Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/629

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

origin and its present form to the French. That in the Florentine Academy were produced, very early in the 17th century, lyric dramas in which music was employed for the illustration of noble subjects, and that these were presented with considerable effect, is no doubt true. The condition at that epoch of the musical ars nova, and the means of giving effect to any specimens of it, were however both too imperfect to justify the application of the epithet 'grand' to any music or any performances that could then possibly have been forthcoming. Grand opera begins nearly half a century later, with the school of Lully; a school which, the birthplace of its founder notwithstanding, was in all respects essentially French. To Lully, without however altogether displacing him in public favour, succeeded Rameau, and to Rameau, Gluck and Piccinni, the one a German, the other an Italian; but both of whom, from the times of their arrival in Paris, worked on French libretti, with the cooperation of French singers, dancers, instrumentalists, machinists, scene painters, and the like, and, more than all, of French audiences. The model too on which these great masters worked was in its essentials till that of Lully.

The term—fast becoming obsolete—is French and purely conventional, and denotes a lyric drama in which spoken dialogue is excluded, and the business is carried on in melody or recitative throughout. It may contain any number of acts, any ballets or divertissements, but if spoken dialogue is introduced it becomes a 'comic' opera.

Grand opera, though till lately all but exclusively written for the French stage, has from its origin to the present time been contributed to by the musicians of every musical country but our own; among Italians by Piccinni, Guglielmi, Sacchini, Salieri, Zingarelli, Cherubini, Spontini, Rossini, and Donizetti; among Germans by Gluck and Meyerbeer. To native genius, which has shone with such splendour in 'Opera Comique,' Grand Opera owes little. One attempt only of Auber in this class of composition still keeps the stage, 'La Muette de Portici.' The popularity of the grand operas of Halevy seems to have expired with their author; the reception of Berlioz's single dramatic essay [App. p.654 replaces with "essay in this form of opera"], 'Benvenuto Cellini,' never inspired him to make another; and the most successful lyric productions of Gounod have not been among those bearing the name of 'grand' operas.

The Italian theatre has not been prolific in successful grand operas. The best works of this kind of some of the best Italian composers have, as we have seen, been written for the French stage. Zingarelli, Rossini, Donizetti, and Mercadante, are the most important of those Italians who have contributed to their own repertory. Their grand operas, however, with the exceptions of those of Rossini and Donizetti, scarcely fulfil the French conditions, and few, even of the most successful among them, are now, or are likely again to be, heard in or out of the country. Exception may be made, perhaps, in favour of some of the productions of our contemporary Verdi, which at least approximate in their subjects and their scale to the French model; but the two grandest operas of this admirable master, 'Les Vêpres Siciliennes' and 'La Favorite,' [App. p.654 replaces with "'Don Carlos'"] were written for the French stage.

The romantic and mixed lyric drama of modern Germany—richer beyond all comparison in musical invention and science than the lyric drama, of whatever kind, of whatever country—does not here fairly come under consideration. Neither 'Don Giovanni,' 'Euryanthe,' nor even 'Fidelio,' whatever their places in the world of art, are what is understood by 'grand operas.' Wagner alone has attempted this kind of art—on conditions, self- imposed, which are discussed elsewhere.

[ J. H. ]

GRAND PIANO (Fr. Piano à queue; Ital. Piano a coda; Germ. Flügel). The long horizontal pianoforte, the shape of which, tapering along the bent side towards the end, has suggested the French, Italian, and German appellations of 'tail' and 'wing,' the latter of which was borne also by the predecessor of the grand piano, the harpsichord.

The inventor of the pianoforte, Cristofori, had as early as the year 1711 made four 'gravicembali col piano e forte,' three of which we learn by the account of Scipione Maffei were of the usual, that is long harpsichord shape; they were therefore grand pianos, although the prefix 'grand' does not occur as applied to a piano until Stodart's patent of 1777. The Cavaliere Leto Puliti, to whose researches we owe the vindication of Cristofori' s claim to be the first inventor, saw and examined in 1874 a grand piano in Florence made by Cristofori in 1720. Farinelli's 'Rafael d'Urbino,' described by Dr. Burney as the favourite piano of that famous singer, was a Florentine piano of 1730, and appears to have been also a grand. Cristofori had followers, but we hear no more of pianoforte making in Italy after his death, in 1731.

We are not told whether the Silbermann pianos bought up in 1747 by Frederick the Great, were grand or square in shape, and those instruments, which were described by Forkel as existing in 1802, recent researches have not been successful in finding. There is an anonymous grand in the New Palace at Potsdam, said to have been one on which J. S. Bach played when he visited the King. If so this would be a very early German grand, and one of Silbermann's, but absence of name or date leaves us in doubt. [App. p.654 replace this paragraph with "The Silbermann pianos bought by Frederick the Great, still preserved at Potsdam (at the Town Palace, the New Palace, and Sans Souci) are three in number, and are of the grand form. They are copies of the grand pianos by Cristofori dated 1720 and 1726, which are preserved at Florence. This important fact was determined by the writer on a special visit to Berlin in 1881."]

It is certain the pianos made in London between 1760–70 by Zumpe and other Germans were of the 'table' or square shape. James Shudi Broadwood (MS. Notes 1838, printed 1862) states that the grand piano with the so-called English action was invented by Americus Backers, a Dutchman, and a note appended claims for John Broadwood and his apprentice Robert Stodart, the merit of assisting him. The writer has seen a nameboard for a grand piano referred to by Dr. Pole in 'Musical Instruments of the Exhibition of 1851'—inscribed 'Americus