Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/163

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BASSET-HORN.
151
BASSOON.

ally it has been made with a bore abruptly bent on itself like that of the bassoon. Its compass is more extensive than even the clarinet, and its tone fuller and more reedy.

Mozart is the composer who has written most for this instrument. In one great work, his 'Requiem,' it replaces the clarinet, there being independent parts for two players. Perhaps the finest instance of its use is in the opening of the 'Recordare.' In his opera 'Clemenza di Tito' it is also employed, and a fine obbligato is allotted to it in the song 'Non piu di fiori.' In his chamber music there are often parts for two or even three bassethorns.

Mendelssohn has also written for it, especially two concert-pieces for clarinet and bassethorn, op. 113 and 114, intended to be played by the Bärmanns, father and son, with pianoforte accompaniment. Other composers have occasionally employed it, but it is to be regretted that it has never taken so prominent a place in orchestral music as its fine tone and facility of execution entitle it to hold. It is often confused with the Cor Anglais, or English horn, which is an oboe of similar pitch to the Bassethorn.

[ W. H. S. ]

BASSI, Luigi, born at Pesaro 1766, died at Dresden 1825. An eminent baritone singer, first appeared on the stage in women's parts at the age of thirteen; a pupil of Laschi at Florence. In 1784 he went to Prague, where he made a great reputation, especially in Paisiello's 'Re Teodoro,' and 'Barbiere di Siviglia,' and Martini's 'Cosa rara.' Mozart wrote the part of Don Juan for him.[1] He is said to have asked Mozart to write him another air in place of 'Fin c'han dal vino' in Don Juan, but Mozart replied 'Wait till the performance: if the air is not applauded, I will then write you another.' A hearty encore settled the question. He is also said to have induced Mozart to rewrite 'La ci darem' five times to suit him. But these stories are probably mere legends of Mozart's good humour. In 1806 Bassi left Prague in consequence of the war. For some years he was in the pay of Prince Lobkowitz, Beethoven's friend, appearing occasionally in public in Vienna; but in 1814 he returned to Prague, when Weber had the direction of the opera, and in 1815 was called to Dresden as a member of the Italian company there, but shortly afterwards became manager of the opera instead, and died there in 1825. Bassi was gifted with a fine voice, even throughout the register, a prepossessing appearance, and considerable dramatic ability. He is not to be confounded with Nicolo or Vincenzo Bassi.

[ M. C. C. ]

BASSIRON, Philippe, a native of the Netherlands, living in the 15th century, and contemporary with Josquin des Pres. Some of his masses were printed by Petrucci of Fossombrone in 1508.

BASSO CONTINUO, Basse Continue, or simply Continuo, is the same thing as our English term Thorough-Bass in its original and proper signification, as may be seen by comparison of English with foreign works where these terms occur. For instance, in the score of the 'Matthaus Passion' of Bach the lowest line in the accompaniments of the choruses is for the violoncellos and basses and 'organ e continuo,' for the two latter of which figures are added; while in the recitative a single line and figures is given for the 'continuo' alone. The edition of Purcell's 'Orpheus Britannicus,' published in 1698–1702, has the title 'A collection of choicest songs for 1, 2, and 3 voices, with symphonies for violin and flutes and a thorough-bass to each song figured for the Organ, Harpsichord, or Theorbo- Lute.' The origin of the name is the same in both cases, as it is the bass which continues or goes through the whole piece, from which with the aid of figures the accompaniment used to be played. (For complete discussion of the subject see Thorough-Bass.)

BASSO DI CAMERA, Italian for a chamber-bass; that is, a small double-bass, such as is generally used by double-bass players for solo performances.

BASSO OSTINATO is the same as the English Ground-Bass, which see. It means the continual repetition of a phrase in the bass part through the whole or a portion of a movement, upon which a variety of harmonies and figures are successively built.

BASSOON (Fr. Bosson, Ital. Fagotto, Ger. Fagott). A wooden double-reed instrument of eight-foot tone. The English and French names are derived from its pitch, which is the natural bass to the oboe and other reed instruments; the Italian and German names come from its resemblance to a faggot or bundle of sticks.

It is probably, in one form or another, of great antiquity, although there exists circumstantial evidence of its discovery by Afranio, a Canon of Ferrara. This occurs in a work by the inventor's nephew, entitled 'Introductio in Chaldaicain linguam, mystica et cabalistica, a Theseo Albonesio utriusque juris doctori,' etc. (Pavia, 1539). It is illustrated by two rough woodcuts, and is termed 'Descriptio ac simulacrum Phagoti Afranii,' from which it would appear that the author, although an Italian, did not realise the etymological origin of the name. A class of instruments named bombards, pommers, or brummers, which were made in many keys, seems to have been the immediate predecessor of the bassoon. Some of the older forms are well described, with representations of their shape, in the 'Metodo complete di Fagotto' of Willent. They possess a contrivance which does not exist at the present day on any reed, though it somewhat anticipates the 'crooks' and 'transposing slides' of brass instruments. Besides the holes to be stopped by the fingers, there are other intermediate apertures stopped by pegs, and only to be opened in certain keys. No doubt

  1. Bassi is usually said to have been also the orginal Almaviva in Figaro; but this is incorrect, Mandini was the first. See Jahn's 'Mozart' (2nd ed.) ii. 243.