Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/715

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��STEIBELT.

idle. His early years at St. Petersburg were marked by the ballets * La Fete de 1'Einpereur ' in 1809, and ' Der bl de Bitter' (before the end of 1812); and the three Concertos for pianoforte, Nos. 6, 7, and 8, appear to belong to the period of his abstention from playing in public. For the theatre he wrote two operas, each in three acts, ' Cendrillon ' l and ' Sargines ' ; a third, 'Le Jugement de Midas,' he did not live to finish. He also spent some time in revising Rome'o et Juliette.' In the midst of these avocations he was seized with a painful disease, of which, after lingering some time, he died on Sept. 20, 1823. A number of his friends com- bined to honour him with a quasi-public funeral, and the military governor of St. Petersburg, Count Milarodowitsch, organised a subscription- concert for the benefit of his family, who were left in very straitened circumstances.

Comparatively little has been recorded of Steibelt's personal character, but the traits pre- served are, to say the least of it, far from pre- possessing. Almost the only occurrence that presents him in a pleasing light is his death-bed dedication of the revised score of ' Rome'o et Juliette' to the King of Prussia, in token of gratitude for the kindnesses received from that monarch's father. He appears to have been perfectly eaten up with vanity, which exhibited itself unceasingly in arrogance, incivility, and affectation. In his native country he provoked

��STEIBELT.

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���The above Is reduced from the aquatint engraving by Qunnedey. of the portrait by liiuViii, prefixed to each of the two parts ol the original edition of the ' Etude pour le Piano Forte.'

dislike by acting the foreigner and professing ignorance of German indeed in Berlin, his birthplace, he inspired such disgust by his demeanour at his first concert that the orchestra refused to take any part in the second, and similar violations of courtesy are related of him wherever he went. Graver faults still are not wanting. That he was a kleptomaniac has been

i It Is worth noting that some authorities declare this was written fur Tails. This upera has been considered his greatest work.

��already mentioned. To this he added a reckless extravagance in money matters that amounted to criminality. Though he must have been for many years in receipt of a large income, he was always out at elbows, and this exercised a most pernicious influence on his character both as an artist and as a man. His respect for his art, never too great, was destroyed by the quantity of worthless music that he wrote hastily to meet temporary difficulties, and he not unfrequently stooped to expedients still more unworthy. One of these has been already mentioned, but it was not the only one. Complaints of old works palmed off as new on publishers, and through them on the public, by the alteration of the first few bars, transpositions, or the like, are only too rife. A device that seems to have been specially common was to add a violin part to a published set of pianoforte sonatas and then bring out the result as an entirely new work.

The greatness of his abilities as a musician is perhaps best proved by the fact that they caused so unattractive a person to be not merely toler- ated but welcomed. His pianoforte-playing was just what might have been expected from his life and character. The highest ranges of his art were a terra incognita to him, and his inability to perform a slow movement was the subject of universal comment. To do him jus- tice, he was aware of his deficiency, and seldom attempted an Adagio. Quick movements, on the contrary, he played with a precision and fire that made the liveliest impression. His technical training appears to have been defec- tive, and, though in his prime he was con- sidered a great executant, his left hand was always conspicuously weak. He was one of the first to discover the resources presented by the pedals of the pianoforte, and, like some other discoverers, was led to exaggerate the importance of his discovery. The result of this was that his performance was always apt to degenerate into mere tricks of effect. The critics of his day also complained of his ex- cessive use of the tremolo, a judgment that appears well grounded, and declared that his fingering was faulty, which seems more doubt- ful. It is strange, too, considering his appre- ciation of the resources of the pianoforte and his preference for instruments by English makers (or by Erard, who used the English action up to 1808), that he should have made little or no use of their cantabile powers. But, after mak- ing all deductions of this sort, the broad fact remains that Steibelt's playing was thoroughly striking and original, and that he possessed in a very eminent degree the invaluable power of carrying his audience with him. Whatever censure critics might be disposed to pass after the performance was over, the aplomb and spirit of his playing fascinated them at the time, and when he was in a good mood he would interest his hearers for hours together.

It has been said that the truest test of a com- poser's genius is to be found in his slow move-

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