excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 59-65 (796 words)

excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 59-65 (796 words)

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Thirty Years of Musical Life in London

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IN May, 1876, I saw Verdi conduct his Manzoni "Requiem" at the Royal Albert Hall. This was generally supposed to be his third visit to London, the previous occasions being when he came over in 1847 for the production of the opera "I Masnadieri," which he wrote expressly for Her Majesty's Theatre; and again in 1862 (the Exhibition year) , when his "Inno delle Nazioni" was performed at the same theatre. But, according to his intimate friend, Mr. Randegger, the maestro also ran over from Paris one summer, without letting any one into the secret, for the purpose of hearing for himself what the world-famous Handel Festival was like. Mr. Eandegger has told me that his surprise was indescribable when he came across Verdi at the Crystal Palace with a score of "Israel in Egypt" tucked under his arm. He insisted, however, that his presence should be concealed; and he seems to have returned to Paris as mysteriously as he came...At the period of the "Requiem" visit there happened to be residing in London an elderly Italian musician named Deliguoro...The announcement of Verdi's coming was a great event for Deliguoro, inasmuch as the master and he had been fellow-students together at Milan, under Lavigna (1831-33). This was just after the preposterous refusal of the authorities at the Milan Conservatoire to admit Verdi as a pupil at that institution because they thought he did not display sufficient promise of talent. Deliguoro 's delight at the prospect of meeting his old friend knew no bounds. He had not seen him for quite thirty 60 Musical Life in London years. "Giuseppe and I were like brothers. We ate, drank, and worked together the whole of the time. His harmony exercises always had more mis- takes than mine, and he could never master the art of writing a really good fugue. I wonder whether he has dared to put one into his ' Requiem'! We shall see; for I am going to write and ask him for a ticket to hear it." In due course tickets arrived for the rehearsal and the concert, and Deliguoro showed them to me with the utmost pride. Most of the distinguished musical folk in London were present at the "grand rehearsal"; and yet the vast auditorium, capable of holding 10,000 persons comfortably, looked comparatively deserted. I sat with Deliguoro not far from the orchestra. He was so excited that I had the utmost difficulty in restraining him from climbing over the barrier and taking Verdi in his arms there and then. Nor were my own feelings altogether calm as I gazed for the first time upon the man who had composed "La Traviata," "Rigoletto," and "Aida." He was then sixty-three years of age, and his closely cut beard was fast turning gray; but he was as ac- tive and robust as a youth, his eyes were keen and bright, and his clear, penetrating voice when he addressed the choir (in French or Italian, I forget which) could be heard all over the hall. At the end of the fugal chorus " Sanctus Dominus," which my neighbor declared to be more scholarly than anything he had anticipated, Verdi came around to speak to his friends among the select audience, and ere long I could see that he was staring in an uncertain way at Deliguoro. Then all of a sudden he appeared to make up his mind, and took a "bee-line" over the stall chairs to the spot where we were standing. "Tu sei Deliguoro, non è ver?" exclaimed the maestro." Si, si, son Deliguoro," replied his old friend, his eyes brimming over with tears. And then followed a close embrace that I thought would never end. It would be hard to say which of the two former classmates evinced the fuller measure of joy...Surely none who heard that magnificent performance of the Manzoni "Requiem" can have ever  forgotten the combined effect of the beautiful music, the superb singing of the Albert Hall choir (trained by Barnby), the wonderful voices of the soloists, and, pervading all, the subtle magnetic influence induced by the presence and personal guidance of the composer. The solo artists included three members of the original quartet, namely: Mme. Stolz, Mme. Waldmann, and Signor Masini. All possessed noble organs; and the famous tenor, who has never been heard in opera in England, was then quite at his best. But the undoubted gem of the whole performance was the "Agnus Dei," with its octave unison phrases for the two women's voices, sung by Stolz and Waldmann with a delicacy and charm of simply ethereal loveliness. Nor shall I forget the pains taken by Verdi at rehearsal to obtain from his chorus and orchestra of eight hundred a pianissimo in fitting proportion to the exquisite tone of these singers.

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