young pages, who sung treble to the airs, while he who played the bass part on the viol, sting the tenor in order to form a complete concert in three parts.
Deaf and Dumb Amateur.
It is a singular fact that the deaf and dumb are not excluded from the pleasures arising from music; a remarkable proof of this is related of an artist of the name of Arrowsmith, a member of the Royal Academy, who resided some months at Winnington, about the year 1816, exercising his profession of a miniature and portrait painter. 'He was', says Mr. Chippindale of Winnick, who relates the anecdote, 'quite deaf. It will scarcely be credited that a person thus circumstanced should be fond of music, but this was the case with Mr. Arrowsmith. He was at a gentleman's glee club, of which I was president at that time, and as the glees were sung he would place himself near some article of wooden furniture, or a partition, door, or window-shutter, and would fix the extreme end of his finger-nails, which he kept rather long, upon the edge of some projecting part of the wood, and there remain until the piece under performance was finished, all the time expressing by the most significant gestures, the pleasure he felt in the perception of musical sounds. He was not so much pleased with a solo as with a pretty full clash of harmony; and if the music was not very good, or rather, if it was not correctly performed, he would not show the slightest sensation of pleasure. But the most extraordinary circumstance in this case is that he was evidently most delighted with those passages in which the composer displayed his science in modulating the different keys. When such passages happened to be executed with precision, he could scarcely repress the emotions of pleasure which he received within any bounds, for the delight he evinced seemed to border on ecstasy. This was expressed most remarkably at our club, when the glee was sung with which we often conclude; it is by Stevens, and begins with the words, "Ye spotted snakes," from Shakspeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. In the second stanza, on the words "Weaving spiders come not here," there is some modulation of the kind above alluded to, and here Mr. Arrowsmith would be in raptures, such as would not be exceeded by any one who was in immediate possession of the sense of hearing.'
West Indian Harper.
In an old history of Barbadoes by Richard Ligon, we meet with the following curious passage. Being at St. Iago, one of the Cape de Verd Islands, belonging to the Portuguese, he says, 'Dinner being over, in comes an old fellow, his head and beard milk-white, his countenance bold and cheerful, a lute in his hand, and played us for a novelty the passam sares galliard, a tune in great esteem in Harry the IVth's dayes, for when Sir John Falstaffe makes his amours to Mistress Doll Tearsheet, Sneake and his company, the admired fiddlers of that age, played this tune, which put a thought into my head, that if time and tune be the composites of musick, what a long time this tune had in sayling from England to this place; but we being sufficiently satisfied with this kind of harmony, descried a song which he performed in as antique a manner, both savouring much of antiquity - no graces, double relishes, trillos. gropos, or piano-fortes, but plain as a pack-staff; his lute, too, was but of ten strings, and that was a fashion in King David's dayes, so that the rarity of this antique piece pleased me beyond measure.
When Haydn, while yet a chorister boy in the cathedral of Vienna [see Anecdotes of Youth], commenced the study of musical composition, he had no other guide than an old treatise on harmony, which he had picked up at a stall. But, as he used often to declare it was from being thus early thrown on the resources of his own mind that he learned his chief effects in harmony. He was but nineteen years of age when he left the cathedral, or rather was expelled from it, for cutting off the train of one of the boy's gowns. An old admirer of his chaunting, one Keller, a hairdresser, gave him shelter under his roof; and Haydn, in return, married the benevolent hairdresser's daughter. Shortly after, he removed to more convenient apartments in another house, where he had the singular felicity of having the first dramatic poet of the continent for his fellow-lodger, the renowned Metastasio, through whose friendly aid he acquired a competent knowledge not only of the Italian language, but of literature and the arts. It was here, and when in his twentieth year, that Haydn composed the first of those quartettos for which his name is so celebrated; it became immediately popular in Vienna, and was soon followed by others of still greater merit.
For six years Haydn and Metastasio had lived under the same roof, in habits of the closest intimacy, when a sinfonia in la sol re 3/4, which has since been much celebrated, caught the ear of the old Prince Antoine Esterhazy, and Haydn was taken into his service.
The next inheritor of the title, Prince Nicolas, was a still more ardent amateur. His passion was for the barytone, an instrument toned between the tenor and the bass, and it gives a curious idea of the idle devotement of an Austrian prince's life, to mention that Haydn's duty was to leave every day a new composition for this Gothic instrument on the prince's desk. He had now found the situation fitted for the development, and, in some degree, for the reward of his great faculties. His life was that of a student, tranquil, uniform, and diligent. He rose early, and with a piano by the side of his table, composed in general until dinner. The evening was given up to rehearsals or to the opera, which was performed in the palace four times a week or to visiting. He was here at the head of an admirable orchestra, in one of the noblest mansions in Germany, in the midst of comforts, which his former life rendered luxuries, and in growing fame through the world. Such was Haydn's quiet lot for no less a period than thirty years.
The most liberal offers had been repeatedly made to Haydn from the principal opera theatres in Europe; but his love of ease and his attachment to the service of his patron retained him in Hungary. The death of Prince Nicolas in 1789 at length unsettled his resolution, and in 1790 he came to London on an engagement with Salomon, the violinist, to compose for twenty concerts at fifty guineas each. Haydn was then fifty-nine years old. He remained in this country but one year, and after visiting some of the other capitals of Europe, returned to Vienna, where he died. [For other anecdotes of this distinguished musician, [see Anecdotes of Youth, Genius, and Imagination.]
In the year 1600 there was published a miscellaneous musical work entitled Pamatelia, in a quarto volume, consisting of catches and roundelays of three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten parts in one; this work was reprinted in 1618. It was compiled by some eminent musicians, who had a practice of setting the Cries of London to music, retaining only the very musical notes of them. In the collection entitled the Pamatelia, is a round to the cry of 'New Oysters,' 'Have you any Wood to cleave.' Orlando Gibbons set music of four parts to the cries in his time, among which is one of a play. Morley set those of the Milliners' Girls, in the New Exchange, in the Strand, which was built in the reign of James I. and pulled down towards the latter end of last century; among these are 'Italian falling Bands,' 'French Garters,' 'Rabatos,' a kind of ruff, 'Nun's Thread,' &c. &c. In a play called Tarquin and Lucrece, some of the music of the following cries occur: 'A Marking Stone,' 'Bread and Meat for the poor Prisoners,' 'Rock Samphire,' 'A Hassock for your Pew,' 'Lanthorn and Candlelight,' &c. &c.
The Cries of London, mentioned by Grainger, differed materially from those of the preceding reigns; they were regular merry songs, and well engraved.
Adventures of Telemachus.
In the year 1777, Raimondi gave a very singular concert at Amsterdam, the design of it being to represent to the ear, the adventures of Telemachus. The parts were distributed in the following manner: Telemachus, first violin; mentor, violoncello, Calypso, flute; Eucharis, a nymph of Calypso, the hautboy; the rest of the nymphs were other wind instruments. The piece began with a symphony, which, in the usual way, expressed a storm; upon which followed a duet, with accompaniments, between the violin and violoncello, viz. Telemachus and Mentor rejoicing at their preservation. Calypso appears, and lisping on the flute, conducts the youth to her grotto. The remaining nymphs made tutti, which was sometimes interrupted by a solo on the hautboy, to express that Eucharis was also enamoured of Telemachus; thus it went on until the whole orchestra expressed the burning of a ship. The wind instruments played alternate solos, to accord with the complaints and tears of Calypso.
Imperial Family of Austria.
The imperial family of Austria has always been remarkable for its attachment to musical studies; and besides many excellent performers, has produced one composer, at least, who has done honour to the science. The Electress-Dowager of Saxony, daughter of the Emperor, Charles VII., was celebrated over all Europe for the talents, and the progress she had made in the arts, of which she was constant protectress. Her Highness was both a poet and musician; and played, sung, and composed in a style of excellence which but few amateurs arrive at. Her principal productions were two operas in Italian, Talestri, and Il Triunfo della Fidelita; both of which were printed in score at Leipsic, and much admired over all Germany. Among the ancients, the poet and musician were constantly united in the same person; but modern times have few examples of such a junction, except in this princess, and in Rousseau, who was not only author of the poet, but of the music, of his delightful poetry, drama, the Devin du Village.
Dr. Burney, who had an opportunity of hearing the electress at a private concert sing a whole scene in her own opera of Talestri, says, 'She sung in a truly fine style; her voice is very weak, but she never forces it, nor sings out of tune. She spoke the recitative, which was an accompanied one, very well, in the way of the great old singers of better times; it was as well written, as it was well the air was an andante, rich in somewhat in the way of Handel's songs.'
'L'Augier told me,' says the same writer, 'that the Electress-Queen had also been a notable musician. Some years ago he had heard her sing very well; and in the year 1739, when she was only twenty-two years of age, and very handsome, she sung a duo with Senesino, at Florence, so well, that by her voice, which was then a very fine one, and her graceful and steady manner, she so captivated the old man, Senesino, that he could not proceed without shedding tears of satisfaction. Her imperial majesty has so long been a performer, that one day, in pleasantry, she told the old Faustina, the wife of Hasse, that she thought herself the first, meaning the oldest, virtuosa in Europe; for her father brought her on the court stage at Vienna when she was only five years old, and made her sing a song.'
The opera of Egeria, which was written by Metastasio, and set by Hasse, expressly for the private use of the imperial family, was once performed at court, when four archduchesses of Austria, sisters of the empress, filled the principal parts in it; while the Grand Duke of Tuscany sung and danced in the character of Cupid.
The most celebrated makers of violins have been the Amatis, Stainer, and the two Straduariuses; but few particulars have been handed down to us respecting them; nor is this surprising, considering that their celebrity is owing, in a great degree, to time, by which alone their works have been brought to perfection. An Amati is a phrase often in the mouths of amateurs, without their being perhaps aware that there were four makers of that name, viz. Andrew, the father; Jerome and Antony, his sons; and Nicholas, Antony's son. The handsomest Amatis are those made by Jerome. All these individuals, as well as the two Straduariuses, belonged to Cremona; and hence that other phrase, by which, in order to designate a violin of the first order, it is called a genuine Cremona. Of the visible characteristics of the works of these different artists, the most prominent are these. The Stainer violins, compared with the Amatis, are high and narrow, and the box more confined; the sound holes are cut more perpendicular, and are shorter; there is also a kind of notch at the turn. The Straduarius violins are of a larger pattern, particularly those of Antonius the son, and have a wider box than the Amatis, and longer sound holes, which are cut at the ends very sharp and broad, with a little hollow at that end which other makers cut flat. The varnishes of the Amatis and Stainers are yellow, as well as those of Straduarius the father; the son's varnish is red. Of the audible characteristics, surely of the most importance, though too frequently a secondary consideration, generally speaking, the Amatis have a mild and sweet tone; the Stainers, a sharp and piercing tone; and the Straduariuses, a rich full tone.
The singers in all the principal churches in Russia, and also the chapels, from the imperial to that of the wealthy citizen, are from the Ukraine. The sweetness and unlimited combination and range of the voice of the Ukrainians produce an agreeable and unique style of church music, unknown even in Italy.
The genius for music in the Ukraine is so general, that frequently a woman, while at her work, will modulate her voice, so as to affect the hearer to tears. 'Whenever,' says a modern traveller, 'I saw a group of women sitting at the threshold of a door, or a merry throng of village maidens sporting on the banks of a river, as is the custom, I was certain of hearing those pathetic sounds which never fail to awaken the exquisite pleasure of sensibility.'
Rude as the Cossacks are, they are by no means insensible to the charms of music, for which they manifest a strong predilection. During the time that the Russians were at Dresden, in 1813, a party of them, attracted by the solemn peal of the organ, entered a church, and while it was playing they continued fixed in silent attention. Its tones ceased, and the officiating clergyman commenced his sermon. This address, in an unknown language, soon began to excite symptoms of impatience in the strangers, one of whom, stealing softly up the steps of the pulpit unobserved by the minister, startled him not a little, by tapping him on the shoulder, in the midst of his harangue, and inviting him, as well as he could by signs, accompanied with all sorts of grotesque gestures, to descend, and no longer interrupt the gratification which the organist afforded to himself and his companions.
Gainsborough, though possessed of ear, taste, and genius, never had sufficient application to learn even the notes of music; he has been known to give ten guineas for an old lute, and ten more for a music book of no value, and then throw them both aside for the first new instrument he heard. 'When I first knew him,' says Mr. Jackson, 'he lived at Bath, where Giardini had been exhibiting his then unrivalled powers on the violin. His excellent performance made Gainsborough enamoured of the instrument, and conceiving, like the servant maid in the Spectator, that the music lay in the fiddle, he was frantic until he possessed the instrument which had given him so much pleasure, but seemed much surprised that the music of it remained behind with Giardini.
'He had scarcely recovered this shock, for it was a great one to him, when he heard Abel on the viol-da-gamba. The violin was then hung on the willow. Abel's viola-da-gamba was purchased, and the house resounded with melodious thirds and fifths from morn till eve. Many an adagio, and many a minuet were begun, but none completed.
'The next time I saw Gainsborough,' continues Mr. Jackson, 'he was in the character of King David. He had heard a harper at Bath; the player was soon left harpless; and he really stuck longer to this instrument than to any other, when a new visit from Abel brought him back to the viol-da-gamba.'
The New Zealanders.
That 'music has charms to sooth the savage breast,' the history of all rude and uncivilized states bears witness. In New Zealand, where the natives eat he bodies of their prisoners, and until within a few years the foot of civilization had not stepped, music is not only a favourite, but cultivated with considerable success. Their instruments are such as afford a pleasing variety of simple notes: and the music of their songs is generally well adapted to the theme. Many of these songs are of a pathetic nature, others amatory, and not a few humorous.
They accompany their singing by beating the breast, thus making of it a sort of natural drum, to regulate the time. It is customary for the song to be begun by one person, and at the end of each verse all the company join in chorus, beating their breasts.
Their songs to the rising and setting sun are peculiarly well adapted to express their feelings. That on the rising of the sun is in a cheerful air; the arms are spread out as a token of welcome, and the whole action denotes a great degree of unmixed joy; while, on the contrary, the seating of the great luminary is regretted in tones of a most mournful nature; the head is bowed down in a melancholy manner, and every other action denotes their sorrow for his departure. The song to the moon is of a grave and melancholy character, apparently expressive of awe and admiration. The New Zealanders have also songs appropriated to the meeting and separation of friends, which are equally well adapted to express their sensations.
Their musical instruments are similar to those of many islands of the Pacific Ocean. The flute is almost in universal use; the music produced by it is simple, but pleasing, particularly when a number of performers unite their efforts. They have another musical instrument, formed of two pieces of wood bound together, so as to produce a tube about the size of a fife, with a bow about the middle, in which a small aperture is made. This instrument is inflated at one extremity, while the other is occasionally stopped and opened, so as to produce some variety in the modulation of the sound.
Dr. Herschel, the celebrated astronomer, was originally brought up to his father's profession, that of a musician, and accompanied a German regiment to England as one of the band, performing on the hautboy. While acting in this humble capacity in the north of England, a new organ was built for the parish church of Halifax, by Snetzler, which was opened with an oratorio by the well-known Joah Bates. Mr. Herschel and six other persons became candidates for the organist's situation. A day was fixed on which each was to perform in rotation; when Mr. Wainwright of Manchester played, his finger was so rapid, that old Snetzler, the organ builder, ran about the church exclaiming, 'He run over de key like one cat; he will not give my pipes time to speak.'
During Mr. Wainwright's performance, Dr. Miller, the friend of Herschel, inquired of him what chance he had of following him? 'I don't know,' said Herschel, 'but I am sure fingers will not do.' When it came to his turn, Herschel ascended the organ loft, and produced so uncommon a richness, such a volume of slow harmony, as astonished all present; and after this extemporaneous effusion, he finished with the old Hundredth Psalm, which he played better than his opponent. 'Aye, aye,' cries old Snetzler, 'tish is very good, very good inteet; I will luf tis man, he gives my pipes room for to speak.'
Herschel being asked by what means he produced so astonishing an effect, replied, 'I told you fingers would not do;' and producing two pieces of lead from his waistcoat pocket, said, 'one of these I laid on the lowest key of the organ, and the other upon the octave above; and thus, by accommodating the harmony, I produced the effect of four hands, instead of two.' This superiority of skill obtained Herschel the situation; but he had other and higher objects in view, to suffer him long to retain it.
Mr. Dibdin, the bibliographer, being on a visit to Mr. Bree, King's Printer, at Falaise, happened to commend the inscription of God save the King upon the walls of his work shop. 'Ah, sir, if you would only favour us by singing the air to which these words belong, you would infinitely oblige us all,' said a shrewd and intelligent looking compositor. 'With all my heart,' rejoined Mr. Dibdin; 'but I must frankly tell you, that I shall sing it rather with heart than with voice, being neither a vocal nor instrumental performer.' 'No matter, give us only a notion of it.' They all stood round in a circle, says Mr. Dibdin, and I got through two stanzas as hastily and as efficiently as I was able. The usual charmant! followed my exertions, while I could scarcely refrain from laughing, even in the midst of the most impressively laboured cadenzas of the tune. It was now my turn to ask a favour. 'Sing me your favourite air of Robert and Arlette.' 'Most willingly, sir,' replied the forementioned shrewd and intelligent looking compositor; 'Tenez un petit moment, je vais chercher mon violon; ca va mieux.' On his return, the ballad was chanted in full chorus, and Mr. D. observes, 'The tune was both agreeable and lively, and upon the whole, it was difficult to say which seemed to be the better pleased with the respective national airs.'
Examples for English Peasantry.
The conduct of the German Legion in England, during the late war, was the subject of universal commendation. The greater number of those men possessed some acquirement: the majority could use the pencil, many played with some effect on different instruments, all seemed to understand harmony, and all danced with considerable skill. The intervals of duty were spent in adding to those accomplishments; after the evening parade, they gathered round their fine bands, and often closed the evening with a dance, or some noble German chorus. The monthly day on which they were paid, was a period of higher festivity; and while their gallant fellow-soldiers of this country were running into the customary excesses, those strangers hired the best room at the inn, gave a general ball, and concluded the evening with national songs.
All this is not simply harmless, but well and wise; and we have no doubt that were the example followed in England, had every village its ball-room, under such regulations as might repress disorder, and encourage the peasantry to dance instead of drink, it would have a happier effect upon the state of society, than ten times the money laid out in premiums for Swedish turnips and Spanish sheep.
Although the habits and comforts of our peasantry have been the subject of much wise and benevolent discussion, we have yet much to learn from our neighbours. The most benevolent of our state reformers seem too apt to overlook one great source of the happiness or discomfort of the lower orders. In stimulating them to improvements in food and clothing, and the necessary supports of life, we omit one grand source of gratification, the pleasurable employment of those hours when, though the muscles must rest, the mind must have occupation. For his hours of necessary release from the fatigues of the field, the English peasant seems to have but little enjoyment provided. Books are seldom within his reach; and where they are, they must form but a passing indulgence. The peasant requires a stronger, simpler, less costly excitement; and in England, his leisure finds it in the revelry of the alehouse. On the continent, the peasant is happier, and that to a degree that makes the value of freedom doubted as a promoter of the genuine enjoyment of life. Circumstances, now too remote for us frequently to discover their origin, have given him pleasurable and innocent employment for his leisure hours. He has music, he has village dances, he cuts models in wood, he makes sketches of the surrounding landscape. All these in their diversity, form admirable mental refreshments, and all might be introduced and encouraged among our peasants as simply as Count Rumford's soup, or the Scotch plough. Some of these pursuits have the additional merit of being profitable; and a valley in the heart of Switzerland, a place of rock and desert, is said to realize £20,000 a year by the sale of those wooden figures which we see in the London shops, and which are to be now seen in every part of the commercial world.
Of all the presents, however, that a liberal and philosophic lover of his kind could give to the peasantry of England, none would equal that of a taste for music. It would be the least expensive, the least liable to abuse, the most civilizing, the most delightful. The flute, the violin, and the guitar, must be the instruments of the peasant from their cheapness simplicity of constriction, and portability. But in those simple instruments, aided by the voice, all the compass and magic of music may be found.
No musical performer ever had a higher idea of her talents, than that living wonder of our age, Madame Catalani; and she is apt to express it with a naivete which is abundantly amusing. When she visited Hamburgh for the first time, M. Schevenke, the chief musician of that city, criticised her vocal performances with great severity. M. Catalani, on being told of his dissent from the general opinion, broke out into a great passion, calling him, among many other hard 41 names, an impious man, 'for,' added she, 'when God has given to a mortal so extraordinary a talent as I possess, people ought to applaud and honour it as a miracle, and it is a sin to depreciate such a gift from Heaven!'
Corelli was not only a distinguished composer, but so eminent as a player on the violin, that his fame reached through Europe; and wherever he went, persons were ambitious of becoming his disciples, and learning the practice of the violin from the greatest master of the art that ever lived. And yet when Handel composed his Serenata entitled Il Trionfo del Tempo, Corelli, who at that time regulated the Musical Academy at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni, found the overture in a style so new and singular, that he was confounded in his first attempt to play it.
Corelli, though remarkable for the mildness of his temper, and the modesty of his deportment, was not insensible of the respect due to his skill and exquisite performance. When he was once playing a solo at the house of his great patron and friend, Cardinal Ottoboni, he discovered the cardinal and another person engaged in discourse, on which he laid down his instrument, and being asked the reason, gave for answer, that he feared the music interrupted their conversation.
The compositions of Corelli, are celebrated for the harmony resulting from the union of all the parts. They are also equally intelligent to the learned and unlearned, while the impressions made by them have been found durable and universal. His music is the language of nature, and all that hear it become sensible of its effects. Of this there cannot be a stronger proof, than that amidst all the innovations which the love of change has introduced, it continued to be performed, and was heard with delight in churches, in theatres, at public solemnities and festivities, in all the cities for nearly forty years. Persons remembered, and would refer to passages in it, as to a classic author; and even at this day, masters of the science do not hesitate to pronounce the compositions of Corelli as the most perfect examples of fine harmony and elegant modulation.
For many years after the decease of this excellent musician, his memory was celebrated by a solemn musical performance in the Pantheon, on the anniversary of his death. The music selected for the occasion, generally included the third and eighth of his concertos, which were performed by a numerous band. These two pieces were executed in a slow, distinct, and firm manner, without embellishment, and just as they were composed and played by the author himself.
The bagpipe, or at least an instrument very similar to it, appears to have been known to the ancients. Representations of it are frequently met with on coins, vases, and other monuments of antiquity; and among the Romans, it was known by the name of tibia utricularia.
Although the horn, the trumpet, and the harp, appear to have been early in use in Scotland, yet the bagpipe, which is now almost entirely confined to the Highlands, appears to have been the most common musical instrument in the low part of the country. James the First introduces the bagpipe to heighten the disorderly festivities of 'Peblis to the Play.'
'The bagpipe blew, and thai out threw,
Out of the townis untald.'
It appears from other old poems, that it was an instrument equally adapted to war and peace; and that the piper whose station, was 'full in the van' in the day of battle, used, in harvest time, to play behind the reapers while at work; thus, in the Elegy on Habbie Simpson, the piper of Kilbarehan, it is asked,
"Wha will cause our shearers shears?
Wha will bend up the brags of weir?'
It has been, with great appearance of probability, supposed, that 'to the poetical enthusiasm thus excited and kept alive, we are probably indebted for many of those airs and songs which have given Scotland so unrivalled a celebrity, while the authors of them remain as unknown as if they had never existed.'
The bagpipe, however, was not peculiar to Scotland. In England, too, this instrument seems to have been pretty early introduced. A bagpiper was retained in the court of Queen Elizabeth, and Shakspeare gives Falstaff for one of his similes, 'as melancholy as the drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe.'
The bagpipe appears to have been an instrument of great antiquity in Ireland, though it is uncertain whence they derived it; but as it was also introduced at a very early period into Britain, it is probable that both the Irish and Danes borrowed the instrument from the Caledonians.
There are several distinct kinds of bagpipe, of which the Irish pipe is the softest, and, in some respects, the most melodious, so that music books have been published with directions how to play on it. The Highland pipe is exceedingly loud, and almost deafening if played in a room; and, therefore, it is chiefly used in the fields for marches, &c. It requires a prodigious blast to sound it, so that those who are not accustomed to it, cannot imagine how Highland pipers can continue to play for hours together, as they are often known to do. The Scots Lowland pipe is also a very loud instrument, though not so much so as the Highland pipe.
The attachment of the Highlanders to their pibrochs is almost incredible, and on some occasions is said to have produced effects scarcely less marvellous than those ascribed to the ancient music. At the battle of Quebec, in 1760, while the British troops were retreating in great disorder, the general complained to a field officer in Fraser's regiment, of the bad conduct of his corps. 'Sir,' said he. with great warmth, 'you did very wrong in forbidding the pipers to play this morning; nothing encourages the Highlanders so much in the day of action. Nay, even now it would be of use.' 'Let them blow as they like, then,' said the general, 'if it will bring back the men.' The pipers were then ordered to play a favourite martial air; and the moment the Highlanders heard the music, they returned to their duty with the most cheerful alacrity.
Formerly there was a kind of college in the Isle of Sky, where the Highland bagpipe was taught; the teachers making use of pins stuck into the ground, instead of musical notes. This college has, however, been long dissolved, and the use of the Highland pipe was sinking rapidly into disuse, when a society of gentlemen thinking it impolitic to allow the ancient martial music of the country to decline, resolved to revive it, by giving an annual prize to the best performers on the instrument. These competitions were first held at Falkirk, but they have now been for many years established at Edinburgh.
During almost two centuries after the arrangement of the scale attributed to Guido, no remains of secular music can be discovered except those of the Troubadours. In the simple tunes of these bards, no time, indeed, is marked, and but little variety of notation appears; it is not, however, difficult to discover in them the germs of the future melodies, as well as the poetry of France and Italy. Almost every species of Italian poetry is derived from the Provencals. The air, the most captivating part of secular vocal instruments, appears to have had the same origin. The most ancient strains that have been spared by time, are such as were set to the songs of the Troubadours.
The Troubadours had their origin in what were termed the courts of love. When the great baron had invited to his high court the lords of the neighbourhood, and the knights their vassals, three days were allotted for justs and tournaments, the images of war. The young noblemen who, under the name of pages, were apprenticed to the profession of arms, combatted the first day; the second was allotted to knights newly invested; the third, to old warriors; and the lady of the castle, encircled with young beauties, distributed the crowns to those who were pointed out as victors by the judges of the combats. The lady then, in her turn, opened her tribunal, formed in imitation of the seigniorial courts of justice; and as the baron was accompanied with his peers in administering the laws, she likewise formed her court, the court of love, by calling round her such young companions as were distinguished for their beauty and spirit. A new career was now opened for those who dared to combat, not any longer with arms, but with verses; and the name of tenson, given to these dramatic contests, signifies literally a wrestling. Often, indeed, the warriors, who had carried off the palm of valour, entered the lists to contend likewise for that of poetry. One of them with a harp in his hand, after having played a prelude, proposed the subject of dispute; another advanced in his turn, and singing after the same air, answered by a stanza of the same measure, and often upon the same rhymes. They thus poured forth alternately their extemporaneous effusions, and the dispute was generally concluded within five couplets. The court of love then deliberated, and after discussing not only the merits of the poets, but the merits of the question, pronounced un arret d'amour, most frequently in verse, by which it was pretended to settle the points in dispute. Several ladies who sat on these courts of love, were able to answer in rhyme to the verses which they inspired.
These courts of love were held in the palace of every petty sovereign, and in the castle of almost every baron throughout Provence, Languedoc, Auvergne, Poictou, and, in short, in all the territories south of the Loire. The pomp and splendour with which they were invested, the crowds of strangers which they attracted, the tournaments and chivalrous exercises with which they were preceded and followed, the numerous specimens of the gay science, as they called their poetry, which were made and recited by the collected warriors, converted this district, for upwards of a century, into a land of gallantry and pleasure.
But though the poetry of the Troubadours is voluminous, and the language of their pieces polished with care, there is no appearance that any of them wrote with a view to posthumous fame. Indeed the names of the most celebrated among them belong rather to political than literary history, and will be remembered for what they did, rather than for, what they wrote. In the collections of their poetry, are found pieces written by several sovereigns, as by Richard Coeur de Lion, Alphonso II., King of Arragon, &c.; but those who derived most reputation from their verses were Arnold de Merveil, Rambaud de Vaquieras, Pierre Vidal, Arnold Daniel, and Pierre Cardinal.
Abel, the German composer, was so fond of the viol-da-gamba, in the performance of which he excelled all contemporary practitioners, as to prefer its shrill tones to the notes of every other instrument. At a dinner party given one day by Lord Sandwich, at the Admiralty, the properties of the different musical instruments forming the topic of conversation, his lordship proposed that every gentleman should say which was his favourite. One named the organ, another the hautboy, a third the clarionet, &c.; but no one naming the viol-da-gamba, Abel suddenly rose from his seat, and left the room, apparently much piqued, exclaiming, 'Oh, dere be de brute in de world, dere be dose who no love de king of all de instrument.'
Russian Musical Instruments.
In the year 1775, Dr. Mathew Guthrie, a gentleman distinguished for his good taste and skill in antiquarian subjects, travelled in Russia, and directed his researches to ascertaining the state of music in the interior of that empire. He succeeded in obtaining several instruments, rude in their construction, as in the earliest period of musical science of which we have any account. These he transmitted to George Colman the Elder, with the following highly interesting letter:
'St. Petersburg, September 12th, 0.S. 1775.
'DEAR SIR -- A man from the frigid zone, in consequence of having read your elegant translation of Terence, with your commentaries, has taken the liberty of sending you a small present of little value, but some curiosity. It consists of some rude musical instruments in common use in the internal parts of this empire (Russia), where no foreign custom has found an entrance for many centuries, add where modern improvements in music and almost everything else, have never been heard of. I mean to be understood as speaking of the interior parts of the empire, far removed from the state of government, for certainly in the place of my ordinary residence (St. Petersburg) there are few of the fine arts that have not found their way. Some of the instruments I send you I think resemble those that we are told were introduced upon the Grecian stage, whilst in its rude, simple, confined state, and probably you may find with me a resemblance between the unequal flutes that I send you, and those so often mentioned as accompaniments to the ancient drama at its first appearance: they are piped upon by our Russian shepherds, and I think answer to Horace's description,
'Tibia non ut nunc, orichalco vincta, tubaeque AEmula; sed tenuis, simplexq; foramine panco,' &c.
The learned Montfaucon was at a loss to conceive how a double flute could create an agreeable harmony, yet supposed it was even more in use with the ancients than the single; but I am of opinion, if he had heard one of those rustics mentioned above play upon it, his infidelity would have been removed - at least it pleases my untaught ear. He also supposes that the two flutes were in fact separated, but that the several pipes of each joined in the mouth of the player. This opinion seems to be confirmed by those sent, both with regard to construction and manner of playing upon them. He also says "that the flute at first had but three holes, and that they were afterwards multiplied to seven, and even ten." Certainly these strengthen this assertion, and are good samples of the flute, whilst in its rude unimproved state, with only three holes. I shall make one observation more upon them, that I think they are not unlike the unequal flutes in the mouth of Francisco Ficaroni's female minstrel, whom you have given us a plate of; and those she is playing on seem, by the application of her fingers, to have also but three holes. As to the flutes that were termed by the ancients right and left handed, I can pick up nothing in this part of the world that throws any light upon the subject (although I have met with another of their instruments in common use, as I shall mention after I have given some description of those I send), for I suppose there must have been something in the construction that made their name applicable. You will find in the case another rustic shepherd's pipe, made of wood and the bark of a tree, that I think is well entitled, from its appearance, to the honour of the original Bucolic pipe as anything I have seen, although I must confess that the captivating pipe of Theocritus must have had a little more sweetness in it, or he would have found some difficulty to have charmed Lycidas, the goatherd, out of his crook. It has six stops, and is used here to swell the chorus of a rustic song, similar, perhaps, to that which was the father of Drama; it is sung by one voice, but a number of boors join the chorus and sing in parts. I wish from my heart I had the learned Dr. Burney's technical pen to give you a description of both the vocal and instrumental parts, secund. art., but I am a judge of no compositions but a bolus or pill, so you must take the will for the deed; however, this much I can inform you of, that it has a deep harsh note, and serves to swell the chorus, although it does not add much to the melody. Besides this pipe, they accompany the chorus with a stranger sort of an instrument, consisting of two bunches of hollow oval brass grapes, I believe I must call them, for they resemble very much clusters of grapes when suspended over the player's head, one in each hand, which he shakes, and occasionally strikes together, so as to keep time to the music; this performer throws himself into a number of Bacchic postures, and has much the appearance of one half mad with liquor. I am almost tempted to hazard an opinion that this very figure has made its appearance in antique musical groups; but from the great resemblance his instrument bears to grapes, he has always been taken by the moderns for a mad Bacchanalian. I wish, sir, you that are so founded in these subjects, would pursue this hint, and see if there is anything to confirm it. They are commonly strung like these sent, upon wooden spoons, for the advantage of striking the convex sides of their mouths together, which, I suppose, they find answer better than common sticks.
'The next instrument you will find in the case, I don't know what name to give it, but take it to be the mother of your guitars, lutes, &c., and certainly it has the most rude, simple appearance that ever a stringed instrument bore; it is certainly in its first state of invention, both from its shape, materials, and number of strings, being only two, and the whole formed by the hand of the shepherd himself, as, indeed, are all the rest, but the brass grapes. It is surprising what execution the Russ boors have upon these instruments, considering their simplicity, and what I admire most is the ease with which they fill, for a length of time, the pipe covered with bark, which you need only try to be a judge of.
'Upon the whole, I take all these to have been the musical instruments of the ancient Sclavonians, or Sclavi, that possessed the tract of country, afterwards called Russia, that escaped Rusic, and the Waroeghians, or Rossians, who overran and took possession of the country, as I find none of them in those parts where the invaders came from.
'I have also visited our new-conquered province, Moldavia, and seen part of Wallachia, inhabited by Greeks, who are certainly not descended from the heroes that bore the same name in the ancient world, for a race of more ignorant, lazy, dastardly people I never saw; however, what makes me mention this part of my travels, is to take notice to you of finding the pipe of Pan, consisting of seven unequal reeds, in common use in Moldavia. The performer upon it always accompanies a group of itinerant minstrels, who are the only musicians they have in those parts, which I had the clearest proof of at a ball which the nobility of the province gave to Prince Orlof, ambassador plenipotentiary at the congress. the Field-Marshal Romansoff, Sir Charles Knowles, &c.; they could muster no other music, and we danced Greek dances to Pan's pipe; another instrument resembling a violin, a sort of tabor, and the voice of a bard, who was, perhaps, singing Homer in modern Greek, or might be celebrating our activity in the whirling ring, with extempore song, like Mr. Barretti's Spaniards, for anything I knew to the contrary.
'If I remember right, it has been a matter of inquiry amongst the moderns, in what manner the ancient Greeks joined their winding dance, which they threw into so many graceful figures, whether by joining hands, or laying hold of a string. It is danced to this day by the modern Greek ladies, exactly in the same manner that I have seen it painted; they form a long single line by each lady laying hold with one hand of the end of a handkerchief, and they twist this line into a great many graceful figures, according to the fancy of the first or leading nymph, in a sort of graceful, flowing, minuet step. However, these people seem to think activity in every shape as much below them, and seem to adhere as religiously to the graces as my Lord Chesterfield. There is a considerable resemblance between this last-mentioned dance and a Polonoise, only with the difference of a single instead of a double line; and I make no doubt but the Poles have taken it from the Greek one, as the countries border one another, but they seem to have thought a line of males no bad addition, and a hand sufficient without a kerchief.
'When upon this musical subject, I must take notice to you also of a company of Buccarin Tartars, who had travelled from their own country down here, to show their dexterity upon the rope, and gave me an opportunity of seeing the drum, I really believe, in its first state of invention. It consists of an earthen pot that bellies towards the top, and covered with a piece of dried lamb skin, which they beat with two round sticks, without knobs at the ends, which would be unnecessary, as they apply the whole surface of the stick to the parchment.
'A pair of these pot drums, a sort of tabor, covered only of one side, and hung with iron rings, and a screaming pipe, is the music with which they exhilarate the spectators during the performance, and I make no doubt that it has the proper effect in Buccari, although the four instruments do not produce six different sounds.
'One would be almost tempted to suppose that this people derived their name from BUCCA, as their face is almost all cheek. I cannot help making an observation upon the performance of those eastern Neurobati, that although they perform some difficult feats upon the rope (which is a thick hair one, and they dance it barefoot), yet there is that Asiatic lentor attends them which I have observed everywhere in the East that I have visited; they have nothing of that activity which accompanies European performance. One thing more offers itself before I take my leave. The Finnas, or Finns, the ancient inhabitants of these countries bordering the gulf where we now dwell, have the bagpipe in a very rude state, and, from its venerable simple appearance I strongly suspect it to be the parent of our Scots one (as I am resolved to send you no orphan), for considering that its principal residence is in the Highlands, and that the Western islands were often visited by the Baltic gentry, it seems very probable that they had the honour of introducing that warbreathing bulga. But, at the same time, I don't mean even to hint that they have the most distant claim to the pibrogh, the cronogh, or any of those noble strains which the Highlanders have taught it; on the contrary, I have had the best opportunity of judging of their merit by hearing the mean original.'
The Tonga Islanders.
The inhabitants of the Tonga Islands are very fond of music, and have concerts in which it is combined with dancing. They have drums of hollowed wood, about four feet long and eighteen inches in diameter, each of which is beat upon by three or four men with sticks. The other instrument is a hollow piece of bamboo, with which they keep time by striking one end against the ground. The orchestra is surrounded by a ring of men singers, while the women sing and dance in a circle round all. They generally begin with a single voice, in a slow and solemn-style, the women marching softly round; this is soon accompanied by an instrument; the other voices and instruments gradually joining, till they arrive at the loudest pitch. They then begin by degrees to quicken their time, both in music and dancing, to the quickest possible. Sometimes in the middle of their career, a full stop is made, and the most profound silence observed for about a minute, when out they set again, more furiously. In some of their pieces they practise the diminuendo in the same degrees of gradation, both with respect to time and noise. The whole is full and musical, mostly in the minor key or third, but in so uncommon a style that it is difficult to get their notes. Their organs and flutes have very little variety, and are never used in concerts.
Henry Lawes, who composed the music of Milton's mask of Comus is said to have been the first who introduced the Italian style of music into England, but he strongly censured the prevailing fondness for Italian words. 'To make the public sensible of this ridiculous humour,' says he, 'I took a table or index of old Italian songs, and this index (which read together made a strange medley of nonsense) I set to a varied air, and gave out that it came from Italy, whereby it hath passed for a rare Italian song.'
In the year 1787, the Neapolitan composers, Piccini and Sacchini, were each required to compose an opera for an entertainment at Fontainbleau. Piccini chose the story of Dido, Sacchini that of Chimenea.
Sacchini soon had his opera ready, and it was deemed a masterpiece. Piccini was late in beginning his task, but when the poetry of his Dido was finished he repaired to the country residence of M. Marmontel, who wrote it. During his stay there, of seventeen days, he composed the whole music of the piece, retaining it in his memory, and only reducing the song part and the bass to notation. 'I passed,' says M. Ginguene, 'a most agreeable morning in going over it with him. We both frequently shed tears.'
In that fine scene, particularly in the fifth act, which is followed by the chorus of the priests of Pluto, Piccini melted into tears, and said, 'Thus has it been with me for these fifteen days. Even when not composing, I could not but weep to think of poor Dido.' Hence, no doubt, arises that strong feeling of sensibility which so predominates throughout this charming piece. In six weeks the whole was ready for performance, and its success was such as to eclipse all rivalry.
Piccini possessed an astonishing versatility of genius. While Dido, at the Opera House,
'0p'd the sacred source of sympathetic tears,'
his pretended lord and sleeper gave birth to emotions perfectly opposite at the Italian Theatre.'
Musical genius generally develops itself at very early age, and musical composers usually establish their reputation very rapidly. This, however, was not the case with the French composer Rameau, who was fifty years of age when he produced his first opera of Hippolite et Arcite. The music of this drama excited professional envy and national discord. Party rage was now as violent between the admirers of Lulli and Rameau, as in England between the friends of Bononcini and Handel, or, in modern times, at Paris, between the Gluckists and the Piccinists.
When the French, during the last century, were so contented with the music of Lulli, it was nearly as good as that of other countries, and better patronised and supported by the most splendid prince in Europe. But this nation, so frequently accused of more volatility and caprice than their neighbours, have manifested a steady persevering constancy in their music, which the strongest ridicule and contempt of other nations could never vanquish.
Rameau only answered his antagonists by new productions, which were still more successful, and, at length, he was acknowledged by his countrymen to be not only superior to all competition at Paris, but sole monarch of the musical world. From 1733 to 1760 he composed twenty-one operas, of which the names and dates are annually published in the 'Spectacles de Paris,' and in many other periodical works.
Rameau's style of composition, which continued in favour unmolested for upwards of forty years, though formed upon that of Lulli, is more rich in harmony and varied in melody. The genre, however displeasing to all ears but those of France, which had been nursed in it, was carried by the learning and genius of Rameau to its acme of perfection, and when that is achieved in any style it becomes the business of subsequent composers to invent or adopt another, in which something is still left to be done, besides servile imitation.
The successful revival of his opera of Castor and Pollux, in 1754, after the victory obtained by his friends over the Italian burletta singers who had raised such disturbance by their performance of Pergolesi's intermezzo, the Serva Pedrona, was regarded as the most glorious event of his life. The partizans for the national honour could never hear it often enough. 'This beautiful opera,' says M. de la Borne, without any diminution in the applause or pleasure of the audience, supported a hundred representations, charming at once the soul, heart, mind, eyes, ears, and imagination of all Paris.'
From this era, to the time of his death, in 1767, at eighty-four years of age, Rameau's glory was complete. The Royal Academy of Music, who all regarded themselves as his children, performed a solemn service in the church of the Oratory, at his funeral; and M. Philidor had a mass performed at the church of the Carmelites, in honour of a man whose talents he so much revered.
Pope's Opinion of Handel.
Handel used frequently to meet Pope at the Earl of Burlington's. The poet one day asked his friend, Arbuthnot, of whose knowledge in music he had a high opinion, what he really thought of Handel as a musician? Arbuthnot replied, 'Conceive the highest you can of his abilities, and they are far beyond anything you can conceive.' Pope, nevertheless, declared, that 'Handel's finest performances gave him no more pleasure than the airs of a common ballad singer.'
Mr. John Davy.
One of the most remarkable instances of musical precocity, and to be ranked, in this respect, with his contemporary, Dr. Crotch, is Mr. John Davy, the living composer of the music of several popular songs and operas. When he was a child of not more than three years of age, he came into a room where his Uncle was playing over a psalm tune on the violoncello, and, the moment he heard the instrument, he ran away crying, and was so terrified, that he was expected to fall into fits. His uncle, however, by a little coaxing, so reconciled him to the instrument, that in a few days he became passionately fond of the amusement. At this time there was a company of soldiers quartered at Crediton, a town about a mile from Hilton; his uncle took him there frequently; and one day, attending the roll-call, he appeared to be greatly delighted with the fifes; but not content with hearing them, he borrowed one, and very soon selected several tunes, which he played very decently.
After this, he collected a quantity of what the country people call biller; it is tubular, and grows on marshy grounds; with this biller he make several imitations of the fife, and sold them to his school-fellows. When between four and five years of age, his ear was so very correct, that he could play any easy tune, after hearing it only once or twice. Before he was six years old, a neighbouring smith, into whose shop he used frequently to run, lost between twenty and thirty horse-shoes. Diligent search was made for them for several days; but all to no purpose. Soon after, the smith heard some musical sounds which seemed to come from the upper part of the house in which young Davy lived, and having listened a sufficient time to be convinced that his ears did not deceive him, he went upstairs, where he discovered the young musician, and his property, between the ceiling of the thatched roof. He had selected eight horseshoes out of more than twenty, to form a complete octave; had suspended each of them by a single cord, clear from the wall, and with a small iron rod, was amusing himself by imitating Crediton chimes; which he did with great exactness. The publicity which this story quickly obtained, induced a neighbouring clergyman, of considerable rank in the church, to take the young prodigy under his patronage. He provided Davy with the use of a harpsichord, on which, by his own unassisted exertions, he was shortly able to play any easy lesson which came in his way. He next applied himself to the violin, and found but few difficulties to surmount in his progress on that instrument. When eleven years old, he was introduced by his patron to the Rev. Mr. Eastcott, of Exeter, who set him down to the piano-forte; and soon perceiving that the seeds of music were sown in a rich soil, he recommended his friends to place him with some cathedral organist, under whom he might have free access to a good instrument, and get some knowledge of the rules of composition. Accordingly, Mr. Jackson, organist of Exeter cathedral, was applied to, who consented to take him, and he was articled to him when about twelve years of age. His progress in church music was hardly credible; in his voluntaries, in particular, his invention is said to have been extraordinary. He continued to improve, and became an excellent performer on the organ. He likewise became a good violin, viol, and violoncello player; - and composed some vocal quartettos, which were thought elegant by the first professors of London.
Mr. Davy has since been regularly retained as a composer to the theatres, and distinguished for the correctness of his several musical pieces, as well as the facility with which they have been produced.
Previous to the year 1770, the price of admission to oratorios performed at the theatres, was as high as to the same species of entertainment at the Opera House. Dr. Arnold, at the little theatre in the Haymarket, was the first to perform them at the usual play-house prices, and the reduction was amply compensated, by the greater numbers who flocked to hear them. Such was the eagerness of the public, that one night, when the Messiah was to be performed, the crowd was so great, that when the doors were opened, an universal rush forced away the bar of the box moneytakers, and the different tiers were instantly filled with every description of auditors.
Dr. Arnold was very eminent as a composer, as his own oratorios and operas bear witness. The fame of his oratorio of the Prodigal Son, was so high, that when, in 1773, it was in contemplation to instal the late Lord North, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, the stewards appointed to conduct the musical department of the ceremony, applied to the composer of the Prodigal Son for permission to perform that oratorio on the occasion. The ready and polite acquiescence of Mr. Arnold in this request, produced him the offer of an honorary degree in the theatre; but conscious of his own scientific qualifications, he preferred the academical mode; and conformably to the statutes of the university, received it in the school-room, where he performed, as an exercise, Hughes's poem on the Power of Music. On such occasions, it is usual for the musical professor of the University to examine the exercise of the candidate; but Dr. W. Hayes returned Mr. Arnold his score unopened, saying, 'Sir, it is quite unnecessary to scrutinize the exercise of the author of the Prodigal Son.
Senesino and Farinelli.
Senesino and Farinelli, when in England together, being engaged at different theatres on the same night, had not an opportunity of hearing each other, till, by one of those sudden stage revolutions which frequently happen, yet are always unexpected, they were both employed to sing on the same stage. Senesino had the part of a furious tyrant to represent; and Farinelli that of an unfortunate hero in chains; but in the course of the very first song, the latter so softened the heart of the enraged tyrant, that Senesino, forgetting his assumed character, ran to Farinelli, and embraced him.
This eminent composer was, at an early period of his life, put to the study of the law, a profession equally inconsistent with his genius and his inclination. Having privately procured an old violin, he used to steal to his garret, in order to learn to play upon that instrument; and such was his assiduity, that, without the aid of any tutor, he soon acquired such facility of execution, as to play in a band with judgment and precision. His father, who had never received the least intimation of his strong propensity to music, being accidentally invited to a concert, was astonished to find his son flourishing in the orchestra, as one of the principal performers.
The father of young Arne finding the bent of his inclination, emancipated him from the dry and irksome study of the law, and placed him under the tuition of Festin, an excellent performer on the violin, where he soon rivalled the eminent abilities of his master. His talents soon brought him into a familiar intimacy with Farinelli, Senesino, Geminiani, and the other great Italian contemporary musicians.
At the early age of eighteen, Mr. Arne produced the opera of Rosamond, but it was not very successful; however, his masques of Alfred and Comus, altered from Milton, soon established his reputation as a composer, and he afterwards gave a series of operas to the public, which displayed the skill and talent of a great master. He was honoured with the degree of Doctor of Music, by the University of Oxford, on which occasion he composed an admission ode, which has not been printed.
During the residence of Dr. Arne at Ditton, near Hampton Court, he received a visit from Mr. Garrick, chiefly with a view of hearing Miss Brent, whose taste the Doctor had cultivated with uncommon pains, and on whose vocal powers he justly set a high value. Garrick readily acquiesced in her superior merit; but, said he, in his usual familiar way, 'Tommy, you should consider that music is at best but pickle to my roast beef.' 'Is it not, Davy?' replied the Doctor, in a strain of equal jocularity: 'your beef then shall be well pickled before I have done.'
Miss Brent accordingly made her first appearance at Covent Garden Theatre, in the Beggar's Opera, which was repeated with such success, that Drury Lane house was nearly deserted, except on those nights that Garrick himself performed; and he was compelled to introduce operas in order to rival the other theatre.
When Anlaff, King of the Danes, invaded Britain about the middle of the tenth century, he disguised himself as a minstrel, in order to explore the camp of King Athelstan. With his harp in his hand, he went among the Saxon tents, and taking his stand near the king's pavilion, began to play, when he was instantly admitted. There he entertained Athelstan and his lords with his singing and his music; and was at length dismissed with an honourable reward, though his songs must have discovered him to be a Dane; but the profession of a minstrel was respected even in an enemy.
Frederick the Great.
Frederick the Great of Prussia was a very celebrated musician, both as a composer and performer. His productions are very numerous, he having composed, for his own use only, one hundred solos, on the flute, on which he played skilfully, until within a few years of his death, when, by the loss of several of his fore teeth, he was unable to practise his favourite amusement. When he was not in the field, he dedicated four hours every day to the study or practice of music. Quants, his favourite, composed three hundred concertos for him, which he performed in rotation every night.
The Horn Music of Russia.
A species of horn music peculiar to Russia and Poland, was invented by a Prince Gallitzin, in the year 1762. The instrument consists of forty persons, whose life is spent in blowing one note. The sounds produced are precisely similar to those of an immense organ, with this difference, that each note seems to blend with its preceding and following one, a circumstance that occasions a blunt sensation to the car, and gives a monotony to the whole. However, the effect possesses much sublimity, when the performers are unseen; but when they are visible, it is impossible to silence reflections, which join with the harmony, as to see human nature reduced to such an use, calls up thoughts very inimical to admiration of strains so awakened.
Some of these individuals who, with the pipes, are collectively called the instrument, thus destined to drag through a melancholy existence, play at different times on several pipes of various sizes, which breathe the higher notes; but the bass pipes have each their unchanging blower; they are extremely long, and are laid upon a machine or trussels, close to which the performer stands, and places his mouth to the smaller extremity of the pipe, in a horizontal position. The shape is exactly that of a hearing trumpet; a screw is inserted near the bell of the tube, to give it a sharper or flatter note, as may be required. The performers are, in general, thin and pale, and (says Sir R. Ker Porter, who gives this account) I have little doubt but that the quantity of air the instrument takes, and the practice necessary for perfection in execution, must subtract many years from the otherwise natural term of their lives.
The Musical Smallcoal-Man.
The eccentric Thomas Britton, better known by the name of the Musical Smallcoal-man, though living in an old and ruinous house in Aylesbury Street, Clerkenwell, attracted as polite an audience to his concerts as ever frequented the opera. The ceiling of the room in which his concert was held, was so low, that a tall man could barely stand erect in it - the staircase was outside the house, and could scarcely be ascended without crawling; yet ladies of the first rank in the kingdom forgot the difficulty with which they ascended the steps, in the pleasure of Britton's concert, which was attended by the most distinguished professors.
Of the origin of Britton's concert, we have an account written by a near neighbour of his, the facetious Ned Ward, the author of the 'London Spy,' and many doggrel verses, who, at that time, kept a public-house in Clerkenwell. In one of his publications, entitled, 'Satirical Reflections on Clubs,' he has bestowed a whole chapter on the Smallcoalman's club. He says, 'the club was first begun, or at least confirmed, by Sir Roger L'Estrange, a very musical gentleman, and who had a tolerable perfection on the base viol.' Ward further says, that 'the attachment of Sir Roger, and other ingenious gentlemen, lovers of the muses, to Britton, arose from the profound regard that he had in general to all manner of literature; that the prudence of his deportment to his betters, procured him great respect; and that men of the greatest wit, as well as some of the highest quality, honoured his musical society with their company.' Britton was, indeed, so much distinguished, that when passing along the streets in his blue linen frock, and with his sack of small coal on his back, he was frequently accosted with such expressions as these: 'There goes the famous Smallcoalman, who is a lover of learning, a performer of music, and a companion for gentlemen.'
Music was in great favour among the Saxons and the Danes, who invaded Britain. Alfred the Great introduced himself into the Danish camp under the disguise of a harper; and passing unsuspected through every quarter, he, by his excellent performance on that instrument, gained admission to the principal general, and made himself so far acquainted with the state of the enemy, as next day to obtain a signal triumph over them.
It is related of Cadmon, the sacred poet, who lived during the Heptarchy, that he had attached himself so much to serious studies, that he neglected music; and being sometimes in company where the harp went round, it then being the custom at festivals for each person in company to sing and play in turn, he left the company, being ashamed that it should be remarked that he was deficient in a branch of education which was esteemed necessary to complete the character of a gentleman.
British harpers were famous long before the conquest. The bounty of William of Normandy to his joculator, or bard, is recorded in Doomsday book. The harp seems to have been the favourite instrument of Britain for many ages, under the British, Saxon, Danish, and Norman kings. The fiddle, however, is mentioned so early as 1200, in the legendary life of St. Christopher.
Richard the First was very fond of music; and the place of his confinement in Germany, after returning from the Holy Land, was discovered by his minstrel, Blondel, by means of a French song which they had jointly composed.
Henry the Third, in the 26th year of his reign, gave forty shillings and a pipe of wine to Richard his harper, and a pipe of wine to Beatrice, the harper's wife; in such estimation were the musicians then held.
Edward the First, before he ascended the throne, took his harper with him to the Holy Land; and, when the prince was wounded with a poisoned knife at Ptolemais, the musician rushed into the royal apartment, and killed the assassin. When king, however, Edward extirpated the bards of Wales.
John of Gaunt granted a charter to his minstrels, entitled, Carta de Roy de Minstrael. This charter included the counties of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, and Warwick, over which the King of the Minstrels held sway, with power to apprehend and arrest, to impannel juries, hear plaints, and determine controversies between the members of his society.
Edward the Fourth also granted a charter to the minstrels in 1469, making them one body and commonalty perpetual, and capable in law.
From this time, music appears to have been successfully cultivated; and in the reign of Elizabeth, the genius and learning of the British musicians were not inferior to any on the continent; an observation scarcely applicable to any other period of the history of this country. Sacred music was the principal object of study all over Europe.
About the end of the reign of James the First, a music lecture or professorship was founded in the University of Oxford. In the reign of Charles I., a charter was granted to the musicians of Westminster, incorporating them, as the king's, into a body politic, with powers to prosecute and fine all who, except themselves, should attempt to make any benefit or advantage of music in England or Wales;' powers which, in the subsequent reign, were put in execution.
Towards the end of the reign of Charles II. a passion seems to have been excited in England for the violin, and for pieces expressly composed for it in the Italian manner. Previous to 1600 there was little music except madrigals and masses, the two principal divisions of sacred and secular music; but from that time to the present, dramatic music has been the chief object of attention, and the annals of music have hitherto furnished no event so important to the progress of the art, as the invention of recitative or dramatic melody, a style of music which resembles the manner of the ancient rhapsodists.
During the seventeenth century, whatever attempts were made in musical drama, the language sung was always English. About the end of that century, however, Italian singing began to be encouraged, and vocal, as well as instrumental musicians from that country, began to appear in London; from which period, Italian music has continued popular.
The Irish Orpheus, Carolan, seems, from the description we have of him, to have been a genuine representative of the ancient bards. Though blind and untaught, yet his attainments in music were of the highest order. At what period of his life Carolan commenced an itinerant musician, is not known; nor is it ascertained, whether, like many others, he n'eut abord d'autre Apollon que le besoin, or whether his fondness for music induced him to betake himself to that profession. Dr. Campbell, indeed, seems to attribute his choice of it to an early disappointment in love. But wherever he went, the gates of the nobility land gentry were thrown open to him, and a distinguished place assigned him at table. Carolan thought the tribute of a song due to every house where he was entertained, and he seldom failed to pay it, choosing for his subject either the head of the family, or the loveliest of its branches. Indeed, on every occasion, the emotions of his heart, whether of joy or grief, were expressed in his harp. Many a favourite fair has been the theme of a beautiful planxty; and as soon as the first excess of grief for the loss of his wife had subsided, he composed a monody on her death, teeming with harmony and poetic beauties.
The fame of Carolan soon extended over Ireland, and, among others, reached the ears of an eminent Italian music master in Dublin, who putting his abilities to a severe test, became convinced how well his reputation was merited. The Italian singled out an excellent piece of music, but in several places either altered or mutilated the piece, although in such a manner, as that no one but a real judge could make the discovery. It was then played to Carolan, who bestowed the deepest attention on the performance, although he was not aware of its being intended as a trial of his skill; or that the critical moment was then at hand, which was to determine his reputation.
When it was finished, and Carolan was asked his opinion, he declared that it was an admirable piece of music; but, said he, very humorously, in his own language, 'ta se air chois air bacaighe,' that is, here and there it limps and stumbles. He was then requested to rectify the errors; and this he did immediately, to the astonishment of the Italian, who pronounced Carolan to be a true musical genius. [For some farther notices of Carolan [see Anecdotes of Imagination.]
The Imitative Music.
The power of music as an imitative art though not successful, to the extent it has been attempted to be carried, has been sufficiently remarkable. The Highland pibrochs, of the gathering of the clans, are, some of them very happy instances Of this power. They represent the assembling of the clan around the banner of their chief, the march to the distant hills, the gradual approach quickening into the onset, the confusion and turbulent rapidity of the conflict, with the triumph and defeat of the respective armies.
Rousseau was, of opinion that the power of music in imitation, was almost unlimited. He says, 'The musician will not only agitate the sea, animate the flame of a conflagration, make rivulets flow, the rain fall, the torrents swell, but he will paint the horrors of a boundless desert, calm the tempest, and render the air tranquil and serene. He will not directly represent things, but excite in the soul the same movement which we feel in seeing them.'
Mr. Browne, the painter, in the Poetry and Music of the Italian Opera, says, ' It is surely evident that resemblance, or analogies, may be produced by means of sounds and of their rhythm, and arrangement to everything in nature, which we perceive, in consequence of sound and motion thus, the whistling of winds, the noise of thunder, the roaring and dashing of the sea, the murmurs of a storm, the solemn waving of a lofty pine, the forked motion and momentary appearance of lightning, the grand swelling of a billow, must, even to those who have not an ear, appear all within the compass of musical imitation.' But he goes still further, and tells us, that the imitation of which music is capable, is not to be stinted to such positive resemblances as those now cited, but general ideas of extension, of repose, and of energy, of debility, of union, &c., may be clearly conveyed by different qualities, modifications, arrangements, and combinations of musical sounds.
Handel, perhaps, carried the imitative art farther than any composer. In his oratorio of Israel in Egypt, he has imitated, by notes, the buzzing of flies, and the leaping of frogs, and has rattled down a hailstorm so wonderfully, that to the imaginations of the greater part of those who attended the music meetings in Westminster Abbey, it absolutely realized dreary winter, while everything in nature was invigorated by the warm rays of the genial sun.
In a celebrated song,
'On a plot of rising ground,
I hear the far-off curfew sound,'
Handel has also imitated the evening bell with great success; and in
'Hush, ye pretty warbling choirs,'
he has most charmingly imitated the singing of birds, by a flageolet in the accompaniment.
The Abbe Vogler, chapel master to the King of Sweden, who performed publicly in London in the year 1790, was famous for his imitations, of which his performances on the organ chiefly consisted. A pastoral scene, interrupted by a storm, was considered as one of his best; it commenced with a pastoral movement, and the storm was introduced by the whistling of the wind: this increased, until there was a loud burst of thunder. The storm then gradually decreased, until all was calm and serene. The effect of this is said to have been very astonishing.
The Music of the Spheres.
The imaginary music of the spheres is a doctrine of great antiquity, since we find allusion to it in the Holy Scriptures. Job, chapter 38, speaks of the creation, 'when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.'
Among the ancient writers, this was a favourite subject of philosophical inquiry. Pythagoras and Plato were of opinion that the music constituted the soul of the planets in our system; and the disciples of both these celebrated philosophers supposed the universe to be formed on the principles of harmony. The Pythagoreans maintained an opinion which many of the poets have adopted, that music is produced by the motion of the spheres in their several orbits; that the names of sounds in all probability were derived from the seven stars.
Pythagoras says, that the whole world is made according to musical proportion. Plato asserts, that the soul of the world is conjoined with musical proportion.
Sir Isaac Newton was of opinion that the principles of harmony pervade the universe, and gives a proof of the general principle from the analogy be when colours and sounds.
From a number of experiments made on a ray of light, with the prism, he found that the primary colours occupied spaces exactly corresponding with those intervals which constitute the octave in the division of - a musical chord; and hence he has obviously shown the affinity between the harmony of colours and musical sounds.
Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, Mason, and other eminent poets, all seem to favour the Pythagorean system. The first of these, whose vast mind grasped the whole creation, with its internal mechanism, at once, thus happily alludes to the subject in his play of The Merchant of Venice:
'There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st,
'But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubims;
Such harmony is in immortal sounds!
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear it.'
When Farinelli was at Venice, he was honoured with the most marked attention from the Emperor Charles VI.; but of all the favours he received from that monarch, he used to say, that he valued none more than an admonition which he received from him on his style of singing. His imperial majesty condescended to tell him one day, with great mildness and affability, that his singing was, indeed, supernatural, that he neither moved nor stood still like any other mortal; but 'these gigantic strides,' continued his majesty, 'these never ending notes and passages, only surprise, and it is now time for you to please; you are too lavish of the gifts with which nature has endowed you; if you wish to reach the heart, you must take a more plain and simple road.' These few words brought about an entire change in Farinelli's manner of singing; from this time he mixed the pathetic with the spirited, the simple with the sublime, and by these means, delighted as well as astonished every hearer.
Ballad Singing Divine.
Dr. Richard Corbet, Bishop of Norwich, was a great humorist, both in his words and actions. 'After he was D.D.,' says Aubrey, 'he sang ballads at the Crosse at Abingdon. On a market day, he and some of his comrades were at the taverne by the Crosse (which, by the way, was then the finest in England). A ballad singer complained that he had no custome, he could not put off his ballads. The jolly Dr. puts off his gowne, and puts on the ballad singer's leathern jacket, and being a handsome man, and having a rare full voice, he presently vended a great many, and had a great audience.'
For nearly two centuries certain circumstances contributed to retard the cultivation, or at least the success, of music in Italy. This may perhaps be accounted for by the attention which was bestowed on the cultivation of science, and which occasioned art to be in some measure neglected. Devoted chiefly to Divine worship, and practised amidst the darkness of cloisters and religious institutions, the secrets of harmony, and the theories of counterpoint, restricted genius within a circle of solemn, but naturally uniform, compositions. It must not, however, be supposed that sacred music and its august uses constitute an unfertile source of beauty and expression, when the composer can range at freedom through the infinite sphere of celestial ideas and inspirations. At the period here alluded to, a sort of learned routine chilled the fancy of the composer; its influence even pervaded the taste for theatrical representations, and nothing was produced on the stage but mythological and allegorical subjects, destitute of interest or variety. But when poetry, in dramas of another description, suited to the development of the musical art, presented to the composer resources and effects like those which tragedy and comedy derive from a delineation of the human heart, music seemed to have acquired a new empire, and aspired to express all that had before belonged exclusively to the art of the dramatic poet.
This change was brought about towards the commencement of the eighteenth century, by the productions of Apostolo Zeno, Metastasio, Goldoni, &c. The style of composition, the arrangement of scores, the method of singing, all underwent modifications. Taste and science mutually assisted each other in painting the passions, the sentiments, the follies, the contrasts and the novel situations which were acquired by the more intimate union of music with the dramatic art.
It may be said that at that period music was introduced to the world; she became connected with the habits and enjoyments of society. The companion of the other arts, and subject to the same public judgments, she constituted a portion of the literatute of every nation. Like all works of imagination, musical compositions became the objects of those parallels which criticism establishes among the various creations of fancy. The learned school of Leo, Vinci, and Durante, soon grew to be a nursery of celebrated composers, who succeeded each other for the space of half a century. Their names were declared worthy of being associated with those of Michael Angelo and Raphael. Finally, in the short period of fifty years, music was allowed by the best critics to have equalled the art of design, and to have attained the summit to which the latter were raised in the sixteenth century.
About this epoch of the universal art, Giovanni Paesiello appeared, and soon distinguished himself by his musical talents. It is well known that, about the time when Piccini quitted Italy to visit France, he became, by his concurrence with the celebrated Saxon (Gluck) the occasion of a musical war, which is nearly as celebrated as the siege of Troy. The Italians did not at that time perfectly comprehend the object of a parallel which seemed to divide between two rivals the empire of musical glory. In Italy that empire was shared by several masters, who were equal in genius, though their style of composition was various. No one thought of establishing any decided superiority among the works of Palestrina, Sarti, Piccini, or Sacchini. It was even believed that music had long since passed through every degree in the circle of genius.
In the meanwhile, Paesiello had studied in Italy the various distinctions between the styles of Gluck and Piccini. Certain wellknown causes have produced in Germany a strong taste for the study of harmony and instrumental music, especially compositions for wind instruments. In Italy, the taste for singing is innate, and, at that period in particular, all instrumental accompaniments were rendered subordinate to the voice of the singer. Paesiello imparted richness and variety to the Italian orchestra by the introduction of wind instruments. He gave additional energy to the orchestra without diminishing the eloquence of the song. He composed a vast number of airs with accompaniments for the clarionet and hautboy; and his compositions, whilst they retained all their graceful simplicity, produced a more rich and varied effect than before. It was universally acknowledged that he had improved upon the art of his predecessors. It seemed as though music could make no further advancement without falling into extravagance. Since this period, Italian music has predominated in every part of Europe.
Singing at Sight.
In 1741, Handel, proceeding to Ireland, was detained for some days at Chester, in consequence of the weather. During this time he applied to Mr. Baker, the organist, to know whether there were any choir-men in the cathedral who could sing at sight, as he wished to prove some books that had been hastily transcribed, by trying the choruses. Mr. Baker mentioned some of the best singers in Chester, and, among the rest, a printer of the name of Janson, who had a good bass voice, and was one of the best musicians in the choir. A time was fixed for this private rehearsal at the Golden Falcon, where Handel had taken up his residence; when on trial of the chorus in the Messiah, 'And with his stripes we are healed,' poor Janson, after repeated attempts, failed completely. Handel got enraged, and after abusing him in five or six different languages, exclaimed in broken English, 'You schauntrel, tit you not dell I me dat you could sing at soite?' 'Yes, sir,' said the printer; 'and so I can, but not at first sight.'
Men in a state of nature, in every zone, make great use of reeds. The Greeks said with truth, that reeds had contributed to subjugate nations, by furnishing arrows, softening men's manners by the charms of music, and unfolding their understanding, by affording the first instruments for tracing letters. Humboldt says, these different uses of reeds mark, in some degree, the three different periods in the lives of nations. The tribes of the Oroonoko are found at the first step of dawning civilization. The reed serves them only as an instrument of war, and of hunting; and the Pan's pipe has not yet, on those distant shores, yielded signs capable of awakening mild and humane feelings.
To make reeds of different lengths, and make them sound in succession, by passing them before the lips, is a simple idea, and naturally presented itself to every nation. We were surprised (says Humboldt) to see with what promptitude the young Indians constructed and tuned those pipes, when they found reeds on the banks of the river. These reeds, ranged in a line, and fastened together, resemble the pipe of Pan, as we find it represented in the Bacchanalian processions on Greek vases. These reeds, which emit feeble sounds, form a slow and plaintive accompaniment to the dances of the natives.
Bruce, in his description of the military trumpet used in Abyssinia, says, that it sounds only one note, in a hoarse and terrible tone, and that it is played slow when on a march, or before an enemy appears in sight; but afterwards, it is repeated very quick, and with great violence. It has a powerful effect on the Abyssinian soldiers, transporting them absolutely to fury and madness, and rendering them so regardless of life, as to make them throw themselves into the middle of the enemy, and fight with the most determined gallantry against all advantages. Bruce says he has often, in time of peace, tried what effect this change would have upon them, and found that none who heard it could remain seated, but that they all rose up, and continued the whole time in motion.
Medicinal Effects of Music.
The effects attributed to music in the relief and cure of various maladies, are so marvellous, as to excite very just suspicion of their truth; many of them, however, are too well authenticated to be wholly denied. Martinus Capella assures us, that fevers were removed by song; and that Asclepiades cured deafness by the sound of the trumpet. Plutarch says, that Thelates, the Cretan, delivered the Lacedaemonians from the pestilence, by the sweetness of his lyre; and many other ancient writers speak of music as a remedy for almost every malady:
Cicero notices the astonishing power of music; and Plato supposes that the effect of harmony on the mind, is equal to that of air on the body. Father Kircher requires four conditions in music proper for the removal of sickness: ist, harmony; 2nd, number and proportion; 3rd, efficacious and pathetic words joined to the harmony; 4th, skill in the adaptation of these indispensable parts to the constitution, disposition, and inclination of the patient.
The Phrygian pipe is recommended by several of the ancient fathers as an antidote to the sciatica; and, indeed, according to some writers, every malady has, at some time or other, yielded to the power of music.
Modern times also furnish numerous instances of the effect of music on diseases. In the History of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, for 1707, a very remarkable case of this kind is related.
A musician, who was a great proficient in his art, and famous for his compositions, was seized with a fever, which gradually increasing, became at last accompanied with alarming paroxysms. On the seventh day he fell into a very violent and almost uninterrupted delirium, accompanied with shrieks, tears, horrors, and a perpetual want of sleep. On the third day of his delirium, one of those natural instincts which are commonly said to prompt animals in distress to seek for those herbs that are proper for their case, made him desirous of hearing a small concert in his chamber. His physician did not consent to the proposal without some reluctance. It was at last, however, agreed to, and the cantatas of M. Bernier were sung to him; no sooner had the soft melodious strain touched him, than his countenance assumed an air of sweetness and serenity, his eyes became calm, his convulsions ceased entirely, he shed tears of joy, and was more affected with that particular music than ever he had been by any before his disorder, or any that he heard after his cure. He was free from the fever while the concert lasted, but when it was at an end, he relapsed into his former state. The use of a remedy whose success had been at once so happy and unexpected, was continued; the fever and delirium were always suspended during the concert, and music was become so necessary to the patient, that, during the night, he made a relation of his own, who often attended him, sing, and even dance to him. This relation being himself much affected, paid him such pieces of complaisance with reluctance. One night, when he had no other person but his nurse with him, and who could only blunder out the harsh and unharmonious notes of some country ballad, he was obliged to be contented with her music, and even found some relief from it. A continuance of the music for ten days cured him entirely, without the assistance of any other remedy, except once taking some blood from his ankle, which was the second time the operation had been performed on him during his disorder. To the power of music, however, his cure was attributed.
M. Dodat, who relates this singular case, does not pretend to say that it may be considered as a general rule; but it is remarkable how effectually concerts restored the spirits gradually to their natural course in this patient, in whom music, by long habit, had become almost the soul of his intellectual existence. It is not, however, probable that a painter would be cured by viewing the exquisite and masterly touches of his fellow artist, in a piece of painting, since performances of that kind are not found to have the same effect as music on the spirits; indeed, in this respect, it stands single.
A work has recently been published in Germany on this subject, which cites a number of curious facts, which are adduced as proof, that the most serious disorders, after having resisted every remedy, have at length yielded to the charms of music, and that the most acute pain has been mitigated by listening to pathetic melody. The author asserts, that in cases of hemorrhage, the most astonishing effects have been observed.
M. de Mairan, in the History of the Academy of Sciences just alluded to, speaking of the medicinal power of music, says, that it is from the mechanical involuntary connexion between the organs of hearing and the consonances excited in the outward air, joined to the rapid communication of the vibrations of these organs to the whole nervous system, that we owe the cure of spasmodic disorders, and of fevers, attended with a delirium and convulsions.
Dr. Bianchini says, he has witnessed many instances in which music has been applied with great effect, in cases of acute and chronical diseases. Dr. Leake says, that music produces its salutary effects by exciting a peculiar sensation on the nerves of the ear, which communicate with the brain, and general nervous system. He says that its sovereign influence over the mind cannot be disputed; that it is balm to the wounded spirit, exalts the soul above low-thoughted care, and wraps it in elysium.
Dr, Cox relates a case of the power of music on insanity, in which great benefit was obtained in the cure of a soldier, by the music of a fife; but the fife evidently produced its effect by breaking through the train of disordered ideas, and introducing new associations, from the recollection of past scenes, in which he was warmly interested.
Sense and Sound.
It is related of Haydn, that when about to compose, 'noting down his principal idea or theme, and choosing the keys through which he wished it to pass, he imagined a little romance which might furnish him with musical sentiments and colours.' The strict connexion which thus subsisted between the poetical and the musical imagination of Haydn, was of great advantage to him in his compositions. He thus introduced into his melodies an air of reality which we in vain look for in those of his predecessors.
The musical idea, though originally vigorous and impressive, may be clothed in phraseology so clumsy, as to deprive it of all elegance. This phraseology is as capable of improvement, as the modes of expression in poetic language; and in the airs of Haydn and Mozart, we discover that beautiful connexion, that perpetual variety of expression, and that polished elegance of manner, which are so rarely met with even in the compositions of Corelli, Handel, Gluck, or Arne.
The ancient bard has been defined in Ossian's Poems, to be one 'who sung of the battles of heroes, or the heaving breasts of love.' A correct ear, a fine voice, skill in instrumental music, and a poetical genius, were all requisite to excel in the profession of a bard; and as such talents have ever been rare, the few that possessed them were highly esteemed. Bards were principal persons at every festival, and at every solemnity. Their songs, which, by recording the achievements of kings and heroes, animated every hearer, were the entertainment of every warlike nation.
Hesiod relates, that bards in his time were very numerous; and Demodocus is mentioned by Homer as celebrated in his profession. Cicero informs us, that at Roman festivals, the virtues and exploits of their great men were sung; and we learn that the same custom prevailed in Peru and Mexico, on the discovery of the New World. Father Gabien says, that even the inhabitants of the Marian islands have bards, who are greatly admired, because in their songs are celebrated the feats of their ancestors.
In no part of the world, however, did the profession of bard appear with such lustre as in Gaul, in Britain, and in Ireland. Wherever the Celtae, or Gauls, are mentioned by ancient writers, we seldom fail to bear of their druids and their bards; and both these orders of men seem to have existed among them from time immemorial. Ammianus Marcellinus says, that the study of the most laudable arts among the Celtae was introduced by the bards, whose office it was to sing in heroic verse the gallant actions of illustrious men. The druids had some share in promoting civilization at this period. Though Julius Caesar, in his account of Gaul, does not expressly mention the bards; yet it is evident that he includes them under the title of druids, since he says, that such as were to be initiated into this order, were obliged to commit to memory a great number of verses, insomuch that some employed twenty years in their education; and that they did not think it lawful to record those poems in writing, but sacredly handed them down by tradition from race to race.
The attachment of the Celtic nations to their poetry and their bards, was so strong, that amidst all the changes of their own government and manners, even long after the order of the druids was extinct, and the national religion altered, the bards continued to flourish, not as a set of strolling songsters, like the Greek rhapsodists, but as an order of men highly respected in the state, and supported by a public establishment. Thus we find their remaining under the same name, and exercising the same functions as of old, in Ireland and the north of Scotland, even to very recent times, where every chief had his own bard, who was considered as an officer of rank in his court.
The bards, as well as the druids, were exempted from taxes and military service, even in times of the greatest danger; and when they attended their patrons in the field, to record and celebrate their great actions, they had a guard assigned them for their protection. At all festivals and public assemblies, they were seated near the person of the king or chieftain, and sometimes even above the greatest nobility and chief officers of the court. Nor was the profession of the bards less lucrative than it was honourable; for besides the valuable presents which they occasionally received from their patrons when they gave them uncommon pleasure by their performances, they had estates in land allotted for their support. Indeed, so great was the veneration in which the princes of those times held the bards, and so highly were they charmed and delighted with their tuneful strains, that they sometimes pardoned capital crimes for a song.
It may readily be supposed, that a profession that was at once so honourable and advantageous, and that enjoyed so many flattering distinctions, and desirable immunities, would not be deserted. It was, indeed, amply supplied; and we learn that the number of bards in some countries, particularly Ireland, are almost incredible. In Ossian, we find frequent mention of a hundred bards belonging to one prince, singing and playing in a concert for his entertainment. Every chief bard, who was called Allah Redan, or Doctor in Poetry, was allowed to have thirty bards of inferior note constantly about his person; and every bard of the second rank, was allowed a retinue of fifteen disciples.
In the first stages of society in all countries, the sister arts of music and poetry seem to have been always united. Every poet was a musician, and sung his own verses to the sound of some musical instrument. Indeed it seems probable that the ancient Britons, as well as many other nations of antiquity, had no idea of poems that were only made to be repeated, and not to be sung to the sound of musical instruments. The bards, says Diodorus Siculus, 'sung their poems to the sound of an instrument not unlike a lyre;' and Ammianus Marcellinus says, they 'celebrated the brave actions of illustrious men in heroic poems, which they sung to the sweet sounds of the lyre;' and succeeding writers give these accounts full confirmation.
The bardic profession in Britain, sunk on the invasion of the Romans; for after the Britons had submitted quietly to their yoke, yielded up their arms, and lost their free and martial spirit, they could take little pleasure in hearing or repeating the songs of their bards in honour of the glorious achievements of their ancestors. These sons of song being thus persecuted by their conquerors, and neglected by their own countrymen, either abandoned their country or profession; and their songs being no longer heard, were soon forgotten.
Some remains of the ancient bard were to be met with in the strolling minstrels who wandered through the country with their harps. One of the last of these was Roberick Dall, who was living about the middle of the last century. His compositions were in great repute among the Highland families of distinction. He had a pleasing voice, and was a fine player on the harp.
The Rev. Mr. Gostling, Sub-dean of Westminster, was very fond of the viol-da-gamba, on which he played skilfully. Purcell, who lived with him on terms of great intimacy, hated the viol-da-gamba, and determining to teaze his friend, got some person to write the following mock eulogium on the viol, which he set in the form of a round for three voices :
'Of all the instruments that are,
None with the viol can compare;
Mark how the strings their order keep,
With a whet, whet, whet; and a sweep, sweep, sweep;
But above all this still abounds,
With a zingle, zingle, zing, and a zit, zan, zounds.'
This musical jeu d'esprit, nearly put Mr. Gostling out of love with the viol-da-gamba.
Purcell himself was the subject of a musical vagary. Mr. Tomlinson wrote a homorous Latin rebus on Purcell's name, in which it is intimated, that he was not less admired for his performance on the organ, than for his compositions. The verses were set to music in the form of a catch, by Mr. Linton. The translation is as follows:
'A mate to a cock, and corn tall as wheat,
Is his Christian name, who in music's complete;
His surname begins with the grace of a cat,
And concludes with the house of a hermit; note that.
His skill and performance each auditor wins,
But the poet deserves a good kick on the shins.'
Persons who are deprived of sight are generally blessed with a fine ear; hence, perhaps, it arises that music is a favourite study with the blind. Dr. Nicholas Saunderson, the celebrated blind mathematician, was a singular instance of this delicacy of ear. He could readily distinguish to the fifth part of a note; and by his performance on the flute, which he had learned as an amusement in his younger years, discovered such a genius for music, As would probably have appeared as wonderful as his excellence in the mathematics, had he cultivated the art with equal application.
The Romans did not confine the beauties of eloquence to the importance of the subject, the powers of language, or the niceties of composition, but included propriety of gesture, and melody of voice. Cicero relates, that Caius Gracchus had a servant who played admirably on the flageolet, and stood behind the orator while he was haranguing, in order to rouse him when his utterance became languid, or to moderate his tones when they rose too high. These musicians were no doubt entertaining to the audience when the orator was heavy and dull, and might be very usefully employed to enliven a dull debate at the present day.
Several instances of musical genius developing itself in infants, have been mentioned in this part, and in the Anecdotes of Youth; to those may be added the following, which are equally striking.
John Hummell, a native of Vienna, discovered a strong propensity for music before he was three years old. As soon as he was able to utter his letters distinctly and with facility, he commenced his musical education under his father. After some time, he became a pupil of Mozart, whose manner and taste in playing on the piano-forte, he faithfully copied. When about five years of age, he played publicly in the most correct style, and composed some select pieces of music.
In 1791, being then ten years of age, Hummell came to England, where his astonishing performance on the grand pianoforte, at the Hanover Square concerts, and other places in London, were the subject of universal admiration. A professional gentleman who heard him on one of these occasions, says he played one of the most difficult lessons he ever heard, with the greatest neatness and precision; and he adds, I think I may venture to say, that few professors would attempt to surmount the many extremely difficult and complicated passages which ran through the whole of this lesson, and which he executed, so far as I could judge by the testimony of the ear, without missing a single note. The lesson was of his own composition.'
Charles and Samuel Wesley, sons of the Rev. Charles Wesley of Bristol, were both remarkable for musical precocity. Charles, before he was three years old, played a tune on the harpsichord readily and in correct time. His mother had used this instrument almost from his birth, to quiet and amuse him; and before he could speak, he would not suffer her to play with one hand only, but would take the other and put it on the keys. As his years increased his abilities improved, and he became a celebrated composer, particularly in some pieces for two organs, which were ably performed by himself and his brother.
Samuel Wesley, the brother of Charles, when three years old, attempted to play 'God save the Queen,' 'Fisher's Minuet,' and other tunes, and before he was nine years of age, he composed several oratorios, particularly the oratorio of Ruth, produced when he was only eight years old. Dr. Boyce being or, a visit to old Mr. Wesley, was shown this oratorio, when after perusing it with great attention. he praised it in terms of the highest admiration, and said, 'Nature has given to this child, by intuition, what it has cost me many years of close application to acquire.'
In 1790, there was a child little more than four years old, brought from Warwickshire, to London, whose musical talents excited great astonishment. The boy, who was the son of a maltster of the name of Appleton, near Birmingham, had, until he was more than three years old, so strong an aversion to all notes of melody, that he constantly burst into tears when either his father or mother sung, or played on any instrument. But suddenly he became so passionately enamoured of those sounds, to which he had before shown such signs of aversion. In nine months he was able to play several of the difficult fugues of Handel and Corelli on the pianoforte and organ, with fine taste, and the most discriminative touch.
A recent traveller in Germany, when at Perghen, met with an amusing itinerant, who seemed to live more by his wits than his work. He paid for his potatoes and straw like the ancient bards, by reciting songs, poems, and stories. The principal subjects of his themes were the triumphs, real and imaginary, of the Prussian armies, the fatherly care of General Blucher, and the crimes of Bonaparte. He seemed to have collected all that had been written on these subjects, and quite charmed the people of the inn where he stopped, by his recitals. They were doubly pleased when he sang any which they knew, and when they could join with him. They had also learned to sing of the heroic deeds of the Prussians, and nothing but these war songs seemed to give them pleasure.
Earl of Mornington.
The late Earl of Mornington, the father of the present Duke of Wellington, was one of the few noble composers that the history of music has to record. His lordship, when an infant, and in his nurse's arms, was uncommonly attentive whenever his father, who was a good musician, played on the violin. A musician of the name of Dubourg, who was at that time a distinguished performer on that instrument, being once at the earl's house, and offering to take the violin, the child manifested the strongest objections to his father's parting with it; but when he heard Dubourg play, his infant mind became so sensible of the superiority, that he would never after permit his father to play when Dubourg was present.
The earl did not commence performer until he was nine years old; but his lordship was soon so distinguished for his musical abilities, that the University of Dublin conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Music, and he was appointed king's professor. One of his songs, 'Here in cool grot,' has always been much admired.
Although Dr. Johnson had no ear for music, yet he was sensible that to many persons it was a source of exquisite delight, and in his opinion, all such enjoyed an additional sense.
The Doctor, when one day at Mrs. Thrale's, listened very attentively while Miss Thrale played upon the harpsichord. Dr. Burney. who was present, observing it, said. 'I believe, sir, we shall make a musician of you at last.' Johnson, with great complacency, replied, 'Sir, I shall be glad to have a new sense given to me.'
Modern Effects of Music.
The effects of music are as varied as the dispositions of the persons on whom it has influence. To some it is the source of the most pleasurable sensations; on others, its effects are directly the reverse. Mr. Eastcott relates an instance of a gentleman of his acquaintance, on whom the first impression of music was of the most pleasing kind; in the course of time he found its effects increase so much on his nerves, that for many years he was obliged to leave the room previous to its being introduced. In vain he tried to 'get the better of his feelings, fearing he might appear ridiculous in the opinion of the world: but two succeeding experiments deterred him from making another, for he was both times seized with a convulsion in his jaw. The last time he was so generally convulsed, that his friends were greatly alarmed. The song which thus subdued him, was 'Come, ever-smiling liberty,' in Handel's Oratorio of Judas Maccabeus.
A gentleman of the faculty residing in Devonshire, being at a musical society there, on hearing a trio of Lampugnani's, fell into a fainting fit, which entirely deprived him of speech and recollection for more than an hour. Music had generally this effect on him, but he was so fond of it, that he could never resist the temptation of hearing it, though he paid so dearly for it. Some years after this he was in London, when he went to witness Dr. Arne's opera of Artaxerxes; he stood over the orchestra during the overture with some difficulty; but the first song overcame him, and he fell senseless against the back of the box. The house was immediately in great confusion; a surgeon, who happened to sit near him, got him conveyed into the lobby, where he applied the lancet, and after some time, succeeded in restoring him.
A more melancholy circumstance occurred on the first grand performance of Handel's commemoration at Westminster Abbey. Mr. Burton, a celebrated chorus singer, was on the commencement of the overture of Esther, so violently agitated, that after laying in a fainting fit for some time, he expired. At intervals he was able to speak, and but a few minutes before he breathed his last, he declared that it was the wonderful effect of the music which had thus so fatally operated upon him.
Dr. Halifax, the Bishop of Gloucester, during one of the performances of the Messiah, at the same commemoration, was so much affected, that he wished to quit the abbey, fearing he should not be able to bear up against its extraordinary effects.
A country gentleman, who was present at the same time, declared, before the performance commenced, that curiosity, and a wish to save his credit with his neighbours at his return, were his chief motives for attending, as he never experienced much pleasure from music. He was, however, soon so affected, that the tears trickled down his cheeks, and he confessed that he felt transports of which he had never before formed the slightest conception.
Another gentleman, who had never in his life been able to attend an oratorio, and very seldom an opera, without falling asleep, so tedious did they seem, was so unconsciously delighted at the commemoration of Handel, that the whole day's performance seemed to him. but the work of a single hour. Such are the effects of music in its most refined state, on minds insensible to its ordinary charms.
In the year 1802 such a number of dissensions prevailed among the professors of the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris, that it was feared the institution was going to be dissolved. A wit wrote the following epigram on the occasion:
'J'admire leurs talens. et meme leur genie,~
Mais, au fait, ils ont un grand tort; C'est de s'intituler
Et de n'etre jamais d'accord.'
One of the most celebrated of living composers is Beethoven whose style is decidedly different from that of Haydn. The symphonies of Haydn may be compared to little operas, formed upon natural occurrences, all within the verge of probability; those of Beethoven are romances of the wildest invention. exhibiting a supernatural agency, which powerfully affects the feelings and imagination.
The genius of Beethoven is of that character which is scarcely likely to receive justice from his contemporaries; it seems to anticipate a future age. In one comprehensive view he surveyed all that science has hitherto produced, but regards it only as the basis of that superstructure which harmony is capable of raising. He measures the talents and resources of every preceding artist, and, as it were, collects into a focus their scattered rays. In sacred music he is preeminently great. The dark tone of his mind is in unison with that solemn style which the services of the church require; and the gigantic harmony which he wields enables him to excite by sounds a terror hitherto unknown.
This sublimity is fully displayed in the Mount of Olives. The movement which describes the march of the Roman soldiers when they go out in search of Jesus, is remarkable for novelty and effect; the passage, 'he came towards this mountain, he'll not escape our search,' partakes of the solemnity of a march, yet possesses a character of activity and enterprise. The mutations of the harmony are constantly turning the course of the melody into every direction.
The last chorus may be quoted as a specimen of the true sublime. The sinfonia which introduces it, when performed in a spacious church, is a continued clash of sounds, so tremendous as to awaken the sentiment of danger in the highest degree. During the solemn enunciation of the words, 'Hallelujah to the Father and the Son of God,' a succession of vivid and appalling shocks of sound proceeds from the accompaniment, the effect of which is truly electrical.
The story of 'Don Giovanni,' founded on a Spanish tradition, was first introduced upon the stage as a comedy, under the title of El Burlador de Sevilla, y Combidado de Piedra; or John of Seville, and the Guest of Stone, by Gabriel Tellez, of Madrid. It was soon translated into Italian by Cicognini, and also by Gilberto, and was performed with so much success in this language, not only in Italy, but also at Paris, that Moliere, being strongly solicited by his company of comedians to write an imitation of it, produced Le Festin de Pierre, a comedy in five acts, in prose, which was first represented in 1663. The piece was shortly afterwards put into verse by T. Corneille, who added two scenes, and thus it has been performed on the French stage ever since. Two more French pieces have also been written on the subject.
In 1676, Shadwell, the poet laureate, dramatized the story as a tragedy, called the Libertine, but he made his hero so wantonly wicked, and the catastrophe so horrible, that it was scarcely fit for the stage; yet the author thought it had a good moral tendency, and in his preface relates that he had been credibly informed by a gentleman that he had seen it acted in Italy, by the name of Atheisto Fulminato, in churches on Sundays, as a part of devotion.
About the middle of the last century Goldoni added one more to the numerous dramas founded on the history of the licentious Spanish grandee, and entitled it, Don Giovanni Tenorio, o sia, Il Dissoluto.
When Mr. Palmer had the theatre in Wellclose Square, he introduced the story converted into a pantomimic ballet of action, under the title of Don Juan, or the Libertine Destroyed: and thus it long continued popular.
The Italian opera of Don Giovanni, which has been so unprecedentedly popular, was written and adapted for representation by Lorenzo de Ponte, who was engaged for some time in Vienna, and afterwards in London, in the poetical department of the Italian Theatre. The music was composed by Mozart for the theatre at Prague, where it was performed for the first time in 1787. [See Anecdotes of Genius.] But as late as 1811 we find a periodical writer complaining that 'we are still doomed to listen to the effeminate strains of Italy, and the nursery songs of Pucito, while the gorgeous and terrific Don and the beautiful Clemenza di Tito, are unopened and unknown to thousands.' Mr. Ayrton, who had the musical direction of the Opera House in 1817, had the merit, we believe, of introducing both these operas to the knowledge of the English public. Nothing could be completer than their success, more especially that of Don Juan. It was performed twenty-six nights in succession, although the season of the Opera House seldom extends to more than sixty-five, and attracted the most overflowing audiences. More half guineas are said to have been taken at the door than were ever known, and the very unusual expedient was resorted to of increasing the pit area by an addition from the boxes. The ballet, which had been hitherto the chief, if not the only object of attraction, was thrown completely into the shade, and a character of sublimity was given to the opera, which has since rendered it one of the highest intellectual pleasures.
The performers of the Opera have long been remarkable for sacrificing sense to sound, at the expense, frequently, of all meaning, order, and consistency. Since Metastasio and Mozart have 'married music to immortal verse,' a great amendment in this particular may be observed. But old habits are not easily eradicated, and we still now and then find even the best performers taking strange liberties with the text of their authors. Thus when the Clemenza di Tito was first brought out in this country, in 1817, Madame Feodor wished that a song, in which she expected to make a great impression, but which was placed by the author at the end of the second act, should be sung at the beginning of the first. Mr. Ayrton, the musical director of the Opera House, observed that this would never do, since, in the song, Madame has to bid adieu to her friends after being banished, and the transposition would be putting the farewell first, and the banishment afterwards. Madame Feodor could not, however, be persuaded to view this mutation as of the least consequence; and Signor Vestris, poet to the King's Theatre, was appealed to. Signor Vestris thought also that the change was of no consequence; but stated, as his reason for this opinion, 'that the wholeness and consistency of the opera as originally written had by tyrant custom been so completely ruined, that any farther change was a matter of indifferance.' As Vestris, however, only spoke of what had been the case on the continent, Mr. Ayrton resolved that no such absurd distortions should injure the introduction of Metastasio to an English public, and Madame Feodor was obliged, in obedience to managerial authority, to sing the song where the author had placed it; that is, in its right place.
Madame Angelica Catalani, who was born at Sinigaglia, in the Roman States, in 1780, was educated at the convent of Gubio, where her exquisite voice soon rendered her so conspicuous that the nuns, jealous of her superiority, succeeded in getting her prohibited from singing in the church. At the age of fourteen she quitted the convent, and made such rapid progress in music that she soon ventured to compete with the two famous singers, Marchesi and Crescentini. She shone successively at the theatres of Venice, Milan, Florence, and Rome; and was then invited to Lisbon, where she remained four years, with a pension of twenty-four thousand cruzados. She next proceeded to Madrid, with letters of recommendation to the queen, who loaded her with favours. One concert which she gave in that capital produced upwards of three thousand guineas. England was the next theatre of her exertions; and during her first stay here, she is said to have earned more than £50,000. She afterwards visited all the different courts of Europe, and was everywhere received with a degree of distinction and liberality never before, perhaps, experienced by any public singer.
At Berlin, she received a complimentary letter from the King of Prussia, written with his own hand, accompanied by the grand medal of the Academy.
The Emperor of Austria presented her with a superb ornament of opals and diamonds, and the magistracy of Vienna, to manifest their sense of her charitable contributions to the institutions of that capital, struck a medal to her honour.
The Emperor and Empress of Russia, on her departure from St. Petersburg, embraced her at parting, and loaded her with rich presents, consisting of a girdle of diamonds and other ornaments. During the four months she remained in St. Petersburg she realised fifteen thousand guineas!
The late King of Wirtemberg was so captivated with her singing that on his death, which happened soon after her arrival at Stutgard, her name was among the last words he uttered.
One of the most striking characteristics of Madame Catalani's voice is force. Indeed, distance is absolutely indispensable to the true enjoyment, to forming a true notion of this wonderful woman's powers. All her effects are calculated to operate through a vast space; and on persons near to her the impression is often overpowering. At a rehearsal at the Argyll Rooms, young Linley -,,,a.;~ so astonished with the grandeur with which the song of 'Della Superba Roma' burst from her lips, that forgetting his own task, he played a wrong note, and on being rebuked for it by the fair syren, he fainted, and dropped from his seat!
From the engaging sweetness of this lady's voice, she is, with many persons, a greater favourite than even the mighty Catalani. When the latter was at Bath, a lady, who found some difficulty in getting a ticket for one of the concerts, applied to M. Vallabrique, not knowing that he was the husband of Madame Catalani, to procure her admission. M. Vallabrique assured the fair solicitor that such were the prodigious attractions of Madame Catalani that he feared it would be impossible to gratify her wishes. 'Oh!' said the lady, 'but I don't care about Catalani, I want to hear Mrs. Salmon.'
Lucretia-Agujari, or the Agujari, as she was always called, was, perhaps, the most wonderful singer ever heard in this country, previous to Catalani or Billington. She first visited England in 1773, when the proprietors of the Pantheon engaged her at the enormous salary of one hundred pounds per night, for singing two songs only. The lower part of her voice was full, round, and finely toned, and its compass really amazing. She had two octaves of natural voice, from A on the fifth line in the bass, to A on the sixth line in the treble; and beyond that in alt, she had, in early youth, more than another octave. She has even been heard to ascend to B b in altissimo. Her shake was open and perfect: her intonation true; her execution marked and rapid; and the style of her singing, in the natural compass of her voice, grand and majestic.
Dr. Aldrich was not less eminent as a musician than a divine. By the happy talent which he possessed of naturalising the compositions of the old Italian masters, and accommodating them to an English ear, he increased the stores of our own church with many of the notes of Palestrina, Carissimi, Victoria, and other distinguished composers, and many of his anthems and other services of the church, are still frequently sung in our cathedrals.
Though the doctor chiefly applied himself to the cultivation of sacred music, yet being a man of humour, he could divert himself by producing pieces of a lighter kind. There are two catches of his, the one, 'Hark, the bonny Christ Church Bells;' the other, entitled, 'A Smoking Catch,' to be sung by four men smoking their pipes, which is as difficult to sing as it is amusing.
Signoras Cuzzoni and Bordoni.
The celebrated Francesca Cuzzoni appeared in England, as a first-rate singer, in 1723; and two years afterwards, arrived her distinguished rival, Faustina Bordoni. These two extraordinary singers so excited the attention of the public, that a party spirit was formed between their respective advocates, as violent and as inveterate as any that ever occurred relative to matters either political or theological; and yet their talents and style of singing were so different, as not to admit of regular comparison. Cuzzoni possessed a creative fancy, and enjoyed the power of occasionally accelerating and retarding the measure in the most artificial and able manner. Her intonations were so just, and so fixed, that it seemed as if she had not the power to sing out of tune.
Bordoni invented a new kind of singing, by running divisions, with a neatness and velocity which astonished all who heard her; and by taking her breath imperceptibly, she had the art of sustaining a note apparently longer than any other singer.
Gaetano Guadagni was selected by Handel to execute those parts of his oratorios of Messiah and Samson, which were composed for Mrs. Cibber. The music he sung was the most simple imaginable: a few notes, with frequent pauses, and opportunities of being liberated from the composer and the band, were all that he required. In these seemingly extemporaneous effusions, he displayed the native power of melody, unaided by harmony, or even by unisonous accompaniment; the pleasure he communicated, proceeded principally from his artful manner of diminishing the tones of his voice, like the dying notes of the 'Eolian harp. Most other singers affect a swell, or messa-de-voce; but Guadagni, after beginning a note with force, attenuated it delicately, from the beginning to the end and giving his last whispers all the effect of distance, they seemed to ascend till the sound was totally lost in the ecstasy of hearing. Though no note was heard, the ear listened as if it expected a return.
When Yaniewicz, the musician, first came to this country, he lived at the west end of the town. One day, after paying several visits, he called a hackney coach, and having seated himself, the coachman enquired Atither be should drive him?
Fail 'Home, mon ami; you go me home.'
Coachman. Home, sir! but where?'
Yan. 'Ah! me not know; de name of de street has eschape out of my memory, I have forgot him. What shall I do?' (The coachman smiling, he continued) 'Ah! you are gay; come now, you understand de musique, eh!'
Coachman. Music, what's that to do with the street?'
Yan. 'Ah vous verrez, you shall see.' He then hummed a tune, and enquired, 'Vat is dat?
Coachman. 'Why, Malbrook.'
Yan. 'Ah! dat is him. Marlbro' Street now you drive me home.'
We find most of our very ancient English ballads divided into what are termed fits, a phrase derived from their being so divided, for the purpose of being sung at intervals, in the course of fasting; that is, by fits or intermissions. Thus Puttenham, in his 'Art of English Poesy,' 1589, says, 'The Epithalamium was divided by breaches into three parts, to serve for three several fits, or times, to be sung.' From the same writer, we learn some curious particulars respecting the state of ballad singing in that age. Speaking of the quick returns of one manner of time, in the short measure used by common rhymers, these, he says 'Glut the ear, unless it be in small and popular musics, sung by the cantas banque upon benches and barrels' heads, where they have none other audience than boys, or country fellows that pass by them in the street, or such like tavern minstrels, that give a fit of mirth for a groat, their matter being for the most part stories of old time, as the tale of Sir Topas, the reports of Bevis of Southampton, Guy of Warwick, Adam Bell, and Clymme of the Clough, and such other old romances, or historical rhymes, made purposely for recreation of the common people at Christmas dinners, brideales, and in taverns, and ale-houses, and such other places of base resort.' This species of entertainment, which seems to have been handed down from the ancient bards, was, in the time of Puttenham, falling into neglect; but that it was not even then wholly excluded from more genteel assemblies, he gives its room to infer from another passage; for speaking in relation to the society in which he moved, and he was one of Queen Elizabeth's gentlemen pensioners, at a time when the whole band consisted of men of distinguished birth and fortune, he says, 'We ourselves have written for pleasure, a little brief romance, or historical ditty, in the English tongue, in short and long metre, and by breaches or divisions (i.e. fits) to be more commodiously sung to the harp, in places of assembly, where the company shall be desirous to hear of old adventures and valiances of noble knights in times past, as those of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Bevis of Southampton, and others like.'
A 'groat' appears to have been in those days the standard price for a 'Fit of Mirth;' and if we consider that in the age of Queen Elizabeth, a groat must have been more than equivalent to a shilling now, we may infer that harpers were even then, when their art was on the decline, upon a far more reputable footing than they are at the present time. That they were respectable, nay, elegant in their appearance, we may further learn from the description given of the old blind beggar of Bethnal Green:
'But in comes the beggar clad in a silk cloke,
A faire velvet capp, a feather had he,
And now a musician for sooth he would be.'
In 1741, that genius of music, Jomelli, was sent for to Bologna, to compose an opera. The day after his arrival, he went to see the celebrated Father Martini, without making himself known, and begged to be received into the number of his pupils. Father Martini gave him a subject for a fugue; and finding that he executed it in a superior manner, 'Who are you?' said he, 'are you making game of me? It is I who need to learn of you; I say, who are you?' 'I am Jomelli, the professor, who is to write the opera to be performed here next autumn, and I came to ask you to teach me the great art of never being embarrassed by my own ideas.'
The invention of the piano-forte has formed an era in the art of music. It has been the means of developing the sublimest ideas of the composer, and the delicacy of its touch has enabled him to give the lightest shades, as well as the boldest strokes of musical expression.
The first piano-forte was made by Father Wood, an English monk, at Rome, about the year 1711, for Mr. Crisp, the author of 'Virginia.' The tone of this instrument was much superior to that produced by quills, with the additional power of producing all the shades of Piano and forte by the fingers; it was on this last account it received its name.
Fulk Greville, Esq., purchased it from Mr. Crisp for 100 guineas, and it remained unique in this country for many years, until Plenius, the maker of the lyrichord, made one in imitation of it.
After the arrival of John Chr. Bach in this country, and the establishment of his concert in conjunction with Abel, all the harpsichord makers tried their mechanical powers at piano-fortes; but the first attempts were always on the large size, till Zumpe, a German, constructed small piano-fortes of the shape of the virginal, of which the tone was very sweet, and the touch, with a little use, was equal to any degree of rapidity. These, from their low prices, the convenience of their form, as well as power of expression, suddenly grew into such favour, that there was scarcely a house in the kingdom where a keyed instrument ever had admission, but was supplied with one of Zumpe's piano-fortes, for which there was nearly as great a demand in France as in England. In short, he could not make them fast enough to gratify the public fondness for them. Pohlman, whose instruments were very inferior in tone, fabricated a great number for such as Zumpe was unable to supply. From this period, the piano-forte has constantly been improving, until it has attained its present complete state.
All Europe has done homage to the transcendent talents of this eminent English singer. When he left England, in order to avail himself of the several examples of excellence on the Continent, and particularly in that region of melody, Italy, he first repaired, in company with Signora Storace, to Paris, where they arrived the day preceding the 18th Fructidor. The revolutionary fury had not so absorbed the minds and feelings of the Parisians, as to extinguish taste, or a just appreciation of real talent without distinction of country. The performances of Braham and Signora Storace in the French capital, were listened to with the most eager delight; and the courteous attentions they received, induced them to prolong a visit of three weeks, to a stay of eight months.
During this time, they received increasing testimonies of public and private esteem, and the concerts they gave were crowded at the price of a louis d'or each ticket, although the general admittance to concerts was only six francs. When Mr. Braham quitted France for Italy, he was provided with letters of recommendation, in the strongest terms, and protection from the French Directory, to the ambassadors of France, in the several states of Italy.
When at Florence, the celebrated vocal performer, David, invited Mr. Braham to dinner, and in the evening they sung several airs together. One of Braham's was a bravura, composed for him by Rauzzini. When he had concluded, David said, 'In my youth I could, have done the same;' and being asked who he thought the best tenor singer in Italy, he answered, 'Dopo di me, l' Inglese.' 'Next to me, the Englishman.'
At Venice, the celebrated composer Cimarosa was summoned from Naples, expressly to write an opera, for the display of Mr. Braham's extraordinary powers; and when he was introduced to him, Cimarosa expressed his his opinion of his vocal abilities, by saying, he would compose for him such a scena as had never yet been heard in Venice. This was Cimarosa's last composition, for he died poisoned, as was suspected, by a rival composer, impatient of his high and well-merited fame.
On his return to England, he found the advantage of his study abroad; and there never, perhaps, was a singer, who so happily united the brilliancy and richness of the Italian, with the simplicity and pathos of the English style. As a composer, Mr. Braham also holds a distinguished rank.
In no part of his art is Braham more distinguished, than in the use of the falsetto; his success in this respect, indeed, forms an era in singing. When in the zenith of his powers, from a facility of taking up the falsetto on two or three notes of his compass at pleasure, he had so completely assimilated the natural and falsetto at their junction, that it was impossible to discover where he took it, though a peculiar tone in the highest notes was clearly perceptible. Before his time, the junction had always been very clumsily conducted by English singers. Johnstone, who had a fine falsetto, managed it so ill, that he obtained, from the abruptness of his transitions, the cognomen of 'Bubble and squeak.' Braham could proceed with the utmost rapidity and correctness through the whole of his compass, by semitones, without the hearer being able to ascertain where the falsetto commenced.
Since the best days of Rameau, no dramatic composer has excited so much enthusiasm, or had his pieces so often performed, as Gluck, who may be considered as the national musician of France. It has been said, that each of his pieces has supported two or three hundred representations.
That Gluck had great merit as a bold, daring, and nervous composer, and as such, in his French operas was unrivalled, will be admitted; but his merit was not so universal, or so extraordinary, as to be praised at the expense of all others. His style was peculiarly convenient to France, where there were no good singers; besides. his music was so truly dramatic, that the airs and scenes, which have the greatest effect on the stage, were cold or rude in a concert; and the situation, context, and interest gradually excited in the audience, gave them their force and energy.
Haydn and Mozart.
Haydn and Mozart, two of the greatest composers of ancient and modern times, had the highest respect for each other. 'Mozart,' said Haydn, when asked his opinion of Don Juan, 'is the greatest composer now existing.' And Mozart hearing the German composer find fault with Haydn, said, 'If you and I were both melted down together, we should not furnish materials for one Haydn.'
At a concert, where a new piece, composed by Haydn, was performed, a musician present, who never discovered anything worthy of praise, except in his own productions, criticising the music, said to Mozart, 'There, now, why that is not what I should have done.' 'No,' replied Mozart, 'nor should I, but the reason is that neither you nor I should have been able to conceive it.'
After Mozart's death, Haydn was asked by Broderip, in his music shop, whether he had left MS. compositions behind him that were worth purchasing, as his widow had offered his inedited papers at a high price to the principal publishers of music throughout Europe. Haydn eagerly said, 'Purchase them by all means. He was truly a great musician. I have been often flattered by my friends with having some genius, but he was much my superior.'
Though this declaration had more of modesty than truth in it, yet if the genius of Mozart, who died at the early age of thirty-six, had been granted as many years to expand as that of Haydn, the assertion might perhaps have been realised.
Mr. Thomas Atwood, who had the honour of being pupil to Mozart, as Mozart was to Haydn, declared, in a judicial proceeding respecting the Opera House, in which he was a witness, that he regarded Mozart's music as the best in the world, and Don Giovanni as the finest of his compositions.'
Antiquity of Fiddlesticks.
The antiquity of the use of the bow, in playing the violin, has been the subject of many conjectural disputes. It is said, in some old manuscripts, to have been introduced into England by the attendants of the Pope's Nuncios when they came there to receive Peter's pence, but none have referred its origin to a remoter date than the beginning of the fourteenth century. It is evident, however from a monkish device in the cathedral of St. Augustine, in Bristol, that the bow was known much earlier here. This cathedral was founded in 1148, and on the ornaments of one of the gothic pillars, in the same style as those throughout the building, is the following device, tolerably well represented:- 'A shepherd sleeping, the ram playing on the violin with a remarkable long bow, and the wolf eating the sheep.'
An old English author of the name of Simpson, a master of music of some eminence in the reign of Charles II., has, in a work entitled 'The Division of the Violin,' drawn from the theory of music a singular illustration of the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. 'When I further consider,' he says, 'that three sounds placed by the interval of a third, one above another, do constitute one entire harmony which governs and comprises all the sounds that by art or imagination can at once be joined together in musical concordance, that I cannot but think a significant emblem of that supreme and incomprehensible three in one, governing, comprising, and disposing the whole machine of the world, with all its included parts, in a most perfect and stupendous harmony.' A more modern writer, commenting on this ingenious theory of Mr. Simpson's, observes, 'that the matter of fact really is as Mr. Simpson has stated it, will not be disputed by any man of common skill in the science of music. It is a thing well known, that if any three notes be taken upon an organ or harpsichord in the order of an unison, third and fifth (as expressed in the scale), and struck all at once, the sounds, though perfectly distinct in themselves, are so blended and lost in one another, that with this pleasing variety of different intervals you have also the simplicity and unity of a single note, and so strict is the agreement that provided the instrument be well in tune, an inexperienced ear cannot readily distinguish whether there be one sound only, or two others combined with it.' After some additional observations illustrative of this extraordinary analogy, the same writer thus concludes:- 'We will rest then in this conclusion, that as there is a Trinity in the Godhead, the Divine Wisdom has given us a symbol of it, in the three ruling elements of sound; and as the three Divine Persons are but one God, so the trinity in music has the nature and sound of the most perfect unity.'
Dr. John Bull.
It is not a little remarkable that to a cornposer, with our national patronyme, we should be indebted for our national anthem of 'God Save the King.'
Few subjects connected with literature or the fine arts have been more amply discussed than the authorship of this anthem, and it has been attributed to various composers, from the reign of James the First to that of George the Second. It has, however, been recently ascertained that this national anthem was written by Ben Jonson, and set to music by Dr. John Bull, at the particular request of the Merchant Tailors' Company, and that it was first sung in their hall, by the gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, who were in attendance, at a sumptuous entertainment given by that company to King James the First, on Thursday, July 16, 1607. The object of the dinner was to congratulate his majesty on his escape from the gunpowder plot, and for this occasion the anthem was composed.
It further appears that 'Non nobis Domine' was first sung on the same occasion, by the children standing at the king's table.
Dr. Bull was the first Gresham Professor of Music, and was appointed to that office upon the especial recommendation of Queen Elizabeth, but though a skilful musician, he was not able to read his lectures in Latin, and therefore, by a special provision in the ordinances respecting the Gresham Professors, made in 1599, it is declared 'that because Dr. Bull is recommended to the place of Music Professor by the queen's most excellent majesty, being not able to speak Latin, his lectures are permitted to be altogether English, so long as he shall continue Music Professor there.'
Petrarch was very partial to music, and poured forth his verses to the sound of his lute, which he bequeathed in his will to a friend. His voice is said to have been sweet, flexible, and of great compass. All the love poetry of his predecessors, except that of Cino, wants sweetness of numbers, but in Petrarch the melody is perpetual, and yet never wearies the ear. His canzoni, a species of composition partaking of the ode and the elegy, sometimes contain stanzas of twenty lines, yet he has placed the cadences in such a manner as to allow the voice to rest at the end of every three or four verses, and has fixed the recurrence of the same rhyme, and the same musical pauses, at intervals sufficiently long to avoid monotony, and sufficiently short to preserve harmony.
During the third representation of the Artaxerxes of Metastasis, in one of the first theatres of Rome, when the celebrated Pacchiarotti acted the part of Arbaces, a singular instance occurred of the power of music. At the famous judgment scene, in which the author had placed a short symphony, after the words,
'Eppur sono innocente,
the beauty of the situation, the music, the expression of the singer, had so enraptured the musicians, that after Pacchiarotti had uttered these words, the orchestra did not proceed. Displeased at this neglect, he turned angrily to the leader, asking, 'What are you about?' The leader, as if awoke from a trance, sobbed out with great simplicity, 'We are crying, sir.' In fact, not one of the performers had thought of the passage, but all had their eyes, filled with tears, fixed on the singer.
Haydn, the sublime Haydn, could be comic as well as serious; and he has left a remarkable instance of the former in the well-known symphony, during which all the instruments disappear, one after the other, so that, at the conclusion, the first violin is left playing by himself. The origin of this singular piece is variously accounted for. Some persons say that Haydn, perceiving his innovations were ill received by the performers of Prince Esterhazy, determined to play a joke upon them. He caused his symphony to be performed without a previous rehearsal before his highness, who was in the secret. The embarrassment of the performers, who all thought they had made a mistake, and especially the confusion of the first violin, when, at the end, he found he was playing alone, diverted the court of Eisenstadt.
Others assert that the prince, having determined to dismiss all his band except Haydn, the latter imagined this ingenious way of representing the general departure, and the dejection of spirits consequent upon it. Each performer left the concert-room as soon as his part was finished.
Haydn introduced another pleasantry into a sinfonia, called La Distratta. Before commencing the last movement, the violins are directed to lower the fourth string G to F. The instruments being thus prepared, the music commences with a pert and joking subject, which is soon interrupted by a pause; after which, the first violins begin to sound the open strings E and A together for two bars; and the same of D and A, when they arrive at a passage where the lowered string F is directed to be screwed up gradually through four bars, so as to bring it in tune on the fifth bar. When this piece is performed, surprise is excited at the apparent caprice of the musicians, who stop, one after another, to tune their violins in the middle of the piece, and it is not till after twelve bars have been employed in this ludicrous way that the audience are released from the embarrassment, and the subject suffered to proceed.
At another time Haydn, desirous of diverting Prince Esterhazy's company, went and bought at a fair near Eisenstadt a whole basket full of whistles, little fiddles, cuckoos, wooden trumpets, and other musical instruments, such as delight children. He was then at the pains of studying their compass and character, and composed a most amusing symphony with these instruments alone, one of which even executed solos. The cuckoo was the general bass of the piece.
'Music fairest~ , says Luther, 'is one of the fairest and most glorious gifts of God, to which Satan is a bitter enemy ; for it removes from the * heart the weight of sorrows and the fascination of evil thoughts. Music is a kind and gentle sort of discipline; it refines the passions, and. improves the understanding. Even the dissonance of unskilful fiddlers serves to set off the charms of true melody, as white is made more conspicuous by the opposition of black. Those who love music are gentle and honest in their tempers. I always loved Music,' adds Luther. 'and would not for a great matter be without the little skill which I possess in the art.'
The Welsh Bards.
Music was in such great estimation among the Cambro-Britons, that to sing to the harp was thought necessary to form a perfect prince and complete hero. Their poetry, as well as their music, though much scattered and almost destroyed by the incursions of the Saxons, the Danes, and the Normans, has received much illustration from the pen of Giraldus; and of its adherence to truth, and its use in recording events to posterity, he has transmitted to us a memorable example. Henry II. was led to the churchyard of Glastonbury, in search of the body of Arthur, by some lines of Taliesin, describing the manner of his death, and the place of his interment, that had been repeated in his presence by a Welsh bard. The success of the investigation was not ungrateful to the monarch's poetic faith, and Henry had the satisfaction to view the stupendous remains, and to count the glorious wounds, of the last of Britons. When Edward the First conquered Wales, he found that the songs of the Welsh bards had so powerful an influence over the minds of the people, that, for his own safety, he adopted the cruel policy of putting them all to death.
No musician has more successfully embraced the whole extent of his art, or shone with greater lustre in all its departments, than Mozart. His great operas, no less than his most simple songs; his learned symphonies as well as his airy dances, all bear the stamp of the richest imagination, the deepest sensibility, and the purest taste. All his works develop the originality of his genius, and rank him with that small number of men of genius who form an epoch in their art.
At six years of age, Mozart had made such progress in music as to be able to compose short pieces for the harpsichord, which his father was obliged to commit to paper for him. His father, who was a musician of some eminence, returning home one day with a stranger, found little Mozart with a pen in his hand. 'What are you writing?' said he. 'A concerto for the harpsichord,' replied the child. 'Let us see it,' rejoined the father, 'it is no doubt a marvellous concerto.' He then took the paper, and saw nothing at first but a mass of notes mingled with blots of ink, by the mal-address of the young composer, who, unskilled in the management of the pen, had dipped it too freely in the ink. He had blotted and smeared his paper, and had endeavoured to make out his ideas with his fingers. On a closer examination, his father was lost in wonder, and his eyes, delighted, and overflowing with tears, became riveted on the notes. 'See,' exclaimed he, to the stranger, 'how just and regular it all is! but it is impossible to play it; it is too difficult.' 'It is a concerto,' said the child, 'and must be practised till one can play it; hear how this part goes.' He then sat down to perform it, but was not able to execute the passages with sufficient fluency to do justice to his own ideas.'
The sensibility or Mozart's organs was excessive. The slightest harshness of discordancy in a note, was quite a torture to him. Entirely absorbed in music, this great man was quite a child in every other respect. His hands were so wedded to the piano, that he absolutely could not use them for anything else; at table, his wife carved for him: and in everything relating to money, or to the management of his domestic affairs, he was entirely under her tutelage.
Of all the female singers that England ever produced, no one ever obtained, or, perhaps, deserved, such celebrity as Mrs. Billington. Her transcendent talents were not only the boast of her country, but the whole of Europe did them homage; and wherever she went, she was honoured and caressed.
Mrs. Billington, whose maiden name was Weichsell, was born of musical parents, who hailed with transports the early dawning of her genius, and afforded her every possible encouragement, both by their own instruction, and that of the ablest masters. Her first efforts were directed to the pianofore, which may be considered as the plaything of her infancy. On this instrument she made such rapid progress, that when only seven years' old, she performed a concerto at the Haymarket Theatre; and when she had scarcely reached her eleventh year, she appeared in the double character of composer and performer, by playing to a delighted audience one of her own productions.
It was in Ireland, however, that Mrs. Billington first gave public proof of that vocal pre-eminence, which those who had heard her in private, confidently anticipated. Her fame extended with her efforts, and the English public became so anxious to hear her, that she was engaged at Covent Garden Theatre on the most liberal terms. In the winter of 1785, she made her debut in that house, in the character of Rosetta, in Love in a Village, which was purposely commanded by their majesties. The house was crowded to excess, and her reception stamped her reputation as a first-rate vocal performer.
In the following year, she visited Paris, in order to avail herself of the instruction of the great Italian composer, Sacchini, then in the zenith of his fame. Under so able a master, Mrs. Billington made the most rapid progress, and acquired from him that pointed expression, neatness of execution, and nameless grace, by which her performances were so happily distinguished.
She again visited Italy in 1794, and displayed her great powers with such success, as to receive the homage of taste and sensibility, wherever she was heard. Milan, Naples, Venice, Leghorn, Padua, Genoa, and Florence, heard and 'confessed the wonders of her skill.' At Naples, she received the most flattering attentions, and Sir William Hamilton, proud of a singer of his own country, who was allowed to eclipse all competitors, even in the very realms of the god of harmony, procured her the warmest patronage of the King and Queen of Naples. On her return to England in 1801, she made her reappearance at Covent Garden Theatre, in that most happy combination of the Italian and English schools, the serious opera of Artaxerxes, in which it has been said, that Dr. Arne 'united the beautiful melody of Hesse, the mellifluous richness of Pergolese, the easy flow of Piccini, and the finished cantabile of Sacchini, with his own pure and native simplicity.' The performance of Mrs. Billington, on this occasion, perfectly enraptured the audience, and left, at an immeasurable distance, every preceding effort of vocal skill. She was now too rich a treasure for managerial monopoly, and, therefore, she played alternately at Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres.
From this period, to that of her retirement from the stage in 1808, nothing could exceed the brilliant success which she earned, or the liberality with which her talents were remunerated. In one season of the winter of 1801-2, the profits of her various engagements exceeded ten thousand pounds, and subsequent seasons were not less productive.
To decide justly on individual talent, it often becomes necessary to consider the disadvantages it has encountered, and the obstacles it has overcome; to these considerations Mr. Shield is particularly entitled, since, by the intrinsic power of his genius, he has triumphed over every opposition of fortune or accident, and has raised himself into high and justly merited distinction.
Mr. Shield was the son of a country singing master, under whose tuition he began to learn the violin at six years of age; and in the short space of a year and a half, he made such extraordinary progress, as to be able to perform Corelli's fifth work. When he reached his ninth year, he had the misfortune to lose his father and tutor; and those who interested themselves in his behalf, ridiculed the profession of a fiddler, and urged young Shield either to become a barber or a boat builder.
Finding no means of gratifying his passion for music, or rather unable at so early an age to turn it to profit, he yielded to the wishes of his friends, and served an apprenticeship as a boat builder.
On the expiration of his indentures, he determined to adopt music as a profession. His first efforts at composition, were setting several of Cunningham's songs to music, the melodies of which were much admired for their simplicity and beauty. He next became leader of a band in a provincial theatre; until being advised to visit London, he became first, leader of the band, and afterwards composer to one of the winter theatres, producing music to new pieces with singular facility and success.
The style of Mr. Shield is neat, simple, and unaffectedly easy. His airs are generally sweet and attractive, and always illustrative of the ideas of the poet. His symphonies and accompaniments are incorporated with the melody. Spirit, vigour, tenderness, and pathos exhibit themselves in turn, and his scores universally bespeak a thorough acquaintance with the powers of the band, as well as much judgment in regard to effect; and the whole of his compositions bear the imprint of genius, taste, and science.
Of all the instances of musical precocity that history has recorded, Dr. Crotch, to whom these Anecdotes are inscribed, is perhaps, the most remarkable. His talents, when a child, were so extraordinary, that his parents rather wished to conceal them, than otherwise, from a fear of drawing too much of the public attention upon them; but the fact soon transpired, and Mr. Crotch's house was so crowded, that he was obliged to limit the child's exhibition of his wonderful powers, to fixed days and hours.
The first voluntary he heard with attention, was performed at his father's house, when he was two years and four months old, by Mr. Mully, a music master. As soon as he was gone, the child got to the organ, and playing in a wild and different manner from that to which his mother was accustomed, she asked him what he was doing. He replied, 'I am playing the gentleman's fine thing;' and Mr. Mully, who afterwards heard it, acknowledged that the child had remembered several passages, which he played correctly.
Being present at a concert where a band of gentlemen performers played the overture in Rodelinda, he was so delighted with the minuet, that the next morning he hummed part of it in bed, and by noon, without any further assistance, played the whole on the organ.
Dr. Burney, who, at the request of Sir John Pringle, drew up an account of this child, which is printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, for 1779, was at particular pains to put the talents of the infant Crotch to the test. 'I examined,' said he, 'his countenance when he first heard the voice of Signor Pacchiarotti, the principal singer of the Opera, but did not find that he seemed sensible of the superior taste and refinement of that exquisite performer. However, he called out very soon after the air was begun, 'He is singing in f.' This is one of the most extraordinary properties of his ear that he can distinguish at a great distance from any instrument, and out of sight of the keys, any note that is struck. In this I have repeatedly tried him, and never found him mistaken even in the half-notes; a circumstance the more extraordinary, as many practitioners and good performers, are unable to distinguish by the ear, at the Opera or elsewhere, in what key any air or piece of music is executed.'
When, as often was the case, in consequence of the numerous visitors he attracted, he became tired of playing on an instrument, and his musical faculties seemed wholly blunted, he could be provoked to attention, even though engaged in any new amusement, by a wrong note being struck in the melody of any well-known tune; and if he stood by the instrument when such a note was designedly struck, he would instantly put down the right one, in whatever key the air was playing.
The maturity of age in Dr. Crotch has confirmed the precocity of his youth; and as a serious composer as well as a practical performer, he has long held the first rank in this country. A just compliment has recently been paid to him, in nominating him Principal of the Royal Academy of Music; an institution commenced under such favourable auspices, as to promise the greatest benefit to music in this country.