THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF GREAT MUSICIANS
By Rupert Hughes
Portions of a few of the chapters of this work appeared serially in The Criterion, and the last chapter was published in The Smart Set.
While, so far as the author knows, this is the first book on the subject, it is given, perhaps, especial novelty by the fact that advantage could be taken of much new material given to the public for the first time (with one exception) in the last few months, notably: a revelation of the exact identity of Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved;" the letters of Liszt to his princess; letters of Chopin long supposed to have been burned, as well as diaries and letters gathered by an intimate friend for a biography whose completion was prevented by death; the publication of a vast amount of Wagneriana; the appearance of a full life of Tschaikovski by his brother, with complete elucidation of much that had been suppressed; the first volume of a new biography of Clara Schumann, with a detailed account of the whole progress of her beautiful love story, down to the day of the marriage; and numberless fugitive paragraphs throwing new light on affairs more or less unknown or misunderstood.
Love it is an hatefulle pees, A free acquitaunce without re lees. An hevy burthen light to here, A wikked wawe awey to were. It is kunnyng withoute science, Wisdome withoute sapience, Bitter swetnesse and swete errour, Right eville savoured good savour; A strengthe weyked to stonde upright, And feblenesse fulle of myght. A laughter it is, weping ay; Reste that traveyleth nyght and day. Also a swete helle it is, And a soroufulle Paradys.
Romaunt of the Rose.
I. THE OVERTURE
II. THE ANCIENTS
III. THE MEN OF FLANDERS
IV. ORLAND DI LASSUS AND HIS REGINA
V. HENRY AND FRANCES PURCELL
VI. THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF STRADELLA
VII. GIOVANNI AND LUCREZIA PALESTRINA
VIII. BACH, THE PATRIARCH
IX. PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN
X. THE MAGNIFICENT BACHELOR
XI. GLUCK THE DOMESTIC, ROUSSEAU THE CONFESSOR, AND THE AMIABLE PICCINNI
XII. A FEW TUNESTERS OF FRANCE AND ITALY —PERI, MONTEVERDE, ET AL
XIV. BEETHOVEN: THE GREAT BUMBLEBEE
XV. VON WEBER—THE RAKE REFORMED
XVI. THE FELICITIES OF MENDELSSOHN
XVII. THE NOCTURNES OF CHOPIN
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PRINCESS LICHTENSTEIN (Frontispiece)
ORLAND DI LASSUS (Roland de Lattre)
JOHN SEBASTIAN BACH
MORNING PRAYER IN THE FAMILY OF SEBASTIAN BACH
GEORG FRIEDRICH HANDEL
CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD VON GLUCK
JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU
JEAN BAPTISTE DE LULLY
MOZART, AT VIENNA, PLAYING HIS OPERA "DON JUAN" FOR THE FIRST TIME
LUDWIG VON BEETHOVEN
BETTINA BRENTANO VON ARNIM
COUNTESS THERESE VON BRUNSWICK
CARL MARIA VON WEBER
THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF GREAT MUSICIANS
Musicians as lovers! The very phrase evokes and parades a pageant of amours! The thousand heartaches; the fingers clutching hungrily at keys that might be other fingers; the fiddler with his eyelids clenched while he dreams that the violin, against his cheek is the satin cheek of "the inexpressive She;" the singer with a cry in every note; the moonlit youth with the mandolin tinkling his serenade to an ivied window; the dead-marches; the nocturnes; the amorous waltzes; the duets; the trills and trinkets of flirtatious scherzi; the laughing roulades; the discords melted into concord as solitude into the arms of reunion—these are music's very own.
So capable of love and its expression is music, indeed, that you almost wonder if any but musicians have ever truly loved, or loving have expressed. And yet—! Round every corner there lurks an "and yet." And if you only continue your march, or your reading, you always reach that corner.
Your first thought would be, that a good musician must be a good lover; that a broken heart alone can add the Master's degree to the usual conservatory diploma of Bachelor of Music; that all musicians must be sentimental, if musicians at all; and finally that only musicians can know how to announce and embellish that primeval theme to which all existence is but variations, more or less brilliant, more or less in tune.
But go a little further, and closer study will prove that some of the world's greatest virtuosos in love could neither make nor carry a tune; and that, by corollary, some of the greatest tunesters in the world were tyros, ignoramuses, or heretics in that old lovers' arithmetic which begins: 1 plus 1 equals 1.
If you care to watch the cohort of musicians, good, bad, and worse, that I shall have to deploy before you, you shall see almost every sort and condition of love and lover that humanity can include. And incidentally—to tuck in here a preface that would otherwise be skipped—let me explain that in the following affairs I have preferred to give you the people as accurately as I can make them out.
In place of the easy trick of stringing together a number of gorgeous fairy stories founded on fact, I have preferred the long labour of hunting down the truth and telling only what I have found and believe to be true. Fact and not fancy; presentation and not fiction; have been the aim throughout. Where the facts are sparse, I have not hesitated to say so; have not stooped to pad out gaps, with graceful and romantic imaginings; and have indeed never hazarded a guess or an inference without frankly branding it as such.
Furthermore, as far as space permits and documents exist, the musicians tell their own stories in their own words.
For the making of this little book, I have not been able to include all the men who ever wrote one note after or above another; nor to read all the books ever published in all the world's languages: and yet, that I have been decently thorough will appear, I think, in the list of books at the back. This does not claim to be a complete bibliography of the subject, but, omitting hundreds of books I have ransacked in vain, it catalogues only such works as I have consulted with profit, and the reader could consult with pleasure.
It may be well to say that, with the exception of the occasional necessity or seeming-necessity for taking one side or the other in a matter of dispute, I have avoided the facility of bandying highly moral verdicts and labelling these victors or victims of life with tags marking their destinations in the next world. He who gets into another's heart with understanding, will find it impossible to indulge in wholesale blame—"tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner." So, without pretending to have comprehended any of these human hearts altogether, I have learned enough to lean almost always a little toward the defence, and still more nearly always toward the praise of the woman in the case. And yet, the whole effort and viewpoint of the work will be found, I think, to be based upon a deep belief that one love is better than two, and that earnestness and honesty and altruism are more blessed and blissful, even with poverty and suffering, than any wealth of money, or of fame, or of amorous experience.
As a last chapter to this series of "true stories," I have ventured to sum up the conclusions, to which the study of all these affairs has compelled me, and to state a general opinion as to the effect of music on character. It might have been more exciting to some readers, if I had started out with a hard and fast theory, and then discarded or warped everything contradictory to it, but it would have been a dishonest procedure for one who believes that musicians are neither saints of exaltation nor fiends of lawless ecstasy; but only ordinary clay ovens of fire and ashes like the rest of us. He who generalises is lost, and yet I make bold to believe that the conclusion of this book is true and reasonable and in accordance with such evidence as could be collected.
And now after this before-the-curtain lecture, it is high time, as Artemus would say, to "rise the curting."
The very origins and traditions of the trade of music seem to enforce a certain versatility of emotion and experience. Apollo, the particular god of music, was not much of a lover, and what few affairs he had were hardly happy; his suit was either declined with thanks, or, if accepted, ended in the death of the lady; as for himself—being a god, he was denied the comfortable convenience of suicide. Daphne, as every one knows, took to a tree to escape his attentions; and Coronis, as so many another woman, was soon blase of divine courtship, and, for variety, turned her eyes elsewhere. She was punished with death indeed; but her son was Aesculapius. Which explains the medicinal value music has always claimed.
Old Boetius—who had affection enough for both a first and a second wife—tells, in his treatise on music, many anecdotes of the art's influence, not only upon sickness but upon wrathful mobs bent on mischief. He quotes Plato's statement that "the greatest caution is to be taken not to suffer any change in well-moraled music, there being no corruption of manners in a republic so great as that which follows a gradual declination from a prudent and modest music; for whatever corruptions are made in music, the minds of the hearers will immediately suffer the same, it being certain that there is no way to the affections more open than that of hearing."
The musician proverbially both plays upon and is a lyre. This instrument, as is well known, was first made out of a vacant turtle-shell, by Mercury, the god of gymnastic exercises and of theft, that is to say, of technic, and of plagiarism. Mercury was nimble with his affections also; among his progeny was the great god Pan, who is frequently reported, and commonly believed, to be dead. Pan was so far from beautiful that even his nurse could not find a compliment for him, and in fact dropped him and ran. Considering what one usually expects of a new-born infant, Pan must have been really unattractive. His lack of personal charm was the origin of the invention of Pan's pipes or syrinx. Miss Syrinx of the Naiad family—one of the first families of Arcadia—was so horrified when Pan proposed to her, that she fled. He pursued and she begged aid of certain nymphs who lived in a houseboat on the river Ladon. When Pan thought to seize her, he found his arms filled with reeds. How many a lover has pursued thus ardently some charmer, only to find that when he has her, he has but a broken reed! But Pan, noting that the wind was sighing musically about the reeds, cut seven of them with a knife and bound them together as a pastoral pipe. A wise fellow he, and could profit even from a jilt.
The eminent musician Arion, the inventor of glee clubs—a fact which should not be cherished against him—seems to have loved no one except himself, and therein to have had no rivals. The famous fish story to the effect that when he was compelled to leap into the sea, by certain mariners, he was carried to shore on the back of a dolphin, is only Jonah's adventure turned inside out.
Another early soloist was Orpheus, the beautiful love story of whose life is common property. He was torn to pieces by frantic women, a fate that seems always to threaten some of our prominent pianists and violinists at the hands of the matinee Bacchantes.
The patron saint of Christian music, Saint Cecilia, had a remarkable married life, including a platonic affair with an angel; which caused her pagan husband a certain amount of natural anxiety. Geoffrey Chaucer can tell you the legend of her martyrdom with the crystal charm of all his poesy.
The early Christian Church with its elaborate vocal worship accomplished much for the cause of music, but also, with its vast encouragement to the monastic life and to celibacy, coerced a great number of musicians to be monks. This banishes them from a place here—not by any means because their being monks prevented their having love affairs, but because it greatly prevented a record of most of them—though happily not all. Abelard, for instance, was a monk, and his Heloise became a nun, and their love letters are among the most precious possessions in literature. Liszt, that Hungarian rhapsodist in amours, was he not also an abbe? There was a priest-musician, George de la Hele, who about 1585 gave up a lucrative benefice to marry a woman dowered with the name Madalena Guabaelaraoen. But most of them kept their benefices and their sweethearts both, though we find it noted as worthy of mention in the epitaph of the composer and canon, Pierre de la Rue, in the 16th century, that as an "adorateur diligent du Tres-Haut, ministre du Christ, il sut garder la chastete et se preserver du contact de l'amour sensuel." But because you see it in an epitaph, it is not always necessarily so.
Sir John Hawkins, in his delightsome though ponderous history of music, tells of the disastrous infatuation of Angelus Politianus, who flourished in 1460 as a canon of the Church, and the teacher of the children of Lorenzo dei Medici.
"Ange Politien," he says, "a native of Florence, who passed for the finest wit of his time in Italy, met with a fate which punished his criminal love. Being professor of eloquence at Florence, he unhappily became enamoured of one of his young scholars who was of an illustrious family, but whom he could neither corrupt by his great presents, nor by the force of his eloquence. The vexation he conceived at this disappointment was so great as to throw him into a burning fever; and in the violence of the fit he made two couplets of a song upon the object with which he was transported. He had no sooner done this than he raised himself from his bed, took his lute, and accompanied it with his voice in an air so tender and affecting that he expired in singing the second couplet."
Which reminds one of the actor Artemus Ward describes as having played Hamlet in a Western theatre, where, there being no orchestra, he was compelled to furnish his own slow music and to play on a flute as he died.
THE MEN OF FLANDERS
The Belgian historian, Van der Straeten, has illuminated the crowded shelves of his big work, "La Musique aux Pays-Bas avant Le XIXe Siecle," with various little instances of romance that occurred to the numberless minstrels and weavers of tangled counterpoint in the Netherlands of the old time. Some of these instances are simply hints, upon which the fervid imagination will spin imaginary love yarns in endless gossamer. Thus of Marc Houtermann (1537—1577) "Prince of musicians" at Brussels. All we know of his wife is from her epitaph. She died the same year he died—so we fancy it was of a broken heart she died; and she was only twenty-six at the time—so we can imagine how young and lithely beautiful she must have been. Her name, too, was Joanna Gavadia—a sweet name, surely never wasted on an ungraceful woman; and on her tombstone she is called "pudicissima et musicis scientissima." So she was good and she was skilful in music, like Bach's second wife; and doubtless, like her, of infinite help and delight to her husband.
Van der Straeten's book is cluttered up with documents of musty interest. Among them are a number that gain a pathetic interest by the frequence of the appeals of musicians or their widows for a pittance of charity from the hand of some royal or ducal patron. If there be in these democratic days any musician who feels humiliated by the struggle for existence with its necessities for wire-pulling and log-rolling and sly advertisement, and by the difficulty of stemming the tide of public ignorance and indifference, let him remember that at least he is a free man, and need lick nobody's boots; and let him cast an eye upon the chronicles of shameful humiliation, childish deference, grovelling servility, and whimsical reward or punishment, favour, or neglect, that marked the "golden age" when musicians found patrons from whose conceit or ennui they might wheedle a most uncertain living.
Among the most pathetic of such instances is that of Josse Boutmy (1680—1779), court organist at Brussels, and famous in his day,—which was a long day. When he was at the age of eighty and the father of twelve children, he had to stoop to appeals for charity; again at ninety-seven he appeals. At ninety-eight he pleads to be retired with a pension; at ninety-nine he dies. Three days after his death his son is asking a pension for the mother of that dozen children. She also writes a pitiful letter still preserved.
"My husband, Judocus Boutmy, had the happiness of serving, for thirty-five years, as first organist of the chapel of Your Highness. Infirmities, the result of old age, and twelve children raised at great cost, to enable them to earn their bread, have left me at his death in indigence the greater since my son Laurent Boutmy, who for many years gave with approbation assistance to his father, in the hope of succeeding to his post, has been deprived of this boon by others.
"The hope of finding subsistence in the heritage of my ancestors made me go back to Germany, where unhappily the death of my brothers, my absence, the disorder of war, of law, and a faithless administration, have prevented, at least during my lifetime, all that I could hope. Save for the tenderness of a daughter, who is herself hardly in easy circumstances, having a family, I should lack the necessaries of life. The infirmities, resulting on an age of seventy, passed in adversity and work, prevent me from gaining my own living."
Van der Straeten says that her name was Katrina, that she came from Westphalia. Save a few titles of his works and a few accounts of this pathetic struggle, this is all we know of poor Josse Boutmy and his old wife. Then there is Jacques Buus, who makes various appeals for aid for his increasing family. A refreshing novelty in these annals of sordid poverty is given us of H.J. De Croes, court-organist at Brussels in the eighteenth century, who was forced to make an appeal for charity because the son whom he had sent abroad to study did not return to support his father, but decided to marry a woman he met at Ratisbon; it is pleasant to add that the appeal was granted.
Adrian Couwenhoven, who died in Spain in 1592, left there a widow, Ana Wickerslot, who implored the king to grant her money to go back home to Flanders with her children.
The Brebos family were famous organ-builders in the fifteenth century; they were famous marriers, too,—but one of them met his match, Jean, called to Spain, married there a widow, Marianna Hita, with one son. The widow outlived the husband and her son succeeded him in business. Gilles Brebos, the best organ-builder in Europe, according to his son, who ought to have known, married in Spain a woman who was also Flemish. When he died she was a widow raised to the third degree, and she was compelled to appeal to the king for charity. In her quaint appeal she naively points with pride to the fact that in thirty years she had married with three of his Majesty's servants. (Casada con tres criados de V.M.) These three were a royal mathematician, a captain in the royal navy, killed in the Flanders rebellions, and finally a royal organ-builder. We are not told what further royal alliances she achieved.
Among the most famous of early Flemish musicians is Adrian Willaert (1480?-1562), who was born in Bruges, and was counted the founder of the Venetian school. He was a pupil of that "Prince of Music" Josquin Despres (of whom too little is known save that the Church got him), Willaert was the teacher of Zarlino, and of Ciprien de Rore (who from his epitaph seems to have left a son, though nothing is known of his marriage).
We know nothing of Willaert's life-romance, but he must have been happily married, for he made six wills before he died, and they are all preserved. In every one of them he mentions his wife Susana, though he never gives her family name. In each of his wills he leaves her the bulk of his fortune; in the fourth will he says the last word in devotion by bequeathing his widow his fortune to enjoy whether she remarries or not.
As Van der Straeten says, "it appears that the affection the old man vows for his wife grows greater and greater the nearer the fatal day approaches. The most minute dispositions are made in her regard."
Strangely enough Willaert never mentions either his compositions or his daughter Catharine, who was a composer, too. Perhaps this gifted daughter had a little romance of her own and found herself disinherited.
One of the darkest of the royal English tragedies concerns a musician, one David Ricci or Rizzio, who was born at Turin, the son of a poor music-teacher, and who, when grown, managed to join the train of the Count de Moretto, then going as ambassador to Scotland. There, thrown upon his own resources in a far cold country, this forlorn Italian managed to ingratiate himself among the musicians of Mary, the unhappy Queen of Scots. She eventually noticed him and engaged him as a singer. He gradually rose higher in her political and personal favour till he became secretary for French affairs, and conducted himself with such odious pride and grew so rich and so powerful that at last he was dragged from the very presence of the queen and slain. And this was in the year 1566.
ORLAND DI LASSUS AND HIS REGINA
A contemporary of the Rizzio, so humble as a musician and so soaring in his intrigues, was the great Roland de Lattre, better known as Orland di Lassus or Orlandus Lassus, the "Belgian Orpheus," "le Prince des Musiciens." There is as much dispute over the date of his birth as over the early conditions of his life. But he was born in either 1520 or 1530 at Mons in Hainault, and, according to the old Annales du Hainault, he changed his name from Roland de Lattre to Orland di Lassus because his father had been convicted of making spurious coin and, as a "false moneyer," had to wear a string of his evil utterances round his neck.
Rarely in history has a composer held a more lofty position than that of this son of a criminal, and even to-day he rivals Palestrina in the esteem of historians as one of the pillars of his art.
He was in the service of the Duke of Bavaria, who gave him as much honour as the later King of Bavaria gave Wagner; he stood so high at court that a year later he won the hand of a maid of honour, Regina Weckinger. She bore him two daughters and four sons. One of the daughters was named after her, Regina, and when she grew up married a court painter. Two of the sons became prominent composers. The mother was probably beautiful, since an old biographer, Van Ouickelberg, described her children as elegantissimi.
There is every reason to believe that the wedded life of these two was thoroughly happy, save that Lassus was an indefatigable fiend of work. As his biographer Delmotte says, "His life indeed had been the most toilsome that one could think of, and his fecund imagination, always alert, had enfante a multitude of compositions so great that their very number astounds us (they exceeded two thousand), and forbids us almost to believe them the work of one man. This incessant tension of soul made imperious demands for the distraction of repose; far from this, he redoubled his work till nature, worn out, refused to Lassus the aid she had lavished. His mental powers abandoned him abruptly.
"Regina, one day when she returned, found him in a very precarious state; he had lost his mind and knew her no more. In her terror, she sent word at once to the Princess Maximilienne, sister of the Duke William, who sent at once to the invalid her own physician, the doctor Mermann. Thanks to his care, the health of Orland improved, but his reason did not return. From that moment he became sad, dreamy, absorbed in melancholy. 'He is no longer,' said Regina, 'what he was before, gay and content; but is become sombre, and speaks always of death.'"
While Lassus was in this sad condition he grew petulant over his imagined ill-treatment at the hands of the new duke, and wrote a letter bitterly complaining that he had not carried out his father's promises. In fact, Orland in his condition of semi-insanity threatened to resign, and when the insulted Duke Maximilian showed signs of accepting the resignation, it was the wife that saved the family from disgrace and poverty. Regina made a fervent appeal (quoted in Mathieu's poem on Lassus) that "his Altesse Serenissime be pleased not to heap on the poor family of Orland the wrongs that the unhappy father may have deserved through his fantaisies bizarres, the result of too much thought for his art and too incessant zeal; but that the duke deign to continue his former treatment; for to put him out of the service of the court chapel would be to kill him."
He was left undisturbed in his post, but, before long, death forced the acceptance of his resignation. Over his grave was placed a tomb on which besides the effigy of himself, are shown also his devoted wife and some of their children.
Regina two years later founded a perpetual annual funeral service for him. By a later intercession, she secured for her son, Ferdinand, the succession to his father's dignities at the court of Bavaria. She died June 5, 1600, and on her tomb she is named, "la noble et vertueuse dame Regina de Lassin, veuve de feu Orland de Lassus." She had been a good wife to a good husband. The sadness of her latter years with her beloved and demented husband reminds one of the pathetic fate of Robert Schumann and his wife.
HENRY AND FRANCES PURCELL
If Lassus deserved the name of the Netherlandish Orpheus, Henry Purcell deserved the name his "loveing wife Frances Purcell" gave him when she published after his death a collection of his songs under the name of "Orpheus Britannicus." The analogy holds good also in the devotion of these married couples, for Henry willed to Frances the whole of his property absolutely.
Yet the legend of the cause of his death would verify the old theory about the joltiness of the course of true love. For Sir John Hawkins passes along the gossip that Purcell met his death by "a cold which he caught in the night waiting for admittance into his own house. It is said that he used to keep late hours, and that his wife had given orders to his servants not to let him in after midnight; unfortunately he came home heated with wine from the tavern at an hour later than that prescribed him, and, through the inclemency of the weather, contracted a disorder of which he died. If this be true, it reflects but little honour on Madam Purcell, for so she is styled in the advertisements of his works; and but ill agrees with those expressions of grief for her dear lamented husband which she makes use of to Lady Elizabeth Howard in the dedication of the "Orpheus Britannicus". It seems probable that the disease of which he died was rather a lingering than an acute one, perhaps a consumption; and that, for some time at least, it had no way affected the powers of his mind, since one of the most celebrated of his compositions, the song 'From Rosy Bowers,' is in the printed book said to have been the last of his works, and to have been set during that sickness which put a period to his days."
Hawkins guesses that Purcell was married young, because at the age of twenty-five he was advertising the sale of his first sonatas at his own house; also that, musician-like, he left his family dependent upon the favour of his benefactors, particularly upon the graciousness of his pupil and patroness, Lady Elizabeth Howard, who placed on his tomb in Westminster Abbey the famous inscription often credited to Dryden: "Here lyes Henry Purcell, Esq.; who left this life, and is gone to that blessed place, where only his harmony can be exceeded."
We now know that Purcell's marriage was either in 1680 or 1681, when he was twenty-two or twenty-three years old. August 2d, 1682, Purcell's father, a venerable and distinguished musician and a friend of Pepys, the diarist, was buried in Westminster Abbey, where later his more distinguished son was laid. A few days after the elder Purcell's burial, Henry and his wife came to Westminster Abbey again, for the baptism of a son new-born. He died in a few months and a third time they came to the sad old abbey to lay their child in the cloisters there.
The next year, 1683, a second son died, and in 1687 a third boy two months old was buried in the cloisters of the abbey. This monotonous return of the hand of death must have embittered the life of these two, who seem to have remained lovers always. But in May, 1688, a daughter was born, named Frances after her mother; and she outlived both parents. She married a poet, when she and her lover were each nineteen, and named a child Frances after the grandmother. On Sept. 6th, 1689, Henry Purcell's son Edward was baptised, and he also lived to attain some distinction as an organist. In 1693 a daughter, Mary Peters, was born.
Two years later, on May 21st, 1695, the young father died—on the eve of St. Cecilia's Day. At his bedside were his old mother, his young wife, and the two little children. Purcell was buried under the organ of Westminster Abbey and the anthems he had composed for the funeral of Queen Mary were sung at his own. And there he rests near his fellow musician, Pelham Humphries, who lies, as Runciman says, "by the side of his younger wife in the Thames-sodden vaults of Westminster Abbey."
Purcell's will, made the very day of his death, was as follows:
"In the name of God, Amen. I, Henry Purcell, of the Citty of Manchester, gent., being dangerously ill as to the constitution of my body, but in good and perfect mind and memory (thanks be to God), doe by these presents publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament.
"And I do hereby give and bequeath unto my loving Wife, Frances Purcell, all my Estate both reall and personall of what nature and kind soever, to her and to her assigns for ever. And I doe hereby constitute and appoint my said loveing Wife my sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament, revokeing all my former Will or Wills. Witnesse my hand and scale this twentieth first day of November, Annoq. Dni. One thousand six hundred ninety-five, and in the seventh yeare of the Raigne of King William the Third, &c.
As to Hawkins's theory that Purcell left his wife in needy circumstances, Cummings, his biographer, believes the thought refuted by the will left by the widow herself, who outlived her husband by eleven years, and on St. Valentine's Day, 1706, was buried at his side. In her will she says that: "According to her husband's desire she had given her deare son (Edward) a good education, and she alsoe did give him all the Bookes of Musicke in generall, the Organ, the double spinett, the single spinett, a silver tankard, a silver watch, two pair of gold buttons, a hair ring, a mourning ring of Dr. Busby's, a Larum clock, Mr. Edward Purcell's picture, handsome furniture for a room, and he was to be maintained until provided for. All the residue of her property she gave to her said daughter Frances."
Cummings also assails Hawkins's story that Purcell was dissipated and caught his death from being locked out. But Runciman objects that if Purcell had not been dissipated in those days, he would have been called a Puritan, and says: "I picture him as a sturdy, beef-eating Englishman, a puissant, masterful, as well as lovable personality, a born king of men, ambitious of greatness, determined, as Tudway says, to excel every one of his time."
The love Frances Purcell bore her husband was kept green by her anxiety for his fame. She was, in her littler way, a Cosima Wagner. In 1696 she published a collection of harpsichord lessons by her husband; three editions being sold quickly. The next year she issued ten sonatas and a "Collection of Ayres." In 1698 she issued (or reissued) the "Orpheus Britannicus." In all of these she wrote dedications breathing devotion to her husband. In an ode printed in the second volume of the "Orpheus," in 1704, Purcell's personality is thus limned:
"Nor were his Beauties to his Art confin'd So justly were his Soul and Body join'd You'd think his Form the Product of his Mind. A conquering sweetness in his Visage dwelt, His Eyes would warm, his Wit like lightning melt. But those must no more be seen, and that no more be felt. Pride was the sole aversion of his Eye, Himself as Humble as his Art was High."
Purcell died at the age of thirty-seven—being granted only two years more of life than Mozart and only six years more than Schubert. He is the moon of English music and his melodies are as exquisite and as silvery and as full of enamoured radiance as the tintinnabulations of the moonbeams themselves. But unfortunately for English music this beautiful moon, who is the most nearly great of all the composers England has furnished the world, was speedily obscured in the blinding glare of the sun of English music which came shouldering up from the east, and which has not yet sunk far enough in the west to cease from dazzling the eyes of English music-makers. But of Haendel as a lover, we must postpone the gossip till we have mouthed one of the most delicious morsels in musical scandal, a choice romance that is said to have affected Purcell very deeply.
The story concerns the strenuous career of Alessandro Stradella, and when you read it you will not wonder that it should have made a great success as an opera, or that it gave Flotow his greatest popularity next to "Martha," even though its conclusion was made tamely theatrical.
THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF STRADELLA
There are historians, sour and cynical, who have tried to contradict the truth of the life story of Stradella as Bourdelot tells it in his "Histoire de la Musique et de ses Effets," but they cannot offer us any satisfactory substitute in its place, and without troubling to give their merely destructive complaints, and without attempting to improve upon the pompously fascinating English of old Sir John Hawkins, I will quote the story for your delectation.
Certain it is that there was a composer named Stradella, and that he was an opera composer to the Venetian Republic, as well as a frequent singer upon the stage to his own harp accompaniments. He occupies a position in musical history of some importance. The following story of his adventures is no more improbable than many a story we read in the daily newspapers—and surely no one could question the credibility of the daily newspapers. But here is the story as Hawkins tells it. As the cook-books say, salt it to your taste.
"His character as a musician was so high at Venice, that all who were desirous of excelling in the science were solicitous to become his pupils. Among the many whom he had the instruction of, was one, a young lady of a noble family of Rome, named Hortensia, who, notwithstanding her illustrious descent, submitted to live in a criminal intimacy with a Venetian nobleman. The frequent access of Stradella to this lady, and the many opportunities he had of being alone with her, produced in them both such an affection for each other, that they agreed to go off together for Rome. In consequence of this resolution they embarked in a very fine night, and by the favour of the wind effected their escape.
"Upon the discovery of the lady's flight, the Venetian had recourse to the usual method in that country of obtaining satisfaction for real or supposed injuries: he despatched two assassins, with instructions to murder both Stradella and the lady, giving them a sum of money in hand, and a promise of a larger if they succeeded in the attempt. Being arrived at Naples, the assassins received intelligence that those whom they were in pursuit of were at Rome, where the lady passed as the wife of Stradella. Upon this they determined to execute their commission, wrote to their employer, requesting letters of recommendation to the Venetian embassador at Rome, in order to secure an asylum for them to fly to, as soon as the deed should be perpetrated.
"Upon the receipt of letters for this purpose, the assassins made the best of their way toward Rome; and being arrived there, they learned that on the morrow, at five in the evening, Stradella was to give an oratorio in the church of San Giovanni Laterano. They failed not to be present at the performance, and had concerted to follow Stradella and his mistress out of the church, and, seizing a convenient opportunity, to make the blow. The performance was now begun, and these men had nothing to do but to watch the motions of Stradella, and attend to the music, which they had scarce begun to hear, before the suggestions of humanity began to operate upon their minds; they were seized with remorse, and reflected with horror on the thought of depriving of his life a man capable of giving to his auditors such pleasure as they had just then felt.
"In short, they desisted from their purpose, and determined, instead of taking away his life, to exert their endeavours for the preservation of it; they waited for his coming out of the church, and courteously addressed him and the lady, who was by his side, first returning him thanks for the pleasure they had received at hearing his music, and informed them both of the errand they had been sent upon; expatiating upon the irresistible charms, which of savages had made them men, and had rendered it impossible for them to effect their execrable purpose; and concluded with their earnest advice that Stradella and the lady should both depart from Rome the next day, themselves promising to deceive their employer, and forego the remainder part of their reward, by making him believe that Stradella and his lady had quitted Rome on the morning of their arrival.
"Having thus escaped the malice of their enemy, the two lovers took an immediate resolution to fly for safety to Turin, and soon arrived there. The assassins being returned to Venice, reported to their employer that Stradella and Hortensia had fled from Rome, and taken shelter in the city of Turin, a place where the laws were very severe, and which, excepting the houses of embassadors, afforded no protection for murderers; they represented to him the difficulty of getting these two persons assassinated, and, for their own parts, notwithstanding their engagements, declined the enterprise. This disappointment, instead of allaying, served to sharpen the resentment of the Venetian: he had found means to attach to his interest the father of Hortensia, and, by various arguments, to inspire him with a resolution to become the murderer of his own daughter. With this old man, no less malevolent and vindictive than himself, the Venetian associated two ruffians, and dispatched them all three to Turin, fully inspired with a resolution of stabbing Stradella and the old man's daughter wherever they found them. The Venetian also furnished them with letters from Mons. l'Abbe d'Estrades, then embassador of France at Venice, addressed to the Marquis of Villars, the French embassador at Turin. The purport of these letters was a recommendation of the bearers of them, who were therein represented to be merchants, to the protection of the embassador, if at any time they should stand in need of it.
"The Duchess of Savoy was at that time regent; and she having been informed of the arrival of Stradella and Hortensia, and the occasion of their precipitate flight from Rome; and knowing the vindictive temper of the Venetians, placed the lady in a convent, and retained Stradella in her palace as her principal musician. In a situation of such security as this seemed to be, Stradella's fears for the safety of himself and his mistress began to abate, till one evening, walking for the air upon the ramparts of the city, he was set upon by the three assassins above mentioned, that is to say, the father of Hortensia, and the two ruffians, who each gave him a stab with a dagger in the breast, and immediately betook themselves to the house of the French embassador as to a sanctuary.
"The attack on Stradella having been made in the sight of numbers of people, who were walking in the same place, occasioned an uproar in the city, which soon reached the ears of the duchess: she ordered the gates to be shut, and diligent search to be made for the three assassins; and being informed that they had taken refuge in the house of the French embassador, she went to demand them. The embassador insisting on the privileges which those of his function claimed from the law of nations, refused to deliver them up. In the interim Stradella was cured of his wounds, and the Marquis de Villars, to make short of the question about privilege, and the rights of embassadors, suffered the assassins to escape.
"From this time, finding himself disappointed of his revenge, but not the least abated in his ardour to accomplish it, this implacable Venetian contented himself with setting spies to watch the motions of Stradella. A year was elapsed after the cure of his wounds; no fresh disturbance had been given to him, and he thought himself secure from any further attempts on his life. The duchess regent, who was concerned for the honour of her sex, and the happiness of two persons who had suffered so much, and seemed to have been born for each other, joined the hands of Stradella and his beloved Hortensia, and they were married.
"After the ceremony Stradella and his wife having a desire to visit the port of Genoa, went thither with a resolution to return to Turin: the assassins having intelligence of their departure, followed them close at their heels. Stradella and his wife, it is true, reached Genoa, but the morning after their arrival these three execrable villains rushed into their chamber, and stabbed each to the heart. The murderers had taken care to secure a bark which lay in the port; to this they retreated, and made their escape from justice, and were never heard of more.
"Mr. Berenclow says that when the report of Stradella's assassination reached the ears of Purcell, and he was informed jealousy was the motive to it, he lamented his fate exceedingly; and, in regard of his great merit as a musician, said he could have forgiven him any injury in that kind; which, adds the relater, 'those who remember how lovingly Mr. Purcell lived with his wife, or rather what a loving wife she proved to him, may understand without farther explication.'"
GIOVANNI AND LUCREZIA PALESTRINA
Almost exactly a century before Purcell died in England, there died in Italy, at Rome, a composer who has made his birthplace immortal, though his own name has almost been lost to public recognition in the process. That is the man whose name in English would be John Peter Lewis, or as his father called him, Giovanni Pier Luigi, who was born at Palestrina, at some date between 1514 and 1530, and who died in the fulness of his fame February 2, 1594, when Shakespeare was thirty years old, and was, it seems, just getting into print for the first time.
The man whom all posterity knows by the name of his birthplace, as Palestrina, was the greatest composer the Catholic Church ever had. He was a younger contemporary of Willaert's, but was born an Italian. And all his glory belongs to Italy. Of his youth nothing is known. He first appears as the organist and director at the chief church in Palestrina from 1544 to 1551.
Of his early love-making nothing is known; it is only certain that he married young, and it would seem very happily. Yet this marriage brought him the greatest shock of his life. His wife's name was Lucrezia, "his equal and an honest damsel" (donzella onesta e sua para), according to the biographer Baini, who adds:
"With her, Giovanni divided the pleasure of seeing himself elected the first Maestro of the Vatican; with her he suffered the most strait penuries of his life; with her he sustained the most cruel afflictions of his spirit, and with her also he ate the hard crust of sorrow: yet with her again he rested in the sunlight that beamed from time to time to his glory and to his gain. And so they passed together, these two faithful consorts, nearly thirty years."
Lucrezia bore him four children, all sons, Angelo, Ridolfo, Silla, and Igino. The first three died in early manhood, after showing themselves in some sort heirs of their father's genius: in the second book of his motets Palestrina has included some of their compositions. The last son, Igino, outlived his parents and his own welfare; he was "un' anima disarmonica" After his father's death he attempted to complete and market an unfinished and rejected composition of his father's, but he was legally restrained. He lost some of his father's unpublished works, while certain noddings of genius, better lost, and refused even by the Pope, Palestrina dedicated them to, still remain, with a dedication to yet another Pope, put on them by the scapegrace Igino.
A certain writer Pitoni, by a bit of careless reading, multiplied Palestrina's wives by two, and divided his sons by the same number, claiming that Lucrezia, the first wife of Palestrina, was the mother of Angelo, that after her death he married one Doralice, and that she was the mother of Igino. But Baini exposes Pitoni's carelessness, proves the existence of Ridolfo and Silla by the inclusion of their works in the father's book, and shows that Doralice was the wife of Palestrina's son Angelo.
It being established, then, that Palestrina was married but once, and it being assumed that he was happily married, it is strange to see how this happy marriage came near proving fatal to him. Palestrina, who was, like Michelangelo, intimate with various Popes, dedicated in 1554 his first printed book of masses to Pope Julius III. As a reward, the careless pontiff made him one of the singers of his Sistine Chapel, omitting the usual severe examination, and overlooking as a small matter the fact that Palestrina was so far from being a priest that he was very much married and very much the father, and furthermore had no voice. But Palestrina resigned his post as maestro at Saint Peter's and entered the chapel. The Pope died shortly afterward and was succeeded by a cardinal who was a patron of Palestrina's and continued his favour as Pope Marcellus II. Three weeks later this Pope also died, and was followed by Paul IV.
Unfortunately for Palestrina, the new Pope was a strict constructionist, and he found it "indecent that there should be married men (ammogliati) interfering in holy offices." In spite of the action of the two previous pontificates, he determined to expel the three Benedicks who had entered the choir, Leonardo Bare, Domenico Ferrabosco, and Palestrina, "uomini ammogliati, e chi con grandissimo scandalo, ed in vilipendio del divin culto, contro le disposizioni dei sagri canoni, e contro le costituzioni e le consuetudini della cappella apostolica cantano i medesimi tre ammogliati imitamente ai capellani cantori." He then declares that, after mature deliberation, "cassiamo, discacciamo, e togliamo" from the list of chappellary singers these three, and that they ought to be "cassati, discacciati, e tolti dalla cappella," and that after the present order they "cassino, discaccino, e tolgano." And excommunication was threatened if any more married men (uxorati) were received in the chapel.
This was on the 30th of July, 1555, just six months after Palestrina had resigned his important post at Saint Peter's. He was a young man with a family, and apparently keenly sensitive, for when this sonorous thunderbolt was launched at his head, he immediately fell ill of a fever and came nigh to death. But he recovered, and two months later found another post as canon of the Lateran, of which by the 1st of October, 1555, he was maestro. Eleven years later, a year after he had written his immortal Improperia, we find him begging on account of the needs of his family to be given an increase of salary, or the acceptance of his resignation. They gave him the acceptance. Again he found another post, and ten years later was back again as maestro of the Vatican after his many wanderings and vicissitudes.
In the meanwhile he had written his famous mass named after his old friend, Pope Marcellus II. The ten years between 1561 and 1571 had marked an epoch not merely in the life of Palestrina, but in the history of religious music.
The reform Palestrina undertook, or was entrusted with, was the ending of the old scandal brought upon the Church by the elaborate lengths to which contrapuntal composers had gone in using popular melodies, and often even street songs of an obscene nature, as a foundation melody or cantus firmus for their vocal gymnastics. The churchmen of that day did in a more elaborate fashion what Wesley did in his day and the Salvation Army in ours for the popular ballad of the streets. The trouble was that many of the congregation would think only of the original words of these catchy tunes, and in the general uproar some of the priests would sing the actual texts, thinking that the people would not hear them, and forgetting that they were supposed to be for an all-hearing ear.
I find an interesting example of this custom in the career of a musician, a contemporary of Palestrina's mentioned by Van der Straeten; his name was Ambrosio de Cotes. He was the Maestro de Capilla of the King's Chapel at Grenada; he was of either Flemish or English birth, and, though he was a churchman, was a gambler and drunkard; he kept a mistress, who ought to have been pretty to fit her pretty name, Juana de Espinosa. Besides, De Cotes caroused miscellaneously, he ran the streets at night, in bad company, and singing bad songs. In 1591 he was officially reproved for these habits, and for singing improper words to sacred music (y cantan muchos rezes letras profanas, yndecentes).
So great was the scandal throughout the whole world of church music that contrapuntal music came near being abandoned entirely. It was given a last chance in a proposition to Palestrina to see if it were worthy and capable of redemption. He composed three masses, and the third of them, dedicated to the memory of Pope Marcellus II., was accepted, not only as the rescue of the old school of vocal worship, but also as the final word and ultimate model for future church music.
Some years later, at the very height of his glory, Palestrina's heart suffered its final blow. In the words of Baini, "Lucrezia, la sua dolce consorte, after having piously accompanied the solemn procession for the transport of the body of Saint Gregory Nazianzeno from the church of the monks of S. Maria Campa Marzo to the Vatican the fourth of June, 1580, was assailed by a most oppressive malady."
The attentions of her husband and the remedies of the medical art of that day kept her alive up to the first of July. Then the sickness began anew and "neither the tears nor the voice of the loving companion prevailed against the inexorable scythe of death." On the 21st of July Lucrezia died. The next day her body was received at the Vatican, Giovanni watching in the schoolroom of the chapel.
It is easy to picture the wild grief of this man, whom a previous anxiety had thrown into an almost mortal fever. Yet he lived fourteen busy years, and in his old age he felt both fatigue and want, and was compelled to join the long list of those musicians who have appealed to their patrons for charity. But at least his life, like Bach's and that of many another, had proved that marriage is not always and necessarily a failure when set to music.
BACH, THE PATRIARCH
The genealogy of the Bachs shows them to have been in the habit of marrying at least two or three times apiece, and of being very prolific.
Johann Ambrosius Bach, the father of "the Father of Modern Music," had a twin brother, Johann Cristoph. They were astonishingly alike in mind and manner and mien. They suffered the same disorders and died nearly together. Their wives, it is said—horresco referens!—could not tell them apart. J. Christoph was sued for breach of promise by a girl whom he said he had discussed matrimony with and exchanged rings with, but tired of. The Consistory ordered him to marry her, but he appealed to a higher court and was absolved from the tenacious woman whom he said he "hated so that he could not bear the sight of her." He married another woman four years later.
The great Bach, Johann Sebastian, was the youngest of six children. His mother died when he was nine years old, but with Bachic haste his father remarried; the new wife was a widow and seemed to be in the habit of it, for she buried J. Ambrosius two months after the wedding. The boy Sebastian was put in charge of an uncle.
At eighteen he was organist at Arnstadt—at twenty-one he went on foot fifty miles to Luebeck to hear the great Buxtehude play the organ. He had been given four weeks' leave and took sixteen. He was severely reproved for this by the Consistory; and the reproof is in existence still. While they were about it, they reproved him for his wild modulations and variations, also for having played too long interludes, and then, when rebuked, playing them too short. He was given eight days to answer, and waited eight months. Then they remonstrated with him mildly again, adding, that they "furthermore remonstrate with him on his having latterly allowed the stranger maiden to show herself and to make music in the choir." His answer to this was simply that he had spoken about it to the parson. Further explanation we have none.
Spitta speculates on the identity of this "stranger maiden." In the older church-cantata women did not sing: in the newer form they occasionally did. She might have been a professional from the Brunswick opera. But Spitta decides that it must have been Maria Barbara Bach, his cousin from a neighbouring town. She is known to have had relatives and friends in Arnstadt, and Bach married her a year later. Assuming this to be true, Spitta notes that a delightful episode in the courtship of the young couple is disclosed to our view. Perhaps, too, when Bach "spoke to the parson," he confessed his love and his betrothal.
Further Spitta comments: "The plan on which Bach wished to found his own family shows how he, too, was filled with that patriarchal feeling by which his race was distinguished and brought to such flourishing conditions. Without straying into foreign circles he found, in a relation who bore his name, the person whom he felt to be the most certain of understanding him. If we must call it a coincidence, it is, at any rate, a remarkable one, that Sebastian, in whom the gifts of his race reached their highest perfection, should also be the only one of its members to take a Bach to wife. If we are right in regarding the marriage union of individuals from families not allied in blood as the cause of a stronger growth of development in the children, Bach's choice may signify that in him the highest summit of a development had been reached, so that his instinct disdained the natural way of attempting further improvement, and attracted him to his own race. His second wife, indeed, was not allied with him in blood, but that with the first he found, in some respects, his more natural development may perhaps be concluded from the fact that the most remarkable of his sons were all the children of his first marriage."
Upton says that Bach loved Maria Barbara when he was only eighteen and they agreed to wait till he got a better post. This was not till three years had passed and then his salary was only eighty-five gulden (about L7, or $35) besides a little corn and wood and some kindling-wood.
It was on October 17, 1707, that, according to the record, "the respectable Herr J.S. Bach, the surviving lawful son of the late most respectable Herr Ambrosius Bach, the famous town-organist and musician of Eisenach, was married to the virtuous maiden Maria Barbara Bach, the youngest surviving unmarried daughter of the late very respectable and famous artist Herr Johann Michael Bach."
A little inheritance of fifty gulden (L4 or $20) aided the new couple. But it is small wonder that we find Bach sighing later: "Modest as is my way of life, with the payment of house-rent and other indispensable articles of consumption, I can with difficulty live." A year after his marriage, however, he was appointed court organist to the Grand Duke of Weimar, a post he held nine years. Then he became musical director with the Prince of Anhalt-Koethen. In 1720 he went to Carlsbad with his prince. When he returned to the bosom of his family, he found that his wife was not only dead, but buried. Spitta imagines his grief as he stood over the grave of the woman who had followed him from humility to success and had not been able to wish him a last Godspeed. She had borne him seven children, three of whom died; of the sons were Wilhelm Friedemann, the father's favourite, and Karl Philipp Emanuel, whom the world long preferred to Sebastian himself, and whom later times spitefully underrate.
The shock of coming home to his dead wife did not annul Bach's powers, and his next cantata with the suggestive title, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased," shows a larger grasp of resource and power. In the same year he made a sensation by his playing in Hamburg, winning the high praise of the eminent organist Reinken (whom by the way Mattheson accused of being "a constant admirer of the fair sex, and much addicted to the wine-cellar of the Council").
For all they may say of the superior genius of Bach's first wife's children, it was in his second wife that he seems to have found his more congenial and appreciative helpmeet. Bach's father had remarried after seven months of widowering, and lived two months longer. Bach waited from July 7, 1720, to December 3, 1721, and he lived nearly thirty years more. His new wife bore him thirteen children, six of them sons, none of whom were remarkable musically, though their mother was more musical than the mother of Bach's first children. Perhaps the newcomers thought it time to take the name out of the rut.
Anna Magdalena Wuelken was the daughter of the court trumpeter in the ducal band at Weissenfels. She was twenty-one years old while Bach was thirty-six. They were betrothed as early as September, 1721, and together stood sponsor to the child of the prince's cellar-clerk. The wedding took place at Bach's own house.
The new wife was very musical, a gifted singer and a devoted student. She made the Bach home a little musical circle. It is evident that she kept up her singing, for October 28, 1730, he wrote of his family, "They are one and all born musicians, and I can assure you that I can already form a concert, both vocal and instrumental, of my own family, particularly as my present wife sings a very clear soprano and my eldest daughter joins in bravely."
Soon after the marriage Sebastian and Anna started to keep a musical book together. Her name appears in her own hand, then her husband's cheery note that it was "Anti-Calvinismus and Anti-Melancholicus." In this book and another begun in 1725 are compositions by himself and other men, copied in the handwritings of both husband and wife. There are arias written apparently for Anna Magdalena, and when in an unusually domestic humour he wrote in a song, "Edifying Reflections of a Smoker" in D minor, she transposed it up to G minor in her own hand—doubtless that she might sing it to him while he puffed contentment in uxorious ease. Later on is a wedding-poem, gallantly beginning,
"Irh Diener, werthe Jungfer Braut Viel Gluecke zur heutgen Freude!"
and exclaiming that at the sight of her in her garland and wedding-garb the heart laughs out in rapture;—and what wonder that lips and breast overflow with joy. There are rules he wrote out for her instruction in thorough-bass with a note that others must be taught orally, and there is a love-song for soprano, which he must have written for her, to judge from the words, "Willst du dein Herz mir schenken." Upton declares this song to have been written during and for their first courtship. A portrait of this ideal wife was painted by Cristofori and passed into the keeping of her stepson, Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but alas, it is lost while so many a less interesting face is repeated in endless pictures.
Twenty-eight years after her marriage this faithful woman stood by her husband's side in his blindness and through the two operations by the English surgeon in Leipzig. How must she have rejoiced when on July 18, 1750, he suddenly found that he could see and endure with delight the blessed sunshine! How her heart must have sunk when a few hours later he was stricken with apoplexy and a high fever that gave him only ten more days of life! At his death-bed stood his wife, his daughters, his youngest son, a pupil, and a son-in-law. An old chorale of his was, as Spitta says, "floating in his soul, and he wanted to complete and perfect it." The original name had been, "When we are in the highest need," but he changed the name by dictation now to "Before thy throne with this I come" (Vor deiner Thron tret ich hiemit). The preacher said he had "fallen calmly and blessedly asleep in God," and he was buried in St. Thomas' churchyard; but later the grave was lost sight of, and his bones are now as unhonoured as his memory is revered.
It is a dismal task to write the epilogue to the beautiful life and death of this father of music. The woman who had made his life so happy and aided him with hand and voice and heart,—what had she done to deserve the dingy aftermath of her fidelity?
Bach left no will, and his children seized his manuscripts; what little money remained from his salary of 87 thalers a year (L13 or $65) they divided with the widow, now fifty years old. Her husband's salary was continued half a year longer, but the sons all went away to other towns, some of them to considerable success. The mother and three daughters were left to shift for themselves. Two years later they must sell a few musical remains and the town must aid them out of its funds.
In the winter ten years after her husband's death, on Feb. 27, 1760, Anna Magdalena died, an alms-woman. Her only mourners were her daughters and a fourth of the public school children, who were forced by the custom of the day to follow to the grave the body of the very poor. In 1801 Bach's daughter Regina was still living, a "good old woman," who would have starved had there not been a public subscription, to which Beethoven contributed the proceeds of a composition.
Gradually the name and fame of Johann Sebastian Bach were obliterated almost from man's memory. Half a century of oblivion was followed by the great revival and the apotheosis of his genius. In that apotheosis some radiance must always be vouchsafed the sweet memory of her to whom he owed so much of his life's delight and his art's inspiration, to whom also he dedicated his life and his music—Anna Magdalena.
PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN
"Such music by such a nigger!" exclaimed one prince. Another called him a Moor. And two others could not endure him at all. He was undersized and slender as well; and his legs were so very short that they hardly reached the ground. His nose was long and beaked and disfigured, with nostrils of different shape, and he was undershot like a bulldog, and unusually pitted with smallpox even for those ante-vaccination days, when it was the ordinary thing to show the marks of this plague. He always wore a wig, too; beginning when he was a child of six, "for the sake of cleanliness"! and continuing to the day of his death, even when wigs were out of style.
This does not read like the portrait of a man particularly successful in his love affairs. It does not certainly read like a description of the hero of a novel written by The Duchess or even by Miss Jane Austen. Yet this is the picture of a man plentifully beloved, large-minded but strangely naif; a revolutionist of childlike directness.
Everybody knows the story of the early life of Joseph Haydn, one of the twelve children of a journeyman wheelwright, and throughout his youth a shuttlecock of ill treatment and contempt.
Love seems to have reached his heart at a late day but with compensating suddenness. It is nearly incredible that a man whose after life was so heart-busy should not have felt the tender passion till he was nearly thirty, but stranger things have happened, and the anecdote given by his friend Griesinger of his wild agitation when at the age of twenty-seven he was accompanying a young countess, and her neckerchief became disarranged for a moment, would seem to indicate a remarkably unsophisticated nature.
A year later he found himself somewhat relieved of the burden of poverty that had always hampered him, and he remembered him of the two daughters of a Viennese wig-maker named Keller. Keller had frequently been kind to Haydn, and the younger daughter seems to have inspired him with an ardent love, but she took the veil. Elise Polko has worked up an elaborate fiction on this affair with her usual saccharinity. When the convent closed the younger Keller from the world, her father ingeniously suggested to Haydn that he might marry the elder sister.
As Louis Nohl says, "Whatever may have been the reason, gratitude, ignorance, helplessness in practical matters, or wish to have a wife at once—whatever may have been the motive, he married, and sorely suffered for it."
Anna Keller was older than Haydn, and the family religiousness that led the younger daughter to enter the convent, led Anna to contribute more of money to the Church, of food and society to the churchmen, and of her husband's compositions to the choir, than even so pious a Catholic as Haydn could afford or endure.
An account of the married life of these two is given by Haydn's friend Carpani, which incidentally brings up a bit of literary thievery of unusual quaintness. Carpani wrote his "Le Haydine" in the form of letters from Vienna; they were published in Milan. Some time after one Marie Henri Beyle published in Paris what purported to be an original series of "Letters written from Vienna." He published these under the pen name of L.A.C. Bombet. Carpani exposed the theft, but a little later the imperturbable Beyle published a second edition of his work under the name De Stendhal. An English translation from the French work is commonly seen, though never with credit to Carpani. Carpani, in his account of the home life of the Haydns, says they were happy for a honeymoon.
* * * * *
"But soon the caprices of Mrs. Anna turned the knot to a chain, the bliss to torment, and affairs went so far that, after suffering many years, this new Socrates ended by separating from his Xantippe. Mrs. Anna was not pretty, nor yet ugly. Her manners were immaculate, but she had a wooden head, and when she had fixed on a caprice, there was no way to change it. The woman loved her husband but was not congenial. An excess of religious piety badly directed came to disturb this happy harmony. Mrs. Anna wanted the house always full of priests, to whom she furnished good dinners, suppers, and luncheons. Haydn was a bit economical; but rather for cause than desire. At this time he had hardly enough to live on discreetly, and he began to look with evil eye on this endless procession of holy grasshoppers (locuste) who ravaged his larder. Nor was it appropriate to the house of a studious man, this ceaseless clatter of a numerous, genial, and lazy society; therefore, solidly religious as he was, he could not enjoy these sacred repasts and he had to close the door of the refectory. After that the deluge (inde irae). Mrs. Anna had a religious brother. Haydn couldn't keep him from visiting his sister.
"Monks are like cherries; if you lift one from the basket, ten come along with it. Haydn's convent was not depopulated. Nor did the demands decrease. Every now and then Mrs. Anna had a new request; to-day a responsory, to-morrow a motet, the day after a mass, then hymns, then psalms, then antiphons; and all gratis. If her husband declined to write them, there appeared on the scene the great confederates of capricious women; the effects of hysteria, spleen (gli insulti di stomaco), spasms; then shrieks, then criminations, weepings, quarrels, and bad humour unceasing. Haydn ended with having to appease the woman, to lose his point, and pay the doctor and the druggist to boot. He had always drouth in his purse and despair in his mind. It is a true miracle that a genius in such a contrast could create the wonderful works that all the world knows.
"It was at this time that, seeking solace in friendship, he contracted that bond of sentiment which lasted till death with Boselli, a singer in the service of Prince Esterhazy. This friendship, rousing jealous suspicions in the mind of Mrs. Anna, ended by rendering her unendurable. The hostile fates willed that no fruit should be borne of Haydn's marriage." [On this point Haydn once opened his heart to Griesinger, saying: "My wife was incapable of bearing children, and therefore I was less indifferent to the charms of other womankind."] "Lacking its most solid link, the marital chain could not stand such shocks, and grew fatally weaker. The pair ceased to live together, and only that sacramental knot remained indissoluble and strong, which Haydn had contracted at the age of twenty-seven. Mrs. Anna lived to seventy years on a sufficient pension which her husband faithfully paid, and she died in 1800. These vicissitudes in great part explain why Haydn, though he earned much, could not for a long while put aside a penny and make himself a little ease."
It is not a pretty picture that Carpani draws of this home life, and Anna is made out to be far from a lovable creature. She is compared to the patron saint of shrews, Xantippe. But even Xantippe had her side of the story to tell; and with all possible admiration for that man Socrates, of such godlike wisdom and such great heart, it must be remembered that Socrates had many habits which would not only cause ostracism from society to-day, but would have tried the temper of even such a wife as the meek Griselda of Chaucer's poem.
We constantly meet these husbands who are seemingly rich in geniality and yet are mysteriously unhappy at home. It is the custom of the acquaintances of these fellows to put all the blame on the wife. But there is a distinct type of mind which always enjoys dining abroad and appreciates a few herbs in a stranger's house more than a stalled ox at home. These people are gentle and genial and tender only out-of-doors. You might call them extra-mural saints.
I have a strong suspicion that Haydn, who was so dear and good a soul that he was commonly called "Papa" by his friends and disciples, was one of the souls that shrivel up inside the house. In any case he can never be forgiven for publishing his domestic miseries as he did. He talked inexcusably to his friends about his wife; he complained everywhere of her extravagances and of her quarrelsomeness. When Griesinger wished to make Haydn's wife a present, Haydn forbade him, saying:
"She does not deserve anything! It is little matter to her whether her husband is an artist or a cobbler."
As he passed in front of a picture of her once, he seized the violinist Baillot by the arm, and pointing to the picture said, "That is my wife. Many a time she has maddened me."
In 1792 he wrote to his mistress from London:—"My wife, the infernal beast" (bestia infernale—Pohl translates this hoellische Bestie) "has written so much stuff that I had to tell her I would not come to the house any more; which has brought her again to her senses."
This was thirty-two years after his marriage, and a year later he writes again:
"My wife is ailing most of the time and is always in the same miserable temper, but I do not let it distress me any longer. There will sometime be an end of this torment."
Louis Nohl speaks of this as written in a gentle and almost sorrowful tone! As his biographers find gentleness in such writing, it is easy to see why Mrs. Haydn has had few defenders.
Heaven forbid that I should be considered as throwing all the blame for the unhappiness upon the husband. Anna Keller had a remarkably long and sharp tongue whose power she did not neglect; she once complained to her husband that there was not money enough in the house to bury him in case he died suddenly. He pointed to a series of canons which he had written and framed. When he was in London revelling in his triumph, she sent him a letter in which she asked him for money enough to buy a certain little house she had set her heart on, naively adding that it was just a cosy size for a widow.
Haydn bought it later for himself, and lived in it several years as a widower. Carpani in his thirteenth letter draws a pleasant picture of Haydn's life with his mistress Boselli, and incidentally describes how various composers composed: Gluck with his piano in a summer meadow and the bottled sunshine of Champagne on each side; Sarti in a dark room at night with a funereal lamp pendant from the ceiling; Salieri in the streets eating sweets; Paer while joking with his friends, gossiping on a thousand things, scolding his servants, quarrelling with his wife and children and petting his dog; Cimarosa in the midst of noisy friends; Sacchini with his sweetheart at his side and his kittens playing on the floor about him; Paesiello in bed; Zingarelli after reading the holy fathers or a classic; Anfossi in the midst of roast capons, steaming sausages, gammons of bacon and ragouts.
"But Haydn, like Newton, alone and obscure, voyaged the skies in his chair; on his finger the ring of Frederick like the invisible ring of Angelica. When he returned among mortals, Boselli and his friends divided his time. For thirty years he led this life, monotona ma dolcissima, not knowing his growing fame nor dreaming of leaving Eisenstadt, save when he mused on Italy. Then Boselli died and he began to feel the ennui (le noje) of a void in his days. It was then that he went to London."
This mistress of Haydn's, whom Carpani and Fetis call Boselli and whom Dies calls Pulcelli, is now generally called Polzelli, following the spelling in Haydn's own handwriting. The pleasant legend Carpani gives of Haydn's life with this woman, undisturbed by ambition until her death, is as much upset by later writers as is the spelling of her name. Pohl, closely followed by Haydn's recent biographer, Schmidt, describes Luigia Polzelli as a Neapolitan who was nineteen when she was engaged to sing at the theatre of the Prince Esterhazy. She was the wife of Anton Polzelli, an insignificant and sickly violinist, with whom she was apparently not in love. Luigia is pictured—doubtless by guesswork—as not beautiful, but of a pleasing appearance, showing the indications of her Italian birth in "her small slim face, her dark complexion, her black eyes, her chestnut-coloured hair; her body of medium height and elegant form."
"To this woman," says Schmidt, "Haydn fetched his own deep and lasting sorrow. Polzelli was in the same position as he: she lived unhappily with her spouse. Whether she honestly returned Haydn's love cannot be known. Facts hint that she often abused and took advantage of his good nature. But for all that she beautified his life, so often joyless, by the tenderness which she awoke in him; and the woman who throughout twenty years could do that, deserved well of the man whose friend she was; and she earns our consideration and sympathy besides. From London the master wrote her the tenderest letters. Both, as their correspondence shows, only postponed their union, till the day when 'four eyes shall be closed,'
"Yet when finally both were free, Time had worked his almighty influence; Haydn had grown gray; outwardly as well as spiritually an estrangement had widened between them, and of their once so dear a desire there is no more word. Yet Haydn never ceased to provide for his friend, as well as to care for the education and the success of her sons. The elder, Pietro, Haydn's favourite, on whom he hung with his whole heart, died early." [Pohl quotes many allusions to him in Haydn's letters.] "The younger, Anton, who was reported without proper foundation to be Haydn's natural son, later became musical director of the prince's chapel, but then gave up music and turned farmer, finally dying of the plague in sad circumstances."
Pohl is somewhat fuller upon this alliance than Schmidt, who, in fact, merely condenses and paraphrases him. He says that Polzelli's maiden name was Moreschi [which, being interpreted, is "Moor," a name once given to Haydn]; she was a mezzo-soprano, who played secondary roles in the operas. She earned the same salary as her husband, 465 gulden a year. The letters Haydn wrote her were always in Italian, and in one of them he wishes her better roles, and "a good master who will take the same interest as thy Haydn." Haydn had come to her for sympathy, since, as Pohl says and we have seen, "thanks to his wife he had hell at home" [die Holle im House].
When increasing fame took Haydn by the hand and led him away to royal triumphs in London, he did not take jealousy along with his other luggage. He seems to have heard that his place was promptly filled in Polzelli's heart, but with all his geniality, he could write of the rumoured rival as "this man, whose name I do not know, but who is to be so happy as to possess thee." Then there was a recrudescence of the old ardour:
"Oh, dear, dear Polzelli, thou lingerest always in my heart; never, never shall I forget thee (O cara Polzelli, tu mi stai sempre nel core, mal, mal scordeo di te)."
When some one in London told him that Polzelli had sold the piano he had given her, he could not believe it, and only wrote her, "See how they tease me about you" (vedi come mi seccano per via di te). Still less will he believe that she has spoken ill of him, and he writes:
"May God bless thee, and forgive thee everything, for I know that love speaks in thee. Be careful for thy good name, I beg thee, and think often of thy Haydn, who cherishes and tenderly loves thee and to thee will always be true."
Even to Bologna, whither Polzelli went with her two sons, says Pohl, "followed Haydn's love—and his gold." He intended after his first London visit to go to Italy to visit her, and wrote further:
"I cherish thee and love thee as on that first day, and am always sad that I cannot do more for you. Yet have patience. Surely the day will come when I can show thee how much I love thee."
Loisa's choice of a spouse had been unhappy, as so many marriages have been where the wife is a singer on the stage, and the husband a fiddler in the band. Haydn seems to have sympathised with Loisa in her unhappy domestic affairs, as cordially as she had sympathised with him in his. He had sympathy, too, for her similarly ill-matched sister, Christine Negri, for he writes of her as—
"Already long separated from her husband, that beast, she has been as unhappy as even you, and awakes my sympathy."
Also in March, 1791, he wrote Loisa about her husband in a manner implying that he was a brute or a maniac: "Thou hast done well to have him taken to the hospital to save thy life." Haydn and Loisa, being Catholics, never thought of seeking divorce: their only hope of celebrating a formal marriage lay in the death of both her brutish husband and his shrewish wife—"when four eyes shall close." Loisa's husband was the first to oblige, for in August, 1791, his death wrings a charitable word from even Haydn:
"Thy poor husband! I tell thee that Providence has managed well in freeing thee from thy heavy burden, for it is better to be in the other world, than useless in this one. The poor fellow has suffered enough."
Later he writes:
"DEAR POLZELLI:—Probably that time will come which we have so often longed for. Already two eyes are closed. But the other two—ah, well, as God wills!" Eight years more, and the reluctant and wide-eyed Anna Haydn was foiled of her desire to be a widow in the snug cottage of her choice. The lovers at last were both single. But now, freed of their shackles, why do they not rush to each other's arms? The only answer we receive is this chill and shocking document found long after Haydn's death; it is written in Italian and dated shortly after Frau Haydn's death:
"I, the undersigned, promise Signora Loisa Polzelli (in case I shall be disposed to marry again) to take no other for wife than the said Loisa Polzelli; and if I remain a widower, I promise the said Loisa Polzelli after my death to leave her a life pension of 300 gulden, that is 300 florins in Vienna money. Valid before every court. I sign myself,
"Maestro di Cappella of his Highness, the Prince Esterhazy.
Vienna, May 23, 1800."
On this sad and icy postscript to the ardent love affair, Schmidt comments: "The form of this writing leaves the conclusion plain, that Haydn was forced to this act by the Polzelli. This throws a poor light on her character, and we dare not evade the conclusion that, for twenty years in this love affair for life, she had in mind a business arrangement with the master."
Thus cynically writes Schmidt of the woman who for a score of years occupied Haydn's affections. And all of the biographers are inclined to heap upon her more or less contempt; but as you shall see a little later, the genial master himself was not above reproach, and Loisa's anxiety was not unfounded, for her Joseph was casting amorous glances elsewhere. Thus after the long ardour, the love letters have frozen into a hard and fast negative betrothal in which Haydn promises to marry no one else. This, Schmidt says, was dragged out of Haydn. But, if such a bond were necessary, it speaks surely as ill for Haydn as for the woman who had given her life and her good name to brighten his joyless heart.
Yet, dead as his love was, honour remained with him, though it was a rather close-reckoning honour. Three months later he answered with money her request for house-rent, and in a will dated May 5, 1801, occurs this clause, cancelling his former agreement, and making new provisions:
"To the widow Aloysia Polzelli, formerly singer at Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy's, payable in ready money six months after my death, 100 florins, and each year from the date of my death, for her life ... 150 florins. After her death her son, Anton Polzelli, to receive 150 florins for one year, having always been a good son to his mother and a grateful pupil to me. N.B.—I hereby revoke the obligation in Italian, signed by me, which may be produced by Mme. Polzelli; otherwise so many of my poor relations with greater claims would receive too little. Finally Mme. Polzelli must be satisfied with the annuity of 150 florins." Two years later we find him writing to her (and, rumour said, his) son: "I hope thy mamma finds herself well." In a new will, dated 1809, the year of his death, Haydn withdraws the cash gift to Loisa, and leaves her only 150 florins annuity. She still remains, however, his chief heir. Meanwhile, without waiting for his death, she had married again to Luigi Franci, like herself a singer and an Italian. She outlived him and Haydn also, only to die in poverty and senility, far away in Hungary. Poor, eighty-two year old Loisa! Her affairs had been sadly mismanaged.
Why had Loisa given up all hope of marrying Haydn, even when his wife was dead and she was possessed of his agreement, signed, sealed, and delivered, to marry no one but her? Awhile ago I stooped to repeating the scandal that during Signora Polzelli's life, Haydn had been casting sheep's eyes elsewhere. But it is such a pretty scandal! Besides, these old contrapuntists were trained from youth to keep two or more tunes going at once.
I am not referring to Haydn's friendship with Frau von Genzinger. It was Karajan who discovered and published this pleasant correspondence with her. She was the wife of a very successful physician, a "ladies' doctor" (Damen Doktor). She was the daughter of the Hofrath von Kayser; her name was Maria Anna Sabina; she was born Nov. 6th, 1750, and had been married some seventeen years, and was the mother of five children when Haydn began taking his every Sunday dinner with the family. Karajan says that she was an ausgezeichnete singer and pianist.
A deep friendship sprang up at once between them and they corresponded freely. Haydn's letters to her were published by Nohl, and you may read them in Lady Wallace's translation. They are full of the most interesting lights upon Haydn's life and experiences, and are brimful of affection for Frau von Genzinger. But the husband and the children are almost always referred to in the letters, and the friendship seems to have been entirely and only a friendship,—as Schmidt calls it, "eine tiefe und zugleich respectvolle Neigung."