excerpt from 'Italy Volume 2' pp. 297 (349 words)

excerpt from 'Italy Volume 2' pp. 297 (349 words)

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Italy Volume 2

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[T]he Sistine Chapel is unequal to accommodate the numbers who applied for admittance on the Wednesday, to hear the first performance of the Miserere. The service of the day, called by the French, Tenèbres, has always been celebrated for the magnificence of its music, being of the most solemn and soothing cast, and sung by the whole of the Pope's choir, unaccompanied by instruments. On this occasion the utmost effect of vocal music has been supposed to be attained. There were parts in which the strains resembled the deep-toned mellowness of the diapason stop of the organ; and they fell upon the ear, and died away, like the sighing of the winds on the Æolian lyre. As the music proceeds in solemnity and sadness, light after light is extinguished, and the service finishes in the deep twilight gloom, as the last candle goes out. In the combination of these circumstances, and of the awful mystery to which they allude, there is much to captivate the imagination, and mislead the judgment; but either the execution of the music is greatly fallen off, or the accounts given by authors of its effects are exaggerated. Though a considerable portion of it has all the sublimity of extreme simplicity, some of the pieces are excessively rude; and as the voice dwells upon the protracted breves and semibreves, unsustained by an instrumental accompaniment, it falls by a physical necessity, and few passages finish accurately in tune. Some of the voices also are of a coarse and disagreeable quality. There are few good tenors, and the boys scream most disagreeably in holding notes in the alto parts. The effect likewise is too artificial and theatric; and when the freshness and susceptibility of inexperience has passed off, the mind rejects, as an attempted imposition, such studied contrivances; still, however, if they do not edify, they attract; and the opportunities are so few of hearing the music of Jomelli, of Pergolese, and of the old masters in Italy, that the Sistine Chapel is visited with curiosity and perseverence on all the three nights of performance.

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excerpt from 'Italy Volume 2' pp. 297 (349 words)


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