Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/684

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672

��SPONTINI.

��Prussian military band, introducing an air from the ' Vestale,' ' La paix est en ce jour la fruit de vos conquStes.' To confirm himself in the king's favour he even composed a Prussian national anthem. This national hymn, composed by a born Italian and naturalised Frenchman, was completed between Nov. 25, 1817, and Oct. 18, 1818. The words, written by the king's private secretary J. F. L. Duncker, begin

Wo ist das Volk das kUhn von That Der Tyrannei den Kopf zertrat.*

On the latter date (the anniversary of the battle of Leipzig), Briihl had the work performed for the first time at the Berlin opera-house, and from 1820 to 1840 it was played every year on the king's birthday, August 3. A Volkslied, from in- herent reasons, it never could become ; but it has a certain chivalresque stateliness and distinction of its own. 2 After the death of Frederic William III. it gradually disappeared from the musical life of Berlin. 3 The king, however, decreed in March 1818 that the 'Vestale' should be performed every year on April i, in remembrance of the first time he passed in Paris in 1814.

This year also ended without realising the king's project of attaching Spontini to his court. Spontini, aware that Briihl was 'opposed to his coming, contrived to carry on the negotiations through Major-General von Witzleben, an ardent admirer of his music, and the person who had suggested his composing the Prussian national anthem. The contract was at length drawn up in August 1819, and signed by the king on Septem- ber i. It provided that Spontini should receive the titles of chief Capellmeister, and General Director of Music, with an additional one of ' Superintendant-General of the Koyal Music' to be borne abroad. He was to take the general superintendence of all musical affairs, and to com- pose two new grand operas, or three smaller ones, every three years. He was bound to conduct only at the first performances of his own works ; at other times he might conduct or not as he pleased. In addition he was to compose pieces cCoccasion for the court-festivals, and whenever the king pleased. Any other works he chose to compose and produce at the theatre were to be paid for separately. He was also at liberty, with slight restrictions, to produce his operas for his own benefit elsewhere, and to sell them to publishers. His salary was fixed at 4000 thalers, payable half-yearly in advance, besides an annual benefit, guaranteed to yield to at least 1050 thalers, and a benefit concert, with the theatre free, and the gratuitous assistance of the members of the Royal opera and orchestra. He was to have four months leave of absence every year, and an ade- quate pension after ten years' service. The Prus- sian ambassador interfered to procure his release from his engagement at Naples, and the king undertook to pay any necessary damages.

Although nominally subordinate to Briihl,

i Shew me the land which bold and free,

Has crushed the head of tyranny I a Published by Schlesinger of Berlin.

3 In 1875 It was sung to fresh words at a gala-performance at the Scala of Milan in honour of the present Emperor.

��SPONTINI.

Spontini was by this contract virtually made his colleague. Briihl's experienced eye, however, soon detected certain passages in the document admitting of two interpretations, and exposing the Management to all the dangers of a divided authority. He could not help feeling mortified at the way he had been superseded in the busi- ness; this would naturally make him mistrust Spontini, and thus the two came together under unfavourable auspices. According to the con- tract Spontini should have begun work at Berlin on Feb. 15, 1820, but he obtained leave to post- pone his coming, first to March 15, and then to May 15, and did not arrive until May 28, 1820. The corps dramatique, piqued at the. exorbitant terms of his engagement, did not meet him in the friendliest spirit, but Berlin society was favour- ably disposed towards him, particularly the court circle. The newspapers were full of the subject, and thus it came to pass that all classes were keenly interested.

The Opera was at this time, thanks to Briihl's exertions, in a high state of efficiency. The company was unusually good including such singers as Mesdames Milder-Hauptmann.Seidler- Wranitzky, Schulz - Killitschky, and Eunicke; Messrs. Bader, Stumer, Blume, and Eduard Devrient. The band had been well trained by Bernhard Weber. Briihl took immense pains to secure finish in the performances, had added to the repertoire all the great masterpieces, and had introduced * Fidelio ' and ' Armida,' be- sides establishing other operas of Gluck's per- manently in Berlin. He had also mounted the ' Vestale ' and ' Cortez ' with the utmost care and intelligence, and was entitled to boast that he had made the Berlin opera the first in Germany, as indeed every one allowed. Spontini found neither blemishes to remove nor reforms to intro- duce. He had at his disposal a company of first- rate artists, his power over them was practically unlimited, and the king's confidence in him un- bounded. His obvious duty was to keep matters up to the standard to which Briihl had raised them.

He started with the best intentions. Briihl was informed of various plans for increasing the orchestra, establishing a training-school for the chorus, and introducing new methods into the existing singing-school. He was considering the best means of educating the singers in the dramatic part of their art, and drew up a new set of rules for the band. Little, however, came of all this, partly because several of Spontini's proposals were already in existence in other forms, and partly because of his own want of purpose and temper. In fact, it soon came to a trial of strength between him and Briihl. The latter insisted, a little too firmly, on his rights as supreme manager, and even appealed to the pub- lic through the press. Spontini, despotic, and exceedingly sensitive as to publicity, referred to his contract, which had been drawn up without Briihl's concurrence, and which he declined to interpret according to Briihl's views, and stated specifically that he was subject to no one but the

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