Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/94

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82
ARIA DI BRAVURA.
ARDITI.

58 as conductor to Her Majesty's Theatre, under the successive managements of Lumley, E. T. Smith, and Mapleson. Mr. Lumley has left on record his verdict of Signor Arditi, 'than whom, taking all qualities into account, a more able conductor never reigned in this country' ('Reminiscences,' 447 note). Arditi took an Italian company (Piccolomini, Giuglini, etc.) on an artistic tour to Hamburgh, Berlin, Dresden, etc., and thus became known and liked by the German public. In the winters of 1871 and 1873 he conducted the Italian Opera at St. Petersburgh, and since 1870 has performed the same office each spring at Vienna. His compositions, besides those mentioned above, comprise a 'Commemoration Ode,' performed at the Crystal Palace June 10, 1873. His vocal waltz 'Il Bacio' is a universal favourite.

[ G. ]

ARGYLL ROOMS. At the commencement of the present century there stood in Argyll Street, Oxford Street, a mansion which had been occupied by a Mr. Joliffe. This was taken a few years afterwards by Col. Greville, who altered and added to it, and fitted it up for the meetings of a fashionable association termed the Pic-Nics, who had burlettas, vaudevilles and ballets on a small scale performed there. But the fashionable folk, with their accustomed fickleness, soon deserted the place, and Greville was compelled to seek refuge on the continent, having been obliged to make over 'The Argyll Rooms' (as he had named them) to a Mr. Slade, to whom he was indebted. Slade conducted the business of the rooms for several years, letting them for concerts and other entertainments. During his management one of the events of interest which occurred there was a reading by Mrs. Siddons, on Feb. 10, 1813, of Shakspere's Macbeth, for the benefit of the widow of Andrew Cherry, dramatist and actor. In the same year the rooms acquired greater celebrity by being selected by the then newly-formed Philharmonic Society as their place of performance. In 1818 the western end of the concert room falling within the line required for the formation of Regent Street, Slade was awarded by a jury £23,000 as compensation (a sum considered at the time as exceedingly beyond the real value of the property), and the whole of the old building was removed and new rooms erected on the east side of Regent Street at the north-west corner of Argyll Place. The new building was designed by John Nash, and had all the defects of his manner. On the side next Regent Street was a balcony supported by eight heavy and clumsily designed caryatides. The persons by whom the new rooms were erected were twenty-one of the principal professors of music in London, who had formed themselves into an association for the purpose of printing the best music in the best manner and selling it at a moderate profit. This association was called The Royal Harmonic Institution, and, for the purposes of its trade, occupied the south-western angle of the new building (at the corner of Regent Street and Argyll Place), a circular fronted erection with a domed roof. The great expense incurred in the erection of the building, joined to other untoward events, soon led to the withdrawal of most of the original speculators, at a loss of about £1800 to each, and the place eventually fell into the hands of two of their body, Welsh and Hawes. But differences soon arose between these two, and ultimately Hawes, by the commission of an act of bankruptcy, forced a dissolution of the partnership, and the concern remained in the hands of Welsh alone. During the Philharmonic Society's tenure of the rooms (old and new), a period of about seventeen years, many events of great interest to musicians occurred there. There, on March 6 and April 10, 1820, Spohr appeared, first as violinist and last as conductor (Selbstbiog. ii. 86), when a baton was used for perhaps the first time at an English concert. There also on June 18 following, at his benefit concert, his first wife (Dorette Scheidler) made her only appearance in England (and her last on earth) as a harpist. There, on June 11, 1821, Moscheles made his first appearance in this country. There too Weber, on April 3, 1826, two months before his decease, conducted one of the Philharmonic Society's concerts. And there a still greater musician than either first presented himself before an English audience;—on May 25, 1829, the youthful Mendelssohn conducted, at one of the concerts of the Philharmonic Society, his symphony in C minor, and a month later, at the benefit concert of Drouet, the flautist, on midsummer night, June 24, produced for the first time in England his beautiful overture to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' Besides concerts the rooms were let for miscellaneous performances and exhibitions. One of the most attractive of the latter was a French exhibition of dramas performed by puppets, called 'The French Theatre du Petit Lazary,' which was given in 1828 and 1829. In 1829–1830 the rooms were tenanted by a M. Chabert, calling himself 'The Fire King,' who entertained the public by entering a heated oven and cooking a steak in it, swallowing phosphorus, etc. During his tenure of the place, at 10 o'clock in the evening of Feb. 6, 1830, a fire broke out, which in a short time completely destroyed the building. It was re-edified soon afterwards, but never regained its former reputation. The Philharmonic concerts were removed after the fire to the concert-room of the King's Theatre, and thence to the Hanover Square Rooms, and although a few concerts and other entertainments were occasionally given in the Argyll Rooms the place became by degrees deserted by caterers for public amusement and was in the course of a few years converted into shops.

[ W. H. H. ]

ARIA, Italian for Air.

ARIA DI BRAVURA. The composition and performance of this class of aria began and ended with the last century; the century par excellence of great Italian singers, as the word 'singer' was once interpreted.

[ J. H. ]