John R. Parker.

A musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... online

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* There arc curious examples of this remark to be found in
HandeVs most sublime works.



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WEBBE. 159

recording some few brief particulars attaching to a name
beloved, and so respected, we are proud to add our tri-
bute of eulogy to the universal poeans which have graced
his memory.

Samuel Wepbe, Esq. by his general as well as profes-
sional erudition, his aouteness of preception, and solidity
of judgment, the impressiveness of his language, his univer-
sal philanthropy, the simplicity of his heart, and the dig-
ni/ied amenity of his manners, excited the admiration and
loye of all who enjoyed the happiness of his friendship or
acquaintance. He afforded the extraordinary instance of
a well spent life, in the most unlimited sense of the expres-
sion, and exhibited an example that is not often presented to
our knowledge. Mr. Webbe was bom in 1740, of parents
of high respectability, and moderately independent fortune;
to increase which, his father went to Minorca, under some
Government appointment, while he was yet an infant of
scarcely twelve months old ; and having settled his estab-
lishment there, had already written to his wife, with her
child to join him ; when before the preparations for their
departure could be completed, the voyage was awfully ter-
minated by other letters announcing his sudden death. In-
dependent of the shock on his beloved wife, the event was
followed by some unfair proceedings, and by the diversion
of property from its rightful descent on the part of those
who had the power of controling the disposal. Mrs. Webbe
was thus reduced to a state of comparative penury, .which
proved disastrous to the future fortunes of her infant
son. She could extend to him littfe advantage of educa-
tion, but being intent upon rendering him capable of pro-
viding for himself, he was bound apprentice to a cabinet
maker, at the very early age of eleven years. This ar-
rangement, however, was so little to his taste, that no soon-
er were the seven long yeaw elapsed, than he determined



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160 MUSICAL iftlOORAPHY.

to abandon the workshop, and contemplated with infinite
regret what he regarded as a total loss of a considerable
and valuable portion of bis earlj life.

Within a year after his emancipation, for such he al* ^
ways termed it, he lost his mother, and with her was be-
reft of the little means of support derived from her slender
income. Thus destitute of any visible means of support,
and still under twenty years of age, he turned his attention .
to the employment of copying music, as connected
with an ^art of which he was passionately fond, but with
which as yet he was totally unacquainted. He ob-
tained bis principal employment from Mr. Welcher,
keeper of a well known old music shop in Gerrard Street,
Soho, through whom he became acquainted with a
musician of the name ofKarle Barbent organist to the
chapel of count Haslang, the Bavarian Ambassador, a
professor of no particular s^ll, but from whom he rapidly
acquired the rudiments of music, which his own intense
study and observation soon enlarged into a thorough knowl-
edge of that delightful art. At the expiration of his en-
gagement as Mr. Barbent's assistant, for four years, he ap-
plied himself sedulously and constantly to the acquirement
of Latin, in which he did not allow himself to be interrupt-
ed even by the necessity of copying mnsic for a subsistence,
though when fully employed, he would sit till past twelve at
night, and return to it by five in the morning, for many
days in succession. He followed the Latin, by the study
also of French, still appropriating every moment of inter-
mission from those employments suggested by necessity,
and excited by an anxious thirst for self improvement, to
the ardent study of music, of which he had now determined
to make himself completely master. His necessities were
augmented at the age of twenty three, by the addition of a
wife, and in the following year of a child to share his scan*^



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WEBBfi. l$l

ty earnings ; having been married to Miss Anne Plumb ht
St. Mary le-bonne church, on May 30th 1763 ; but as dif-
ficulties increased, so seem:ed also to increase his exertion
and perseverance ; and shortly after the birth of his ilrst
child, he furnished himself with an Mnlian master. About
this time'^e also ventured to become a teiacherofmusic,
and his progress in the art, fully warranted this arduous
undertaking, tiiough he was even then but twenty-five years
of age, and it was but six y«ars since hb first acquaint-
ance with rudiments.

About the year 1776, Mr. Webbe was elected organist
to the king- of Sardinians chapel, in London, and af-
ter a few years, established a choir there, which he enrich-
ed with many of hk own compositions, most of which were
published. From this period scarcely a single year passed
ivithout producing the reward of one, and often two {»*ize
medals, down to the time when the Catch Club desisted
from affording such liberal encotiragement to that mo^t de-
lightul and social description of vocal music, glees, &c.
His literary studies were however subsequently enlarged
by the successive acquisition of the German, Greek, an'd
Hebrew languages ; in the reading and understanding of
which last, he was acknowledged by his master, a venera-
ble and skillful Rabbi, to be equal to himself. Although it
may seem of minor importance h«re to speak of his bodily
gr^.ces, it may be in point to shew that in the vast
range of objects which his ardent industry embraced,
these coadjutors were neither forgotten nor neglected : and
iia truth, he long excelled in the manly and graceful exer-
cises of fencing and dancing. But superior to all these
faculties of the mind, and these graces of body, were
those indescribable excellencies, the simplicity, the tender-
ness, the thorough goodness of his heart. His works
were extremely numeroils, as well as iafimtely varied, haT'»
21



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162 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

ing written largely for the Catholic Church, of which he
was a member ; while his anthems are aLso in use in almost
every protestant cathedral in the country. He composed
also two or three operas, many quartetts, and instrumental
lesscms ; numerous songs, some of them highly distinguish-
ed as public favorites, as " The Mansion of Peace," &c.
and glees innumerable, and so well known as to require no
formal eulogium. As an Engfish composer, he will always
rank with Lock, Morley, Purcell, Arne, and the most emi-
nent of the British school, while, as a man and a scholar^
his transcendant qualities raise him high among British
worthies.

On May 36, 1816, at his chambers in Qray's Inn, thi»
excellent and truly worthy man terminated a long life of
usefulness in his 76th year j and no one within his sphere of
action has been more admired for public talents, or es-
teemed for private virtues. His compositions are al-
most innumerable, and are all characterized by taste,
simplicity, and feeling, as well as by a profound
knowledge of his delightful and delighting art. Ma-
ny of his glees, for precision of hannony, beauty, and ex-
pression, obtained and deserved the highest popularity ; and
he was ever ready to contribute his professional exertidns
in aid of benevolence or friendship. For some years past,
his infirmities had prevented him from visiting his friends :
but he was esteemed too much to be forgotten. He had
also for a long time declined all musical composition, and
chiefly amused himself widi a friend at the chess board.
Thus closing a long career of fame and distinction, at
peace with Grod and man, and bequeathing to his fsunily the
proudest of all legacies, the blessing and the memory of
their father's virtues.



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WEBBS. 163

2T) the memory of Samuel Wehhcj E$q,

Written by W. Lindley, Esq. and composed by

LORB BVRQHERSH.



Chant we the requiem, solemn, sad, and sweet ;
And muse awhile amid the festive throngs,

Be joy's inspiring song.
Strew we the cypress boughs, the muse's seat ;
For he the Father of the varying lay,
Of pain and sickness long the suffering prey.
Sinks to the grave, and leaves unstrung the lyre,
49ilent each liquid note— ^-extinct its sacred Ibe !

List to that plaintive strain !
Was"it « Thy voice, O ! harmony *" that sung,
Anselmo's magic lyre unstrung—-
Ne'er on th' enraptur'd verse to burst again
Those chords so sweetly wild, so full, so clear,
It was » thy aWfol sound i^^the distant bell.
Beats slow, responsive to the anthem's swell
That poqrs the parting tribote o'er hit hallow'd bier.
<( When winds breathe «oft f" where rests Anselmo's clay,
Bound our lamented minstrel's shrine !
Shall <' forms unseen |" the deathless wreath entwine ;
Soft warbling is the breeze the tributary lay !

*<« Thy voice O harmony," with awful sound.

Wdhet Oleet.
f « When winds breathe soft along the sileoit deep,

IM.
} «< By fairy hands their knell is rung,
** By forms unseen their dirge is sung."

CoUini*



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104 MUSICAL BlOGItAPHT*



MISS STEPHENS



The Father of this aecompUshed vocalist was a C«rvet*
^nd Gilder in Park Street, Grosvenor Square, London. The
grst rudiments of musical instruction Miss Stephens receiv-
ed from M. Lanza a teacher, who proceeded upon the geiK
nine Italian method of forming the voice, he initiated the
pupil very slowly, but very surely, in the elements. At a
subsequent period her studies were conducted with a view
principally to the dramatic exercise of the art, and a de-
viation from the principles which best conduce to form a
perfect orchestra singer were deserted for the practice
which contributes to the efforts the stage demands.

Miss Stephens remained his pupil many years, during
which time she was brought out at the Pantheon. Her Fath-
er had reason to think M. Lanzas attention too remiss, both
for his own interest, and for those of his pupil. Mr. Welsh
was applied to, who saw the promise, and exerted himself
vigorously to bring Miss Stephens sufficiently forward to
appear at Covent Garden Theatre, with brilliant approba-
tion. Nevertheless, in spite of this success it was question-
ed whether the warmth of feeling and the fertility of imagi-
nation which are indispensible to perfect dramatic per-
formance are inherent in her nature. It is thus probably
that her talent was misdirected. In this particular there is
a very curious difference between the Italian school of sing-
ing and the English. To train a singer for the serious
opera is to count the highest attributes of the art. Such a
code of instruction appears by the imiversal powers of al-
most every legitimate Prima Donna, to include the qualities



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STEPHENa 165

of an actress as well as the highest cultiyation of the vocal
requisites The first woman of the opera must understand
the full value of applying dramatic effect to vocal ex-
pression of the passions. Singers generally, on the contra-
ry, who are trained for the stage, consider only one branch
of the profession. If they vocalize well, it is they think suffi-
cient, and they seldom care to remember that Singers who
aspire to move the affections of their hearers must accom-
plish their ends very much by means which are common to
acting as well as singing — ^in short, by dramatic force, dra-
matic fire, dramatic feeling, dramatic elocution — and all
these refined by the highest cultivation, science and pofish
of vocal superiority. Miss Stephens' imagination if original-
ly susceptible of the fiery impulses to which it is essential
to train the conception of one who is to pourtray by regu-
lated tones the workings of all the passions, has been cool-
ed rather than heated in the tempering ; and whether she
sings upon the board of the theatre or in the orchestra, her
whole performance appears subdued somewhat below the
point necessary to fine expression. The quality of her
tone is full and rich beyond that of any other performer.
In songs however of touching expression she seems to want
tenderness, the liquid sweetness, that steals the sense away
in passages of pathos and passionate ecstacy.

From this property of her tone, from what it wants as
well as from what it possesses, it is to be inferred that the pe-
culiar bent of her talent is towards ballads and songs of sim-
ple declamation, — in a word, towards that particular style
which is generally esteemed to be purely English, though the
formation of her voice may have been conducted upon prin-
ciples of the Italian teaching. The chastity of her style, and
the limitation she lays upon her fancy, confine our estima-
tion of Miss Stephens' science to what she abstains from,

i rather than allow us to measure it by what she affords or

w



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166 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

introduces^ her omameBts are correct and {deasing, but
seldom for nought or surprizing. From the whole of her
performances, there results a certain grateful sense of
plefuiure, somewhat analogous to the sensations experienced
and the sentiments inspired by tlie conirersatiou of a po-
lished sensible and well bred person With these attribuftes
she enjoys her full share of patronage ; and her title to the
regard she earns so industriously and so honourably is sup-'
ported by a purity of mind and character correspondent to
her professional manner. Such characters as Mi^ Ste-
phens prove sufliciently that the public exercise ol talent is
not incompatible with the grace, the ornament, and all th^
virtues of tiomestic life.



JOACHIM ROSSINI.



Was born in the year 1791, atPesaro, a small town in
the papal dominions, on the gulph of Venice. 'Hie only
portion he inherited from his father was his musical talents^
which had been in some degree cultivated by that father ;
his education was confined, and he &rst went on ihe Italian
stage as an mnateur ; but though Rossini now sings with
taste aiad spirit, he had no success then as a public singer.
He composed, however, detached airs, which were handed
about in conqpany, and Iheir ctyle was original aitd
^>rightly. He was next engaged by two or three amateurs
to con^KKse an Opera. He tvas then but a mere school
boy m i^eal^ance, and the manager of the opera house en-*
tertained but a poor ojmiion of such^a composer : his pBi.*



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ROSSINI. 167

tanSy however threatened the manager that they would
withdraw their patronage, if he did not give the
youth encouragement : he therefore consented to hring
forward this first operatic attempt. This was JLhr^anm
Felice ; it was in the reigning taste hut there were
in it a charming duo, and many hright flashes of
genius. Soon after Rossini composed those his master pie-
ces, namely II Tancredi, U Italiana in Algeriy and Pietra
di Puragone. The opera of Tancredi in particular, circu-
lated rapidly through Italy : hut Rossini had a strong aver-
sion to composing overtures, and actually did not compose
one for Tancredi ; this opera was therefore preceded hy
one or other of the two overtures composed for the other
two operas. Rossini went to Milan, and there he assumed
the high rank he now holds among composers. It was for
the Milanese that he wrote Lm Pietra di Paragone, It was
at Milan he hecame a general favorite amongst the most
heautiful women ; and the ladies of rank dispensed with the
attentions of their noble cecisebos, and the favorite Cava-
liere ServentCy was the young and engaging composer ; but
the most beautiful among them all made him her captive,
while he rendered her the first musician in all Italy ; and
we are told that when seated by her at the piano, love in-
•spired him to compose the greatest number of those airs
since introduced in his operas.— When he quitted Milan he
went to see his family, for whom he always evinced much
alTection ; he had never been known to write letters to any
one except to his mother, to whom they were addressed, to
the Illustrious SiffMra Rossini, mother to iJie celebrated corn^
posery Sfc, Sfc. Certainly he has received homage for his
exquisite talents ever since he was eighteen, and must be
conscious of his own celebrity, though he often speaks jest-
ingly of his fame.
About this time that he visited Pesaro, he was exempted



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168 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

from the laws of conscription. The minister of the inte>-
rior proposed to the viceroy of Italy, an exception in farcrtr
of Rossini, who, at first objected, but at length yielded to
the wishes of the public. Rossini afterwards departed for
Bologna ; there a very rigid dictatorship is exercised over
ir.usic, and he was reproached with violating the rules of
granunatical harmony in his compositions. Rossini ac-
knowledged they were in the right, but that none of thos0
faults would have remained, if he had read his MS. twice
over. " But," added he, " I have only six weeks to com-
pose an opera ; the first month is devoted to dissipation^
and it is but during the last fortnight that I compose every
morning a duo, or air, which is to be rehearsed on that ve-
ry evening. How then will you have me perceive the mi-
nute errors in the accompaniment .^"

The musical rigorists still, however, made a great' bus-
tle about these sins of harmony, though they are scarcely
perceptible to the ear that is listening to Rossini's music ;
but it was envy at finding a handsome, indolent youth, of
about twenty, towering so much above them ; he was
doomed, however, to experience an attack of a very differ-
ent kind. — ^His Milanese admirer quitted her splendid pa-
lazzo, her husband, her children, and her fortune, and one
morning rushed into the room then occupied by Rossini*
Scarcely had they met, when the door again opened, and
in came one of the wealthiest and most beautiful women in
Bologna ! Rossini, like Macheath, laughed at them both,
sung a lively air, and made his escape.

He was so successful at Bologna, that he received offers
from every town in Italy. He generally demanded foir an
opera, a thousand francs, (rather better than forty pounds)
and he generally wrote three or four in a year. From
1810tol8i6he visited all the principal towns in Italy : on his
arrival he was welcomed by the dilletanti of the place 5 the



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ROSSINI. 16»

first thirteen days he devoted to his friends, dining out, and
shrugging his shoulders at all the nonsense he was ohliged
to set to mn$ic ; for Rossini, as may well be ims^nedi
with his good taste, was always an excellent judge of poet*
ry. When he had been in town about three weeks, hd
would refuse invitations, and set himself seriously to study
the voices of the performers. He made them sing at the
piano, and when he had acquired an accurate knowledge
of their vocal powers, he began to write. He generally
rose late, and would pass the day in composing, while hii
friends were conversing round him ; but it was after r©*-
tuming fropi their parties at a late hour, that shutting him^-
self up in his chamber, he has been visited by his most
brilliant inspirations, these he would hastily putiiown on
scraps of paper, and then arrange them in the morning.

The mind of Rossini is remarkable quick ; when he was
composing his Moise, he was asked if he meant to make
^he Hebrews sing in fhe same way that they chaunt in the
synagogues. He was struck with the idea, and when he
went home, he composed a magnificent chorus, which be*
gins with a kind of nasal twang, peculiar to the synagogue;
but bis facility in composing is not the most exb*aordinarj
of his qualifications. Ricordi, the principal music seller ia
Italy, has made a fortune, by the sale only of Rossini's
works whose genius is fitted for the pleasurable ; for indiil«-
gence is often the ground work of his finest airs ; his great
misfortune, however, is that he does not give sufficient dig<-
nity and plaintiveness to the passion of love, but treats it as
an affair of common gallantry, yet it is his so iilften stoopr
ing to light and empheraeral graces that has rendered him
such a favorite at the Parisian theatre.

Last year Rossini was to have presided at the king's
theatre in the Hay-market, but his passion for Italy, op,
perhaps, his natural indolence, there detained him. This
22



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170 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

year, however, he has crossed the Alps, and presides at Vi-
enna. ^He is next solicited hj the Parisians. He may
periiaps, when exhausted hy their admiration, try the opu-
lence and patronage of the encouragers of musical talent in
London.

Rossini has lately married, and, like many other men of
genius, precisely the reverse to what might have been ex-
pected. The lady was Senora Colbrano, a Spaniard, but a
singer by profession, beauty she was never possessed of, and
has now lost her voice with her youth, for she is no longer
young ; but since her marriage, she performed at Vienna,
m^en Rossini directed the Opera ; her voice was so feeble
that it was tuneless, and the proud Senora was in great
danger of being hissed, but respect and regard to the hus-
band saved the wife*

We have before spoke of the natural affection of Rossi-
ni towards his parents, and we cannot close this sketch
without citing the following proof. In Italy, when Rossi-
ni presides at the piano forte during the first three repre-
sentations of one of his opei*as, he receives afterwards his
eight hundred or one thousand francs. He then rests him-
self a week or ten days ; he is then invited to a general
dinner, given by almost the whole town, and then sets off
with a portmanteau full of music paper, for another town.
On the success of an opera, this affectionate man writes t6
his mother, and sends her and his aged father the two thirds
of what he has received.

When this composer sets out upon his task ; he feels an
importunate diffidence ; he invents, combines, separates,
re*cast8, and fails of excellence through excessive care.
But as he advances, his work grows up around him, he be |
comes heated with his subject, his ideas multiply and he
feels the God. In such moments he is freed from his shac*
](les^ he breaks out like the eagle from the cloudy and



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ROSSINL 171

feels the full strength of his wings. Rossiin is little abote
the middle height, very large in his make, and somewhat
corpulent, his countenance is open, grave, and intelligent,
his head is of extraordinary dimensions, his forehead finely *
expanded and rising to a majestic height, but sloping a ht-
tle backwards ; his ejes are a light brown, dull and medi-
tative, his whole appearance is far from common, yet does
not quite declare the composer of Othello. A Craniolo-
gist, without knowing him, spent one day in examin-
ing his head, and, at last declared << there was nothing par-
ticular in the organic construction, but perhaps, he might
have some inclination for music." He is frank and affa-
ble in his manners, easy of access to strangers, fond of
hearing and relating anecdotes, and best pleased with those
associates who will grant him as much talent in other sub-
jects as in music. His health is not good ; he says himself
that in^s youth he indulged too freely in pleasures from
which he should have refrained, and he complains of being
obliged to work for a livelihood, although his circum-
stances are generally understood to be easy. The facility
with which he composes, is astonishing. In a room half
full of people, talking to one, listening to another, he scrib-
bles on with twice the rapidity of an ordinary copyist, and
very seldom retumsi;o consider or correct. He frequently
changes his sheet as though his ideas crossed one another ;
after writing ten or fifteen bars, a new vein of fancy opens
before him, and he seizes fresh paper to secure the happy
moment. There are persons in the world who laugh at the
raptures of the musician, and sordidly imagine that music
is merely a sensual gratification — ^Let them cast away such
belief. — ^Music is not sensual, it feeds the soul with one of
its purest aliments, and can infuse thoughts and feeHngs-
which language qannot describe.



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It3 MUSICAL SIOORAFHT.



MRS SALMON



Few singers have appeared, who had the power to he-
stow such universal pleasure, without exciting any very
deep or intense interest through the stronger aJ0re(5tions, as
this lady. She now takes rank with the very first of con-
cert singers, and is confessedly amongst the most attrac-^


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Online LibraryJohn R. ParkerA musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... → online text (page 13 of 20)