success again was anything but brilliant. 'Eden, a Mystery,' was first performed at the Opéra in 48, but failed to attract attention during that stormy political epoch. His first genuine success since 1844 David achieved with an opéra comique, 'La Perle du Brésil' (1851). His remaining dramatic works are 'La Fin du Monde' (in four acts, never performed), 'Herculanum' (serious opera in four acts; 1859 at the Opéra), 'Lalla Roukh' (two acts; 1862), and 'Le Saphir' (in three acts; 1865 both at the Opera Comique). Another dramatic work, 'La Captive,' was in rehearsal, but was withdrawn by the composer for reasons unknown.
David's power as an operatic writer seems to lie more in happy delineation of character than in dramatic force. Hence his greater success with comedy than with tragedy. 'Lalla Roukh' particularly is an excellent specimen of felicitous expression, and easy but never trivial melodiousness. Here again his power of rendering musically the national type and the local surroundings of his characters becomes noticeable. This power alone is sufficient to justify the distinguished position he holds. As to his final place in the history of his art it would be premature to give a definite opinion. Félicien David died on Aug. 29, 1876. [App. p.608 "for seven years before his death he held the post of librarian to the Conservatoire."] Since his death several of his works—'Le Desert' and 'Lalla Roukh' amongst the number—have been revived with much success in Paris, and his quartets are now (1877) being played.
An essay on David's life and works up to 1854 is found in the collection called Mirecourt's 'Contemporains.' For the earlier part of his life a brochure (Biographie de F. David, Marseilles, 1845, out of print), by M. Saint-Etienne, is a valuable source.
[ F. H. ]
DAVID, Ferdinand, one of the best and most influential violin-players and teachers of Germany; born at Hamburg Jan. 19, 1810. His musical talent showed itself very early, and, after two years study at Cassel in 1823 and 1834 under Spohr and Hauptmann, he entered, when still a mere boy, on that artistic career which was destined to be so eminently successful.
His first appearance at the Gewandhaus at Leipzig, with which he was afterwards so closely identified, was in 1825, in company with his sister Louise—ultimately famous as Mme. Dulcken. He passed the years 1827 and 1828 as a member of the band of the Königstadt Theatre, Berlin, where he first became acquainted with Mendelssohn. In 1829 he accepted an engagement as leader of a quartet in the house of a noble and influential amateur at Dorpat, whose daughter he subsequently married. He remained in Russia till 1835, making frequent and successful tours to Petersburg, Moscow, Riga, etc. In 1836 Mendelssohn, on becoming conductor of the Gewandhaus concerts, obtained for him the post of leader of the band (Concertmeister), which he filled with such distinction and success until his death. Of the intimate nature of their connection a good instance is afforded by the history of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. It is first mentioned in a letter from Mendelssohn to David, dated July 30, 1838. Constant letters on the subject of the work passed between them during the process of composition; hardly a passage in it but was referred to David's taste and practical knowledge, and canvassed and altered by the two friends; and he reaped his reward by first performing it in public at the Gewandhaus concert of March 13, 1845. The autograph is now in the possession of David's family. In like manner 'Antigone' (letter of Oct. 21, 1841), and probably many another of Mendelssohn's works, was referred to him; and he was one of the three trustees to whom the publication of the MS. works of his illustrious friend was confided after his death.
As a virtuoso David combined the sterling qualities of Spohr's style, with the greater facility and piquancy of the modern school; as a leader he had a rare power of holding together and animating the band; while as a quartet-player his intelligence and tact enabled him to do justice to the masterpieces of the most different periods and schools. Among numerous compositions of the most various kinds his solo-pieces for the violin are most pleasing and effective, and are so founded on the nature and character of the instrument as to be indispensable to the student. As a teacher his influence was probably greater than that of any preceding master, and to him the German orchestras owe many of their most valuable members. He took a warm personal interest in his pupils, amongst whom the most eminent are Joachim and Wilhelmj. Within the sphere of his influence he was always ready to help a friend or to further the true interests of musical art and artists.
It is one of David's special merits that he revived the works of the eminent violin-players of the old Italian, German, and French schools, which he edited and published with accompaniments, marks of expression, etc. He also edited nearly the whole classical repertoire of the violin for purposes of study, and took a prominent part in the critical editions of the works of Beethoven, Haydn, and other great masters. His unremitting activity was as earnest as it was quick. He was particularly fond of intellectual pursuits, was eminently well read, full of manifold knowledge and experience. His conversation abounded in traits of wit and humour, he was the pleasantest companion, a faithful friend, and an exemplary husband and father.
In 1861 the 25th anniversary of his appointment as leader was celebrated at Leipzig. He died very suddenly July 1 8, 1873, while on a mountain excursion with his children, near Klosters in the Grisons. He was buried at Leipzig, where he was highly honoured, and where a street has recently been named after him.
Among his numerous compositions the five
- It appears that in 'Herculanum' a great many pieces from the 'Fin du Monde' have been embodied. The present writer has no personal knowledge of either work.
- See details in the programme of tht Crystal Palace Saturday Concert. Dec. 19, 1871.