Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/637

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PACCHIEROTTI, Gasparo, perhaps the greatest singer of the second half of the 18th century, was born in 1744 at Fabriano, near Ancona. His ancestors came from Siena, where one of them, Jacopo dal Pecchia, called Pacchierotto, studied the works of Perugino and Raffaelle to such good effect that his own pictures have been sometimes taken by connoisseurs to be by the hand of the latter great master.[1] Driven from Siena by political troubles, the family of Pacchierotto in 1575 took refuge in Pianca-stagnaio; from whence a branch settled in Fabriano.

About 1757 Gasparo Pacchierotti was admitted into the choir of S. Mark's at Venice, where the great Bertoni was his master, according to the memoir written by the singer's adopted son, Giuseppe Cecchini Pacchierotti.[2] This, however, is contradicted by Fétis, who states that it was in the choir of the cathedral at Forli that the young singer received his first instruction, and that it was impossible that he could have sung under Bertoni, since boys were never employed at S. Mark's, where Bertoni did not become Maestro di Cappella till 1785, having been up to that date (from 1752) only organist. However this may be, it is certain that the young Pacchierotti, having been prepared for the career of a sopranist, studied long and carefully before he began, at the age of sixteen, to sing secondary parts at Venice, Vienna, and Milan.

Endowed with a vivid imagination, uncommon intelligence, and profound sensibility, but, on the other hand, with a tall and lean figure, and with a voice which, though strong in the lowest register and rising easily to the high C, was often uncertain and nasal,—Pacchierotti required much determination and strength of character to overcome the defects, and take advantage of the qualities, with which he found himself provided by nature. This he accomplished only by painful and laborious study, retiring to a garret in Venice, where he practised the most difficult exercises which the masters of those days prescribed as necessary to the education of the voice; and success at last crowned his endeavours.

Milan was the last place in which he sang a secondary role. Returning to Venice in 1769, he took the place of Guarducci, primo musico at the S. Benedetto, then the chief theatre in that city. Successful here, he was immediately invited by the Impresario of the Opera at Palermo for the season of 1771. H. E. the Procuratore Iron, his good and generous patron, furnished Pacchierotti with recommendations, and the latter set out, taking Naples in his way. Arrived there, he was informed that the celebrated prima donna, De Amicis, had protested against the proposition that she should sing with him, 'a player of second parts.' The Venetian minister, to whom he was recommended, comforted him in this juncture, but only with the humiliating permission, accorded to him, to show his powers by singing two pieces, with full orchestra, at the San Carlo, before Lacillo, Piccinni, and Caffarelli, as judges. Here he was brilliantly successful, and was immediately offered his choice between the theatres of Palermo and Naples. He proudly chose the former, where he met the great De Amicis, and had to submit to another ordeal in a duet with her at the first general rehearsal of 'Didone.' She had refused to try over the duet with him previously, and treated him with studied coldness and contempt; but Pacchierotti overcame this and the prejudice of the audience by his noble, impassioned, and skilful singing. Even De Amicis herself was surprised into sincere and kindly admiration.

This set the seal on Pacchierotti's reputation, which never faded for 25 years, during which he delighted the cognoscenti of Europe. He remained for a time in Italy, singing at Parma, Milan, Florence, and Forli, and at Venice in 1777. After this, he sang at Milan in the carnival of 1778, then at Genoa, Lucca, and Turin; but in the autumn of that year he came to London with Bertoni, and made his first appearance here with Bernasconi in the pasticcio 'Demofoonte.' Great expectations had been formed of him, not only from his continental reputation, but from the account given by Captain Brydone in his Travels, and from some airs sung 'in his manner' by Piozzi, 'in a style that excited great ideas of his pathetic powers.' These expectations were not disappointed; and Dr. Burney's warm but intelligent praise of his beautful voice, his perfect command of it, the taste and boldness with which he invented new ornaments, the truth and originality of his expression, and his other musicianly qualities, must be read by those who would form an idea of the truly great singer that Pacchierotti was. Though intimately connected with his friend Bertoni, he sang with no less ardour and energy the music of Sacchini, and other rival composers: and, indeed, he seems to have had a most amiable character, never withholding his commendation of another artist, when due, though of his own performance he was always the most severe critic.

Lord Mount-Edgcumbe also speaks in the highest terms of the talent of Pacchierotti, whom he calls 'decidedly the most perfect singer it ever fell to his lot to hear.'

In a letter[3] to the Rev. W. Mason, dated Lucca, Sept. 15, 1780, Pacchierotti shows, in very

  1. Lanzi, tom. i. p. 305.
  2. Padova, 1844, 8vo.
  3. In the possesion of the present writer.