Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/521

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ZELTER.

that Zelter applied to Kirnberger and Fasch for further instruction in musical science. In gratitude for his old master's teaching, he ulti- mately became the biographer of Fasch, 1 the pupil of Sebastian Bach, and the original founder of the Berlin Singakademie. From 1 792 to 1 800, Zelter acted as accompanyist to that institu- tion, and at the death of Fasch he succeeded to the Directorship: A few years previously, Zelter's music to some of Goethe's songs had so attracted the poet, that a correspondence began which shows that Goethe was capable of a real affection for at least one of his blind- est worshippers. 2 There are frequent allusions in these letters to the progress of the Sing- akademie, over which in his later years Zelter reigned as a musical dictator from whose decision there was no appeal. Its influence was unques- tionably due to the man who revived Sebastian Bach's music, and was the first to inspire his pupil, Felix Mendelssohn, with his own love for it. The Akademie consisted originally of only 30 members, who met weekly at different private houses, and during Fasch's life they practised little except his compositions. It was reserved for Zelter to enlarge the area of selection, and under him some of the greatest works of the time were added to the repertoire. The Liedertafel, a more modern institution, at first consisted of 25 men, singers, poets and composers. The society met once a month for supper and music, the songs were the compositions of the guests themselves, and the gatherings are amusingly described in Zelter's letters to Goethe. As the teacher and friend of Felix Mendelssohn, Zelter is entitled to lasting gratitude, for though his judgment of contemporary art was at times mis- taken, his faith in his pupil never waned. Mendelssohn, on the other hand, never ceased to regard him as ' the restorer of Bach to the Germans.' The real history of the first per- formance of the Matthew Passion is to be found in Devrient's ' Recollections of Mendelssohn,' and in ' Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben,' by A. B. Marx. [SeeMENDELSSOHN,vol.ii.p.26oa.] The joint enthusiasm of Mendelssohn and Devrient for Bach's music had been kindled by the study of the score of the ' Passion,' which Zelter had bought years before as waste paper at an auction of the goods of a deceased cheese- monger. In spite of his devotion to every one of the name of Bach, Zelter rashly ventured on simplifying some of the recitatives and choral parts, after the method of Graun. The purity of the work was saved by Felix Mendelssohn's grandmother, who prevailed on the fortunate possessor of the score to present the treasure to her grandson. Not only was the work well bestowed and rescued from sacrilege, but its publication and performance inaugurated a Iresh era in the art of music. The ex- pediency of printing the work was discussed, at a dinner party given by Schlesinger, the

1 Karl Friedrlch Christian Fasch, von Karl Frledrich Zelter. 4to. Berlin, 1801, with a Portrait (drawn by Schadow).

2 Briefwechsel zwischeu Goethe und Zelter, 6 vols. Berlin, 1833*4. Translated by A. D. Coleridge, 1887.

��ZEMIKE ET AZOR.

��505

��publisher. Marx was appealed to for an opinion. * All I can say is, that it is the great- est thing I know in Church music,' was his reply, whereupon old Schlesinger struck the table with his fist, and called out, ' I will pub- lish it, should it cost me three thousand thalers. I will do it for the honour of the house.' The zeal of Mendelssohn and Devrient, in league to prevail on Zelter to allow a public performance, eventually triumphed over every obstacle. Their old teacher was at first in- credulous ; it may well have been that he was conscious of the original sin of tampering with the score, and felt that the ' lynx eyes ' of Felix had silently convicted him. The concession was wrung from him with difficulty, but once given he put the forces of the Akademie at his pupil's disposal. The first and ever-memorable per- formance of the ' Passion ' music was given March n, 1829, under Mendelssohn's baton, his friend Edward Devrient singing the part of Christ. For Goethe, Zelter had the devotion of a faithful dog, the great man's slightest wish was law to him ; nay, so strong was the musi- cian's adoration of the poet, that after the suicide of his favourite step-son, he writes that even in the midst of his misery he is happy yes, truly happy, for has not the sympathy of his immortal friend moved him to use the brotherly Du instead of the ordinary Sie in his letter of condolence? 'Mark my words; Zelter will not live long now,' said Mendelssohn, when he heard of Goethe's death in 1832 ; and he was right. Zelter sank almost immediately, and died on the 1 5th May following. He is best described in his own words, strong, healthy, full of sap and good-will,' a rough diamond and of good hard lasting stuff. He composed several songs and quartets for the Liedertafel of Berlin, and set many of Goethe's songs to music. These songs were interpreted in their day by Mara and other great singers. [For their characteristics see SONG, vol. iii. p. 626 a.] Amongst his numerous works, now forgotten, was a Cantata on the death of Frederick the Great, which seems, by the account of it in a journal of 1786, to have been thought worthy of the occasion. He also wrote an oratorio called ' The Ascension,' a Requiem, a Te Deum, and several other works which were never published. A list of these is to be found in 'A Sketch of the Life of Carl Friedrich Zelter, arranged from autobiographical MSS.,' by Rintel (Janke, Berlin, 1861). [A.D.C.]

ZEMIRE ET AZOR. Fairy comedy in 4 acts ; words by Marmontel, music by Gre'try. Produced at Fontainebleau Nov. 9, 1771, and repeated at the Italiens, Paris, Dec. 16. The score is one of Gre'try 's best. It was revived, the libretto reduced by Scribe to 2 acts, and the score reinforced by Adam, on Feb. 21, 1832.

The story is that of ' Beauty and the Beast,' and has been set to music under the above title by Baumgarten (1775), Neefe Beethoven's teacher (1778), Tozzi (1792), Seyfried (1818), and Spohr (1819). The last, under the name of 'Azor and Zemira, or the Magic Rose,' was

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