Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/147

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BANNISTER.
135
BANTI.

etc.). His son, John, was educated in music under his father, and attained great excellence as a performer on the violin. He was one of the 'musicians' of Charles II, James II, William and Mary and Anne; and, at the beginning of the 18th century, when Italian operas were first introduced in English form into this country, he occupied the post of principal violin. He composed some music for the theatre, and, in conjunction with Godfrey Finger, published a small collection of these pieces. He was also a contributor to Henry Playford's 'Division Violin,' 1685, the first printed book for the violin put forth in this country. He resided for many years in Brownlow Street, Drury Lane, where he died in 1735. There is a fine mezzotint engraving of him by Smith.

[ E. F. R. ]

BANJO (American). An instrument of the guitar kind, played with the fingers, but without the aid of frets to guide the stopping in tune of the strings. The banjo has a long neck, and a body like a drumhead, of parchment, strained upon a hoop to the required writhe or degree of stiffness for resonance. There is no back to it. Banjoes have five, six, seven, or nine catgut strings, the lowest in pitch being often covered with wire. The chanterelle or melody-string is called from its position and use the thumbstring, and is placed not, as in other fingerboard instruments, highest in series, but on the bass side of the lowest-tuned string, the tuning-peg for it being inserted halfway up the neck instead of in the head. The length of the thumbstring is given as sixteen inches from the nut to the bridge, and that of the others twenty-four inches. The five-stringed banjo is tuned either { \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \relative a { \cadenzaOn a4 e' gis b e } }, the last note being the thumbstring, or in G, a note lower. The six-stringed is tuned { \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \relative g { \cadenzaOn g4 d' g b d g } }. The seven-stringed introduces the middle C in the lowest octave, and the nine has three thumb-strings { \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \relative f'' { fis4 g a } }, but is rarely used. The pitch of the banjo, like that of the guitar, is an octave lower than the notation. 'Barre' designates the false nut made by placing the first finger of the left hand across the whole of the strings at certain lengths from the bridge to effect transposition. [See Capo Tasto.]

As to the origin of the banjo the existence of instruments of the lute or guitar kind implies a certain grade of knowledge and culture among the people who know how to stretch strings over soundboards, and to determine the required intervals by varying the vibrating lengths of the strings. Such instruments found in use by savage or very uncivilised peoples suggest their introduction through political or religious conquest by a superior race. The Arabs may thus, or by trade, have bestowed a guitar instrument upon the negroes of Western Africa, and the Senegambian 'bania' be, as Mr. Carl Engel suggests ('Musical Instruments,' 1874, p. 151), the parent of the American negro's banjo. Others derive the name from Bandore.

[ A. J. H. ]

BANTI, Brigitta Giorgi, said to have been the daughter of a Venetian gondolier, was born at Crema, Lombardy, 1759. She began life as a 'cantante di piazza,' or street-singer; and received some little instruction at the expense of a rich amateur. At the age of 19 she set out for Paris, to seek her fortune, supporting herself by singing at inns and cafés by the way. De Vismes, Director of the Académie, happening to hear a splendid voice on the Boulevard at Paris one evening, stopped at the café where the girl was singing, and slipping a louis into her hand desired her to come to him at the Opera the next day. Here, upon hearing an air of Sacchini twice or thrice, she astonished the Director by singing it perfectly from beginning to end. He engaged her for the Opera, where she made a triumphant début in a song between the second and third acts of 'Iphigenie en Aulide.' While singing in Paris, though she never made the slightest mistake in concerted pieces, she sometimes executed her airs after a very strange fashion. For instance: in the allegro of a cavatina she would, in a fit of absence, recommence the air from the very beginning, go on with it to the turning-point at the end of the second part, again recommence, and continue this proceeding until warned by the conductor that she had better think of ending. In the meantime the public, delighted with her voice, is said to have been quite satisfied. Agujari having left London, the managers of the Pantheon gave the young singer—still called Giorgi—an engagement, on condition that £100 a year should be deducted from her salary for the cultivation of her voice. Sacchini was her first master, but he soon gave her up in despair. Piozzi followed, with no better success. Abel was the last. She was at this time, without doubt, a very bad singer with a very beautiful voice; and of so indolent and careless a disposition that she never could be made to learn the first rudiments of music. In 1780 she left England, and sang to enthusiastic audiences at several foreign courts. Lord Mount-Edgcumbe heard her at Reggio in 1785, where, he says, her singing was delightful. In 1799 [App. p.530 "1794"] she returned to London, making her début in Bianchi's 'Semiramide,' in which she introduced an air from Guglielmi's 'Debora,' with violin obligato, originally played by Cramer, afterwards by Viotti, Salomon, and Weichsell, the brother of Mrs. Billington. This song, though long and very fatiguing, was always encored, and Banti never failed to repeat it. Genius in her seemed to supply the want of science; and the most correct ear, with the most exquisite taste, enabled her to sing with more effect, expression, and apparent knowledge of her art, than many a better singer. She never was a good musician, nor could sing at sight with ease; but having once learnt a song, and mastered its character, she threw into it deeper pathos and truer feeling