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that one can rarely see twenty rods either way from the point he occupies, except as a break in the lines of hedge by which he is walled, or their accidental depression, will enable him to steal his more extended prospects; a declining sun casting the long shadows of the hills over the vales and on the opposite sides of other hills, and making deeply dark the copses of wood in the west, while it reflected a golden light from those in the east; the labourers in the field, cultivating the soil and gathering the crops; the cattle and sheep in the pastures, rising from the shades to feed again; the country squire and his family enjoying their evening ride, and bowing to the nobleman's carriage as it passes by; the humble farmer and his little daughters in their holyday · dress, returning from a visit, or going to make one, the
youngest leading the obedient family dog by a string, unconscious that there is any thing better in the world than that which they enjoy; all quiet-all happy-all at peace with earth and heaven-as would seem.
There was no sense of fatigue in such a walk, though it was four miles long, at the end of a previous three. There is nothing in England, nothing in the world like the Isle of Wight. But at the end of this, I was doomed to see two barbarians pound each other half, if not quite, to death, in the midst of a large circle of other barbarians, cheering them on, and exulting at the sport.
THE ROYAL MUSICAL FESTIVAL AT WESTMIN
STER ABBEY, 1834.
The immense assembly, full of expectancy, had risen to receive in silence the king and queen, with their retinue, as they entered the Abbey, and occupied the royal box and the adjoining compartments. It was a grand and brilliant sight The fitting up of the Abbey had been so arranged, that from all parts the views and various perspective of the assembly, as well as of the internal of that magnificent edifice, were intensely absorbing.
The first burst of music was the union of the full power of 402 voices and 231 instruments, in all 633 performers, in the Coronation Anthem: “Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king; and all the people rejoiced and said, God save the king! long live the king! may the king live for ever! Hallelujah. Amen.”
The whole assembly listened to this standing. I confess I was not prepared for such a beginning. It was tremendous; it was awful; it was overpowering. My nervous system was shaken. There were several passages in the anthem, under the performance of which, being thus taken by surprise, I became exceedingly anxious, lest I should be driven thoroughly out of my senses. It seemed as if the performers themselves had run wild in ecstasy, and that we should all be left crazy in a heap. Sir George Smart's roll of white paper, however, the visible symbol which regulated the whole, continued to wave in his hand, and beat the time, for the confirmation of our faith that he at least was right, and thus restore us to our senses.
Verily, I had no conception that the combination of any number whatever of human voices and of musical instruments could produce such an effect. The Hallelujah and Amen produced the sensation of fatigue and exhaustionbecause of high and intense emotion—and we were all, as I believe, glad to sit down and rest.
Immediately came the Introduction of Haydn's Creation, in a solo recitative, by Mr. Bellamy: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep."
This Mr. Bellamy took part in the performances at the festival of 1784. He was one of the king's chorister-boys at that time, and his life has been devoted to the profession of music. He is a base singer of high character. In the doing of this part he was evidently embarrassed. His situation was peculiar. He was the first that appeared in a solo before this imposing assembly, on an occasion which heretofore has occurred but once in an age; and leading in so important a production as Haydn's Creation. He was not, as they say, “in good voice." There were moral considerations which rendered it next to impossible that he should be perfectly self-possessed. He could not leave out of sight the part he took in that very place 50 years before; it was natural for him to think, “Where shall I be 50 years to come ?"—He faltered; I was afraid he would stop. The audience sympathized with him, and he, notwithstanding, acquitted himself well. In his subsequent parts he had more nerve, and was firm.
To make music descriptive requires great genius, unless the subjects are naturally adapted. It often requires no little of imagination to assist the compositor. For example, in the chorus—“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters : and God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” The chief power of description was here spent upon the last passage-" Let there be light, and there was light.” The universal darkness and confusion of chaos being imagined, that music alone should force us to see light spring up on the face of the deep, and render this darkness and confusion visible, is not, to say the least, very natural.
Light” is the substantive word, and all the force of Haydn's genius was directed to make the repetitions and combinations of the music so to bear upon this monosyllable, as to compel us to feel that there was light-to make it first sparkle, and then blaže from the Creator's fiat. Chaos being first described, and being before the mind,-Lightlight-light-breaks upon the ear, in the midst of so many combinations, and with such increasing and overwhelming power, till the wide, unformed creation is all illumined ; nay, not simply illumined, but in a blaze! Before this light
“ Affrighted, fled hell's spirits back in throngs;
Down they sink in the deep abyss
To endless night.” Then the chorus :“Despairing, cursing rage attends their rapid fall,
A new-created world springs up at God's command.” The first line of this couplet, it will be seen, ought to present a character of expression entirely different from the second, the chief power of which would rest on the words “despairing” and “cursing." The ideas conveyed in these terms are not difficult to be expressed in music, and were well and powerfully done. The succession and contrast were beautiful and sublime :
“A new-created world springs up at God's command.” After a solo by a female voice, sweet and commanding
“The marvellous work beholds amazed
The glorious hierarchy of heaven—". one may imagine-or rather, I should say, try in vain to conceive-the effect of the grand chorus of voices and instruments :
“ Again the ethereal vaults resound
The praise of God and of the second day.” But I must not claim the attention of my readers for a particular account of this amazing performance. I cannot forbear, however, to distinguish two or three other passages; and while I do it, I feel rebuked with the thought that distinction here is injustice. It seems, however, as if the satisfaction with which I revert to any of these parts, and mention them to others, would be enjoyed by them. The chorus proclaiming the third day~
“ Awake the harp, the lyre awake,
Hath clothed in stately dress," was grand. Mr. Braham (Abraham, a Jew) is the greatest singer in
Great Britain, perhaps the greatest in the world. After his recitative
“In splendour bright is rising now the sun,
And darts his rays;" &c. and the corresponding passage of Scripture, the chorus again burst upon us with overwhelming power :
“ The heavens are telling the glory of God:
The wonder of his work displays the firmament" alternated some several times by a trio. The solo
“On mighty pens the eagle wings
Her lofty way through air sublime,” &c. was exceedingly enchanting.
The following chorus was awfully grand, and well suited to the completion of the work of Creation :
“Achieved is the glorious work ;
Our songs let be the praise of God; .
Duer-Adam and Eve.
My reward thy love shall be.
With thee is every joy enhanced,
Live and be blest ! but first of all,
Sound Jehovah's praise on high.
HANDEL'S MESSIAH. The bill for the fourth and last performance of the Great Musical Festival was headed, “ By command of her Majesty, Handel's Sacred Oratorio, 'THE MESSIAH.""
This was the only piece performed on the occasion. It occupied just four hours, from 12 o'clock till 4. The other performances occupied from three and a half to four hours, each commencing at twelve, or as soon after as the king and queen arrived. “The Messiah" was the most attractive, and brought together the most imposing assembly, although they were all sufficiently remarkable in this particular. The Abbey was completely filled at half past 9 o'clock, the reserved seats excepted, which were numbered, and waited in abeyance to the owners of tickets. The choice of the unre. served seats was so considerable as to occasion a great rush for a preference, and people were willing to wait from two to three hours before the commencement of the performance, and to sit four hours afterward, to gain such an advantage. The orchestra began to fill about half past 10, and at 11 the loud and solemn organ filled the entire Abbey with its various notes and thundering peals, rolling through the lofty arches, for the purpose of drowning the tuning of the instruments -its own notes being the standard. The amazing power of the organ could only be appreciated at this time, as in the performance it was a mere accompaniment. It was capable of drowning the choir itself. As the voice is an instrument which God has made, and is always in tune, it was not raised at this time. Although the artificial instruments were all at work during the hour of tuning, scarcely one of them was heard. Even their discords were drowned by an art which the organist had in creating other discords, at the same time that he kept up the notes necessary for the tuning of the other instruments. This discordant and tremendous jargon was itself an interesting exhibition. At times, it seemed as if it would carry away the roof and break down the walls of the vast edifice. From 11 to 12, the reserved seats were all filled, and precisely at noon the king and queen made their entrance, and the overture commenced.
The order of the classification of Scripture in the Messiah is historical, comprehending as nearly as possible the entire work of redemption, from the beginning to the consummation of all things. First, the prophetic announcement; next, the nativity and character of the Messiah; thirdly, his sufferings; fourthly, his triumphs and return to heaven; fifthly, the publication of the gospel ; and lastly, the resurrection of the dead and his state in heaven with the redeemed.
I will only notice a few passages. Distinction would be injustice, if it were to be understood that every part was not intensely absorbing.