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THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

_A Series of Biographies of the Great Musicians._

EDITED BY F. HUEFFER.

I. =WAGNER.= By the EDITOR.

II. =WEBER.= By SIR JULIUS BENEDICT.

III. =MENDELSSOHN.= By JOSEPH BENNETT.

IV. =SCHUBERT.= By H. F. FROST.

V. =ROSSINI=, and the Modern Italian School. By H. SUTHERLAND EDWARDS.

VI. =MARCELLO.= By ARRIGO BOITO.

VII. =PURCELL.= By W. H. CUMMINGS.

*** Dr. Hiller and other distinguished writers, both English and
foreign, have promised contributions.

Each volume will be complete in itself. Small post 8vo, cloth extra.

London: SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, and RIVINGTON, Crown Buildings,
188, Fleet Street, E.C.


CHEAP SERIES OF

ENGLISH PHILOSOPHERS.

EDITED BY IWAN MÜLLER, M.A., _New College, Oxford_.


The objects of the proposed Series are: -

(1) To present in a connected and historical form a view of the
contributions made to Philosophy by English thinkers, together with such
biographical details as their life and times may render expedient.

(2) To adapt the work in price and method of treatment to the
requirements of general readers, English and American, no less than to
those of students.

(3) To issue each volume of the Series as a complete and integral work,
entirely independent of the rest, except in form and general method of
treatment.

To each Philosopher will be assigned a separate volume, giving as
comprehensive and detailed a statement of his views and contributions to
Philosophy as possible, explanatory rather than critical, opening with a
brief biographical sketch, and concluding with a short general summary,
and a bibliographical appendix.

Price and Size: 180 to 200 pp. Size, crown 8vo. Price 3_s._ 6_d._

The volumes will appear in rapid succession, definite arrangements
having been made for the following: -

=ADAM SMITH=, J. FARRER, Author of "Primitive Manners and Customs."

[_Just ready._

=BACON=, PROFESSOR FOWLER.

=BERKELEY=, PROFESSOR T. H. GREEN.

=HAMILTON=, PROFESSOR MONK.

=J. S. MILL=, MISS HELEN TAYLOR.

=MANSEL=, The REV. H. J. HUCKIN, D.D.

=BENTHAM=, MR. G. E. BUCKLE.

=AUSTIN=, MR. HARRY JOHNSON.

=SHAFTESBURY= and =HUTCHESON=, PROFESSOR FOWLER.

=INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF PHILOSOPHY=, PROFESSOR H. SIDGWICK.

=HOBBES, A. H.= GOSSET, B.A., Fellow of New College, Oxford.

=HARTLEY= and =JAMES MILL=, G. S. BOWER, B.A., late Scholar of New
College, Oxford.

Arrangements are in progress for volumes on Locke, Hume, Paley, Reid,
&c., and will shortly be announced.

London: SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, and RIVINGTON, Crown Buildings,
188, Fleet Street, E.C.




THE GREAT MUSICIANS

ROSSINI AND HIS SCHOOL




The Great Musicians

_Edited by_ FRANCIS HUEFFER

ROSSINI AND HIS SCHOOL

BY H. SUTHERLAND EDWARDS

LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET
1881

[_All Rights Reserved_]

LONDON:
R CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR,
BREAD STREET HILL, E. C.




TABLE OF CONTENTS.


CHAP. PAGE

I. ROSSINI'S CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH 1

II. LA PIETRA DEL PARAGONE 11

III. ITALIAN OPERA UNTIL THE TIME OF ROSSINI 19

IV. TANCREDI 27

V. OPERATIC CUSTOMS IN ROSSINI'S TIME 33

VI. ROSSINI AT NAPLES 42

VII. PREPARATIONS FOR THE BARBER 50

VIII. IL BARBIERE 59

IX. ROSSINI AND THE COMIC IN MUSIC 68

X. FROM OTELLO TO SEMIRAMIDE 72

XI. ROSSINI ON HIS TRAVELS 79

XII. DONIZETTI 89

XIII. VERDI 106

LIST OF ROSSINI'S PUBLISHED WORKS 113




ROSSINI AND HIS SCHOOL.




CHAPTER I.

ROSSINI'S CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.


A contemporary of Cimarosa and of Paisiello, his predecessors, but not,
except at the very outset of his career, his models, and of Donizetti,
Bellini, and Verdi, his successors, and in an artistic sense his
followers, Rossini is a central figure in the nineteenth-century history
of Italian music.

Lives of Rossini have been published freely enough during the last fifty
or sixty years. It but rarely happens, even to the greatest man, to have
his biography written or his statue erected during his lifetime. But
Rossini lived so long that it seemed impossible to wait for his death;
and more than one writer seized upon him when he was still a young man.
Perhaps it occurred to the Abbé Carpani, the first of Rossini's
biographers, that he was already approaching the critical age at which
so many great composers - not to speak of painters and poets - had ceased
not only to work but to live; Mozart, for instance, Cimarosa, Weber,
Hérold, Bellini, Schubert, and Mendelssohn. It has been suggested,
indeed, that Rossini might perhaps have wished his career to be measured
against those of so many other composers whose days were cut short at
about the age he had attained when he produced _William Tell_. Rossini
was but thirty-seven when _William Tell_, his last work for the stage,
and his last work of any importance with the exception of the _Stabat
Mater_ was brought out. But when, soon after the production of
_Semiramide_, played for the first time in 1823, Stendhal published that
_Life of Rossini_ which is known to be founded almost entirely on the
Abbé Carpani's work, Rossini, at the age of thirty-one, had already
completed the most important portion of his artistic life. Readable,
interesting, and in many places charming, Stendhal's _Life of Rossini_
is at the same time meagre, and, worse still, untrustworthy. But there
is no reason why a tolerable Life of Rossini, including an account of
all the changes and reforms introduced by this composer into Italian
opera, should not have been published when he was only thirty-one years
of age. There would have been nothing of moment to add to it but a
narrative of Rossini's visit to London, of his residence in Paris, and
above all, of the circumstances under which he produced _William Tell_
together with his reasons - if they could only be discovered - for
abandoning composition when he had once produced that work.

The life of Rossini divides itself, more naturally than most things to
which this favourite mode of division is applied, into three parts.
During the first period of his existence, extending from his birth to
the year 1823 when _Semiramide_ was brought out, he made his reputation.
From 1823 when he visited London and Paris, until 1829 when he produced
his great masterpiece in the serious style, and afterwards threw down
his pen for ever, he made his fortune. Finally, from 1829, the year of
_William Tell_, until 1869, the year of his death, he enjoyed his
fortune and his reputation; caring not too much for either, and so
little desirous to increase the former that he abandoned his "author's
rights" in France - fees, that is to say, which he was entitled to
receive for the representation of his works - to the Society of Musical
Composers.

Rossini made his appearance in public when he was only seven years of
age; doing so not, it need scarcely be said, in the character of a
composer, but in that of a singer. It was in Paer's _Camilla_, composed
for Vienna and afterwards brought out at Bologna, that Rossini, in the
year 1799, took the part of a child. "Nothing," says Madame
Giorgi-Righetti, the original Rosina in the _Barber of Seville_,[1]
"could be more tender, more touching, than the voice and action of this
extraordinary child in the beautiful canon of the third act; _senti si
fiero instante_. The Bolognese of that time declared that he would some
day be one of the greatest musicians known. I need not say whether the
prophecy has been verified."

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born on the 29th February, 1792; and the
circumstance of his having come into the world in a leap-year justified
him, he used to maintain, in counting his birthday, not annually
according to the usual custom, but once every four years. According to
this method of computation he had numbered nineteen birthdays when, at
the age of seventy-seven, he died. What is better worth remembering is
the fact that Rossini was born, as if by way of compensation, the very
year in which Mozart died; Mozart who, indebted to the Italians for much
of the sweetness and singableness of his lovely melodies, was to give to
Italy, through Rossini, new instrumental combinations, new dramatic
methods, and new operatic forms.

It may have been very desirable to show that Rossini was of
distinguished ancestry, and that he had a great-uncle, who, in the
middle of the sixteenth century, was governor of Ravenna. But it is more
interesting to know that he was of good musical parentage. His father,
it is true, was nothing more than town trumpeter at Pesaro; herald and
crier, that is to say, to the sound of the trumpet. But his mother was
what musicians call "an artist." She possessed a very beautiful voice;
and when the town trumpeter fell ill or in some other manner
incapacitated himself for supporting the family, she replaced him as
bread-winner by taking an engagement as an operatic singer. According to
one of Rossini's biographers, Rossini the trumpeter came to grief
through his political opinions, which were of a more decided character
than any that were ever professed, publicly at least, by his eminent
son. When, after the Italian campaign, the French army in 1796 entered
Pesaro, the old Rossini so far forgot his official position and the duty
he owed to the state, as to proclaim his sympathy and admiration for the
Republican troops; on whose retirement he was punished for his want of
loyalty, being first deprived of his employment and afterwards cast into
prison.

The trumpet was not the only instrument cultivated by the elder Rossini.
He also played the horn; playing it, not like an ordinary town crier,
from whom only a few loud flourishes would be expected by way of
preliminary announcement, but in true musicianly style.

The horn, eighty years ago, was not a very important instrument in
Italian orchestration. But such as it was the elder Rossini played it in
more than one operatic band; and in due time, and to all appearances as
soon as it was physically possible to do so, the father taught the art
of playing the horn to his precocious son. Rossini was still very young
when he accompanied his parents on musical excursions, or "tours" as
they would now be called; and on these occasions, when the father took
the part of first horn in some local orchestra - which was sometimes
nothing more than the band of a travelling show - the part of second horn
was assigned to the son. The mother at the same time sang on the stage.
Rossini, then, at once vocalist and instrumentalist, began his career in
both characters at a very early age. It has been seen that at seven he
appeared on the stage as an operatic singer. Between the ages of seven
and twelve he was much occupied in horn playing; and his performances in
company with his father had probably some effect in developing that
taste for wind instruments and especially for horns, for which his
orchestration was one day to be remarkable.

In his thirteenth year Rossini was taken to Bologna and presented to
Professor Tesci of that city. The professor heard the little boy sing
and play, and was so pleased with his performances that he procured him
an engagement as chorister in one of the local churches. It was of this
period in Rossini's life that Heine was thinking when, in his well-known
article on Rossini's _Stabat Mater_, he wrote: "The true character of
Christian art does not reside in thinness and plainness of the body, but
in a certain effervescence of the soul which neither the musician nor
the painter can appropriate to himself either by baptism or by study;
and in this respect I find in the _Stabat_ of Rossini a more truly
Christian character than in the _Paulus_ of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy;
an oratorio which the adversaries of Rossini point to as a model of the
Christian style. Heaven preserve me from wishing to express by that the
least blame against a master so full of merits as the composer of
_Paulus_; and the author of these letters is less likely than any one to
wish to criticise the Christian character of the oratorio in question
from clerical, or, so to say, pharisaical reasons. I cannot, however,
avoid pointing out that at the age when Mendelssohn commenced
Christianity at Berlin (he was only baptized in his thirteenth year),
Rossini had already deserted it a little, and had lost himself entirely
in the mundane music of operas. Now he has again abandoned the latter to
carry himself back in dreams to the Catholic recollections of his first
youth - to the days when he sang as a child in the choir of the Pesaro
[for which read Bologna] cathedral, and took part as an acolyte in the
service of the holy mass."

Besides enabling him to earn money by singing in the churches, Professor
Tesci gave his young friend lessons in singing and pianoforte playing,
so that after two years he could execute the most difficult music at
first sight. He now was found competent to act as musical director, and
accepted an engagement in that character with a travelling company which
gave performances at various little towns in the Romagna. When he was
fifteen years of age Rossini gave up his engagement as director to the
wandering troop and went back to Bologna, where (1807) he was admitted
as a student to the Lyceum. Such application and such intelligence did
he now show, that after he had been but one year at the academy he was
chosen by the director, Professor Mattei, to compose the cantata
expected annually from the Lyceum's best pupil.

Rossini's first work, written when he was sixteen years of age and
executed at the Lyceum of Bologna in 1808, was the cantata in question,
which, if not based on the favourite subject of Orpheus, was at least
connected with it. _Pianto d'Armonia per la Morte d'Orfeo_ was at once
the subject and the title of this memorable composition. At this period
Rossini was an ardent student of Haydn's symphonies and quartets; and
after the production of his cantata, which obtained remarkable success,
he was appointed director of the Philharmonic concerts, and profited by
his position to give a performance of Haydn's _Seasons_. A distinct
reminiscence of this time, and more than a distinct reminiscence of one
of the best known melodies in the _Seasons_, was to be found eight years
afterwards in the lively trio ("Zitti, Zitti") of _The Barber of
Seville_.

During his studies at the Lyceum Rossini did not neglect the piano. He
entertained a high respect for this admirable instrument, this orchestra
on a reduced scale, minus, of course, the variety of _timbres_; and one
of his latest works was a fantasia for pianoforte on airs from
_L'Africaine_, dedicated to his friend Meyerbeer. Rossini used at this
time to style himself "pianist of the fourth class;" and that he
obtained no higher rank in the pianistic hierarchy is perhaps due to the
peculiarity of the instruction he received from his professor at the
Lyceum of Bologna, Signor Prinetti. Prinetti taught his pupils to play
the scales with the first finger and thumb. A pianist taught to depend
on his first finger and thumb to the neglect of the three other fingers
could scarcely be expected to graduate very highly in the pianoforte
schools.

Rossini was just seventeen years of age when he produced his first
symphony, which was followed by a quartet; and a year later he brought
out his first opera. During his musical travels in the Romagna, where,
among other places, he was in the habit of visiting Lugo, Ferrara,
Forli, and Sinigaglia, he had, at the last-named place, inspired with
confidence the Marquis Cavalli, director of the local theatre. The
marquis was also impresario of the San Mosè Theatre at Venice (the San
Mosè, like most other Italian theatres, took its name from the parish
to which it belonged), and he wished Rossini to compose an opera for his
Venetian establishment. Rossini's previous work had been performed
before the professor's pupils and a few invited friends at the Lyceum of
Bologna. The opera ordered by the Marquis Cavalli was the first of his
works performed before the general public. It was a one-act piece,
entitled _La Cambiale di Matrimonio_. It was given for the first time in
1810 when Rossini was just eighteen years old. The sum paid for it was
200 francs, or, in English money, 8_l._

_La Cambiale di Matrimonio_ was succeeded by a cantata on the
oft-treated subject of the abandonment of Dido. _Didone Abbandonata_ was
composed for a relative, the brilliant Esther Mombelli, and it was
performed in 1811. The same year Rossini brought out at Bologna
_L'Equivoco Stravagante_, an _opera buffa_ in two acts. In this work, of
which nothing seems to have been preserved, the concerted pieces were
much admired. The final rondo, too, is still cited as a type of those
final airs for which Rossini seemed to have a particular taste until,
after producing the most brilliant specimen of the style in the "Non più
mesta" of _Cinderella_, he left them to the care of other less original
composers; for of Rossini's final airs "Non più mesta" was the final one
of all.

None of Rossini's earlier operas were engraved; a circumstance which
allowed him to borrow from them the best pieces for other works, but
which also prevents us in the present day from arriving at any precise
idea as to their value and importance.

The first opera of Rossini's which, years afterwards, was deemed worthy
the honour of a revival was _L'Inganno Felice_, composed in 1812 for
Venice. It was brought out at Paris in 1819; and the impresario,
Barbaja, for whom Rossini composed so many admirable works, gave it at
Vienna, where he was carrying on an operatic enterprise simultaneously
with two other operatic enterprises at Milan and at Naples.

_L'Inganno Felice_ was the first opera by which Rossini made a decided
mark, and such was its success that he was now requested to furnish
works for Ferrara, Milan, and Rome. For Ferrara he was to compose an
oratorio.

But although _Ciro in Babilonia_ is generally described in the
catalogues of Rossini's works as an oratorio, yet, like _Mosè in Egitto_
composed six years later, it was an opera so far as regards form, and
was only called an oratorio from the circumstance of its being given in
Lent without the usual stage accessories. _Ciro in Babilonia_ was by no
means successful as a whole. The composer, however, saved from the wreck
of his oratorio two valuable fragments: a chorus which afterwards
figured in _Aureliano in Palmira_, and from which he borrowed the theme
of Almaviva's beautiful solo in _The Barber of Seville_, "Ecco ridente
il cielo;" and the concerted finale which, in the year 1827, found its
way into the French version of _Mosè in Egitto_.

Some forty years after the production of _Ciro in Babilonia_ Rossini
spoke to Ferdinand Hiller (who has recorded the words in his highly
interesting _Conversations with Rossini_) of a poor woman who had only
one good note in her voice, which he accordingly made her repeat while
the melody of the solo given to her in _Ciro_ was played by the
orchestra. So in the French burlesque of _Les Saltimbanques_, an
untaught player of the trombone is introduced, who, being able to play
but one note, is told that that will suffice, and that if he keeps
strictly to it "the lovers of that note will be delighted."




CHAPTER II.

LA PIETRA DEL PARAGONE.


Rossini had already written two operas in 1812, and he was destined in
this fertile year to produce three more: two at Venice, _La Scala di
Seta_ and _L'Occasione fa il Ladro_; and one at Milan, _La Pietra del
Paragone_.

_La Pietra del Paragone_ was Rossini's next great success after
_L'Inganno Felice_. The leading parts were assigned to Galli, afterwards
one of the most famous bass-singers of his time, and to Madame
Marcolini, who had played the principal character in _L'Equivoco
Stravagante_, and who had particularly distinguished herself in that
work by her singing of the final rondo before mentioned.

In _La Pietra del Paragone_ Madame Marcolini was furnished with a final
rondo of the pattern already approved, and in this, as in the earlier
one, she gained a most brilliant success.

The libretto of _La Pietra del Paragone_ is founded on an idea at least
as old as that of _Timon of Athens_. Count Asdrubal, surrounded by
friends and beloved by a charming young lady, is rash enough to wish to
know whether the friendship and the love he seems to have inspired are
due to himself and his own personal qualities, or to the riches he is
known to possess. To determine the point he causes a bill of exchange
for a large sum to be presented at his house. He himself appears in
disguise to claim the money; and, in accordance with instructions given
beforehand, the count's steward recognises the signature and honours the
draft. The sum for which the bill has been made out is so large that to
pay it the count's exchequer is absolutely drained. Some few of the
friends stand the test well enough, but others, as might have been
expected, prove insincere. As for the young lady, the "touchstone" has
the effect of bringing out her character in the brightest colours. Timid
by nature, she had hitherto refrained from expressing, except in the
most reserved manner, the love she really entertains for Count Asdrubal.
After his apparent ruin, however, the advances are all from her side;
and she finds herself obliged to resort to all kinds of devices in order
to compel him to a formal declaration. She even feels called upon to
appear - though whether for logical or merely for picturesque reasons can
scarcely at this distant date be decided - in a Hussar uniform; and in
this striking garb Madame Marcolini sang the celebrated final rondo,
saluting the public with her sabre in acknowledgment of their applause,
and repeating the salutes again and again as the applause was renewed.

_La Pietra del Paragone_ is quite unknown to the opera-goers of the
present day. It belongs to the year 1812, and probably no one now living
ever heard it. Many, however, have heard portions of it; for _La Pietra
del Paragone_ not having proved thoroughly successful as a whole, the
composer extracted the best pieces from it and introduced them into _La
Cenerentola_, which, five years later, was represented for the first
time at Rome. The air "Miei rampolli," the duet "Un soave no so chè,"
the drinking chorus, and the baron's burlesque proclamation, were all
borrowed or rather taken once and for ever from the score of _La Pietra
del Paragone_. Some other pieces, too, from the same work were nearly
fifty years later heard at least once in an opera attributed to Rossini
brought out at Paris in the year 1859. It has been said that among
Rossini's operas of the year 1812 were two written for the San Mosè of
Venice. The second of these, _L'Occasione fa il Ladro_, made its
appearance substantially at Naples in conjunction with the pieces just
spoken of, extracted from _La Pietra del Paragone_. An Italian
poetaster, Signor Berettoni, gave to his new arrangement of _L'Occasione
fa il Ladro_ (which, by the way, he had enriched with selections not
only from _La Pietra del Paragone_, but also from _Aureliano in
Palmira_) the title of _Un Curioso Accidente_.

Rossini, however, though he did not mind borrowing from himself, did not
choose to be borrowed from without permission, as without dexterity, by
other persons; and finding that a _pasticcio_ made up of pieces taken
more or less at random from the works of his youth was to be brought out
as a new and original work, he addressed to the manager of the Théâtre
des Italiens, M. Calzado, the following letter on the subject: -

"_November 11th, 1859._.

"SIR, - I am told that the bills of your theatre announce a new
opera by me under this title _Un Curioso Accidente_.

"I do not know whether I have the right to prevent the
representation of a production in two acts (more or less) made up


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