Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/526

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the Stage together towards the close of the piece, and combining their Voices in a more or less elaborate Concerted Finale.[1] Originally, this consisted of a single Movement only; and that, comparatively, a simple one. Later Composers enlarged upon the idea; extended it to several Movements in succession, often in different Keys; and finally introduced it into the Opera Seria, in which it soon began to play a very important part, naturally leading to the introduction of Trios, Quartets, and the host of richly harmonised pezzi concertati upon which the dignity of the Grand Opera was afterwards made so largely to depend.

The distribution of parts in the Opera Buffa differed, in some important particulars, from that which so long prevailed in the Opera Seria; introducing fewer artificial Voices, and giving far greater prominence to the Basses. The Personaggi were grouped in two divisions. The chief, or Buffo group, consisted of two Female Performers, called the Prima and Seconda Buffa, and three Men, distinguished as the Primo Buffo, the Buffo caricato, and the Ultima parte, of whom the first was a Tenor, while the second was generally, and the third always, a Bass. The subordinate group was limited to the two inevitable lovers, entitled the Donna seria, and Homo serio. This arrangement was, originally, very strictly enforced; but, as time progressed, departures from the orthodox formula became by no means uncommon.

Most of the great Composers of this Period excelled equally in Opera Buffa and Opera Seria; and the style of their Melodies was so much more modern than that cultivated either by Handel or Hasse, that we have found it necessary to include among them some, whose names, by right of chronology, should rather have been referred to the preceding epoch, with which however they can claim but very little æsthetic connection. First among them stands Pergolesi, whose serious Opera 'Sallustia' produced a furore in Naples in 1732, while his comic Intermezzo, 'La serva padrona,' written in 1734 [App. p.735 "performed in 1733"] was received with acclamations in every Capital in Europe. Jomelli's style, though less truly Italian than Pergolesi's, so nearly resembled it, that it would be impossible to class him with any other Composer. He wrote an immense number of Operas, both Serious and Comic; and the Melodies he introduced into them obtained for him an amount of public favour which had by no means begun to wane when Burney visited him, at Naples, in 1770.[2] The work of these great Masters was vigorously supplemented by the efforts of Sacchini, Guglielmi, Galuppi, and Perez; and still more nobly by those of Paisiello and Piccinni, both of whom brought rare and brilliant talents into the field, and enriched their School with a multitude of valuable productions. The graceful spontaneity of Paisiello's manner prevents many of his Songs from sounding 'old-fashioned,' even at the present day. Piccinni was also a most melodious writer; but our thanks are chiefly due to him for the skilful development of his Finales, which he wrought into long Concerted Pieces, not only excellent as Music, but remarkable as the earliest known instances of an attempt to make the interest of the piece culminate, as it approaches its conclusion, in the richest harmonies producible by the united Voices of the entire Dramatis personæ.

By a deplorable perversion of justice, Piccinni's real merits are too frequently passed over in silence by Critics who would lead us to believe that his only claim to remembrance rests upon the details of a miserable feud, the consideration of which will occupy our attention in connection with the Eleventh Period of our history.

The leading spirit of this eventful epoch was Christoph Willibald Gluck; a Composer whose clear judgment and unerring dramatic instinct exercised an influence upon the progress of Art which has not, even yet, ceased to make its presence felt, and to which the modern German School is largely indebted for the strength of its present position. An accomplished rather than a learned Musician, Gluck rendered himself remarkable, less by any extraordinary display of technical skill, than by his profound critical acumen; but it was not until he was well advanced in life that this great quality bore the fruit which has since rendered his name so deservedly famous. In early youth, and even after the approach of middle age, he seems to have been perfectly contented with the then prevailing Italian style, which he cultivated so successfully, that, but for a certain depth of feeling peculiar to himself, his 'Artamene,' or 'Semiramide,' might be fairly classed with the best productions of Jomelli or Sacchini, as may be seen in the following extract from the former Opera:—

  1. LOGROSCINO, Nicolò, composer of comic opens, was born at Naples about the year 1700. His contemporaries, Leo, Pergolesi, and Hasse, also wrote works in the buffo style that are justly celebrated, but Logroscino's seem to have differed from these in being more entirely and grotesquely comic. From the outset of his career his chief endeavour was to find fit subjects for the exercise of his inexhaustible vein of burlesque humour. He succeeded so well as to be called by his countrymen Il Dio dell' Opera buffo, and his operas were so popular in Naples that when the young Piccinni first came into notice as a possible rival, no small amount of diplomacy and powerful influence had to be exercised to obtain a hearing for even one of his works. These however eventually displaced those of the popular idol.

    Very little of Logroscino's music exists now, although some MS. specimens are to be found in the collection of the British Museum. He never would compose but in Neapolitan dialect, and so was little known beyond his own country, even during his lifetime. But be deserves to be remembered for the invention, which is due to him, of the finale, such as we now understand it. For the duet, trio, or quartet, with which, up to that time, it had been the fashion to conclude each act of an opera, he substituted a continuous series of pieces more or less connected with each other, including several scenes, and as many musical themes, or various treatments of one principal theme, solo, concerted and choral. By this combination of forces he more vividly conveyed the dramatic situation, and immensely added to the general effect.

    For a long time however these concerted finales were only introduced into comic pieces, and Paisiello was the first to extend the idea to serious opera.

    In 1747 Logrosclno settled in Palermo, where the God of Comedy became first master of counterpoint in the Conservatorio of the 'Figliuoli Dispersi.' He ultimately returned to Naples, and died there in 1763. Fétis mentions by name four of his works; these are, 1. 'Giunio Bruto,' serious opera; 2. 'Il governatore'; 3. 'Il Vecchio Marito'; and 4. 'Tanto bene, tanto male,' all comic operas.

    [ F. A. M. ]

  2. See his 'Present State of Music, in France and Italy,' p. 316, et seq.