Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/707

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
HASSE.
695
 

soon quitted the country. He returned, in 1739, to Dresden, where he was no longer vexed by the presence of Porpora, and where August III. had succeeded his father. Here, with the exception of a short sojourn in Venice in 1740, he and Faustina remained till 1763. In 1745, on the very evening of Frederick the Great's entry into Dresden after the battle of Kesselsdorf, Hasse's opera 'Arminio' was performed by command of the conqueror, who graciously commended the work and its performance, especially the part of Faustina. During Frederick's nine days' stay in the Saxon capital Hasse had to attend at court every evening and superintend the musical performances, and was rewarded by the present of a magnificent diamond ring and 1000 thalers for distribution among the musicians of the orchestra. In 1760 occurred the siege of Dresden, in which Hasse lost most of his property, and during which his collected MSS., prepared for a complete edition of his works, to be published at the expense of the King of Poland, were nearly all destroyed. At the end of the war the king was obliged, from motives of economy, to suppress both opera and chamber music. The Capellmeister and his wife were pensioned, and retired to Vienna, where Hasse, in conjunction with the poet Metastasio, was soon engaged in active opposition to a more formidable rival than Porpora, viz. Christoph Gluck. Although he was 64 [App. p.669 "74"] years old, he now composed several new operas. His last dramatic work, 'Ruggiero,' was produced at Milan in 1774 [App. p.669 "1771"] for the marriage of the Archduke Ferdinand. On this same occasion was performed a dramatic serenade, 'Ascanio in Alba,' the work of Wolfgang Mozart, then 13 years of age. After hearing it, old Hasse is said to have exclaimed, 'This boy will throw us all into the shade,' a prediction which was verified within a few years of its utterance. The remainder of Hasse's life was passed at Venice, where he died at the age of 85 [App. p.669 "in his 85th year"], on Dec. 16, 1783.

Owing to the destruction of Hasse's works at Dresden, his autograph scores are exceedingly rare; scarcely a MS. or even a letter of his being found in any collection, public or private; though contemporary copies are common enough. The following compositions of Hasse's are the chief of those which are published, and accessible at the present day:–

1. 'Miserere' for a Soprani and 2 Alti (Berlin, Trautwein).

2. '113th Psalm'; for Bass solo and Chorus, with orchestra (Elberfeld, Arnold).

3. 'Alcide al Bivio,' opera, P. F. score (Leipzig, Breitkopf).

4. Te Deum in D for Soli and Chorus, with Orchestra and Organ (Leipzig, Peters).

5. 'Die Pilgrimme auf Golgatha' ('Pellegrini al Sepolcro,' German translation), Oratorio, P.F. score (Leipzig, Schwickert).

6. Quintet, from the above, 2 Sopr., 2 Altos, and Bass (Berlin, Damköhler; Breslau, Leuckard).

7. Air for Alto, from Oratorio 'Die Bekehrung des heiligen Augustins' (Berlin, Damköhler, & Schlesinger).

8. Portions of a Te Deum and a Miserere, and two other pieces in Rochlitz's Sammlung, vol. iv.

9. A vocal fugue, 'Christe,' No. 19 in the 'Auswahl vorzügl. Musikwerke' (Trautwein).

10. A Sonata in D, in Pauer's Alte Claviermusick (Part 44).

There is a fine portrait of Hasse, oval, in folio, engraved by L. Zucchi at Dresden from a picture by C. P. Rotavi [App. p.669 "Rotari"], representing him as a middle aged man, with pleasing features and expression.

Hasse's facility in composition was astonishing. He wrote more than a hundred operas, besides oratorios, masses, cantatas, psalms, symphonies, sonatas, concertos, and a host of smaller compositions. He set to music the whole of Metastasio's dramatic works, several of them three or four times over. His career was one long success: few composers have enjoyed during their lifetime such world-wide celebrity as he; of those few none are more completely forgotten now. Great as was his personal popularity, it is insufficient to account for the universal acceptance of his music. The secret probably lay in the receptivity of his nature, which, joined to the gift of facile expression, caused some of the most genial, though not the deepest, influences of his time to find in him a faithful echo. First among these was the spreading fascination of modern Italian melody. It is as an Italian, not a German composer that Hasse must take rank, although, innocent as he was of contrapuntal science, he has nothing in common with the majesty, profound in its simplicity, of the early Italian writers. He began life as a singer, in an age of great singers, and must be classed among the first representatives of that modern Italian school which was called into existence by the worship of vocal art for its own sake. His harmonies, though always agreeable, sound poor to ears accustomed to the richer combinations of the German composers who were his contemporaries and immediate successors. Yet even as a harmonist he is linked to modern times by his fond and frequent use of the diminished seventh and its inversion, as an interval both of melody and of harmony; while his smooth and somewhat cloying successions of thirds and sixths may have afforded delight to hearers inured [App. p.669 "unused"] to the stern severities of counterpoint. He had an inexhaustible flow of pleasing melody, which, if it is never grand or sublime, is never crabbed or ugly. Many of his best airs are charming even now, and, if in some respects they appear trite, it should be remembered that we have become familiar with the type of which they are examples through the medium of compositions which, in virtue of other qualities than his, are longer-lived than Hasse's, though written at a later date. A few have been republished in our own day, among which we may quote 'Ritornerai fra poco,' from a Cantata (to be found in the series called 'Gemme d'Antichità,' published by Lonsdale), which has real beauty. As a fair specimen of his style, exhibiting all the