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Saint Cecilia's Hall in the Niddry Wynd
Chapter V The Music Performed and Sung in St. Cecilia's Hall


The names of most of the composers whose instrumental works were performed either in St. Mary’s Chapel or St. Cecilia’s Hall, either by the orchestra or by soloists, may be comprised in the following list: —


A very rich list, for it includes representatives of the older music, as also names yet heard in all series of classical concerts.

Of these composers, all except Corelli, Geminiani, Bach, Handel, and the elder Stamitz were alive when St. Cecilia’s Hall was built.

The following are the names of composers whose vocal work? were given by the Musical Society :—

Of these musicians all save the first two were living at the time the hall was built.

We are fortunate in being able to give a reduced facsimile page from a manuscript index of the music belonging to the Edinburgh Musical Society in 1782. The index, which is in the possession of Mr. Robert A. Marr, is in its original binding with rough calf back and corners, and consists of 128 pages post folio size. On the front board is a paper label, neatly printed by hand,and inside the board the contents are given as follows:—

CONTENTS

1. Index of the whole music in alphabetical order.

2. Index of all the overtures.

3. Contents of all the music in score.

N.B. The Quintetti and Quartetti in the letter Q:    first    Index.    The Harpsichord

Music : the leaf before the last Index.

The page reproduced is the index of all the overtures under the letter A, and a glance will show how representative a collection the Musical Society possessed. The index has been most carefully compiled, and pencil jottings indicate that it has been in use until 1802. This was two years after the Society was dissolved, so that apparently one of its late members was in possession both of the pieces of music and of their index.

Certain of the composers’ names before mentioned are household words, concerning which every one pretending to the ‘ pitifulest fraction ’ of culture knows something. Other names, however, we feel certain, call up few attendant facts in the minds of any persons who are not professedly musical specialists, and therefore a note or two upon some of these less-known musicians may be acceptable.

Archangelo Corei.i.i was born in 1653 in the Italian city of Fusignano near Imola, and died on January i8th. 1713, in Rome, being buried beneath a monument in tlie Church of Santa Maria della Rotunda in that city.

Having studied music under Matteo, Simonelli, and Bassani, he travelled in Germany, but soon settled in Rome, where the greater part of his life \vas spent teaching music, like almost all his brethren of the fiddle-stick. One of his pupils—the greatest—was Geminiani. In Rome, Handel met Corelli and quarrelled with him, a thing quite in Handel’s usual manner: the great German, like most geniuses, preferred his own way.

Corelli published his first series of sonatas in 1683, a second in 1685, a third in 1690, a fourth in 1694, and a collection of concertos, his last work, in 1712. He also left a number of gavottes.

Musical experts have a considerable meed of praise to offer to Corelli : he is described as a great violinist who laid down principles for the development of a much more elaborate technique, albeit in a purer style, than had previously been considered possible by the most ambitious executants. Corelli, in other words, created a new epoch in violin-playing by evolving potentialities in that instrument hitherto totally unsuspected, so that he is justly regarded as the founder of modern violin-playing and violin-composition.

Corelli is further reckoned as one of the greatest composers for the solo violin, notwithstanding that his chamber sonatas and his concerti grossi are by musical critics considered of high merit.

Musicians describe his style as possessing a ‘ quiet elegance,’ pathetic in slow time, but confessedly dry in quick. During the whole of last century this composer was greatly in vogue—a popularity due in large measure to the zeal of his pupil and editor, Geminiani.

Giovanni Battista Bassani was born at Padua in 1657, and died at Ferrara in 1716.

Thomson says it was his motctti that were played in the St Mary’s Chapel concerts.

He wrote much more than motets—cantatas and operas, besides a great deal for solo voice.

He was maestro da capella at Bologna Cathedral and subsequently at Ferrara. In 1682 he was appointed Director of the Academia dei Filarmonici at Bologna.

Bassani's music is described as religious in tone, ‘ writh extreme delicacy in the management of pathetic effects.’

Francesco Geminiani was born at Lucca in 1680, and died at Dublin in 1761. Geminiani had drunk to the full of the spirit of his famous master ; but, though entirely ‘of the school of Corelli,’ he added to the characteristics of the Corellian manner of execution an unbounded vivacity of temperament. Tartini called him ‘il furibundo Geminiani.’ He was himself a very skilful violinist, and on coming to England in 1714 showed British musicians for the first time how Corelli ought really to be played, for, previously to this, that composer had been considered ‘ insurmountably difficult.’

Geminiani at the outset emphasised the rules Corelli had laid down for the actual handling of the violin, and he recommended holding the instrument on the left of the tail piece. After having been for some little time in England, he was brought under the notice of Lord Essex, through whose influence he was appointed to the conductorship of the vice-regai band in Dublin Castle. He was not allowed to take up this post—probably because he was a Roman Catholic —and his pupil Dubourg got it instead. Geminiani had the honesty and gratitude to speak of Great Britain as his ‘second Fatherland.’

Like so many of his order, Geminiani was most improvident. His hobby was buying pictures, and this would have brought him to the very verge of poverty had not Sir Robert Walpole come to his aid. Cecilia Young (Mrs. Thomas A. Arne) was a pupil of Geminiani.

His compositions include sonatas for violin, solos, and concertos; while his published works are:-—// Dizionario, Rules for Play ing in a true Taste, and the Art of Playing on the Violin, the Art of Playing on the Guitar, and the Art of Accompaniment, which was translated into Italian, German, French, and Dutch.

Along with Geminiani in 1714, there came to England a performer on the tenor violin, Francesco Barsanti, who penetrated as far north as Edinburgh, where in 1742 he published ‘A Collection of Old Scots Tunes, with the bass for Violoncello or Harpsichord, set and most humbly dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lady Erskine by Francis Barsanti, Edinburgh.

Printed by Alexander Baillie, and sold by Messrs. Hamilton and Kincaid. Price 2s. 6d. Folio.’ Bar-santi, also a native of Lucca, was born about 1690. By 1750 he had returned to London, so that he played not in St. Cecilia’s Hall, but in St. Mary’s Chapel.

The next composer we shall notice whose works were heard in the old hall is Pietro Antonio Domenico Bonaventura Metastasio, who was born in Rome in 1698, and died at Vienna 1782. It is as a dramatic poet and not as a composer that his name is most widely known; nevertheless, his genius had considerable range, for he sang, played on the harpsichord, and composed musical pieces. Born poor, he was educated by Vincenzo Gravina, the distinguished writer on Italian law. While still a lad, having written some poetry which attracted notice, he associated himself with the actress Madame Bulgarim, and devoted his attention to melodrama.

His dramas Didone at Naples, Sirce at Venice, Catone, Semiramide, and Artaserse at Rome (1730), were enthusiastically received. In 1J29 the Emperor Charles vi. called him to Vienna, bestowed upon him the title of 1 Caesarean Poet,’ with a liberal allowance. He thereafter settled at the imperial court, where, a great favourite, he was much honoured by the Empress Maria Theresa.

Thomas Augustine Arne, who was born in King Street, Co vent Garden, 1710, and died in London, 5th March 1778, was intended by his father fur the profession of law. Young Arne, however, secretly taught himself to play the violin, and, on his father discovering this, was allowed to pursue the study of music, and was placed under the best masters. Arne’s first production was the opera Rosamond,, words by Joseph Addison, produced in Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1733, in which a younger brother and his sister Susanna Maria took parts. This lady was afterwards wife of Theophilus Cibber, son of Colley Cibber, the dramatist and poet-laureate. It was by her brother Thomas’s advice that she studied tragedy, in which her father-in-law, actor as well as writer, gave her lessons.

Arne’s next production was the Opera of Operas, but his music to Comus (1738) first showed his talent. Its success was immediate, and its popularity long-sustained. In 1759 the University of Oxford conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Music. In 1762 Dr. Arne composed the opera of Artaxerxes—the first in the Italian style by an Englishman for English people, and in this our old St. Cecilia hero, Tenducci, sang. The very popular Love in a Village followed Artaxerxes.

Dr. Arne is indissolubly associated with English music. He practically initiated an era in operatic composition, and his having written ‘incidental music’to five plays of Shakespeare will ever retain his name in the best literary company.

He wrote the music to the songs in As Ymt Like Li in 1740; to those in the Twelfth Night in 1741; 'n the Merchant of Venice, 1742; in the Ttmpest,, 1746; in Romeo and Juliet, 1750. Everybody knows Dr. Arne’s 1 Where the bee sucks, there lurk I,’ from the Tempest (Ariel’s song); also ‘ Blow, blow, thou Winter Wind,’ and ‘It was a lover and his lass,’ from As You Like Lt, and the clown’s ‘ Come away, come away, Death,’ from the Twelfth Night.

Still more widely known is the air, ‘Rule Britannia,’ which Arne composed for the song by James Thomson in a play, The Masque of Alfred, the joint production of Thomson and Malloch (Mallet), first performed August 14th, 1740, before Frederick, Prince of Wales. Arne composed this music at the Prince’s residence, Cliveden House.

Dr. Arne, it is said, rearranged an old air into that of‘God Save the Queen’ (King); but there is, I find, no little evidence to prove that the original words and music of the ‘National Anthem ’ were by Anthony Young, Dr. Arne’s wife’s grandfather, who was organist of St. Clement’s Dane and St. Catherine Cree near the Tower, London.

Arne wrote two oratorios, The Death of Abel and Judith, very little heard of nowadays. In 1740 he married Cecilia Young, daughter of Charles Young, the organist of All Hallows’, Barking, London. Young had been frequently employed by Handel to play the organ parts in his oratorios. Cecilia was one of the singers in Arne’s Comus.

After a visit to Ireland, Dr. and Mrs. Arne returned to London in 1744, and entered into an engagement at Drury Lane, and afterwards at Vauxhall, ‘as musical composers.’

During this time Arne wrote much—ballads, cantatas, duets, and trios, publishing them in an annual collection called Lyric Harmony. Dr. Arne lies buried in St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden.

There were two musicians of the name of Stamitz, father and son.

Johann Stamitz was born in 1719 in Deutschbrod, a small town in Bohemia, where his father was a schoolmaster. By 1756 he had established himself at Manheim as chamber-musician and conductor of the concerts, and was recognised as the founder of the violin school at Manheim, which a hundred and

Wermigey, Tottenhill, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. The claim of Henry Carey to the authorship of this famous ‘ air ’ ha? lieen by many accepted as settled, but the point cannot yet be said to be decided. The earliest claimant is Dr. John Hull, organist to the Chapel-Royal (1591).

fifty years ago enjoyed quite a high reputation. Its fame attracted the Earl of Kelly as a young man from far Edinburgh, and he studied music under Stamitz himself.

This ‘professor’ of music published symphonies, overtures, concertos, quartets, and trios which are described by the old Dictionary as having ‘ deservedly attained celebrity,’ but ‘though truly masterly,’ it continues, ‘they are still of the old school, and are considered by some critics to savour too much of the church style.’ It is Johann’s compositions that Thomson alludes to as having been played in old St. Cecilia’s before the arrival of Haydn's or the more modern music. This musician was considered quite a successful orchestral composer. He died at Manheim in 1761. Speaking of Frangois Cramer, the oldBiographical Dictionary says, ‘He made himself well acquainted with the . . . capriccios of Benda and old Stamitz.’

Carl Stamitz, elder son of the preceding, was born at Manheim in 1746, and studied the violin under his father.

In 1770 he went to Paris, and there for many years sustained a reputation as an instrumental composer as well as ‘concerto player on the violoncello and tenor.’ Some of his works were published at Paris, some at Berlin, some at Amsterdam.

There is little doubt it was this Stamitz the younger who was in London about 1784, for in Parke’s Memoirs we are told that in that year in London instrumental music had ‘arrived at a high degree of perfection,’ chiefly through the talents of certain solo piayers therein enumerated. The list closes with ‘Stamstz and Shield on the tenor.’ This was one of Carl’s instruments, and, mentioned in connection with so rare a name—though apparently misspelt,—leaves us in no doubt that it is Stamitz the younger who is alluded to. He died in South Germany, in Jena, while on a journey to Russia in 1801. His compositions are described as having fire and spirit, and as being more in keeping with modern feeling than those of his father —a very natural thing.

Karl Friedrich Abei,, who was born at Kothen in Anhalt in 1725, and who died in London about 1787, was another of the foreign composers of lesser note whose pieces this old hall has heard. He was a famous player on the viol-da-gamba, and in the tnreequarter-length portrait of h.m by Gainsborough is represented playing upon this instrument. In conjunction with Johann Christian Bach he. gave a series of successful concerts in London (1762-1782), in which Bach played the harpsichord and Abel the viol-da-gamba. His first public performance was in Dresden, whence in 1761 he came over to England, where the Duke of York procured him the post of ‘ Director of the Queen’s Band.’ Grove states he was appointed f chamber-musician to Queen Charlotte ’ (wife of George hi.) in 1765. J. 13. Cramer vvas a pupil of Abel.

Abel had, it would appear, an enormously exaggerated opinion of his own talents, for on one occasion, having been challenged to perform something, he replied: ‘ Vat, shallenge Abel ! dere ish but one Gott and one Abel'

Johann Baptist Vanhall (Wanbal) was born at Nechanicz in Bohemia in 1739, and died at Vienna in 1813. Though he is said to have been of Dutch extraction, most of his life was spent in Vienna, where he composed a goodly number of works, which in England enjoyed considerable popularity immediately preceding the introduction of Haydn’s music. It was in England indeed that much of Vannall’s work was published— symphonies, quartets, trios, duets, solos, and sets of sonatas for the harpsichord. Although his name is hardly ever mentioned nowadays, Vanhall was considered bycontemporaries to have combined pleasing harmony and considerable melody in a ‘free, manly style,’ for he was a violinist as well as a composer. The old Biographical Dictionary speaks of the 1 spirited, natural, and unaffected symphonies of this excellent composer.’ He is accredited with quite a number of operas—nine or more—and a hundred symphonies, besides quartets and masses.

Ignace or Ignaz Joseph Pleyel, born 1757, died 1831, was another composer whose music was heard at St. Cecilia’s. At an early age he evinced musical ability, and studied music in Vienna under Vanhall and Haydn. After residence in Italy, he was made Kapellmeister*at Strassburg, where he wrote a large number of compositions for the harpsichord. In 1791 he came to London to conduct the ‘ Professional Concerts ’ of the season, and on the first occasion did so in the presence of Haydn, upon 13th February 1792.

Mozart thought so much of Pleyel, that he declared he would do ‘to succeed Haydn,' and certainly he copied that master so closely as to preclude originality. Considering himself ill-treated in Strassburg, he removed to Paris, where jhe founded the firm of pianoforte makers, ‘Pleyel and Co.’ His eldest son was Camille (born 1788, died 1855); and Camille’s wife (born 1811) became a great pianist, and died only in 1875.    .

Pleyel, as we have said, wrote a number of airs for the Thomson collection of Scottish songs, and in this connection is twice mentioned in letters of Burns. In letter viii. (April 1795) Burns writes:—‘One hint let me give you—whatever Mr. Peyel1 does, let him not alter one iota of the original Scottisn airs.’ Again, in letter xvi. (May 1794) he writes:—‘I am quite vexed at Pleyel’s being cooped up in France, as it will put an entire stop to our work.’ A writer in 1793 speaks of ‘the popular writers on the Continent, Haydn, Pleyel,’ etc.

Pietro Guglielmi, son of Joachim Guglielmi (musician to the Duke of Modena), was born at Massa di Carrara in 1727, and died at Rome in 1804. Having studied music with his father until he was eighteen, he was sent to the famous conservatoire of Loretto at Naples, the same which trained his contemporaries, Cimarosa and Paisiello. Here he was drilled in counterpoint and composition, but not until ten years later did he evince any power for original musical work. On quitting the conservatoire, however, he began at once to compose for the principal theatres of Italy. His operas, both serious and comic, were equally successful, and most of them were produced during the period of his rivalry with Paisiello, who seemed to regard the patronage of the theatre of Naples as his own special monopoly. No sooner did Pasiello compose an opera, than Guglie Guglielmi’s fame spread considerably, for he was invited to Vienna, to Madrid, and to London, returning to Naples from a prolonged tour when in his fiftieth year. In the opinion of many, some of his operatic works were finer than the corresponding ones of Paisiello.

In 1793, Pope Pius vi. offered him the post of maestro di capella at St. Peter’s, which he accepted. This gave him the opportunity of composing more especially for the church, and in the comparative leisure of this congenial post he spent the last eleven years of his life.

Guglielnr's collected works exceed two hundred. Two oratorios of his should be mentioned, Tht Death, of Holofernes and Deborah, the latter being regarded by some as his chef-d'ttuvrt. Parke the oboist tells us that in 1813 ‘the King’s Theatre opened on the 6th of January with Guglie’mi’s serious opera Sidagero.’ Experts describe Guglielmi’s music as having a clear and supported harmony, simple and elegant melodies, while originality characterises not a few pieces.

Giovanni Paisiello, one of the most famous musicians of the Neapolitan school, was born at Tarento in 1741, and died at Naples in 1816. Heredity cannot account for his great gifts in composition, for he was the son of a veterinary surgeon in the service of Charles in. of Naples. His father sent him to the Jesuit College at Tarento, where it was discovered that he had a fine contralto voice. In June 1754 he wao placed under

Durante in the conservatorio of St. Onofrio; before 1763 he had composed masses, psalms, oratorios, motets, and ‘a comic interlude,’ and in that year he composed his first opera, a piece for the theatre at Bologna. Then for the theatres at Venice, Naples, Rome, Milan, Bologna, Modena, Parma, an immense number of operas were all written by the middle of 1776.

In July of that year he accepted service as musician in the court of Catherine h. at St. Petersburg, with an income from one source and another of nine thousand roubles.

Amongst the operas of the pre-Russian epoch may be mentioned La Pupilla, II Marchese Tulpiano, and La Semiramide. Paisiello had actually been engaged to compose for the King’s Theatre, London, but his invitation to the Russian imperial court caused him to forego the English engagement. During his stay in Russia, Paisiello composed several operas and a good deal of music for the harpsichord. II Barbiere di Sivig/ia, an opera, and La Passione, an oratorio to Metastasio’s words, both belong to this period.

After a sojourn in Vienna, where he wrote an opera for the Emperor Joseph n., he returned to Naples, and was immediately taken into the service of King Ferdinand iv. as maestro di capella. Hardly had this post been secured when an invitation arrived from

King William of Prussia begging him to come to Berlin. This he had to refuse, as also an invitation to go to Russia for the second time.

He remained in Naples until 1789, when King Ferdinand was deposed and a republican form of government established, the members of which requested Paisiello to regard himself as ‘ composer to the nation.’ To this he agreed; but on the restoration of the Bourbons he found himself punished for what was considered disloyalty, and in consequence deprived of his appointments.

Napoleon, as First Consul, invited him to Paris, where we next find him composing a ‘ Te Deum ’ and a ‘Grand Mass’ for two choirs. He continued to live in Paris until after Bonaparte was declared Emperor, for whose coronation ceremony he composed some music.

Joseph Napoleon, as King of Naples, confirmed to him his appointments of maestro di capella, composer of the music of the chamber, at a salary of 1800 ducats. Napoleon sent him the Legion of Honour, and honours poured upon him from home and foreign musical societies. On 30th December 1809 he was elected Associate of the Institute of France.

To rightly estimate Paisielio’s place amid the galaxy of Italian composers is, at the present time, somewhat difficult, especially as so little of his music is nowadays heard. No musician was during his lifetime so universally admired or sought after. Kings and princes clamoured for his services; but success, that ‘ touchstone of the human character,’.' never spoiled him.

The music of Paisiello is simple without being insipid, clear and intelligent without lacking ornament and richness of melody, sprightly and bright without being trivial.

He was the first to introduce the viola into comic opera at Naples, and the first to bring concerted bassoons and clarinets into use in both the theatre and churches of Naples.

Paisiello can be majestic, tragic, pathetic, comic, without being heavy, terrific, insipid, or grotesque.

With the name of Giuseppe Sarti we may conclude the list of the less-known composers whose songs were sung in old St. Cecilia’s. He was born at Faenza in Italy in 1729, and died in Berlin in 1802. In 1756 we find him court-musician at Copenhagen, later at Venice, still later (1779) maestro di capella of the Duorno, Milan. At this time his fame was already at its zenith : the Italian theatres clamoured for his operas, his countrymen had named him ‘il divino maestro,’ and his Giulio Sabino was shortly to procure him an invitation to the Russian imperial court. This he accepted in 1785. He at once fell in with the prevailing Russian taste for very noisy music, and is said to have actually introduced into the performance of a ‘ Te Deum,’ in presence of the court, the firing of cannon placed outside the castle. In 1786 the Empress ennobled Sarti and provided for him a most handsome income. He remained eighteen years in St. Petersburg, only quitting it in 1801 by permission of Alexander I. on account of ill health. He was making for the sunnier south when death overtook him in Berlin. Sarti wrote two score or so of opera buffa, but amongst his serious operas may be mentioned Didone (1767) and La Cle-menza di Tito (17 71). Sarti visited London in 1769.


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