Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/188

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176

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��orders, and honorary member of a great number of Academies and musical institutions Rossini had a right to every posthumous honour possible. The funeral took place at the church of the Trinity on Saturday Nov. ai, 1868; it was gorgeous, and was attended by several deputa- tions from Italy. Tamburini, Duprez, Gardoni, Bonnehe'e, Faure, Capoul, Belval, Obin, Delle Sedie, Jules Lefort, Agnesi, Alboni, Adelina Patti, Nilsson, Krauss, Carvalho, Bloch, and Grossi, with the pupils of the Conservatoire, sang the Prayer from 'Mo'ise.' Nilsson gave a fine movement from the ' Stabat ' of Per- golesi, but the most impressive part of the ceremony was the singing of the 'Quis est homo' from Rossini's own ' Stabat mater ' by Patti and Alboni. To hear that beautiful music rendered by two such voices, and in the presence of such artists, over the grave of the composer, was to feel in the truest sense the genius of Rossini, and the part which he has played in the music of the i pth century.

At the opening of his career Rossini had two courses before him, either, like Simone Mayer and Paer, to follow the footsteps of the old Neapolitan masters, or to endeavour to revolu- tionise the Italian opera, as Gluck and Mozart had revolutionised those of France and Germany. He chose the latter. We have described the eagerness with which he threw himself into the path of innovation and the audacity with which while borrowing a trait of harmony or of piquant modulation from Majo (1745-74) or the skeleton of an effect from Generali (1783-1832) he extin- guished those from whom he stole, according to the well-known maxim of Voltaire. His great object at first was to carry his hearers away, and this he did by the crescendo and the ca- fyaletta, two ready and successful methods. We have already mentioned his innovations in the accompaniment of the recitatives, first, in ' Elisa- betta,' the full quartet of strings, and next in ' Otello ' the occasional addition of the wind in- struments. This was a great relief to the mo- notony of the old secco recitative. But his innovations did not stop there : he introduced into the orchestra generally a great deal more movement, variety, colour, combination, and (it must be allowed) noise, than any of his prede- cessors had done, though never so as to drown the voices. In Germany the orchestra was well understood before the end of the i8th century ; and we must not forget that not to speak of Mozart's operas, of Fidelio, or of Cherubini's masterpieces before the production of the Bar- biere (1816), eight of Beethoven's Symphonies were before the world. But in Italy instrumen- tation was half a century behind, and certainly none of Rossini's predecessors in that country ever attempted what he did in his best operas, as for instance in the finale to Semiramide (1823), where the employment of the four horns and the clarinets, and the astonishingly clever way in which the orchestra is handled generally, are quite strokes of genius. The horns are

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always favourites of his, and are most happily used throughout ' Guillaume Tell,' where we m ay- point to the mixture of pizzicato and bowed notes in the Chorus of the 1st act, the harp and bell in the Chorus of the and act, and other traits in the Conspiracy scene as marks of real genius, for the happy and picturesque effects produced by very simple means. Rossini had further, like all the great masters, a strong feeling for rhythm, as the most powerful of all aids to interest and success, and was fond of quick movements and of triple time. 1 But an excessive love of jewels is apt to lead to the use of sham diamonds, and his incessant pursuit of effect led him to ex- cessive ornamentation, to noise, and to a passion for attractive forms rather than for the feeling which should lie at the root of them. Much of this, however, was atoned for in his early operas by his masterly way of writing for the voices, by the strength of his melody, the copious flow of his ideas, and the irresistible contagion of his good spirits, especially in comic opera. Having thus secured his position in public favour, his next step a very legitimate one was to satisfy the demands of his own taste and conscience. During this second period the subjects of his operas increase in interest. In ' Mose ' he deals with the religious sentiment. In the * Donna del Lago 1 he rivals Walter Scott on his own field ; and in ' Semiramide ' he has recourse to oriental history in his endeavour to give an in- dependent value to his drama. During this period his melodies drop some of their former voluptuous character, but in return are more pathetic and more full of colour, though still wanting in tenderness and depth.

Lastly, in his Paris operas, and especially in 'Guillaume Tell,' the influence of French taste makes itself strongly felt, and we find a clear- ness, a charm, a delicacy in the small details, a sense of proportion and of unity, a breadth of style, an attention to the necessities of the stage, and a dignity which raise this epoch of his career far higher than either of the others.

Rossini's music, as we have already said, has been very differently estimated. Ingres, in whose view honesty in art held almost as high a place as genius or originality, has called it ' the music of a dishonest (malhonnlte) man.' Berlioz would gladly have burnt it all, and Rossini's followers with it. a On the other hand, Schubert, though fully alive to his weaknesses, as his caricatures of Rossini's overtures show, and with every reason to dislike him from the fact that the Rossini furore kept Schubert's own works off the stage contrasts his operas most favourably with the ' rubbish ' which filled the Vienna theatres at that time, and calls him emphatically 'a rare genius.' ' His instrumentation,' he continues, 'is often extremely original, and so is the voice writing,

1 The English reader will find these points happily touched on la Mr. Sutherland Edwards's ' History of the Opera,' chap. xvi. Eos- sini's use of the solo bass voice, in which, consciously or not, he followed the lead of Mozart, has been already mentioned in thi Dictionary, vol. i. p. 149.

2 Berlioz, ' Memoires," chap. xiv. The abuse of the ' brutale grosse caisse de Bossini ' sounds oddly from Berlioz's pen.

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