Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Oft do I see thee in my thoughts,—that And sylvan pleasures, in a joyous mass, take

Revived about my heart, and died againWesterly wanderings,--thy enjoyment make Touching the next few moments with dim From the enchantments of an evening sea

pain. That weaves its own sweet pastime mer. I thought of those I loved—I thought of rily,

theeOr sleeps beneath some sea-nymph's wav- And of our pastime when the night was ing wands ;

freeOr as it fawns upon the golden sands The bustle of the books the lonely notes With never ending kisses, and soft sighs,— Of a melancholy melody that floats I see thee lingering o'er its harmonies, For ever and for ever through the mind, As though some spirit did converse with thee Leaving a sad and sweet delight behind ! Of worlds divine, where shatter'd hearts I thought of Him,—the deathless--the inshall be

spiredEver at rest, amid Elysian bowers, Whose light my very earliest boyhood Lull'd with the music of the lute-fed hours.

fired, The silver sea-foam on the sands thou lovest, And of his rich creations :-have we not That at thy feet is dying, as thou rovest, Sorrow'd at high Macbeth's distorted lotAnd brightening up again—as mourners' Sigh'd over Hamlet's sweet and 'wilder'd eyes

heart That fade and sparkle while the spirits rise: And, when we came upon that piteous part Dear is the mystic world of waters, when Of love's romance, where long before 'twas Day hath departed from the eyes of men,

day And that devoted haunter of the sky, The Ladye of the moonlight pined away, The lonely moon, is lingering thoughtfully Over the sleeping fruitage-passion-pale, Over the bosom of the sleeping sea, - Have we not loved young Juliet ? That trembles in its dreams. For then to thee

The last poem in the book we do Steals that long line of pure and silver light not like so well as some others : Across the waters, which all starry bright but, as it seems, from its being disDoth from the chasten’d Deity seem to tinguished from the rest, to be a come,

favourite with the author, we may To bear thy white thoughts to a happy reasonably feel some doubt as to our home!

judgment.

We now leave Mr. John Hamilton Of late there hath been many a silent eve,

to take his chance among the lovers Rosy as wreaths which lady-fingers weave For soft brown tresses on a revel night,

of poetry.

If they have not forAnd gentle as the bird that takes its flight gotten their taste for what is good, From Cytherea's finger.-Lonely sitting we have little apprehension as to his On one of these fair eves, and idly knitting success.—There are some of his lines My thoughts,—as many a cottage spinster which we might have found fault doth

with, as being harsh and unmetrical; Her web,—in mood, half industry, half but (the errors of the book being so

few) we have preferred the critic's I sat into the twilight la e, and caught Old days and green joys in the net of more pleasant province, and have

spoken of this volume of poetry as thought : And many a dear departed scene arose

we felt it ought to be mentioned hy And pass’d away,-- like birds from their every one who is not more ready to

discover blemishes than to do justice repose, Startled by heedless feet in morning grass ;- to good and unaffected writing.

sloth :

SKETCH OF THE PROGRESS OF VOCAL SCIENCE IN ENGLAND; WITH NOTICES OF THE PRINCIPAL PERFORMERS AND COMPOSERS FROM

THE CLOSE OF THE LAST CENTURY TO THE PRESENT TIME.

No. III.

We closed our last essay * with a twenty-five years, have continued to promise, that our next should con- confer upon their possessor the most tain some description of the extraor- exalted place, perhaps, amongst Engdinary powers, which, for about lish vocalists.

# Vol. II. Page 663.

During that long period, the pro- much as to avoid being seen. Even fessional exertions of Mr. Braham when seated amongst the principals have been required at the theatre, of an oratorio, you could not take in the orchestra, at church, at him for one of any mark or likelithe table, and occasionally at the hood. When he advances to the Italian opera; and it would not be front of an orchestra for an occasional easy to say in which of those situa- performance, his bearing is depressed tions, each demanding a different by the same characteristic, and, as kind of talent, he has most excelled; we conceive, deep-felt humility ; for though in all of them, his execution he is never to be allured into the has not been free from great imper- assumption of superiority by any, nor fections.

all, of the seductive flatteries that Mr. Braham was initiated into the attend upon so successful a public science of music at a very early age,* career. Yet is he not without the and his education was completed by consciousness of his desert, and of Rauzzini of Bath. He had sung in the solidity of his claims, and the concerts; but it was his appearance understanding, and acknowledgment at Drury-lane, in the opera of Mah- of those claims, on the part of the moud, that first made his accom- public. M. Vallebreque, the husband plishments generally known to the of Catalani, in a letter to a conducEnglish public. He was engaged for tor, some years ago, set his valuation twelve nights; at the 'expiration of upon the whole catalogue of vowhich term he left England, and re- calists; and estimating the services mained abroad for some time. of his wife at five hundred pounds,

Nature seems to have delighted reduced Braham to ten, or some such herself with contrasting opposite low degree of the scale, coupling his qualities in the construction of this rate, at the same time, with the reextraordinary and gifted individual. mark, that “ Braham was nothing In Mr. Braham you see a small, but but one Jew." The estimate found not inelegantly formed man, with a its way into print, and soon after steadfast countenance, marked, how- Vallebreque entered a room where ever, with the peculiarity of his na- Braham was carelessly sitting upon tion. The physiognomy is that of a table waiting for the rehearsal of one sobered by fixed, and somewhat a concert. “ Well, Christian!” was severe thought. The demeanour is his address to the Frenchman; who, something dejected and hesitating, perceiving the drift of this abrupt rather than informed with any of the apostrophe, began to stammer out superiority of confidence or command, some words of apology:

Spare Yet there is a latent fire in the eye, yourself excuses, friend,” continued a visible, but unemployed spring and the singer, “ you cannot injure me:" elasticity in the well-compacted, and at the same time offered the though reduced scale of the whole abashed calumniator his hand. The form, that indicates power when judgment and the temper of the recalled into action. Upon the boards proof are each admirable. of Old Drury, in the ordinary dress Never was there a singer who posof his country, he would be taken sessed such faculties and acquirefor nothing beyond one of those walkments as Mr. Braham: never was ing gentlemen of the play-house, there one so provokingly unequal in who merely deliver a message, or his manner. set a chair. In the costume of the Hear him in his best and most aigretted and turbaned princes of finished performances, and he disthe East, wherein the poets of the gusts you the very instant after he opera sometimes array their heroes, has raised the sense to ecstasy.—Lishe bears himself like one whose ten to his very worst, and most tawgreatness is thrust upon him; like dry, and mawkish ballads, “ The a man picked up on a sudden behind Bewildered Maid,” for instance, or the scenes, who, though furnished any other stuff with which it pleases out, and sent on to swell a pa- his fancy to infect the taste of the geant, is solicitous about nothing so town, and you will be yet more

* A published song beginning “ Fair grove, to thee alone I do impart,” bearing his name, must have been composed by him when not more than seven or eight years old.

a

nor

was

strongly impressed with the powers nine cases out of ten, is the only of a performer, who can so tickle description one shall ever hear of a the ears, and confound the under- first-rate singer's acting. Sedgewick, standings, of a polished people. Incledon, Dignum, and Kelly, were

It is not want of judgment; for no certainly not gifted with powerful man has a better understanding of intellect;

the singing, his art, abstracted from its practice: even of the best of them, distinnor is it any deficiency in the means guished by any thing beyond its naof execution ; for he has a compass tural beauty of tone, and some meof nineteen notes, and could once chanical excellences of execution. But sing any thing in any manner. the person we are now describing

It is not easy, then, to account for is a very different being. His singvarieties which savour of singularity, ing is full of mind, full of sensibility; alike in the apprehension and ex- and his very defects are often to be pression of sentiment and musical traced to curious operations of the phrases,--for violence of transition, intellectual faculties. His head, for sudden stops and breaks, for an therefore, as a craniologist would admixture of disagreeable noises, for say, is worth examining. super-abundant ornament, and other Mr. Braham's temperament apdefects,-all which are yet blended pears to be of that particular kind with most splendid and capti- which is at once sensitive and mevating transitions of style; with fire, lancholic. (We gather it only from energy, pathos, elegance, and orna- what we have observed in the public ment, not only in higher perfection exercise of his art.) His concepthan any other professor can singly tions are rather powerful than sudexhibit, but which cannot be paral- den; his feelings more intense than leled by the aggregate qualities of irritable. The often and long disall his competitors.

puted difference, as to the actual senThe fact is, that these eccentrici- sations with which actors enter into ties are referrible to no single cause. their parts, we look upon it, is to In the first place, there is nothing be settled in a very easy way. Actso difficult to restrain as that luxu- ors, by habit, acquire a power of riance of ability, which continually instant irritability and tranquillizatempts the possessor to its excessive tion, and of taking up a passion and employment; for there is a natural laying it down in a moment—which desire to put forth every power, faculty they obtain by continued proupon all occasions, and to take the fessional excitation, and by studying world by storm. In the next place, to develope, with the rapidity of a a professor, in the course of the la- chemical evolution, the passion they borious study and practice which wish to represent. Thus by habitusuch attainments imply, is liable, from ally assuming the tones, gestures, and the very fervour to which his sen- physiognomical agitation, incident sibility and powers are brought by to the occasion, they gradually and action, to be captivated and led insensibly, as it were, acquire the astray by modes of expression, which power of instantaneously calling up better suit his own heated imagina- certain appropriate trains of feeling tion, than the sober sympathies of a and action, and of as instantly sinkmixed audience, who cannot be af- ing into repose. The intellectual fected so intensely. Hence extrava- process, to which a singer subjects gance of every kind.

himself, is somewhat dissimilar. He Vocalists have been but too long, can assume few of the exterior marks and too generally, looked upon as of passion; and his sensibility is only human machines,-two-legged up- to be exerted on the sounds, through right instruments, adapted to carry which alone he expresses emotion. to perfection the art of melodious Hence all his feelings should be more intonation. Mind has been con- intense, in proportion as their extersidered to be almost out of their nal demonstration is less vivid ; and province; and this opinion has been so far as our own experience goes, not a little aided by the total in- or as we have been able to arrive at difference of singers to the duties of a knowledge of what passes in the the stage.

What a stick he is,” in breasts of vocalists in general, unless a singer communes with himself for which he contrasts, by an expression some time previous to commencing a perfectly sublime, with the remorse, song, and stimulates, raises, and ma- hesitation, and anguish, of the pretures, by silent reflection, the sen- ceding recitative. timents to which he is about to give In these, the vocal adaptations of utterance, his imitation will be cold pause, emphasis, and tone, to the and lifeless, although the technical expression of the access and recess perfection of time, tune, tone, and of passion, are wonderful and unexecution, be complete. Hence it is, equalled traits of imagination and we so often perceive mechanical ex- execution ; and prove that the very cellence uninformed by a particle of depths of passion are the true tests spirit : the truth is, the generality of of the natural endowments, and acthe profession do not seek to warm quired accomplishments, of this exand cherish the imagination—they traordinary individual. They are the present it sparingly with poor and exertions of his genius, which give meagre food—they are, indeed, but him place and precedence above all too prone to starve the fancy by their competitors. austere adherence to studies strictly But in the midst of these manifesmusical. Out of this arises a very tations of power, his peculiar defects curious moral illustration. Many of obtrude themselves as conspicuously, those singers, both male and female, if not more so, than in any of his who have been principally distin- lighter efforts. guished for expressiveness, have been The beautiful recitative of Jephtha also notorious for the licentiousness is deformed by singular and vitiated of their lives. We infer from this pronunciation of the words, and by fact, that their natural warmth of nasality in the tone-by forced, hard, temperament has been the cause and sudden terminations of notes: all both of their excellence in art, and these, however, are assignable to of their obliquity of conduct.

excess of elaboration, and to the To apply these observations to the still stronger cause we have before subject of our notice:

pointed out, the referring to, and From the forcible expression of satisfying, the heated imagination Mr. Braham, and the strong lights of the performer himself, instead of and shades with which he invests his appealing to the natural feelings of passages, it is obvious, that he has some judicious and sensitive auditor. brooded over his conceptions, and, It is thus that sensibility is liable to by long consideration, has wrought produce a dangerous exaggeration. up his sensibility to those powerful His great defects have been a want exhibitions of feeling, which are dis- of uniformity of tone, and the vioplayed in his songs of passion. Take, lence and abruptness of his transifor example, his recitative and air from tions. His notes will sometimes flow Jephtha, the most celebrated of his per- in a beautiful succession of sweetness formances, where as much study and and polish for a bar or two, when elaboration will be perceived as in the suddenly there will come a break, acting of Mr. John Kemble.--Call a stop, a note unfinished; an overto mind his description of the rising strained sound, brought out like the sum in “ The Creation.” With what blast of a horn; or some unaccountvigour does he portray the bursts able noise, originating in some strange of light by a volata most judiciously idea of peculiar expression, which inapplied to the word darts ;" and terrupts and annihilates, in a moment, by what gradations of tone and feel the soft train of satisfaction, and deing, he images the personal senti- stroys the illusion. Every passion ments of “ An am'rous joyful happy in singing must be expressed with a spouse,'

,"--and “A giant proud and certain melodiousness ; sorrow, anglad to run his measured course!ger, and revenge, must be tempered

In the air which follows the first in their harshness, or the charm is named recitative, how beautifully dissolved. Inaccurate notions redoes he delineate the heartfelt, sub- specting the true position of the grand dued mixture of parental suffering boundary, continually lead Mr. Braand joy, in the pathetic melody, ham beyond it; his hearers cannot " Wuft her, dngels, through the skies!follow him, and the bond of sympatlıy

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

is broken. It is the same warmth of voice of compass, tone, volume, and feeling, the same exuberance of fancy accuracy of intonation, superior to and of power, that tempt him to any we ever heard*-an execution wander into an inapplicable super- incapable of embarrassment; a fancy abundance of ornament; and the con- that delighted to apply its unbounded stant abuse of these conjoined powers means with the most profuse extraof imagination and execution is the vagance; a conception wbich manimore wonderful, because he has not fested itself in grandeur, tenderness, only a scientific and critical under- and pathos ; and an elocution, forstanding of the art, but he has at all

cible and impressive. But, unfortimes had ample opportunity of dis- tunately, there was no continuity; playing all his talents—in their pro- though there was “every thing by per places. It is, therefore, the more turns,” there was nothing long." surprising that he should have yield- He took his cue, indeed, from the ed to the vulgar hope of manifesting place: and thus his singing was reall his various abilities at once, and fined and voluptuous at the Opera; of reconciling incongruities the most scientific, full of energy and captivaanomalous. But such has been the tion, in the orchestra ; loud, gaudy, fact; and while it has, in almost every and declamatory, at the theatre. But instance, deprived him of that highest the faults we have recited were compraise which belongs to fine and pure mon to him in all places; and seldom, taste, it has had a most prejudicial indeed, could he be said to leave the effect upon the judgment of the pub- train of pure satisfaction to flow freelic, in giving birth to a race of imi- ly, and without some check, for a few tators, who yawl out their tones, seconds of time. squeeze out their words, and trick up How curious is the compensation their second-hand mannerism with to be observed in nature, and through every piece of dirty ragged finery, nature extending into art. Harrison their great model has worn out and had few and feeble requisites; but cast off, and then expect to pass for he cultivated them with so delicate admirable singers and fertile inven- and so just an apprehension of his tors. Thus, the whole ear of Eng- capacities, that he lived to exhibit land is “rankly abused;" and a ge- the most finished model of particular neration must pass away, before the excellence of any singer; and, by his art can be purified from the corrup- example, he did more to purify and imtions with which Mr. Braham's ex- prove the public taste than any of his ample has infected it. Something, predecessors. Braham has enjoyed nahowever, will depend upon his suc- tural gifts, more extensive, and com

At present, there is no legi- manding, than any competitor in art timate heir to his great honours. We on record. He has left nothing unearnestly hope, that some true genius sought, that practice could obtain. will arise, who may have courage, He may, indeed, be said to have firmness, and power enough to re- reached the summit of perfection in store ease, grace, and polished refine- every thing but combination. Yet ment, and to re-establish dethroned has this vocalist so corrupted the nature; “ instinct with feeling,” but judgment of his age, that half a cennot “ drunk with passion.”

tury will scarcely suffice to restore Mr. Braham, in his zenith, had a British Vocal Art to a state of purity.

cessors.

Its quality approached more nearly to that of the reed than the string. He used the falsette; but from a facility of taking it up on two or three notes of his compass at pleasure, he had so completely assimilated the natural and falsette at their junction, that it was impossible to discover where he took it, though the peculiar tone in the highest notes was clearly perceptible. Before his time, the junction had always been very clumsily conducted by English singers. Johnstone, who had a fine falsette, managed it so badly, that he obtained, from the abruptness of his transitions, the cognomen of “ Bubble and Squeak." Braham could proceed with the utmost rapidity and correctness through the whole of his compass by semitones, without the hearer being able to ascertain where the falsette commenced.

« ElőzőTovább »