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RECORDS OF COMPOSERS.
BY GEORGE J. 0. ALLMAN.
“ Vergiss die treuen Tödten nicht."
“ Their's is the merit, mine 'tis to record.”
Pope's Homer's ILIAD.
RECORD II.-GIOACHINO ROSSINI, of the cavatina. The perfect meaning of the
words has been caught by the composer, and (Continued.)
the interest of the piece is divided between Ninetta and her father,
" -The rough old soldier doomed to die “ Genti di lingue stranie, e di costumi
For raising threat’ning arm against his officer."
And for giving scope to acting there is no opera
so well adapted for the stage as this. Rossini Tutti van préis a qual sublime incanto
however, careless as usual, introduces in the Di Rossiniani numèri!”
scene of the Court of Justice, a waltz movement BARBIERI.
in 3-4 time, which certainly has an incredibly ludicrous effect.
In the year 1818 “Ricciardo e Loraide; The music of the “Otello,” however unequal Dramma in due atti del Signor Groa: Rossini," in many respects, and exhibiting the grossest was first performed; but we believe it did not violations of the laws of counterpoint, contains meet with any popularity. There are four or five many beauties ; and the principal characters superior compositions in this opera, and many (Desdemona and the Moor) are wondrous ve- would think them sufficient to stamp its worth: hicles for the display of passion.
but an opera should be judged of as a whole; Rossini produced at Rome, in 1817, the and if the greater part of it be heavy and dis“ Cenerentola.” Here was another, and if pos- agreeable, the few beauties, though, by the consible, more complete, triumph; but it does not trast, standing out in relief, and therefore rank high in the list of our composer's writings, shining with greater brilliancy, will not-canthough it contains the celebrated buffo duet not, save it from general displeasure, much less “Un segreto d'importanza," and the exquisite from neglect. andante" Nacqui all'affano,” followed by the
The chief feeling of fatigue experienced on witdashing allegro finale “Non più mestà.” But nessing Ricciardo, is from the incessant use of at Milan, in the same year, he produced the the brass instruments-hardly a bar of recita“Gazza Ladra,” which was welcomed by the tive being free from some “dire combination" Milanese cognoscenti with excessive demon of this kind; nor are the drums spared (day, strations of delight. The overture, one of the good reader, we mean not the drums of our ears cleverest this fertile composer ever penned, --honestly 'tis past a joke!); and even the and worked up so well, by the military style of mind and ears of a musician, whose “soul deits introduction, soon became an universal fa- lighteth ” in sweet sounds, and on whom it vourite. The drama too, is extremely natural would be the least likely to pall, could not aroid and well woven together the interest of the feeling wearied, after listening for three mortal piece never for a moment flags. The cha- hours to racters are well supported, and although the
-the brazen clang music is at times unequal, yet it contains
Of trumpets" many unmistakeable signs of Rossini's genius and power. The trio“ O Nume benefico” that refuse to grant to the longing sense a mopossesses much dramatic truthfulness, and ment's relief or repose. decidedly enhances the finest situation in the Mose in Egitto,” which was brought out in opera. "The cavatina “ Di piacer mi balza il London with much success under the name of cor” has never been surpassed in the flowing “Pietro l'Eremita” (the scriptural subject of sweetness of its introduction, and the joyous the Mose being deemed unsuitable for stage reheartburst of happiness breathed in the melody presentation in England, it was altered and
adapted to the episode of the Egyptian captivity “* But I have made a prayer for the Hebrews of the originator of the crusades, the valiant and before the passage of the Red Sea!' said the unselfish preacher, Peter the Hermit), was like- poet, drawing a bundle of papers out of his wise produced at Naples in this year. Rossini's pocket, and giving them to Rossini ; who imadmirers are boastful about the elevation of mediately began to decipher the scrawl. While thought and purpose, which they say he has he is reading, the poet saluted the company all achieved in it; the more startling (they think) round, whispering every moment in the combecause it was totally unlooked for unexpected poser's ear, Maestro, I did it in an hour!' -and in his other productions would be sought
«« What! in an hour?' exclaimed Rossini. in vain. With the opinions of so many, Well, if it has taken you an hour to write this we (that singular plural we !) will not venture to prayer, 1 engage to write the music in a quarter differ, or carp at, but it is as ridiculous as ill- of the time: here, give me pen and ink. So judged and ill-weighed, to speak thus of an saying, Rossini jumped out of bed, and seating opera, which, to say the best of it, contains but himself at a table, en chemise, in eight or ten one or two striking pieces. Truth to tell, the minutes composed this sublime movement, Italian critics (or lazzaroni, which ?) were doubt- without any piano, and without minding the less struck dumb with astonishment at the idea chatting of his friends. There,' said Rossini, of a sacred drama being represented on the there is your music; away about your busiboards of their opera, and therefore thought the ness! The poet was off like lightning; and music, because of its purpose, was clothed with Rossini jumped into bed, joining in the general a higher degree of enthusiasm and inspiration; laugh at his parting look of amazement. exclaiming, in the lines of Dante,
• The following evening I did not fail to repair
in good time to the San Carlo. The first act was “Spiega con tal pietate il suo concetto
received with the same transports as before, but E il suon con tal dolcezza v'accompagna when they came to the famous passage of the Red Che al crudo inferno intenerisce il petto.” Sea, the audience showed the usual disposition to
risibility. This, however, was repressed the moHowever, the preghiera of the Jews “Dal tuo ment Mose began the new and sublime air. Dal stellato soglio," which they raise to the Creator tuo stellato soglio.' This is the prayer which of all things, while they are preparing to cross all the people repeat after Moses, in chorus. the Red Sea, is a fine and noble composition, Surprised at this novelty, the pit was all attenand from the grandeur and majesty of its situa- tion. This beautiful chorus is in the minor key tion, almost possesses a sublime beauty of con- (G minor, which modulates into G major). ception : and yet this very, chorus was com- Aaron takes it up, and the people repeat it. posed after the opera had been produced and Last of all, Elcia addresses the same vows to condemned ! was composed in a quarter of an heaven, and the people answer. At this mohour! was composed in the midst of laughter, ment they all throw themselves on their knees, talking (as none but Italians can talk), and confu- and repeat the same prayer with enthusiasm. sion ! and was the means of saving the remain- The prodigy is wrougit; the sea opens to preder, and turned the tide of popular opinion, that sent à passage to the people. The last part of would not hear of its repetition, from the stormy the movement is in the major key. It would be sea of discontent, to the unruffled calm of ap- difficult to give an idea of the thunder of approval.
plause which resounded from every part of the The first act had been received with favour, theatre. The spectators leaned over the boxes but when the passage scene arrived, it was to applaud, exclaiming, bella, bella, che hailed with shouts of derisive laughter. The bella! Never did I behold such excitement, wretched attempt of the machinist to represent which was rendered still more striking by its with clumsy invention, this wonderful event in contrast with the previous merry mood of the Jewish history, was in reality the main cause of audience.” the downfall of this work and its after adaptation How true it is that to a more secular theme.
From M. Steudhal's memoir we extract the “Great events from trifling causes spring." following:
“The following day one of my friends called We ourselves have had an almost similar ac. about noon on Rossini, who, as usual, was count from an Italian friend, who was one of lounging in bed, surrounded by about a dozen the intimates of Rossini, mentioned by M. of his friends, when to the great amusement of Steudhal, and was present at the San Carlo on every one, in rushed the poet Tottola (the au- the occasion referred to. thor of the drama, and the personage we have In the early part of 1819 “Odoardo e Chrisbefore had occasion to mention), who, without tina" was brought out at Venice. taking notice of anybody, exclaimed,
plauded on its first outset, it was too soon dis« • Maestro ! I have saved the third act.' covered that the music had chiefly been taken
“Well, what have you done, my good from avery unsuccessful opera formerly produced friend? replied Rossini ; mimicking the half at Naples. The public, offended, came not to witburlesque, half pedantic manner of the poor son ness it again. The manager, irate, complained in of the muses. Depend upon it, they will laugh bitter invective of Rossini; while the gran at us as usual,"
Maestro only laughed, and exclaimed, "Ma la
mia musica è buona, ed io son il maestro, tu— doubtless at the manner they had treated so L'Impresario !"
beautiful a work, seemed the more anxious to At Naples, in the same year, he brought out make the composer amends, and received it "La Donna del Lago. Notwithstanding its rapturously! Oh, ye liberal and enlightened high merit, and subsequent popularity, it was public again! It was treatment like this that received in any but a flattering manner. His crushed the spirit of Beethoven! It was cruel wife's powers had long been failing her, and accursed harshness like this that deprived and she had then (though forced upon the us of the genius of Weber! Oh, what a melanpublie, notwithstanding their repeated 'demon-choly food for contemplation is the difference strations of impatience) lost all their former with which Weber and Rossini received and felt favourable opinion, and at last they deter- public neglect! The latter laughed and cared mined to give vent to their long pent-up dis- not, forgot it after his next slumber or his nert approbation; they only watched for the slight- meal, nay, even boasted of it; but Weber
, the est opportunity to hiss, and for some time none high-souled, the gentle--alas! alas ! his spirit presented itself. But when at last the celebrated was not formed to contend against it; it bent Nozzari, who as Roderigo, enters from the back beneath it, and snapped like a reed in the strugat a great distance from the orchestra, most gle, springing up on its heavenward track to unfortunately pitched his first note (on which he mingle with the blessed spirits there, where, as should rest for some time) somewhat too low, has been written of the immortal Purcell, and this was the signal for a general yell of most truly, “ his own harmony can only be exdiscontent; "and nothing," says Steudhal
, celled.” But a truce to these sad musings, they “can convey an adequate idea of the fury of a would unnerve us, and unfit us for accomplish: Neapolitan audience, when offended either by a ing that we have begun; so let us join our false note, or furnished with some pretext for Pesarese Swan and his “ Donna del Lago” once satisfying an old grudge.” Roderigo's air was followed by the entrance of a company of bards, A few words with respect to the drama of this who sing a chorus to animate the Scottish opera. Sir Walter Scott's beautiful and highly troops to battle by the sounds of their harps. imaginative romance poem, on which it is This chorus is accompanied by a fine military founded, has been successfully translated into march. We should have premised that the first German, Italian, and French, and shares as representation of “La Donna” took place on the much popular favour abroad as it does in the chief day of the Carnival. and therefore the country which with just pride claims the honour whole of the court were present--but this aid of its origin. So perfectly dramatic is it in every not seem to be a check on the audience. There sense, so rich in materials for the musician and were a great number of young officers in the artist; the chivalrous and poetic feeling perpit, who had been loyally imbibing various vading its character and development ; the he “good compounds," wishing health and God roic situations and opportunities for stage effect speed to his Majesty, and were therefore in standing out in vivid relief through the whole boisterous spirits. One of these “hopefuls” piece; we cannot help feeling a kind of wonder
that it had not been earlier and more frequently “-Aushed with the grape of Tuscany, uprose appropriated to the purposes of the lyric stage
. With maddened blood ;"
The present adaptation was made by Andrea
Tottola (the poet again), who was the author of and at the first sound of the trumpet began the drama of " Mose," and others, as we have to imitate, with his sword, the tramping of a before seen; and, compared with most other horse. From that moment all restraint ceased; works of the same nature, is really not badly all idea of listening to the music was hopeless, executed, though in the hands of a true son of and in an instant the house resounded with the genius, possessing more ability, or perhaps we clatter of a thousand similar imitations, inter- should say more leisure, it might have been spersed with “divers strange noises and merrie done better; but as the original story is nearly conceits.” Amid all this confusion the opera faithfully followed in this (though compressed) finished, and, with a horrible shout, as if the version, let us rest content with it, and thank our whole strength of the audience had been re
stars we could get even a Tottola. The music served for that last effort, the curtain dropped. is light, brilliant, and effective, in Rossini's hapRossini, mortified and crest-fallen, set off ' in a piest vein, and will always be hailed with plea
: humbled manner to Milan that same night; and sure, let its repetitions be numberless
. The air, yet on the road, and at Milan, he filled every so striking and beautiful, “ Aurora! che sorone's ears with tales of the enormous success of gerai," which is introduced several times in the the “Donna,” and the vociferous applause of its course of the opera, will always create delight reception; but judge his own astonishment, not wherever it is heard. unmingled at first with disbelief, when he
He produced at Naples, in 1820, “ Maometto learned that what he had asserted was really, Gecondo, which failed; Rossini, having en. actually true, and that its praise was re-echoed gaged to recompose
the second act, it was again by all; and strangely too, that he had (although produced at Venice; but the republicans, not unknowingly) spoken the truth. On the second satisfied in the least that an opera, unsuccessful night, and after one or two judicious curtail- elsewhere in the first instance, should be foisted ments and alterations, the public, ashamed upon them, and still less pleased that the corn
poser had made but few (and those trifling), is highly impassioned and theatrical, while some alterations in it, gave vent to their feelings by of the choruses are exceedingly fine, and posdemonstrations in their true Italian mode, and sess a grandeur that only serves to excite a hooted at Rossini (who conducted) and the feeling of regret that the minor details of the singers, with marvellous strength of lungs, work have been so hurried over. Still, the music "and so condemned unheard that which, in is full of reminiscences, not only of his own calmer judgment, might have been a source of former operas, but of those of Mozart and others; lasting pleasure.
and the ultra-Germanic style of accompaniment Composers, like authors, are seldom sound in the orchestra is carried to such a tremendous judges of their own works; at least, numberless stretch, that the ear has scarcely a moment's instances have attested this opinion. Rossini, we relief from the ceaseless crash of instruments. believe, held this, the worst (we say it after The most important event in the life of Rosmuch thought) of his operas, the best; and was sini, connected with ourselves, was the arrival wont to say, when engaged upon it, that it was of “il illustrissimo maestro” in England in destined to the bay of immortality. Even 1824, at the beginning of the opera season. He after its double failure, Rossini would not was engaged at the King's Theatre as composer give up his cherished idea; but in this and director of the music; he was to superintend he proved but a sorry prophet, trusting the production of some of his own operas, and devoutly in the old proverb, “ che sarà sarà" was to compose an entirely new one for that (we know not if there is an Italian axiom equal stage. He produced firstly " Zelmira,” with to the Irish, " There's luck in odd numbers"); Colbrand Rossini (who was also engaged as he dished it up again for a third trial, and a prima donna) as the heroine ; but it failed, and French version of it, under the title, “Le Siege she herself met with so cold a reception that she de Corinthe," was produced at Paris, but with did not re-appear, “ Semiramide" was then very moderate success; and this version, but tried, with Madame Pasta in the role of the with Italian words by Italian singers, has been Assyrian queen ; but notwithstanding its flatfrequently represented, both in London and at tering success, the season was attended with an Paris, under the name of “ L'Assedio di Co- enormous loss to the management, and Rossini rinto ;” and though, as we said before, the left England without being required to fulfil his original was a meagre work, this was scarcely engagement to produce an original opera. We better; yet,
possessing some effect and extract the following observations from a very situation, it was listened to without disappro-able stricture on Rossini's visit to London :bation.
“ His residence in London, however, was a very In 1822 the opera of “ Zelmira” was brought profitable one for himself. He was just the kind of out at Naples ; it contains some of the finest man to be the lion of the day; his music was unimusic Rossini ever wrote; and the very partial versally popular, he was himself a first-rate comic and dubious success it met with, can only be vocalist, and his manners and address were calculated ascribed to the ridiculous subject of its drama, to gain the favour of the gay and courtly. The arisand the feebleness of its incidents. The author tocracy, from royalty downwards, were profuse in of this libretto, the immaculate Signor Tottola, their invitations and attentions, and he left England seems to have been, as was the custom through- regular fee for attending a private musical party was
loaded with solid proofs of their liberality. His out Italy, that miserable and most pitiable ap- fifty guineas (!!);
but those who invited him selpendage to a musical theatre, the dramatic dom contented themselves with giving him that sum * poet!"-(Poet! save the mark !)-compelled (!!!). As if this were not enough, two subscription to submit alike to the dictatorial commands and concerts were set on foot for him, to take place at caprice of “ Eccelenza il Impresario !!! As to Almack's rooms; the price of a ticket admission to the scorn, spleen, and discontent of any com- both to be three guineas (!), and none to be ad. poser with whom he may be connected in any mitted except such as were approved of by lady opera, he is an object ever of ridicule and con- patronesses (!!), appointed to guard the assembly tumely, even while he excites our pity; and from the approach even of that portion of the com not the least cause of this fiasco was, that mon herd (profanum vulgus ! !) who were able and the worthy Neapolitans, were entirely sur- This, however, was too much even for the extrava.
willing to give three guineas for a couple of concerts. feited with Signora Colbrand, and had determined not to receive favourably any piece was reduced to a guinea for each concert. "The con
gance of the beau monde, and the price of admission which contained a róle for her assumption. certs were attended by a crowd of fashionables, who
Before he left Italy, to which he did not re- had the gratification of hearing Rossini's most hack, turn for many years, Rossini composed his last neyed songs sung by the vocalists whom they heard Italian opera,
“ Semiramide;" this was first every day, and accompanied by a pitiful band of performed at Venice in 1823. It is a very sin- twenty performers. They, however, could boast of gular work, placing in very prominent light and having heard two or three comic songs and duets shade at once the power and weakness of its sung by the gran maestro himself.” composer, and proves the mighty effects which Oh, what a sad reverse to this was the cruel he could create, and at the same time shows the neglect with which these blind adorers of the frivolities and puerilities to which he too fre- butterfly Rossini received the modest, the highquently descends, because he will not take the souled Weber, who, from his enthusiastic adoratrouble, or will not allow himself sufficient time tion of his art, united to his genius, was more to complete his object 'well; musie, however, than worthy of love and admiration! Alas!
he, the hunble, the true, found none of this, Ory:" At the close of the season 1829-30, be even though it would have fed for a time the produced his greatest opera “Guillaume Tell," decaying embers of his health, which was broken which met with the most enthusiastic reception. and shattered by the excess of his high wrought it transcends by far all his former works, and feelings and imagination.
were we to attempt to go into its merits, it " Oh what a fall was there, my countrymen !"
would lead us deeper into abstruse science than
would be perhaps palatable, even if comprehenIt truly might be said that-
sible, to the majority of our readers, besides - Modest worth was trampled down
taking up more space than we can give. But, Barefoot and bleeding, while with unblushing face
however, it is so well known and appreciated in Pretence went forth with head erect and proud,
England, that any further comment or reflecDisdaining earth."
tion of ours it hardly necessary. Let our
readers form to themselves their own ideas and To resume
opinions of its beauty and character like Flemish " The extravagance of Rossini's admirers in Eng. artist who only painted in outline, and who when land had the natural effect of exciting a feeling of asked why he did so, replied, “I leave it for hostility towards him; he was violently attacked, each of my spectators to fill up in their own and his character, manners, and habits grossly mis- way.” So do we say to our indulgent readers, represented in different journals and other publica- with respect to this opera. “ Its name is suffitions. Among other stories told to his prejudice, cient for an outline, do then likewise.” It there was one which was so often repeated, and gained would be thought that this reception would have such currency, that it is proper
to mention it for the induced our composer to adventure still further: having been invited to a musical party, given by the but no--here he seemed to rest on his cars
, king at Brighton, conducted himself with a degree of having arrived into the haven of perfection, for arrogance which disgusted his majesty, and that in with the exception of a stabat mater, produced particular on being requested to sing towards the about two years ago, and three beautiful choclose of the entertainments, he refused very cavalierly, ruses, composed for a convent of benedictine telling the king, who had politely made the request, nuns at Bologna, where he has since resided, that they had had enough of singing for one evening and entitled, respectively, “ La Speranza," "La This is wholly untrue. Rossini, on making his ap- Fede,” and “La Carita," he has not since pearance, was received with great courtesy by the produced anything of importance; though, inking, who told him that he should hear some music deed, his life has been by a foreign composer, who was mucia metcemed in England, and, on a signal from his majesty, his un
" A perpetual song." rivalled band of wind instruments played the overture to · La Gazza Ladra.' Rossini received this graceful
There was always a great deal of waggery, compliment in a manner which became him, and ex. mixed up with a strange jumble of good nature pressed himself charmed with the performance of his and bon hommie, in the character of Rossini. music. In the course of the evening he sang two In the letter which he wrote to his mother at songs, which required much exertion, in a manner Bologna (he was a good son and a most punctual which delighted the audience; but when the king correspondent) he was accustomed to draw a desired to hear him sing a third song, he excused smaller or larger figure of a flask (fiasco) at the himself by saying that his voice was so much ex. side of the account of any new opera he had hausted by his last effort, that he should be found brought out, to indicate the degree of failure which incapable of giving further gratification to such his work had experienced. The reader should be judges as those before whom he had the honour of performing; an excuse which, instead of giving apprised that fare fiasco is the cant phrase with offence to his royal host, was readily and graciously the Italian for a failure. That he is an undenireceived. Rossini had too much good sense, and had able gourmand is well known (and his gastromingled too much with the world, to be ignorant of nomic taste is unimpeachable), the following his precise position in society, or to be guilty of any amusing anecdote will tesify. When the wellsolecisms in good manners. Every account of him known Careme was chef to the still more which is entitled to credit, concurs in representing celebrated Rothschild, Rossini, who had known his deportment as uniformly correct, and his man- the latter, never dined at his hotel in Paris ners as gentleman-like and agreeable ; and, if he was without personally inquiring after the health of absurdly courted and extravagantly rewarded, it is the famous cuisinier. Careme, not to be behindhardly fair to lay to his charge the folly of a frivolous hand, responded to this condescension by never crowd, who
endeavoured to gain fashion and eciát by omitting to give a hint to Rossini as to the exhibiting themselves as his admirers and patrons.
particular dishes of the day's entertainment, On his quitting England Rossini repaired im- which his own taste and experience deemed mediately to Paris, where he resided for some worthy of himself and his distinguished guest. years, and was director of the Theatre Italien, On Rossini's retirement to Bologna, Careme which, however, it is believed did not prove took his loss so much to heart that it was even very prosperous under his guidance. He com- supposed it hastened his death. When Rossini posed for the coronation of Charles X. the music had been settled at Bologna a few months, he of a little pièce de circonstance, called “Il one day received a case inscribed with the words viaggio di Rheims,” and afterwards brought out “ Careme à Rossini,” and on opening it, disa French opera, the music chiefly extracted from covered that its contents were some of those the last mentioned piece, called "Le Comte exquisite patés de gibier of which he had se