Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785-1849) – Part 6

With some cautiousness I continued my reading of the booklet only to learn that Heine “lampooned him as ‘a bonbon fallen in the mud’” (by the way, not Heine’s own definition) and reported of a concert in 1843 that “on (Kalkbrenner’s) lips there still gleamed that embalmed smile which we recently noticed on those of an Egyptian pharaoh …” What Mr. Nicholas omits to say is that already in 1836 Kalkbrenner began to suffer from gout and nervous conditions, which certainly made the playing painful, so from 1836 he almost withdrew from the stage. Obviously he was quite satisfied with his life and achievements. All the sarcastic critics on him were written in these last years of his life. The same Heine wrote in 1831 about Kalkbrenner’s playing “Vollkommenheit, der nichts gleichkommt” (Nothing comes near to his perfection). Two years later, in 1833 Robert Schumann shared with his mother that he is meeting often Kalkbrenner, “dem feinsten, liebeswürdigen (nur eitlem) Franzosen.”-”with the finest, amiable (only vain) French.”

But back to the booklet – now the case was worsening: it seemed that the vanity lay in the family: “the father …whose own inflated sense of self-worth led him in 1803 not only to re-arrange Mozart’s Don Giovanni for the Parisian theatre but to interpolate fresh pieces into the opera”… In those old days (in turbulent France as elsewhere) it was not a crime to use or arrange another’s music for any purpose. Like Mozart taking some arias from Martin y Soler’s opera “Una cosa rara”, or from Sarti’s “I due litiganti “ to his “Don Giovanni”, like Steven Storace inserting in his “Siege of Belgrade” Mozart’s Turkish March… and so on…and so on… The very important author’s rights in force nowadays are a more modern conception.

Online I found an enlightening article by Richard S. Bogart, here an excerpt from it:
Before the middle of the nineteenth century, opera was a much more fluid and dynamic art form than it is today: operas were written for specific theaters and performers, even for specific occasions. When, exceptionally, an opera proved so successful that it merited performances elsewhere or in succeeding seasons, there was no hesitation about adapting its text and music to fit the circumstances. Any significant revival of an opera, that is, one at a major opera house and in which the composer and/or the librettist had a hand, was almost certain to represent a revision. With the creators absent, even greater liberties might be taken by the performers by way of cuts, re-writes, interpolations, and substitutions from other operas…….

How could it be that although writing on the subject, Mr. Jeremy Nicholas had never heard of that?… Well, let’s accept the inevitable, nobody is perfect.

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