Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/252

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236

��VELLUTI.

��and again at Milan, he appeared in 1812 at Vienna, where he was crowned, medallised, and celebrated in verse. On his return to Italy, he continued to reap golden honours at Milan and other places until 1825, when he came to London. Here he was the first sopranist whom that generation of opera-goers had ever heard, the last (Roselli) having ceased to sing in 1800, at the King's Theatre ; and a strong prejudice was rather naturally felt against the new singer. His first reception at concerts was far from favourable, the scurrilous abuse l lavished upon him before he was heard, cruel and illiberal; and such was the popular prejudice and general cry that unusual precautions 8 were deemed neces- sary to secure a somewhat partial audience, and prevent his being driven from the stage on his very first entry upon it. The very first note he uttered gave a shock of surprise, almost of dis- gust, to inexperienced ears, but his performance was listened to with attention and great applause throughout, with but few audible expressions of disapprobation, speedily suppressed. The opera he had chosen was ' II Crociato in Egitto, by a -German composer, named Mayerbeer (sic), till then totally unknown in this country.' 3

It must be remembered that Velluti at this time was no longer young, and doubtless had lost much of the vigour and freshness of his splendid voice, which had formerly been one of large compass. When he first sang in England, the middle notes had begun to fail, and many of them were harsh and grating to the ear, though the upper register was still exquisitely sweet, and he had retained the power of holding, swell- ing, and diminishing his tone with delightful effect. The lower notes were full and mellow, and he showed great ingenuity in passing from one register to the other, and avoiding the defec- tive portions of his scale. His manner was florid, 'but not extravagant ; his embellishments, taste- ful and neatly executed, and not commonplace. His usual style was suave, but rather wanting in variety ; he never rose to bravura. In appear- ance he had been remarkably handsome, and was still good-looking. Velluti received 600 for his services during that (part) season, but was re- engaged for the next at a salary of 2,300, as director of the music as well as singer. He then appeared in Morlacchi's 'Tebaldo ed Isoliria,' which he considered his best opera. He was much less admired, however, in this than in the former work ; and his favour sensibly declined. For his benefit, he sang in Rossini's ' Aureliano in Pal- mira,' but in connexion with this got into a dis- pute about extra pay to the chorus, and the case was decided against him in the Sheriffs Court.

In 1829 Velluti came to London once more and sang on a few occasions. On one of these he was heard by Mendelssohn, 4 with an effect only of intense loathing. His voice, indeed had completely lost its beauty, and he was not en- gaged. He returned to Italy, and died in the

i The wits of the day called him ' non vir, sed veluti/

a This statement is contradicted by Ebers ( Seven Tears').

  • Lord Mount-Edgcumbe. Letter of May 19. 129 to Devrient.

��VENETIAN SWELL.

early part of February, 1861, at the age of eighty. Velluti was a man of kind and benevolent dis- position, and equally gentlemanly feeling and deportment : his private habits were of the most simple and inoffensive kind. In society, bis apparent melancholy gave way to a lively and almost playful exuberance of good humour, and he never failed to interest. His chief amuse- ments were billiards and whist, of which, though no gambler, he was very fond. 5 It is strange that no fine portrait should exist of so great a singer and so handsome a man : the only ones known are an oval by Jiigel, after Mouron, representing him as Trajano, and a woodcut, in which he appears as Tebaldo. [J.M.]

VELOCE, CON VELOCITA, VELOCIS- SIMO ' Swiftly ; with the utmost rapidity.* A term invented by the ' Romanticists,' gene- rally used of an ad libitum passage in a quick movement, as, for instance, a scale-passage, or similar figure, in a cadenza. It indicates an increased rate of speed not, like accelerando, a gradual quickening of the time, but an imme- diate access of celerity, lasting evenly until the end of the passage or figure to which it is applied. The original time is then resumed without the words a tempo being required. In the large majority of cases, the term is only applied to loud passages, as frequently in the works of Chopin, and in the finale of Schu- mann's Sonata in F# minor, op. II ; but in one instance at least, the slow movement of his second concerto, the former composer applies it to a soft passage, coupling velocissimo with de- licatissimo. No instance of its occurrence is to be found in the works of the 'classical ' masters strictly so called ; its earliest use would seem to be in that work of Chopin's which Schumann's criticism immortalised, the 'La ci darem' Variations, where, however, it is applied to an entire variation. Under such conditions it must be regarded as equivalent to Presto con fuoco. It is worthy of notice that in Czerny's ' Etudes de la Velocity * the direction occurs only once, and then in the superlative, applying moreover to an entire study. [J.A.F.M.]

VENETIAN SWELL. The first Swell Organ produced its effect by placing the front of the box containing the pipes under the control of the player, who by means of a pedal could raise or lower the panel at will, so releasing or muffling the sound. This plan was first adopted in the organ at St. Magnus, London Bridge, built in 1712. [See ORGAN.] The first Harpsichord Swell made its crescendo by the raising of the lid. These clumsy contrivances were superseded by the Venetian Swell, an invention patented by Shudi in 1762 [see SWELL, HARPSICHORD], and so called from its resemblance to the laths of a Venetian blind. This ingenious device was first applied to the Harpsichord, but was soon adopted by organ builders. The louvres are generally in horizontal rows and are so hung as to close by their own weight ; but in very large Swell Organs

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