« PreviousContinue »
the old man rose from his seat, and with a dignified air demanded of his terrified attendants, ' Why this terror ? no disaster can come where Haydn is!' A convulsive shivering seized him; but being afterwards carried to the piano-forte, he sang, till his strength was exhausted, his national hymn of God preserve the Emperor.' A fatal stupor succeeded this last act of enthusiasm.
Biography is a melancholy study. We delight to trace the gradually unfolding faculties of infancy; the eager curiosity of boyhood; the confidence of youth; the alternate disappointments and success that checker the course of manhood; and we bow with reverence to the experience of age. But at length, the scene is generally closed, amidst the contemplation of disease and mental decay, decrepitude and death. The man is soon forgotten, while the author alone lives in the estimation of congenial minds. Haydn will be remembered by his works, as long as true taste in music shall exist; and his admirers will always be gratified on discovering that an artist, who has contributed so much to one of the purest of our sources of pleasure, was an amiable, benevolent, patriotic, and pious man. His last reception by the public may shed a parting ray over
An hundred and sixty musicians were assembled at the palace of Prince Lobkowitz to perform Haydn's oratorio of the Creation.
* The poor old man, notwithstanding his weakness, was desirous of seeing once more that public for whom he had so long laboured. He was carried into the room in an easy chair. The Princess Esterhazy, and his friend Madame de Kurzbeck, went to meet him. The flourishes of the orchestra and still more the agitation of the spectators anpounced his arrival. He was placed in the middle of three rows of seats, destined for his friends, and for all that was illustrious in Vienna. Salieni, who directed the orchestra, came to receive Haydn's orders before they began. They embraced; Salieni left him, flew to his place, and the orchestra commenced amidst the general emotion. It may easily be judged, whether this religious music would appear sublime to an audience whose hearts were affected by the sight of a great man about to depart out of life. Surrounded by the great, by his friends, by the artists of his profession, and by charming women, of whom every eye was fixed upon him, Haydn bad a glorious adieu to the world and to life.
• The Chevalier Capellini, a physician of the first rank, observed that Haydn's legs were not sufficiently covered. Scarcely had he given an intimation to those who stood around, than the most beautiful shawls Jeft their charming wearers to assist in warming the beloved old man.
Haydn, whom so much glory and affection had caused to shed tears more than once, felt himself faint at the end of the first part. His chair was brought. At the moment of leaving the room he ordered the chairmen to stop; thanked the public first, by an inclination of his
head; then turning to the orchestra, with a feeling truly German, he raised his hands to heaven, and, with eyes filled with tears, pronounced his benediction on the ancient companions of his labours.'
Haydn had early accustomed himself to distinguish in music, what was good, what was better, and what was bad.'
But, as his principles had been formed by his own observation and experience, when asked to explain his reasons for certain unusual transitions or modulations, he did not, like an inferior composer, refer to the rule, or the example, but merely answered, I did it because it was best so.' This is exemplified in a ludicrous scene which took place in London between him and a noble amateur, who wished to take lessons in counterpoiut.
• “ When shall we begin?" said Haydn. “ Immediately, if you please," replied the nobleman; and he took out of his pocket one of Haydn's own quartetts. " For the first lesson," continued he, “ let us examine this quartett, and tell me the reason of certain modulations, and of the general management of the composition, which I cannot altogether approve, since it is contrary to the rules.” Haydn, a little surprized, said he was ready to answer his questions. The nobleman began, and from the very first bar found something to remark upon every note. Haydn, with whom invention was a habit, and who was the opposite of a pedant, found himself a good deai embarrassed, and replied continually, “ I did so, because it has a good effect. I have placed this passage here, because I think it suitable.” The Englishman, in whose opinion these replies were nothing to the purpose, still returned to his proofs, and demonstrated very clearly that the quartett was good for nothing. “But, my lord, arrange this quartett in your own way! hear it played, and then you will see which of the two is the best !" “ How can your's, which is contrary to the rules, be the best “ Because it is the most agreeable !" My lord still returned to the subject. Haydn replied as well as he was able; but, at last, out of patience, “ I see, my lord,” said he," that it is you who are so good as to give lessons to me, and I am obliged to confess, that I do not merit the honour of having such a master." The advocate of the rules went away, and cannot to this day understand how an author who adheres to them should fail of producing a matrimonio segretto.'
Haydn composed slowly and with difficulty; a symphony employed him a month, and a mass still longer. This did not arise from want of ideas, but from the delicacy of his taste. His rough scores are full of alterations, for he carefully considered the comparative merits of many different passages, before he finally decided which was the best. He never began a symphony invitâ Minervâ; and when the hour of inspiration was coine, he commenced with certain mechanical preparations, trifling in themselves, but which he considered absolutely necessary to the success of his undertaking. Like Buffon and Sterne, he began by bestowing unusual attention to his dress, and having his hair neatly arranged; and he told our author, that often when he had forgot to put upon
bis finger a diamond ring presented to him by Frederick the Second, he could not summon a single idea. His paper must be the finest, and the whitest possible, and he wrote with such neatness and care, that the best copyist could not have surpassed him in the regularity and clearness of his characters; his notes were remarkable for such small heads and slender tails that he used to call them his flies legs.' After having settled his theme or principal subject, and the keys through which he intended it should modulate, he invented a little romance, or imaginary story, such as the embarkation, voyage, difficulties, various adventures, and final happy settlement of a family in America, and the movements in his symphony became lively or sad, placid or agitated, according to the changes in the events of his imaginary story.
The conclusion we should draw from this singular fact is, that much of the labour of composition had with Haydn become so merely mechanical, that he found it necessary to create an artificial excitement in his mind, by filling it with ideas of a continual succession of visible objects ; just as an artist we are acquainted with, who, after having completely arranged the general composition of his pictures, finds it irksome to fill up the details, unless his mind is engaged in listening to some book of light reading. Our author, however, appears to suppose that the visible objects which formed the subject of Haydn's contemplation, are capable of representation, and are often actually represented in his musical compositions. In the course of his speculations on this subject, he has distinguished what he calls physical from sentimentul imitation. The former is exemplified by the effect of two notes in Mozart's Nozze de Figaro, which, with the assistance of the words ' din din, don don,' represent the ringing of two different toned bells; and by a ridiculous scene in a German opera where the music, imitating the snoring of a sleeping husband, forms the bass to a duetto amoroso, between his wife and her gallant. In considering the latter species of imitation, our author pursues an idea suggested to Haydn by Baron Von Swieten, of describing objects of nature, by awakening the emotions which those objects occasion. For instance, we admire the sun; and, therefore, music that excites the highest admiration, would naturally recall the idea of the sun.'
The author of the Sacred Melodies has carried this idea a great deal farther in an elaborate note on the oratorio of the Creation, in which he attempts to prove the power of musical sounds to express visible objects. This note we shall insert, as a curious iustance of the speculations of a scientific professor, exemplified by a composition familiar to most of our readers. • Perhaps there is nothing in nature which is capable of being so
well represented by sound, as light. The answer of the blind man,
Double diapason purple. .
violet. Trumpet scarlet.
deep crimson red.' Diapason
deeper blue. So much for the rule; and now for its application.
* The symphony in the Creation, which represents the rising of the sun, is an exemplification of this theory. In the commencement of this piece our attention is attracted by a soft streaming note from the riolins which is scarcely discernible, till the rays of sound which issue from the second violin diverge into the chord of the second ; to which is gradually imparted a greater fulness of colour, as the violas and violoncellos steal in with expanding harmony.
' At the fifth bar, the oboes begin to shed their yellow lustre; while the flute silvers the mounting rays of the riolin. As the notes continue ascending to the highest point of brightness, the orange, the scarlet and the purple unite in the increasing splendour; and the glorious orb at length appears, refulgent with all the brightest beams of harmony.'--p. 256.
All this (with the exception of the silver' of the sky-blue' flute) the enthusiast may, perhaps, see with the mind's eye!' But suppose an antagonist should start up, and maintain that the sound of the violin is blue, and that of the flute yellow; and that when combined they both became pea green! How could this difference of opinion be settled ? Doubiless by appealing to the public. What
a glorious subject for volumes of metaphysical disquisition ! The musical world in this idle town might range themselves on opposite sides, and the spirit of party would soon make the oppoDents as inveterate as the ancient factions of the blues, and the greens in Constantinople, or the bianchi and the neri in Florence, This power of expressing colour by sound is, however, we beF3
lieve, lieve, a new discovery. At least it escaped the penetrating glance of the blind professor in the academy of Ladoga; for he was content to teach the art of mixing colours by the smell and feeling; little dreaming that the day would come when they might be distinguished, separated, and combined, by the sense of heuring alone.
Let us for a moment compare the ideas of visible objects connected with certain transitions in Haydn's symphonies, with the similar ideas of visible objects by which the Baron Von Feinagle impresses a series of events upon the mind of his pupils. The corresponding ideas will, it is true, always present themselves together to minds prepared for their association. But will any one gravely assert that there is any real resemblance between the Hen and Chickens and the Battle of Agincourt, or the Swan sailing with a red rag round his neck and the death of William Rufus ? Our judgment rather than our inclination has led us to oppose this theory. Our sources of pleasure are so few, and those which arise from novelty have been so long exhausted, that we should gladly anticipate new delight from the representation of visible objects by music. Many of our readers will recollect how willingly they were led to believe that certain movements on the piano-forte described the attack, the cannon firing, the horses galloping, the cries of the wounded, and the Turkish music, in the Buttle of Prague. In this instance, however, we only fancied we could hear certain sounds; but how much more delighted should we be if the professor could, at the same time, shew us certain sighis. We remember, for instance, a sonata called the Journey to Windsor and the Return to London; and can imagine the effect of bringing before the
eyes of our musical friends the objects and events of this little excursion. Thus, a hurried galloping movement might represent our escape from two ill-looking fellows on Hounslow Heath; and in a grand crash the audience might see the opposition Windsor coach overturned on Cranford Bridge.
We cannot, however, take leave of the author of the Sacred Melodies without expressing the gratification we have experienced from many of the other notes with which he has enriched the volume before us; particularly for his remarks on the peculiar excellence of Haydn's music as compared with that of Mozart and Bethoven; and for his plain and judicious rules for the management of the voice in learning to sing; and if we have ventured to amuse ourselves with his speculations on the connection between light and sound, he must attribute it to our abhorrence of the fashionable mataphysical sentimentality in music, which is quite as offensive as the cant of connoisseurship in painting ; "the purity of Domenichino, the grace of Raphael, and the correggiosity of Correggio.' In one of these notes we are told, that the ancient instrument