Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/187

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ROSSINI.

her sister Barbara as Arsace, and Obin as Assur. In this transformation Rossini took no ostensible part. Carafa at his request arranged the reci- tatives, and wrote the ballet music. These were mere revivals. Not so the sacred work which he brought out at the house of M. Pillet-Will the banker on March 14, 1864, and at the re- hearsals of which he presided in person. We allude to the 'Petite messe solennelle,' which though so called with a touch of Rossini an pleasantry is a mass of full dimensions, lasting nearly two hours in performance. Rossini had always been on good terms with the bankers of Paris, and after Rothschild and Aguado he became very intimate with the Count Pillet-Will (1781-1860), s rich amateur, passionately fond of music, who had learned the violin from Baillot, and amused himself with composing little pieces for that instrument. His son, more retiring but not less enthusiastic than his father, had always been one of Rossini's most devoted admirers, and on the occasion of the inauguration of his magnificent house in the Rue Moncey, it was a happy thought of the composer to allow his ' Petite messe solennelle ' to be heard there for the first time. This important composition,

(comprising solos and choruses, was written with the accompaniment of a harmonium and two pianos. On this occasion it was sung by the two Marchisios, Gardoni, and Agnesi, and was much applauded; the Sanctus and Agnus were re- demanded, the chorus portions of the Credo were much admired, and the fluent style of the fugued passages in the Gloria perhaps the best portion of the work was a theme of general remark. Rossini afterwards scored it with slight altera- tions for the full orchestra perhaps a little heavily and in this shape it was performed for the first time in public at the The'atre Italien, on the evening of Sunday Feb. 28, 1869, on the 78th birthday of the composer, as nearly as that could be, seeing that he was born in a leap year, on Feb. 29.

In the last years of his life Rossini affected the piano, spoke of himself as a fourth-rate pianist, and composed little else but pianoforte pieces. Most of these were in some sense or other jeux <C esprit ; some were inscribed to his parrot, or had the most fanciful titles ' Valse anti-dansante,' 'Fausse couche de Polka-ma- zurka,' Etude asthmatique,' ' Echantillon de blague,' etc. The whole were arranged in cases with such quaint names as ' Album olla podrida,' ' Les quatre 1 mendiants,' ' Quatre hors-d'oeuvre,' Album de Chateau,' 'Album de Chaumiere,' etc. For the Exposition universelle of 1867, however, he wrote a Cantata, which was per- formed for the first time at the ceremony of awarding the prizes on July I, and was also executed at the opera at the free performances on August 15, 1867 and 68. It opens with a hymn in a broad style, in which the author of ' Se'miramis ' and ' Mo'ise ' is quite recognisable, but winds up with a vulgar quick-step on a motif not unlike the country dance known as i Dried fruits for dessert.

��ROSSINI.

��175

��' L' Ostendaise.* The title, which we give from the autograph, seems to show that the son of the jolly ' trombadore ' of Pesaro was quite aware of the character of the finale of his last work.

A. Napoldon HI

et a son vaillant Peuple.

Hymne

avcc accompagnement d'orcheatre et muslque militair pour baryton (solo), un Pontife,

chceur de Grands Pretres ohoeur de Vivandieres, de Soldats, et de Peuple.

Ala fin

Danse, Cloches, Tambours et Canons. Excuaez du peu 1 1

The final touch is quite enough to show that Rossini to the last had more gaiety than pro- priety, more wit than dignity, more love of independence than good taste. He preferred the society of artists to any other, and was never so happy as when giving free scope to his caustic wit or his Rabelaisian humour. His bow mots were abundant, and it is surprising that no one has yet attempted to collect them. It is a task which we commend to M. Joseph Vivier, the eminent horn-player, himself a master of the art, and formerly one of the liveliest and most inti- mate of the circle at Passy. One or two may find place here. When that charming actress Mme. Arnould Plessy met Rossini for the first time she was a little embarrassed at not knowing exactly how to address him. 'To call you Monsieur would be absurd, and unfortunately I have no right to call you my master.' ' Call me,' said he, 4 mon petit lapin.' One day, in a fit of the spleen, he cried out, 'I am miserable; my nerves are wrong, and every one offers me string in- stead.' D'Ortigue, the author of the Dictionary of Church Music, had been very severe on him in an article in the ' Correspondant ' entitled '" Musical royalties,' and an enthusiastic admirer of the Italian School having replied some- what angrily, Rossini wrote to him, 'I am much obliged to you for your vigorous treat- ment (lavement) of the tonsure of my friend the Cure" d'Ortigue.' A number of friends were disputing as to which was his best opera, and appealed to him : ' You want to know which of my works I like best ? Don Giovanni ! ' He took extreme delight in his summer villa at Passy, which stood in the avenue Ingres, and had a fine garden of about three acres attached to it. Here he was abundantly accessible to every one who had any claims on his notice, and the younger and gayer his visitors the more he seemed to enjoy them. More than one young English musician has cause to remember the charming familiarity of the great composer with his 'jeune confrere.' In that house he died on Friday Nov. 13, 1868, at 9 p.m. after a long day of agony. His funeral was magnificent. As Foreign Associate of the In- stitute (1833) ; Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour (1864), and the orders of St. Maurice and St. Lazare ; commander of many foreign

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