Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/213

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
MALBROUGH.
201
MALIBRAN.

Chateaubriand, hearing the tune sung by Arabs in Palestine, suggested that it had been carried there by the Crusaders, either in the time of Godfrey de Bouillon, or in that of Louis IX. and Joinville; but no musician can entertain this idea for a moment. The breadth of the phrasing, the major mode, and the close on the dominant, are as characteristic of the popular tunes of the time of Louis XIV. as they are unlike the unrhythmical melodies of the middle ages.

It is not surprising that neither words nor music are to be found in the many collections of both: nowadays the merest trifles appear in print, then all songs were sung from memory. It would probably have died out had not Madame Poitrine used it as a lullaby for the infant dauphin in 1781. Marie Antoinette took a fancy to her baby's cradle-song, and sang it herself, and 'Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre' was soon heard in Versailles, Paris, and at length throughout France. Beaumarchais introduced it into his 'Mariage de Figaro' (1784), which still further contributed to its popularity. It then became a favourite air for couplets in French vaudevilles; and Beethoven brings it into his 'Battle Symphony' (1813) as the symbol of the French army. The air is now equally popular on both sides of the Channel. Many an Englishman who would be puzzled to recognise Marlborough under the guise of Malbrook is familiar with the tune to the convivial words, 'We won't go home till morning' and 'For he's a jolly good fellow.'

The piece was made the subject of an opera-bouffe in 4 acts, words by Siraudin and Busnach, music by Bizet, Jonas, Legouix, and Delibes, brought out at the Athénée, Dec. 15 [App. p.708 "Dec. 13"], 1867.

[ G. C. ]

MALCOLM, Alexander, was author of 'A Treatise on Music, Speculative, Practical and Historical,' 8vo. Edinburgh, 1721; and edition, 8vo. London, 1730; a well-executed work. An ill-made abridgement appeared in London, 1776. In 1721 one Mitchell published 'An Ode on the Power of Music,' dedicated to Malcolm, the greater part of which is prefixed to the 2nd edition of the Treatise.

[ W. H. H. ]

MALEK ADEL. An opera seria in 3 acts; words by Count Pepoli, music by Costa. Produced at the Theatre Italien, Paris, Jan. 14, 1837, and in London at Her Majesty's, May 18, 1837.

[ G. ]

MALIBRAN, Maria Felicità, one of the most distinguished singers the world has ever seen, was born March 24, 1808, at Paris, where her father, Manuel Garcia, had arrived only two months before. When 3 years old she was taken to Italy, and at the age of 5 played a child's part in Paër's 'Agnese,' at the Fiorentini, Naples. So precocious was she that, after a few nights of this opera, she actually began to sing the part of Agnese in the duet of the second Act, a piece of audacity which was applauded by the public. Two years later, she studied solfeggi with Panseron, at Naples; and Hérold, happening to arrive about the same time, gave her her first instruction on the piano. In 1816 Garcia took her to Paris with the rest of his family, and thence to London in the autumn of 1817. Already speaking fluently Spanish, Italian, and French, Maria picked up a tolerable knowledge of English in the 2½ years she spent in London. Not long after, she learned German with the same facility. Here, too, she had good teaching on the piano, and made such rapid progress that, on her return to Paris in 1819, she was able to play J. S. Bach's clavier- works, which were great favourites with her father. In this way she acquired sound taste in music.

At the early age of 15 she was made by her father to learn singing under his own direction; and, in spite of the fear which his violent temper inspired, she soon showed the individuality and originality of her genius. Two years had barely elapsed when (1824) Garcia allowed her to appear for the first time before a musical club which he had just established. There she produced a great sensation, and her future success was confidently predicted. Two months later, Garcia returned to London where he was engaged as principal tenor; and here he set on foot a singing-class, in which the education of Maria was continued, if not completed. Fétis says that it was in consequence of a sudden indisposition of Mme. Pasta, that the first public appearance of Maria was unexpectedly made; but this account is not the same as that given by Ebers or by Lord Mount-Edgcumbe. The latter relates that, shortly after the repair of the King's Theatre, 'the great favourite Pasta arrived for a limited number of nights. About the same time Ronzi fell ill, and totally lost her voice, so that she was obliged to throw up her engagement and return to Italy. Madame Vestris having seceded, and Caradori being unable for some time to perform, it became necessary to engage a young singer, the daughter of the tenor Garcia, who had sung here for several seasons. She was as yet a mere girl, and had never appeared on any public stage; but from the first moment of her appearance she showed evident talents for it both as singer and actress. Her extreme youth, her prettiness, her pleasing voice, and sprightly easy action, as Rosina in 'Il Barbiere di Seviglia,' in which part she made her début, gained her general favour; but she was too highly extolled, and injudiciously put forward as a prima donna, when she was only a very promising débutante, who in time, by study and practice, would in all probability, under the tuition of her father, a good musician, but (to my ears at least) a most disagreeable singer, rise to eminence in her profession. But in the following year she went with her whole family (all of whom, old and young, are singers tant bons que mauvais) to establish an Italian opera in America, where, it is said, she is married, so that she will probably never return to this country, if to Europe.' Ebers says, 'her voice was a contralto, and