SPOBR'S VISIT TO LONDON.
THE Philharmonic season terminated gloriously, and its orb sank below the horizon with unwonted splendour. To this the reappearance of SPOIER in person, in that orchestra which his spirit so often animates, powerfully contributed. Twenty-three years have elapsed since he played there before ; and during that period his genius has been more extensively developed, as well as more widely felt. He has essayed, one by one, the highest forms of his art ; establishing at each advance ability to grapple with all in succession, and asserting his claim to be
regarded as a writer of original thought as well as a profound and accomplished theorist. The following notice by a contemporary critic correctly describes the estimate which, when he last played in London, was formed of his musical station
" The playing of Spohr, the celebrated violinist, has been the grand circuitsstance of attraction at the Philharmonic concerts of this season. [1820.] A critic at Rome has said that Spohr was • the finest singer upon the violin that ever was heard '; the highest compliment that can be paid to an instrumentalist. His manner is totally without pretension, his tone fine, his intonation admirable, and his execution of the most finished order. But, as all exceedingly minute polish is apt to diminish force, the impression upon some was that he wanted fire: but much of this objection vanishes on frequent bearing. One of his Sinfonias was played, but it did not excite any extraordinary sensation."
This was perfectly true : the attention of the public was fixed upon SPOHR the player—of Spoils the composer they knew little. His Sinfouls had a character of its own, and a character to which English ears had not been accustomed. There was no instance on record of a professed fiddler having written a fine Sinfonia ; and a high degree of excellence in two independent branches of the art the public are always slow to regard as attainable. He left England, and left his compositions to make their own way and to find their true level. New ones appeared—new Quartets, Quintets, Overtures, Sinfonias. His chambermusic gradually won its way to the hearts of his brethren of the string ; from whom the very quality which at first had acted upon them re
pulsively, whom, procured admiration. A Quartet of SPOHR imparted a new musical pleasure ; it had a form and substance of its own, and was therefore a new element of musical enjoyment. On the Philharmonic hearers this sentiment operated slowly, but surely ; and his instrumental compositions of every form rank among the stock pieces of the season.
It was not till SPOHR became the director of a theatre that he appeared before the public as a vocal writer. His operas of Faust, Jessonda, Azor and Zemira, which were among the earliest of his dramatic compositions, established his fame in this department of his art, and discovered not only his aptitude for the production of vocal melody, but his accurate perception of the dramatic power of music ; a faculty, it may be added, of which many persons who have undertaken to write for the stage have been utterly destitute, although abundantly possessed of musical acquirements of a different kind. It was about this time that Smut published his well-known and admirable Address to the Dramatic Composers of his country ; in which his ardent love of his art, his sound discrimination, and his critical acuteness, are not less conspicuous than his independent spirit and his thorough national feeling. Be it recorded to the honour of BISHOP, the first English dramatic composer of his age, that he was the person to introduce to his countrymen the dramatic compositions of his illustrious German contemporary: it was at BISHOP'S suggestion that various portions of SPORE'S Operas were first translated and performed at the Philharmonic Concerts. In 1830, SPORE first became known to the English public as a sacred composer. His Oratorio The Last Judgment had been repeatedly performed in Germany, but it was here unknown until produced at the Norwich Festival. Here, again, SPOHR had to encounter a former prejudice: "Spohr was a fine performer on the violin, and therefore incompetent to produce a fine oratorio. Who ever heard of Viotti,Jarnowick, De Beriot, or Paganini, composing an oratorio ? Ne sutor," &c. Many were the misgivings, significant the shrugs, gloomy the forebodings, as to the result of this "bold and very hazardous experiment." The singers, principal and choral, were against it. It did not contain a single song, and the choruses were awfully difficult. There was no previous feeling or sympathy in its favour—no puff—no flourish of trumpets. It was left to tell its own tale, and to stand or fall by its own merits. It was diligently prepared and carefully rehearsed : the day of performance came—and then there was but one opinion. It bore down all opposition—subdued every prejudice ; musicians of all schools—foreign, English, ancient, modern—all yielded their willing homage to the genius of its author : VAUGHAN and KNYVETT, Bast:um, STOCKHAUSEN, were its united and equal encomiasts. Perhaps the most emphatic testimony to its power was given by MALIBRAN, whom it completely subdued, and who was obliged, sobbing and almost hysterical, to quit the orchestra. "I thought," said she to the person who now records her words, "that I had been too practised a stager to make such a fool of myself before an audience : but I had yet to learn the full power of music upon the heart—I have now felt it all." From this time The Last Judgment took its proper station among the musical classics of the age : it was performed at every Provincial Festival ; and it is the only oratorio that ever was performed at a Philharmonic concert.
When SPORE came to England in 1839, it was solely to play at the Norwich Festival, and to conduct his second oratorio, The Crucifixion, there. This is an event too recent to render it necessary to do more than recur to it. It is well known that this oratorio bad to encounter feelings and opinions opposed to any musical composition on such a subject. The pulpits of the Norwich churches resounded with attacks on such an act of " indecency and impiety." The performance silenced even these. " I felt," said a nobleman of high rank, high scientific acquirements, and deep religious feeling, "not at a musical performance, but engaged in an act of devotion of the highest kind." And this, we may add, was the general sentiment. Had it been possible, during the progress of this oratorio, to have been busied in a cold and critical dissection of its merits regarded as a mere musical structure, it would have failed. But there was no such possibility : the critic was dethroned, and made to feel that he was a man. So universal was this sentiment, that after the performance the voice of prejudice was dumb. Srosn's last visit, as we have said, was simply to Norwich. It was generally taken for granted that he would play in London ; but on that occasion he voluntarily declined every offered engagement, and returned immediately to Cassel. The events of last year are fresh in the memories of our musical readers. For the Norwich Festival he wrote The Fall of Babylon ; hoping again to appear on the scene of his former triumphs, and to produce it under his own direction. The mouse of HESSE CASSEL encaged its lion, and SPORE was compelled to forego a gratification to which he had long and ardently looked forward. , We have already narrated the circumstances which occasioned his present visit : and he has been welcomed among us with a degree of honour and enthusiasm befitting his high musical station. He arrived on Monday the 26th June; on the following day he attended the Catch Club, and on Thursday the Melodists. On a former occasion we adverted to the gratification which he derives from the performance of our Glees ; and this pleasure was on both these occasions renewed. His art, in every form in which it is worthily cultivated, is with SPOHR an object of interest and a source of pleasure ; and to this expanded love of it we may trace the success with which in almost -every form he has been enabled to display its resources. Last Saturday he attended the Philharmonic rehearsal ; where he appeared almost in a new character—certainly in a new position. During his former visit to London, his playing was the great object of attraction : he was the KEISEWETTER or the DE BERIOT of the day : to know any thing of SPOHR, it was necessary to hear his violin. His pursuits during the intervening space have altered his musical station. A new generation of players and hearers has arisen, to whom, though till now personally unknown, he stands in the relation of an instrueter and a friend. To these be has been rendered familiar by his various works ; and they now only look to him for a more perfect development of beauties with which they have long been acquainted. Accordingly, when he entered the Philharmonic orchestra at the rehearsal, he was greeted with a welcome of the most cordial and thoroughly English kind. He found there a few of his old associates, with whom he exchanged hearty salutations—with CRAMER and LINDLEY especially. Some retired veterans (among them MOUNTAIN and MAcKiirrosH) were in the room to greet him ; and the gratification of all parties was doubtless enhanced by the disappointment of last year. On Monday came the long-looked for concert, which the presence of SPOHR was to dignify. The scheme, as will be seen, contained a somewhat larger infusion of his own compositions than usual—a sample of him in several characters.
Sinfonia in B fiat, No. 4 BEETHOVEN.
Terzetto." Soave sin il vents." Miss BIRCH, Miss MASSON, and Mr. PHILLIPS (Cosi fan tette) MOZART. Concertino, Violin, Dr. St.OHEL Spans.
Recit. "to this thy place'; 1. Mr. PHILLIPS (Palestine) Da. Cnorcn. Air," Ye guardian Saints " Scene, • • Quelle horrible destine!" Miss BIRCH (Maine) Rossurr.
Overture, The Alchrnist SPOLIB.
Sinfonia, "Die Weihe der Tone" Semis.
Emit.. A quest° seno" I miss mAss.
Aria, " Quando miro ".. MOZART.
Beat. "Pray leave me" Miss Bram and Miss Duet, "Now for him I loved" 1_ MAsson (Jessanda)
Jubilee Overture C. M. VON WEBER.
Leader, Mr. LOSER—Conductor. Sir G. SNORT. (Dr. SPOOR conducting his Own Compositions.) Sroan was welcomed like a prince : the audience spontaneously rose to greet him,—a fit tribute to the nobility which Nature confers,—and then with breathless attention awaited the commencement of his Concertino. His playing is the expression of his mind, aided by the most consummate art. No instrument reveals the character of a player like the violin ; and SPOHR'S exquisite taste and refined sentiment are poured out in his performance. Herein lies its charm. The involuntary murmurs of delight that followed the "artful and unimaginable touches" with which he graced his composition, showed that he had appealed, and not vainly, to the feelings of his auditors. The only thing to be regretted in the performance was its brevity. The great feature of the evening was his Sinfonia, "The Power of Sound.' (" Power," we may remark, inadequately conveys the meaning of the word " Weihe "—which, as here used, has scarcely a corresponding term in our language.) This truly original and beautiful composition had its rise in an Ode written by Herr PFEIFFER, the brother of Madame SPOHR; and the poetry of words suggested to SPOIIR that of music. The brothers spoke each in his own language,—for music is to SPOHR a real language ; he adopts the sentiment of PURCELL, who called it "the exaltation of Poetry." He does not sit down to think what he shall write, but to write what he has already thought—not to hunt for ideas, but to give those which already exist audible expression. It will not be denied that there are the marks of nationality as well as individuality in this Sinfonia: it is the offspring of German mind, as well as the reflection of the mind of SPOHR. Many English hearers are thus disabled from participating in the full enjoyment of a work which partakes largely of the German character ; and although its prominent beauties must reveal themselves to every hearer, they are unable to go with the composer pan i passe. On this subject much more might be said; but, for the present, we must refrain, We are not disposed, with our brother of the Chronicle, to burn the Ode next time we hear the Sinfonia. To a work of this sort such a key is absolutely necessary. Who, for example, could understand the movement which depicts the music of childhood—the lovely Strain of the mother—the dances, gambols, songs of the children—separated yet linked, diversified yet agreeing? With the words before them, the audience showed that they knew what was going on ; and, by calling for a repetition of the movement, evinced that the scene was realized to their imaginations. Music then appealed to youth and manhood, in a call to arms that might have breathed courage into the heart of a coward ; for, surely, a march more inspiriting was never heard. To the shout of victory succeeded the music of devotion : the anthem swelled in all its vast and majestic proportions; • and then came the funeral dirge. Life was past; and music, which had waited on the infant—which had attended the youth, on the field of battle, and in the church—now followed him to the grave, and finally administered consolation to his friends and associates. Such is a faint and feeble outline of this great work ; a work which, if not pregnant with poetry of the highest order, we have yet to learn what poetry is. The performance was admirable ; to which the presence of the composer most powerfully contributed. Without the least parade, SPOHR carries his orchestra along with him—imparts to them not only his meaning but his spirit ; they move by a single impulse, and seem to possess but one mind. This was obviously apparent, also, in his Overture to Der Akhymist ; which, though played before at these concerts, we may be said to have heard now for the firs time. One of the most interesting incidents in Sronit's visit was of a more private nature. A distinguished amateur, no less known for his discriminating and liberal patronage of the art in general than for the soundness of his musical judgment, fevited many of the most eminent instrumental performers to his hospitable mansion to meet the great master; and there some of his most exquisite chamber-compositions were heard, —two of his double Quartets, (one of which, as well as a Quintet, SPOHR led,) his Quintet for Pianoforte Obligato, played by MOSCHELES,) his Nonetto, (led by the author,) and his Otetto. This choice musical repast will never be forgotten by those who were allowed the privilege of partaking it. On Tuesday, SPOHR was invited by a number of professional gentlemen and musical amateurs to dine with them at Greenwich. Nearly a hundred mustered at the Crown and Sceptre ; Mr. HORSLEY in the chair. On his right hand sat the " Maestro," and near him MosCHELES, BENEDICT, Sir H. It. BISHOP, SIYORI, and other distinguished professional men. The Vice-Presidents were Professor TAYLOR and Mr. SALE. In the course of the evening, several glees and songs were sung, by Messrs. YOUNG, TERRAIL, HORN, ALLEN, MACHIN, GEAR, and SALE. Among the company were the Organists of St. Paul's, Winchester, Bristol, Salisbury, and Gloucester Cathedrals. The health of SPOHR was given in a very appropriate address by the Chairman ; whose eulogium was echoed by all the company except the subject of it. SPOHR returned thanks in German ; regretting that his total ignorance of the English tongue rendered him unable to convey his acknowledgments in words which would be intelligible to all his assembled friends—he would therefore endeavour to reply in a language which was essentially theirs : he then played an exquisite Fantasia, accompanied by MOSCHELES. In the course of the evening, MOSCHELES introduced an extempore Fantasia ; taking his subjects from SPOHR'S Sinfonia "The Power of Sound," and treating them with his accustomed skill. DREYSCHOCE afterwards displayed his peculiar powers. SPOHR was received, as may be supposed, with the warmest enthusiasm by the company, and appeared highly to enjoy his day. SPOHR'S last Oratorio was performed, for his benefit, and under his direction, last night, at the Hanover Square Rooms. Our estimate of the character of The Fall of Babylon was given in detail on the occasion of its performance at the Norwich Festival ; and another hearing has served to confirm our first impression. It was remarked by ATTWOOD when he heard SPOHR'S Crucifixion. that "its splendour dazzled and its ceaseless succession of beauties bewildered him," and that "his feelings were too strongly excited to allow of any calm and accurate estimate of its musical merits, which demanded many a hearing in order to be appreciated and enjoyed." We felt the full force of this remark while listening on the present occasion to The Fall of Babylon, and were made aware of many touches of genius and graces of art which on a first hearing were lost. This Oratorio calls up a very different class of feelings from those which are excited by the story of Calvary ; nor have the two compositions any point of resemblance except as they severally develop the same genius. The same masterspirit moves us ; but in the former instance it is to pity, sympathy, veneration ; in the latter, to awe, terror, and finally to exultation. The effect of the performance of the first Oratorio was thus feelingly and correctly narrated by an eye and ear witness—" As the last note of the concluding chorus died away, I looked around : scarce a breathing was observable—it was the solemn stillness of the grave—all seemed to feel more powerfully, more oppressively, than they could describe. It was a moment of deep-felt awe. There was no enthusiasm—no rapture: the subject had been too vast, too overwhelming for even a momentary flight of the ordinary thoughts of mortality. Nor did these sensations wear off: the effect continued, and I am much mistaken if it be ever forgotten." At the first performance of The Fall of Babylon, (to take a single instance,) when the gradual crescendo of the march announced the near approach of the Persian army, the dense mass of auditors seemed as if they could have joined in their exulting chorus, "Shout aloud, for the conflict is ended !" These are the real and unequivocal triumphs of genius—this the unbidden homage which genius alone can command. Whether displayed in sculpture, painting, poetry, or music, the power is the same : nature, unsophisticated, bends in willing obedience before it, and owns the potency of its sway.
The Fall of Babylon is what it purports be to, an oratorio,—that is, a sacred musical drama ; governed by the laws which regulate dramatic compositions generally, but especially fitted for musical development. The scene in the palace-hall of Babylon could not be portrayed by painting : a single incident might be seized, but no more. Represented on the stage, it would be ridiculous. The imagination alone can conceive it ; and music comes fitly and potently to its aid. SPORE'S ability to wield and direct the agent he employs is nowhere more conspicuous than in the conduct of this entire scene. He knows what it can accomplish, and he moulds it to his will. The scene is present to the imagination of his bearers in all its brilliancy and in all its terrors. This is only a single instance of his power, which we select simply because it is the highest and the most masterly effort in the entire work.
The performance of an oratorio in a room is something out of place. A work of such large dimensions requires space to display itself—the arched vault—the pillared roof, around which the sound of an army of voices can float and reecho. An oratorio in a concert-room is like " The Descent from the Cross" in a parlour. Hence, the general effect of the performance of The Fall of Babylon in the Hanover Square Rooms fell far short of that which it produced in St. Andrew's spacious Hall. 'Ile instrumental band comprised a larger amount of individual talent than the Norwich orchestra; for the finest performers in London were congregated, and the principal singers (with the exception of WEiss) were the same. These sang with more ease and with more ability to make the prominent points of their songs tell ; a power which repeated trials alone can give. Madame CARADORI ALLAN, Miss RAINFORTH, Miss HAWES, HOBBS, PHILLIPS, and YOUNG, did ample justice to their respective parts ; and Weiss sustained the arduous character of Belshazzar with great effect. With such an orchestra, and with the composer himself at their head, it may easily be conceived, that, even with a single rehearsal, the performance exhibited very few faults. The finer and more delicate touches of the picture were brought out, but its broad and massy outlines were wanting. The audience comprised a large proportion of eminent professors in town and country ; but it was more select than numerous—an advance upon the number that attended poor WEBERS benefit, but no crowd ! We conjecture that the fashionables reserved themselves for the extra Philharmonic concert, advertised for Monday ; when they will be able not only to hear SPOHR, who has consented to give the Directors another night, but to breathe the same atmosphere with the Queen