Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/632
London in 1786 a square action with the jack, and the setting off button acting upon the key, also, in another form, the screw holding the button perforating the jack—but with the button in front of it. The improved form with which we are acquainted, with the button behind the jack, was adopted by Messrs. Longman and Broderip, and soon became general.
[ A. J. H. ]
[ J. M. ]
[ G. ]
GRASSINI, Josephina (as she signed herself), was born at Varese (Lombardy) in 1773, of very humble parents. The beauty of her voice and person induced General Belgiojoso to give her the best instruction that could be procured at Milan. She made rapid progress in the grand school of singing thus opened to her, and soon developed a powerful and extensive contralto, with a power of light and finished execution rarely found with that kind of voice. She had the great advantage of singing in her first operas with such models as Marchesi and Crescentini. Grassini made her débuts at Milan, in the carnival of 1794, in Zingarelli's 'Artaserse,' and the 'Demofoonte' of Portogallo. She soon became the first singer in Italy, and appeared in triumph on all the chief Italian stages. In 1796 she returned to Milan, and played in Traetta's 'Apelle e Campaspe,' and with Crescentini and Bianchi in the 'Giulietta e Romeo' of Zingarelli. The year after she excited the greatest enthusiasm at Venice as 'Orazio.' In 1797 she was engaged to sing at Naples during the fêtes held on the marriage of the Prince. In 1800, after Marengo, she sang at Milan in a concert before Buonaparte, and was taken by him to Paris, where she sang (July 22) at the national fête in the Champ de Mars, and in concerts at the opera. In 1803 she was engaged to sing in London from March to July for £3000, taking the place of Banti. Here she had to contend with Mrs. Billington in popular favour, though their voices were very different. Lord Mount-Edgcumbe speaks in disparaging terms of that of Grassini, though he gives her credit for great beauty, 'a grace peculiarly her own,' and the excellence of her acting. Her style was then 'exclusively the cantabile, and bordered a little on the monotonous. She had entirely lost all her upper tones, and possessed little more than one octave of good, natural notes; if she attempted to go higher, she produced only shriek, quite unnatural, and almost painful to the ear.' Her first appearance was in 'La Vergine del Sole,' by Mayer, well suited to her; but 'so equivocal was her reception, that when her benefit was to take place she did not dare encounter it alone, but called in Mrs. Billington to her aid.' The tide then turned, and Grassini became the reigning favourite. 'Not only was she rapturously applauded in public, but she was taken up by the first society, fêtée, caressed, and introduced as a regular guest in most of the fashionable assemblies.' Very different from this was the effect produced by Grassini on other hearers, more intellectual, though less cultivated in music, than Lord Mount-Edgcumbe. De Quincey found her voice 'delightful beyond all that he had ever heard.' Sir Charles Bell (1805) thought it was 'only Grassini who conveyed the idea of the united power of music and action. She died not only without being ridiculous, but with an effect equal to Mrs. Siddons. The 'O Dio' of Mrs. Billington was a bar of music, but in the strange, almost unnatural voice of Grassini, it went to the soul.' Elsewhere he speaks of her 'dignity, truth, and affecting simplicity.' Such was her influence on people of refined taste, not musicians. In 1804 she sang again in Paris; and, after 1806, when she quitted London, continued to sing at the French Court for several years, at a very high salary (altogether, about £2,600). Here the rôle of 'Didone' was written for her by Paër. After the change of dynasty, Mme. Grassini, whose voice was now seriously impaired, lost her appointment at Paris, and returned to Milan, where she sang in two concerts in April 1817. In 1822 she was at Ferrara, but died at Milan in January [App. p.654 "Jan. 3,"] 1850.In 1806 a fine portrait of her was scraped in mezzotint (folio) by S. W. Reynolds, after a picture by Mme. Le Brun. It represents her in Turkish dress, as 'Zaira' in Winter's opera.
[ J. M. ]
GRAUN. The name of three brothers, one of whom made his mark on German music, sons of an Excise collector at Wahrenbrück near Dresden.
The eldest, August Friedrich, born at the end of the 17th century, was at the time of his death cantor of Merseburg, where he had passed the greater part of his life, 1727–1771.Johann Gottlieb, born 1698, was an eminent violinist, and composer of instrumental music much valued in his day. He was a pupil of Pisendel. After a journey to Italy, where he