Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/648

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36

��SOPEANO.

��found amongst the Germans, of which Madame Rudersdorff was an instance, but they are chiefly adapted to declamatory singing. A striking ex- ample of the soprano leggiero, the exact opposite of the last-mentioned voice, was Madame Stock- hausen, who was very popular on account of the musical quality of her voice and the faultless manner of her execution. But she was unim- passioned, and though there was a great charm about her rendering of her native Swiss airs, her performance of such songs as Meyerbeer's 'Idole de ma vie 5 (Robert le Diable) was almost that of a musical box. The great artificial soprani of the 1 7th, 1 8th, and the early part of the present centuries were Ferri, Pasqualini, x Nicolini (after- wards changing to contralto), Bernacchi, Caffa- relli, and Farinelli (the two greatest), Carestini, Gizziello.Guarducci, Aprile.Millico, Pacchierotti, Crescentini, Velluti, etc. Pergetti was the last of the tribe who sang in England.

There are some high Mezzo-soprani that, during the years of youth and vigour, contrive to sing soprano music, but the voice will not continue to bear the strain, and the result, after a time, baneful alike to singer and hearer, is extreme harshness in the upper notes, with frequent false intonation, hollowness or emptiness of the middle of the voice, and flaccid gruffness upon the lower notes, and in many cases early total failure of the vocal powers. The low mezzo- soprano, which might be called mezzo-contralto, can generally make a shift to sing contralto music, but the voice lacks the heavy lower notes necessary to give the music its full effect. It is in the large spaces of our modern concert-halls that these deficiencies make themselves most felt. The true mezzo-soprano, not forced out . of its proper limit, is a very fine type of : voice. The mezzo-soprano clef, now dis- "nit used, is the C-clef on the second line. [H.C.D.]

SORDINI, Mutes 3 or Dampers (Fr. Sourdine ; Ger. Dampfer. The term occurs in Senza sor- dini', Con sordini). The violin Sordino has been described and figured under MUTE, and some further remarks are given below.

In the pianoforte the contrivance is called in English the damper. The first pianofortes, as we find Cristofori's and Silbermann's, were made without stops. In course of time a practice common with the harpsichord was followed in the pianoforte, and led the way to the now in- dispensable pedals.

The first stops were used to raise the dampers; and by two brass knobs on the player's left hand the dampers could be taken entirely off the strings in two divisions, bass and treble. C. P. E. Bach, in his ' Versuch,' makes few references to the pianoforte ; but in the edition of 1797 he remarks (p. 268) that the undamped register of the Fortepiano is the most agreeable, and that, with due care, it is the most charming of keyed instruments for improvising ('fantasiren'). The

1 Erroneously classed amongst early tenors under SINGING.

2 It will be noticed that the metaphors at the root of the Italian -and English terms are deafness in the one case and dumbness in the other.

��SORDINI.

higher treble of the piano is not now damped. These short strings vibrate in unison with the overtones of deeper notes, and, as a distinguished pianoforte-maker has said, give life to the whole instrument. 3 The musical terms * Senza sordini * and 'Con sordini' applied to the damper-stops were used exclusively by Beethoven in his earlier sonatas. He did not use the now familiar ' Ped.* or ' Pedal,' because the pedal was of recent intro- duction, and was less commonly employed than the stops, which every little square piano then had. The 'Genouilliere' or knee-pedal replaced the damper stops in the German Grands. For the Italian words signifying Without and With dampers the signs <f> and % were substituted by Steibelt, and eventually became fixed as the constant equivalents. The oldest dated square piano existing, one of Zumpe's of 1766, has the damper stops ; as to the Genouilliere, Mozart tells us (letter, Oct. 1777) how Stein had one in his improved Grand, and M. Mahillon's Stein of 1 780 or thereabouts, accordingly has one. There is one in Mozart's Walther Grand at Salzburg, and in each of the two Huhn (Berlin) Grands of 1790, or earlier, preserved at Potsdam. The action of the Genouilliere consists of two levers which descend a little below the key-bottom of the piano, and meet opposite the knees of the player, who pressing the levers together, by an upward thrust moves a bar which takes the whole of the dampers off the strings.

Contemporaneously with the employment of the Genouilliere was that of the piano stop (German 'Harfenzug' Fr. 'Celeste'), afterwards transferred, like the dampers, to a pedal. An interesting anonymous Louis Quinze square piano belonging to the painter M. Gosselin of Brussels, has this Celeste as a stop. Its origin is clearly the harp-stop of the harpsichord, the pieces of leather being turned over so as to be interposed between the hammers and the strings.*

A note of directions for the use of the pedals prefixed to Steibelt's three sonatas, op. 35, gives an approximate date to the use of the pedals be- coming recognised, and put under the composer's direction, instead of being left entirely to the fancy of the player. He says: 'The Author wishing to make more Variety on the Piano Forte finds it necessary to make use of the Pedals, by which alone the tones can be united, but it re- quires to use them with care, without which, in going from one chord to another, Discord and Confusion would result. Hereafter the Author in all his Compositions will make use of the following signs to denote the Pedals.

The Pedal which raises the dampers.

  • The Piano Pedal.

4^. To take the foot off the Pedal that was used before.'

8 Even in Virdung, A.D. 1511, we find the practice of leaving sym- pathetic strings in the clavichords; as he says to strengthen the resonance. ^^ ^^ ^ attributed the introduction of the Celeste' to Sebastian Erard; but as now named "we are disposed to place this kind of pedal earlier, since it was in such general use in 18th-century German pianos, the ideas of which, whether originally German or French, Erard appears at first to have adopted as tha basis for his experiments.

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