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4,372 A WEEK AT DERBY, DURING *
THĘ FESTIVAL. You ask me, to give you an account of the Festival at Derby. You say: amongst many other agreeable things, that you are desirous of learning what impression a series of these exhibitions make upon a man of-I quote your words—" of some sensibility, whose apprehension of the delicate and grand in sound, are not obscured by an undue respect for the mere technicalities of music.” You wish also to know how “ the heart of the country” responds to these musical intimations; and, in a word, you desire to know all my whereabout, without excuse, curtailment, or delay." The result of all this is, that I send you a journal of my proceedings; a small requital, I confess, for your compliments, which I have found, as you see, irresistible.
The Festival of Derby was given for the benefit of “ The General Infirmary;" the Sacred Music being performed in All Saints' Church, and the Miscellaneous (or profane) at the County Hall.
It is a pleasant thing to find oneself in a place devoted to enjoyment of any sort; and this pleasure is not diminished when music of the loftiest character is to form a part of the recreation. Accordingly, I felt that I was about to enter upod an agreeable scene, and I resolved to enjoy it as much as I might. The preparations, with their hum and bustle, the dusky old-fashioned houses in the Irongate, the deep red of the newer buildings, the exceedingly fair complexions of the damosels of. Derby, the occasional recognition of faces that I had seen in London, all interested me. The first person whom I recognized, as the mail rolled into the town, was François Cramer, the steady, excellent leader of the band, ready dressed, and looking both in time and tune, and altogether presenting a pleasant intimation of what was about to happen. The band which he led, consisting of about a couple of hundred performers, reckoned amongst them the names best known in the world of music. The chorus singers (ini number from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty, I believe,) were alone worth a journey thither; for there is never the same vast body of voice to be heard in London. The principal singers were Mrs. Knyvett, Madame Stockhausen, Miss Cramer, and Miss Masson (a delightful singer), Mr. Vaughan, Mr. Wm. Knyvett
, Mr. E. Taylor, Mr. Phillips, and Mr. Braham. To these were added (for the evening concerts only) De Begnis. The person, however, who mainly interested me (and who was in effect the solid prop of the Derby Festival) was the Chevalier Sigismond Neukomm. Of him I shall speak hereafter.
We will now proceed to discuss the performers. I shall first, however, trouble you with a few words touching my right (not being a professor of the art) to give any opinion on the subject. The question has been a good deal agitated lately,—whether a man, ignorant of counterpoint (but otherwise being fairly entitled to entertain an opinion for himself, and having, moreover, ears of no extraordinary dimensions) may speak of the dealers in sweet sounds. I confess I think that a jury would decide in his favour. Let it be remembered that music consists, not only of a collocation of sounds, formed upon established rules (which is the science, properly so called) but of expression and character also'; and, be it said under favour--the highest parts of music are by no means those which are built upon mere technical knowledge. Science is simply the power or director. Fancy and imagination (added to the knowledge of the human heart) it is, which generate fine music. Science enables you to avoid error-10 use the thoughts that come thronging into the mind with effect. But it does not create those thoughts. They arise from the taste, the sensibility, the imagination, the general intellect of the man, and crown his work with beauty and splendour; which else would remain a dull, uninteresting mass of sound, possessing no claims even to the name of music. A person of cultivated ear has as undoubted a right speak of the effect of music as a professed musician. If it be not so, let us understand at what precise period of his scholarship the learner of music becomes entitled to decide, in preference to the experienced lover of the art? Here is a dilemma. Is Diggory, fresh from the fallows, who has been playing on the salt-box, with horrible success, for a twelvemonth, to
frown down an intelligent amateur, who has been listening half his life to the divine melodies and harmonious combinations of Beethoven and Handel, of the learned Haydn, and the sweet-souled Mozart? Is the traveller, whose eye is acquainted with the beauties of Greek and Roman temples, to be laughed at by. the brick-builder, when he hazards an opinion as to the elegance of Soll's Row, or Islipgton Terrace, which the said builder has built-not according to Vitrus vius, but “ according to contract ?"--The thing is preposterous. Let the truly scientific mao be deferred to, in matters of science merely. But when the result be a thing affecting taste, or sensibility, or the general understanding of nien, let otbers be admitted to form their judgments also.
With this preamble, I proceed to the first morning exhibition of music, which commenced, in All Saints' Church, two hours after I arrived at Derby.
Tuesday, Sept. 27. The Festival opened with an Anthem of Orlando Gibbons, succeeded by the “ Te Deum," and " Jubilate.” Then came Dr. Boyce's delightful duet, “ Here shall soft Charity repair," which I used to hear Bartle? man and Harrison sing five-and-twenty years ago. It was sung on the present". occasion by Vaughan and Phillips, and sung well. The first is a pure but ineffective singer-anda good master, as I imagine; but in a church he is almost lost.' The latter (who has a capital voice, a barytone) is an invaluable singer, as well for the quality of his tones, which are eminently rich, as for his general taste ! and good sense. « The Prophecy of Babylon,” (a composition of the Chevalier Neukomm) was given with good effect by Mr. E. Taylor, to whom the musical world are indebted for various translations and adaptations from Italian and German composers of eminence. I was told that this geotleman was originally an amateur only, but that circumstances had rendered it desirable for him to follow Music as a profession. This, and the intimation of his having always patronized the art and its followers, gave him an interest in my eyes. His voice (a regular bass) is very effective in quartets, &c. and he uses it with judgment. A manuscript composition of Attwood was next heard; and then Braham gave the famous recitative “ Deeper and Deeper Still.” To my thinking, he sung it more finely than I had ever heard, more purely, and with a more touching effect. His performance of the air “ Waft her Angels," was not, I thought, equal to his introductory recitative. There is sometimes an approach to exaggeration in this great singer, and sometimes almost too great a fusion of the dramatic into his sacred songs, but in the recitative from Jephtha all was perfect, and in the best taste.
If Braham be not the most extraordinary singer (and I think the matter may admit of some debate on his behalf), he is, beyond a question, one of the most extraordinary singers that ever lived. Here has he been singing for almost balf a century, manifesting (when he pleases) the purest taste, great science, and a power of voice that is beyond parallel. The thrilling exultation of some of his songs
shakes the heart within us, like the blast of a trumpet. It is difficult to imagine that the tender but clear notes which he sometimes gives out, like the sound of silver, proceed from the same throat, that at other times sends abroad terrible notes that drown the brazen voices of the orchestra. He has infinite flexibility and power of adapting himself to any subject. The tender air, the merry song, the “terribil via,” are all and completely his. He ranges about, like a “chartered libertine,” subduing all things before him. He is at home with every composer, and in all their moods; representing with equal power, and seemingly with equal facility, the sublimity of Handel or Haydn, the pathos or grandeur of the Chevalier Neukomm, the frenzy of the songs of Purcell
, the boisterous merriment of Martini, and the bacchanalian madness of wine! '
Tuesday evening.–The Concert-room was not crowded this evening; but afterwards, the evening performances were exceedingly well attended. You will suppose that some interest was excited by the festival, when I tell
that Mr. Moscheles, Mr. Horseley, Mrs. Anderson, and various others, honoured by the lovers of music, were among the company at Derby. Mr. Thomson (a young composer of promise, and very considerable science, as I understand) was also there; and the Chevalier Neukomm conducted, whenever his own compositions
occurred. The first concert commenced with a Grand Sinfonia (an impressive piece of music) by M. Neukomm; after which a Glee, by Mr. Horseley, was sung by Mr and Mrs. Knyvett, Vaughan, and Phillips. The words (by Ben Jonson) “ See the chariot at hand here of love," are, for the most part, beautiful, and the music is admirably adapted to them. There is that rare alliance between sound and sense which the uninitiated are perpetually looking out for in vain. The well-known recitative and air, by Dr. Calcott, “ Angel of Life,” followed speedily* after Mr. Horseley's glee. It is yielding Mr. Phillips no small praise, to say that I heard him sing it with very great pleasure, although on the only occasion when I had before heard it, Bartleman himself was the singer. Then came “ Napoleon's midnight Review," by the Chevalier Neukomm, a grand ghastly performance! The sounds (like subdued thunder) which accompany, and, as it were, envelope the words of this Scena, are beyond measure fine and characteristic. There is nothing of earth about them; and yet there is little or nothing of vulgar resource exhibited, in order to produce an appalling effect. The transition at the close, from the solemn aud weighty sounds, where the watchword is given, to the Elysian movement, (“Thus at the midnight hour," &c.) cannot be too much admired. Madame Stockhausen supg one of her Swiss songs this evening, “ The Drover Boy," as delightfully as ever. In the migration of souls, which the Arabians assure us is perpetually taking place, I apprehend that the spirit of some lark, or bullfinch, has made the bosom of Madame Stockhausen its temporary home. She is as sweet as the mockingbird, and her trills and turns are wonderful. May she go on singing and delighting us, for half a century to come! Before I close my account of this evening's concert, I must not forget to do justice to Miss Masson, whose performance of “Se m'abbandoni,” was inferior only to what Pasta could have effected. I was exceedingly struck by the modesty, good sense, and talent of this young lady. I never saw, in so young a singer, so complete an avoidance of bad ornament and common-place. In point of expression, I am pot sure that she is not at the very summit of the English (female) school. She is just the máster (you will permit this Irishism, I know), that musical ladies should consult, when they wish to emancipate themselves from the ordinary sing-song style, and to exhibit good sense and expression. She has one little fault, I thiuk, (and I speak of it with the same frankness that I use when I praise her ;) she is sometimes not sufficiently articulate. Owing to her having sung a great deal of Italian music, (which she sings excellently, she has acquired a habit of slurring, or fusing the words together. Our language, with its multitude of consonants, requires a different method; and I beg her (for I admire her) to adopt one. There was a tolerable quantity of the gentry and nobility of the neighbourhood present in the County-ball this evening. The Lord 'Lieutenant of the county, however, (the Duke of Devonshire,) was not there. All eyes seemed opened wide to catch the first sight of his advent. “The cry was still be comes :" yet he came not, after all, and the lovers of stars and garters there retired (I take this for granted) in despair.
Wednesday morning. The distinguishing feature of the Derby Festival was the music of the Chevalier Neuķomm, a composer of the very first order. I had the pleasure of interchanging some talk with him, and can testify to his being a most intelligent man. I would venture my Straduarius that he is also an amiable one. M. Neukomm is attached to the French embassy. He is nol, however,“ private Secretary to Prince Talleyrand," as has been stated; neither is he a Frenchman. He is, in truth, a native of Saltzburg, and was, during seven years, a pupil of Haydn. There is, I believe, but one opinion amongst real musicians, wbich is, that he does great honour to that great master. His knowledge of harmony and musical effect is probably unsurpassed ; and his melodies
You will understand that I do not profess to give you a regular account of every song, but only of such as positively pleased or displeased me. Were I to specify everything, I should be as dull as a catalogue. My object is to tell you, familiariter, all that passed across my mind on the occasion.
are most graceful, touching, and original. I endeavoured, during his oratorio, to cateh a resemblance between his music and that of. Mozart, Haudel, and Haydn; but I was unable to do so, except occasionally in a bar or so, when I fancied that a dim likeness existed between his ideas and those of the latter, especially where the wind instruments occurred. It was so small, however, as not to impeach in the slightest degree his claim to originality. I compared him also with Spohr, whose " Last Judgment" was performed on the last day of the Festival, and also (as far as I could, by means of imperfect recollections) with certain music of Ries and Spontini. In my mind, he surpasses all of them. With as much grandeur as Spohr occasionally exhibits, he unfolds far sweeter melodies; and his recitatives, duets, and solos are invested, I think, with very considerably more expression.-The Oratorio of “ Mount Sinai” has been the subject of so much detailed criticisin, that I shall touch merely upon a few of its prominent parts. You will understand, that it, in fact, consists of “The Ten Commandments," each of which is prefaced and followed by various portions of the Old Testament, selected with infinite taste, and adapted to recitatives and atrs, duets, quartets, and solos, according to the judgment of the composer. The Commandments themselves, which are invariably given in chorus, may, for high and imposing effect, stand almost by the side of Handel and Haydn. The Oratorio opened with a recitative, describing the giving forth of “The fiery law; and then followed a charming quartet,“ He loveth his flock,” which, in its tenderness and a certain pastoral simplicity, can scarcely be excelled. Mr. Phil. lips's fine voice was then heard chaunting a striking air, “I carried you upon eagles' wings.” Then Braham gave out, in his great style, the descent of God upon Mount Sinai, amongst thunders and lightnings, and “ The voice of the trumpet exceeding loud :" and Then-all the grandeur of music broke loose, and the words of the first Commandment, “ I AM THE LORD thy God!" came down, in vast oracular tones, that left no room in the mind for any thing but admiration and surprise. I do not remember ever to have been so awe-struck by music as by this first chorus, proclaiming the “ I am" of the Deity, and his eternal law. I positively trembled before it. The great effect here produced seemed to me not to arise from any sudden startling transitions of sound, nor from any mysterious combinations, but to be the result of feeling and of extreme simplicity. In the recitative, which introduces the Commandment, there is, indeed, a very solemn effect of trumpets ; but the Commandment itself does not depend on any one particular instrument. It is borne upon a vast even body of sound, and is given upon exceedingly few notes. In the ensuing “Thou, even Thou," I thought the accompaniment was too powerful : but in the air sung by Mrs. Knyvett; “To whoni, then, will you liken God ?" the symphony was beyond measure delicate. This was also the case in the symphony which preceded the recitative “ According to thy name." The air following this last, where it pro ceeds, “Sing to the Lord ! O praise the God of Jacob !" is surpassingly beautiful. Every body was delighted with it; every body talked of it. There was yet another subject in the first part of the Oratorio, the grand chorus," Make a joyful noise to the Lord,” which you must be content to hear mentioned, although I have already said so much. After a few bars, it unfolds and exhibits infinite beauty and variety of sound. There is a swelling, soaring, sublime character about it, relieved by gentle modulations, and now and then a few grave notes, that make it delightful to the unlearned, as well as to the learned hearer.
I have left myself no space to speak of the second part as it deserves. Yet I must not omit to tell you, in half-a-dozen lines, that the sixth Commandment “ Thou shalt do no Murder!" with its rolling drums, was fearfully fine; or that there was an exquisite duet between Braham and Phillips-" Happy the Man who hath found a virtuous Woman.” (This was decidedly one of the best pieces.) That Mr. Vaughan sang a very pleasant air—"Preserve thy tongue from Evil, with horn accompaniments;—that Miss Masson did justice to a lofty solemn recitative—“ The Lord will scatter the Darkness;" and that the fúgue of Glo rify the Lord,” which concluded the oratorio, left on the minds of all hearers a conviction that the Chevalier Sigismond Neukomm is a composer whose name will hereafter be coupled with Haydn and Beethoven, and those other lofty
geniuses who have come "like morning stars" among us, and departed ; and that he is, in a word, one of the greatest masters of music that this century, at least, has seen.
Wednesday evening.-This evening, during Mozart's Grand Sinfonia, (Jupiter,) the lightning came blazing about the large concert-room, and startled some of us who were listening very quietly to the fine heathen músic. It went off speedily, however, and left us at leisure to admire the beautiful “ Dove Sono," Purcell's “ Mad Tom," (capitally sung by Braham,) and King Death,” and “The Sea," by the Chevalier Newkomm, both of which were encored. The concert concluded with a laughing trio of Martini, (every one in the room laughing with all their might in concert with the singers,) and a chorus from Mozart's “s'ito." I never saw any body laugh so well as Braham in this side-shaking trio. De Begnis was one of the party, and grinned with hideous effect.
Thursdny morning. The music this morning consisted solely of “The Mesa siah." It was ill attended; but, for the most part, well performed. This great Oratorio, (the finest in the world, I apprehend,) has been so often criticised, that I shall not detain you, by pointing out those beauties in detail, which you probably know better than myself. But I must be allowed to say a few words on Handel (on “ Mister Handel,” as the Rev. R. Simpson calls him.) He has been called “The Giant" of music. If by this it be meant to convey a perfect_idea of the qualities of Handel, the phrase is altogether incompetent. The giant Hurlothrumbo, who ate little children, was a mere mass of bone and muscle, a clown complete. But the great musician was a person of a totally different order. He had vast power, it is true, and his display of this at times impresses us with a vague notion of physical strength. But then he had, superadded, and, as it were, adorning and hallowing the coarser and merely vigorous parts of his mind, infinite delicacy, infinite grace, the most touching pastoral simplicity, and a sense of the sublime, which carried him beyond the uttermost flight of any other composer whatsoever.' He seemed fit' (not to speak it profanely) to write hymns for angels,-to convey to us, through the divine power of music, an idea of those vast hallelujahs and acclamations, which are said to ascend from the heavenly hosts, like invisible incense, towards the throne of God. I caught myself fifty times fancying that I was soaring up and uphovering in the air—ascending and descending—and wheeling about in all sorts of spiral evolutions, whilst I was listening to the choruses of the Messiah. This 'was all absurd enough; but it will give you a notion of how I was borne away by the music, perhaps better than more rational conduct. I do not know how other people are impressible by musical sounds, but they sometimes make me thrill, from top to toe, as though I were touched by some electrical engine.
The Messiah is the great deed of Handel. But, independently of this, there is enough of beauty and power scattered over his other works, (his “ Acis and Galatea,” his “ Jephtha,” his “ Sampson," &c.) to make up a mighty name for any other composer. In the way of comparison, he may be said to resemble Milton more than any other great genius. The same excellences distinguish them-perhaps the same defects. The poet was decidedly deficient in dramatic
power: I do not think that it is very conspicuous in the composer. There is a degree of monotony in each, and a certain species of egotism (so to speak) which is always inimical to the “ infinite variety" which belongs to the perfect poet. Yet their modulations are grand, and sweet, and graceful beyond expression, beyond praise; and the sublime and soaring character of their finest productions makes (or ought to make) the proudest critic humble himself to the dust. A friend of mine, who has an ear for fine music, and is, moreover, a clever man, values Handel less than Beethoven and Rossini. What will he say when he is told that such was Beethoven's admiration for the great author of the Messiah, that he wished to come over to England in order to prostrate himself at his tomb?
Thursday evening.-A Grand Sinfonia in C. by Beethoven, and a tender moonlight Glee of ¥lorseley, introduced an air by Mrs. Robert Arkwright. The