Saint Cecilia's Hall in the Niddry Wynd Chapter IV The Players and the Singers in St. Cecilia's Hall
I. The Orchestra
The Professional Players.
Quite the greatest amount of detailed information
about the performers and singers in the hall in the Niddry Wynd is
from the pen of old George Thomson, the collector of the Melodies of
Scotland, and a man intimately connected with the history of music
in Scotland during the first three decades of this century.
He evidently wrote his recollections of the St.
Cecilia concerts for the chapter dealing with that subject in
Chambers’s Traditions of Edinburgh, in which are to be found at
least the names of many of the performers, singers, pieces played,
and songs sung, as well as the names of those who comprised the
audience, during the years in which Thomson played the violin in
that long-forgotten orchestra. He is described by his contemporaries
as ‘ an accomplished violinist.’
It is just possible that to-day, at the close of the
century, we may have forgotten the great debt we owe to George
Thomson for having collected, purified, edited, and adapted tunes to
our Scots songs; for having laboured away at harmonising the tunes
with the help of the great Germans—Beethoven, Haydn, Weber, Pleyel,
Kozeluch, and Hummel; for having written and written again to
composer and poet until these unbusinesslike geniuses were brought
to complete their tasks and fulfil their promises. It is one thing
for Genius to scatter her treasures broadcast, almost always without
method, often with a touch of madness; but it means careful hard
work and a respect for duty to recover these gems from amidst piles
of old papers, the backs of letters or an occasional banknote, and,
laboriously arranging them, fit them for public delectation.
George Thomson was a most indispensable person in our
aesthetic history, the self-appointed honorary secretary to the
Scottish Muses. Thomson is to us not only one of the most
interesting, but one of the strongest, links with our artistic past.
Born in 1757 at Limekilns in Fife, he became at seventeen years old
a clerk in the office of a Writer to the Signet, and some four or
five years later, through the influence of no less well-known a
literary celebrity than Home, the reverend author of Douglas, was
appointed junior clerk to the Board of Trustees for Manufacturers
Wisely deciding not to allow ambition to make his
life a time of fretful change and striving, he remained senior clerk
to the Board throughout the whole of what some might call a totally
uneventful professional career, yet one whose very placidity enabled
Thomson to live, as it were, a parallel life full of artistic
incident and interest.
‘Having studied the violin, :t was ir>y custom,’ he
writes in a kind of autobiography, ‘ after the hours of business to
con over our Scottish melodies, and to devour the choruses of
Handel’s oratorios, in which, when performed at St. Cecilia’s Hall,
I generally took a part along with a few other gentlemen,—Mr.
Alexander Wight, one of the most eminent counsel at the bar, Mr.
Gilbert Innes of Stow, Mr. John Russel, W.S., Mr. John Hutton, etc.,
it being then not uncommon for grave amateurs to assist at the
Cecilia Concerts, one of the most interesting and liberal musical
institutions that ever existed in Scotland or indeed in any country.
I had so much delight in singing those matchless choruses and in
practising the violin quartettes of I’leyel and Haydn, that it was
I hailed the hour when, like the young amateur in the
good old Scotch song, “ I could hie me hame to my Cremona ” and
enjoy Haydn’s admirable fancies.’ Here we have the true asstheticism,
the love of the beautiful because it is beautiful, and for no other
reason. We know how from 1792 to 1796, the year of Burns’s death,
Thomson was in constant correspondence with the poet about
the 1 magnum opus ’ for which Burns supplied in all one hundred and
twenty songs, many of them original, others revisions and
purifications. Such was one of the amateur violinists of the
St. Cecilia orchestra, a man who has gone down to posterity as the
friend and correspondent of Robert Burns, but a man who is also to
be remembered as having wedded German harmony to Scottish pathos and
who by his energy and perseverance in the cause of national art has
deserved for all time coming the undying gratitude of each
succeeding generation of Scotsmen.
Of Scottish songs Thomson published the following
Volume I. Songs the airs of ^hich were all harmonised
Volume II. Songs the airs of which were all harmonised by Kozeluch.
Volumes III. Songs the airs of which were all harmonised by Haydn.
Volume V. Four airs harmonised by Haydn, twenty-six by Beethoven.
Volume VI. Contained fifty two songs, twelve of which were
harmonised by Haydn, thirteen by Beethoven, one by Kozeluch,
twenty-one by Hogarth, and five by Sir Henry Bishop. The first
volume was published in 1793 and the sixth volume in 1841.
George Thomson died at Leith on February 18th, 1851,
in his ninety-fourth year, but was buried in Kensal Green cemetery,
London, where his wife had been laid ten years before.
Following Thomson’s narrative, we read :—
‘In the instrumental department we had Signor Puppo
from Rome, or Naples, as leader and violin concerto player.’
Giuseppe (or Joseph) Puppo was born at Lucca in 1749,
and died in a hospital at Naples in 1827. Receiving his early
musical education in Naples, and having studied the violin under
Tartini, he made rapid progress and soon showed himself a brilliant
performer. Thomson says of him—‘Puppo charmed all hearers.’ Like so
many musicians, he had a chequered and wandering career, for between
1775 and 1784 he visited France, Spain, Portugal, England, Scotland,
and Ireland, and was everywhere in great request as an accompanist,
but never remained very long in one place, till he settled in Paris
about 1789. Puppo may be described as an eccentric, dissatisfied
man, evidently with great talents, but little power of effective
self-direction. He appears to have been as long in Edinburgh as in
any other place that he visited, for he was leader at St. Cecilia’s
from January 1778 to August 1782. He did not come to Edinburgh
alone: ‘Mrs. Puppo’ came with him, and apparently also some
relative— probably a brother of the name of Stefano, who advertises
in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of June 24th, 1778, that he teaches
languages at new lodgings in James’s Court.
In July 1778 Signor and Signora Puppo were lodging in
New Street, Canongate; earlier in the year they had been in lodgings
‘facing the City Guard.’ In March of the same year they have a
curiously worded advertisement in the Courant to the effect that
‘Mr. Puppo,’ having been indisposed, is now ready to teach singing
or playing on the harpsichord, and that ‘Mrs. Tuppo,’ newly returned
from London, where she had received lessons from Sacchini, is
prepared to go to the country one day in the week. On July 24th, at
a benefit concert for ‘ Mr. Fischer ’ in St. Cecilia’s, Mrs. Puppo
sang, and her husband and Schetky were instrumentalists.
In the Edinburgh Evening Courant of February 28th,
1778, a benefit concert for Mr. Puppo on March 2nd is advertised,
‘when it is hoped he will 'receive the countenance from the public
which his own merit besides his being first fiddle in the concert
entitles him to.’
In February 1779, at a benefit concert for Schetky, a
large gathering of professionals is recorded: ‘ Mrs. Melmoth, Mrs.
Puppo, and Signor and Signora Corri ’ are all to sing, while Schetky,
Reinagle, Clarke, and Puppo are to play.
On April 21st, in the same year, Puppo, Reinagle, and
Corri take the leading instrumental parts at a concert after the
play in the Theatre Royal.
On July 12th, Puppo announces that during the ‘race
week' he will give three morning concerts, at which, among other
things, the overture was to be one of Lord Kelly’s; Mrs. Corri was
to sing ‘The soldier tired of war’s alarms,5 Mrs. Puppo, ‘For the
lack of gold she’s left me’; while Puppo and Reinagle were to play a
‘ duetto on tenor and violin,’ Schetky a solo concerto on his
’cello, and Corri a rondo. Each concert 3s. 6d. to
non-subscribers, i.e. to those not members of the Musical Society.
It would seem as though at one time Puppo had not been ‘going down,’
as we would say, with the public, for the following appears on
February 27th, 1779‘The Governors and Directors very earnestly
recommend Mr. Puppo, whose concert is fixed for Tuesday, 9th March,
to the countenance of the subscribers and of such ladies and
gentlemen as frequent the weekly concert. The company may be assured
that Mr. Puppo will do everything in his power to render the
entertainment agreeable. Tickets 3s. each.’
In August, Mrs. Puppo announces that having gone to
Musselburgh—no doubt for the holidays—she is to be found at Mrs.
Christy’s at Fisherrow, and is prepared to teach singing to ladies.
Puppo seems to have borne, by an almost inevitable
pun, the nickname of ‘Puppy,’ as is seen below his portrait
reproduced by the kind permission of Mr. Marr, to whose collection
of musical curiosities the original belongs.
Puppo published very little music, and that was
wholly instrumental. Though he died in a state of destitution and in
a hospital to which he had been sent by the English musician,
Professor Edward Taylor, Puppo might at one time have been called
rich when he acted as chef if orchestre at the Theatre Frangais in
He is credited with saying smart things, only one of
which has come down to us, Boccherini is the wife of Haydn.’
Thomson continues his list of performer? thus:— ‘Mr.
Schetky from Germany, the principal violoncellist and a fine
Herr Schetky (or Schetki) has no niche in the temple
of fame as arranged in Grove’s Dictionary cf Musicians, and any
details of his life which exist are much scattered through
Johann Georg Christoff Schetky was born at Hesse-Darmstadt
in the year 1740, and died in Edinburgh, 29th November 1824, in the
eighty fourth year of his age.
His fourth son, John Christian, born in Ainslie’s
Close, Edinburgh, nth August 1778, became marine painter in ordinary
to George iv. and to her Majesty Queen Victoria. His life is written
by his daughter —the granddaughter, therefore, of the old St.
Cecilia Hall musician.
Young Schetky, like young Walter Scott, only once saw
and was spoken to by Robert Burns in Edinburgh. Schetky the elder
was dining with William Nicol and Allan Masterton, both High School
masters, in the former’s house, where Burns too was a guest. John
and Charles Schetky, returning from a long day’s truant-playing,
passed the window, when they were espied by their father and master
respectively. In the midst of the scolding, Nicol and Schetky were
pushed right and left of the window by a burly, good-humoured
countryman who threw the boys some 'bawbees for bannocks,’ and told
them to run off and be in time for the school next morning. The big
man was Robert Burns, and thus young Schetky saw them all, the three
famous characters in
‘Willie brewed a peck o’ maut,
And Rob and Allan cam to see.’
The facts in this life of J. C. Schetky must be taken
as authoritative. The date of his arrival in Edinburgh in company
with his younger brother Karl is there given as February 14th, 1773.
This statement as to the date cannot be verified from
the contemporary Edinburgh newspapers.
In the Edinburgh Evening Courant of February 29th,
1772, there is the following intimation in two lines of the half
‘Yesterday arrived here Signor Schetki, principal
violoncello to the Musical Society.
This would make the date February 28th, 1772, a year
earlier than the date given in the work before us, so that we must
take it Schetky’s granddaughter is here in error.
Schetky himself, twenty-six years after he came to
Edinburgh, might well be excused if his recollection of the exact
day of the month on which he arrived was not perfectly accurate. In
the Edinburgh Evening Courant of January 17th, 1798, he inserts the
following announcement: ‘ Mr. Schetky most respectfully informs his
friends and the public that his concert (at Theatre
Royal) is fixed for the 9th of February next. Mr.
Schetky begs leave to mention here that on the same day twenty-six
years past he arrived in Edinburgh, since which time he has been
honoured with the most generous patronage, and humbly hopes no part
of his conduct has forfeited the same.’ Tickets 3s. each at the
music-shops and at his house in Foulis’s Close. To begin at 7 p.m.
The father of J. G. C. Schetky was Louis
Schetky,1 secretary to the reigning Landgraf of Hesse-Darmstadt, a
man whose duties were manifold, including everything from paying the
household troops to playing at the court concerts. The family of
Louis was large, and J. G. C. Schetky, the eldest, was intended for
the profession of law, with which object he was sent to study in
that faculty at the old university of the quaint little South German
town of Jena.
It has not infrequently happened that many who have
been sent to the study of law have had very little taste for it, and
in a few cases they have providentially managed to break away from
its dry-as-dust thraldom and indulge their natural aptitude for
The ‘something else’ in the case of Schetky was
music, a not altogether inexplicable tendency when we remember that
‘his father before him’ was musical.
He soon became celebrated as a composer arid
’celloist, and, while holding an appointment at the court ot Hesse-Darmstadt,
travelled for two years through Italy and France.
Amongst other royal persons he visited Stanislaus,
the dethroned King of Poland, then residing at Luneville. He was
here presented with the usual gold snuff-box, and advised to go on
to Piombikres and call on the two younger daughters of Louis Quinze
of France, Mesdames Victoire and Adelaide.
Herr Schetky, acting on this excellent advice, found
the Princesses playing the one on the harpsichord and the other on
Instead of hurrying off from Plomoieres, Schetky
remained some little time, and wrote an air with variations for the
Princesses, which they requested him later on to arrange as a duet
for their harpsichord and violin.
On returning to Darmstadt, he and four other members
of the court orchestra moved to Frankfort to form part of the
imperial orchestra during the cereir.onies in connection with the
coronation of Joseph, King of the Romans, in the course of which he
attracted royal notice by the excellence of his performance of a
violoncello concerto of his own composition.
After the death of his patron, the Landgraf of Hesse,
he commenced a journey to London via Flanders, where, at Lisle, he
met Bremner—then the first music-publisher in London,—who had been
commissioned by the musical world of Scotland to engage a first
violoncellist for the St. Cecilia concerts in Edinburgh.
His last surviving daughter thus writes of her
father’s ‘ retirement ’ to Edinburgh :—
‘Was it not strange that after being flattered and
admiied at foreign courts, and meeting with so much prosperity
everywhere, he should at last settle down in a small place such as
Edinburgh then was, in the remote country of Scotland ! But I have
sometimes imagined that this country then must have been more like
an old Continental city than in its present state of progress. There
were all the nobility of the country assembled from their ancient
fastnesses in the noith, the Courts of Law, the University, the
little exiled court of France at Holy rood, where my father often
appeared, those splendid St. Cecilia concerts (the audience composed
exclusively of the aristocracy), combining so much talent; add to
this the easy access a well-educated and accomplished foreigner
found to the best society—these things must, I think, have combined
to make him like the place.’
J. G. C. Schetky’s first friend in Edinburgh was not
unnaturally the Hungarian, Joseph Reinagle, who had already been
some time in Edinburgh when Schetky arrived, and whose daughter, his
eldest, Maria Anna Theresa, we are not very surprised to hear
Schetky married in 1774.
The ceremony took place in the old Episcopal Chapel
in the Cowgate, now St. Patrick’s. They set up house in Ainslie’s
Close, but a few years later removed to Foulis’s Close, High Street,
where eleven of their children were born, all of whom were baptized
m the old chapel just mentioned: of these children seven grew up.
In the Edinburgh Directory of to-day may still be
found South Foulis Close, but it is not probable that the house in
which the Schetkys lived for twenty-one years could be identified :
it was very dilapidated in 1863, and since that date two strong
spirits, of destruction and reconstruction respectively, have been
abroad in the High Street.
In February 1769, Schetky states in the Edinburgh
Evening Courant that his lodgings are in ‘MiIn’s Court.’ The
old Dictionary of Musicians 1 thus disposes of ‘ J. G. C. Schetky,
an excellent violoncellist, in the service of the Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt
in 1772. Previously to the year 1780, he had published in London and
at the Hague five operas of instrumental music. He has also left at
his death many manuscript compositions for his instrument. He died
at Edinburgh in 1773.’
The ‘died’ here must be a printer’s error for
We are able, through the kindness of Mr. James G.
Ferguson, to publish for the first time the entry of the interment
of this, in his day, most important musician, who spent forty-nine
years of his life in Edinburgh.
Extracted from the Records of Burials in the
Canon-gate Burying-ground, by James G. Ferguson, Recorder of City
1824.—Schetky. Mr. John George Christopher Schetky,
native of Darmstadt, Upper Rhine ; for many years Professor of Music
in Edinburgh, died 29th ult:1 interred in the west side six feet
north-west of Sharp’s ground, and four feet south-west of Langley’s
stone. . . . Old age.’
We may now trace Schetky here and there through Old
Edinburgh. In the first place, we find him reported by Burns to have
been drinking with him, and to have composed a tune for one of his
songs. The allusion occurs in a postscript to a Clarinda letter,
dated ‘ Thursday morning 24th January’ (1788), and runs thus:—
Evening, 9 o'clock.—I am here absolutely unfit to
finish my letter, pretty hearty after a bowl which has been
constantly plied since dinner till this moment. I have been with Mr.
Schetky the musician, and he has set it finely. I have no distinct
ideas of anything, but that I have drunk your health twice to night,
and that you are all my soul holds dear in this world.’
The I it ’ of which Schetky was the musical father
was that lovely song of Burns’s, ‘ Clarinda, mistress of my soul,’
than which surely no sadder lament was ever penned:—
f Clarinda, mistress of my soul,
The measured time is run!
The wretch beneath the dreary pole
So marks his latest sun.
We part—but by those precious drops
That fill thy lovely eyes,
No other light shall guide my steps
Till thy bright beams arise.
She, the fair sun of all her sex,
Has blest my glorious day:
And shall a glimmering planet fix
My worship to its ray? ’
The poet at this time contemplated an early departure
Schetky, some believe, composed another Scots tune,
the newer air to ‘Mary’s Dream’; for Stenhouse in his Lyric Poetry
and Music of Scotland1 thus writes :—The second set of the air to
Lowe’s song is, I believe, the composition of my friend Mr. Schetky,
the celebrated violoncello player in Edinburgh.’
The evening of the hard drinking in the old
Lawn-market house was not the first occasion on which Burns and
Schetky had been in the same room together, for, according to the
well-known picture by Stewart Watson of the interior of St. John’s
Chapel, Canongate, on the evening of the ‘ Inauguration of Robert
Burns as Poet-Laureate of the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No. 2,
1787,’ J. G. C. Schetky is there, and with his ’cello, too. He was,
in fact, ‘Brother Schetky' of this Lodge of Freemasons, and is the
figure to the extreme right, and the highest of the group against
the organ. That old organ is still in the hall of the Canongate
Kilwinning Lodge—indeed, the old hall is very much as Burns and
Schetky last saw it: it teems with Old Edinburgh memories.
From a small and now very rare book entitled A Winter
with Robert Burns} which is virtually an account of each of the
persons represented in this important picture of Edinburgh
Freemasons, we feel justified in quoting the little that is said of
this musician :—‘ No. 35, J. G. C. Schetky, Music Teacher, Fowles’
Close, Fountain Well.
But allegretto forte gay
Schetky, a distinguished musician, was the father of
the eminent sketcher and marine painter to George iv. He was by
birth a German, and came to Edinburgh about the middle of last
century. He was at this period employed in the St. Cecilia Hall,
where the weekly concerts during the winter months were attended by
all the rank, beauty, and fashion of Edinburgh. He composed
the March of the Defensive Band, which Mr. Crosbie, W.S. (the first
master of that lodge), commanded. It is needless to remark that it
was not Burns who \\ rote to it:
“Colonel Crosbie takes the field,
To France and Spain he will not yield,
But still maintains his high command
At the head of the Noble Defensive Band.”
Schetky’s howff was Hoggs tavern, where he
constituted the Boar Club, each Bore contributing a halfpenny to
the Pig, and Mr. Aldridge, a brother-musician, being perpetual Grand
Grunter of the Sty. Burns got Schetky to compose an air to his
“Clarinda, mistress of my soul.”
‘He is represented in the picture with his
instrument, the violoncello, on which ho excelled in concertos.’
Schetky was evidently very much at home in ‘Auld Reekie,’ with whose
facility for deep and frequent potations his Teutonic soul would be
in full sympathy. He was one of the original members of the ‘ Boar
Club,’ founded in 1787—one of those many eccentric, convivial
‘clubs’ of Old Edinburgh. They were all, in truth, societies for
drinking: one differed from another merely in the particular excuse
alleged for the drinking. The Boar’s Club place of meeting was, of
course, in a tavern—Daniel Hogg’s, in Shakespeare Square; and
Schetky was 'deputy-grand-boar,’ whatever that meant. The name of
the club had of course reference to ‘mine host’s.’
‘Brother Schetky’ had a warlike spirit on behalf of
the land of his adoption, for he composed a march for the Royal
Edinburgh Volunteers, the company to which he belonged.
On yet one more historic occasion does the ubiquitous
Schetky appear, viz., at the laying of the foundation-stone of the
present buildings of the University of Edinburgh, when he led a band
of singers who, in the procession, walked between the students and
the various Lodges of Freemasons represented.
The stone was laid with full Masonic honours on the
16th September 1789, by the Right Hon. Lord Napier of Merchistoun,
Grand Master-Mason of Scot land; so that if Schetky’s ghost were
ever to reappear in the ‘ Quad,’ and were to overhear an inaccurate
tourist assigning a wrong date to the classic fabric, he could say
with Edie Ochiltree, ‘I mind the biggin’ o’t.’ The notices of
Schetky and his concerts— benefits and otherwise—in old Edinburgh
newspapers are quite too numerous to mention, which is not
remarkable, considering the long time he lived in Edinburgh.
But Edinburgh actually very nearly missed possessing
Schetky altogether, for it is said that, on arriving at Ramsay’s Inn
near the Cowgate Port, he was so poorly impressed with the city, had
his ears so loudly assailed by her cries, and his nose by her odours,
that he almost determined to be off. Probably his thirst detained
Next on Thomson’s list we have—
‘Joseph Reinagle, a clever violoncello and viola
player.’ Reinagle does not obtain elaborate treatment in the pages
of Grove, from which we learn that he was born at Portsmouth, but
the date neither of his birth (1762) nor his death (1836) is given.
Reinagle was of Austrian descent; his father, Joseph Reinagle,
having served in the Hungarian army under the Empress Maria Theresa,
and having come to Scotland with the ‘Old Pretender’ in 1715.
Old Reinagle had intended his son to enter the navy,
possibly for no other reason than that he was born at Portsmouth;
‘but,’ says the Dictionary of Musicians ‘that idea being abandoned,
he was removed to Edinburgh.’ We are sure Edinburgh benefited by the
move, but it is by no means apparent why the only alternative, after
abandoning the idea of entering the navy, was to enter Edinburgh.
Joseph Reinagle, senior, it seems, obtained
through the influence of Lord Kelly the post of ‘Trumpeter to the
King.’ Through the courtesy of the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s
Remembrancer a search made in the records of the Exchequer Office
has revealed the fact that, as reckoned from the time at which his
salary began, Joseph Reinagle was appointed to be trumpeter on 21st
May 1762. Joseph Reinagle, junior, was made to study under parental
guidance the French horn and trumpet. It was not long before Joseph
appeared in public as concerto player on both these instruments,
but, upon medical advice, gave them up and began to study the
violoncello with Schetky as his teacher. Owing to his brother Hugh’s
growing fame as a ‘celloist, Joseph relinquished his instrument, and
proceeded under Aragoni and Pinto to master the viola. It would also
appear that Reinagle studied the harpsichord, for at a concert in
April 1770 for ‘Mr. and Mrs. Taylor,’ a ‘sonata on the harpsichord
by Mr. Reinagle, a scholar of Mr. Taylor’s,’ is announced.
In course of time ‘he was appointed,’ says the
old Dictionary, 1 leader of the concerts at the theatre in
Edinburgh.’ To arrive at the truth we must delete the words ‘at the
theatre’: the concert in Edinburgh alluded to is that at St.
His brother Hugh having died at Lisbon, Joseph felt
free to resume the ’cello, which was thenceforth his instrument to
the time of his death He, too, has left his name scattered
throughout the Edinburgh newspapers of his time.
In February 1779 he plays his ’cello at a benefit
concert of Schetky’s; on 6th April, at St. Cecilia’s, he and
M'Glashan have a joint benefit: in the same month he and l’uppo play
at more than one concert ‘between two acts of the Play ’ at the
‘Theatre Royal’; and there is no doubt that Reinagle helped his
friend Puppo with his venture of those ‘ morning concerts ’ in 1779.
In 1779, Reinagle was living at the foot of
Blackfriars’ Wynd; in 1785, at Morrison’s Close, scale stairs.
We next hear of him playing in concertos with Cramer
and others in London, after two years’ sojourn in Dublin, where he
had gone in 1785, on the invitation of Lord Westmoreland, the Lord
He returned to London and played at Salomon’s
concerts as principal ceiloist during the time that Haydn conducted
them. Haydn was in London in 1790, and again in 1794.
By 1821 Reinagle had gone to Oxford, for he writes to
Nathaniel Gow from there. He had been well received in the old city
some years previously when he went to play at the Oxford concerts,
and on the advice of Lord Abingdon he settled there, where he died
Reinagle published five works, and left behind him a
quantity of mss.—overtures, trios and duets for violins and
pianoforte. One of his works is A Treatise on the
Violoncello. Joseph Reinagle, senior, .married a Scotswoman—Annie
Laurie—and their daughter, Maria Anna Theresa, Mrs. J. G. C. Schetky,
is thus described by her daughter:—
‘My mother was a highly accomplished artist in both
painting and music, having a splendid voice. She painted in various
styles, but miniature-painting was her forte. How excellent she was
in all respects, a perfect lady in manner and goodness and piety—
such a wife and mother in devotedness, and so beloved and respected!
I was never so happy as by her side.’
J. Cm C. Schetky thus married the daughter of Joseph
Reinagle the elder, and sister of Joseph Reinagle the younger.
Thomson’s list proceeds :—
‘Mr. Barnard, a very elegant violinist.’ Mr.
Barnard is, we fear, almost unknown to posthumous fame, whatever he
might have been to contemporary. Mr. Barnard is mentioned in a
concert given in St. Cecilia’s on December 8th, 1779, for at a
benefit on behalf of Mrs. Marchetti ‘a clarinet concerto by Mr.
Barnard’ is announced.
Thomson continues :—‘ The most accomplished
violin-player I ever heard, Paganini only excepted—I mean
Giornovicki, who possessed in a most extraordinary degree the
various requisites of his beautiful art; execution particularly
brilliant and finely articulated as possible, a tone of the richest
and most exquisite quality, expression of the utmost delicacy,
grace, and tenderness, and an animation that commanded your most
intense and eager attention. Paganini did not appear in Edinburgh
till thirty years after the hall was closed’ (it was closed in 1800:
Paganini played in Edinburgh in 1831). ‘There, as well as at
private parties, I heard GiornovicKi often, and always with no less
delight than I listened to Paganini. Both, if I may use the
expression, threw their whole hearts and souls into their Cremonas,
bows, and fingers.’ This is indeed high praise; but one who heard
Paganini, the acknowledged king of violinists, ought to have been
able to judge. We have known one person who heard Paganini play—an
old lady who died in 1897, aged eighty-one; as a girl she had heard
Paganini in the Music Hall in George Street.
Giovanni Marie Giornovichj, as he is known to have
signed his name, but sometimes styled in England John M. Giornovicki,
Jarnowick, or even Jornelli, was born at Palermo in 1745, and died
at St. Petersburg in 1804. A pupil both in ‘ music and morals ’ of
the somewhat famous and rather notorious Lolli, Giornovicki made
his debut in Paris in 1770, where, having played a concerto of his
master’s which did not ‘take,’ he substituted for it ‘a thing of his
own composing ’ which did.
Domenico Dragonetti, one of the greatest doublebass
players of his day, is said to have declared of Giornovicki that his
violin-playing was the most elegant and graceful he had ever heard
previously to Paganini’s, but that perhaps it lacked power. George
Hogarth writes of his performance thus:—‘Jarnowick was but a slender
musician. His concertos are agreeable and brilliant, but destitute
of profundity and grandeur. His performance was graceful and
elegant, and his tone was pure.’
Hogarth, an Edinburgh man, presumably heard
Giornovicki during his Edinburgh visit, which was not earlier than
1796 nor later than that.
The latter date is fixed rather curiously thus :
there is in the possession of Mr. John Glen a copy of ‘Mr.
Jarnovichi’s Reel,’ published by Gow and Shepherd, 41 North Bridge
Street. This firm removed to Princes Street in 1801. We have heard
Mr. Glen play the opening bars of the reel, sufficient to show that
this Italian had very successfully imitated the Scottish style of
On May 4th, 1791, Giornovicki gave his first London
concert—then as now a great event in the musical life of any
professional. Gifted as this Sicilian was, he was both insolent and
conceited, and as a natural result was for ever offending and
quarrelling with people. On one occasion it is related that he so
far forgot himself as to strike the Chevalier St. George, himself
both a violinist and a swordsman, whereupon the Prince, instead of
challenging him, merely said, ‘I have too much regard for his
musical talent to fight him.’ More serious was a quarrel with J. P.
Cramer, which resulted in Giornovicki being called out to a duel. We
do not know how it ended, but Giornovicki is said to have been a
good swordsman. His death in St. Petersburg took place quite
suddenly in 1804.
From Parke’s Musical Memoirs} which cover the
interval from 1784 to 1830, we glean some further but merely gossipy
information about this musician. W. T. Parke, who was for forty
years principal oboist to the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, under
date March 12th, 1793, writes thus of a performance in the ‘new
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane'. At the end of the second act, a concerto
was performed on the violin by 1 London, 1830.
Mr. Jarnovicki. Jarnovicki displayed a fine round and
sweet tone; his execution was brilliant, and his style natural and
pleasing. His concerto, though difficult, was full of melody, and he
played it with great ease. He was generally and vehemently
Further on1 we read:—‘His Royal Highness the Duke of
York gave a grand concert of instrumental music at York House,
Piccadilly, at which their Majesties and the Princesses were
present. . . . Jarnovicki was to have played a concerto on the
violin, by desire of her Majesty, who had never heard him perform,
but on coming into the room just before the music commenced, and
perceiving Salomon there (to whom he bore a violent hatred),
Jarnovicki vented his spleen by leaving the house immediately. This
insolent foreigner, who suffered professional jealousy to supersede
the respect due to the Queen of a great nation, deserved punishment
for his presumption.’ Jarnovicki once wanted to call a coach in
Tottenham Court Road, and although he had been in London for several
years (since 1789), he could not summon up enough English to direct
the driver to his house. At last he exclaimed, ‘ Malbrouk s’en va-t-en
guerre,’ which enabled the bystanders to guess that he meant
Parke gives us a few details about this man. that
musical Hotspur, died at St. Petersburg in the year 1804, of
apoplexy. He was an accomplished violin player, and his music is
melodious and pleasing. He was not, however, a profound musician, as
he merely wrote the subjects and solo parts of his concertos, and
employed an abler theorist than himself to harmonise them.
Jarnovicki was highly patronised while in England, but his violent
disposition disgusted most of his supporters.’ Parke tells us that
George iv., when Prince of Wales, learned the violoncello under John
Crosdill, and that at the Prince’s musical parties Jarnovicki was
The next performer we shall notice is —another
name not to be found in Grove. He appears to have succeeded Puppo in
1783, Puppo having resigned in the previous year, as leader and
first violin in the St. Cecilia’s orchestra, which post he held till
the concerts were given up.
In Kay’s Portraits, on the. plate for page 293, we
have a portrait of this man along with four others: Stabilini’s is
the right upper one of the set. The letter press says of it:—‘ A
capital resemblance of an Italian musician, Hieronymo Stabilini, who
was a native of Rome and came to Edinburgh about the year 1778. The
musical talents of Stabilini were much admired, and although, unlike the modern Orpheus, Paganini, he
could not “discourse sweet airs” from a single piece of catgut,
his performances on the four pieces were generally admired.’ The
date of Stabilini's arrival in Edinburgh was 1783, although it was
not until the following year that his name appeared on a St. Cecilia
It appears that Stabilini, who was no horseman, was
unfortunate enough to injure his ‘bow arm’ on one occasion at Leith races, after which accident it was remarked that he never
played quite so well as before.
George Thomson evidently did not think quite so
highly of Stabilini’s technique as the writer in Kay's Portraits,
for he says of him:—‘He had a good round tone, though to my
apprehension he did not exceed mediocrity as a performer.’
Stabilini figures in Stewart Watson’s picture, ‘ The
Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet-Laureate of the Lodge Canongate
Kilwinning No. 2.’ He is the second figure from the extreme left in
front of the organ, as will be seen from the port’on of the picture
reproduced on page 139. To quote again from A Winter •with Burns, we
find the following slight notice of ‘No. 27, Signor Stabilini, North
‘To give them music was his charge.—-BURNS.
Signor Stabilini, an Italian, was a celebrated
player on the violin, and during this winter was giving weekly
concerts in Edinburgh of vocal and instrumental music in conjunction
with Signors Urbani, Torrigiani, Corri, and others. Turns writes
more than once in reierence to his attendance at those concerts:—“
The members of the lodge, on account of the prevalent predilection
for music, induced the attendance and services of the first
professional talent which the city could command.”’ It will be
noticed that the line from Burns given above was the one intended in
‘Tam o' Shanter’ to apply to the devil,—there are those who would
not disapprove of the extension of the application.
Stabilini was a member of the Royal Edinburgh
Volunteers, his name appearing not far from Schetky’s in a printed
roll of the corps. Mr. John Glen has a copy of this exceedingly rare
Stabilini was no blind admirer of Corelli, for it is
recorded that on being asked at supper, after a concert at which
certain of that composer’s trios had been much applauded, what sort
of music they had been having, he replied:
‘A piece av toarky for a hungree bellee Is moatch
supeerior to Corelli.’
Stabilini was, to put it mildly, a bun
vivant-, Chambers describes him as ‘ broken down by dissipa tion.’
The following is told of him in Kay's Portraits:
Stabilini was particularly intimate with Corri, a
countryman of his own and teacher of eminence, who built the
music-rooms called the Adelphi Theatre at the head of Broughton
Street. One evening he and Corri had sat down for a convivial time,
having provided themselves with Scotch whisky in place of the light
wines of their own country, with the result that evening became
night and night the “small hours” before either was aware of it. At
last Stabilini rose, and opening a shutter exclaimed, “Corri, Corri,
begar, it’s to-morrow! From this we see that to-morrow comes only
to those who don’t know day from night.
Stabilini has left many traces of himself in
contemporary periodical literature.
On February 17th, 1785, Stabilini had a benefit
concert in St. Cecilia’s Hall; in June he played the first violin at
a concert of Mr. Aitkin’s in Dunn’s Assembly Rooms, and in July in
the same place he and Corri gave a joint concert.
In Stark’s Picture of Edinburgh1 we have the
following account of Stabilini’s arrival in Edinburgh: ‘After Puppo
had withdrawn himself from the weekly concerts, the Directors were
at no small pains to get a proper person to supply his place as the
leader of the orchestra. At this time a young performer of promising
celebrity as a violin .player appeared at Rome, 1800.
The Directors resolved to invite him to settle in
the Scottish capital. The offer was accepted, and Signor Stabilini
arrived at Edinburgh in the year 1783. The performer made his first
essay in such a style as to gain unqualified approbation, and he was
declared not unworthy to succeed his celebrated predecessor. But
Signor Stabilini, though a respectable performer, probably from the
want of rivalship in his department, has never advanced beyond the
limits to which his talents had already arrived. He, however, still
continues a favourite with the public, and though better performers
sometimes visit the metropolis, he is still to be considered as the
first resident violin player in Edinburgh.’
This is qualified praise, but it is interesting as
having been written while the subject of it was still alive. In 1787
Stabilini’s house was in 6 Shakespeare Square. In 1790 Stabilini was
living in a house at the north side of St. James’s Square; six years
later in North St. James’s Street. In the year 1790 he and Schetky
produced at the Theatre Royal ‘ a superb pantomimic spectacle’:
Schetky wrote the music, Stabilini conducted.
This musician is said to have been a great favourite
of Mr. Skene of Skene. He died at Edinburgh, and was buried in the
graveyard of St. Cuthbert’s or the ‘West Kirk.’ The tombstone may be
seen to this day, built into the old wall that skirts the ground
on the right of the pith leading from the main or west entrance. The
stone is surmounted by a lyre, below which is written ‘ Muta Jacet,’
and it bears the following inscription:—‘Memorise Hieronymi
Stabilini; amici moerentes posuerunt. Romse natus; Edinte ob' ;;
Mens. Jul. mdcccxv. ALtat liv.’
By the kindness of Mr. Ferguson of the Record Office
(City Chambers, Edinburgh), we are able to give the entry of the
interment of Stabilini’s remains :—
‘July 1815.—West Kirk. Mortality Ledger. Stabelino,
16th, Greitoni Stabelino from Rose Street. On shoulders. An Italiarc
Musician ; lys 6 ft. N. Glespie’s2 trough
stone. Age 53. Dropsy.’
We can picture the scene so well: the poor foreign
musician dying of dropsy in his humble lodgings in Rose Street—so
emphatically even at that time a ‘back street,’ whichever way you
take it—and then carried out ‘feet foremost,’ as the saying is, on
the shoulders of one or two friends, presumably his late
boon-companions, to be laid in that historic old churchyard, and
then—forgotten. Fifty-three years separate ‘Romse natus’ from
The Scots Magazine for 1815 contains the following in
‘13th July 1815.—At Edinburgh, Gerolamo Stabilini, a
native of Rome, for twenty-three years past well-known as the leader of the Edinburgh Concerts. This
performer’s execution as well as his expression, particularly as an
adagio player on the violin, have been seldom equalled, and his loss
will long be remembered with regret by the admirers of music in this
The following occurs in Stenhouse’s Lyric Poetry and
Music of Scotland, 1853, as a note on the song,
I'll aye ca’ in by yon town ’:— The fine old air
called “I’ll gang nae mair to yon town,” which was the first line
of an old ballad. . . . The tune appears in Oswald’s Caledonian
Pocket Companion. . . . This air was introduced as a rondo with
variations in a violin concerto composed by the late Mr. Giralamo
Stabilini, and performed by him at Edinburgh with great applause.’
The editor of ‘ Paterson’s Edition ’ of the Poems of
Robert Burns is responsible for the following:—‘ It may interest
some readers to be told that the air was a marked favourite of King
George iv.’ (The air alluded to is ‘I’ll gang nae mair to yon
1 Signor Girolamo Stabilini introduced it as a rondo
with variations in a violin concerto which was performed between the
play Rob Roy and the after-piece on the occasion of his Majesty
attending the Theatre of Edinburgh in 1822, and it was observed that
the King drummed with his fingers to the music while
sitting in his box.’
Dalzell,1 speaking of violins made by Guarnerius,
says : ‘ Stradivarius had been long the maker in highest repute, but
now Joseph Guarnerius begins to rival him, and some even gave his
instruments the preference. One of superior quality, the workmanship
of this latter artist, made in 1732, was brought from Rome in 1783
or 1784 by Girolamo Stabilini, the last leader of the Gentlemen’s
Concert in St. Cecilia’s Hall which subsisted long in the northern
Wilhelm Cramer, or the ‘elder Cramer,’ was born at
Manheim about 1730 (some give 1745), and died in London in 1805
(some give 1799). He was the father of a much better known man,
Johann Baptist Cramer, but both were excellent violinists. It is
with the elder Cramer that we are concerned in the history of St.
Cecilia’s, although he was accompanied on his first visit to
Edinburgh by his son Johann,‘even then a wonderful
pianist.’ Later, we are told, their assistance was anxiously
sought for in every orchestra of importance throughout the kingdom.’
Just as Reinagle had hospitably received Schetky as a
stranger from Germany, so we are told did the Schetkys in their turn
entertain the Cramers on their musical tour through England and
‘When John (i.e. J. C. Schetky) was about six years
old (1784 or 1785) . . . Mr. and Mrs. Cramer came from Germany,
bringing their son John (afterwards the celebrated composer and even
at that time a wonderful pianist), on a musical tour through England
and Scotland; and on reaching Edinburgh were received by my
grandfather with his accustomed hospitality.’ J. B. Cramer was
indeed one of the indispensable conditions of the success of a
fashionable concert in London between 1790 and 1830: he was great as
a violinist and great as a conductor both at concert, opera, and
oratorio. He had thee three of all the houses of the aristocratic
patrons of music, including the Prince Regent’s.
The father had, however, no mean career: in 1784 and
in 1787 he led the violins at the Handel Festival in Westminster
Abbey. Thomson writes of a visit of his to Edinburgh :—
‘When the celebrated leader, the elder Cramer,
visited St. Cecilia’s Hall and played a charming spirited overture
of Haydn’s, an old amateur next to whom I was seated, asked me: “
Whose music is that now?” “Haydn’s, sir,” said I. “Poor newfangled
stuff! ” he replied. “ I hope I shall never hear it again.” ’
The Edinburgh Evening Courant of July 30th,
1785, has the following interesting paragraph:—‘ At the
oratorio of “ Samson ” last night at St. Cecilia’s Hall, Mr. Cramer,
the leader at the commemoration of Handel, conducted the orchestra
with his usual ability.’ . . . ‘Young Mr. Cramer on the pianoforte
was most deservedly admired.’ Tenducci sang at this concert. ‘Mr.
Cramer’s benefit on Tuesday next’ is a further announcement: this
alludes to a concert which was announced on August ist, 1785, to be
postponed on account of an appearance of Mrs. Siddons at the Theatre
Royal. This brings the time and the manner of the time vividly
before us : ‘mutual accommodation was the excellent plan adopted
here,—it was also a most wise one, for it was not to be expected
that Cramer would have had many at St. Cecilia’s on the same night
that Siddons was declaiming in Shakespeare Square.
Franz or Francois Cramer was the second son of
Wilhelm Cramer; he was born at Schwetzingen, near Manheiin, in 1772.
He also was a famous ‘leader of the band’ in London.
Thomson’s list concludes with ‘ Stephen Clarke, an
excellent organist and harpsichord player, and twelve or fifteen
violins, basses, flutes, violas, horns, and clarionets, with extra
performers often from London.’ ‘From London’—quite as in our own
day: London is called in when anything very special is wanted.
Stephen Clarke, however, represented in excellent
style the native school of composers, and was concerned in no
insignificant way in furnishing airs for the various collections of
Scots songs for which Burns wrote so much. He was most serviceable
to Burns and his collectors, not only in composing airs, but
in ‘ taking down ’ tunes while they were being sung or whistled.
Clarke was a teacher of music in Edinburgh, and also
organist to the 'Episcopal Chapel in the Cowgate,’ Old St. Paul’s
in South Gray’s Close, now St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. In
1785 he was living in Gosford’s Close, Lawnmarket. Clarke died in
Edinburgh, August 6th, 1797, and was succeeded by his son William,
who harmonised some of his fathers tunes for Johnson’s Musical
Museum, but was very much less talented.
The origin of the tune, ‘Ca’ the yowes to the
knowres,’ is interesting. Burns says:—‘I am flattered at your
adopting “Ca’ the yowes to the knowes,” as it was owing to me that
it ever saw the light. About seven years ago I was well acquainted
with a worthy little fellow' of a clergyman, a Mr. Clunie, who sang
it charmingly then, and, at my request, Mr. Clarke took it down from
Again, as to ‘ Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon ’ he
writes:—‘ This air, I think, might find a place among your hundred.
. . . Do you know the history of the air? It is curious enough. A
good many years ago, Mr. James Miller, writer in your good town, a
gentleman whom possibly you know, was in company with our friend
Clarke, and, talking of Scottish music, Miller expressed an ardent
ambition to be able to compose a Scots air. Mr. Clarke, partly by
way of joke, told him to keep to the black keys of the harpsichord,
and preserve some kind of rhythm, and he would infalibly compose a
Scots air. Certain it is that in a few days Mr. Miller produced tne
rudiments of an air which Mr. Clarke with some touches and
corrections fashioned into the tune in question. . . . This account
which I have just given you, Mr. Clarke informed me of several years
‘Mr. Clarke’ is frequently mentioned in the
Burns-Thomson letters. Thus in the seventh (7 th April 1793) Burns
writes :—‘ “ Craigieburn Wood,” in the opinion of Mr. Clarke, is one
of our sweetest Scottish songs. He is quite an enthusiast about it;
and I would take his taste for Scottish music against the taste of
Again in letter xiii. (September 1793), writing of
the ‘Scots wha hae’air, he says:—‘Clarke's set of the tune, with his
bass, you will find in the Museum; though I am afraid that the air
is not what will entitle it to a place in your elegant selection.’
Again Burns writes of Clarke, ‘ You know his taste is
a standard.’ In letters xvii., xviii., xx., and xxv. this musician
is further mentioned.
Clarke ‘took down’ the tune put to Burns’s song,
‘What will I do gin my hoggie die’ from an old woman’s singing it
while spinning outside her cottage in a hamlet of Liddesdale. In
the same way he preserved the air to an old ballad, ‘Our guidman
came hame at e'en,’ while it was being sung by an old man of the
name of Geikie, a barber in the Candlemaker Row in Edinburgh.
Clarke composed several Scottish tunes. Stenhouse in
his Lyric Poetry and Music of Scotland, writes:— ‘In the Museum, the ballad of “William and Margaret” by Mr. Hallet is adapted to a beautiful slow melody which was composed by
the late Mr. Stephen Clarke of Edinburgh, organist.’
Again,4 speaking of the anonymous song, ‘Chanticleer
wi’ noisy whistle,’ he says :—‘ The words are adapted to a fine
melody which was composed by the late Mr. Stephen Clarke.’
Once more, it appears that Clarke composed the tune
for Burns’s patriotic song, ‘Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?’ written in 1795. The song with
Clarke’s music was distributed amongst the Dumfries Volunteers, the
corps of which Burns was a member. Burns calls it his ‘Volunteer
Ballad,’ and says:—‘Our friend Clarke has indeed done well. I have
not met with anything that has pleased me so much.’
Burns relied very much on Clarke’s critical judgment:
having written the song, ‘Here’s to thy health, my bonnie lass,’ for
Johnson’s Museum, he submits two tunes for it, asking Clarke to
adopt whichever he likes best.
It is always interesting to know a man’s favourite
tune—especially a composer’s. Clarke's was the tune, ‘The Braes of
Balquhidder.’ Clarke wrote below the song set to it—‘ And I’ll kiss
thee yet ’—‘ I am charmed with this song almost as much as the lover
is with “Bonnie Peggy Alison.”—S. C.’
It was to gratify Stephen Clarke that Burns wrote the
very pretty song, ‘ Phillis the Queen o’ the Fair.’ The heroine of
it had a name in itself almost enough to annihilate the very first
strivings towards articulation of the most fervent poetical spirit
that ever burned in a male breast—Miss Philadelphia MacMurdo.
In the painting of Burns’s installation as poet
laureate of the Canungate Kilwinning Lodge, No. 33 in the musician
group is named ‘ Samuel Clarke, ‘ Quite a martial tune ’ (Mr. John
organist of Cowgate Chapel.’ This is clearly a
mistake for Stephen Clarke, who was, as we have seen, a contemporary
of Burns and also organist of the Cowgate Chapel.
In 1790 Clarke was living at 6 Canal Street.
The Professional Orchestra Proper.
After so great a lapse of time it is a matter of
considerable difficulty to discover the names of the men who made up
the ‘ rank and file ’ of that old St. Cecilia Orchestra ; but the
first Directory of Edinburgh ever published ought to prove something
more than a broken reed.
It was published in 1774, and the following is a
complete list of musicians and music-sellers wh;ch appeared in it:—
‘Robert Bremner, music shop at the Cross.
John Clark, Organist, Blackfriars’ Wynd.
Robert Hutton, Musician, Kennedy’s Close.
Robert M'Intosh, Musician, Sk'nner’s Close.
John MTherson, Musician, Bell's Wynd.
Neil Stewart, music shop, Parliament Close.
John Smiton (Smeaton), Musician, Henderson’s Land.
George Cooper, Music-master, back of the Exchange.
John Grewar, Musician, entry to Gavinloch’s Land.’
These were the musicians known to be living in Edinburgh in 1774 : not one is entered as a teacher
of singing; the majority of them we may therefore conclude were
instrumentalists who earned their daily bread by playing for it, and
if so, we seem fully justified in believing that in the list before
us we have the names of the very men who formed the nucleus of the
orchestra in this old place twelve years after the hall was built.
Two things strike us as very interesting when we scan
this list: first, that all these men lived within a few hundred
yards of the Niddry Wynd; and in the second place, that the number
of professional musicians in 1774 is surprisingly large, both
absolutely, and especially relatively to the numbers of members of
other professions in Edinburgh.
The large number in 1774 is still more striking when
compared with the list of musicians in 1805, four or five years
after the hall was closed.
It is as follows, from the Edinburgh Directory of
'G. Stabilini, 1 North St. James’s Street.
Urbani and Liston, Music-sellers, 10 Princes Street.
N. Corri, Music-seller, Concert Rooms, Leith Walk.
William Clark, Music teacher, 6 James Street.’
No concert—no orchestra. Of these not one is entered
as a ‘musician’; Urbani, Liston, and Corri appear as music-sellers;
Stabilini and William Clark we know were instrumentalists—they are
This corresponds exactly with what we know about the
dead state of music, and indeed of all art, at this time in
Edinburgh : we cannot but feel the sharpness of the contrast with
its very vital state thirty years earlier, when the St. Cecilia
concerts v*ere in full swing.
The century had opened gloomily: the political
stability of Europe was being threatened by the insane ambition of
one man, through whom this country was being drained of money, and
thrown into a state of acute depression which affected all
departments of life, but, naturally, more especially the departments
The Professional Vocalists.
By far the greatest of the professional singers who
ever sang at St. Cecilia’s was Gitjsto Ferdinando Tenducci. He was
born in the town of Sienna about 1736, and died early in this
century somewhere in Italy. From the place of his birth, he was
sometimes known in his own country as ‘ Senesino.’ He had been
trained in singing by Ferdinando Bertoni, a celebrated Italian
singing-master. In 1758, Tenducci came over to London, where his
magnificent voice almost at once won for h'm critical recognition.
He supplanted a singer Guadagni, and became the hugely paid,
fashionable idol of the hour. His first public appearance was in a piece called Attalio, but it was
not until he had sung in the opera Giro riconosciuto, which was
performed in the beginning of 1759, that his first-rate talents were
fully perceived. In 1764 he met Mozart in London, and in 1784 and
1791 sang in the Handel Festivals. Previously he had ‘ made a hit,’
singing in I)r. Arne’s Artaxerxes, and shortly afterwards
accompanied Arne upon a tour to Scotland and Ireland, which brought
him back to London in 1765. He paid several visits to Edinburgh,
staying occasionally, according to some accounts, with the noble
family of Hopetoun, whom Thomson describes as his ‘patrons,’ and on
these occasions always gave one or two concerts in the Niddry Wynd.
Thomson describes these as causing quite a 'sensation ’ amongst the local musicians, and continues ‘I considered
it a jubilee year whenever Tenducci arrived, as no singer I ever
heard sang with more expressive simplicity, or was more efficient,
whether he sang the classical songs of Metastasio, or those of
Arne’s Artaxerxes, or the simple melodies of Scotland. To the latter
he gave such an intensity of interest by his impassioned manner and
by his clear enunciation of the words, as equally surprised and
I never can forget the pathos and touching effect of
his “Gilderoy,” “Lochaber no more,” “The Braes of Ballenden,” “I’ll
never leave thee,” “Roslin Castle.”
These, with the “Verdi prati” of Handel, “Fair Aurora” from Arne’s Artaxerxes, and Gluck’s “Che faro,” were above all
So high was Tenducci’s art, his morals could not
approach it: he was extravagant and dissipated, and in 1776 had to
leave England in debt. He returned, however, and published
a Treatise oti Singing and the Ranleigh Songs, which he had composed.
In 1778 he again met Mozart, this time in Paris, when the great
master composed a song for him that has been lost.
In the recently published Life of Robert Fergusson by
the late Dr. Alexander Grosart, there occurs a most interesting
mention of this eminent singer:—‘More suggestive still—as it was my
privilege first to publish —Tenducci became his (i.e. Fergusson’s)
friend—that Tenducci who first directed the attention of George
Thomson to the Scottish melodies, and so indirectly became the
originator of his great work.’ . . . It is to be here recorded
that to the opera Artaxerxes, which was produced in 1769 with many
attractions in the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, Fergusson contributed
three songs.’ It appears to have been Fergusson’s words to the airs
‘Braes of Ballenden,’ 'Roslin Castle,’ and ‘Lochaber no more,’
that Tenducci sang. Grosart speaks of Tenducci’s friendship for Fergusson as being an established thing in 1769, and
says that long after Fergusson’s death in 1774 the great singer
could not speak of the ill-fated young poet without weeping. Grosart
further mentions Madame Tenducci, and he says that she also sang in
the production of Artaxerxes mentioned above.
The following is the title of the publication
containing the songs of Fergusson :—
‘Artaxerxes, an English Opera, as it is performed at
the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. The music composed by Tho. Aug. Arne,
Mus. Doc., with the addition of three favourite Scots airs. The
words by Mr. R. Fergusson. Edin. : printed by Martin & Wotnerspoon.
The performers were:—Artaxerxes, Mr.
Ross; Artabanes, Mr. Phillips; Arbaces, Mr. Tenducci;
Rime ties, Mrs. Woodman; Mandane, - ;
Seniera, Miss lirown.
The actress whose name is left blank was Madame
Tenducci. The part of Mandane was written by Arne expressly tor his
celebrated pupil Miss Brent, who became Mrs. Thomas Pinto.
But Tenducci resided on several occasions in
Edinburgh, and practised his profession as a teacher of singing.
In Kay’s Portraits1 we have a very interesting side-light upon the
genial Italian’s life in this city. The subject of the sketch is
‘Mr. John Campbell,’ who in 1775 became the precentor of the Canongate Parish
Church, and of whom the writer says:—‘John Campbell, . . . along
with his brother Alexander, . . . became a pupil of the celebrated
Tenducci, a fashionable teacher who remained in Edinburgh for some
time. . . . The charge for each lesson was half a guinea, but the
Italian exhibited a degree of considerate partiality for the musical
brothers by affording them instructions at half-price.’ Both the
brothers Campbell were present, according to Stewart Watson’s
picture, on the evening of Burns’s installation as poet-laureate to
the Freemasons’ Lodge, an occasion to which we have so frequently
Tenducci must have been possessed of that order of
kind-heartedness which expresses itself in outward acts involving
some considerable amount of personal trouble. He was anxious, before
he left Edinburgh, to see his friend Campbell of the Canongate
earning a larger income, and thereby justified in going the length
of establishing a Mrs. Campbell. He accordingly induced the worthy
precentor to sit to Allan the painter for his portrait, which
Tenducci had engraved and below it had written, ‘C—p—11, P—n—r,
C—g—e C—h.’ This, as a ‘ Circular.’he despatched to most of the
well-known people in town, the Duchess of Gordon, Lady Wallace, the
Earl of Hopetoun, and Sir John Halket, among others. Tenducci left
Edinburgh without ever telling Campbell what he had done, the result
being that the astonished precentor of the Canongate received a
number of letters requesting his ‘professional services.’
The writer adds in a footnote:—‘Tenducci was an
unrivalled singer of old Scottish songs, such as “Flowers of the
Forest,” “Waly, waly, gin love be bonny,” “The Lass o’ Patie’s
Mill,” “The Braes o’ Bellendean,” “Water parted from the sea,” “One
day I heard Mary say,” “An thou wert my ain thing.”’ O’Keefe in
his Recollections says:—‘About the year 1766 I saw Tenducci in
Dublin as “Arbaces” in Artaxerxes, which I had seen in London on its
first coming out at Covent Garden in 1762. His singing “Water
parted” was the great attraction, as were the airs he sang as the
first spirit in Comus. At his benefits there he had thirty, forty,
and fifty guineas for a single ticket. The frolicsome Dublin boys
used to sing about the streets to the old tune of “Over the hills
and far away” :—
“Tenducci was a piper’s son
And he was in love when he ^as young,
And all the tunes that he could play
parted from the say” .
In 1784 I knew Tenducci in London, when he set to
music Captain Jeph son’s Campaign.
Seeing that Dr. Arne and Tenducci travelled together in 1765 in Scotland and Ireland, we may
assume it for a certainty that when in Edinburgh with the great
vocalist, Dr. Arne would be present at a St. Cecilia concert, if not
as conductor of some things from his own Artaxerxes, then surely as
an honoured guest.
Tenducci turns up once more in quite another
situation, for ‘ when Smollett was confined in the King’s Bench
Prison (1758-59) for libel upon Admiral Knowles,’ says Chambers in
the Traditions, ‘he formed an intimacy with the celebrated Tenducci.’ The vocalist had been imprisoned for debt, but Smollett
took pity upon him to the very practical extent of paying his debts,
and so procuring his release. Years afterwards Tenducci was singing
in an Edinburgh drawing-room, and when some one told him that a lady
present was a relative of his benefactor, the grateful Italian, at
once advancing before her, seized her hands and covered them with
kisses in a manner so wholly un-Scottish, that the good lady was not
a littie embarrassed in presence of a roomful of people ignorant of
the cause of it all. It is extremely probable that during Smollett’s
visit to Edinburgh in 1766 he would attend a concert or two at St.
Cecilia’s, the place which his devoted protege could, even alone,
have made famous.
Stenhouse, writing in Johnson’s Scuts Musical Museum, quotes Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe on Tenducci
‘Ferdinando Tenducci.—This was, as far as I know, the
only very celebrated Italian singer who ever visited Scotland. His
arrival is thus announced in the Edinburgh Evening Courant, Monday,
May 16, 1758.2 “Last night arrived here from Ireland, Mr. Tenducci,
the celebrated singer.”
‘Along with him he brought his wife, whom he had
married in Ireland : she also sang in public, but with a very
indifferent voice, as I have been told by those who heard it. Her
extraordinary platonic passion ended in an elopement with a gallant,
and in a divorce which makes a figure in the trials for adultery,
etc. Tenducci was a very handsome man; she a pretty, modest-looking
girl. He taught music while in Edinburgh; and published a folio
volume of his own compositions of which this is the title—“A
collection of lessons for the Harp sichord or Piano and forte
composed by Ferdinando Tenducci: Dedicated to the Right Honourable
Lady Hope: Printed for the author, and to be got at his lodgings
opposite Lord Milton’s, Canongate; at Mrs. Phin’s, and Richard
Carmichael, engraver, back of the guard, and at R. Bremner’s music
shop.” Minuets are mingled with sonatas, but only two have the names
of ladies prefixed—Ladies Hope and Cunningham (Miss
Myrton of Gogar). Lady Cunningham’s minuet with variations is
extremely beautiful.—(C. K. S.)’
Between May 1768 and 1785, Tenducci was heard a good
many times in Edinburgh both on the concert platform and on the
operatic stage. His engagements are advertised in the Edinburgh
Evening Courant, the first after his arrival bearing date May 21st,
1768:— ‘(By particular desire of several persons of distinction) on
Wednesday, the 25th May 1768, Mr. Tenducci will give a concert of
vocal and instrumental music at St. Cecilia’s Hall, Niddry’s Wynd.
Particulars of the entertainment will be expressed in the bills of
the day. Tickets, price two shillings and sixpence, to be had at
Balfour’s coffee-house and at Mr. Tenducci’s lodgings at Mrs.
Reynold’s in Miln’s Square. To begin at six o’clock precisely.’
In the same paper on May 28th, 1768, the following
appears:—‘Mr. Tenducci set out this day for Ireland, but is
engaged to return against the 28th of June when a concert is fixed
for him,’ after which the above-given details as to tickets, etc.,
The exact date in June of the great singer’s return
does not appear; but the issue of June 13th, 1768, contains the
announcement of a concert in terms identical with the above, except
that Tenducci’s lodging is changed. ‘ Tickets may be had at
Balfour’s coffeehouse and at Mr. Tcnducci’s house opposite to Lord
Milton’s lodgings, Canongate’ (the famous Milton House).
On June 20 and 27 this announcement is repeated, with
the additional information that ‘ Particulars of the entertainment
will1 be expressed with handbills which will be given at the door
the evening of the concert.’
The next announcement bears out what we know of
Tenducci’s practical kindness :—
'July 20t/i, 1768.—For the benefit of Mr. Olivieri
(who is in a very bad state of health), on Wednesday next the 27th,
will be performed a grand concert of vocal and instrumental music
under the direction of Mr. Tenducci. . . . Mr. Tenducci acquaints
that all the professors of music will not only perform on that
night, but exert their utmost interest for a brother professor in
distress who is not capable to wait on anybody.’
Tenducci at this time had ‘come to stay’—a long time
for him; for on August 6th, 1768, anether announcement is made to
the effect that ‘Mr. Tenducci begs leave to inform the public that
he intends to teach singing, and will attend ladies and gentlemen at
their own houses,’ his address being still in the Canongate opposite
‘ Lord Milton’s lodgings.’
In the issue of the Edinburgh Evening Courant for
December 5th, 1768, the following occurs:—‘Mr. Tenducci's Concert is
fixed for to-morrows night, being the 13th inst.’; and on
December 21st we have : ‘ By order of the Governors and Directors of
the Musical Society, Mr. Tenducci’s second concert is fixed for
Tuesday, 28th of February 1769.’ Tickets were 2s. 6d.
Early in January of the next year we find Tenducci
singing in a ‘ serious opera,’ the Royal Shepherd, at the Canongate
Theatre, and March 8th was a benefit night for him in this same
piece. He had thus been fairly busy with concert and operatic
singing in addition to his private teaching, but he had contrived to
publish on April 17th, 1769, the work described above by C. K.
By June 7th, 1769, he is back to the locality which
he first patronised, Mylne’s Square, where tickets for a ‘concert in
St. Cecilia’s Hall on Wednesday 21st, at which a new seranata will
be performed, are to be got of Mr. Tenducci at his house in Miln’s
Square, first door up the scale stairs, back court.’
Mrs. Tenducci, ‘who performs only on that occasion,’
sustained one of the vocal parts, assisted by her husband, Miss
Alphez, and Mr. Taylor.
About the middle of July 1769, Tenducci was unwell,
and Artaxerxes was substituted at the theatre for some other opera
in which he was to have sung. At the end of the month he had a
benefit performance of Artaxerxes; and again on August 5 th it was
Tenducci taking the part of ‘Arbaces.’ The Tenduccis
probably remained in Edinburgh until the following year, for on
January 8th, 1770, ‘Mrs. Tenducci’s concert of vocal and
instrumental music at St. Cecilia’s Hall’ on the 23rd of the month
is advertised: address for tickets still Mylne’s Square, back court.
In August 1779, Tenducci again appears in Edinburgh,
lodging at Ann Street, New Town, but without his wife, and
advertises that on 3rd September, by permission of the Governors and
Directors of the Musical Society, there will be a benefit concert in
St. Cecilia’s for him and Signora Marchetti. On November 24th of
this year Tenducci takes his benefit, and himself to Mrs. Stewart’s,
third door in Gavinloch’s Land. Lawnniarket. In December 1779 he
sings Scots songs at Mrs. Marchetti’s concert, Mrs. Marchetti having
Puppo to play a violin obligato to her singing. ‘ Tickets are to be
had of Mrs. Marchetti at Mrs. Stewart’s, Gavinloch’s Land,
Lawnmarket.’ Oh! Mr. Tenducci, Mr. Tenducci, Oh!
In the Caledonian Mercury of August 6, 1785, Tenducci
announces that on the 10th, at a benefit concert in St. Cecilia’s
Hall, he will present his patrons ‘with a beautiful engraving by
Mr. Bertalozzi, after a design of the celebrated Cipriani.’ We infer
that this is an engraving of Tenducci himself: the notice goes on
politely to suggest that it should not be thrown away at the door.
Tenducci was at this time living at 8 Princes Street.
There is an allusion to Tenducci in a very quaint
appendix to Arnot’s History, entitled ‘A Dissertation on the
Scottish Mustek.’ ‘ We sometimes find a foreign master who, with a
genius for the pathetick and a knowledge of the subject and words,
has afforded very high pleasure ir a Scots song. Who could hear with
insensibility or without being moved in the greatest degree,
Tenducci sing “I’ll never leave thee,” or “The Braes of Ballendine”?’
Robert Bremner, incidentally mentioned by Sharpe, was
what we would nowadays call an ‘agent ’ for musicians. Born in
Scotland about 1720, he had been a pupil of Geminiani’s and taught
singing in Edinburgh, besides establishing himself in business as a
musical publisher in premises opposite the head of Blackfriars’ Wynd
in the High Street.
He published, amongst other works, Thoughts on the
Performance of Concert Music, inspired, no doubt, by his experience
as agent for the Edinburgh Musical Society. About 1761 he went to
London, but continued to make important engagements for the old
Edinburgh Society, Schetky being one whom he sent down. He also
published Tfie Rudiments of Music, with Psalmody (1756); A
Collection of Scots Reels-, A Collection of Scots Songs.
Bremner died at Kensington Gore in May 1789. ‘Miss
Poole, Mr. Smeaton, Mr. Gilson, and Mr. Urbani were also,’ wrote
Thomson, ‘for a time singers at the hall, chiefly of English and
The ‘ Mr. Urbani of this sentence was a
Signor Pietro Urbani, who was born in Milan in 1749, and died in
South Cumberland Street, Dublin, in 1816, according to one account ‘
in extreme poverty.’
The obituary of the Scots Magazine for 1816 thus
notices his death :—‘ Died lately in South Cumberland Street,
Dublin, aged 67, after a painful and tedious illness, which he bore
with resignation, Peter Urbani, professor of music, a native of
Milan in Italy, where he obtained the degree of Doctor of Music. The
celebrated Rontzini and Urbani were the only remaining two of that
great school of science. They finished their studies nearly about
the same time, quitted their native home together, and arrived in
London. After some years Rontzini went to Bath, Urbani to Edinburgh,
where he resided for many years with distinguished eclat. He has
left an aged widow behind, a foreigner, now deprived of everything,
even the means of subsistence.’
Urbani seems to have come to Edinburgh about 1784 and
to have resided there for some considerable time, probably until
well on into the first decade of the present century, when he
removed to Dublin. In 1785 Urbani was lodging in two different
places, in April at Mrs. Alexander’s, First Turnpike, head of St. Mary’s Wynd,
and in July ‘head of Warriston’s Close, Luckcnbooths,’ but in 1796
his address is ‘foot of Carrubber’s Close.’ In 1792 he was living in
Carrubber’s Close on the north side of the High Street. Urbani,
besides singing as soloist at the St. Cecilia concerts, undoubtedly
taught music and singing in Edinburgh, hence the designation
‘Professor of Music’; and was moreover a well-known character in the
convivial and artistic life of Edinburgh —two departments thereof
that were never very far separated from each other.
Urbani seems to have been decidedly popular while in
Edinburgh, and for several years prosperous, until he embarked on a
very unsuccessful undertaking thus described in the Lyric Poetry and
Music of Scotland:— ‘In 1802 he and the late Mr. Sybold, the
composer and harp-player, engaged a numerous and respectable band of
vocal and instrumental performers from various parts of the kingdom,
that the inhabitants of Edinburgh and Glasgow might be gratified
with hearing some of the best oratorios of Handel, etc. This
concern, though deserving of encouragement, did not succeed, and the
affairs of both contractors ^ere ruined. Sybold died that spring of
a broken heart, and poor Urbani, after struggling with his
misfortunes for some time in Edinburgh, was at length induced to
settle in Ireland.’
The old Dictionary of Musicians says of Urbani:— ‘His
taste in arranging Scotch music, and even in composing imitations of
it, was highly considered at Edinburgh, where he published several
volumes of Scotch melodies with new accompaniments, and some of his
own airs intermixed. One of his most admired songs in the Scotch
style is “The Red Rose,” given in the Vocal Anthology
As a matter of fact, Urbani must have been very
industrious during his time in Edinburgh, for he published between
1792 and 1804 six volumes of Scots songs, the full title of which is
: ‘A Selection of Scots Songs harmonised and improved with simple
and adapted graces. Most respectfully dedicated to the Right
Honourable (Elizabeth Dalrymple) the Countess of Balcarres, by Peter
Urbani, professor of music. Book 'Entered at Stationers’ Hall;
Price twelve shillings.’
Book II. is dedicated to the Lady Catherine Douglas,
daughter of the Earl of Selkirk.
Book III. is dedicated to the Hon. Lady Carnegie.
Edinburgh, printed and sold by Urbani and Liston, 10 Princes Street.
Book IV. is dedicated to the Right Hon. Lady Lucy
Books V. and VI., published together as ‘A select
collection of original Scotch airs with verses, the most part of
which were written by the celebrated Robert Burns,’ were dedicated
to the Duchess of Bedford.
Of Urbani’s songs it has been remarked : ‘Urbani’s
selection is remarkable in three respects—the novelty and kind of
instruments used in the accompaniments; the filling up of the
pianoforte harmony; and the use for the first time of introductory
and concluding symphonies to the melodies.’
Urbani also published in Edinburgh ‘A further
selection of Scotch tunes, properly arranged as duettos for two
German flutes or two violins, by F. Urbani. Book i., Price 5s. . . .
Printed and sold by Urbani and Liston ’ (Princes Street).
The notice to the old Scottish tune, ‘Thou art gane
awa’ ’ (new set), in Lyric Poetry and Music runs thus :— ‘This is
the same air with the embellishments introduced by the late Mr. P.
Urbani in singing the song at the concerts in Edinburgh. This
gentleman published at Edinburgh in two folio volumes “A select
collection of original Scottish airs for the voice, with
introductory and concluding symphonies and accompaniments for the
pianoforte, violin, and violoncello”—a work of great merit. In the
preface he informs us that, having been struck with the elegant
simplicity of the original Scots melodies, he applied himself for
several years in attending to the manner of the best Scottish
singers, and having attached himself to that which was generally
allowed to be the best, he flattered himself that he had acquired
the true national taste. He sung during a period of four years the
Scots airs in the concerts of the Harmonical Society of Edinburgh,
and for three years in the concerts in Glasgow. In both places he
received such marks of universal applause as convinced him that his
method of singing was approved by the best judges.’
Urbani is described as an excellent singer, and his
knowledge of counterpoint is said to have been masterly and
The tune, ‘O can ye sew cushions?’ was a great favourite of Urbani’s, and he gave it a new accompaniment in his
collection of songs.
Urbani, though unknown to Grove, was not unknown to
Burns—indeed, Burns and he seem to have been very good friends.
Urbani’s name comes to be associated with the birth of two of the
finest of Scottish songs, the one that magnificent ode, ‘Bruce to
his troops on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn,’ the other that
sweetest and saddest of all songs, ‘Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie
The circumstances attending the composition of the
former are very well known, but they are so interesting that they
warrant repetition a propos of our musician Urbani.
Burns and his friend Mr. Syme had been paying a visit
to the Earl of Selkirk at Mary’s Isle in July 1793, and Mr. Syme
thus writes of a musical evening at his lordship’s:—‘Urbani, the
Italian, sung us many Scottish songs accompanied with instrumental
music. The two young ladies of Selkirk sung also. We had the old
song of “Lord Gregory,” which I asked for, to have an opportunity
of calling on Burns to recite his ballad to that tune; he did recite
it,’ etc. etc.
On the 30th of July, Mr. Syme and our bard set out on
horseback from the hospitable mansion of Mr. Gordon of Kenmore for
Gatehouse, a village in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright. ‘I took
him,’ says Mr. Syme, ‘ by the moor road, where savage and desolate
regions extended wide around. The sky was sympathetic with the
wretchedness of the soil, and it became lowering and dark. The
hollow winds sighed, the lightnings gleamed, the thunder rolled. The
poet enjoyed the awful scene. He spoke not a word, but seemed rapt
in meditation. . . . What do you think he was about ? He was
charging the English Army along with Bruce at Bannockburn. He was
engaged in the same manner on our ride home from St. Mary’s Isle,
and I did not disturb him. Next day (2nd August 1793) he produced me
the following “Address of Bruce to his Troops,” and gave me a copy
Burns, writing to Thomson the next month
(Sept. 1793) and sending him a copy of the poem, says in allusion to
the old Scottish air, ‘Hey tutti taitie,’ which he, in accordance
with an old tradition, believed to have been Bruce’s ‘march’ at
Bannockburn, that, as played by Fraser on his hautboy, it often
brought tears to his eyes.
In a postscript to the letter he says:—‘I showed the
air to Urbani, who was highly pleased with it, and begged me to make
soft verses for it, but I had no idea of giving myself any trouble
on the subject, till the accidental recollection of that glorious
struggle for freedom, associated with the glowing ideas of some
other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient,1 roused my
We all know the rest of the story—how Thomson,
disapproving of the tune Burns alluded to, desired him to lengthen
the incisive final line of each verse to suit a tune ‘Lewie
Gordon,’ which he thought more dignified. Burns in his great
condescension actually complied with this fiat of bad judgment, and
the mutilated version was published. After some years, however,
Thomson was reconciled to the original tune in connection with which
everybody knows the song.
Urbani is once again mentioned in a letter to Thomson
(September 1793), in which also Burns makes direct allusion to the
St. Cecilia’s concert. . .“Toddlin’ hame”: Urbani mentioned an idea uf his
which has long been mine, that this air is highly susceptible of
pathos; accordingly you will soon hear him, at your concert, try it
to a song of mine in theMuseum, “Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie
I)oon.”’ Here we are behind the scenes, as it were, in the
manufacturing of a Scottish song. An old Scottish air is to
be tried by an Italian musician for the first time in public at a
forthcoming St. Cecilia’s concert, to verses of Burns written years
before. All the world knows that exquisite wedding of Scottish
pathos in music to Scottish pathos in verse, ‘Ye banks and braes,’
but all the world does not know that it was first sung in 1793 by a
now long-forgotten Italian, at one of the weekly concerts in the
dreary old Niddry Wynd off the High Street of Edinburgh.
Urbani while in Dublin had two operas of his
performed, II Fornace and II Trionfo di Cltlia.
It will be noticed that Urbani’s collection of
Scottish songs clashed as to date with Thomson's, and accordingly we
are not surprised to find that he and Thomson were by no means good
friends. Thomson expresses himself as to Urbani as follows:—‘... an
Italian here who has published a water-gruel collection of these
songs, and would see me at the devil on account of my collection’
Musicians, however, confess that Urbani’s harmonising
and accompan'ments were very good indeed. Burns, no judge of singing
beyond what every one feels about good or bad voire-product'op.,
thus writes of Urbani to Thomson (1783):—‘He is, votre nous, a
narrow, conceited creature, but he sings so delightfully that
whatever he introduces to your concert must have immediate
celebrity.’ In the same letter Burns admits that Urbani ‘looks with
rather an evil eye’ on the collection: it was another case of I two
of a trade seldom agree.’ The ‘ narrow, conceited creature ’ could
on occasion be bold enough: he once sang a comic
song!—vidt the Caledonian Mercury, March 14th, 1785.
From Urbani we are led on to the name ‘Corri.’
Thomson’s words are:—‘ Signor and Signora Domenico Corri from Rome;
he with a falsetto voice which he managed with much skill and taste;
the signora with a fine, full-toned, flexible soprano voice.’ The
family of Corri was a large one: various members of it appeared in,
disappeared from, and reappeared in Edinburgh musical annals ;unto
the third and fourth generation.’
Domenico Corri was born at Rome on the 4th of October
1746, and died at Hampstead, London, in July 1825, as appears from
the obituary of the Scots Magazine for that month :—‘ Suddenly, at
Hampstead, Mr. D. Corri, well known as composer and teacher of
eminence for the last fifty years in London and Edinburgh.’
The following facts are from an autobiography which
he prefixed to The Singers Preceptor, or CorrPs Treatise on Vocal
Music} The son of a confectioner in a religious house, the Cardinal
Portocaro nearly persuaded young Corri to study for the priesthood;
but his musical aptitude early asserting itself, he found himself in
Naples, a pupil of Porpora. In the house of this prince of singing
masters—himself a pupil of Scarlatti and the world-renowned master
of Mingotti and Farinelli—Corri boarded for five years (1763-1767),
and chiefly owed his introduction into the best English society at
Rome to the fame of Porpora and the estimation in which that great
singer was held by a section of our nobility.
Here Corri was patronised by the Duke of Leeds, the
Duke of Dorset, and the celebrated Dr. Burney. Through these persons
Corri was introduced to Prince Charles Edward and his brother
Cardinal York. The Prince was at this time living in a strictly
private fashion, and Corri spent many an evening with him, the
prince playing the ’cello, Corri the harpsichord.
Following Corri’s own narrative, we read :—‘ About
this time (1780) the Musical Society at Edinburgh, wanting a singer
and conductor for their concerts, wrote to l’Abbe Grant at Rome, desiring him to obtain
for them, if possible, either of the two persons mentioned by Dr.
Burney. At the arrival of this letter, l’Abbe Grant found these two
persons, namely Miss Bacchelli and myself, united in marriage. This
circumstance being no impediment to the proposal from Edinburgh, ...
he immediately concluded for us an engagement for three years at
Edinburgh, with a handsome provision for our journey. We accordingly
left Italy about three months after, and arrived at Edinburgh,
In Dr. Burney’s State of Music in Italy there is a
curious account of a ruse practised on Miss Bacchelli in order to
allow a number of English gentlemen to hear her sing. Miss
Bacchelli, a celebrated amateur singer, was so jealously guarded by
her father that he would not allow any of the men to be introduced
to her, so that even the learned and respectable Dr. Burney himself
was for a time deprived of the pleasure of hearing La Bacchelli, or
the Miniatrice, sing. The Duke of Dorset and Dr. Burney having got
to know a favourite walk of Miss Bacchelli and her father, contrived
on one occasion to have an orchestra ready in the neighbourhood, and
actually managed tu persuade the ‘ stern parent ’ to allow his daughter to
sing. This she did, to the immense admiration of the Duke and the
Doctor. Corri continues :—
‘The second year of our Edinburgh engagement,
proposals were made to me from London by Mr. Yates to compose for
the Opera House, and by Messrs. Bach and Abel to Mrs. Corri to sing
at the first opening of the Hanover Square Rooms. These proposals we
were enabled to accept, through the kind indulgence of the Directors
of the Edinburgh Society. After this season in London we again
returned to Edinburgh, which engagement we continued for eighteen
years.’ During that time Corri practically lived alternately in
Edinburgh and London.
Dr. Burney writes1 under date Rome, September 2nd,
1770:—‘The day after my arrival at his Grace the Duke of Dorset’s, I
heard Signor Celestini (Celestino?), the principal violin here, who
is a very neat and expressive performer. He was ably seconded by
Signor Corri, who is an ingenious composer and sings in very good
Corn’s memory as to the date of his arrival in
Edinburgh is not to be trusted. He gives it as 1781: as a matter of
fact, he performed or sang at almost every second concert given in
Edinburgh during 1779. As early as February 1779, ‘Signor and
Corri’ sang at a benefit of Schetky’s in St.
On March 25th, Corri had a benefit at the Theatre
Royal, and his Wives Revenged had already been played.
On April 3rd, the Edinburgh Evening
Coicrant announces a concert at the Theatre Royal, at which ‘Mr.
Corri will play a new-invented instrument by Dr. Walker, called the
Celestino, being the only one n this country.’
In April 1779, Corri had a prolonged quarrel with a
Mrs. Melmoth over the remuneration due her for singing at the
At two concerts at least, both in St. Cecilia’s,
Corri performed in July 1779 ; one of these was his benefit. At this
time he was living at Abbeyhill.
It would be tedious to follow Corri’s movements
during the long time that he figures in Edinburgh musical circles;
but taking the year 1785, we find 1 Mr. and Mrs. Corri ’ as busy as
ever. They sing at a concert of Clarke’s on July 25th, 1785, and at
a concert on March 15th of that year not only is ‘ Master Corri’
announced to sing, but Signor N. Corri (Natali) plays in a
trio—mandoline, guitar, and ’cello—by Signors Stabilini, N. Corri,
Corri’s ‘Ode,’ as he called it, ‘for four voices, of
“Margaret and William,”’ was given in St. Cecilia’s on 10th February
1783. at a concert which was to have been Signora Corri’s benefit,
but postponed on account of that lady being ‘ indisposed.’
By this time the firm of Corri and Sutherland had
been established. In 179c, Mr. Corri’s address is given as Rose
Court; in 1799 it was 10 St. Andrew Square; but Mrs. Corri’s and
Natali’s is Shakespeare Square.
It appears that Corri was present in the musicians’
group on the famous evening at St. John's Chapel, Canongate, and
that his head was painted in Stewart Watson’s picture of the scene.
In the photogravure of the painting reproduced for
MacKenzie’s History of the Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, there is no
face to be seen in the corner in which Corri should be, and where he
is described as being in A Winter with Burns. Corri is not indicated
in any key to the picture, but in our photographic reproduction from
the engraving of the painting, his face, though not very distinct,
can be made out. In A Winter with Burnsthe following is found in the
letterpress (but not key) description of the figures in the painting
‘Behind the Italian fiddler an extra head may be
seen in the picture, raised to obtain a glimpse of the ceremony.
This is Signor Corri, an Italian composer, teacher, and dealer in
music. He built the rooms appropriated to musical, theatrical, and
equestrian entertainments, which went by the name of Corri’s Rooms, afterwards Known as the Caledonian and as the
Adelphi Theatre, Broughton Street. He took into partnership in the
music business Mr. Henderson. Corri latterly became bankrupt. During
the week of Burns’s arrival in Edinburgh he was advertising the
arrival of ladies’ portable harpsichords, suitable for carrying in a
Domenico or ‘Old Corri ’ composed and published a
good deal, although little of it nowadays is- ever mentioned. His
opera Alessandro nelf Indie did not, even in its own day, attract
much attention when given in London in 1774; his musical
extravaganza, The Wives Revenged, was produced in 1778 at the
Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. He also composed an opera, The
Travellers. In 1788 he published three volumes of English songs, and
in 1797 entered into partnership with Dussek of the musical
publishing-house, but Corri was at no time very successful
financially. He wrote much for English, French, and Italian songs,
which Dussek and he published.
His brother, who arrived in Edinburgh in 1790, was
Natali Corri—‘Young Corri’ of Edinburgh records. Domenico’s children
Montague Corri, second son, born at Edinburgh, 1784,
resided successively in Newcastle, Manchester, and Liverpool. He
died in London, September 19th, 1849.
Haydn Corri, third son, born Edinburgh, 1785; died
Dublin, February 1860.
Antonio Corri (in America in 1824).
A daughter, born in Edinburgh in 1775, who became:
(1) Mrs. J. F. Dussek; and
(2) Mrs. John Aldis Moralt.
In Edinburgh annals the name Corri is best known in
connection with rooms—‘Corri’s Rooms’—just as the husband of a very
famous lady is known as Mrs. So-and-so’s husband. These rooms stood
at the head of Broughton Street, on the site of the present Theatre
Royal. The history of this Theatre Royal, as well as that of the ‘
Old Theatre Royal,’ opened at the end of the North Bridge, in
Shakespeare Square (on the site of the present General Post Office),
is told with a wealth of detail by J. C. Dibdin in his Annals of the
The history of Corri’s Rooms may be said to begin
with a building known as ‘ Stephen Kemble’s Circus,’ opened on
January 21st, 1793, Sheridan’s Rivals. Natali Corri, about 1794,
took over this so-called circus (for it was only a hall), and
arranged in it a series of concerts and other entertainments- -a
venture that proved eminently unsuccessful. Although this was so,
Natali Corri transformed the rooms structurally into a theatre, but
with no better luck when performances came to be given in it. The
fact is, Edinburgh was far too small and too poor a place to sustain
at one and the same time the patronage of the old-established
theatre in Shakespeare Square as well as Corri’s Rooms, not to speak
of a third seduction, card-parties and conccrts, got up by Urbani in
the Assembly Rooms in George Street.
Poor Corri, bitterly disappointed and laden with
debt, seems to have been unfortunate in all he. touched, and is
reported to have once said, ‘If I became a baker the people would
give up using bread.’ It would appear that this story about Natali
Corri owes its publicity to the pen of no less a man than Sir Walter
Scott. He is writing in 1828 on the subject of the success of
his opus magnum .—‘ I trust it will answer, yet who can warrant the
continuance of popularity? Old Nattali Corri, who entered into man)
projects and could never set the sails of a windmill to catch
the aura popularis, used to say he believed that were he to turn
baker, it would put bread out of fashion. I have had the better luck
to dress my sails to every wind, and so blow on, good wind, and spin
round whirligig.’ After which J. G. Lockhart remarks : ‘
The Corri here alluded tu was an unfortunate adventurer, who, among
many other wild schemes, tried to set up an Italian opera at
In Corri’s Edinburgh, public amusements were not
considered necessaries of life as they are in ours; indeed, the
theatre-goers of Edinburgh, until comparatively recent years, formed
a very small fraction of the inhabitants, and were considered by the
non playgoing majority to be very frivolous and barely respectable
Corri’s Rooms changed hands, but not name, when in
1809 Henry Siddons fitted them up at an expense of ^4000 as a
theatre, where performances were given at intervals for the next two
seasons. This is the phase of it to which Sir Walter Scott aliudes
in a letter written from Ashestief, August 15th, 1809, to Joanna
Baillie:—‘. . . The theatre will, I think, be quite a bijou. We
supped in it as Corri's Rooms on the night of the memorable Oxonian
In 1816 the Rooms were used for a fete given to the
78th Highlanders, or‘Ross-shire Buffs,’just returned from the
campaign which Waterloo had so satisfactorily ended. The decorations
were, for Edinburgh in 1816, on a very elaborate scale: hundreds of
lamps, interspersed among festoons of the 42nd tartan, heraldic
shields, and trophies of all kinds from the field of the
‘king-making victory,’ blazed down upon the youth, beauty, and
fashion of Edinburgh. Scenery, too, was not wanting, for a
landscape, which included a painting of Edinburgh Castle, occupied
the stage. At eleven o’clock in walked Neil Gow with his band of violins,
and the ball began. The evening with the 78th in Corri’s Rooms was
long a milestone in the mental journey of many an Edinburgh belle.
At last the name was changed, and about 1820 Corri’s
Rooms became (in name only) the majestic ‘ Pantheon.’ How it became
the ‘ Caledonian Theatre ’ in 1823; then the ‘Adelphi
Theatre,’burned down in 1853; then the ‘Queen’s Theatre and Opera
House,’ burned down in 1865; then how it was rebuilt as the Theatre
Royal, burned down in 1875, again rebuilt the following year, and,
we fancy, once more burned down and rebuilt—it is not our purpose to
relate in detail.
The name of Corri died hard in the Edinburgh annals :
we keep on hearing of Patrick and Henry Corri, nephews of Natali, as
well as of Kathleen Corri. Natali or Natale Corri died at Wiesbaden
in 1822, aged fifty-seven, heavily in debt, and his elder daughter
Frances (the younger was named Rosalie) would have been arrested,
had not our good friend, old George Thomson, who had been security
at the bank for her father, taken such steps as prevented this
extreme measure being carried out. Thomson became in this way
interested in the various changes and ultimate sale of the property
known as ‘ Corri’s Rooms.’
In Parke’s Musical Memoirs 1 we have mention
made of Domenico Corri’s The Travellers, or Musics
Fascination, which was produced for the first time on 22nd January
1806, at Drury Lane Theatre.
This work professed to portray the kinds of music
characteristic of the ‘four quarters of the world.’ At the time it
was considered a very clever piece of composition.
In the same collection of musical anecdotes we find
two allusions to ‘Signora Corri’:—‘1818. The Oratorios at Covent
Garden Theatre began on Friday the 16th of February, with a grand
selection in which Signora Corri, Miss Stephens, and Mr. Braham sang
Again:—‘The vocal concert . . . commenced at Hanover
Square on the 6th March. The singers were Madame Foaor, Signora
Corri . . .’
With the names of Miss Poole and Cornforth Gilson we
may close our list of the professional singers and players of old
St. Cecilia’s. To the present generation this lady, either under her
maiden name or her married one, Mrs. Dickons, is equally unknown,
yet in her day she achieved considerable fame, as may be gathered
from the tone of the notice of her in the old Biographical
Dictionary already alluded to.
Besides possessing a fine voice, Miss Poole
had abnormally early developed musical powers, for at the
age of six she could play Handel’s overtures and fugues on the
pianoforte. She was born in London in 1770, was a pupil of Ranzzini
at Bath, and made her first public appearance in the Messiah on the
19th February 1790, in the ‘Covent (larden Oratorios.’
Miss Poole made her operatic debut in an opera of
Shield’s, The Woodman, at Covent Garden on 26th February 1791, where
she appeared as ‘Emily,’ and was greatly praised both for her acting
and singing. ‘ Religion seemed to breathe through every note,’ said
a contemporary with reference to her ‘sublimity’ in oratorio.
Miss Poole travelled in Scotland and in Ireland in
the closing years of last century, apparently between 1794 and 1797,
for in the latter year she was back in London singing in
the Messiah. It was in the course of this tour that the English
nightingale visited the Niddry Wynd.
In Dublin, in the Crow Street Theatre, she sang as ‘
Clara ’ in The Duenna, and was exceedingly well received. In 1816
she was engaged as prima donna at Madame Catalani’s theatre in
Paris; from that city she went on to Italy, where in Venice she
received an ovation, and was by general vote proclaimed ‘Socia
Onoraria del Istituto Filarmonico.’
On October 12th, 1818, Mrs. Dickons made her first
appearance after her Continental tour, when she sang ‘ Rosina ’ in
Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Her style had matured, and she
delighted every one. Parke the oboist, who knew her, includes her
amongst the ‘greatest singers England has produced, and whom I ever
heard,’ while he elsewhere says that he wrote a number of songs '
for that great singer Mrs. Dickons,’ to be sung at Covent Garden,
Drury Lane, at the Hanover Square concerts, and in the Dublin
Theatre. She died in 1833.
The professional vocalist Mr. Gilson seems to have
resided in Edinburgh for a number of years, to have sung at many of
the concerts, and to have taught singing in that city.
The date of Gilson’s coming to Edinburgh is
apparently fixed by the fact that about 1753 the Town Council passed
an act ‘for improving the church music in this city,’ whereby the
office of ‘ Master of Music’ was created. The Musical Society w'ere
to examine candidates as to their fitness for the post, the result
of their examination being that ‘ Comforth Gilson from Durham ’ was
Gilson, as early as 1759, published Lessons on the
Practice of Singing, and in 1769 ‘Twelve Songs for the Voice and
Harpsichord, composed by Cornforth Gilson, Edinburgh. Printed for
and sold at Mr. Gilson’s lodgings. Folio.’ This is probably the only
case on record of a book being ‘printed for ’ a man’s ‘lodgings,’
—Gilson’s, in 1770, were in Skinner’s Close.
Gilson gave many concerts, and participated in many
more, both before and after the building of St. Cecilia’s Hall. In
the Edinburgh Evening Courant of December 17th, 1768, a concert of
his own is announced in St. Cecilia’s Hall on the 20th of the month,
and on January 4th, 1769, he is announced to sing in a pretty
elaborate concert in which Tenducci and Madame Doria were taking
The following musicians belong to the St. Cecilian
epoch (1762 to 1800), and the list contains most of the names of
such as have not elsewhere been dealt with. Those evidently
foreigners are :—
Signor Arrigoni (opposite the British Linen Office,
Signor Bianchi (not Francesco Bianchi who taught Sir
Signor and Signora Doria (in March 17 6 5 in
Chambers’s Close; in December in Tweeddale’s Close; in March 1769,
Morocco’s Land, Canongate).
Signor Luciani (in 1770 at Mrs. MTherson’s,
‘Mrs.’ Marchetti (in 1779 in Gavinloch’s Land,
Mr. Martini Olivieri.
Signor Panelle (here in 1785 from Venice).
Signor Pescatore (in March 1765 in Skinner's Close).
Signor Torrigiani (in Edinburgh in February 17X7,—
‘his first appearance in this kingdom’).
‘Mr. Teckiinburgh (in 1768 and 1770 at Mr.Aitken’s,
grocer, opposite Blackfriars' Wynd).
Signor Sozzie (in Edinburgh in February 1790).
Signora Sultani (in Edinburgh in March 1787).
Mr. Vogel (a French emigrant who, in July 1796, gave
Of the rpst, the following are presumably British :—
Mr. Aitkun (long in Edinburgh; in 1765 in the Anchor
Close, in 1796 in Gosfords Close, Lawnmarket; in 1796 he had a
benefit concert in St. John's Chapel, Canongate).
Miss Brent (later Mrs. Thomas Pinto).
Mr. Dow (in 1765 in Blackfriars’Wynd).
Mr. Fischer (Gavinloch’s Close).
Mr. Frank (in 1769 in Niddry’s Wynd).
Mr. Fyfe(in 1765 in Clamshell Turnpike. lie played on
Mr. Hutton (in 1768 in Old Assembly Close, in 1769 in
Mr. Rakeman (‘master musician,’ Royal Welsh
Mr. Sippe (master of band of 56th Regiment, in
Edinburgh in 1787).
Mr. Smeaton (Smieton), (first fore-stair below head
of Blackfriars’ Wynd).
Mrs. Stuart (gave a concert in 1790).
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor.
Mr. Thomson (in 1770 Bailie Fyfe’s Close, in 1796 Old
The Amateur Players and Singers.
It appears that both in the orchestra and the chorus
of the St. Cecilia concerts, Edinburgh amateurs took a very
prominent part. The names of but few of these gentlemen have come
down to us, but on Thomson’s authority we can at least mention the
Earl of Kelly, Gilbert Innes of Stow and 24 St. Andrew Square,
Alexander Wight, advocate, John Russell, W.S., John
Hutton, paper-maker, and of course the redoubtable George Thomson
As to George Thomson, he appears not only to have
played the violin, but to have sung in the chorus. Innes, Wight,
Russell, and Hutton also were prominent amateur members of the
As amateur musicians we shall be probably quite safe
in including Hugh Dalrymple, Lord Drummore, and that Earl of
Hopetoun who was the patron of Tenducci; but whether these noblemen
ever played an instrument in St. Cecilia’s Hall we have no evidence.
Lord Drummore seems to have been held in high esteem by the ‘
Musical Society * of which he was the Governor, for on his death
in 1755, ‘the Society,’ says Grant, ‘performed a grand concert in
honour of his memory, when the numerous company were all dressed in
the deepest mourning.’ The announcement for this is in
the Caledonian Mercury of June 24th, 1755 :— 'The Directors of the
Musical Society have appointed a Funeral Concert in Mary’s Chapel on
Friday the 27 th instant, on the death of the Honourable Lord
Drum-more, their Governor. No member can have more than two ladies’
Tickets. NB.—The general meeting of the Society is adjourned till
Wednesday the 2nd of July at 3 p.m.’ We make further reference to
this ‘Funeral Concert’ at page 206.
Thomas Alexander Erskine, sixth Earl of Kelly, was
born 1st September 1732, and died at Brussels 9th October 1781, in
the fifty-first year of his age. Lord Kelly was an enthusiastic
musician, of whom Dr. Burney wrote that he was possessed of more
musical science than any man he had ever known. His mother was Janet
Pitcairn, a daughter of the well-known wit, poet, and physician, Dr.
Archibald Pitcairn, and from her he probably inherited his artistic
bias. His musical taste was early developed, so that, as soon as he
could, he went over to Manheim to study composition and violin
playing under the elder Stainitz, which he did to so much purpose
that on his return to Scotland he was accounted the most proficient
theoretical musician and instrumentalist of his time. He composed
with astonishing rapidity, and preferably for wind instruments, but
was quite careless about collecting and publishing his works,
amongst which are an overture, the ‘Maid of the Mill’ (1761), and
symphonies which were produced at Ranelagh and Vauxhall. His
lordship is also credited with having composed songs, but in all
probability much that he wrote is lost. He is known to have composed
six overtures, and to have conducted one of them upon a certain
occasion in St. Cecilia’s Hall: symphonies, too, were amongst his
The eccentric antiquary, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe
of Hoddam, did something to keep Lord Kelly’s memory green, for he
edited ‘Minuets and Sungs now for the first time published with an
introductory note by C. K. Sharpe, Edinburgh, 1839.’ Nevertheless,
there exists a work published in 1774 or 1775 entitled, ‘ The
Favourite Minuets performed at the Fete-Champetre given by Lord
Stanley at the Oaks, and composed by the Right Honourable the Earl
of Kelly. Price two shillings. London: printed and sold by William
Napier, the corner of Lancaster Court, Strand.’
Robert Bremner, in 1761, took out a royal licence for
the sole publishing of Lord'Kelly’s compositions : from Bremner’s
press was issued a collection of Six Overtures by Lord Kelly.
Vigour, loudness, and rapidity characterise Lord
Kelly’s style. Some authorities think that his lordship wrote the
words of the song, 1 Kelso Races.’
Lord Kelly succeeded in 1756, and was never married.
It was after the death of Lord Kelly that the Musical
Society performed one of their famous 'Funeral Concerts,’ 21st
December 1781—of course held in St. Cecilia’s Hall.
Mr. Robert A. Marr, C.A., in The Rise of Choral
Sochiks in Scotland} has recorded some earlier ‘Funeral Concerts’ given in the same place—one on
19th December 1766 for the well-known Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir
George Drummond, who was also Depute-Governor of the Musical
Society; and one on 22nd November 1771 for Sir Robert Murray, Bart.,
a director, and for William Douglas, the treasurer.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.