Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/121

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LEADING NOTE.
109
LEBRUN.

tendency to lead up to the most important note in the scale is the origin of its name.

In many scales, both of civilised and barbarous peoples, it has found no place. In most of the mediæval ecclesiastical scales, as in the Greek scales from which they were derived, the note immediately below the tonic was separated from it by the interval of a whole tone, and therefore had none of the character of a leading note; but as the feeling for tonality gained ground in the middle ages hand in hand with the appreciation of harmonic combinations, the use of the leading note, which is so vital to its comprehension, became more common. Ecclesiastics looked upon this tampering with the august scales of antiquity with disfavour, and Pope John XXII passed an edict against it in 1322; consequently the accidental which indicated it was omitted in the written music: but the feeling of musicians was in many cases too strong to be suppressed, and it seems that the performers habitually sang it wherever the sense of the context demanded it, nor do we learn that the ecclesiastics interfered with the practice as long as the musicians did not let the world see as well as hear what they were doing. Notwithstanding this common practice of performers, the scales maintained their integrity in many respects, and there resulted a curious ambiguity, which is very characteristic of mediæval music, in the frequent interchange of the notes a tone and a semitone below the tonic. Musicians were long beguiled by the feeling that the true scales should have the note below the tonic removed from it by the interval of a tone, and that it was taking a liberty and pandering to human weakness to sharpen it; and the clear realisation of those principles of tonality upon which modern music is based was considerably retarded thereby, so that works both vocal and instrumental are characterised by a vagueness of key-relationship, which the use of the leading note alone can remove, till far on into the seventeenth century; by the time of Bach and Handel however the ancient scales had been fused into the major and minor modes of the modern system, and the leading note assumed the office it has ever since occupied. The gradual realisation of the importance of the leading note and the influence it had upon the development of modern music is traced in the article Harmony, and reference may also be made to chap, xiv of the Third Part of Helmholtz's great work on 'The Sensations of Tone,' etc.

LEBHAFT, i.e. lively, the German equivalent for Vivace. Beethoven uses it, during his temporary preference for German terms, in Sonata op. 101, where we find the two directions 'Etwas lebhaft' etc. and 'Lebhaft, marschmässig,' which is exactly equivalent to 'Vivace à la marcia.' Schumann uses it constantly; 'Äusserst lebhaft' is Vivacissimo.

[ G. ]

LEBRUN, Francesca, the daughter of Danzi the violoncellist, was born at Mannheim in 1756. Endowed by nature with a voice remarkable alike for its purity and extent, ranging as high as F in alt without difficulty, she improved her natural advantages by careful study, and became one of the best singers that Germany has produced. She made her first appearance (1771) when scarcely 16 years old, and charmed the court: in the next year she was engaged at the Mannheim Opera. Fétis says that in 1775 she became the wife of Lebrun the oboist, whom she accompanied to Italy, singing first at Milan (1778) in Salieri's 'Europa riconosciuta.' The Milanese were delighted with her clear and beautiful voice and easy vocalisation, in spite of the intrigues of La Balducci, the prima donna of La Scala, who endeavoured to set them against her young rival. This account must, however, be corrected; for, whereas Fétis says that she only came to England in 1781, there is no doubt that she was here five years earlier, then unmarried, arriving with Roncaglia, with whom she sang in Sacchini's 'Creso.' 'Though her name was Italian [called in the cast, Francesca Danzi, Virtuosa di Camera di S.A.S. l'Elettore Palatino], she was a German, and had never been in Italy. She was young, well-looking, had a voice of uncommon clearness and compass, capable of the most astonishing execution, and was an excellent musician. Yet her performance was considered unsatisfactory, being too much alla Tedescha, and more like that of an instrument than of a human voice. She soon after married M. Lebrun, an eminent player on the hautbois, which confirmed her in the bravura style, as she was in the habit of singing songs with an obbligato accompaniment for that instrument, in which the difficulties performed by both were quite astonishing, each seeming to vie with the other which could go highest and execute the most rapid divisions. After performing in 'Erifile,' also by Sacchini, and other operas, she left England after one season, but was re-engaged for the next but one' (Lord Mount-Edgcumbe). It is therefore clear that she did not marry Lebrun until after 1777. She reappeared in London as Mme. Lebrun in 1779, being again the prima donna for serious opera, and continued with Pacchierotti to sing in London for two or three seasons; she then went away, 'nor was her place ever well filled during the remainder of Pacchierotti's stay' (Idem.).

She sang in 1785 at Munich, after which she returned to Italy, achieving the same brilliant success at Venice and Naples as elsewhere. In 1788 and 1789 she appeared at Munich in Mozart's 'Idomeneo,' Prati's 'Armida,' and the 'Castor and Pollux' of Vogler. She started for Berlin in Dec. 1790 to fulfil an engagement, but on her arrival lost her husband, and herself died May 14, 1791.

Mme. Lebrun, beside being a great singer, was an accomplished pianiste, and composed well for that instrument. She published at Offenbach (1783) some sonatas with violin accompaniment, and some trios for piano, violin, and cello, which contain pretty melodies and are written with facility.

Of her two daughters, the elder, Sophie, better known as Mme. [1]Dulcken, was born in London

  1. Not to be confounded with the later artiste of that name.