Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/518

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��It would be impossible to sing this kind of music accompanied by any great dramatic action, since action would throw the voice off its balance and do away with the exact execution which was the main attraction of the music ; thus by degrees a great deal of the singing will have become unimpassioned, the singer will have stood to sing his songs without troubling him- self to act, and the wonderful execution and the peculiarity of the voices many of which are said to have been very fine, with a tone like that of a highly developed boy's voice will have exercised a certain fascination over the hearer, and have become for a time the fashion. One of the finest of these singers was Pacchierotti, who with a defective voice, possessed high intelligence, and made himself a consummate artist ; the last heard in England bein^ Velluti (born 1781, died 1861 ; in London with Mendelssohn in 1829), also a highly finished artist, famous for his phrasing and for the grace of his singing generally.

The music of Handel, Scarlatti and Hasse, while mechanically difficult enough, called forth broader artistic powers, possessed by these great singers in an equal degree with mere agility, when occasion required them; and the names of Farinelli, Caffarelli, Gizziello, Bernacchi, Car- estini, Senesino, etc., and others, formed a bright array of vocalists. About the same time the cele- brated Faustina (Mme. Hasse) and Cuzzoni were most brilliant singers. Faustina is said to have had such extraordinary powers of respiration that it was supposed she could sing both inspiring and expiring. Her agility was marvellous. Basses were now recognised, amongst whom Boschi and Montagnana, with voices of large compass, were very fine singers. The following extract from a song sung by the latter requires exact intonation.



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In the latter half of the i8th century voices of exceptional, in two cases almost phenomenal, com- pass appeared. That of Agujari, upon the testi- mony of Mozart, extended upwards to C in altissimo. Another account gives her two fair octaves, from A below the stave to A in alt (which would be only the compass of a good


mezzo-soprano), but says that she had in early youth another octave. Mozart, however, may be trusted ; and as she was 27 when he heard her in 1 770, and her early youth over, it is clear that she had a remarkable compass. The very high part of the voice may possibly have left her before she was far advanced in years. In early life a very large compass is not a great rarity. A male voice in the writer's experience, soon after breaking, could sound notes from A, ist space bass, to treble C in alt, the upper octave and a half being, it is true, falsetto (using the word in its ordinary acceptation, and not as applied to the middle register). In about a year, as the lower registers increased in firmness, nearly the whole of the upper octave disappeared. Voices that can sound three octaves are not very unusual, and such a voice has been met with in a boy; but a com- pass of two good octaves is a great gift. A mezzo-soprano voice has been heard that could touch G on the bottom line of the bass clef; not a usable note, but sufficiently defined to be clearly recognised ; while a voice, undeniably tenor in quality, had a compass from the same note, to D above the bass stave, and no more. These are freaks of nature. Young contraltos frequently have a spurious upper octave which disappears as the voice strengthens. Fischer, the great German bass, had a compass of from D below the bass stave to A above, an extra- ordinary range for a male voice without falsetto. His organ must have been singularly powerful and flexible. In Russia, bass voices reaching to A or G below the bass stave are not uncommon, but they have not generally a large compass. A family of Russian Jews, of three generations, sang together in London about the year 1843. The grandfather, with a long patriarchal beard, sang down to A below the bass stave, but he had not many notes, and was in fact a contra- basso. He only vocalised, and that in part- music. Taking this low A as a starting-point, and Agujari's high C as the other extreme, the human voice has the astounding compass of nearly five octaves and a half. Germany's first great female singer, Mara, with a very beautiful voice of 2 1 octaves, from low G to high E, must have been one of the finest of these great singers. The compass is that of a magnificent soprano drammatico, and as she is said to have possessed solid talent, and to have been a good musician, she must have been splendid. Banti had most probably about three octaves. She reached high G, the voice being beautiful and her execution perfect. Mrs. Billington, with German blood on the father's side, was another example of large compass from A to A, 3 octaves. Catalani, again, had a beautiful voice up to high G, and marvellous execution. In the present day, Carlotta Patti and Miss Robertson are examples of high range.

In considering the large compass of some of the voices just mentioned, it might seem marvellous how so small an instrument can produce not only so great a range of notes, but notes of so much power. The investigations of Manuel Garcia, 1

i Royal Society's Proceedings, vol. vil ; Nov. 13. 1855.

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