TIIE NORWICH FESTIVAL.
Tins festival, like all entertainments of the same kind in our highly enlightened and most moral country, did not want amongst its
other " notes of preparation" the nasal concert of canting puri- tanism. For many days previously the husky hypocrites were re- hearsing their dull and stupid chorus. Drawling blockheads dwelt on the enormity of a meeting where charity, religion, and good music were to be essential features ; snivelling saints bewailed over the decay of national virtue as implied in the popularity of such an institution ; ranting preachers denounced the terrors of their tub against all who should take part in it ; to love HANDEL and serve God was declared impossible. How many Evangelical under-house- maids or " serious cooks" in Norwich may have been moved by these preachments, we cannot say, but we think we may venture to pronounce from our own observation, that every person of sound mind and average sense was moved by them—in such sort, that if the drivellers take the field another time, it will not be because the public has failed to mark the contempt it entertained for their proceedings, but simply because, as all the world knows, dulness is =mortal. Serious argument seems thrown away on persons who, discarding reason themselves, appeal solely to the narrowest pre- judices for all the effect they care to produce. It is not on intelligent independent thinkers that they seek or hope to make any impression, but they rely—with too much reason—on their power to inflame the passions of the ignorant and weak-minded, and are well content with the amount of bigotry and hatred they are able to stir up in that manner. They not only discard reason, but shrink from encountering it ; and, chiefly belonging to the clerical ranks, they are fortunate in contending in an arena where blows may be given but cannot be received. We have looked in vain for any printed statement of their arguments : if any thing of the kind were made public, there can be HO doubt of its meeting with an instantaneous refutation of the most triumphant description : but all the poisoned arrows of bigotry and misrepresentation are discharged from the safe intrenclunent of the pulpit ; and that influence which the situation of a minister of the Church gives him over the minds of his congregation, is per- verted to the scandalous object of' libelling a noble and beautiful charity. The point of objection raised to oratorios is so subtile that it almost escapes ordinary comprehension. The words of an oratorio are usually selected from the Scriptures ; if any portion be not literally transferred, it is paraphrased or versified : against the words, therefore, an action will not lie, or rather it will " lie"—if it represent them as in any manner offending against religion ; and as for the departure from Scriptural text involved in a paraphrase, if that is an objection, the same " lies" again—against good Dr. WATTS, and a thousand other labourers in the same vineyard, whom the Church never yet thought of spurning from her bosom. The other part of an oratorio, its music, cannot more than the words be singly condemned : if music is inadmissible as a medium of reli- gious feeling, the Established Church must begin the reform by altering her own service.* But if it is neither the words singly, nor the music singly, which excites the puritanical fury, then it must be the words and the music together, or the general effect of an oratorio. This is a not unintelligible, though, we submit, a perfectly untenable ground. The vast constitutional difference that exists in men with respect to religious sentiment—which while it takes in some a more serious, in others a more cheerful shape, may be in all an equally sincere and fervid emotion—only points out the extreme folly and impropriety of setting limits or appoint- ing particular channels for the expression of such a feeling. To reduce it to one form and substance—to say to religious enthu- siasm " so far shalt thou go and no further," or " in such shape shalt thou go and in no other "—what is this but to exer- cise that intolerable dictation in affairs of conscience which men have ever resisted and ever will resist ? What is the
attempted prohibition of oratorios on these grounds, but the re- vival, in a new shape, of the pest of religious persecution ?—and a more unbearable persecution than any yet practised, for while
those who heretofore " fought for Dame Religion" joined issue on points of doctrine, it is a point, not of doctrine, but of form, which is here in dispute. No one pretends of any known oratorio that it sins against strict orthodoxy ; no Popish plot has yet been dis-
covered in the windings of a fugue, no new Ribbon conspiracy thought to lurk in song or chorus; the head and front of our
offending is, that we find heart and voice to sing God's praises in the music he has given us. Grievous sin ! What draughts so deep and long of Storrian t dulness must atone for such " fearful joys" ?
Must we not bethink us of some elaborate act of penance and
mortification—such as sitting out the two next sermons ? To be serious, it requires little reflection to perceive that the wondrous
effects of choral music in raising the imagination to heavenly things, purifying and exalting the human heart, and inspiring it with that warm living sense of the greatness and goodness of God which is the one thing most needful to devotional en- thusiasm, can be regarded with nothing but sheer jealousy by those dull and ineffective preachers, whose exhortations, destitute of genius or spirit, realize in their audience nothing but the most insufferable ennui. In this very Norwich Ca- thedral, for instance, we beheld last Sunday a proceeding that * We ought to inform the reader, that the religious prejudices sought to be raised against the Norwich Festival were not confined, as might be supposed, to a few ranting Methodists, but issued from the Cathedral walls, as from head- quarters. Within those walls a sermon was preached on Sunday last, in which a parson of the name of STORK (" MORTIMER and Co.'s" STORK, we understand) delivered a critique on &owes new Oratorio, which, in sum, was this— that all people who should go on Thursday, the day of its performance, to St. Andrew's Hall, would be eternally damned!
See preceding notes
easily convinced us of this. Curious to see the reverend libeller, of whose discourse against oratorios, delivered that morning, we had heard, we visited the Cathedral in the afternoon, and were sorry to see that the ascension of the pious gentleman into the pulpit became a signal to people to leave the church : there seemed to us to be no thought but how to get out—we don't know when we have witnessed more anxiety to escape from a public building. Of those who remained behind, one part were already asleep, the other were too remote from the door to effect a convenient retreat. Whose fault is this ? Clearly the preacher's. Most people, to their praise be it spoken, are unwilling to sleep unnecessarily: comfortable as their pews are, they prefer bed ; and night, not day, is the time for recruiting nature. Let sleep-compelling preachers, then, (and it is only such as they that entertain a grudge against fine music,) give over the fruitless attempt to measure lengths with the giant Oratorio. Let them rest satisfied that the pulpit will always have weapons sufficient for the maintenance of its due su- premacy, as long as eloquence and genius do not desert it. If preachers of the STORE, and MORTIMER school are not blessed with those goodly gifts, that is not HANDEL'S fault. Nor let such gentle. men take their intellectual destitution too much to heart ; for, bad as it is, the Church has, luckily, other champions, and all congre- gations may not sleep so well as the Reverend Mr. STORR'S.
The reader may possibly remember a squib of the poet SHEN- STONE, in which a musical doctor vainly endeavours to detain an audience by playing an air of HANDEL:
" Hear but this strain, 'twos made by Handel, A Wight of skill and judgment deep.
Zooks ! they are gone ! Sal, bring a candle—
No, here is one, and he's asleep !"
HANDEL's music, it seems, is more successful now-a-days, and can detain audiences, much to the chagrin of prosy inanimate preachers, who, unable to command any attention themselves, vent their spite on him.
HANDEL, however, was not the principal object of attack with the Puritans this year. SPOIIR'S new oratorio The Crucifixion— which from its novelty was also the chief attraction to the lovers of music—claimed their peculiar rancour. This oratorio, also called Calvary, describes the judgment, crucifixion, and death of the Saviour; a mighty subject, treated mightily. In the original work, the Saviour is supposed to speak ; and it falls to the lot of one of the singers to deliver his words, which is done in the first person,— a fact most ignorantly represented to be new in oratorio; every mu- sical reader can furnish examples from his memory in contradiction of this falsehood. When Professor TAYLOR, first saw the score of this oratorio in the hands of its author, he surprised the simple-minded German by telling him that his work could never be performed in England as he had written it. Spann was unable to conceive why it should be thought unbecoming to sing, in appropriate strains, that which it was not unbecoming to recite. The fact is, that the feeling on such a point must depend entirely on the views and ideas which may happen to be entertained of the art of music. He who regards music as an idle amusement, as a mere toy or play- thing, must in consistency disapprove of its association with sacred matters. But of what consequence is it, we would ask, what that man approves or disapproves, who betrays such a deplorable desti- tution of feeling, fancy, sense, and refinement, as is implied in this estimation of music ? A man of genius like nobly con- fiding in the sufficiency of his art, feels that in music he possesses a great and glorious gift from heaven, and that in devoting it to the service of religion, he, in his humble province, is doing a thing not unacceptable to God himself. Professor TAVIA)R, however, knew the English public too well to trust the oratorio to their re- ception in its original cast ; and, to qualify it for successful pro- duction in this country, undertook the always thankless task of alteration. The words spoken by Christ are therefore now trans- ferred to the part of the. disciple John, by a device which, while it removes—we will not say all rational, but—all possible intelli- gible objection to the oratorio, must be allowed materially to im- pair its unity and integrity. But of this oratorio we must speak further in its proper place. The musical performances of the Festival commenced on Tuesday evening, when the first miscellaneous concert was given in St. An- drew's Hall. The evening portion of these performances, though pos- sessing all the attraction of well-selected music, is necessarily of infe- rior interest, as exhibiting no features peculiar to a festival : we must therefore content ourselves with a brief notice of its memorabilia, and let the rest pass. The two full instrumental pieces in Tuesday's scheme were 1-alum's Symphony No. 1, and BEETHOVEN'S Overture Prometheus ; both capitally performed—as they could hardly fail to be by a band 115 strong, consisting of the choicest players of the day.* In the first part of the concert, Scoun (he is Dr. SPOHR, but. it is unnecessary, we think, to doctor him—he is so well of himself) performed a new Concerto of his own on the violin. This was his first appearance in the orchestra : the whole audience
* The following classification of the whole band is given in the Times. Principal singers 12 Violins 42 Cantos 80 Violas 20 Altos 50 Violoncellos 10
Tenors 64 Double-basses 10 Basses 74 Wind-instruments 33
Total 280 Total 115
Amongst the _principal performers, may be mentioned, F. CRAMER the leader, BLAGROVE, ELIASON, OURY, MORALT, WAGSTAFF, LtEDLEY, CROUCH, HOWELL, FLOWER, Bumf, and Madame DE BELLEVILLE OURY. TURLE presided at the organ, and the music warkunder the conductorship of Professor TAYLOR. seemed animated towards him with feelings of respectful admira- tion, and gave him the most enthusiastic welcome,—moved to it the more, perhaps, by resentment of the efforts that had been made to create a prejudice against the author of Cal- vary. Nor is it unlikely that the noble and majestic appear- ance of the man tended greatly to increase this admiration ; for there is a manly simplicity and grandeur of character about Secnin, which we do not remember to have beheld in any other person. He is a large, strong-built man, with a face of extraor- dinary earnestness and reflection, very ample but finely-propor- tioned features, and an expression so strangely blending the homely with the grand, that it would be difficult to find the word that could singly describe it. We can only state the general impression his appearance left upon our mind : Herr SPOIIR seemed to us to have walked out of the heroic ages—a sort of humanized Ajax with a fiddle. The new Concerto united two styles of violin-writing, and was probably intended to exemplify the peculiarities of each : it proceeds on a subject of singular quaint beauty, which, if charac- teristic of a particular age, is at least charming for all time; and this is interwoven with modern difficulties in a manner at once masterly and delightful. The vocalities of the evening included "Non mi dir," sung by PERSIAN' ; and STOUR'S duct, " Fairest maiden," from Jessonda, by Madame STOCKHAUSEN and Mr. Honns. While we are speaking of evening performances, we may as well notice what was noticeable in the concert of Wednesday night, the latest which we are able this week to report. The orchestral pieces were MOZART'S Symphony in E flat, and WEBER'S Overture to Oberon; and the principal solo-playing was a Concertante Duet between STOUR and BLAGROVE. The latter was decidedly the greatest treat of the evening : nothing can be imagined more per- fect than the accord of the two violins, or than their individual ex- ecution. It was a proud moment for BLAGROVE, and he used it handsomely. The composition, which is Snona's own, is beyond a question one of the happiest efforts of his genius : it is so full of spontaneous melody, and of freshness and variety in the phrases and passages, and so natural and simple in construction, that we think it might readily pass for a work of MOZART'S. This is, it seems, the same duet which STOUR played with Mom at the Phil- harmonic upwards of twenty years ago. (By the by, won't the Philharmonic be horribly jealous by reason of the new Concerto performed here ? ) Mr. Honns was encored, most deservedly, in %VERDE'S song " The mansion of peace," which he has made quite his own by the chaste and feeling manner in which he delivers it. STOUR'S well-known trio, " Night's lingering shades," was sung " in pure concept" by Madame STOCKHAUSEN, Miss BIRCH, and Miss HAWES. PERSIANI had two songs allotted to her, "Dove sono," and " Prendi per me," the latter from EElizire d' Amore ; and well maintained her character as the vo- calist of the most finished elegance and exquisite powers of execu- tion of the day : when we have said that her intonation was once or twice somewhat faulty, we have left every thing else to unquali- fied praise. " Come if ye dare," from King Arthur—one of Pea- CELL'S finest songs—was sung by Honns with great spirit and an obvious theling of the excellence of the music. We were delighted to hear STOUR bearing witness to the genius of PURCELL; and we understand he was equally interested by LOCKE'S Macbeth music, performed at the previous concert,—remarking that it carried the mind back to SHAKSPERE, and derived all the greater charm from that circumstance.
We now come to speak of the morning perthrmances. The first of these took place on Wednesday, and consisted, in the first part, of a selection from PURCELL, ( "Jubilate," 1692,) PALESTRINA, PAnsier.r.o, BEETHOVEN, &c., and for the remainder, of Israel in Egypt. It was an excellent thought to open the Festival with Pracur.r.—the undoubted fosterfhther of HArinnr. ; and it enabled us to confirm the opinion we have always entertained of the obliga- tions which the latter lay under to our great countryman. The spirit of grandeur which breathes through the whole of the " Jubi- late" appeared to enter at a later period of the morning into the creations of IIANnEL's genius ; and one might almost say with certainty, "Had the one not breathed, neither had the other." The selection from PALESTRINA was no unfavourable specimen of that old master : it was, however, not so well performed as it should have been, and was especially marred by the defective intonation of certain counter-tenors, who gradually prevailed on the whole of their staff to imitate them in their desertion from strict tune. We subjoin the programme of this part of the morning's performance— a more choice or better-arranged selection can hardly be imagined. "Jubilate," composed by DEsay PURCELL, for St. Cecilia's Day, 1692. Solo, Mr. YOUNG, and Chorus—" 0 be joyful in the Lord." Duct, " Be ye sure "—Mr. FRANCIS and Mr. Hoops.
Chorus, "0 go your way into his gates."
Duct, Mr. YOUNG and Mr. H. FUILLITS—" For the Lord is gracious." Chorus, " Glory be to the Father." Aria, Signora PtAccr, " Araplius lava me "—Cam," Full Anthem, " We have heard with our ears."—GIOVANNI P1ERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA.
Scena, Signor TAMBURINI, "Tobido mar the freme." (La Passione.)— PAIESIELLO.
Choral Anthem, " Have mercy, Lord."—BEETTIOVEN. Seem, Madame SrocrinArscv, "'Here amidst these cool recesses." (The Seasons.)—HAYDN. Motett from Mam's Mass, No. 2. Chorus, "Give unto Jehovah." Solo, Miss Buten, "0 be joyful in Jehovah." Solo, Mr. Baum, " 0 Lord, rebuke me not." Solo, Miss M. B. Heins, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel," and Chorus. BEETHOVEN'S Choral Anthem was performed admirably, and seemed the perfection of severe and solemn grandeur : it only wanted a military funeral, and six or eight trombones to a part, to reach the point of the awful. In charming contrast was the Motett which followed, with its heavenly melody, " Oh, be joyful in Jeho- vah," one of HAYDN'S loveliest conceptions : it received full justice from Miss BIRCH,—whose clear crystal tones, never better heard, seemed almost irreconcileable with the statement which it was found necessary to make on the previous evening, of her having been visited with a sudden hoarseness. Of Israel in Egypt, what can we ever say, but that it is the sublimest work of the sublimest genius that ever animated musician? " He spake the word," "He smote all the first-born," " The horse and his rider," &c.— these are, and ever will be, the cartoons of music—immortal works which will survive all the vicissitudes of art, and never be less glorious than they are now—never less religiously cherished. It only remains for us to add, that in the introduction of various songs from those forgotten stores, HANDEL'S Operas, Mr. EDWARD TAYLOR has shown the same excellent judgment which we have found in every part of his conductorship at this Festival. " The proof of the pudding is in the eating," according to a homely proverb ; and the best reply to any objection that may be urged to this proceeding on the ground of its assuming an undue liberty with HANDEL, is, that this oratorio, thus interspersed with the best specimens of its author's song-writing, is much more highly relished than when chorus succeeds to chorus in an unbroken series, or these are tacked with songs unworthy of 11Asrones genius. Amongst these acceptable interpolations, which do credit to Mr. TAYLOR not only as a provider but as arranger, we especially marked for notice a song, " Great is Jeho- vah," sung with much spirit by Mr. FRANCIS, and one by Madame STOCKHAUSEN, " He hath rebuked the heathen," most beautifully delivered. No two songs can be more unlike, but both are very agreeable specimens of HANDEL, and realize the object of afford- ing relief to the choruses without occasioning any pause to our admiration of the master.
The second morning, Thursday, was devoted to the new ora- torio; which, with the exception of a selection from Redemption, an oratorio founded on the Requiem of MOZART, constituted the whole performance. Long before it commenced, the hall was crammed in every part.—Oh, groan. ! It had been held doubtful by the best-informed persons in Norwich whether there would be so much as a moderately decent attendance : it was currently reported that the Mawworms were in the ascendant—that not only the Evangeli- cal under-housemaids and the " serious cooks" would stay away, but also their masters and mistresses : great was the fear that the music " would sound de petter," as Hamanx, pleasantly congratu- lated himself w hen some one told him he would have no audience for his opera. Even the Chairman of the Committee was heard lament- ing the probability of SPOHR'S being insulted by desertion, after. coining all the way from Cassel to conduct his oratorio. But Nor- wich "saw another sight," and a choking ball bore triumphant wit- ness to the manly sense of its inhabitants and their superiority to the vulgar cant and humbug that had been attempted to be palmed upon them for religious fueling. We were much gratified by hear• ing a gentleman near us, (a clergyman, we were told,) declare that he had come that morning to the hall solely to testify his disappro- bation of the proceedings of the fanatics ; and we everywhere heard such conversation going on as assured us that those proceedings, far from having been attended with success, were universally re- sented as a gross libel on the sense and feeling of the town. Although the oratorio of The Crucifixion was noticed at some length in the Spectator upon its performance at the Vocal Concerts, we shall make no apology for entering somewhat further into its merits ; but as this paper has already reached a length which it would be inconvenient to extend, we shall defer the observations we have to make till next week; when we shall take occasion to offer such further general remarks as are suggested to us by a re- view of' the whole festival. There can be no doubt that by the production of this oratorio an impulse has been given to music in England which will be most beneficially felt; and if its complete triumphant success should spur its author on to the composition of other works of equal genius, that impulse will not be confined to England, but must operate upon the whole musical world. We cannot quit the subject of the Norwich Festival, even for this week, without noticing with praise the manifest endeavours of all the performers engaged, to acquit themselves according to their utmost powers of excellence. No festival is without its lapses, but these were few and unimportant : for the rest, there seemed to exist both in the principal singers and in the band and chorus, a determination to convince SPOIIR that England, if he chose, was the country in which his oratorios, present or to come, could with best advantage be produced. Oh, STORE!