Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/247

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BERNASCONI.
235
BERNSDORF.

a music-master and composer. From him Antonia received such instruction as sufficed to develope her remarkable talents. She made her first appearance at Vienna, 1764, in 'Alceste,' which Gluck had written expressly for her. She afterwards sang at various Italian theatres, and in 1778 she appeared with Pacchierotti in 'Demofoonte,' a pasticcio, at the Opera in London. She was then a good musician, and a correct and skilful singer; but her voice was not powerful, and she was past her prime. She was a good actress, with but an indifferent figure. In the next season she remained, condescending, as it was then esteemed, to take the part of 'first woman' in the comic opera, which she performed admirably. In 1770—71 she had sung at Milan the part of Aspasia in Mozart's early opera 'Mitridate.' She distrusted the powers of the boy to compose the airs for her, and requested to see what she was to sing, to which he instantly acceded. She made trial of a piece, and was charmed with it. Mozart then, piqued at her want of confidence, gave her another, and a third, leaving Bernasconi quite confounded with so rare a talent and so rich an imagination at years so tender. Shortly afterwards an enemy (Gasparini of Turin) called on her with the words of the libretto set to different music, and endeavoured to persuade her not to sing the music of the young Mozart. 'She absolutely refused this wicked person, being quite over-joyed at the airs the young maestro had written for her, in which he consulted her inclination.'[1] The opera had a prodigious success.

In 1783 Bernasconi was at Vienna, where she had settled, though not engaged at the Opera; but she gave a few performances of the 'Alceste' and 'Ifigenia in Tauride' of Gluck, and of a comic opera 'La Contadina in Corte,' which she had sung with success in London.

[ J. M. ]

BERNER, Friedrich Wilhelm, born at Breslau, March 16, 1780 [App. p.545 "May"]; pupil of his father the organist of the Elisabeth Church there, under whose tuition he made such rapid progress as to be appointed his assistant at thirteen years of age. Counterpoint and composition he learnt from Gehirnie, director of the choir at the Matthäus Church, and at the same time from Reichardt the cello, horn, bassoon, and clarinet, which last instrument he played in the orchestra of the theatre. The arrival of C. M. von Weber in Breslau to take the post of capellmeister roused Berner to fresh exertions. Weber valued him as an excellent pianoforte and clarinet player. In 1811 he and Schnabel were summoned to Berlin by Zelter to master the system of the Singakademie, with the view of establishing similar institutions in Breslau and the rest of Silesia, such being the wish of the Prussian government. Berner was also entrusted with the task of cataloguing the musical treasures of the suppressed monasteries. In the middle of all this activity he was seized with a long and serious illness which removed him on May 9, 1827. More details of his life will be found in the 'Hausfreund' for 1827, No. 15. Among his numerous pupils, Adolph Hesse the celebrated organist, himself also departed, is one of the most remarkable. He left many compositions both for voices and instruments, but his didactic writings are more valuable—'Grundregeln des Gesanges' (1815), 'Theorie der Choral-zwischenspiel' (1819), 'Lehre von den musikalischen Interpunktion' (1821). Some of his songs are even now very popular, e.g. 'Deutsche Herz verzage nicht.'

[ F. G. ]

BERNHARD, Christoph, capellmeister at Dresden; son of a poor sailor; born at Dantzic, 1612. He was so poor as to sing from door to door to keep himself from starving. By a Dr. Strauch he was placed in the Gymnasium, where he studied music under Balthazar Erben, and the organ under Paul Syfert. By the aid of the same benevolent individual he was enabled to visit Dresden with letters of recommendation to H. Schutz the capellmeister. There his fine tenor voice so far attracted the notice of the Kurfürst as to induce him to send Bernhard to Italy with the view of perfecting his singing. In Rome he became intimate with Carissimi, and excited the enthusiasm of the Italians by his compositions, amongst others a mass for ten voices. After returning with a party of young Italians to Dresden, he was enabled by the Kurfürst to make a second journey to Italy. The Italians who had returned with him however intrigued against their benefactor, and at length compelled Bernhard to resign his post and take a cantorship at Hamburg: ten years later he was recalled by the Kurfürst Johann George III, and remained in Dresden as capellmeister till his death, Nov. 14, 1692. His facility in counterpoint was very remarkable, and some extraordinary instances of his ability in this direction may be found in his setting of the Latin hymn 'Prudentia Prudentiana' (Hamburg, 1669) in triple counterpoint, as well as in other of his works.

[ F. G. ]

BERNHARD, Wilhelm Christoph, remarkable as a first-rate player of the works of J. S. Bach, both for organ and piano. Born at Saalfeld about 1760; died at Moscow at the early age of twenty-seven in the year 1787.

[ F. G. ]

BERNSDORF, Eduard, born at Dessau March 25, 1825, a pupil of F. Schneider at Dessau and of A. B. Marx at Berlin; has lived for many years at Leipsic. He has published various songs and pieces for the piano, but is chiefly known as editor of the 'Universal Lexikon der Tonkunst' (3 vols., with supplement, 1856), begun by von Schladebach—and also as a critic in the well-known musical periodical, the 'Signale.' Bernsdorf is a thorough conservative, with a strong antipathy to all modern efforts in music. Within his own predilections however he is a keen and intelligent critic, though a certain severity of expression in his reports of the Leipsic concerts has brought ou him the dislike of many musicians.

[ A. M. ]

  1. Leopold Mozart's Letter.