Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/260

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

sister, Princess Borghese, appointed him her chapel-master, and in 1809 King Jerome made him his 'General Musik-director' at Cassel. In 1811 Blangini produced at Cassel 'Le Sacrifice d'Abraham,' and 'L'Amour philosophe,' and at the Feydeau in Paris 'Les Femmes vengées.' In 1814 he returned to Paris, and was appointed 'Surintendant de la musique du Roi.' The whole fashionable world, particularly the Faubourg St. Germain, thronged to him for lessons. He drew up a list of his pupils which reads like Leporello's catalogue in Don Giovanni, as it includes 3 Queens, 12 Princesses, 25 Countesses, etc. Blangini was an indefatigable composer of operas, though none of much interest were performed in Paris before 'La Marquise de Brinvilliers ' (1831), in which Cherubini and Caraffa worked with him. One of the songs from Nephtali is still occasionally heard at a concert. His 'Romances,' in 34 numbers, continued in favour long after his death, which took place Dec. 18, 1841. His friend Maxime de Villemarest published his autobiography under the title 'Souvenirs de Blangini, maître de chapelle du Roi de Bavière, etc.' (Paris, 1834). The book is interesting, and gives an excellent picture of an artist's footing in society at that period.

[ F. G. ]

BLANKENBURG, Quirin van, born 1654 at Gouda, Licentiate in philosophy and medicine, and organist of the Reformed Church at the Hague, well known for his 'Clavicymbel en Orgelboek der Psalmen en Kirkgezangen' (1732; 3rd ed. 1772). The inscription on his portrait compares him to Orpheus. In honour of the betrothal of the Prince of Orange he composed a collection of pieces in two parts, which might be performed either upright or upside down, forwards or backwards. His 'Elementa Musica' has some value as a theoretical work. Blankenburg died after 1739, but the precise date is not known.

[ F. G. ]

BLAZE, François Henri Joseph, calling himself Castil-Blaze, one of the most prolific writers on music and the drama France has produced, was born at Cavaillon in 1784. His father, a lawyer by profession, was a good musician, friend of Grétry and Méhul, and composer of masses, operas, and chamber music. Blaze was sent to Paris in 1799 to study the law, but the love of music soon began to show itself. He became a pupil at the Conservatoire, and took private lessons in harmony. In the meantime his professional career promised to be a prosperous one. He obtained the position of sous-préfet in the Department of Vaucluse, and other appointments. But to one used to the excitement of Parisian society, and longing for literary and artistic distinction, official life in southern France could not but be tedious and uninteresting. At the age of thirty-six he threw up his post and set out with his family for the metropolis, chiefly with a view to publishing a book compiled during his leisure hours. It appeared in 1820, in two volumes, with the title 'De l'opéra en France,' and is the work on which his claims to remembrance are chiefly founded. The subjects treated comprise a much wider circle of observation than the title would imply. The first volume contains an elaborate though popular treatment of the various elements of music, including hints as to the choice of libretti, and the peculiarities of verse and diction best adapted for musical treatment. The second volume is devoted to the opera proper, describing at considerable length its various components, the overture, recitative, aria, ensemble, etc. The style is lucid and terse, and the book may be recommended to the amateur, although the student will look in vain for new material or originality of treatment. But even to the latter the frequent references to contemporary operas, a subject in which Castil-Blaze was thoroughly at home, will not be without interest. The chapter on the opera in the provinces is particularly valuable from an historic point of view. His remarks on the overture, in which he defends a broader and simpler conception of that form of art against those who expect from it an anticipatory reproduction of the drama itself, with all its complicated characters and situations, are excellent, and would be worth quotation if our space permitted it.

A considerable part of his book is polemical. He attacks the various uses and abuses of theatrical managers, the arrogance of ignorant critics, and the miserable translations supplied by literary hacks for the masterpieces of foreign composers. On the latter point he was entitled to speak, having himself reproduced more or less felicitously the libretti of numerous Italian and German operas. Amongst these we mention 'Figaro,' 'Don Juan,' and 'Zauberflöte'; 'Il Barbiere,' 'Gazza Ladra,' 'Otello,' 'Anna Bolena'; 'Der Freischütz,' 'Oberon,' 'Euryanthe;' and many others. These reproductions were chiefly for the use of provincial theatres where Italian opera was unattainable, and may have contributed much to popularise good music in France. Unfortunately Blaze frequently made bold to meddle with the scores, and even to introduce surreptitiously pieces of his own composition into the works of great masters. He used to tell with delight how one of his choral pieces fathered upon Weber was frequently played and applauded by unsuspecting audiences at the concerts of the Paris Conservatoire. Our author's own compositions do not call for notice. They are of an ephemeral nature, and are justly forgotten. Amongst his romances 'King Réné' is pretty, and was deservedly popular. He wrote several pieces of sacred and chamber music, one serious and two comic operas, none of which was successful to any considerable extent. More valuable is a collection of songs of southern France called 'Chants de Provence.'

The merits of Blaze's literary work having been discussed above, it will suffice to mention the titles of some of his works, mostly compilations, similar in character, although hardly