1769

THE MUSICAL SEASONS

 

From the beginning of 1769 Kammell’s life settled down into a pattern based on the seasons of social and business life in London. The London Season ran from before Christmas to after Easter, and the start of the summer months, when no-one who could get away to the country stayed in the hot and unhealthy city.  Those who could stayed away for the autumn and winter, when country sports would take precedence.

Though the evidence is very thin on the ground, what there is, in the form of letters to Count Waldstein, records of concerts, and the archives of other music lovers, shows that Anton Kammell had become well known and respected as both a performer and a composer by 1769. His life and activities moved with the seasons, and this, I believe, was made possible by the support of two patrons, George Pitt, and Thomas Anson.

“Patrons” might be a misleading word.

Kammell depended on the income from his playing. The sale of published music might not cover his own costs of publishing it. Pitt and Anson were not patrons in the way that a European aristocrat might be, employing a musician as a member of staff, with a safe job, but strict rules of employment, as Haydn had with Prince Esterhazy until he was finally free to travel and come to London in 1791. There might have been some direct financial support, but as friends, rather than patron and servant, this would have been invisible – until the very exceptional case of Thomas Anson’s will. Anson, already an old man in 1769 (in his mid-seventies) died in 1773, which marked the end of five years of a regular cycle of musical seasons.

The practical support given by these friends would have been in the form of making introductions and opening doors to musical opportunities, and of welcoming the composer and performer into their homes away from London.

The fact that Kammell performed so often with J C Bach, including at the concerts for his own benefit, must be an indication that Bach respected Kammell’s talents. Bach’s concert season at Almack’s rooms, which was managed, until after 1770, by Theresa Cornelys, ran from Christmas to Easter. I can only assume that this was Kammell’s regular employment, as part of Bach’s orchestra.

In 1769 his name appears in the newspaper advertisements of at least two other concerts.

On 6th February he lead the orchestra at the Thatched House Tavern, St James Street, in a concert which featured George Noel. Noel has already mentioned  as a less likely candidate for the “Mr Nouelle” who travelled to Edinburgh with Kammell in 1766. Noel was the performer on the Pantaleon, a large form of dulcimer. The concert also featured Maria Teresa Piatti, one of the singers from the opera and the flautist Carl Weiss.

On 9th March he lead the orchestra in a concert featuring the Welsh harp, played by Evans, probably Evan Evans, from 1778 the famliy harpist of Sir Watkins Wynn. The harp was occasionally featured as an exotic instrument in opera and oratorio (Handel’s Saul is an obvious example) and it was also popular as a domestic instrument. Kammell’s Sonatas Op. 9, published in 1775, are written for harp with an optional violin and cello. He performed with Evans again in both 1770 and 1771 so these sonatas may have been composed earlier for the Welsh harper to play in these concerts.

 

Though no musicians are named in the sources 13th April 1769 saw the first of a series of lavish private concerts which Kammell would be particularly involved with over the five years from 1769 and 1773. These were the “Elegant Entertainments” at the new St James Square house of Thomas Anson.

There is a description of this event in the diaries of Lady Shelburne, the wife of the Prime Minister William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne. (The English Heritage website about St James’s Square gives the year as 1768, but references in the papers of James Harris (Burrows & Dunhill) and the mention of a riot confirm that this was 1769.

“Thursday Morning, April 13th. We breakfasted at Mr. Anson’s, who gave a breakfast and concert to Mrs. Montagu, to which she very obligingly invited us. We called upon her and went together, and saw a very fine house, built and ornamented by Mr. Stuart. The company were Count Bruhl, Lord Egremont, Mr. and Mrs. Harris and their daughter, Mrs. Vesey, Mrs. Dunbar, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Scott, a M. de Vibre, M. de Maltête a President de Parlement, who came over expressly to see a Riot, but was deterred from going to Brentford by the French Ambassador, and condemned to pass this memorable morning in the calmer scene of Mr. Anson’s house and entertainment.” (http://secondat.blogspot.co.uk/2006/04/diary-of-lady-shelburne-11th-post.html)

 

The riot was sparked off by the political scandals of seditious MP John Wilkes.

Thomas Anson was born in the first half of the 1690s. He was a far more adventurous traveller than the average English country gentleman. He had toured Italy in the 1720s but in 1734 he was further afield, in Smyrna, and visiting the island of Tenedos, the island where the Greek fleet harboured at the siege of Troy. After a personal tragedy he set sail with his brother, Commodore George Anson in 1740. Thomas travelled to Egypt while his brother went on a voyage which ended up as a circumnavigation of the globe. On the way George Anson captured a treasure ship. The prize money, which was shared proportionately between the crew, made him an immensely wealthy man. As Admiral Lord Anson he became the son in law of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke.

Thomas Anson was a member of two clubs, led by Sir Francis Dashwood, for people who had travelled in “the Sultan’s dominions” and Egypt. He had visted these places several years earlier than any of the other members.

In 1748 Thomas Anson began to turn the modest family estate at Shugborough into a gentleman’s villa in a landscape of fanciful buildings. From about 1755 he became the supporter of the architect James “Athenian” Stuart, who had visited Greece in the 1740s and published illustrations and designs of authentic Greek architecture and design. Shugborough became a showcase for the Greek Revival style.

Admiral Anson died childless in 1764 and Thomas Anson inherited his fortune. Thomas was a very private person. There are hardly any records of his private life or of the estate in his lifetime but over the years a picture has emerged of a secretive or self-effacing patron of the arts. One product of his patronage of the arts that was more ostentatious was the London house he commissioned from James Stuart at 15 St James Square. This was the first house in London to have authentically Greek, rather than Roman, features – but Stuart’s work went far beyond the architecture. It included all the interior design and furniture. The house was meant to show off Greek taste, and this was done through elaborate “breakfast concerts.” This would be more like what we would think of as lunchtime concerts, in which there would be music, food and a chance to see the interiors and art collection.

15 St James Square

Though the house was completed in 1766 it may not have been ready to show off until 1769. Stuart was a notoriously slow worker, and a heavy drinker.

This event in April 1769 (two weeks after Easter, which had fallen early on 26th March) was in honour of Mrs Montagu, the leader of the Bluestocking circle, of which Benjamin Stillingfleet had been a rare male member. She was also an important patron of James Stuart. She had commissioned him to decorate her house at 23 Hill Street, which already had Chinoiserie rooms by Robert Adam, in 1765. In 1767 she wrote that Stuart had painted “some of the sweetest Zephirs and Zephirettes in my bedchamber that ever I beheld’.

Lady Shelburne, fortunately for us, lists some of the other guests. “Mrs Carter” was Elizabeth Carter, given the courtesy title of “Mrs” though unmarried, by this time the famous translator of Epictetus and a key figure, with Mrs Montagu and Mrs Vesey, amongst the bluestockings and a very close friend of the architect Thomas Wright who had begun the redevelopment of Anson’s country estate in 1748.

Lady Shelburne also mentions the philosopher musician James Harris and his family. Harris was MP for Salisbury. He was also the most important writer on Greek philosophy at a time when it was unfashionable. The 18th century was very materialistic and the thoughts of Plato were seen as airy-fairy by many. He was also musician and his whole family were almost obsessive concert goers. The Harris’s family archive is a rich source of information on the musical life of the 18th century, including the music at St James Square. (See BURROWS & DUNHILL) Throughout the 1770s Harris would employ Kammell as the leader of the orchestra at his  Salisbury Music Festival.

Louisa Harris wrote to her brother James Harris Jnr (original in French) on 13th April 1769 the day of the Breakfast concert for Mrs Montagu:

“Today my father, mother and Gertrude are all at a concert at Mr Anson’s, and this evening Gertrude is to go to Almack’s with lady Mar Hume, but as far me, having neither a ticket for Almack’s nor an invitation to Mr Anson’s concert I am spending my time pleasantly writing to you.” (BURROWS & DUNHILL)

(Almack’s was the location of J C Bach’s concerts.)

On 18th April 1769 James Harris wrote to James Harris Jnr:

“Lord Spencer’s and Mr Anson’s houses by Stuart, Lord Shelburne’s by Adams are models of Grecian taste, not unworthy of the age of Pericles”

The published selection of the Harris papers (1000 pages of it) mentions at least five different concerts at Thomas Anson’s house over the following five years.

On the 27th March 1772 James Harris’s wife Elizabeth Harris wrote to her son, James Harris Jnr:

“Yesterday morning we were all at that most elegant house of Mr Anson’s to a breakfast and concert after, ever thing suited the elegance of the house. When breakfast was ended the room were open for people to walk about and admire – after that the concert, for which he had collected the best hands in town – Madame Sirman, Grasi, Fischer, Crosdale, Ponto, Kamell etc. Got home in time enough to snap a short dinner before the opera.”

This is an indication of the kind of performers who would be heard in this new and fashionable house – as Elizabeth Harris wrote on 5th March 1773:

“…Everything bespeaks good taste; the house is charming and exquisitely appointed, the music is by the best hands in England: in fact it was a total delight.”

These certainly were “the best hands in England” – though J C Bach is never mentioned as being at a concert at Thomas Anson’s. Madame Sirmen was the student of Tartini with whom Kammell performed in a double concerto in 1771. In this case she may have been appearing as a soprano as part of a second, operatic, career. Madame Grassi was the wife of Johann Christian Bach. Johann Christian Fischer was the leading oboist, and son-in-law of the artist Gainsborough. “Crosdale” may have been Richard Crosdill (1698-1790), a cellist, rather than his son John, was only 18 in 1769. Ponto was the Bohemian horn player who had had to escape from his master’s soldiers who had pursued him with orders to punch his teeth out. Then she mentions, Kammell, listed as one of the “best hands in town” and, tantalisingly, she ends with “etc.”

As so often is the case, evidence is lacking, but let us assume that Kammell was there at the beginning, and that James Harris, another important contact, would have heard him, with Lady Shelburne, Mrs Montagu, and many others, both rich and intellectual, in April 1769 (The earliest mention of Kammell in the published Harris papers is at a concert at Sir Robert Throckmorton’s, in April 1770, when he is playing with Bach, Abel and others, showing again that he was J C Bach’s first violin of choice.)

On 20th April 1769 came a benefit concert for both Carl Fischer and Kammell, directed by J C Bach.

The last recorded concert of the season in which Kammell’s name appears has a small but interesting historical significance. This very mixed concert on 27th April saw one of Kammell’s own works became the first string quartet known to have been performed in public in London.

Again Kammell led the orchestra, with Fischer as a soloist in orchestral music by Jomelli, Galuppi and others, but the concert also featured another unusual instrument, after the concerts with Pantaleon and Welsh harp, the “liutino modern”, a form of lute or guitar, played by its inventor Joseph Bernard Merchi, who was a rare example of a teacher and performer on the guitar in the 18th century.

The String Quartet is the instrumental form that most clearly demonstrates the new classical style which was replacing the techniques of the Baroque. The clearest feature of baroque music is that a melody line, voice or instrument, is supported by a bass line, with harmony filled in by a keyboard instrument. The String quartet, of two violins, viola and cello, does away with this idea of a continuous bass line and a keyboard’s harmonic infilling and allows the instruments to be more equal, and free of the bass line.

The string quartet was an ideal medium for private music making, but quite early on quartets did begin to be performed in public.

Kammell’s claim to have composed the first string quartet to be played in London is revealed in “Concert Life in Eighteenth-century Britain” by Susan Wollenberg and Simon McVeigh. In fact he was very much in the forefront as the next quartet listed is one by the violinist and opera composer Pugnani, four years later, in 1773.

The development of the Quartet is usually credited to Haydn, though his own quartets were not performed in public in London until 1778.

“String Quartets: A Research and Information Guide” by Mara Parker (2005) has an entry for Kammell, referring to a 1981 article in “Haydn studies” by Zdenka Pilkova, which supports the suggestion that his significance may have been underestimated or overlooked:

“Antonin Kammel, a Bohemian contemporary of Haydn who contributed to the formation of the classical style, has largely been ignored. The works of Haydn and Kammel from the 1760s and 1770s share many common stylistic and structural features. At times Kammel’s works were known under Haydn’s name.”

The work that was played  would have been one of Kammell’s set of Quartets published as Op. 4. Two of the set are intended for oboe or flute as an alternative to the first violin. These quartets are, like most works published for the English domestic market, quite short, around ten minutes. The string quartets are in three movements. The first movements are the most elaborate and they do give interesting ideas to all four instruments in a pleasantly varied and expressive texture. Haydn’s very early quartets tend to give the interest to the first violin with the other instruments accompanying. The third movements in these quartets and many other works by Kammell are very simple, with the whole first section repeated literally after a contrasting middle section, as if to ensure that each part takes up no more than two printed pages.

Op. 4 is dedicated to Kammell’s other most important patron, or friend, of this period, George Pitt.

Kammell and Pitt must have met very soon after the composer arrived in England. Pit was certainly at Bourne Place when Kammell was staying with the Manns. The close relationship of Kammell and Pitt is shown that, one of his concert advertisements in 1769, the composer’s address is given as “with Mr Pitt, Half Moon Street.” In his later years Half Moon Street was the Kammell family’s permanent address. As Kammell appears in the land tax records for Half Moon St after Pitt vanishes from the records for that street it is probable that Pitt sold the house to Kammell – or part of it.

George Pitt (1721-1803) was MP for Dorset and, from 1776. Baron Rivers of Stratfieldsaye.

Stratfield Saye, his country house, was later sold to the nation so it could be presented as a gift to the Duke of Wellington. Pitt was Envoy- extraordinary to the Kingdom of Sardinia at Turin from 1761to 1768, though he was back in England from 1764. In 1770 he was appointed ambassador to Spain, though he never took up the post and very quickly resigned. This helps to date the publication of the quartets Op. 4 to 1770, a year or so after one had been performed, as the dedication addresses him as “Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Spain.”

George Pitt

 

 

Pitt was certainly musical and a promoter of music.  On 20th July 1761 Horace Walpole wrote to the Countess of Aylesbury:

“The new Queen (Charlotte) is very musical……George Pitt, in imitation of the Adonises in Tanzai’s retinue, has asked to be her Majesty’s grand harper. Dieu s’cait quette raclerie il y aura! All the guitars are untuned; and if Miss Conway has a mind to be in fashion at her return, she must take some David or other to teach her the new twing twang, twing twing twang.”

This seems to imply that Pitt was a harpist himself and that a fashion for the harp was replacing a fashion for the guitar. Both instruments had been featured in Kammell’s concerts in the 1769 season.

A “George Pitt”, who has not been positively identified as the MP for Dorset, though no-one has suggested any other possibility, was manager of the opera at the King’s Theatre for the 1769-70 season. The James Harris papers show that Pitt was involved with the music festival which followed immediately after the races at Blandford Forum in Dorset. Though Pitt’s country house was in Berkshire he was heavily involved with Dorset, both as MP and as Colonel of the Dorset Militia. On 21st July 1769 Elizabeth Harris wrote to her son that the family had been to the races at “Blanford” (Blandford Forum).

“Mr Pitt, Mr Wynn & your father were part of the performers to show their regard for Pugnani.” (BURROWS & DUNHILL)

Mr Wynn may have been Sir Watkins Williams Wynn, who later employed Evan Evans as his family harpist at his estate at Wynnstay, near Ruabon, in what was then Denbighshire, Wales, though Burrows and Dunhill do not identify him in this case.

Gaetano Pugnani led the orchestra at Blandford in 1769 and in August was in Salisbury to lead the orchestra for James Harris. In later years Kammell was regularly the leader at Salisbury and on at least three occasions at Blandford.  Pitt’s involvement with the music at Blandford is shown by a later letter from Salisbury.

Elizabeth Harris wrote 3rd August 1771:

 “Mr G Pitt was just arriv’d from Blanford races with no less than seven excellent musicians which he consign’d to Mr Harris I never heard so good a concert except Bachs as we had that night.” (BURROWS & DUNHILL))

The Harris papers also show that George Pitt knew the music historian Dr Burney as they include a letter of recommendation for Dr Burney sent by Pitt to James Harris Jnr, in Madrid 19th June 1770.

 

The poem which Sir William Bagot sent to Thomas Anson 25th April 1772 gives the impression that the friends he names are familiar faces back home in Staffordshire.

 ‘Bring Attic Stuart, Indian Orme,

Kammell unruffled by a storm

Shall tune his softest strain…”

 (The copy says “probably” by William Bagot, but the poem is mentioned in George Hardinge’s memoir of Dr Sneyd Davies. Thomas Anson himself showed the poem to Hardinge and told him it was by Bagot.)

This is a very rare piece of evidence of life at Shugborough considering that there are no household records from the period in the Staffordshire Archives and almost nothing in the handwriting of Thomas Anson, apart from a few paragraphs inserted in letters from his sister in law to her husband, Admiral George Anson.

In the absence of any other evidence I can do nothing more than suggest that Shugborough had become a regular summer holiday home for Kammell by 1772 and that this might date back to 1769. There is no further sign of him in letters or concert advertisements before Christmas 1769.

It is possible, then, that he may have travelled to Staffordshire with Thomas Anson after the season had ended. This is only a conjecture. There was certainly music at Shugborough in 1769. A  visitor to Shugborough in May or June 1769 wrote a description of his visit in his diary. This was Sir John Parnell (1720-1782), an Irish MP and Judge of the Court of the King’s Bench.

A typescript of part of his diary is filed in the William Salt Library, Stafford.

He wrote:

 “I must hasten to describe a Place I never heard of before last night and yet in my opinion Deserves to be accounted one of the finest improvements in England. I mean Mr Ansons…a convenient moderate siz’d Brick mansion to which…he added two wings and raised the center a story and Plaisterd ot stuccoed the whole to give it the air of a uniform stone Building.”

 “The house has some Rooms vastly neatly fitted up tho not Large the Library side of the House very Elegant, the cornices are particularly neat a la grec and the ceiling finished in a very pretty taste.”

Parnell was struck by the music in the house:

“There has been this day, Thursday, a most agreeable meeting of the neighbouring gentry, Snead Clifford, Piggot etc who all play or sing and dance together here afterwards and have music again on the evening…”

The visitor was not familiar with these friends of Thomas Anson, the various local gentry families. “Snead” was actually “Sneyd” and what he heard as “Piggot” was Sir William Bagot. All these people played, sang and danced. But was Kammell with them, leading the music?

By 1769 the landscape of Shugborough, with its lakes, cascades, Chinese and Greek buildings was almost complete.  The series of views painted by Nicholas Dall, still in the house, must have been painted that summer and show Thomas Anson’s world as it would have been seen by Parnell, and, possibly, Kammell.

 

Kammell’s Op. 5 is a set of Duets for two violins and these must have been composed at about this time. The publication date is unknown, but Op. 4 must be from 1770, as the dedication to George Pitt shows, so Op. 5 probably appeared in 1770 but, like the quartets, would have been written a year or so earlier – perhaps this same summer. These duets will have been intended for private performance but they are substantial and interesting works, and also very tuneful. It is easy to imagine them being played at Shugborough.

The earlier set of duets, Op. 2, which had been advertised for sale at the time of Kammell’s first benefit concert in 1768, were being played that summer. The composer and diarist John Marsh heard what must have been some of Op. 2 in August 1769:

 “There was also a Mr Woodington who was staying there who play’d a capital fiddle for an amateur who supported Mr Lethin & with whom he also played a duet of Kammell’s.” (The John Marsh Journals, the life and times of a Gentleman composer, 1752-1808, edited by Brian Robins, Pendragon Press)

A few years later Marsh played Kammell duets with a Colonel Stoppard. He was “much pleased” with them. Later he wrote a duet in imitation of Kammell.

Another visitor to Shugborough in 1769 was the botanist and enthusiast for Tartini, Benjamin Stillingfleet. A letter from Stillingfleet, staying at Shugborough, to Thomas Pennant, 20th October 1769, remarkably shows a connection between Shugborough, Stillingfleet and George Pitt:

 “…as you are so kind a to inquire after my health I must inform you that it is rather better than of late, and that I did look after plants while in Dorsetshire something more than I have done for years. I was moved to this by Mr Pitt’s curiosity in relation to the subject and by the fine weather which suffered me to be a good deal out of doors.” (Warwickshire Count Record Office. CR 2017/ TP 367/14)

Stillingfleet, who spent much of his time living in the houses of his friends, had been in Dorset, perhaps with Pitt, before coming to Shugborough.

 

Kammell was certainly at George Pitt’s house, Stratfield Saye, at the end of the year. His daughter, Lucy, was born there on 11th December and baptised at the neighbouring church of Hartley Wespall on 31st December. It is hard to imagine that Ann Kammell would have travelled to Berkshire in a heavily pregnant condition. The distance from London of 46 miles meant that it could be done in a day by carriage or on horseback, but without the sophisticated steel suspension of the later 18th century it would have been extremely uncomfortable. It is, surely, more likely that Ann and Anthony (as she would have known him) had travelled there a few months before. They may even have coincided with Benjamin Stillingfleet at some point.

Lucy was the Kammell’s first child, but sadly died only a year later, and was buried at St Mary le Bone on 17th July 1770.

Only three days after Lucy’s birth her father was in Bath. This was about 70 miles from Stratfield Saye via the shortest route. It might be possible to do it in a day but an overnight stop could be taken at Marlborough.

This concert again shows Kammell performing with first class musicians, but it also shows that he was presenting himself as a composer of some substance.

“AT Mr. GYDE’s Great Room, this present Thursday Dec. 14, will be a CONCERT of Vocal and Instrumental MUSIC, for Messrs FISHER and KAMMELL, (being Mr. Fisher’s last Performance.)

“The Vocal Part, by Miss Linley. First Violin and Solo, Mr Kammell; Solo Violoncello, Mr. Crosdill; principal Second Violin, by Mr. Lates from Oxford.

“Act I. Overture, Kammell. Trio, for two violins and Violoncello, obligated, Kammell. Fisher’s Old Concerto by Desire. Song, Miss Linley, Bach. Solo, Violin, Kammell. Quartetto, two Violins, Tenor and Bass, obligated, Kammell. A New Concerto, Fisher.

“Act II. Overture, Kammell. Solo, Violoncello, Crosdill. Song, Handell. Sextetto, two Hautboys and Bassoons, two Violins and Bass, obligated, Fisher. Song, Bach. New Favourite Concerto, Fisher.

“After the CONCERT will be a BALL.”

(Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 14 December 1769. British Newspaper Archive.)

 

Here are public performances of a trio and a quartet by Kammell, but, very interestingly, each “Act” opens with an “Overture”. These “Overtures” would be works for full orchestra, designed to show off the musicians and to launch each half of the concert. These were, in fact, the early form of Symphony. By 1769 Haydn, and other composers in Europe, were writing much larger and more weighty symphonies than the English taste could bear. The symphonies or overtures of J C Bach, Abel, or Kammell, would be no more than ten minutes long, in three movements, fast – slow- fast. By then a Haydn symphony might be more than twice as long.

This shows that Kammell had already composed works in all these genres and was in a position to fill a concert with his own music.

“Fisher” was presumably Johann Christian Fischer, the oboist and composer.

“Miss Linley” was the vocal star of Bath, the daughter of Thomas Linley Snr the leader of music at the spa. Elizabeth Linley was a famous beauty. She was only 15 when at the time of this concert. She ended her musical career when she married the MP and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

The Linley sisters (Elizabeth on left) by Gainsborough.

Her brother, Thomas Linley Jnr, was a prodigy and a very fine composer. In 1769-70 he was in Italy where he became a friend of the 14-year-old Mozart. He tragically died in a boating accident in 1775 at the age of 22.