Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/681

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PASTICCIO.
669
 

movements, selected from different Operas, and grouped together, not in accordance with their original intention, but in such a manner as to provide a mixed audience with the greatest possible number of favourite Airs in succession.

It is not at all necessary that the Movements contained in a Pasticcio should all be by the same [1]Composer. As a general rule, they are not; and no attempt is made to ensure uniformity, or even consistency of style. No such attempt, indeed, could by any possibility be successful, unless it were made under the direction of a genius of the highest order; for an Opera, if it claim to be considered as a work of Art at all, must of necessity present itself as a well-ordered whole, the intelligent expression of a single idea; not in the form of a heterogeneous collection of pretty tunes, divorced from the scenes they were intended to illustrate, and adapted to others quite foreign to the Composer's original meaning. It is true, that, during the greater part of the 18th century, when the Pasticcio enjoyed its highest degree of popularity, some of the greatest Masters then living patronised it, openly, and apparently without any feeling of reluctance: but it never inspired any real respect, even in its brightest days, and the best examples were invariably short-lived, and incapable of resuscitation. It was impossible that any form of Art, based upon false principles, should be held in lasting remembrance; and the Pasticcio represented a very false principle indeed—the principle which culminated in the 'Concert Opera.'

In early times, it was a very common custom to mention the name of the Librettist of an Opera, upon the public announcement of its performance, without that of the Composer; and it seems exceedingly probable, that, when this was done, more than one Composer was concerned, and the work was, in reality, a Pasticcio. We know that Caccini contributed some of the Music to Peri's 'Euridice,' in the year 1600, though his name does not appear upon the title-page; and that, as early as 1646, a genuine Pasticcio was performed, at Naples, under the title of 'Amor non a legge,' with Music by several different Composers, of whose names not one has been recorded. Such cases, however, are much rarer in the 17th century than in that which followed, and serve only to show how the practice of writing these compound Operas originated.

Perhaps the most notable Pasticcio on record is 'Muzio Scevola,' of which, in the year 1721, Attilio Ariosti[2] composed the First Act, Giovanni Maria Buononcini the Second, and Handel the Third. Each Composer prepared a complete Overture to his own share of the work; and each, of course, did his best to outshine the efforts of his rivals: yet the Opera survived very few representations, notwithstanding the éclat which attended its production; and it was never afterwards revived. It has been suggested that the object of associating these three great Composers together, in this work, was not rivalry, but œconomy of time—a most improbable supposition, unsupported by any kind of evidence. The Pasticcio, at the time 'Muzio Scevola' was produced, was equally common in England and on the Continent; and nothing was more natural than that all the talent that could be brought together should be employed in the production of a splendid example for the Royal Academy of Music. Handel, moreover, the only Composer in whose hands this kind of piece ever attained the degree of homogeneity necessary to constitute a really great work, can never have entertained any strong objection to it, for he constantly introduced Songs, which had made their mark in his earlier Operas, into the newer ones he was so frequently called upon to produce; and, in 1738, he brought out a Pasticcio, called 'Alessandro Severo,' entirely composed of his own most favourite Airs. His keen perception of dramatic truth enabled him to perform the operation of fitting together materials, apparently quite incongruous, with such inimitable skill, that no one unacquainted with the real facts of the case could possibly think they had ever been intended to occupy any other position than that in which they are actually found at the time being. Had other Composers possessed this power of adaptation in an equal degree, the Pasticcio might have attained a longer term of existence: but the best writers of the age, more especially those of the great School founded by Hasse, at Dresden, failed lamentably, in this particular; and, strange as it may seem to say so, it is to this fortunate circumstance that we are indebted for one of the most important and beneficial revolutions recorded in the history of the Lyric Drama.

In the year 1746, Gluck produced, at the King's Theatre, in the Haymarket, a Pasticcio, called 'Piramo e Tisbe,' in which he introduced all his own most successful Airs. He wrote, at that time, entirely in the Italian style; and, though Handel expressed great contempt for his want of learning, his airs were especially melodious, and enjoyed a high degree of popular favour. Yet the piece did not succeed, and he himself was altogether dissatisfied with it. Soon after its production, he left England, and settled, for a time, in Vienna. Here he attained immense popularity; but he could not forget the failure of his Pasticcio, and the disappointment he felt led him carefully to reconsider the matter, and, as far as possible, to trace the defects of the piece to their true cause. The course of analytical study thus forced upon him led to the conviction, that however good an Air may be in itself, it is only useful for dramatic purposes in so far as it is calculated to bring out the truthful expression of the Scene in which it is introduced; and this simple thesis formed the foundation of that great work of reformation which made his name so deservedly famous, and raised the Lyric Drama to a position from which the

  1. In 1789 a Pasticcio called 'L'Ape' was produced at Vienna, in which no less than 12 composers were represented. (Pohl, 'Mozart in London,' p. 75, note.)
  2. This at least is the commonly-received opinion. In the Dragonetti score in the British Museum, the first act is attributed to 'Signor Pipo.' Chysander attributes it to Filippo Mattei.