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Life Sketches Of Composers Classical Songs

( Originally Published 1920 )


FRANZ ABT composed songs that have become of enduring popularity throughout Germany, and part songs that rival Mendelssohn's in the affections of the Germans. His interest in singing did not stop there but produced also one of the most useful of modern methods. Abt was born at Eilenburg, Germany, in 1819; died at Wiesbaden in 1885. He was trained at Leipzig; in 1841 was appointed conductor of the opera at Bernburg, and occupied other posts of the same kind at Zurich and Brunswick. In 1882 he retired. He wrote more than five hundred works.


Giulio Marco Bordogni, equally famed as a dramatic tenor and as a singing teacher, was born near Bergamo, Italy, in 1788. He first appeared in opera in Milan in 1813, and sang with brilliant success in Italy and then in Paris. In 1833 he left the stage and became singing teacher at the Conservatoire of Paris, where he remained for more than twenty years. His pupils numbered some of the greatest singers of the period-Sontag, Rudersdorff, Mario, and Balfe among them. He died in Paris in 1856. His practical instruction books and vocalisers have long been recognized as among the most valuable of their kind.


How strongly the folk song of his native Poland appealed to Chopin is shown by the great use he made of it in his mazurkas and polonaises, and in some of his works in larger forms, as the Krakowiak. It is also shown in the seventeen Polish songs that were published after his death. While these are original melodies of his own, many of them exhibit strikingly the spirit and form and the characteristic mood of the Polish popular tunes. If he met with any new and beautiful poetry in his native tongue, he would set it to music, not for. publication, but for his own pleasure. Many have been lost because the composer constantly put off committing them to paper. Others have been sung in Poland without any-thing positive being known as to their origin, and have thus taken on the character of true folk-songs.


Giuseppe (Joseph) Concone was one of the most famous singing masters of modern times, and has done work in the formulation of exercises, studies, and vocalisers that are indispensable for the proper training of the voice. He was born in Turin, Italy, in 1810, and lived there as a musician till 1836, when his first opera was unsuccessfully produced. Then he moved to Paris, and became singing teacher at the Conservatoire; he taught also pianoforte and theory, and his numerous songs and duets were very popular. In 1848 he returned to Turin, where he remained till his death in 1861, active as organist of the Royal Chapel.


Except for his three operas, Peter Cornelius's most important works are his songs. Of these about eighty have been published, many of them posthumously. They have qualities that promise them a permanent place in the literature of vocal music. For many of them he wrote the verses himself, and this is significant of his views as to the union of text and music in spirit and form. For he was an ardent follower of Wagner and Liszt. Born in Mainz in 1824, the nephew of the great painter Cornelius, he first intended to become an actor, but turned to music and studied with Dehn in Berlin. In 1852 he went to Weimar and became a member of Liszt's circle, writing many critical essays championing the- new school. The intrigues against his opera, "Der Barbier von Bagdad," produced in 1858, were the cause of Liszt's resignation as conductor of the Grand Ducal Opera. Cornelius became professor of harmony and rhetoric at the reorganized Conservatory in Munich, when Wagner was summoned thither by Ludwig II. He died in 1874.


Robert Franz's life was quiet and most uneventful; yet he occasioned much stir through his championship of a fuller orchestral accompaniment for the choral works of Bach and Handel than a certain school of musicians was willing to concede. He was devoted to the spirit of Bach's music, and influenced by the warmth of Schubert and Schumann's romantic spirit; it may be traced through all his own work. This consists almost entirely of songs, with a few choruses; and to these he devoted a consummate art and perfect finish of style. He was born in Halle, Germany, June 28, 1815, lived there all his life, and died there October 24, 1892. He studied under Schneider at Dessau, and published his first songs in 1843. He composed in all about three hundred and fifty. He was conductor of the Singakademie and musical director of the university at Halle. His later years were troubled by blindness and poverty.


Johann Carl Gottfried Loewe's name is inseparably connected with the ballad as a form of musical expression. He was an enormously fertile composer, but his operas, symphonies, pianoforte pieces, and chamber works have all fallen into oblivion. Of his four hundred ballads and songs many still retain their freshness and vitality, and in recent years there has been a renewal of interest in them. The German poets, Burger, Herder, Goethe, Schiller, and Uhland trans-planted the ballad into German literature from Scotland. Loewe found the right expression for it in music, picturesque, romantic, legendary; maintaining the strophic form, but with a dramatic free-dom. Loewe was born in Lobejun, near Halle, November 30, 1796, and died at Kiel, April 20, 1869. He studied in Halle; had his first appointment as teacher in Stettin in 1820, and there remained as cantor, teacher, and musical director of the city till 1866. Then he suffered a slight stroke of paralysis, was asked to resign by a grateful town council, and lived in Kiel for the remaining three years of his life.


Schubert was the great master for all time of the art of song writing. In this department he achieved perfection from his boy-hood years, while he was still laboring and experimenting in other lines of composition. There are six hundred and three of his songs preserved and now published, though many of them remained in manuscript long after his death. The German Lied had been cultivated by great masters before him; Mozart and Beethoven and many lesser men had produced beautiful specimens; but it was reserved for him to raise it to its highest power of expression and perfection of structure. He disclosed a new world in it, entirely through the freshness, power, and emotional poignancy of his musical ideas; for he did little to enlarge its formal apparatus. He invented no new manner, no new technique, no new style. Rather, as has been said, he did away once for all with the traditional limitations of the song and the idea of a special technique for song writing. His gift of heaven-sent melody was consorted with a remarkable genius for potent, bold, and moving harmony. Many have followed Schubert in the art upon which he bestowed a new eloquence; but none have ever reached the heights he reached in his greatest songs.


When Robert Schumann married Clara Wieck, after years of struggle and degrading conflict with her obstinate father, it seemed as if the floodgates of a stream of inspiration, till then pent up, were opened and the ecstasy of his happiness was poured out in a great series of songs. Up to the year 1840 his musical creative powers had been confined to the production of piano music; but now it seemed as if no medium but the human voice could interpret his joy. Schumann was a poet himself in prose and verse, and his songs are not only a musician's but also a poet's interpretation of his romantic spirit and poetic enthusiasms. His finer taste in literature is apparent, in contrast with Schubert, in his selection of verses, for which he turned chiefly to the younger romantic German school. He sought for exact interpretation in music, avoiding conventional forms in melody and accompaniment, and bringing the music into intimate and vital relationship with the poetry. Warmth, depth of passion, and of sentiment characterize them and raise them to a place by themselves, among all the products of modern musical art. They translate the profounder emotions of humanity as do few others.


Of the two famous Lampertis, masters of the art of song, Francesco was the elder. He was born at Savona, Italy, in 1813, and was a pupil of the Milan Conservatory. In 1850 he entered it as professor of singing, and gave vocal instruction there for twenty-six years. He had many famous pupils; among them Albani, Artot, Cruvelli, Lagrange, and Italo Campanini. He published singing methods and vocal exercises. He died at Como in 1892.


Mathilde Marchesi de Castrone, nee Graumann, was born at Frank-fort in 1826. She was a pupil in Vienna of Otto Nicolai, conductor and composer of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," and of Manuel Garcia in Paris. She was at first a concert singer, and greatly esteemed in Paris and London. In 1852 she married the singer Salvatore, Marquis de Castrone, and together they appeared in opera in a number of cities. Then in 1854 they became singing teachers at the Vienna Conservatory. After this they lived for some years in Paris, taught singing in the Cologne Conservatory, and again in Vienna; and in 1881 they removed to Paris, where lime. Marchesi has made a great name as a private teacher.


Antonio Mazzoni was one of the old Italian exponents of singing, whose methods helped to form the school to whose perfection all subsequent teachers have aspired to reach. The date of his birth is uncertain, either 1710. or 1725. He was born in Bologna. He produced operas, and sang in operas. Undertook a journey to Spain, remaining several years in Madrid, then accepted an engagement in St. Petersburg, and returned to Bologna in 1750, where he died in 1792. He published many solfeggios, besides a number of operas, oratorios, etc.


Gaetano Nava, who was born in Milan, 1802, and died there in 1875, was a pupil of the Milan Conservatory, and in 1837 was appointed professor of solfeggio there; in 1848, maestro of choral singing and harmony for the alumni. He wrote a great number of excellent solfeggi and vocalisers, also a method; and he was not unknown as a composer of church music.


Heinrich Panofka was a German, born in Breslau in 1807, but his long residence in Paris caused him to write his name Henri. He began as a violinist and studied in Vienna. After some concert giving he settled in Paris in 1834, playing at the Conservatoire concerts and studying singing and vocal instruction under Bordogni. They two founded in 1842 a singing academy, which was not successful. In 1844 he moved to London, where he became a singing teacher and conductor. He returned to Paris in 1852, and settled in Florence in 1866, where he died in 1887. He wrote no little violin music; but his vocal works, for instruction, very numerous, are far more important.


Auguste Mathieu Panseron, born in Paris in 1796, was the son of a musician, who gave him his first instruction. Then he studied at the Conservatoire, won the Roman prize, studied further in Italy, and in Vienna and Naples, and returned to Paris in 1818. In 1826 he became professor of Solfege at the Conservatoire, and of other branches of singing later. He composed many songs and much church music. His real eminence, however, is based on his numerous valuable methods and collections of solfeges for the voice, of which he published many. He died in Paris in 1859.


Few singing teachers have published more copiously than Ferdinand Sieber, who, though an Austrian, born in Vienna in 1822, was an exponent of the old Italian art of song. Many books on the theoretical side of singing as well as practical exercises in large numbers, are his contribution to the subject. He sang in opera, taught in Dresden from 1848 to 1854, then settled in Berlin, where he died in 1895.


Niccolo Vaccai was turned from the frivolous employment of an Italian opera composer in the early nineteenth century to the more serious one of teaching singing, through the failure of several of his operas. He was born near Ancona, Italy, in 1790, and was originally intended for the law, but turned to music and studied under Paisiello at Naples. After several failures in opera, Vaccai took up the teaching of singing successfully. He visited Paris and London, attaining great popularity. In 1838 he was appointed to the Milan Conservatory, remaining there till his retirement in 1844. He died in 1848. His "Practical Method" has long been famous. The general plan of the "Lessons" in it is to give melodious exercises, not to bare vowels or syllables, but to smooth Italian verses. These have been admirably translated into good English by Theo. Marzials.


Pauline Viardot-Garcia, daughter of tie famous Manuel Garcia, the operatic singer and teacher who in 1905 celebrated his one hundredth birthday, was born in Paris in 1821. She herself was a noted operatic mezzo-soprano in her day, of great dramatic power. She first appeared in opera in London in 1839. In 1841 she married Viardot, director of the Theatre Italien in Paris. She sang with great success till 1863, when she retired. For some years she taught at the Conservatoire, and has composed operas and songs. Her works for study are highly esteemed.

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