The Great Composers. No. XXIII. Félicien David

Joseph Bennett
1887 The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular  
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more » ... SEPIEMBER I, ISS7. THE MUSICAL TIMES. SEPIEMBER I, ISS7. 524 524 " That few professors would attempt to surmount the many extremely difficult and complicated passages which ran through the whole of this lesson, and which he executed, so far as could be judged by the testimony of the ear, without missing a single note." Hummel certainly justiSed his genius in his manhood. So also did Samuel Wesley, the brother of Charles both remarkable for juvenile precocity. Others, like Dr. Crotch, the Earl of Mornington, John Davy, and a few more, settled down into respectable musicians, admired by their contemporaries, but known chiefly by name to the present generation . Whether there i s j ustice in th e present neglect of their works is a question it is not proposed to enter into now. The fact alone is stated. Many instances have been recorded of remarkable skill in children, and predictions as to their future have been uttered and never realised. What was the future of the boy Appleton, who in I790 came from Birmingham to London, and astonished the connoisseurs before he was four years old by his performance of Handel and Corelli on the pianoforte and organ? Until he was three years of age the child showed an aversion to music. Suddenlv he conquered that aversion, and in nine months learned to play so as to excite wonder at his powers, at so tender an age, among the experts. Is there anything known about him than the scanty story told in " Percy's Anecdotes" ? Did he settle down as a teacher in a distant country town like Elizabeth Randles "the little Cambrian prodigy " ? She was only twenty-nine when she died, having spent the last decade of her life as a teacher. She made her lArst public appearance before she was two years old, and by her precocious talent helped to support her blind father. He was organist at Wrexham, where she was born Her biography occupies seven columns in the second volume of a " Dictionary of Musicians," I827. Later biographical works are less liberal in their allowance of space concerning her. The compositions of George Aspull, whom Rossini is said to have pronounced to be one of the most remarkable persons in Europe, scarcely justify contemporary opinion as to his powers. That he was a genius none can doubt, but his genius was stronger in the executive expression of his playing and singing than in the higher walks of composition. He was nineteen when he died in I832, S0 it iS pOSsible that " death cut oS the promise of his youth.' Like toung Josef Hofmann, whose powers set men wondering during the past season? youtlg Aspull delighted those who saw and heard him by his appearance and behaviour, which did " not dider from those of other children of the same age " this was in I8XI ;; but his manner, when performing upon the pianoforte, is that of a person deeply attentive." It is not necessary to multiply instances of precocity or to repeat the well-known stories ofthe early exercise of the genius of Pelham Humfreys, Henry Purcell, Henry Bishop, and Mrs. Billington in the past, and of that of others still living, who have displayed their musical powers at a very early age, and continued to delight the world by the exercise of their gifts in after life. The events which have most lasting influence upon humanity are not always those of sudden growth, but rather those which take time in building. Nature may occasionally assert its privilege to depart from the ordinary paths, but art can only be fostered by continuous efforts in a common direction, so that ordinary minds may profit. Precocity of intellect or of special ability can only be advantageous to the generality w-hen it appears in such forms as are exhibited by a Mozart or a Liszt. There the early genius of childhood was the foreshadowing of still
doi:10.2307/3361003 fatcat:7p4bpz4uurhuvli5saynl34uka