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ON THE PROGRESS OF MUSIC

OF MUSIC FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE PRESENT CENTURY

Widt lillebuh NOIr. *% qu'etist on ripus The only points in the musical progression of England (during the period we have undertaken to review) that remain to be illustrated, are the scientific attainment and character of our artists!

Three distinct schools of vocal science have been established, though something mixed in performance.cts to co bude

1. The Ecclesiastical and Orchestral.
2.' The Theatrical, intitu on?
3. The Italian.

n!! Tuf: " But it must be remembered, that all the followers of either of them, who can lay any pretensions to science, have resorted to the Italian methods of vocalisation, (or forming the voice) with one single and great exception. The ecclesiastical and orchestral school of England, par éminence, was founded by Joah Bates, with his wife, (Miss Harrop,) and Mara as examples; and, by a later descent, by Greatorex, Harrison, , and Bartleman, both as examples and instructors. Mr. Bates was an amateur (we must again retrograde a little) who planned and executed the great meetings in Commemoration of Handel, at Westminster Abbey. These, after the introduction of the Italian opera, gave the impulse; we feel it now in all our music, but most in our provincial festivals. The Abbey performances gave this country a character no other has ever yet achieved for vastitude, precision, and excellence in the grander demonstrations of musical art.

The foundation of the style of this school is laid in the union of the church and the oratorio; for although Mr. Greatorex, its real head, studied at Rome under Santarelli, almost the last of the Roman musici, and there obtained the final polish, his taste was decidedly formed in the church, under his first preceptor, Dr. Cooke. His early and deep study of the old masters, but especially of Handel, imbued his mind not only with the feeling, but the manner. His engagement at the Ancient Concerts confirmed and fixed his predilections; and however sensible of the merits of the Italian method, he adhered to the originál dístinction of the only school that could lay ayy,real claims to be English, and, at the same time, scientific. This distinction is that single word, compounded of so many attributes,-EXPRESSION,

,-a word which conveys every thing, but defines nothing. We may be pardoned' If we endeavour to help the reader to a more precist'apprehension of its meaning when thus applied. Expression has, indeed, been defined to be the best adaptation of

, sound to sense ; this axiom was the principle of this, the best school of English singing.

! It must never be forgotten, that the compositions chiefly cultivated were grave in subject, strict in treatment; a purity of enunciation, avoiding theatrical inflation, but maintaining a sufficiently emphatic and characteristic dignity-a rejection of all glittering and false ornament-a certain refinement, chastening even the contrasts and transitions of tone which give not alone the lights and shadows, but the more delicate shades of feeling—the absolute avoidance of every thing bordering on coarseness or vulgarity, yet preserving all possible strength-these constitute, at once, the essentials of the great style*, which, in this department, is also the English style.

* Continued from Vol. XXXVIII., p. 229.

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At that period, the music even of the Opera retained much of the gravity of ecclesiastical composition. If such singers as Farinelli had sho how much could then be done, in spite of the universality of the complaints on that head, ornament had not become the fashion of the day, the ear had not yet superseded the heartt.

Mara was exalted into the idol of the day by her singing at the Abbey; and if the deep, but comparatively inexperienced impressions of youth may be trusted, her delivery of Handel's most sublime and most pathetic airs was exalted by a majesty and tenderness no singer has since equalledf. Like all other great exemplars, her influence made itself felt : it was especially felt by the students of this school. Harrison and Bartleman held her in absolute reverence; so far as congruity permitted, they made her a model. To one of this generation it must be difficult to conceive how she so completely apprehended and demonstrated the power of the music; but a little reflection will bring forward a fact as natural to our knowledge of the then general style as of her application of it, 'namely, that there was a considerably nearer allianee and approximation between the manner of the theatre and the orchestra than subsists at present. The dignity of the one, with a very slight elevation probably, was easily converted into the sublimity of the other. They will bear us out who remember Mara in “ Son Regina," and in “ I know that my Redeemer liveth."

Harrison, the first apostle of this school, was ' very limited in his powers, but his style was the most perfect specimen of the true cantabile an English singer has ever exhibited. T'one is the most indescribable of all attributes, for if we say it is rich, brilliant, and sweet, even to 'lus

* " It is scarcely possible completely to describe in what the great style consists. In a singer, it asks a combination of all the faculties of the mind and graces of ex. ecution, which address themselves to, and command the highest feelings of nature. The elements of this style are power, pure tone, and a varied expression ; an entire command of manner, correct taste, and perfect simplicity: or, in other words, that genuine sensibility, and that intellectual dignity, which enable us to embody, in their finest forms, the conceptions of the poet and the composer, and to employ, in the best manner, the powers of nature and of the art.”Bacon's Elements of Focal Science.

+ We are very much disposed to question whether velocity of execution has not advanced as much as any other part of the art, since that date. We strongly suspect, from what we have witnessed during the last forty years, that Farinelli him. self would have stood aghast at the power, rapidity, neatness, and, above all, at the fancy of modern artists. Let any one who doubts our interpretation, compare “ Son qual Nave," the most difficult aria d'agilità ever composed for the musico, with the bravura " Let Glory's Clarion," written for the English tenor Braham, by Storace, in Mahmoud. This song Mr. B. coursed through like "light, in 1797, and even added to the notation of its densely.dotted lines.

#Lord Mount Edgecumbe underrates her powers. He says “ Mara's talents as a singer (for she was no actress, and had a bad person for the stage) were of the very first order. Her voice, clear, sweet, distinct, was sufficiently powerful, thongh rather thin, and its agility and flexibility rendered her a most excellent bravura singer, in which style she was unrivalled ; and though she succeeded so well in. some of Handel's most solemn and pathethic songs, yet, while it was impossible to find fault, still there appeared to be a want of that feeling in herself which, nevertheless, she could communicate to her hearers."! We conversed much with the veterans in art about her, at the time she so unfortunately appeared before the publio in her age, and they all maintained that her majesty and feeling had no competitor, although every trace of her original manner was then obliterated.

ciousness, we appeal to other senses which have little analogy with hearing. Such, however, was his tone. Though deficient in power, it filled the ear; it satisfied the sense. Smoothness and exquisite polish, a purity of taste that rejected all but the most chaste and appropriate ornaments, the extremest accuracy of intonation, were his perfections. His defects were coldness of imagination, coincident with his restricted powers-a total want of energy and force. He wisely confined himself to songs which lay within his compass and suited his capacity, and, perhaps, his extreme range did not exceed from six to twelve. But we shall probably never again hear, with such unalloyed delight, Alexis," and

The Soldier's Dream,” “ Odi grand? Ombra,” and Handel's " Pleasure, my former ways resigning.?' - It is curious to trace, even in our amusements, how the departed great continue to "rule us from their urns.” Such was the fascination of Harrison's manner, that no other has ever yet found endurance, much less acceptance and approbation, within his circle. Vaughan, and below him the minor tenors of the Ancient Concert, and of the Three-choir meetings*, are the followers of his steps, nor dare they stray beyond them. To the long and almost unbroken reign of this triumvirate-Greatorex, Harrison, and Bartleman--we owe the true, because the traditional, manner of performing the works of our ancients--the Madrigalists, Lock, Purcell, and, lastly, of Handel, enthroned by the dictum of Mozart himself as the master of them all.”

Harrison was, we have seen, limited by his comparatively feeble powers, for his volume was anything but large, and his compass scarcely Teached a dozen really good notes. But Bartleman, the bass, gave a range and dignity to the school, which are still remembered with absolute devotion by its followers : he certainly was no ordinary man.

Whoever looks at the songs constructed for this species of voice, Italian and English alike, will perceive that the composers contemplated a large and heavy volume of tone, inflexible except according to an understood routine of triplets and quadruplets. Handel's compositions are as mechanical † as possible: we may refer to such songs as

When storms the Proud,”! " See the raging Flames,” and “ The Lord worketh Wonders," in his English; “ Del Minacciar del Vento,” and “ Lascia Amor,"

These meetings are perhaps the most striking instances of a love of music, and the credit of an association bearing up against loss, of any in the whole country, The annual (or, as they are called, triennial) meetings of the choirs of Hereford, Gloucester, and Worcester, have now subsisted more than a century. Three clerical and three lay stewards are responsible for the expenses. The receipts at the evening performances go towards the outlay; the collection in the morning, to the charities. But the stewards almost uniformly suffer a loss of about 500%. Yet gentlemen are found who consent to this loss for the sake of the science and the honour of their county. The performances are never cramped by economy, but maintain their deservedly high estimation.

+ We know not what'odium we shall incur by the use of this word. The writer was once so unfortunate as to repeat to an organist of the old school, whom he met at the house of a country gentleman, a saying of a very excellent musician, that

Honour in Arms,” in “Samson,?? appeared to have been written for an ass, since the passages were constructed exactly according to the skips made by that animal in his bray. " In the dead watch and middle of the night," he was alarmed by the repetition of this song in the adjoining chamber, growled by the old man to a miserable harpsichord, for the best portion of two hours, which at breakfast was explained by the poor old gentleman's declaration that he could not go to rest till he had discovered what could give occasion for such a calymny upon Handel.

in his Italian works. But justice desires us to point the attention of the observer also to the majesty given by this very mechanism to “The Lord worketh Wonders," - He layeth' the Beams(originally * Nasce al Bosco"), and the still more characteristic felicity of Polyphemus, in « Oh, truddier than the Cherry !" | A grain of allowance must also be giveri for (we believe) the well-founded supposition that the time when those songs were written was much slower than it is at present. All we have ever understood from the musicians of a former generation accords with our conjecture that bass-singing was rough, heavy, and unpolished; but still possessing a certain weight, and something of majesty from mere calibre! We just remember the elder Sale, whose singing suited this description, maugre the favour he was in with George III., no' mean judge of that style. 9!!!; -1!),

The character of Bartleman's intellects and voice was in diametrical opposition to both the theory and the practice. He was of a spirited and gay temperament, and his voice was strictly a barytone. He had a compass of more than two octaves, and the tone was as penetrating as that of a violoncello, from which instrument perhaps he caught it, for it bore more resemblance to the clears vibratory, yet stringy effect of Lind. ley's bass than anything else!s, Bartleman, too, was himself al violoncello player, which adds force to the opinion. His performance gave to bass-singing a totally new air. He enlivened and exalted its expression, and by his energy of manner informed the inert and shuggish ponderosity of heavy sound with vivacity and meaning. He lightenéd, improved, and enlarged the sphere of the bass. It fortunately happened that there lived a composer who apprehended the extent of the possibilities which the singer had begun to demonstrate. Dr. Calcott, by the animated solo parts of his glees, but more especially by his bass songs, writtén, it fairly may be said, not more for the singer than upoir the model of Haydn's bass cantatas in« The Creation," << Sisters of Acheron;?? 6. These as they change," and " Angel of Life," established the fact that the bass, rightly employed, was as capable of affecting the hearer as any other species of voice If not so ear-piercing as the soprano, so spirit-stirring as the tenor, or so pathetic as the falsetto, it can be more dignified, more magnificent and not less soothing, more forceful yet not less polished. In execution, we shall thereafter show it is very little below the other kinds of masculine voice.

' , f-,-; : But every this extension of his boundaries did not satisfy his inquiring and ardent niind or his devotion to his art.'. He ransacked the old masters, Purcell especially, and rescued some of his noblest pieces from oblivion. We owerto him the remembrance of that "smooth old

...“ I attempt from Love's sickness to fly in vain,” the lively “Hark, my Daridcar!”"the Frost Scene," "The calling of Samuel by the Witch of Endor," and, superior to them all, “Let the dreadful Engines of Eternal Will , a song which ought to be sung once a-year at the Ancient Concert, as the best possible specimen of impassionate English music for it is 'genuine English, and there is nothing in the

* The truth is, no living English bass dares attempt it. Phillips has avoided the trial, perhaps wisely, and those below him stand aloof. There is, however, more fine transition, more of the inspiration of music in this song than in any other of English make Mad Bessilly and " Fromi rosy Bowers!! scarcely excepted By the way, Mara's performance of Made Bess” showed how nearly her genius was allied to English feelings and English judgmentoisis in

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