Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/646

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634

��SONS OF THE CLERGY.

��several movements in them. After 1843 the services were for some fifteen or sixteen years accompanied by the organ only, the choir being, as before, very largely augmented. Since about 1860 orchestral accompaniment has again been called into requisition; Evensong has taken the place of Matins ; and modern compositions by various living composers, often written expressly for the festival, have been introduced. Handel's immortal ' Hallelujah/ from Messiah, however, still retains its place. The dinners are held in the hall of the Merchant Taylors' Company. The Corporation bestowed upon the objects of its bounty in 1881 the large sum of 24,749, dis- tributed among 1513 recipients. [W.H.H.]

SONTAG, HENRIETTE, COUNTESS Kossi, was born at Coblentz, May 13, 1805. Her father was a good comedian, her mother an actress of no ordinary merit, to whom the daughter, when at the height of fame, continued to turn for instruction. At six, Henriette made her first public appearance, at the Darmstadt theatre, as Salome, in Kauer's ' Donauweibchen.' Three years later her mother, then a widow, settled at Prague, where Weber was conductor at the theatre. Here Henriette acted in juvenile parts, and in 1815 was admitted, though under the prescribed age, as a pupil to the Conservatoire of the city. She studied singing under Bayer and Frau Czegka, and when only 15 was suddenly called upon to replace the prima donna at the opera in the part of the Princess in Boieldieu's 'Jean de Paris.' Her precocity, appearance, and vocal gifts, at once created a great impres- sion, but shortly afterwards her mother removed with her to Vienna, where the next few years were spent, Henriette Sontag singing both in Italian and German opera, and deriving, accord- ing to her own statement, incalculable benefit from the counsels and example of Mme. Main- ville Fodor. Here Weber, in 1823, after hearing her in the ' Donna del Lago,' went next day to offer her the title-r61e in his ' Euryanthe,' whose production, Oct. 25, was a triumph for Mile. Sontag. Beethoven could not hear her, but ' How did little Sontag sing ?' was his first question to those who had been at the performance. When, in 1824, his 9th Symphony and Mass in D were produced, it was she who sustained the diffi- cult and ungrateful soprano part. She was next engaged at Leipzig, and then for Berlin, making her first appearance at the Konigstadt theatre, August 3, 1825, as Isabella in the 'Italiana in Algieri.'

Henceforward her career was one unbroken triumph. She made her d6but in Paris in June 1826, sis Rosina in the 'Barbiere,' and became a favourite at once. Her introduction of Rode's air and variations created a furore. She sang also in the ' Donna del Lago' and 'Italiana in Algieri,' and returned to Germany in July, with heightened prestige. Everywhere her beauty, charming voice, and exquisite vocalisation com- bined to excite an admiration amounting to frenzy. At Gottingen her post-chaise was thrown into the river by the ardent crowd, no mortal

��SONTAG.

being counted worthy to make use of it after her. Even Ludwig Borne, after commenting humorously on the extravagance of the public, confesses to have yielded in his turn to the pre- vailing infatuation. Her figure was slender and mignonne, her hair between auburn and blonde, her eyes large, and her features delicate. Her voice, a soprano of clear and pleasing quality, was specially good in the upper register, reaching the E in alt with facility, and in perfection of execution she seems to have been unsurpassed by any singer of her time. But she was deficient in dramatic power, and only appeared to the highest advantage in works of a light and placid style. On her return to Paris, in January 1828, she essayed parts of a different order, such as Donna Anna and Semiramide, with success, but in passion and emotion never rose to the distinc- tion she attained as a songstress.

In England she appeared first on April 19, 1 828, at the King's Theatre, as Rosina, and met with a most flattering reception, sharing with Mali bran the honours of that and the succeeding season. The story of the coolness existing between the two, and of how, after singing together the duet from 'Semiramide' at a concert, mutual admira- tion transformed their estrangement into warm friendship, is well known. Mile. Sontag ap- peared here in other rdles, and her artistic fame was enhanced by her popularity in society.

At Berlin, Mile. Sontag had formed the ac- quaintance of Count Rossi, then in the diplomatic service of Sardinia. An attachment sprang up between them and was followed by a secret marriage. It was feared that the young diplo- mate's future might be compromised were he to acknowledge an artiste of low birth as his wife. But after a time Count Rossi's efforts to procure Court sanction to his union were successful the King of Prussia bestowed a patent of nobility on the lady, who henceforth appeared in documents as nie de Launstein, and she definitely bade fare- well to artistic life. As Countess Rossi she ac- companied her husband to the Hague, where he was representative of the Sardinian Court. Oc- casionally she would sing for public charities, in concerts or oratorio a style in which she is said to have been unrivalled ; still, for nearly half her lifetime she remained lost to the musical public, following the career of her husband at the courts of Holland, Germany, and Russia. As to her domestic felicity and the character of her husband, we quote the positive testimony of her brother, Carl Sontag, 'Rossi made my sister happy, in the truest sense of the word. Up to the day of her death they loved each other as on their wedding-day ! ' But the disorders of 1847-48 had impaired their fortunes, and she was tempted to return to the opera. It was notified to Rossi that he might retain his am- bassador's post, if he would formally separate from his wife on the tacit understanding that so soon as her operatic career was concluded she should be allowed to return to him. This he however at once refused, and resigned his post, though remaining on a friendly footing with the

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