Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

bad figure he imagined he had made at Naples, that he stole away from the place and returned to Rome.

It was soon aster this that a hautbois player, whose name Geminiani could not recollect, acquired such applause at Rome, that Corelli, disgusted, would never play again in public. All these mortifications, joined to the success of Valentini, whose concertos and performances, though infinitely inferior to those of Corelli, were become fashionable, threw him into a state of melancholy and chagrin, which was thought to have hastened his death, which took place on the 18th of January, 1712.

The account given by Geminiani of Corelli's journey to Naples, as is well remarked by Burney, “ is not a mere personal anecdote, as it throws light upon the comparative state of music at Naples and at Rome in Corelli's time; and exhibits a curious contrast between the fiery genius of the Neapolitans, and the meek, timid, and gentle character of Corelli, so analogous to the style of his music.”

For many years after the death of this great musician, its anniversary was commemorated by a solemn service in the Pantheon, in which pieces selected from his own works were performed by a numerous orchestra. Sir John Hawkins meations that, in 1730, an eminent master of his acquaintance was present at the ceremony, who stated that the 3rd and 8th coucertos were performed by a band containing many persons who had been pupils of the composer: These pieces, he added, were played in a slow and distinct manner without embellishments, and just as they are written ; whence he concluded that this was the style in which they had been executed by Corelli himself. This solemnity continued as long as his immediate scholars survived.

On Corelli's personal character all writers agree in bestowing the highest praise. His disposition was mild and gentle, and his life exemplary. He appears to bave been modest and sensitive even to a fault: a portion of that firmness and self-possession, wbich ought to be produced by a consciousness of merit, would have prevented the cloud which settled upon his latter days. The mildness of his temper, however, did not hinder him, when he felt it necessary, from vindicating the respect due to himself and his art. When he was performing a solo at Cardinal Ottoboni's, he observed the Cardinal himself engaged in talking with another person ; on which he laid down his instrument; and being asked the reason, he replied, that he feared his music interrupted the conversation.

He possessed a vein of good-humoured pleasantry, of which the following is an agreeable instance. Adam Strunck, violinist to the elector of Hanover, arriving at Rome, immediately paid him a visit. Corelli, not knowing his person, but learning, in the course of conversation, that be was a musician, asked what was his instrument. Strunck replied, that he played a little on the harpsichord and violin, and begged the favour that Corelli would let him hear his performance on the latter instrument. Corelli politely complied ; and, on laying down the violin, requested a specimen of Strunck's abilities. Strunck began to play rather carelessly, but so well as to induce Corelli to pay him a compliment on the freedom of his bow; and to remark that, with practice, he would become an excellent player. Strunck then put the violin out of tune, and began to play with such skill, correcting with his fingers the mis-tuning of the instrument, that Corelli

, in amazement at bis dexterity, exclaimed-,I am called Arcangelo, but, by Heaven, Sir, you must be Archi-diavolo !

The character of the violin, as a solo instrument, has been so much changed, and its powers, of late years, so wonderfully developed, that Corelli's compositions are almost entirely laid aside by public performers. Salomon and Barthelemon were, we believe, the last great masters who studied and performed them. Now-a-days, we sometimes hear one of Corelli's trios performed on two violoncellos and a double-bass; and the

the “

famous ninth solo serves to exbibit the powers of Lindley and Dragonetti on their respective instruments. The exect of these performances appears to us more wonderful than pleasiug: Dragonetti in particular, though he plays the part ioiended for the violoncello on his gigantic instrument, with marvellous execution and an inävite variety of accent, drives through it at such a rate as to make it something quite different from what the composer intended. Thcre was no such thing as prestissimo in the days of Corelli.

Corelli's Concertos are sill performed now and then at the concert of Ancient Music. Though tbey are no longer calculated to show off the bow and fingers of the principal violin-player, yet their effect, as symphonies for a numerous orchestra, is excellent, and never fails to delight the audience. Tveir melody is flowing and simple, and of a kind which is independent of the cbanges of fasbion; the barmony is pure and ricb, and the disposition of the parts judicious and skilful. The eighth of these concertos, composed for the purpose of being performed on Christmas Eve, has probably had more celebrity than any piece of music that ever was written. It is exqnisitely beautiful, and seems destined to hid defiance to the attacks of time. The whole is full of profound religious íeeling; and the pastoral sweetness of the movement, descriptive of

Shepherds abiding in the fields," has never been surpassed-not even by Handel's movement of the same kind in the Messiah. If ever this divine music is thrown aside and forgotten, it will be the most unequivocal sign of the corruption of taste, and the decay of music, in England.

The four sets of Sonatas, or Trios, were Corelli's earliest works; and differ mich in quality, as well as character. It bas beca remarked, that their excellence is progressive; the tnied and fourth series being superior, in invention and ingeority, to the first and second. The third series in particular, which are composed in the grave and solemo style which belongs to the Church, are remarkable for their admirable fogues, which are (requenily on noble subjects, and treated with consummate skill. The second and fourth set, which consist chiefly of movements calculated for dlapcing, are full of gay and graceful melodies; the accompaniments to which are light and delicate. So pleasing and popular are these movemenis, that they were used, for a great many years, as the music between the acts in the London iheatres.

The most generally popular among Corelli's works, and those which are still in most freqreot use, are bis Solos. These, 1o this day, are considered among the best compositious that can be pot into the hands of a young performer on the violin, for the purpose of forming both his haod and his tasie. They contain, indeed, none of the difficulties of the present dav, and will not afford the student the means of producing some of the most beautifu! effects which are peculiar to the modern schoo!; such as singing, as it may be called, whole passages upon one string. But they are admirably adapted for the formation of a full, smooth, and clear tone, a firm and distinct manner of playing, and an intovation delicately correct ;-qualities which form the essentials of a good performauce, and whicb, when once gained, render the acquisition of the modera style very easy. Independently, too, of their value as studies, they are full of beauties. The nioth, taken as a whole, is perhaps the most perfect: its noble introduction, the elegant gigha which follows, and the spirited concluding movement, rende: it, in the hands of two skilful performers, one of the most agreeable duets (for the importance of the violoncello part renders it a duet) that can be imagined. In his jigs (and the name of jig, in the Italian music of those days, did not couvey the volgar and trifling idea woich we attach to the modern word) Corelli is peculiarly happy that in the fifth solo has never been rivalled; and the subject of it, 01 account of its pre-eminent beauty, is said to have been engraved on the composer's tomb.

Dr. Burney, we think, in his estimate of Corelli's character as a mu

sician, hardly does bim justice. His praise is somewhat loo cold and saint. He quoies with approbation the following chamcier woich Gemiviani gave of his masier: “ His me. it was not depth of learning, like that oi Alessandro Scarlatti; por great fancy, por rich invention ia melody or harmony; bui a nice and most delicate tasie, which led him io select the most pleasing ha, monies zod melodies, and to construct the pa:is so as to produce the most delightiul effect upon the ear.” At the iime of Co.elli's greatest reprtation, Geminiani asked Scarlatti what he ihovght of bim: he answeied, ibat be found nothing greatly to admire in Bis composition, but was extiemely sirock with the manner in which he playeri his Conceríos, aod bis nice management of his band; the uncommon accuracy of whose períormalce gave his covertos an amazing eieci, even to the eye as well as the ear; for (continued Geminjani) Co elli regarded it esseo'ial 10 tue ensemble oi a bad, that their bows

ou all move exactly íogeiver, all up or all dowl; so that at the rehearsals, which constal ly pieceded every poblic períormance of his concertos, le vould immediately stop the band if he discovei ed one irregular bow.” It has been well rema, ked, that “this opinion shows Scarlatti to bave been a pejudiced jocige, a trilling critic.” None bot such a critic could love foendi pothing in Corelli's music, or performance, worth notice, except lis naking bis baud draw their bows ia oe way. As io The opinion give by Gemiovani, noiling bat some feeling of jealousy could have wiped the jorizment oi ole so well qualified to form a sovad ove. He hardly allows Corelli to possess fancy or invention; but ascribes the delightiul cffect of his music 10 a nice ear and delicate tiste, which led him to select the most pleasing melodies and harmonies. From woence did he select them? From the stores of melorly and harmony contained in the works of older or coíemporary composers ? To some exiest he certainly did so ; but not mo.e than oiher great and most o iginal writers – 100 more than Purcell from Carissimi, Havaa tiom Emanuel Bach, or Mozart from Gluck and the dramatic composers of Italy. Corelli, undowbiedly, had beío e bim the violin compositions of Bassani and others; but, like all other great masiers, he formed a style for himseli, which so far surpassed that of all his predecesso.'s, that his music at ovce consigned theirs to oblivion. His merit, Geminiani says, was j'ot depth of learning; or, in other words, he was defective in this respect. His compositions are certainly less filled with chromatic intervals and singular moulations than those of Scarlatti; but it did not ow that account require either less skill or less learniug to produce them. Scarlatti's ova merit does not lie ia that sort of learning: if it did, it would vot be great ; for the beauty, wbich his compositions derive from his imagination and feeling, is diminished by his redundant learning. Nobody will accuse Jomelli or Cimarosa of want of learning; yet there is more learning of this description in one crrde essay of a juvenile German composer, than in all the operas of those great masters put logether. It is always observed that the deepest learving and greatest appearance are accompanied with the greatest simplicity and purity of style.

The best proof of the force and originality of Corelli's genius is, that the appearance of his works forms one of the most remarkable e'as ja music. All other compositions for the violin, produced before or during his time, are either totally forgotten, or remembered merely as matters of history; while his simple and natural strains still live, and still are heard with delight.

Jn resuming this subject, we shall give some account of the chief performers who may be said to belong jo the school of Corelli; including Geminiani, Tartini, and Giardini, the most distinguished among them: and we shall afterward take a survey of the violinists of more modern times, from Jarnovick and Viotti down to the uurivalled Paganii.

Memoir of Corelli, in the Harmonicon for May, 1824.

SIR GARGANTUA AND HIS WIG. 1

The knight Gargantua thus alone
For his lost wig was heard to moan.

Garg.-My Wig, art thou in Bristol still ?—

From whence I've run against my will;
Lest Daniell, Haytborne, Fowler, Savage, ?
Exposed to Radicals' wild ravage-
Lest, smoking bot as they could be,
The calipasb and calipee,
Sent from the Marlborough's: primest stock,
That might Apicius' table mock.
O woe to Bristol, woe to me,
O calipash and calipee !
And then my Wig, so white and big,
My Wig !-but no—thank God, no Whig! -
Wert thou but safe, uosinged thy hair,
"Twould comfort be in my despair.
This vile “ re-action,” not my frown
Could stop, or save thy hoary crown ;
I left thee, Gilpin-like, and fled
With Betty's nigbtcap on my head. s
I had much rather thou shouldst be
Cast in the mouth of Stromboli,
Or chopp'd in mortar, to erect
Some house for Nash the architect,
Than hurl'd in air by miscreants tall, —
Become the jest of Radical.
My Wig, my Wig, so white and big,
My Wig !-yet no—thank God, no Whig!

Enter Wig.
Wig:- I've followed thee, O master mine,

Thy wisdom-cap, of make divine.
Mark me, all soil'd, and crush'd, and hurt,
With usage rough and Bristol dirt.
O master, they have burn'd my box,
Only because 'twas orthodox ;
And would have burn'd me for a Tory,
But Master Fripp & snatch'd me from glory;
And thus, instead of being martyr,
I you, dear master, have come arter. "

Garg.-My Wig, my Wig ! 'tis nobly said,

Thou jewel of thy master's bead!

1 “ There are no accounts of the fate of Sir C. W; the only vestige left of him at Bristol is his wig."-Times.

2 Brother aldermen, of immortal renown in their official duties, 3 A tavern noted for its turtle.

4 It is said to have been under consideration, whether the word "wig” should not be suppressed at bis barber's, and “peruque” substituted, because the word

· Whig” was the same in sound, and the koight's antipathy to the latter word often threw him into dangerous paroxysms.

5 Some accounts say the knight escaped in a nightcap.

6 A brother alderman, who is said to have preserved the piece of legal frippery, which the knight dropped in his flight from the miscreant rioters.

? Vulgar-after.

Wig.–Yet, master, why from Bristol city

Did you so burry? 'twas a pity :
You might have died in Becket's way,
And been enshrined this very day ;
Aye, canonized by Bishop Philpotts, 1
As easy as a bare up hill trots ;
Thy bones been set in toothpick-cases,
To please our peers of posts and places ;
While Southey penn'd a pious strain
Over a saint in Bristol slain ! 2

Garg.-My Wig, my Wig, 'twas not to be,

No, “ saint” is not the name for me.
I had not courage for the thing,
Though 'twould the base reformers sting
In character and fame, had they
Pack'd me to Heaven the shortest way-
The papists, villains, double slaves,
The insidious thieves, the treacherous knaves,
The rascals, piccaroons, toads, snakes,
Dogs, raff, rogues, traitors, born in jakes,
St. Giles's christen'd infidels,
Hell-bred_0 how my choler swells !
I'd walk (I mean, to strangle 'em,)
Barefooted to Jerusalem. 3
To mock their judge upon the bench-
My frown in smile and hiss to quench!
O what they are let Bristol tell :-
The villains !-yet I hear their yell-
I'd flay them all–0 woe is me!
O Wig, do thou my solace be !--
I hope none hear;—they might suppose

I ask'd some Whig to beal my woes!
Wig.-Thy first firm friend—thy first when thou

Studiedst the law with youngling brow,
When Erskine baffled Eldon's aim,
To make Horne Tooke the hangman's game,
And Radicals were quite unknown-
Those foes of lawyer and of throne;
But I am weary as Wig can be,
And soil'd—pray let me go to Danby. +

Garg:-Go Wig, not Whig, (confound the name

With Radical, 'tis much the same,)
The better-half of my poor head,
Shrine of my wits, and once my bread-
Go! Bristol, and its ruffian train;
Nor thou nor I will see again !

No hard task for the prelate, if the past is to be credited. 2 A capital subject for the Laureate, in which he would be quite at home.

A vain attempt to imitate the knight's senatorial energy in detraction. 4 A tonsor of the inns of court, learned in wigs.

December, 1831.-VOL. II. NO. VIII.

2 C

« AnteriorContinuar »