Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pistrucci, The Improvisatore

Last night I heard Pistrucci, the improvisatore, for the third time, and my account of him will be far less favourable than if I had written it after the first or second time of hearing him. Even now I cannot believe that it is solely because the charm of novelty is past, and the edge of curiosity blunted, that my feelings are so changed. That this is partly the case I am aware, and feel also, that the more one hears him, the more one becomes aware of the very large proportion of absolute commonplace which pervades his verses. Still, with all this allowance, I cannot but believe that his performance last night was really inferior to what I had heard before.

Last night I liked him best in the return of Coriolanus to Borne: two attempts were downright failures; the one was Sancho, in his government of Barataria, the other the destruction of Pompeii. The first proved to me that he does not possess one particle of humour; but perhaps I may be wrong, if the total ignorance of the story which he professed be genuine, and if he really took his cue only from the little related to him at the moment.

No such excuse can be made for his failure in Pompeii ; the subject was necessarily well known to him, and had he succeeded I should not have given him much credit concerning it—one which must have been so frequently given before. As it was, I own I can even now hardly believe anyone could have been so very tame on a topic so inspiring. There was nothing in this! evening's performance to convince one of the reality of his impromptu talent; at his public performance, he seized so many of the circumstances arising at the moment, that the most incredulous could no longer doubt his power of versifying quite instantaneously; but I should not say that he rises with his subject.

Till I heard him fail in Pompeii, I was inclined to ascribe much of his failure to ignorance of the subject. On one occasion he gave a new view of a threadbare theme, Waterloo: he took the rising of the third sun on a field of blood, described finely the cannon obscuring his brightness, &c. &c.


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