Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/693
much, and at the close of the concert could not speak for tears.
He left few friends behind him. His suc- cessor at the opera was Meyerbeer, who, with Mendelssohn, received the title of 'Generalmusik- director.' Neither had very friendly feelings towards him, and their paths as artists widely diverged from his. He is however to this day gratefully remembered by the few surviving members of the King's band. The orchestra were proud of their majestic conductor, who so often led them to triumph, and who moreover had a tender care for their personal interests. The poorer members found his purse ready of access, and in 1826 he established a fund for them, called by special permission the ' Spontini- Fonds,' to which he devoted the whole proceeds of his annual benefit concerts. The fund speedily attained to considerable proportions, and still exists, though the name has been changed.
That he was badly treated by the Berlin public is indisputable. His ill-natured, unjust, spiteful attacks must have been very irritating, as even those who do not belong to the super-sensitive race of artists can understand, but the last scene at the opera looks like a piece of simple brutality, unless we remember that the real ground of offence was his being a foreigner. The political events of the period beginning with the War of Liberation had roused a strong national feeling in Prussia. The denial of a Constitution had concentrated attention on the stage, which thus became a sort of political arena ; and that a foreigner, and moreover a naturalised French- man, should be laying down the law in this stronghold was intolerable.
In Spontini's character great and mean quali- ties were almost equally mixed, so that both friends and foes could support their statements by facts, while each shut their eyes to the qualities which they did not wish to see. After his friends had been silenced by the catastrophe of 1841 the verdict of his opponents prevailed, at any rate throughout Germany ; but this verdict, we say emphatically, was unjust. The charge that he despised and neglected German musio is simply untrue. That he admired and loved our great masters from Handel to Beethoven he proved through life in many ways. Robert re- lates on unquestionable authority that he made great sacrifices for the family of Mozart. When Nissen published his biography Spontini exerted himself immensely to get subscribers, personally transmitted the money to the widow, superin- tended the translation of the book into French, and rendered all the help in his power. 1 A pre- ference for his own works must be conceded to any artist actively engaged in production, nor is it "reasonable to expect from him an absolutely impartial judgment of the works of others. Weber's music was incomprehensible and anti- pathetic to Spontini, and this did him as much injury in Berlin as anything else. But his delay in performing ' Euryanthe ' and ' Oberon ' was caused more by inaction than opposition. For i Robert, p. 56, etc.
��Spohr he had a great respect, as he often proved. 8 In Meyerbeer he took a great interest, until the appearance of ' Robert le Diable,' which he could not bear, calling it ' un cadavre '; but this is no reflection on his taste. For the non- performance of the ' Huguenots ' he was not responsible, as the prohibition was the King's. He was certainly not justified in calling Marschner's ' Templer und Jiidin ' an ' arrange- ment after Spontini ' always supposing that the expression was his but everybody knows that Marschner was deeply influenced by him. He was by no means free from envy and jealousy, but, taking for granted that he allowed himself to be swayed by his passions, foreign composers suffered just as much at his hands as German ones. Cherubini he thought very highly of (he mounted ' Les Abencerrages ' and sent the com- poser a considerable sum from the proceeds), but Auber's 'Muette de Portici.'and HaleVy's ' Juive' he thoroughly disliked, took no trouble about their production, and was much annoyed at their pleasing the public. Nor did he like Rossini, his own countryman. His horizon was limited, but if it is possible to reconcile genius with narrow-mindedness, if Spohr may be forgiven for appreciating Beethoven only partially, and Weber not at all, we must not be too hard on Spontini. It is sad to see the incapacity of even culti- vated people in Berlin to be just towards him. The Mendelssohn family, at whose house he at one time often visited, and to whom he showed many kindnesses, were never on good terms with him after the appearance of the ' Hochzeit des Camacho.' 3 He may not have done justice to that youthful work, but it is a pity that the noble-minded Mendelssohn should have per- mitted himself the angry and contemptuous ex- pressions to be found in his letters. 4 The painful close of Spontini's career was enough to atone for all his shortcomings. To pursue the rancour against him over his grave, as has been done recently in Germany, is wholly unworthy.
Of his last years there is little to relate. On leaving Berlin he went to Italy, and in Jan. 1843 was in Majolati. He had visited his native land several times since 1822. In 1835 he was in Naples, at San Pietro in Majella, and they showed him an exercise he had written 40 years before when a pupil at the ' Turchini.' He looked at it with tears in his eyes, and then begged the librarian to tear up 'queste meschine e sconce note ' (those wretched mis-shapen notes) and throw them in the fire. 5 In 1838 he was in Rome, and wrote (June 4) to the King offering his services as mediator between himself and the Pope on the subject of the disturbances in Cologne. 6 In 1843 he left Italy and settled at
The statement in the 'Mendelssohn Family,' vol. i. p. 124. that be threw obstacles in the way of the performance of 'Jessomla* is quite unfounded. The minutes of the King's Theatre prove the contrary.
s Devrient's ' Recollections.' p. 23.
- Among others see Devrient. p. 74.
B Florimo, ' Cenno Storico,' p. 595.
Whether anything came of this offer is not known, but Gregory XVI. had a high esteem for Spontini, and asked for hu views on the restoration of Catholic church-music.