Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/506

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.



��Mr. Silas is the author of a Treatise on Musical Notation, and an Essay on a new method of Harmony both unpublished. He has still in MS. an English opera, 'Nitocris'; overture and incidental music to ' Fanchette' ; a musical come- dietta, ' Love's Dilemma'; a Cantata ; an ' Ave Verum'; two 'O Salutaris*; a Symphony in C major ; and other compositions. The list of his published instrumental works is very large, .and includes many PF. pieces, among which the best known are Gavotte in E minor, Bourre*e in O minor, ' Malvina ' (romance), Suite in A minor op. 103, Six Duets, etc., etc.

Mr. Silas is well known as a man of great humour and extraordinary musical ability. He is a teacher of harmony at the Guildhall School of Music ; and his pupils there and in private are very numerous. [G.]

SILBERMANN. A family of organ builders, clavichord and pianoforte makers, of Saxon origin, of whom the most renowned were Andreas, who built the Strassburg Cathedral organ, and Gott- fried, who built the organs of Freiberg and Dresden, and was the first to construct the Pianoforte in Ger- many. Authorities differ as to whether Andreas and Gottfried were brothers, or uncle and nephew. Following Gerber's Lexicon they were sons of Michael Silbermann, a carpenter at Grafenstein in Saxony, where ANDREAS was born in 1678. He was brought up to his father's craft, and travelled, according to the custom of the country, in 1 700. He learnt organ-building, and in 1 703 we find him settled in that vocation at Strass- burg. According to Hopkins and Rimbault 1 he built the Strassburg organ his greatest work of 29 recorded by them in 1714-16. He had nine sons, of whom three were organ builders, and after the father's death, in 1733 or 34, carried on the business in common. Of the three, Johann An- dreas, the eldest (born 1712, died 1783), built the Predigerkirche organ at Strassburg and that of the Abbey of St. Blaise in the Black Forest. In all he built 54 organs, in addition to writing a history of the city of Strassburg. His son, Johann Josias, was a musical-instrument maker. The next sou of Andreas, Johann Daniel, born 1718, died 1766, was employed by his uncle Gottfried, and (according to Mr. Hopkins) was entrusted after his uncle's death with the com- pletion of the famous Court organ (at the Catholic Church) in Dresden. Mooser 2 however, who claims to follow good authorities, attributes the completion of this instrument to Zacharias Hilde- brand. Be this as it may, Johann Daniel re- mained at Dresden, a keyed-instrument maker, and constructor of ingenious barrel-organs. A composition of his is preserved in Marpurg's ' Ilaccolta' (1757). Johann Heinrich, the youngest son of Andreas, born 1727, was living in 1792, when Gerber's Lexicon was published. His pianofortes were well known in Paris ; he made them with organ pedals, and constructed a harp- sichord of which the longest strings were of what may be called the natural length, 16 feet!

i ' The Organ, its History and Construction." London. 1870. J ' Gottfried Silbermariu.' Laugeusalza, 1857.


But the greatest of the Silbermann family was GOTTFRIED, who was born in the little village of Kleinbobritzsch, near Frauenstein, in 1683 (ac- cording to Mooser on Jan. 14). He was at, first placed with a bookbinder, but soon quitted him and went to Andreas at Strassburg. Having got into trouble by the attempted abduction of a nun, he had to quit that city in 1707 and go back to Frauenstein, where he built his first organ (after- wards destroyed by fire, the fate of several of his instruments). He appears to have settled at Freiberg in 1709, and remained there for some years. He built, in all, 47 organs in Saxony. 3 He never married, and was overtaken by death Au g- 4 i 753, while engaged upon his finest work, the Dresden Court organ. Although receiving what we should call very low prices for his organs, by living a frugal life he became comparatively rich, and his talent and exceptional force of character enabled him to achieve an eminent position. His clavichords were as celebrated as his organs. Emanuel Bach had one of them for nearly half a century, and the instrument many years after it was made, when heard under the hands of that gifted and sympathetic player, ex- cited the admiration of Burney. It cannot be doubted that he was the first German who made a pianoforte. He was already settled in Dresden in 1725, when^Konig translated into German Scipione Maffei's account of the invention of the pianoforte at Florence by Cristofori. This fact has been already mentioned [PIANOFORTE, vol. ii. P- 7*3 ]> an d we now add some further particulars gained by personal search and inspection at Pots- dam in 1 88 1. We know from Agricola, one of J. S. Bach's pupils, that in 1726 Gottfried Silber- mann submitted two pianofortes of his make to that great master. Bach finding much fault with them, Gottfried was annoyed, and for some time desisted from further experiments in that direc- tion. It is possible that the intercourse between Dresden and Northern Italy enabled him, either then or later, to see a Florentine pianoforte. It is certain that three grand pianofortes made by him and acquired by Frederick the Great* for Potsdam where they still remain in the music- rooms of the Stadtschloss, Sans Souci, and Neues Palais, 5 inhabited by that monarch are, with unimportant differences, repetitions of the Cristo- fori pianofortes existing at Florence. Frederick is said to have acquired more than three, but no others are now to be found. Burney's depre- ciation of the work of Germans in their own country finds no support in the admirable work of Gottfried Silbermann in these pianofortes. If its durability needed other testimony, we might refer to one of his pianofortes which Zelter met

3 Five of 3 manuals, Freiberg, Zittau and Frauenstein ; the Frauen- kirche and Katholische Hofkirche at Dresden ; twenty-four of 2 manuals ; fifteen of 1 manual with pedals, and three of 1 manual without pedals. (Mooser, p. 125.)

4 Probably in 1746. The peace of Dresden was signed by Frederick, Christmas Day 1745; he would hare time after that event to inspect' Silbermann's pianofortes.

5 The Silbermann piano Burney mentions was that of the Neues. Palais. He must have heard the one at Sans Souci, although he does not say so. In all probability the piano J. S. Bach played upon specially, on the occasion of his visit to Frederick the Great, was the one still in the Stadtschloss, the town palace of Potsdam.

�� �