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Amusements - Music

( Originally Published 1902 )



AMONG the accomplishments and entertainments, music held no small place ; yet the music of colonial days differed very greatly from the art in favour at the present time. The world's popular composers then were Handel, Bach, Corelli, the two Scarlattis, Hasse, Jomelli, Haydn, Rameau, Purcell, Lulli, Gluck, Boccherini, Arne, Piccini, Geminiani and Tartini. We shall presently find that the music of these men was well-known in New York.

Vocal music was extremely florid. The air, invariably suave and sentimental, was overladen with ornamental turns, trills and flute-like runs and scale passages, demanding much execution, as well as grace and style, from the performers of both sexes.

The symphony had not yet been developed, for Haydn was now writing his chamber-music and had not produced those works that set the stamp upon this form. The sonata was barely throwing off the shackles of the suite, and in it the dance-forms still lingered, as they did in the quartets and quintets. Therefore, the most familiar forms of instrumental music were minuets, gigues, gavottes, rigadoons, sarabandes, allemandes, courantes, passepieds, bourr閑s and chaconnes.

The violin was extremely popular, largely because of the good music that had lately been written for it. The great Corelli, called by the Italians " il divino," had, of course, published his sonatas, which are models of the classical style. Tartini, who founded a very important violin-school at Padua in 1728, was constantly composing concertos and sonatas, among them the famous Sonate du Diable, or Tartini's Dream ; and Geminiani, a pupil of Corelli's, who had settled in London in 1714, enjoyed the greatest vogue. He wrote many sonatas (a few of which he arranged for the 'cello), concertos and other solo pieces. Geminiani was the first in any country to bring out a book on the Art of Playing the Violin. This was published in London in 1740,-six years before Leopold Mozart issued his Violin School. He also wrote the Art of Playing the Guitar, the Art of Accompaniment, a Treatise on Memory and a Treatise on Good Taste. All of these books could be bought in New York at Rivington's. That Geminiani and Corelli were known to the music-lovers of New York is evident from the advertisement of Mrs. Tanner, a milliner in Smith Street, who offered for sale, in 1761, " A choice collection of Music by the most eminent composers, such as Handel, Arne, Corelli, Geminiani, etc., etc."

This alone is sufficient to prove that in music New York kept up with Europe. It may be instructive to give here a list of the music that was actually on sale at Rivington's in 1773. Taking the harpsichord, spinet, Piano Forte and Organ first, we find : Bach's Sonatas ; Handel's Voluntaries ; Lord Kelly's Overtures ; Garth's Sonatas ; Parry's airs (and also for the harp)

Alcock's Lessons ; Pasquali's Thorough Bass; Pasquali's Art of Fingering, Boccherini's Six Sonatas ; Giordani's Six Sonatas ; Graaf's Symphonies ; and Fisher's and Esher's Symphonies.

For the Violin, Mr. Rivington is selling : Boccherini's Duets ; Van Maldere's Overture ; Tartini's Two Solos ; Bach's Six Symphonies ; Giordani's Quartettos ; Schwmdl's Choice Airs ; Fischer's Duet ; Campioni's Trios ; Geminiani's Art of Playing on the Violin; Just's Divertiments ; Giardani's Solos ; Martini's Sonatas ; Geminiani On Good Taste; Geminiani On True Taste; Just's Sonatinas; Essex Orpheus; 24 Italian and Spanish Minuets ; and 24 Italian and Spanish Country Dances.

For the German Flute, he had : Blanck's solos ; Magherini's trios ; Tacet's duets and preludes ; Miller's solos ; Giordani's six chamber concertos ; Bach's six quartettos ; Bern's six quartettos ; Misliweckek's Trios ; Patoni's sonatas ; Holyoke's Duettos ; Airs and Songs in the Golden Pippin; Florio's Duetts ; Stamitz's Duetts ; Campioni's Duetts ; Capelliti's Twelve Sonatas ; Bates's Duetts ; Kernlt's Duetts ; Col. Reid's Solos ; and Dutch minuets. For the guitar, there are : Citralini's Six Divertiments ; Thackeray's Forty-four Airs and Divertiments ; and Airs from Love in a Village, The Padlock, the Ladies' Frolick, Cymon, and the new Golden Pippin ; Arnold's Twenty-four Lessons, Twelve new Songs and a Cantata ; Melgrove's Forty Lessons for One or Two Guitars ; Hymns and Songs sung at the Magdalen ; Alcock's Divertiments and Songs ; Bach's Sonatas ; Noferi's Six Lessons ; Haxby's Easy Airs ; Twelve Lessons by a Lady ; and Dibdin's Institution of the Garter.

Rivington was also supplying at this date tutors, or instructors, for playing on the harpsichord and piano-forte, violin, German flute, fife, bassoon, hautboy, French horn, clarinet, and for learning to sing. He also imported what was, no doubt, exceedingly popular : " English operas with all the songs, arranged for the harpsichord, Pianoforte, etc., etc." These included : Lionel and Clarissa, Cymon, Golden Pippin, Maid of the Mill, Love in a Village, Institution of the Garter, Ladies' Frolick, The Portrait, La buona figlioula, Hob in the Well, Dibdin's King Arthur and Midas.

It is very doubtful if women played the violin in colonial days ; but there must have been a great number of violin students in New York, for teachers of the violin seem to have succeeded. Some one was greatly distressed in 1757 by the loss of some violin music. On Feb. 21st of that year, we read : " Lost ; a musick-book, the principal fiddle of twelve concertos, entitled Dominico Scarlatti's Lessons, etc., made into Concertos by Charles Avison."

At this period, Quantz was composing for Frederick the Great, who had brought the flute into special prominence. We constantly find the " German flute" on the concert programmes and several musicians were able to teach it in New York. The spinet, clavichord, and harpsichord were found in every home of affluence. Bach's Well- Tempered Clavichord and Handel's English and French Suites were probably thrummed or played by every young lady. The Harmonious Blacksmith was doubtless a favourite show-piece.

Music was a social accomplishment, and formed part of the equipment of the fashionable, wealthy and well-educated man. Although music-lovers of the present day may despise the old-fashioned music of the days before Mozart, there was very real love of what music existed, and glees and madrigals and catches were to be heard on every public occasion. Moreover, every man of education was expected to be a competent musical critic.

Glee-clubs and musical associations like those that existed in such numbers in England were also found in New York. The officers of the garrison were in many cases able musicians, and the opulent class here joined them in frequent musical evenings both private a n d public. When the professional musicians were scanty in numbers, private gentlemen and officers always came forward to reinforce the orchestra. As a rule, however, we do not find that the ladies took any part in public concerts. When a musical entertainment was given by the officers of the Fort and the gentry of the city, the evening usually ended in a " ball for the ladies." Professional concerts were advertised with the same attraction. The arrival of an officer, or merchant, who was an amateur musician of ability, was eagerly welcomed. Local music-lovers lost no time in introducing him to the town. An instance of this occurs on Oct. 17, 1765:

" This evening will be a concert of vocal and instrumental music at Mr. Burns's Assembly Room梩he first violin to be performed by a gentleman lately arrived. A solo on the violin by the same hand. The other instrumental parts by gentlemen of the town."

The devotees of music were so numerous here that a Harmonic Society existed and gave concerts, and sometimes assisted at special dramatic and musical entertainments. This organization had the most distinguished support that the society of the day could afford, as it was recruited from the best circles.

At a concert in 1773, a Mr. Zedwitz conducted and played first violin ; and the other instrumental parts were performed by the " gentlemen of the Harmonic Society."

On April 24, 1774, there was a subscription concert for Signora Mazzanti, Mr. Zedwitz, and Mr. Hulett. We learn from the advertisements that " the gentlemen of the Harmonic Society have promised their assistance, and that Signora Mazzanti will sing several English and Italian songs." The tickets were $1.00. After the concert, a dance was promised.

Music was more a part of the social life than it is today. It was not uncommon to have several instruments in one house. For example, Governor Burnet possessed a number of instruments, including a large bass violin, two treble violins, a harpsichord, a clapsichord, a double courtel, and a large violin, or tenor fiddle (a viola). This would show that quartets and quintets were not uncommon enjoyments within his walls.

It was perfectly possible to buy very good instruments in New York. Many persons, of course, brought their own with them from England and carried them home when they returned. Occasionally, too, through a death or a sale of household goods, a fine instrument could be obtained. For example, in 1752, there was for sale "a good English spinet (Hitchcock's). Enquire of the Printer." Hitchcock was one of the best London makers. Undoubtedly the one just mentioned was similar to the spinet shown on page 278, belonging to the collection of Mr. M. Steinert of New Haven, Conn.

One of the characteristics of New York always was that of purchasing the best that could be obtained, and therefore it is not surprising to find that the most fashionable London instruments were in demand. Hitchcock's was not a new firm, as their instruments had been in favour even during the reign of Charles II. The spinet mentioned above was made by Hitchcock about 1750. Another instrument of that period, also belonging to the Steinert Collection, appears on page 287. This is a harpsichord with two keyboards of five octaves and stops. It was made in London in 1769 by Jacobus Kirkman.

Manuel Josephson sold at his store in Smith Street, in 1761, "brass trumpets and French horns." Those who wanted to buy violins, flutes, fifes, and other instruments could get them at John Anderson's, on Peck's Slip.

Organs could be procured, in 1756, from Mr. Willet, who made them. Another organ-builder was Frederick Heyer, who, in 1773, living in Broadway near St. Paul's Church, " makes and repairs harpsichords and spinets in the neatest manner and with despatch. Has some new and very neat Harpsichords for sale ; also a Chamber Organ which may in a short time be completely finished and enlarged (if that be necessary) to suit a place of public worship."

In 1773, Rivington had "Forte Pianos of excellent tones from 27 to 30 pounds ; violins from 񋛌梠 to 14 ; Violins of lower prices ; French horns, E with crooks ; German flutes of all kinds ; voice flutes, hautboys, English or common flutes, fifes, tabors and pipes; pitch-pipes, tuning-forks, harpsichord and spinet hammers, crow quills, harpsichord and Forte Piano wire ; rosin boxes; mutes for violins; mouth pieces for German flutes; mouth pieces for French horns ; pens to rule musick ; ruled books of all sizes ; violin bows, the Giardini sort ; bridges and pegs for fiddles with and without screws ; bassoon, hautboy and bagpipe reeds, with and without cases ; desks for harpsichords ; violin cases ; the best Italian strings for violins violoncellos ; genuine German wire for harpsichords, spinets, piano fortes ; guitars ; also silk strings for guitars."

New York was well supplied with music teachers. The one who seems to have had the greatest influence was William Charles Hulett, who came in 1753 with the Hallam company. He taught the violin, and in 1764 opened a music-school where the violin, German flute and the guitar were taught. Another was Mr. Charles Love, also of London, who announced in

1753 that he "teaches gentlemen the violin, hautboy, German and common flutes, bassoon, French horn, tenor and bass viol." Mr. Proctor, a teacher of the harpsichord, Mr. Alexander V. Dienval, who " teaches the violin, German flute, tenor and bass viol," and Peter Pelham, who teaches the harpsichord, spinet and " Rules of thorough bass " were the other important names down to the middle of the century.

Without doubt, the best musician with whom New York was acquainted was Mr. William Tuckey from Bristol, who noticed the general neglect of singing, and in his bid for favour gave a very comprehensive account of the condition of music. He was an organist, a choir-master and a composer, and could play and teach the harpsichord. Mr. Tuckey evidently desired to provide the city with plenty of good music and to elevate its taste. Mr. Tuckey may speak for himself, even if he is somewhat egotistical. In 1754, he published the following :

"William Tuckey, singing-master, desires to inform all lovers of psalmody that in order to encourage and amend the singing in public congregations in this city, all persons may be taught by him on very reasonable terms. As a great expectation of encouragement in this way was the only motive which induced him to leave the cathedral of Bristol, whereof he was for several years vicar choral, and clerk of a parish also in said city, places of considerable profit and on an establishment of both for life ; and not meeting the encouragement he expected, is resolved to teach here no longer than one year more, which may be depended on. And as there is no person in this country duly qualified in the musical way, who has made a practice of teaching but himself, not only in church music in all its branches, according to the English, Dutch, French, or Italian method, but also in the knowledge of a thorough bass and composing music in parts both vocal and instrumental, management of music for concerts, etc. He humbly hopes, through this information to meet with better encouragement, or at least to establish the singing of parochial psalms on a better and perfecter foundation than it hath been for some time past. He will undertake to compose, or set to music, any piece on any subject, divine or moral, either in prose or verse, and adapt the music according to the sense of the subject for the organ, harpsichord or spinnet, on application to him and a moderate satisfaction. Specimens of his composing may be seen at any time, by any gentlemen or ladies who desire it and understand music."

Teachers at the close of our period included James Leadbeater, organ, harpsichord and spinet ; D. Pro-pert, organ, harpsichord, guitar and German flute ; Herman Zedwitz, " pupil of several of the most eminent masters now in London and Germany," violin ; and Nicholas Biferi from Naples, " singing after the Italian way," the harpsichord, and composition. In 1774 774, the latter establishes an " Academy " for music, dancing and languages, his associates being Pietro Sodi, dancing-master, and Joseph Cozani, who teaches French and Italian.

Concerts were a favourite form of entertainment. An advertisement as early as 1735, shows how fond amateurs were of playing :

" Tomorrow, the 9th of March Instant, there will be a Consort of Music, Vocal and Instrumental, for the Benefit of Mr. Pachelbel. The Harpsicord Part performed by himself. The Songs, Violins and German Flute by private Hands. The Consort will begin precisely at 6 o'clock at the House of Robert Todd, Vintner."

After this the concerts took place in the New Exchange, or Assembly Room. The price of admission averaged six shillings, the hour for beginning being six o'clock, and the concert usually ending with a ball. The teachers already mentioned frequently gave concerts for their own benefits, and were active in organizing subscription concerts. The latter was sometimes difficult, but Mr. Hulett, who for years took charge of these regular concerts, was evidently persistent. In 1767 we read :

"The Subscription Concert to be given this and every evening during the season exactly at Half Past Six o'clock. As many gentlemen were not to be found at Home when they were waited on with the Subscription Book, Mr. Hulett acquaints them that he will wait on them on the next Notice."

Again there were special concerts of special instruments梤ecitals we should call them today條ike the following for March 18, 1756 : " On Tuesday, the 18th instant, will be opened at the City Hall a New Organ, made by Gilbert Ash, where will be performed a concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music. (Two songs by Mr. Handel.) An organ concerto composed by Sigr. Giovanni Adolffo Hasse. For the benefit of a poor woman."

Benefit concerts were frequent, and, as a rule, the programme was both vocal and instrumental. At a benefit for Mr. Dienval in 1764, " at the conclusion of the performance will be sung a grand chorus song, accompanied with kettledrums and trumpets or clarinets." A concert for the benefit of William Cobham and William Tuckey, took place Dec. 29, 1755, at the New Exchange Room. The programme was composed of both vocal and instrumental music, and the numbers included : Damon and Chloe, composed by Dr. Arne ; a two-part song in praise of a soldier, composed by the late famous Mr. Henry Purcell ; and an ode on masonry accompanied with instruments and never performed in England but once in public ; and a solo on the German flute by Mr. Cob-ham. "After the concert there will be a ball for the ladies."

Sometimes also there were benefits for the military band stationed at Fort George. For example, we read : " For the benefit of the Royal American Band of Musick on Monday, 2d April, 1767, will be held a concert of vocal and instrumental music at Mr. Burns's New Assembly Rooms." In 1775, also, a public concert for the benefit of a band of music is to be held at Mr. Hull's Assembly Rooms."

The concert was a great feature at both Vauxhall and Ranelagh, and here Mr. Stephen Woolls, Miss Wainwright, Mrs. Harmon, Mrs. Hallam and the Storer sisters, frequently appeared. These singers often gave benefit concerts at Burns's Assembly Room.

A concert took place at Mr. Hull's Assembly Room on May 26, 1774, for the benefit of Mr. Biferi and Mr. Sodi : "The said concert will be divided into two Acts, each Act composed of four pieces. Mr. Biferi, master of music from Naples, will perform on the harpsichord a piece of music of his own composition with the orchestra ; in the second act, he will perform a solo accompanied with the violin. There will follow a ball in which Mr. Sodi will dance the louvre and the minuet with Miss Sodi, a young lady nine years of age ; and Miss Sodi will dance a rigadoon with young Mr. Hulett."

With regard to church music, we may be perfectly sure that after Mr. Tuckey came to New York in 1754, there was great improvement. A good organ made by John Clemm had been erected in Trinity Church in 1741, and in 1764, another, built by Snetzler, was brought from England and put in its place. It is natural to suppose that the music composed by the leading choir-masters and organists of England was known here. The following, printed on Oct. 16, 1766, gives us some hint of what was popular :

"By particular desire of a good number of ladies and gentlemen of credit and character in this city, there will be a concert of vocal and instrumental music at Mr. Burns's new room on Thursday the 30th Inst.; to begin at six o'clock in the Evening.

This concert will consist of nothing but Church Music in which will be introduced a new Te Deum, Jubilate Deo, Cantate Domino and Deus Magnificatur with an Anthem (in which there is an obbligato part for a harp, as there also is in the Cantate Domino) with several other pieces of church music intermixed with other instrumental performances in order to ease the voices. The whole to conclude with a Martial Psalm (46th) accompanied with all the instruments and a pair of drums."



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