Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/691

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SPONTINI.

called friends, into believing that the decline of the opera was owing to Briihl, whereas Briihl might have retorted that everything he pro- posed was met by a despotic and unreasoning veto. The Count at length, in 1828, wearied out by the unceasing opposition, resigned, and was succeeded by Count Redern, who received from the King a fresh code of instructions, somewhat circumscribing Spontini's powers, and concentrating those of the management. Op- portunities for fresh differences still constantly arose, and Count Redern had much to contend with in Spontini's increasing irritability and in- consistency. In time even the admirers of his music felt that his personal influence was bad, and that the opera would never prosper as long as he remained at its head.

Spontini was to have the receipts of the first nights of his own operas for his annual benefit, or in default of such representations a sum of 4000 francs. In the latter case he might give a concert, and in fact he gave a considerable num- ber, both vocal and instrumental. 'My concerts,' in his own words, 'are dedicated to the great masters, whose memory I strive to keep alive with the public, while testifying my own respect by performing their works in the most brilliant and complete manner possible.' - 1 His programmes consisted principally of German music, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The first per- formance in Berlin of Beethoven's Symphony in A was at a concert of Spontini's on May 12, 1824, and on April 30, 1828, he gave Beethoven's C minor Symphony, the Kyrie and Gloria from his Mass in D, the overture to ' Coriolanus ' and the Credo from Bach's B minor Mass. As Bach's Mass had only just been published by Nageli of Zurich, Spontini was the first to introduce a portion of it to the public of Berlin, as he had been to acquaint them with Beethoven's masses. The performance itself seems to have been a poor one, and indeed it could hardly be otherwise, Spontini not having much in common with Bach ; but the attempt was praiseworthy. 2 Another point to his credit was that he gave his support to Moser's concerts. The King's band could not play without his permission, so he might have made difficulties if he had chosen. He never could be brought to understand that the then strong points of German music were chorus- singing and instrumental music. With him opera, especially his own, was everything, and therefore with all his efforts, honest as they were, he did as much harm as good.

As we have already mentioned, Spontini's late operas had no success outside Berlin. Except a couple of stray performances of 'Olympia' at Dresden and Darmstadt, they did not even gain a hearing. Occasionally he conducted one of his own works, as for instance the 'Vestalin' at Munich 3 (Oct. 7 and u, 1827), and Hamburg*

> Gubitz's ' Erlebnlsse,' Hi. 242.

2 Marx, ' Berliner Allg. Mus. Zeitung,' 1828, pp. 146 and 152.

Grandaur, ' Chronik des kOnigl. Theaters in Munchen,' p. 106. Munich, 1878.

  • Schmidt's ' Denkwiirdigkeiten.' Edited by Uhde. Part ii. p. 314

Stuttgart, Cotta, 1878.

��SPONTINi.

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��(Sept. 1 8, 1834). But such personal contact does not seem to have led to sympathetic rela- tions. Speaking generally, the 'Vestalin' and ' Cortez ' were the only operas of his appreciated in Germany.

In Berlin itself each year added to the num- ber of his opponents. In 1824 Marx entered the lists in his behalf in his Zeitung, and was seconded by Dorn ; but Dorn left Berlin in March 1828, and Marx, though sincerely at- tached to Spontini, occasionally admitted adverse critiques. Spontini was morbidly sensitive to public opinion, and the loss of his defenders was a serious one. Against the advice of judicious friends he replied in person to anonymous at- tacks, suffered flatterers to use unpractised pens in his behalf, and even called in the Censorship. Such steps could but damage his cause. The opposition was headed by Rellstab, the editor of the Vossische Zeitung, an experienced litterateur with some knowledge of music, a great ally of Weber's, and a blind opponent of everything foreign. In nos. 23 to 26 of the year 1827 of Marx's Zeitung appeared an article utterly demolishing the first act of 'Agnes von Hohen- staufen.' Dorn made a successful reply in nos. 27 to 29, but far from being silenced Rellstab published a book, 'Ueber mein Verhaltniss als Kritiker zur Herrn Spontini,' 5 in which he unsparingly attacked Spontini as a composer and director, and exposed the absurd tactics of the Spontini clique. 6 The clique put forth a defence called ' Spontini in Germany, an impar- tial consideration of his productions during his ten years residence in that country' (Leipzig, 1830). It was however anything but impartial, was ignorant and badly done. 7

Spontini's ten years contract finished in 1830 ; it was renewed, on terms more favourable to the Intendant-General, and this, with the fact of his ceasing to compose, gave an opportunity to his enemies, and an unfortunate indiscretion on the part of one of his friends played into their hands. Dorow of Halle, the archaeologist, in a collection of autographs (1837) inserted a letter from Spontini (Marienbad, Aug. 12,1 836) lament- ing the degeneracy of the dramatic composers of the day. It was done in good faith, Dorow honestly believing that he was serving Spon- tini by thus publishing his opinions without au- thority; but his opponents issued the letter in a separate pamphlet with a German translation, and ' explanatory ' remarks, in which Spontini was fiercely attacked in terms of ironical respect. 8 In the same year, in nos. 101 and 102 of the 'Komet,' appeared a pasquinade by a student named Thomas, stating that Spontini had opposed the production of ' Robert leDiable,' the ' Postilion

B Leipzig, Whistling, 1827.

It has been often, and even recently, stated that two articles by Rellstab in Cficilia ('Aus dem Nachlass eines jungen Kilnstlers,' vol. iv. pp. 1-42, and 'Julius. Eine musikalische Novelle,' vol. vi. pp. 1-108) refer to Spontini. This is quite untrue, but it shows how carelessly damaging statements about Spontini are repeated.

7 Attributed, quite untruly, to Dorn.

8 ' The Lament of Herr Hitter Gasparo Spontini .... over the d- cline of dramatic music. Translated from the French, with ex- planatory remarks by a body of friends and admirers of the great

j master.' Leipzig, Michelsen. 1837.

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