John R. Parker.

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

. (page 3 of 20)
Online LibraryJohn R. ParkerA musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... → online text (page 3 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the first, had been contented with barely approving the de-
sign, were afterwards warmly engaged in promoting it. In
consequence of this resort, the attention of the nation was
also drawn more forcibly to what was indeed the natural
object of it. So that it may truly be affirmed, that one of
the noblest and most extensive charities that ever Tras



Digitized by



Google



HANDETi. ^9

planned by'the wisdom, or projected^by the piety of men,
in some degree owes its continuance^ as well as prosperity,
to the patronage of Handel.

The very successful application of this wonderful pro-
duction of his genius to so beneficent a purpose, reflected
equal honour on the artist and the art.

He continued his Oratorios with uninterrupted success,
and unrivalled glory, till within eight days of his death :
the last was performed on the 6th of April, and he expi-
red on Saturday the 14th of April 1759. He was buried
the 20tii by Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Rochester, in West-
minster-abbey, where, by his own order, and at his own
expense a monument is to be erected to his memory.

In the year 1751, a gutta serena deprived him of his
sight. TTiis misfortune sunk him for a time into the deep-
est despondency. He could not rest until he had under-
gone some operations as fruitless as they were painful.
Finding it no longer possible for him to manage alone, he
sent to Mr. Smith to desire that he would play for him,
and assist him in conducting the Oratorios.

His faculties remained in their full vigour almost to the
hour of his dissolution, as appeared from songs and chorus-
es, and other compositions, which from the date of them
may almost be considered as his parting words, his last ac-
cents! This must appear the more surprising, when it is
remembered to how great a degree his mind was disorder-
ed at times towards the latter part of his life.

His health had been declining apace for several months
before his death. He was very sensible of its approach,
and refused to be flattered by any hopes of recovery.
One circumstance was very ominous, I mean the total loss
of appetite, which was come upon him, and which must
prove more pernicious to a person always habituated, as
he had been, to an unconmion portion of food and nourish-
ment. Those who have blaooed him for an excessive in-



Digitized by



Google



30 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

diligence in this lowest of gratifications/ ougbt to kave cqu*
sideredy that the peciidiafities of his eonstitutSon were
as great as those of his clHffaeter. iMxvay and in-
temperance are relative ideas, and depend on either cir-
cumstances besides those of quantity imd quality. It
would be as unreasonable to cen&e Hanobl to the fate
and allowance of common men^ as to expect that a Lon-
don merchant should live like a Swiss meehanic. Not
that J would absohre him from ail Uame on thif article.
He certainly paid more attention to it, than is becoming in
any man : but it is some excuse, that nature had gpve^ hit«
so vigorous a constitutioni so ^q«4site a palate, aiid s^ crsf
ving aA a(q»etite ; and that fortune enabled hka to obey
these callsi to satisfy these demands of natoe. lliey

* At a time when Handel's circnmstances were less prosperous
than they had been, he invited Goupy to dine with him. The
inecil wus ^aiii and frugal, as be had warned bis guest it must
be ; and for this Handel af ain apotogi^ed, atdctiag* ttlat be wo«Id
g«re biiri as hearty a welcdme as wheAhe could treat with elar^
and French dishes. Goupf returned a cordial reply ; and they
dined. Soon ^ter dinner Handel left the room > and bis ab-
sence was so long, that Goupy at last, for want of other employ,
strolled into the adjoining back room, and walking up to a win-
dow which looked diagonally on that of a small third room, he
saw bis h<Mt sitting at a table ooyered with sach delicaoies as he
bad lamented his inability to afford his fiiend. Goapy, to whom
poflbiUy 9uch viands had Uttle less relish than to bis host, was so
enraged that he quitted the house abruptly, and published the
eoigraving or etching, for my memory does not retain the fact
accurately, in which Handel, figures as a hog in the midst of
dainties. It is impossible to defend, or even to excuse Handel ;
bift we may extract from the fact soiae comfort ibr mediocii^
of isdent) by calling attention to the ahnest invariable truth,
that, as iff in mercy to the weakness of human nature, which
cannot endure any pretension to entire superiority, the balance
is generally pretty accurately adjusted between great exc^
leace and great deficiency.



Digitized by



Google



REMARKS ON HANDiai'S MUSIC. 31

w«re really such. For besides the sevewil circtimstances
juat ailef ed/ there is yet another in his favour ; I mean his
incessant and intense application to the stu<ties of his pro-
fession. This rendered constant and lar^ supplies of nour-
ishment the more necessary to recruit his exhausted spirits.
Had he hurt his health or his fortune by indulgencies of this
kind, they would hare been vicious : as he did not, they
vrcre at most indecorous. As they have been so much the
subject of conversation and pleasantry, to have taken no
notice of them, might have looked like affectation . But it
would be folly to enter into tiie particulars of this part of
his history, and contrary to the design of the foregoing
sheets, which is only " to give the reader those parts of his
character, as a man, that any way tend to open and explain
his character as an artist."



REMARKS ON HANDEL'S MUSIC.

The taste in Music both of tiie Grermans and the Italians,
is suited to the different characters of tiie two nations*
.That of the first is rough and martial ; and their Music
consists of strong effects, produced, without much delicacy,
by the rattle of a number of instruments. The Italians,
irom their strong and Hvely feelings, have endeavoured in
their Music to express all the agitations of the soul, from
the most delicate sensations of love, to the most violent
effects of hatred and despair ; and this in a great degree
by the modulation of a single part

Handel formed his taste upon that of his countrymen^
but by the greatness and sublimity of his genius, he has
worked up such effects as are astonishing. Some of thQ
best Italian masters, by the delicacy of their modulation,
have so deeply entered into all the different sensations of
the human heart, that they may almost be said to have the



Digitized by



Google



32 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

passions of mankind at their command ; at least 6f that
part of mankmdy whose lively feelings are somewhat raised
to a pitch with their own.

When we consider two kinds of Music so very different
in character, as that of Handel^ and that of the best Ital-
iansy and both carried to so great a degree of perfectiotr,
we cannot be surprised at seeing warm advocates for each.
Handel's Musip must be allowed to have had some advan-
tages over theirs, independent of its real merit. The ful-
ness, strength, and spirit of his Music, is wonderfully well
suited to the common sensations of mankind, w^ich must
be roused a little f roughly, and are not of a cast to be easi-
ly worked upon by delicacies. Thus he takes in all the un-
prejudiced part of mankind. For in his sublime strokes, of
which he has many, he acts as powerfully upon the most
knowing, as upon the ignorant. Another advantage which he
has over the Italians, is owing to themselves. The quantity
of bad Music from Italy, prejudices many against the good.

I would conclude, that both those who indiscriminately
condenm Handel's compositions, and those who in like
manner condemn the Italian music, are equally to blame
as prejudiced or ignorant deciders. And I would recom-
mend it to all true lovers of Music, to examine with candor,
and I may even add, with some degree of reverence, the
compositions of men, whose; great abilities in their prof es-»
sion do honor to human nature. I think it is highly proba-
ble, that whatever deUcacies appear in Handel's Music,
are owing to his journey into Italy ; and likewise that the
Italians are much indebted to him for their management of
the instrumental parts that accompany the voice ; in which

t It is only Handel's general character that is here opposed
to that of the Italians. For thoug^h the cast of his mind was
more towards the great and snblime than any other style, yet he
sQmetimes excels the Italians themselves even in the passionate
and pathetic.



Digitized by



Google



REMARKS ON HANDEL'S MUSIC 33

indeed seme few. of them have succeeded admirably well.
And as some proof of Handel's influence in Italy, it is^ I
beUeve, an undoubted fact, that French-horns were never
used there as an accQn^paniment tp the voice, till Handel
introduced them.

But however well some of the Italians may have succeed?
^d in the management of the instrumental parts in their
Song-music, there is pne point in which Handel standi
alone, and in which. he may possibly never be equalled ; I
iTiean in the instrumental parts of his Chor^sses, and full
church Music. In these he has given innumerable instan-
ces of an imbounded genius. In short, there is such a sub-
limity in many of the effects he has worked up by the com-
bination of instruments and voices, that they seem to be
rather the efiect of inspiration, than of knowledge in Mu-
, sic. •

But in order to make a right judgment pf his abilijties in
Music, attention must consjtantly be had to its two difierent
species, viz. the instruniental and vocal.

The excellence of the former consists in the strength and
fulness of its harmony : that ofcthe Jatter in ^he delicacy
and propriety of its melody.

Handel was not so excellent in air, where t^ere is no
strong character to mark, or passion to express. ^He had
not the art, for which the Italians haye ever been remark-
able, the art of trifling with grace and delicacy. His turn
was for greater things, in expressing which it is hard tp
say, whether he excelled most in his ajr, or in his harmo-
ny. This may be' proved even from hi^ Oratorios, where
he has failed the most and the oftenest. But in his old ope-
ras there are nimiberless instances of his abilities in the
vocal way, such as it would be* diflScult to parallel out of
the greatest masters, whose excellence lay in that particu-
lar species.

5^



» •



Digitized by



Google



34 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

And here I may observe, there are indeed son^e few
sonnds, which nature herself employs to express ttie strong
lemOtions of the human heart, which the voice may imitate.
But it is common for the masters not only to forget the na-
ture and extent of this imitative power in, Music, but also to
' mistake the subject qn which to employ it. A too close
attachment to some particular words in a sentence, hath
often misled them from the general meaning of it. Han-
del himself, from his imperfect acquaintance with the En-
glish language, has sometimes fallen into tiiese mistakes.
A composer ought never to pay this attention to single
words, excepting they havfe an uncommon energy, and conr
tain some passion or sentiment. To do Handel justice, he is
generally great and masterly, where the language and poet-
ry are well adapted to his purpose. Hie English tongue
$d>ounds with monosyllables and consonants. Though these
cannot always be avoided, yet the writers of musical dra-
mas should always pick put such as are the least harsh and
disagreeable to the ear. The same regard must be had tq
the sentiments, as to the language. The mo^e simple and
natural they are, the morfi easily will Music express ^em.
There was a time (says Mr, Addisqn) when it was laid
down as a maxim, that nothing was capable of being well
net to Music, that was not nonsense. This ^^3rJr Is equally
just and beautiful. But though the sense of such produc-
tions canot be too strong, the poetry of them may )be toQ
fine. If it aboimds with noble images, and high wrought
descriptions, and contsuns lit^e of character, sentiment, or
passion, the best composer will have no opportunity qf ex-
erting his talents. Where there h nothing capable of be-
ing expressed, all he can do is to entertain his audience
;with mere ornamental passages' of his own invention. But
graces and flourishes mui^t rise from the subject of the com-
position in which they are employed, just as flowers an^



Digitized by



Google



REMARK ON HANDEL'S MUSIC. 35

feai:o<Mui from, the design of the building. It is from their
irelslthmto the whole, that these miimter parts derire their
value.

U was not to be dissembled that the manly cast of Han-
del's mind often led him into a kind of melody ill suited to
the voice ; that he wa3 apt to depart from the style which
the species of composition demanded, and run Into passa-
ges purely instrumental. Yet so admirable is the contri-
vance, and 80 beautiful the modulation in some of his pie-
ces, where this deviation is most conspicuous, that the best
judg<i of Music^ who examines them as a critic, will hardly
have the heart to execute his office ; and, while the laws of
it eompel him to sdrraign the fhxAiy will ahnost be sorry to
see it corrected.

To conclude, there iii in his works, such a fulness^ force^
and energy, that the harmony of Handel may always be
(compared to the antique figiU'e Of Hercules, which seems
to be nothing but muscles and sinews ; and his melody may
of^ten J^ likened to the Venus of Medicis, which is all grace
knd dehcacy.

tVhatever shall be thought of this attempt to do justice
to his memory, too much reason there is for believing that
tHe interests of religion and humanity are not so strongly
guarded, or so firmly secured, as easily to spare those suc-
cors, or forego those assistances which are ministered to
them from the elegant arts.

They refine and exalt our ideas of pleasui*e, which when
rightly understood, and properly pursued, is the very end
of our existence. They improve and settle our ideas of
taste ; which, when foimded on solid and consistent princi-
ples, explams the causes, and heightens the effects, of what-
ever is beautiful, or excellent, whethef in the yrotks of
creation, or in the productions of human skiU. •

They adorn and embellish the face of nature ; the tal-
ents of men they sharpen and invigorate j the mannt rsr



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



36 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

ihey civilize and polish ; in a word, they soften ttie cards
of life, and render its heaviest calamities mudi more s«ip-
portahle by adding to tiie number of its innocent enjoy-
ihents/ ^



f HANCIS JOSEPH HAYDN.



Francis Joseph Haybn was born on the last day of
March, 1732, at Rohrau, a s^all town, fifteen leagues dis-
tant from Vienna. His father was a cartwright ; and his
mother, before her marriage, had been cook in the family of
Count Harrach, the Lord of the village. The father of
Haydn united to his trade of a cartwright, the office
of parish sexton. He had a fine tenor voice, ^as^ fond .
of his organ, and of Music in general. On one of those
journies, which the artisans of Germany often undertake,
being at Frankfort-on-the-Mayne,; he learned to play a lit-
tle on the harp : an^ji in holidays, after church, he used to
take his instrument, and his wife sung. The birth of Jo-
seph did not alter the habits of this peaceful family. The
flittle domestic concert returned every week, and th« child,
standing before his parents, with two pieces of wood in his
hands, one of M^hich served him as a violin,:and ^e other as
a bow, constantly accompanied his mother's voice. A
cousin of the cartwri^t, whose name was Frank, a school-
m^ter atHaimburg, came to Rohrau, on Sunday, and as-
sisted at the trio. He remarked, that the child, then
Scarcely six years old, beat the time with astonishing ex-
actitude and precision. This Frank was well acquainted^



Digitized by



Google



HAYDN. 37

«

with MtMsic, and proposed t6 his relations to take little Jo-
seph to his house, and to teach him. ^fhey a<^cepted
the offer with joy, hoping to succed more easily in getting
Joseph into holy orders, if he should understand music.

Fi^om his most tender ag6, Music had given him unusual
|)leasure. At any time, he would rather list^ to any instru-
ment whatever, than run about with' his little companions.
When at play with them in the square, near St. Stej^en's as
soon as he heafd the organ, he quickly left them, and went
into the church. Arrived at the age of composition, the habit
of application was already acquired : besides, the composer
of Music has advantages over other artists ; his productions
are finished as soon as imatgined.

L^s precocious than Mozart, who, at thirteen years pro-
duced an applauded Opera, Haydn, at the same age, com-
posed a mass, which honest Reuter very properly ridicul-
ed. . This sentence surprised the young man, but full of
good sense at that early period, he was awai*e of its justice :
he was sensible that it was necessary to learn counterpoint,
and the rules of melody. But from whom was heto learn
them ? Reuter did not teach counterpoilit to the children
of the choir, and never gave more than two lessons in it to
Hayi>n. Mozart had an excellent master in his father,
who was an esteemed performer on the violin*. It was other-
wise with poor Joseph, a friendless chorister in Vienna,
who could only obtain lessens by paying for themi, and
who had not hdlf a penny. His father, notwithstanding his
two trades, was so poor, that when Joseph had been rob-
bed of his clothes, on his communicating the ttiisfortune to
his family, his father makipg an effort, sent him six florins
to refit his wardrobe.

Haydn bought, at a second hand shop, some theoretical
books, among others the Treatise by Fijx, and he set about
studying it with a perseverance, which the horrible obscurity
of the rules could not overcome. Labouring alone, without



Digitized by



Google



38 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHt.

a master^ he made an infinite^ nund^r of little diaeoverieiiy
which were afterwards of use to him. Without either mpn-
ey, or fire, slirrering with Cold in hi^ farret, and oj^eissed
with sleep as he pursued his studies to a late hpur of the night,
by the side of a harpsichord out of repair, and falling to pie-
tes in all parts, he was still happy. The days and years flew
on rapid wing, and he has often said, that he never enjoyed
such felicity at any other period of his Hfe. Hatdn's rul-
ing passion was rather the love of music» than the love of
glory : and even in his desire of glory, not a shadow of
ambition was to be found. In cosnposing Music, he sought
rather his 6wn gpratification, than to furni^ himself with
the means of acquiring celebrity.

Hatdn was in his nineteenth year, when he composed
ihe Tempest. Mozart wrote his first Opera at Milan, at
the ag6 of tiiirteen, in competition with Hasse, who, af-
ter having heard the rehearsal, said publicly, " this boy will
throw us all into the shafde." Hatdn was not so success-
ful ; his talent was not for the theatre : and though he has
producect Operas which no master would be ashamed to
avow, he has, nevertheless, remained far behind the Ok-
inenza di Tiio and Dati Juan.

ii was at twenty that he produced his first quartett in
B^ f tim^e, which all the musical amateurs immediately
learned by heart. I do not know for what reason Hatdk,
kbout this time, left the house of his friend Keller ; but it is
certain,, that his reputation, though rising under the most
brilliant auspices, had not yet raised him above poverty.
He went to reside with a M. MARTiNEZy who offered him
board and lodgihg, on condition that he would give lessons
on the piano-forte, and in singing, to his two daughters. It
was then, that the same house, situated near the church of St.
Michael, contained in two rooms, one over the other, in
the third and fourth stories, the first poet of the age, vna/A
the first symphonrst of the world.



Digitized by



Google



HAYDN. M

Metastasio^s^o, lodged wifli Martinez, %ut, as poet to
^e Emperor Charles VLy he Uved in easy drctunstances,
* while poor Hatdn passed the winter days in hed for want
of fuel. The society of the Roman poet was, nevertheless
a great advantage to him. A gentle and deep sensihility had
given Metastasio a correct taste in aU tiie arts. He- was
passionately fond of Music, and understood it well ; and
this singularly harmonious soul appreciated the talents of
fte young German. Metastasio, dining eyejy day wife
Haydn, gave him some general rules respecting the fine
larts ; and in th.e course of his instructions, taught l^m Ital-
ian.

'Piis strug^e ^gainst want, tiie early companion of al^
most all artists who have arrived at distinction, lasted with
aspect to Haydn, for six long years. If some rich noble-r
man had brou^t him out at that time, and seiit him to trav-
el, for two years, in Italy, with a pension of one hundred
louis, nothing, perhaps, would have been wanting tp his tal-r
ent ; but, less fortunate than M^astasio, he had not his
Gravim, At lengthy he obtained a situation in a family j
and in 1758, left the hoiHe of Martinez, to enter the service
of the count MoRTZiN.

Haydn, was received into ^he Esterhaay family, placed
at the head of a grand orchestra, and attached to the service
of a patron immensely rich, found himself 14 that happy unr
ion of circumstances, too rare for our pleasures, which gives
opportunity to genius to display all its powers. From thi^
moment his life was uniform, and fully employed. He rosjB
early in the morning, dressed himself very neatly, and plac-
ed himself at a small table by the side of his pianoforte}
where the hour of dinner usually found him still seated, fia
th#evening, he went to the rehearsals, oi* to fee C^jierft, yrbiek
>ras performed, in fee Prince's palace, four times Wety
week. Sometimeis, but not often, he devoted a morm^g'tq
Jaunting. The little time which.he had to spare, on cprnmo^



A



I

Digitized by



Google



40 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

days, was diyidecl between his friends and mademoiselle
Bosselli. Such was the course of his life, for more than
thirty years. This accounts for the astonishing number of *
his works. They may be arranged in three classes : in-
strumental music, church music, and operas.

The general character of the instrumental music of our
author is that of romantic imagination. . In vain would you
seek in it the correctness of Racine ; it is rather the style
of Ariosto, or of Shakespeare. For this reason I csmnot
account for the reputation of Hatdn in France,

His genius ranges in every direction with jthe rapidity of
the eagle. The astonishing, and the alluring, succeed eaclj
other alternately, and are painted with the most brilliant
tints. It is this variety of coloring, it is the absence of eve-?
ry thing tedious, which has probably obtained for him so
rapid and extensive a success. Scarcely had he composed
his symphonies, before they were performed in America, an4
the Indies.

The magic of his style seems to me to consist in a prer
jdommating character of liberty and joy. This joy of Haydn
is a perfectly natural, pure, and f ntinual exultation ; it
reigns* in the allegros \ it is perceptible even in the grave
parts, and pervades the andantes in a sensible degree.

In those compositions, where it is evident from the
rythm, the tone, and the general character, that the au^
thor intends to inspire melancholy, this obstinate joy, being
unable to shew itself openly, is ti^ansf ormed into energy
and strength. Obse^e, this sombre gravity is not pain, it
is joy constrained to disguise itself ; which might be calr
led the concentrated joy of a savage ; but never sadness,
dejection, or melancholy. Haydn has never been really
mekneholy more than two or three times ; in a verse o^
jbis SlcAat MateVy and in two of the odogftos bfthe Seven



Digitized by



Google



HAYDN. 41

This is the reason why he has never excelled in Dramat-
ic music. Without melancholy, there can he no impas-
i^ioned ipusic, and, for this cause, the French people, live-
fy, vain, and light, expressing with quickness all their sen-
timents, sometimes oppressed with ennui, hut never melan-
cholic, will never have any music.

Haydn did not set himself to write a symphony, except
he felt himself in a good disposition for it. It has heen
said, that fine thoughts come from the heart ; and the
truth of this remark is the more observable, in proportion
as the subject, on which an author is employed, is removed
from the precision of the mathematical sciences.

Haydn, like Bufibn, thought it necessary to have his


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryJohn R. ParkerA musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... → online text (page 3 of 20)