Monday, March 6, 2017

Dr. Burney

Joseph Nollekens
Bust of Dr. Charles Burney
British Museum

BRUSSELS  The orchestra of this theatre is celebrated all over Europe. It is, at present, under the direction of M. Fitzthumb, a very active and intelligent maestro di capella, who beats the time and is indefatigable in preserving good discipline, and M. Vanmaldere, whose symphonies are well known in England. M. Vanmaldere, since the death of his brother, plays the principal violin, though the violoncello is his instrument. 

The piece that was performed to night, July 15, 1772, was Zemire and Azor, a species of Comedie larmoyante written by M. Marmontel and set by M. Gretry; it is interspersed with airs and dances. As the drama is French, the performance was after the French manner, and consequently subject to much criticism. 

The Orchestra was admirably conducted, and the band, taken as a whole, was numerous, powerful, correct, and attentive: but, in its separate parts, the horns were bad, and out of tune; which was too discoverable in the capital song of the piece, when they were placed at different distances from the audience, to imitate an echo occasioned by the rocks in a wild and desert scene. The first clarinet, which served as a hautboy, was, though a very good one, too sharp the whole night; and the basses, which were all placed at one end of the orchestra, played so violently that it was more like the rumbling reverberation of thunder than musical sound. The four double basses employed in this band were too powerful for the rest of the instruments. There was no harpsichord, which, as there were but two pieces of recitative, and those accompanied, was perhaps not wanted. 

 from The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands, and United Provinces, or, The Journal of a Tour through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for a General History of Music by Charles Burney, Mus. D., in two volumes (London, 1773)

European Magazine
Charles Burney, Mus. D., F.R.S.
New York Public Library

Francesco Bartolozzi after Giovanni Battista Cipriani
Scene from The Judgement of Midas
ca. 1768-76
etching, engraving
British Museum

"On the left, Apollo standing holding a lyre in his right hand; on the right, Marsyas seated, playing Pan's flute; next to him, King Midas seated, behind them, three Nymphs; in an oval frame with palm leaves; illustration to the History of Music by Charles Burney (London, 1776)"

Francesco Bartolozzi after Giovanni Battista Cipriani
Apollo crowned by a Muse and Mercury
etching, engraving
British Museum

"In a landscape, Apollo seated on a pedestal, in profile to right, holding a lyre with his left hand; on the left, a Muse crowning him; on the right, Mercury standing; in a roundel; illustration to the History of Music by Charles Burney (London, 1776)"

Anonymous Italian Instrument-maker
Octave Spinet
ca. 1600
cypress, sycamore, pearwood, painted and gilded
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

"Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814), the great English musicologist of his day, wrote: 'throughout Italy they generally have little octave spinets to accompany singing, in private houses, sometimes in triangular form, but more frequently in the shape of our old virginals: of which the keys are so noisy, and the tone so feeble, that more wood is heard than wire.'  The inside of this example is painted with the tale of Arion and the Dolphin, a suitable decorative theme for a musical instrument, as the story tells of a famous singer from ancient Greece who was rescued by a dolphin after being robbed and thrown overboard by pirates."

"Small keyboard instruments like this spinet were ideal for domestic use. Their softer sound meant that they were particularly recommended for women. Highly portable, they could be played anywhere in the house, often set upon a table. Although their cases were often painted, this is an unusually spectacular example, featuring Tritons and mermaids."

"In 1965 it was observed that the tone was a little shallow compared with that of a full-sized spinet and that the lowest octave lacked the tone given by longer strings. However, the sound was bright, clear and adequately loud, and the key-noise not excessive. Mr. Barnes [restorer] suspected that the deficiencies Dr. Burney observed in 1770 during his tour of Italy may have been due to poor maintenance which may have been general in Italy at that time, judging from the poor standard of the workmanship of the replacements and modifications found on this and several other old Italian instruments."

– curator's notes at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Christian Friedrich Zincke
Portrait Miniature of Carlo Broschi
known as Farinelli

ca. 1735
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

"The celebrated Italian castrato Carlo Broschi (1705-1782) whose stage name was Farinelli, came to London in 1734 and joined Senesino's company, the Opera of the Nobility at a theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. This company had Porpora as composer and Senesino as principal singer, but had not been a success during its first season of 1733-34. Farinelli, Porpora's most famous pupil, joined the company and made it financially solvent. Such was Farinelli's charisma on stage, that Charles Burney reported that when Senesino and Farinelli performed together, with Senesino as a furious tyrant and Farinelli the hero in chains: "The captive so softened the heart of the tyrant, that Senesino, forgetting his stage-character, ran to Farinelli and embraced him as his own." 

"Born in Naples, Farinelli achieved quasi-mythological status and fame in his lifetime for the extraordinary range and quality of his voice, his breath control, and his androgynous beauty. He made his name first in Naples, then Rome and Bologna. For his first performance in Venice in 1728 at the fashionable San Giovanni Grisostomo theatre the twenty three year old singer received a rapturous reception. He then proceeded to tour Europe, earning the title 'Singer of Kings.'  He performed at all the main courts of Europe and was requested to sing for King Louis XV of France at the Queen's apartments, for which he received the rare and distinguished honour of a portrait of the King embossed with diamonds and a fee of 500 livres. Despite his success in England, historians feel that the enormous rivalry between the Covent Garden Opera House run by Handel and the Nobles Theatre put Farinelli under a considerable amount of pressure and encouraged him to accept the King of Spain's offer in 1737 to become his Private Councillor and musical director at the royal chapel. With the death of Ferdinand VI and the accession of Charles III in autumn 1759, Farinelli was granted a generous pension but was asked to leave Spain. He returned to Italy and settled in Bologna where he died."  

– curator's notes at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Francesco Bartolozzi after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Portrait of Charles Burney
stipple-engraving, etching
British Museum

Joshua Reynolds
Portrait of Charles Burney
oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, London

PARIS – Wednesday, June 20, 1770 – I heard M. Pagin on the violin, at the house of Madame Brillon, at Passy; this is one of the greatest lady-players on the harpsichord in Europe. This lady not only plays the most difficult pieces with great precision, taste, and feeling, but is an excellent sight's-woman; of which I was convinced by her manner of executing some of my own music, that I had the honour of presenting to her. She likewise composes; and was so obliging as to play several of her own sonatas, both on the harpsichord and piano forte, accompanied on the violin by M. Pagin. But her application and talents are not confined to the harpsichord; she plays on several instruments; knows the genius of all that are in common use, which she said was necessary for her to do, in order to avoid composing for them such things as were either impracticable or unnatural; she likewise draws well and engraves, and is a most accomplished and agreeable woman. To this lady many of the famous composers of Italy and Germany, who have resided in France any time, have dedicated their works; among these are Schobert and Boccherini.

M. Pagin was a pupil of Tartini, and is regarded here as his best scholar; he has a great deal of expression and facility of executing difficulties; but whether he did not exert himself, as the room was not large, or from whatever cause it proceeded, I know not, but his tone was not powerful. Music is now no longer his profession; he has a place under the Comte de Clermont, of about two hundred and fifty pounds sterling a year. He had the honour of being hissed at the Concert Spirituel for daring to play in the Italian style, and this was the reason of his quitting the profession.

 from The Present State of Music in France and Italy, or, The Journal of a Tour through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for a General History of Music by Charles Burney, Mus. D. (London, 1771)

satirical print by J. Bretherton after a drawing by Charles Loraine Smith of Enderby
A Sunday Concert at Dr. Burney's
June 4, 1782
aquatint etching
National Portrait Gallery, London

The pianist is Ferdinando Bertoni and is accompanied by Gasparo Pacchierotti (singer). Cariboldi (bass player on left) stands behind Lady Mary Duncan. Others are: Hayford, Langani, Salpietro, James Cervetto, Johann Christian Fischer, Dieudonné-Pascal Pieltain, Miss Polly Wilkes, and Dr. Burney.

"As for Dr. Burney himself, there are some points about which, at this distance of time, one may feel dubious. It is difficult to be sure what, had one met him now, one would have felt for him. One thing is certain – one would have met him everywhere. Hostesses would be competing to catch him. Notes would wait for him. Telephone bells would interrupt him. For he was the most sought-after, the most occupied of men. He was always dashing in and dashing out. Sometimes he dined off a box of sandwiches in his carriage. Sometimes he went out at seven in the morning, and was not back from his round of music lessons till eleven at night. The "habitual softness of his manners", his great social charm, endeared him to everybody. His haphazard untidy ways – everything, notes, money, manuscripts, was tossed into a drawer, and he was robbed of all his savings once, but his friends were delighted to make it up for him; his odd adventures – did he not fall asleep after a bad crossing at Dover, and so return to France and so have to cross the Channel again? – gave him a claim upon people's kindness and sympathy. It is, perhaps, his diffuseness that makes him a trifle nebulous. He seems to be for ever writing and then rewriting, and requiring his daughters to write for him, endless books and articles, while over him, unchecked, unfiled, unread perhaps, pour down notes, letters, invitations to dinner which he cannot destroy and means to annotate and collect, until he seems to melt away at last in a cloud of words. When he died at the age of eighty-eight, there was nothing to be done by his most devoted of daughters but to burn the whole accumulation entire."

– from Dr. Burney's Evening Party, an essay by Virginia Woolf published in The Common Reader, second series, 1935

Horace Hart
Dr. Charles Burney's Family
"cut with scissors, mounted on silk"
published in One Hundred Silhouette Portraits

William Walker after James William Edmund Doyle
Literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds's

The Victorian illustration above (an imaginary envisioning of an actual occasion) depicts, from left to right, James Boswell (biographer), Samuel Johnson (lexicographer), Sir Joshua Reynolds (painter), David Garrick (actor), Edmund Burke (politician), Pasquale Paoli (Corsican patriot), Dr. Charles Burney (musicologist), Thomas Warton (poet laureate), and Oliver Goldsmith (author).

George Dance
Portrait of Charles Burney
National Portrait Gallery, London