Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/613

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GLUCK.
601
 

and in the spring of 1745 'Poro' or 'Alessandro nell' Indie' (Turin). All these were well received, and in consequence of their success he was invited in 1745 to London as composer for the opera at the Haymarket. Here he produced 'La Caduta de' Giganti' (Jan. 7, 1746), 'Artamene' (re-written), and a pasticcio, 'Pirarno e Tisbe,' all without success, Handel declaring that the music was detestable, and that the composer knew 'no more counterpoint than his cook'—Waltz, who, however, was a fair bass singer. Counterpoint was never Gluck's strong point, but the works just named had not even originality to recommend them. He also appeared on April 23, 1746, at the Haymarket Theatre in the unexpected character of a performer on the musical glasses, accompanied by the orchestra (see the 'General Advertiser,' March 31, and H. Walpole's letter to Mann, March 28). [Harmonica.] But his journey to England, mortifying as it was to his vanity, exercised an important influence on Gluck's career, for it forced him to reflect on the nature of his gifts, and eventually led him to change his style. The pasticcio taught him that an air, though effective in the opera for which it was written, may fail to make any impression when transferred to a different situation and set to different words. A visit to Paris shortly after gave him the opportunity of hearing Rameau's operas; and in listening to the French composer's admirably appropriate recitatives, he came to the conclusion that the Italian opera of that time was but a concert, for which, as the Abbé Arnaud happily expressed it, the drama furnished the pretext. Returning to Vienna by way of Hamburg and Dresden towards the end of 1746, he applied himself to the study of aesthetics as connected with music, and of the language and literature of various countries, taking care at the same time to frequent the most intellectual society within his reach. 'Semiramide riconosciuta' (Vienna 1748) is a decided step in advance, and in it may be detected the germ of Gluck's distinctive qualities. His next work was 'Filide' (1749), a serenade, or more properly cantata, in 2 acts, written at Copenhagen for the birthday of Christian VII. It is now in the library at Berlin, but being a mere pièce de circonstance scarcely deserves a place in the list of his works. Far otherwise is it with 'Telemacco' (Rome 1750) and 'La Clemenza di Tito' (Naples 1751), which deserve special attention, as from them Gluck borrowed many a page for his French operas 'Armide' and 'Iphigénie en Tauride'; from which fact it is evident that when they were written his style had already changed. These operas were followed in 1754 by 'L'Eroe Cinese,' first performed at Schönbrunn, 'Il Trionfo di Camillo' (Rome), and 'Antigono' (ibid.). From 1755–61 Gluck was stationary in Vienna, and to all appearance failing; he wrote divertissements for the palaces of Laxenburg and Schönbrunn; composed airs for the comedies or comic operettas performed at the court theatre; and produced only one opera in 3 acts, 'Tetide' (1760), of which nothing has survived. These six years however, far from being wasted, were probably most useful to him, for by these apparently insignificant works he was acquiring flexibility of style, and securing powerful patrons, without losing sight of his ultimate aim. His opera 'Orfeo ed Euridice'[1] (Vienna Oct. 5, 1762)—the libretto not as heretofore by Metastasio, but by Calzabigi—showed to all capable of forming a judgment what the aims of the reformer of the lyric stage were. After the production of this fine work, however, he returned to Metastasio and to pièces de circonstance for the court theatre—'Ezio' (1763); 'La Rencontre imprévue,' afterwards produced in German as 'Die Pilgrime von Mekka' (1764); 'Il Parnasso confuse,' 'La Corona,' and 'Telemacco,' partly re-written (1765); in fact he was obliged to bend to circumstances, and before all things to please the princes who protected him and sang his music. 'Il Parnasso' was played by four archduchesses, the archduke Leopold accompanying them on the clavecin. It was probably between this date and the departure of Marie Antoinette for France (May, 1770) that Gluck acted as singing master to that princess.

At length, thinking the time had come for bringing his ideas before the public, and finding in Calzabigi a poet who shared his taste for strong dramatic situations, he produced in Vienna 'Alceste' (Dec. 16, 1767) and 'Paride ed Elena' (1769). The scores of these operas were published in Vienna (1769–70),[2] and dedicated respectively to the Archduchess Leopold and the Duke of Braganza. Each contains a dedicatory epistle, briefly explaining Gluck's views on dramatic music. As far as theory went, his system was not new, as it rested on the outlines already sketched by Benedetto Marcello in his 'Teatro alia Moda' (1720); but theory and practice are two different things, and Gluck has the rare merit of showing in his 'Alceste' and 'Paride' that he was both composer and critic, and could not only imagine but produce an opera in which all is consecutive, where the music faithfully interprets each situation, and the interest arises from the perfect adaptation of the ensemble of the music to the whole of the drama. The composition of these two great works did not prevent his writing the intermezzi of 'Le Feste d' Apollo,' 'Bauci e Filemone,' and 'Aristeo,' produced at the court theatre of Parma in 1769, but not published.

In spite of the favour he enjoyed at the court of Vienna, and of the incontestable beauties contained in 'Orfeo,' 'Alceste,' and 'Paride ed Elena,' Gluck's countrymen criticised his new style in a manner so galling, that, conscious of his own power, and by no means devoid of vanity, he resolved to carry out elsewhere the revolution he had determined to effect in dramatic music. In the Bailli du Rollet, an attaché of the French embassy in Vienna, he found an enthusiastic partisan and a valuable auxiliary; they consulted as to a drama in which music

  1. Printed in 1764 in Paris at the expense of Count Durazzo.
  2. Printed in folio by G. T. Tratttneru with moveable types.