Imágenes de páginas


upon which he equalizes his vowels* in order to produce uniformity of tone. Listen to the effects of a somewhat broader execution of it than his own, in any of those who have made him their model, and it becomes intolerable. Yet such is the real nature of the principle which has reigned so long uncontroverted, and to such an extent does the power to propagate errors which fine talents enjoy sometimes extend, that the defects are even more generally adapted than the perfections of a great artist ; and the reason is obvious. The most prominent are the most striking, they catch the ear most readily and certainly, and sink most surely into the memory.

In point of science there are few singers who go beyond the object

* The following observations upon this matter were some time since published in a letter of a provincial journal from a gentleman whose naturally fine taste has been matured during a long course of years by familiar friendship with persons of the highest musical and critical attainments. They throw a good deal of light upon the subject. “ SHERIDAN, in his most able investigation of the elementary sounds of the English language, discovered that the letters i and u, in their more common use, were not, as had been supposed, simple vowels, but real dipthongs. For the sake of brevity, I shall confine my observations to the first of these, of which he says: šound i is composed of the fallen and slenderest of vowels, a (aw) and e, the first made by the largest, and the last by the smallest aperture of the mouth. Now if we attend to the process in forming this sound, we shall find that the mouth is first opened to the same degree of aperture, and is in the same position as if it were going to sound a (aw), but before the voice can get a passage through the lips, the organs are put in the same position as when e is formed, and a third sound is produced, which is different from both. Now I have always thought that some one of our eminent public singers, (Harrison was the first in whom I heard it exemplified) by an unfortunate misapplication of this theory, introduced the present offensive manner of dissolving this dipthong, which unlike all others, except the u, (to which I shall not now advert) effects, by the union of its elements, something quite different from that which is pror duced by their resolution-as different as white is from the seven prismatic colours.' I admit that the sound of i, as explained by SHERIDAN, is incapable of being sustained as a musical sound, since, if you dwell upon the first letter of the dipthong you obtain the offensive sound of aw, and if on the second, the slender sound of e. It may be asked, what then is to be done? I reply, where the expression requires or will admit rapidity of utterance, there to pronounce the words in their ordinary manner; but where a sustained sound is necessary, there let the singer, as the English singer is compelled frequently to do, substitute one sound for another. I will endeavour to give an instance of both. In singiug" How vain is man who boasts in fight,it is surely better to articulate the word fight, however unniusical it may be, than fuw.ete, as Harrison used to do. Or suppose the words to be 'Ceuse thy unguish, smile once more, it is obvious that those of the modern school, if consistent with themselves, would articulate thus : Cease thuw-e anguish, smaw-ele once more. If they say. No, we would substitute some other sound for the i;' Į perfectly agree in the propriety of the answer; but then, I ask, why not do the same in all cases where a sustained sound of i is uecessary ?"

of our memoir either in the knowledge that more particularly appertains to his own department, in a thorough acquaintance with the business of an orchestra, or in the general scope of his musical reading, particularly of the old masters. His singing, bowever, bears no marks of erudition. He appears studiously to avoid affectation, and we should consider his style of ornamenting to err on the side of plainness rather than as too elaborate or recherché. It may fairly be said that in this as well as in EXECUTIon a bass bas far less room to sport in than other voice. The space, however, has been lately extended, and the songs of Haydn and other modern composers afford ampler scope. We are not enamoured either of Mr. BARTLEMAN'S mode of executing divisions, which we consider to be too staccato and mechanical, or of his mode of gracing. Almost every thing that des serves the name is modern, and is moreover derived from the Italian school. Mr. BARTLEMAN is more of the ancient than the modern, and most of all English-a title which in every thing but vocal art we glory in being able to boast, is the proudest a man can bear. We have bestowed upon MR. BARTLEMAN more minute observation than upon any other performer, for we are happy to admit that he has hitherto not only been the greatest bass singer of his time, but that he has hitherto stood unrivalled and alone. Notwithstanding his talents are splendid, his faults are great, and the consequences of these faults are, if of a magnitude, still more important. While we do him homage we wish to do him and his art equal justice. We have performed our obligations with more than common care, and we intreat that nothing we have said may be interpreted harshly, for we doubly lament that where there is so much to praise, to admire, and to imitate, there should be necessity for any reservation in favor of the general interests of science.


We consider Mr. Lace to be without question the most legitimate bass singer, the most accomplished in various styles, and altogether the most perfect and finished, that has appeared in this country.And if he has not been heard so frequently as to give his reputation the wide diffusion that his merits entitle bim to expect, it is owing to the following causes, which since they very materially effect the

public exercise of the art, and the rise of concert singers in general, may have a place here.

Those who do not examine very scrupulously the constitution of the public concerts in London, are apt to suppose, that nothing is so easy as for talent to open to itself an avenue to the favor of

ą metropolitan audience, and through that medium to the kingdom at large. Far from it; there is nothing more difficult. Till this season there were only two established concerts of repute in London. The concert of Antient Music is in the hands of directors, wbo not only must be well satisfied of the claims of any candidate for a place in their orches tra, but they also, with a commendable spirit of justice, look to the past services of their singers, and it seldom happens that indivi, duals are displaced, who continue to maintain a fair professional reputation. MR. BARTLEMAN has, therefore, with the exception of periods of indisposition, constantly retained the lead as the bass singer there. Of the vocal concerts at Hanover-square, he is a proprietor. The oratorios, therefore, are the only places left open to the competition of new performers, and even here there are circumstances which might well forbid a singer's appearance. There are also, it is true, the benefit concerts, but it will naturally follow, that the par• ties are anxious to obtain the assistance of those of most repute. Thus the rights of prescription throw so many impediments between a young singer and the public, that many years must pass away before an opportunity is afforded him of becoming extensively known. Add to these circumstances, that bass voices are seldom, we may say never, calculated to make those instant and striking impressions that belong to voices capable of great force and display of execution. They have rarely any thing of such a character assigned to them. It is no wonder, then, if a singer of this description creeps more slowly, into estimation than those of any other class. In the instance before us there are also other drawbacks. Mr. BantLEMAN and MR. BELLAMY were from their childhood constantly before a London audience. Mr. Lacy is still young; he was educated at Bath, under Rauzzin. He came out in London before his singing had received that superior richness and polish it has now obtained; during the short time he bas been before the public, he has been in. termediately employed at provincial meetings, and lastly he has passed a considerable period in his studies in Italy. We lament to add, that at the very moment when his talents are matured, and when

his country has begun to be gratified by his powers, and might be greatly benefited by his example, the state of his health has deter'mined him to try a warmer climate; and, probably, before this shect meets the public eye, lie, with Mrs. Lacy, by far the most able of our native female singers and instructors, will be on their voyage to Calcutta.

Mr Lacy is endowed by nature with organs of great strength and delicacy. His voice is rich and full toned, particulurly in the lower notes. His natural compass is from E to F, or about 16 notes. His ear is so remarkably accurate, and the muscles of his throat so formed by practice, that they are rarely even affected by the indisposition under which he so continually labours. If he can sing at all, he sings in tune. In point of Intonation, he therefore equals, if he does not exceed, every other singer we ever remember to have heard. But what affords a more certain proof of his quickness in discriminating sounds, as well as of the facility with which he can use and apply the powers of his voice, is the faculty of imitation which we happen to know he can exercise with extraordinay accufacy in respect to similitude, and with great variety of purpose both in singing and speaking. Nor is it a less remarkable proof of good taste and sound judgment, as well as versatility and resource, that his singing is pure and original. In it there is not the faintest trace of the manner of any other performer, except that natural resemblance, if we may so call it, which appertains to singers who have been trained upon the principles of one school, and who belong, as it were, to the same musical family. Thus the same principles of voicing, and even of gracing, may be perceived to be common to MR. BRAHAM and Mr. Lacy, as derived from their master, RauzZINI ; but nothing that can be called imitation, can be traced in his style. Direct imitation, in our mind, always indicates the want of the natural and wholesome strength that attend poverty of conception and a barren genius. The man that follows must always go behind" is a homely truism, but it is precisely to our point. MR. LACY, on the contrary, acts upon his own conceptions; and as circumstances have enabled us to acquaint ourselves with his method of procedure, we can state, of our own knowledge, that he first well considers the intentions of the composer--the scope of the capabilities of the song, and weighs them in conjunction with his own particular powers of expression. When be has matured his own notions, he is

never backward to compare them with the judgment of others, but is anxious to correct bis outline and his execution, by the most careful consideration of such objections as are offered to him, or by the observation of any changes or refinements introduced to his notice by others.

We do not esteem his imagination to be so fervid as that of Mr. BARTLEMAN, nor his expression, in particular instances, so strong—but as a whole it is more pure, chaste, and polished, more enriched by the study and understanding of the different accepta, tions of different national schools, and consequently more diversified and universal. In framing these disquisitions upon the professional acquirements of great singers, we find ourselves irresistibly drawn into repetitions and samenesses, and even must thus make an apology; and in order to preclude the supposition that we blunder into tauto. logy, we must refer to our article in our second number for a coin, ciding remark to that which we now make. Mr. Lacy has compared ideas of expression, purely English, with those of enlightened foreigners; and though he sings English like an Englishman, his style, in respect of conception, is (as we esteem it) purified and elevated by bis more intimate study and acquaintance with the modes of expression in use among other nations. He is not deficient in what we are tempted to call the poetry of his art, but his fancy is guarded and fenced round by chastity of design, not less than by the caution which a very nice and difficult taste, with respect to execution, always places upon his aims at effect. His singing of the older mas. ters, of Handel, Arne, Pergolesi, &c. (Purcell we never heard him attempt,) is fine, marked and vigorous, but always sober, and never turgid or theatrical. Such we conceive to be the true portraiture of Mr. Lacy's singing, so far as it evinces his apprehension of the intentions of the poet and the composer.

In point of tone, we consider that Mr. Lacy exceeds every bass singer we ever heard. We bave already spoken so much at length upon this bead in our character of Mr. BARTLEMAN, that little re. mains. We must even be guilty of repetition, even when we say that Mr. Lacy's tone is strictly Italian, formed according to the method of the teachers of that country, and that it never varies from the top to the bottom of his voice in quality. But this is not the only design, We have seen, that in this respect, namely, uniform voicing, MR. BARTLEMAN complies with the condition of the general problem for the formation of tone, MR, LACY, however, conforms in all the

« AnteriorContinuar »