Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/690

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678

��SPONTINI.

��Various new plans and schemes continued to occupy him, as before, especially during the latter part of his stay in Paris, when ' Louis IX,' 'La Colere d'Achille.'and 'Artaserse' had in turn been thought of for composition. For a successor to ' Olympia ' he thought first of ' Sappho ' or of ' Die Horatier,' and then of two of Werner's tragedies, ' Das Kreuz an der Ostsee ' and ' At- tila,' but none of these projects appear to have advanced far enough even for a preliminary re- hearsal. More progress was made with a poem by his old friend Jouy, ' Les Athe'niennes,' first offered him in 1819, and accepted in a revised form in 1822. In a review of the poem 1 written in 1830 Goethe implies that the music was com- plete, but at Spontini's death nothing was found but unimportant fragments. 2 An opera founded on English history occupied him longer. We have already mentioned the revision of his ' Mil- ton.' His studies for this deepened his interest in the English history of the I7th century. In 1 830 Raupach wrote a libretto for a grand opera, ' Milton,' which was bought by the committee of management for 30 Friedrichs d'or, and placed at Spontini's disposal. 3 The only portion of the smaller opera retained was the fine Hymn to the Sun. After completing the revision of 'Agnes von Hohenstaufen ' Spontini wrote to the Inten- dant (May 9, 1837) that he hoped in the winter of 1838 to produce 'Milton's Tod und Busse fur Konigsmord' (Milton's death, and repentance for the King's execution). He spent the summer of 1838 in England, studying 'historical, national, and local' colouring for this ' historico-romantic ' opera. Raupach's poem, extended and revised by Dr. Sobernheim, had now assumed a political and religious tendency, so distasteful to the King as to make him prohibit the opera. Further alterations ensued, and it became 'Das verlorene Paradies' (Paradise Lost). By May 1840 the score of part of the 1st, and two-thirds of the 2nd act was complete. Up to March 1841 he certainly intended finishing it, but not a note of it has ever been heard. We may add that on June 4, 1838, he mentioned a fairy-opera to the King, and in Dec. 1840 professed himself ready to begin a new comic opera. He was apparently bent on composing fresh dramatic works, and often complained that the management did not offer him sufficient choice of librettos; but he was incapacitated from creation by his increasing pedantry, and by the perpetual state of irritation in which he was kept by his critics.

Spontini's other compositions during his re sidence in Berlin are unimportant. A hymn for the coronation of the Emperor Nicholas of Russia, to words by Raupach, was performed at Berlin Dec. 18, 1826, and May 9, 1827.* A cantata to Herklots' words, ' Gott segne den Konig,' had a great success at the Halle Musical Festival in

Goethe's Works, Goedecke's edition, vol. xill. p. 632. Cotta. Also Spontini In Deutschland,' p. 22. Leipzig, 1830.

2 Robert's ' Spontini,' p. 34. Berlin, 1883.

3 In ' Spontini in Ueutschland ' this libretto is said to be by Jouy. I have not been able to ascertain whether it was Jouy's work revised by Raupach, or an original production.

  • Raupach had intended to have tableaux vivants to each five stanzas ;

but this was not carried out.

��SPONTINI.

Sept. 1829, which Spontini conducted so much to the general satisfaction as to procure him an honorary Doctor's degree from the University, and a gold medal inscribed ' Liricce Tragcedice Princlpi Germania meritorum cultrix.' A ' Do- mine salvum fac regem,' a 12, with accompani- ment of organ, trumpets, celli, and basses, was written on Oct. 15, 1840, for presentation to the King. Besides these he published a number of French, German, and Italian vocal pieces, with PF. accompaniment, the best of which is ' Die Cimbern,' a war-song for three men's voices. As a mere matter of curiosity may be mentioned that he set Goethe's ' Kennst du das Land,' and the Italian canzonet 'Ninfe, se liete,' in which he again clashed unconsciously with Weber's very graceful composition to the same words (i8n). 5 Considering his great position, Spontini did not accomplish much for music in Berlin. At the opera he made the band play with a fire, an expression, and an ensemble, hitherto unknown, forced the singers to throw themselves dramati- cally into their parts, and used every exertion to fuse the different elements into one coherent whole. That his standard was high and his views enlightened must be admitted. He en- deavoured too to improve the existing school for singers, and founded one for the orchestra. But his efforts as a rule were concentrated on the operas which he himself conducted that is tc say, his own, Gluck's ' Armida,' and 'Don Juan.' These works, through his genius, his influence on his subordinates, and his almost absolute power, he brought to a perfection then unequalled. The pieces directed by his vice-conductors went badly, partly because Spontini exhausted the singers, and partly because he took little interest in the general repertoire. He had, too, no power of organisation or administration. As long as the excellent material lasted which Briihl trans- ferred to him in 1820 this defect was not glaring, but when his solo-singers began to wear out and had to be replaced, it was found that he had not the judgment, the penetration, nor the im- partiality necessary for such business. Up to the autumn of 1827 he only concluded one en- gagement himself, and in that instance it was a solo-singer who proved only fit for the chorus. On the other hand he lost Sieber, a good bass, by insisting on reducing his salary to 100 thalers, and had shortly afterwards to re-engage him at 200, as there was no bass in the company capable of taking the parts in his own operas. The art of divining the taste of the public, of at once meeting it, elevating and moulding it the art, in fact, of keeping the exchequer full without sacrificing artistic position this was wholly out of his reach. At the King's theatre, the audiences steadily fell off, especially after the opening of the Konigstadt theatre in 1 8 2 3. At times Spontini seems to have felt his incapacity, but unfortun- ately he was deluded by his own vanity and domineering temper, and the insinuations of so-

s Ledebur gives a tolerably complete catalogue of Spontini's smaller works ; see p. 570. Also Marx, in the ' Berliner Allg. Mus. Zeitung'forl826, p.306.

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