Great Italian and French Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 239 pages of information about Great Italian and French Composers.

Spohr in his autobiography says:  “I recollect, when the ‘Deux Journees’ was performed for the first time, how, intoxicated with delight and the powerful impression the work had made on me, I asked on that very evening to have the score given me, and sat over it the whole night; and that it was that opera chiefly that gave me my first impulse to composition.”  Weber, in a letter from Munich written in 1812, says:  “Fancy my delight when I beheld lying upon the table of the hotel the play-bill with the magic name Armand.  I was the first person in the theatre, and planted myself in the middle of the pit, where I waited most anxiously for the tones which I knew beforehand would elevate and inspire me.  I think I may assert boldly that ‘Les Deux Journees’ is a really great dramatic and classical work.  Everything is calculated so as to produce the greatest effect; all the various pieces are so much in their proper place that you can neither omit one nor make any addition to them.  The opera displays a pleasing richness of melody, vigorous declamation, and all-striking truth in the treatment of situations, ever new, ever heard and retained with pleasure.”  Mendelssohn, too, writing to his father of a performance of this opera, speaks of the enthusiasm of the audience as extreme, as well as of his own pleasure as surpassing anything he had ever experienced in a theatre.  Mendelssohn, who never completed an opera, because he did not find until shortly before his death a theme which properly inspired him to dramatic creation, corresponded with Planche, with the hope of getting from the latter a libretto which should unite the excellences of “Fidelio” with those of “Les Deux Journees.”  He found, at last, a libretto, which, if it did not wholly satisfy him, at least overcame some of his prejudices, in a story based on the Rhine myth of Lorelei.  A fragment of it only was finished, and the finale of the first act is occasionally performed in England.


Before Napoleon became First Consul, he had been on familiar terms with Cherubini.  The soldier and the composer were seated in the same box listening to an opera by the latter.  Napoleon, whose tastes for music were for the suave and sensuous Italian style, turned to him and said:  “My dear Cherubini, you are certainly an excellent musician; but really your music is so noisy and complicated that I can make nothing of it;” to which Cherubini replied:  “My dear general, you are certainly an excellent soldier; but in regard to music you must excuse me if I don’t think it necessary to adapt my music to your comprehension.”  This haughty reply was the beginning of an estrangement.  Another illustration of Cherubini’s sturdy pride and dignity was his rejoinder to Napoleon, when the latter was praising the works of the Italian composers, and covertly sneering at his own.  “Citizen General,” he replied, “occupy yourself with battles and victories, and allow me to treat according to my talent an art of which you are grossly ignorant.”  Even when Napoleon became Emperor, the proud composer never learned “to crook the pregnant hinges of his knee” to the man before whom Europe trembled.

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Great Italian and French Composers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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