John R. Parker.

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

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composed it agreeable to the instructions given him. The
opera was performed ; the house was always filled ; it was



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MOZART- 79

talked of all over Germany, and was' performed a short
time afterwards, on five or six different theatres, none of
which had obtained their copies from the distressed mana-
ger.

On other occasions, he met only with ingratitude from
those to whom he had rendered service, hut nothing could
extinguish his compassion for the unfortunate. Whenev-
er any distressed artists, who were stangers to Vienna, ap-
plied to him, in passing through the city, he offered th^m
the use of his house and table, introduced them to the ac-
quaintance of those persons whom he thought most likely
to be of use to them, and seldom let them depart without
writing for them concertos, of which he did not even keep
a copy, in order that being the only persons to play them,
they might exhibit themselves to more advantage.

Mozart often gave concert* at his house on Sundays . A
Polish Count, who was introduced on one of these occa-
sions, was delighted, as well as the rest of the company,
with a piece of music for five instruments, which was per-
formed for the first time. He expressed to Mozart how
much he had been gratified by it, and requested that, when
he was at leisure, he would ccftnpose for him a trio for the
flute. Mozart promised to do so, on condition that it
should be at his own time. The Count, on his return home,
sent the composer one hundred gold demi-sovereigns,
(about 100/) with a very polite note, in which he thanked
him for the pleasUi*e he had enjoyed. Mozart sent him
him the original score of the piece for five instruments,
which had appeared to please him. The count left Vien-
na. A year afterwards he called again upon Mozart, and
enquired about his trio. "Sir," repHed the composer, " I
have never felt myself in a disposition to write any thing
that I should esteem worthy of your acceptance." — "Prob-
ably," replied the count, "you will not feel more disposed
to return me the 100 demi-sovereigns, which I paid you



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80 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

beforehand for the piece." Mozart, indignant, immedi-
ately returned him his sovereigns ; but the Count said noth-
ing about the original score of the piece for five instru-
ments ; and it was soon afterwards published by Artaria,
as a quatuor for the harpsichord, with an' accompaniment
for the violin, alto, and violincello.

It has been remarked, that Mozart very readily acquir-
ed new habits. The health of his wife, whom he always
passionately loved, was very delicate. During a long ill-
ness which she had, he always met those who came to see
her, with his finger on his lips, as an intimation to them not
to make a noise. His wife recovered, but, for a long time
afterwards, he always went to meet those who came to vis-
it him with his finger on his lips, and speaking in a subdued
tone of voice.

In the course of this illness, he occasionally took a ride,
on horseback, early in the morning, but before he went, he
was always careful to lay a paper near his wife, in the
form of a physician's prescription. The following is a copy
of one of these : ^*Good morning, my love, I hope that you
have slept well, and that nothing has disturbed you :
be careful not take cold, or to hurt yourself in stoop-
ing : do not vex * yourself with the servants ; avoid
every thing that would be unpleasant to you, till I return :
take good care of yourself : I shall return at nine o'clock.

Constance Weber was an excellent companion for Mo-
zart, and often gave him useful advice. She bore him
two children, whom he tenderly loved. His income was
considerable, but his immoderate love of pleasure, and the
disorder of his' afiairs, prevented him from bequeathing any
thing to his family, except the celebrity of his name, and
the attention of the public. After the death of this great
composer, the inhabitants of Vienna testified to his chil-
dren, their gratitude for the pleasure which their father
liad so often afibrded them.



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MOZART. 81

During the last years of Mozart's life/bis health, which
had always been delicate, declined rapidly. Like all per-
sons of imagination, he was timidly apprehensive of future
evils, and the idea that he had not long to live, often dis-
tressed him* At these times, be worked with such rapidi-
ty and unremitting attention, that he sometimes forgot
every thing that did not relate to his art. Frequently, in
the height of his enthusiasm, his strength failed him, he
fainted, and was obliged to be carried to his bed. Every one
saw that he was ruining his health by this immoderate ap-
plication. His wife, and his friends, did all they could to
divert him. Out of complaisance, he accompanied them
in the walks and visits to which they took him, but his
thoughts were always absent. He was only occasionally
roused from this silent and habitual melancholy, by the
presentiment of his approaching end, an idea which always
awakened in him fresh terror.

His insanity was similar to that of Tasso, and to that which
rendered Rousseau so happy in the valley of Charmettes,
by leading him, through the fear of approaching death, to
the only true philosophy, the enjoyment of the present
moment and the forgetting of sorrow. Perhaps, without
that high state of nervous sensibiUty which borders on in-
sanity, there is no superior genius in the arts which require
tenderness of feeling.

His wife, uneasy at these singular habits, invited to the
house those persons whom he was most fond of seeing, and
who pretended to surprise him, at times, when after many
hour's application, he ought naturally to have thought of
resting. Their visits pleased him, but he did not lay aside
his pen ; they talked, and endeavoured to engage him in
the conversation, but he took no interest in it ; they ad-
dressed themselves particularly to him, he uttered a few
inconsequential words, and went on with his writing

U



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62 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

It was in this state of mind that be composed the ZaU' .
ber FbtCy the Clemenza di Tito, the Requiem y and some
other pieces of less celebrity. It was while he was writing
the music of the first of these operas, that he was seized
with the fainting fits we have mentioned. He was very par^
tial to the Zauber Flote, though he was not quite satisfied
with some parts of it, to which the public had taken a fan'-
cy, and which were incessantly applauded. This opera
was performed many times, but the weak state in which
Mozart then was, did not permit him to direct the orches^
tra, except during nine or ten of the first representations.
When he was no loilger able to attend the theatre, he used
to place his watch by his side, and seemed to follow the
orchestra in his thoughts. " Now the first act is over," he
would say — ^^ now they are singing such an air." &c.; then
the idea Would strike him afresh, &at he must soon bid
adieu to all this forever.

The effect of this fatal tendency of mind was accelera-
ted by a very singular circumstance. I beg leave to be
permitted to relate it in detail, because we are indebted to
it for the famous Requiem, which is justly considered one
of Mozart's best productions.^

* This great work is a solemn mass in D. minor for the burial
of the dead hung round with jthe funeral pomp and imagery
which the forebodings of the author inspired. At its opening,*
the ear is accosted by the mournful notes of the Corni di basset-
fo, mingling with the bassoons in a strain of bewailing harmo-
ny, #hich streams with impressive effect amidst the short sor-
rowful notes of the accompanying orchestra.

The Dies irae follows in, a movement full of terrour and dis-
may. The Tuba mirumy is opened by a sonorous troniboni, tor
awaken the sleeping dead. Kvery one acquainted with the pow-
ers of this instrument acknowledges the superiority of its tones
for the expression of this sublime idea.

Rex tremendce tMajestatis^ is a magnifiicent display of regal



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HOZART. 83

One day, when he was plunged in a profound reyerie,
he heard a carriage stop at his door. A stranger was an-
nounced) who requested to speak to him. A person was
introduced, handsomely dressed, of dignified, and impres-
sive manners. '^ I have been commoiissioned, Sir, by a
man of considerable importance, to call upon you." << Who
is he ?" interrupted Mozart. — " He does not wish to be
known." — " WeU, what does he want ?" — " He has just
lost a person whom he tenderly loved, and whose memory
will be eternally dear to him. He is desirous of annually
commemorating this mournful event by a solemn service,
for which he requests you to compose a requiem." Mozart
was forcibly struck by this discourse, by the grave man-
ner in which it was uttered, and by the air of mystery
in which the whole was involved. He engaged to write
the Requiem. ISie stranger continued, << Employ all your
genius on this work ; it is destined for a connoisseur."
" So much the better," — ^' What time do you require ?" —
" A month." — " Very well 2 in a month's time I shall re-
turn.^ — ^What price do you set on your work ?" — " A hun-
dred ducats." The stranger counted them on the table,
and disappeared.
Mozart remained lost in thought for some time ; he

grandeur, of which none but a Mozart would haire dared to
sketch the outline. It is followed by the beautiful morement
Recordare, which supplicates in the softest inflexions. The per-
suasive tone of the Corni di bassetto is again introduced with
un exampled effect.

It is too evident where the pen of our author was arrested ;
and this wonderful performance is very absurdly finished by
repeating some of the early parts of the work to words of a
very contrary import. The lux aterna, is a subject worthy
the pen of Beethoven, and it is to be hoped he will yet finish
l-his magnificent work, in a style worthy of its great progenia
tor.



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84 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

then suddenly called for pen^ ink, and paper, and,iB
spite of his wife's entreaties, began to write. This rage
for composition continued several days ; he wrote day and
night, with an ardour which seemed continually to increase ;^
but his constitution, already in a state of great debility,
was unable to support his enthusiaan : one morning, he
fell senseless, and was obliged to suspend his work. Two
or three days after, when his wife sought to divert his
mind from the gloomy presages which occupied it,
he said to her abruptly : ^Mt is certain that I am writing
this Requiem for myself ; it will serve for my funeral ser-
vice." Nothing could remove this impression from his mind.
As he went on, be felt his strength diminish from day to
day, and the score advanced slowly. The month which
he had fixed, being expired, the stranger again made his
appearance. ^^ I have found it impossible," said Mozart,
"to. keep my word"— -" Do not give yourself any unea-
siness," rephed the stranger ; " what further time do you
require ?" — "Another month. The work has interested
me more than I expected, and I have extended it much
beyond what I at first designed." " In that case, it is but
just to increase the premium ; here are fifty ducats more."
— ^" Sir," said Mozart, with increasing astonishment,
" who then are you ?" — " That is nothing to the purpose ;
In a month's time I shall return."

Mozart immediately called one of his servants, and or*
dered him to follow this extraordinary personage, and find
out who he was ; but the man failed for want of skill, and
returned without being able to trace him.

Poor Mozart was then persuaded that he was no ordina-
ry being ; that he had a connection with the other world,
and was sent to announce to him his approaching end. He
applied himself with the more ardour to his Requiem, which
he regarded as the most durable monument of his genius.



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M02ART. 85

While thus emplojed, he was seized with the most alarm-
ing fainting fits, but the work was at length completed be-
fore the expiration of the month. At the time appointed,
the stranger returned, but Mozart was no more.

His career was as brilliant as it was short. He died be-
fore he had completed his thirty-sixth jear ; but in this
short space of time he has acquired a name which will nev-
er perish, so long as feehng hearts are to be found.

Mozart, philosophically contemplated, is still more as-
tonishing, than when regarded as the author of sublime com-
positions. Never was the soul of a man of genius exhibited
so naked, if we may be allowed the expression. The cor-
poreal part had as little share as possible in that extraordi-
nary union called Mozart. To this day the ItaUans desig-
nate him by the appellation of " quel mostro d'ingegno,'*
that prodigy of genius.

HENRY PURCELL.



In tracing the progress of English music through the
sTeigns of James and Charles I. the gloomy era of the Pro-
tectorate, and the days of revelry of Charles the second,
we have found among secular compositions little to admire.
In fact, almost the whole of the above period may, in a
musical point of view, be considered as the reign of dull-
ness and insipidity.

It is therefore with peculiar pleasure that we are now
permitted, in the course of our labors, to speak of Henry
PuRCELL, who, considered as a musician, is as justly the
' pride of an Englishman, as Shakspeare in dramatic produc-
tions, Milton in epic poetry, Locke in metaphysics, or Sir
Isaac Newton in mathematics and philosophy.



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86 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

Unluckily for Purcell, he built his fame with such pM»-
ishable materials, that the knowledge of his worth and
works is daily diminishing, while the reputation of our Po-
ets and philosophers increases daily by the study and utili-
ty of their productions. And so much of our great musi-
cian's celebrity is already consigned to tradition, that it
will soon be as difficult to find his songs, or at least to hear
them, as those of his predecessors Orpheus and Amphion,
with which Cerberus was lulled to sleep, or the city of
Thebes constructed.

Henry Purcell was bom in 1658. • His father Henry,
and uncle Thomas Purcell, were both musicians, and gen-
tlemen of the chapel Royal,at the Restoration. From whom
Henrt received his first instructions in music cannot be
ascertained. But his father dying in 1664, when he was
only six years old, it is probable, that he was qualified for
a chorister by captain Cook, who was master of the chil-
dren from the Restoration, till his death in 1 672. As Pur-
cell was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey at 18
years of age, he must have learned the elements of his
art at an early period of his life. He certainly was taught to
sing in the King's Chapel, and received lessons from Pel-
ham Humphrey, Cook's successor, till his voice broke ;
an accident, which usually happens to youth at sixteen or
seventeen years of age .

After this, perhaps, he had a few lessons on composi-
tion from Dr. Blow, which were sufficient to cancel all the
instructions'he had received from other masters, and to oc-
casion the boast inscribed on his tomb-stone, that he had
been

" Master to the famous Mr, Henry Purcell."
Nothing is more common than this petty larceny among
musicians. If the first master has drudged eight or ten
years with a pupil of genius, and it is thought necessary^



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MOZART. 87

In compliance with fashion or caprice, that he should re*
ceive a few lessons from a second, the persevering assiduity
of thie first and principal instructor is usually forgotten,
while the second arrogates to himself the wh4)le honor, hoth
of the talents and cultivation of his new scholar.

PCRCfiLL is said to hare profited so much from his first
lessons, and early application, as to have composed, while
a singing hoy in the chapel, many of his anthems, which
have been constantly sung in our cathedrals ever since.
Elighteen was a very early age for the appointment of
organist of Westminster Abbey, one of the first cathedrals
in the kingdom for choral compositions and performance.

It was not likely he would stop here : the world is more
partial to promisiiig youth, than to accomplished age. At
twenty-four, in 1682, he was promoted to one of the three
places of organist of the Chapel Royal, on the death of
Edward Low, the successor of Dr. Christopher Gibbons, in
the same station. After this, he produced so many admi^
rable compositions for the church and chapel, of which he
was organist, and where he was certain of having them
better performed than elsewhere, that his fame soon extend^
ed to the remotest parts of the kingdom. From this time,
his anthems were procured with eagerness, and heard with
pious rapture wherever they could be performed ; nor was
he long suffered to devote his talents exclusively to the
service or the church. He was very early in life soUcited
' to compose for the stage and chamber, in both which un-
dertakings h^ was so decidedly superior to all hb predeces^
sors, that his compositions seemed to speak a new and more
intelligible language . His songs contain whatever the ear
could then wish, or heart feel. In fact no other vocal mu-
sic was listened to with pleasure, for nearly thirty years af-«
ter Pubcell's death : when they gave way only to the fa-
vorite opera songs of Handel.



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Ba MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

The unlimited powers of this musician's genius, embraced
every species of composition that was then known^with equal
felicity .In writing for the church, whether he adhered to
the elaborate and learned style of his great predecessors,Talr
list, Bird, and Gibbons, in which no instrument is employed
but the organ, and the several parts moving in fugue, imita^
tidn,or plain counterpoint; or, on the contrary, giving way to
feeling and imagination, adopted the new and more expres-
sive style, of which he was himself one of the principal in-
ventors, accompanying the voice parts with instruments, to
enrich the harmony, and enforce the melody and meaning
of the words, he manifested equal abilities and resources.
In compositions for the theairey though the colouring and
effects of an orchestra were then but little known, yet as
he employed them more thanhis predecessors, and gave to
the voice a melody more interesting and impassioned, than
during that century had been heard in this country, or even,
perhaps, in Italy, he soon became the delight and darling
of the nation. And in the several species of chamber musicy
which he attempted, whether sonatas, for instruments,
or odes, cantatas, songs, ballads and catches for tiie voice,
he so far surpassed whatever our country had produced or
imported before,that all other musical compositions seemed
to have been instantly consigned to contempt and oblivion.

Many of his numerous compositions for the church, par-
ticularly those printed in the second and third volumes of
Dr. Boyce's Collection, are still retained in our cathedrals^
and in the King's chapel.

The superior genius of Purcell, can be fairly estimated
by those only who make themselves acquainted with the
state of music previous to his time ; compared with which,
his productions for the church, if not more learned, will be
found infinitely more varied and expressive : and his secular
(Compositions appear to have descended from another more



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puRcfiLL. es

li^ppy region, with which neither his pretlecessoirs nor cqn-
temporaries had any communication.

To enter into a critical examination of Purcell's nmner->
dus compositions, would exceed the limits, and he foreign to
the purpose of this work. The public are greatly indebted to
Mr.Corfe and Dr. Clarke,of Cambridge, both of whom have
published very excellent selections from the secular works
of this great musician, under the title of" T%e Beauties of
PurcelV^ Were it not for such occasional meritorious ex-
ertions, on the patt of the professors, it is greatly to be fear-
ed that the stream of oblivion would in a few years, draw
into their insatiable vortex the productions of Purcell and
even of Handel, their names, like those of many of their
predecessors, might float awhile on the surface, when their
works were buried in the abyss beneath.

Feeling an enthusiastic attachment to the fame of this
truly English musician, and anxious to contribute our mite
to draw the public attention to a fair examination of the
characteristic and manly strains which abound in every
part of his productions, we have ventured to extend our re-
marks upon this scientific musician.

We cannot take our leave of Purcell's vocal music,
without a grateful memorial of his Catches, Rounds, and
Glees, of which the humor, originality, and melody, were
so congenial with the national taste, as to render them al-
most the sole productions of that facetious character, in
general use for nearly four score years ; and though the
countenance, and premiums recently bestowed upon this
species of composition, united with the modem refinements
in melody and performance, have given birth to many
Glees of a more elegant, graceful, and exalted kind, than
any which Purcell produced ; yet he seems hardly ever
to have been equalled in the wit, pleasantry, and contrivance
of his Catches.



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90 MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY.

We shall here conclude our history of Henry Purcell^
which we fear, by many Italianized readers^ may be con-
sidered already too circumstantial. Had his short life
been protracted, we might perhaps have had a school of
secular music of our own, which we cannot to this day
boast of. In many instances he has surpassed even Handel,
in the expression of English words and national feelings ;
and we may f^rly sum up his merits as a musician in a sin-
gle sentence. His beauties in composition were entirely
his own, while his occasional barbarisms may be consider-
ed as unavoidable compliances with the false taste of the
age in which he lived.



THOMAS A. ARNE.



Of England's musical composers, no one, his merits
aggregately viewed, certainly no one except Purcell^
claims a higher distinction than the late Dr. Arnb. To a
a strong and clear conception, he added ^1 the polish of
his time and with a copious s^re of science, was the mu-
sician of sentiment and of nature. It were a praise suflS-
cient to establish his general pre-eminence, that his genius
marked out a course for itself ; but the flowers with which
his path was profusely adorned, by his simple and easy,
yet elegant imagination, combined with the force and
originality of his ideas, place him in a station perfectly his
own, and exhibit his professional character in a beautiful
and brilliant light.

Thomas Augustine Arne, son of an eminent upholster-
er in King Street, Covent Garden, received his education
at Eton College. The provident wisdom of his father de-



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ARNE. 91

signed him for the legal profession, hut the native taste for
music that afterwards rendered him so conspicuous an or-
nament of his country, disclosed itself in his earhest youth,
and, hy his school fellows, has been said to have interfer-
ed with the progress of his academical attainments. Ac*
cording to some of his biographers, a flute too often sup-
plied the place of Virgil and Horace ; and, on leaving the
grammar school, he brought with him so strong a predilec-
tion for the concord of sweet aound$y that he was frequently
tempted to avail himself of the privileges of a liveried ser-
vant, by going in a borrowed garb to the part of Uie opera
house then usually allotted to the domestics of the nobility.
Sensible of the pain and displeasure that would be created
in his father's mind, should he know that his son's partiality
was devoted to the charms, and his time to the cultivation,
of music, he secretly procured, and conveyed to the attic
story, an old spinnet. On this instnmient, after cautiously
mu£9ing the strings, he guardedly and timidly practised du-
ring the hours when suspicion and the family were asleep.
While improving his execution on the spinnet, and apply-
ing himself to the acquisition of thorough bass, he contriv-
ed to procure the advantage of some instructions on the vio-r
lin. Under Festing, he made so great so rapid a progress,
that not many months after the commencement of his ap-
plication to that instrument, his father, calling at the house
of a friend, detected his son in the very act of leading a


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Online LibraryJohn R. ParkerA musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... → online text (page 7 of 20)