« НазадПродовжити »
Select Viens in Greece. No. I. By H. W. Williams. Imp. 8vo.
Price 12s. Hurst, Robinson and Co. London. . 1824.
Mr. Williams is an able Scotch artist, who made a tour through Greece a few years since, and brought back drawings and designs of the chief memorable monuments and places of a country, where all is memorable. His drawings, after having excited the praise of the Scotch capital, are now being engraved, and the present publication is the first of a series, illustrative of those glorious ruins.
The Parthenon in its present State.
It is, of course, extremely difficult to convey to the reader any sufficient idea of these designs. About five inches long, by three high, they might seem to allow but inadequate room for display; yet art has been so dexterous in their execution, that in some examples, we can scarcely see how additional size could have given additional effect.
The first engraving, the Parthenon in its present state, is a . fine bold view of that master-piece, seen under a gloomy sky, and admirably true.
The Parthenon restored, strikes us by no means with the same impressions of grandeur and purity. It appears disproportioned, low, and modern. This, however, is the mark of the copyist, for the original, which was exhibited at Somerset House, was a very fine and stately performance.
Athens, the third engraving, is a small coup-d'ail of the city and the adjoining landscape, too minute and trivial for effect, but sufficiently clear to give a tolerable idea of the celebrated city at a distance.
The Temples of Erectheus and Minerva Palias, or the Protectress of the city, the fourth engraving, form an admir. able perspective. Magnificent pillars, diminishing to the extremity of the design, are seen under, we presume, the morning sun. Deep shades rest upon one portion, while others are thrown into vivid light, and the whole, minute as it is, is filled with a visible magnificence, purity and beauty.
But the fifth engraving, the Plain of Platæa, the scene of the final victory of Greece over the Persian invasion, the greatest battle ever fought upon her soil, and the most comprehensive and signal in its results, strikes us as possessing the finest character of all. It is an expanse of weedy ground, with a few rough square buildings, or tombs scattered over it. The setting sun, we presume, is lingering on the horizon ; twilight is drawing over the foreground; the waning moon is in the centre of the heavens; a few stars are on the sky; a solitary palm-tree is bending in the distance, and the whole has a look of lofty melancholy, that shows the painter to be also a poet. It is a noble and lovely pictorial elegy.
The Acroceraunian Promontory closes the number ; a wild struggle of sea and whirlwind, lightnings bursting down from clouds, and white billows : but as, to paint a storm is impossible, the difficulty is not diminished by the diminution of the scale, and this general conyulsion of the elements, five inches by three is to us unintelligible.
On the whole this is a very elegant though a very small, and a very characteristic though a very simple publication. The only objectionable feature, is the attempt to explain the designs by quotations from the Greek and Latin, and nothing but quotations. Such attempts explain nothing but the compiler's avidity to be thought a man of learning. It would be better for him, and for any one, to be thought a man of sense. A few sentences in honest English prose, would tell more than as many pages of fooleries and fragments from the ancients. Let him be wiser in his next number. Yet we should regret to have lost these vigorous and vivid lines from Sotheby's Transtion of the Georgics; a performance not exceeded by any in our language, in its fidelity, or the force and beauty of its versification. It is from the celebrated passage:
“ Ipse pater mediâ nimborum innocte."
“ The Thunderer, throned in clouds, with darkness crown'd,
Bares his red arm, and flashes darkness round;
Vie de Rossini, par M. De STENDHALL. Paris. 8vo. 10s. 6d. 1824.
THESE are two of the most amusing volumes that we have ever laid hands on, full of wit and blunder, good sense and affectation, containing an immense fund of novelty and information, so livelily and impudently uttered, that it is not the less entertaining for being often false. M. De Stendhall, for such is the Germanic title assumed by the Frenchman, Mr. Bayle, is well versed in two subjects, viz. music and Italy, either of which would at any time furnish an amusing volume. But the author is not contented with the character of the amateur and travelled man of the world, which all must allow him; he aims at more, affects to estimate the merits of all poets in all languages, passes most impertinent criticisms on English poetry, (for instance) a word of which he could not spell correctly, does the same by the bards of the Holy Roman Empire, and by way of convincing us of his depth in our literature, quotes in his support some dull paragraph from one of our third-rate journals, which he has misunderstood to agree with him. He calls the Lady of the Lake a bad poem, the Edinburgh Review the first journal, and Vigano the ballet-composer the first genius of the world. .
Thus aware of his qualifications and caprice, let us follow the Count or Baron through his “ Life of Rossini.” The year 1730 he justly fixes in as the æra, whence musical science began its progress. He instances Rousseau's Devin du Village, still tolerated at the French opera, as an awkward imitation of the music prevalent in Italy towards that time. “This music, says he, "gave place to the chefs-d'ouvre of Pergolese and Logrosino, which were superseded by those of Sacchini and Piccini, effaced in their turn by those of Guglielmi and Paisiello, names which have now given way to Rossini and Mozart." Rossini, it seems, like steam, constitution, gas, and enseignment mutuel is an innovating name, heard with horror by the worthies of the old regime, so that not only nationality, but existing party in France, is opposed to the ascendancy of Italian music. Our author, to combat this prejudice, takes up the cudgels of Rousseau, which he handles with more wit and less warmth than the zealous Jean Jaques.
“ Every thing changes in Europe, every thing is overturned: the public of the French opera alone has the glory of remaining unchanged.
It made in its time a glorious resistance against Rousseau. The fiddlers wished gallantly to put an end to him, as the enemy de l'honneur national. All Paris took part in the quarrel; they talked even of punishing him by a lettre de cachet. 'Twas just like last year at the Port St. Martin ; the liberal journals persuaded our dandies (calicots) that they ought to hiss Shakspeare, because he was aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington.”
Had the author delayed this publication of his work for a month or two, (it is dated September 30th 1823,) he might have found cause to retract much of his declamation against the musical prejudice of his countrymen, with whom indeed, as with us, the actual presence of the lion is sufficient to establish his merit against all opposition. Rossini, at Paris, in his way to our metropolis, was quite the idol of the day, and had succeeded in the interest of the Parisian fair to Ali, Alexander, and the Zodiac of Dendera. And indeed, notwithstanding M. De Stendhall's admiration of Italy, and Italian taste, Anti-Rossinism in 1822 ran as high at Naples as in Paris.
The songs of Cimarosa and Paisiello ceased with the eighteenth century; the former died at Venice of the effects of a long imprisonment in January 1801, the musical genius of the latter became extinct about the same time, although the man lingered till 1816. The interregnum between their disappearance and Rossini's rise in 1812, is occupied by Mayer and Paër, who, as their German names import, were men more famous for noise and richness of harmony, than for novelty or beauty in their airs. They however prepared the way for the reception of Mozart's music in Italy, where that powerful genius was looked on, even till long after his death (in 1796, as a barbarian not devoid of talent. In 1807, some Italians of distinction who had served under Napoleon in Germany, began, upon their return to Milan, to speak of Mozart; the consequence was, that one of his operas was with difficulty put in rehearsal—but in vain, “ the Italian symphonists were lost in this ocean of notes,” as De Stendhall says; unable to mutter Mozart's music, they cried out against it as barbarous, and the orchestra found many abettors even among the most enlightened : “ Gli accompagnamenti tedeschi non sono guardie d'onore pell canto, ma gendarmi," said the Chevalier M.; “ German accompaniments are not guards of honour to song, but gens d'armes.” At length by dint of secrecy in getting up, and the help of influence and bringing it out, a noble amateur succeeded in representing the Don Giovanni to a Milanese audience. In 1814, it was given at the great
theatre of La Scala, with wonderful success. The next year, the Nozze di Figaro was brought out with similar luck. “ Aujourd'hui Mozart est à peu près compris en Italie, mais il est loin d'y être senti.” But let us leave Mozart for the present, to occupy ourselves with the subject of M. De Stendhall's biography.
Joachim Rossini was born February, 1792, at Pesaro, in the Roman territories. His father was an inferior French-horn player to one of those wandering bands that attend the different fairs of Romagna ; his mother a seconda donna passabile. At twelve years of age Joachim commenced his musical studies under one Tesee at Bologna, and soon was able to earn a few sixpences by singing in churches. In 1807 he became leader of one of the strolling orchestras above-mentioned, and gave up singing in churches. 1808 is the date of his first composition, a symphony and cantata entitled, Il pianto d'Armonia. As his leisure months were spent at his native town of Pesaro, he there had the good fortune to gain admittance to the Perticari family, who patronized his rising talents, and a fitter school of mental cultivation nature could not have chosen for him. Count Giulio Perticari, though somewhat a pedant, was one of the first literary characters in Italy, and his lady, the daughter of Monti, as famous for her wit and accomplishments, as for other more affable traits of character. Report makes her the mistress of Rossini ; this however De Stendhall does not hint. It was the countess we suppose, who sent him to Venice in 1810, when he composed for the theatre St. Mose the little opera of La Cambiale di Matrimonio. In 1812, he returned to Venice, and there gave the Inganno Felice, the first piece which gave full promise of his future excellence. “ It is,” says De Stendhall, á like the first pictures of Raphael issuing from the school of Perugino.” Its success gave the young composer courage and pride; so much so, that he ventured in another piece to take revenge of the manager or impresario, who had slighted him ; as the composer has full power over the orchestra, he made the violin players, in the midst of the allegro-movement of the overture, interrupt their play to tap with their bows the tin reflectors which held the candles at their sides. The public took the insult, and hooted as vociferously as an Italian public can. It was in Venice for the Carnival of 1813 that Rossini composed Tancredi,
Who has not heard " Di Tanti Palpiti," if not in the feeling strains of Madame Pasta, at least ground by some organ in the Strand ? Rossini at first composed Tancredi without this delicious air, but hear the history of it in the words of De Stendhall: