Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/518

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506
FARINELLI.
 

sidered as the agent of the ministers of those European Courts which were opposed to the family treaty proposed by France. (Bocous.) In all his prosperity, Farinelli ever showed the greatest prudence, modesty, and moderation: he made no enemies, strange as it may seem, but conciliated those who would naturally have envied him his favour with the King. Hearing one day an officer in the anti-chamber complain of the King's neglect of his 30 years' service, while riches were heaped on 'a miserable actor,' Farinelli begged a commission for the grumbler, and gave it to him, to his great surprise, observing mildly that he was wrong to tax the King with ingratitude. According to another anecdote, he once requested an embassy for a courtier, when the King asked him if he was not aware that this grandee was a particular enemy of his: 'True,' replied Farinelli; 'but this is how I desire to take my revenge upon him.' He was as generous also as he was prudent. A story is told of a tailor who brought him a handsome gala-costume, and refused any payment, but humbly begged to hear one song from the incomparable artist. After trying in vain to change his resolution, Farinelli good-humouredly complied, and sang to the delighted tailor, not one, but several songs. Having concluded, he said: 'I too am rather proud; and that is the reason, perhaps, of my having some advantage over other singers. I have yielded to you; it is but just that you should yield in turn to me.' He then insisted on paying the man nearly double the value of the clothes.

While still at Madrid, he heard of the death of his former rival, teacher, and friend, Bernacchi. In a letter (in the possession of the present writer), dated April 13, 1756, he speaks with deep regret of the loss of one 'for whom he had always felt esteem and affection,' and condoles with his correspondent, the Padre Martini.

Shortly after the ascent of Charles III to the throne (1759), Farinelli received orders to leave the kingdom, owing probably to Charles's intention to sign the family pact with France and Naples, to which the singer had ever been opposed. He preserved his salary, but on condition that he should live at Bologna and not at Naples. Once more in Italy, after 25 years of exile, Farinelli found none of his friends remaining. Some were dead; others had quitted the country. New friends are not easily made after middle age; and Farinelli was now 57 years old. He had wealth, but his grandeur was gone. Yet he was more addicted to talking of his political career than of his triumphs as a singer. He passed the 20 remaining years of his life in a splendid palazzo, a mile from Bologna, contemplating for hours the portraits of Philip V, Elisabeth, and Ferdinand, in silence, interrupted only by tears of regret. He received the visits of strangers courteously, and showed pleasure in conversing with them about the Spanish Court. He made only one journey during this period, to Rome, where he expatiated to the Pope on the riches and honours he had enjoyed at Madrid. The Holy Father answered, 'Avete fatta tanta fortuna costà, perche vi avete trovato le gioie, che avete perdute in quà.'

When Burney saw him at Bologna in 1771, though he no longer sang, he played on the viol d'amour and harpsichord, and composed for those instruments: he had also a collection of keyed instruments in which he took great delight, especially a piano made at Florence in 1730, which he called Rafael d'Urbino. Next to that, he preferred a harpsichord which had been given to him by the Queen of Spain; this he called Correggio, while he named others Titian, Guido, etc. He had a fine gallery of pictures by Murillo and Ximenes, among which were portraits of his royal patrons, and several of himself, one by his friend Amiconi, representing him with Faustina and Metastasio. The latter was engraved by I. Wagner at London (fol.), and is uncommon; the head of Farinelli was copied from it again by the same engraver, but reversed, in an oval (4to), and the first state of this is rare: it supplied Sir J. Hawkins with the portrait for his History of Music. C. Lucy also painted Farinelli; the picture was engraved (fol.) in mezzotint, 1735, by Alex. Van Haecken, and this print is also scarce.

Fétis falls into an error in contradicting the story of Farinelli's suggesting to the Padre Martini to write his History of Music, on the ground that he only returned to Italy in 1761, four years after the appearance of the first volume, and had no previous relations with the learned author. The letter quoted above shows that he was in correspondence with him certainly as early as April 1756, when he writes in answer to a letter of Martini, and, after adverting to the death of Bernacchi, orders twenty-four copies of his work, bound in red morocco, for presents to the Queen and other notabilities of the Court. It is, therefore, quite possible that their correspondence originated even long before this. They remained in the closest intimacy until death separated them by the decease of Farinelli, July 15, 1782, in the 78th year of his age.

Martinelli speaks in glowing terms of this great artist, saying that he had 7 or 8 notes more than ordinary singers, and these perfectly sonorous, equal, and clear; that he had also much knowledge of music, and was a worthy pupil of Porpora. Mancini, a great master of singing and a fellow-pupil of Bernacchi with Farinelli, speaks of him with yet more enthusiasm. 'His voice,' he says, 'was thought a marvel, because it was so perfect, so powerful, so sonorous, and so rich in its extent, both in the high and the low parts of the register, that its equal has never been heard in our times. He was, moreover, endowed with a creative genius which inspired him with embellishments so new and so astonishing that no one was able to imitate them. The art of taking and keeping the breath, so softly and easily that no one could perceive it, began and died with him. The qualities in which he excelled were the evenness of his voice, the art of swelling its sound, the