Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/474

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

on the 20th of Dec., and gave a benefit-concert on the 8th of May, 1 795, when he was assisted by Banti, Viotti, the harpist Le Fourneur, Harrington, Monzani, Holmes, and the brothers Leander, French-horn players. The force and expression of his playing and his power of reading at sight excited universal astonishment, and he was at once invited to take part in all the great provincial performances. Henceforth he became the inseparable companion of the violoncellist Lindley; for 52 years they played at the same desk at the opera, the Antient Concerts, the Philharmonic, the Provincial Festivals, etc., and their execution of Corelli's sonatas in particular was an unfailing attraction. Great as was Dragonetti's power of overcoming difficulties, it was his extraordinary tone, and the taste, judgment, and steadiness of his performance, that characterised him, and made him so indispensable to the orchestra.

Soon after Dragonetti's arrival in London he met Haydn, with whom he became intimate. On his way to Italy in 1798 Dragonetti visited the great master in Vienna, and was much delighted with the score of the 'Creation,' just completed. In 1808 and 9 he was again in Vienna, but from caprice would play before no one but the family of Prince Starhemberg, in whose palace he lived, and whose wife often accompanied him on the piano. Here he made the acquaintance of Beethoven, and also that of Sechter, afterwards court-organist, a sound musician, who was teaching the porter's children, and whom Dragonetti requested to put a pianoforte accompaniment to his concertos. To him he played unasked, though he locked up his instrument because the Starhembergs invited some of the nobility to their soirées. His silence was perhaps partly caused by his fear of Napoleon, who was then in occupation of Vienna, and who wished to take him by force to Paris. With Sechter he corresponded all his life, and remembered him in his will. In August 1845, when 90, he headed the double-basses (13 in number) at the Beethoven Festival at Bonn; and Berlioz, in his 'Soirées de l'orchestre,' writes that he had seldom heard the scherzo in the C minor Symphony played with so much vigour and finish. Thus, in his old age, he rendered homage to the great master, of whose friendship he was reminded on his death-bed. Shortly before his end, when surrounded by Count Pepoli, Pigott, Tolbecque, and V. Novello, he received a visit from Stumpff, the well-known harp maker, who, as Dragonetti held out his great hand covered with callosities and unnaturally spread from constant playing, said with emotion, 'This is the hand which Beethoven our great friend, whose spirit now dwells in purer regions, bade me press.' He died in his own house in Leicester Square, April 16, 1846, and was buried on the 24th in the Catholic chapel at Moorfields. His works were few. It is not generally known that he wrote for the voice, but three canzonets with Italian words, written during his stay in Vienna, still exist in a collection of 'XXXIV Canzonette e Romanzi,' by various composers, and dedicated to the Archduke Rodolph, Beethoven's friend and pupil. He was a great collector of pictures, engravings, musical instruments, and music; and left to the British Museum alone 182 volumes of scores of classical operas. His eccentricities were many and curious. He was an inveterate snuff-taker, and had a perfect gallery of snuff-boxes. Among his treasures were found a quantity of curiously-dressed dolls, with which he used to play like a child, taking a selection of them with him to the musical festivals, especially a black one which he called his wife. His dog Carlo always accompanied him in the orchestra. The most curious thing about him was his speech, a mixture of his native Bergamese dialect with bad French, and worse English. He was a man of kindly temper and a warm friend, though in money matters very close. His picture as 'Il Patriarca dei Contrabassi' was published by Thierry, after a half-length taken in crayons by Salabert, of London. His precious instrument, his companion for nearly sixty years, he bequeathed to the 'Vestry of the Patriarchal Church of S. Mark at Venice.'

[ C. F. P. ]

DRECHSLER, Josef, a remarkable composer and teacher, born May 26, 1782, at Vlachovo Brezí in Bohemia; received his first instruction from his father, schoolmaster in his native place. After various alternations of place and pursuit, he studied music and law at Prague; in 1807 found himself at Vienna, but it was not till 1810 that he obtained employment as chorus-master at the Court Theatre. This was followed in 1812 by a place as 'Capellmeister adjunct,' then by an organist's post; in 1815 he opened a music school, and gradually won his way upwards, till in 22 he was chief Capellmeister at the theatre in the Leopoldstadt. On Gansbacher's death in 44 he became Capellmeister at S. Stephen's, a post which he retained till his death, Feb. 27, 1852. His industry during this chequered life was truly extraordinary. He left behind him books of instruction for the Organ, Harmony, Thorough Bass, and the art of Preluding, with a new edition of Pleyel's Clavier-school; 16 Masses, and a Requiem; 24 smaller pieces of choral music; 6 Operas; 25 shorter dramatic pieces (Singspiele) and pantomimes; 3 Cantatas, and a host of Airs, Sonatas, Fugues, Quartets, etc. To say that none of these have survived is to detract nothing from the activity and devotion of Josef Drechsler.

[ G. ]

DRECHSLER, Karl, a great violoncello player, born May 27, 1800, at Kamenz, in Saxony. Entered the Court band at Dessau, in 1820, and in 24 put himself under Dotzauer at Dresden. In 26 he received a permanent appointment as leader of the band at Dessau. Before then he had visited England, and played with much success. He shone equally in quartets, solos, and the orchestra, with a full tone, good intonation, and excellent taste. Drechsler was the master of Cossmann, Grutzmacher, and A. Lindner. [App. p.618 "Date of death, Dec. 1, 1873"]

[ G. ]