Item of the Day: The Lives of Haydn and Mozart (1818)

Full Title: The Lives of Haydn and Mozart, with Observations on Metastasio, and on the Present State of Music in France and Italy. Translated from the French of L. A. C. Bombet. With Notes, by the Author of The Sacred Melodies. Second Edition. London: John Murray, Albemarle-Street, 1818.

LETTER VIII.

Salzburg, April 5, 1808.

At length, my dear friend, you have received my letters. The war, which surrounds me here on all sides, gave me some anxiety respecting them. My walks in the woods are disturbed by the sound of arms: at this moment, I distinctly hear the cannon firing, at the distance of a league and a half from hence, in the direction of Munich. Nevertheless, after some melancholy reflections on the circumstances which have deprived me of my company of grenadiers, and which , for twenty years past, have banished me from my country, I have seated myself upon the trunk of a large fallen oak. I find myself under the shade of a beautiful lime-tree; I see around me nothing but a delightful verdure, beautifully set off by the deep blue of the heavens; I take my little port-folio, and my pencil, and after a long silence, proceed with my account of our friend Haydn.

Do you know that I am almost ready to charge you with being schismatic? You seem to prefer him to the divine masters of the Ausonian lyre. Ah! my friend, the Pergoleses and Cimarosas have excelled in that department of our favourite art, which is at once the noblest, and the most affecting. You say that one reason why you prefer Haydn, is, that one may hear him at London, or at Paris, as well as at Vienna, while, for want of voices, France will never enjoy the Olimpiade of the divine Pergolese. In this respect, I am of your opinion. The rough organization of the English, and of our dear countrymen, may allow of their being good performers on instruments, but prevents them from ever excelling in singing. Here, on the contrary, in traversing the faubourg Leopoldstadt, I have just heard a very sweet voice singing, in a very pleasing style, the air

Nach dem tode jeh bin ich dein,

Even after death, I still am thine.

As for what concerns myself, I clearly see your malicious criticism through all your compliments. You still reproach me with that inconsistency, which was formerly the constant theme of your lectures. You say that I pretend to write to you about Haydn, and I forget only one thing, –that is, fairly to enter upon the style of this great master, and, as an inhabitant of Germany, to explain to you, as one of the unlearned, how it pleases, and why it pleases. In the first place, you are not one of the unlearned: you are passionately fond of music: and in the fine arts, this attachment is sufficient. You say that you can scarcely read an air. Are you not ashamed of this miserable objection? Do you take for an artist the antiquated mechanic, who, for twenty years, has given lessons on the piano, as his equal in genius has made clothes at the neighbouring tailor’s? Do you consider as an art, a mere trade, in which, as in others, success is obtained by a little address, and a great deal of patience?

Do yourself more justice. If your love for music continue, a year’s travelling in Italy will render you more learned than your savans of Paris. . . .

 

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1 Comment

Filed under 1660's, 1810's, Art, Culture, Eighteenth century, Music, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

One response to “Item of the Day: The Lives of Haydn and Mozart (1818)

  1. Pingback: okouko.com » Blog Archive » Voice from the past

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