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Concert Aria: Thy Mighty Power

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Price £10.50

Scored for Soprano, Double Bass and Piano, 'Thy Mighty Power' was composed in 1837 for double bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti and Vincent Novellos' daughter, Clara. This high florid aria was written to exploit the vocal skills of Clara Novello, before her studies in Italy, and there are also many sprightly semiquaver runs for the bassist, all written in the orchestral register of the instrument. Dragonetti was persuaded to come out of retirement to perform in this aria, having retired as a soloist many years before, and it is a fun item and suitable for any concert or audience.

The style is tonal and traditional, typical of the early 19th-century, offering many opportunities for each soloist to shine and it would likely have been popular at many a soiree or salon.

Only available in orchestral tuning. [New editions are in preparation in solo tuning and with string orchestra accompaniment. Please contact Recital Music for further details.]

Performance Level: 8

Vincent Novello (6 September 1781 – 9 August 1861) was an English musician and the son of an Italian who married an English wife, was born in London. As a boy, Novello was a chorister at the Sardinian chapel in Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, where he learnt the organ, and from 1796 to 1822 he became in succession organist of the Sardinian, Spanish (in Manchester Square) and Portuguese (in South Street, Grosvenor Square) chapels, and from 1840 to 1843 of St Mary's chapel, Moorfields.

Novello was an original member of the Philharmonic Society, of the Classical Harmonists and of the Choral Harmonists, officiating frequently as conductor. In 1849 he went to live at Nice, where he died. Many of his compositions were sacred music, much of which was very popular. His great contribution, however, together with Christian Ignatius Latrobe, lay in the introduction to England of unknown compositions by the great masters, such as the Masses of Haydn and Mozart, the works of Palestrina, the treasures of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and innumerable, now well known great compositions. His first work, a collection of Sacred Music, as performed at the Royal Portuguese Chapel, which appeared in 1811, has the additional interest of dating the founding of the publishing firm Novello & Co which carries his name, as he issued the collection from his own house; and he did the same with succeeding works, till his son Joseph Alfred Novello (1810–1896), who had started as a bass singer, became a regular music publisher in 1829.

Vincent Novello had several children but the most famous was Clara Novello (1818–1908), whose beautiful high soprano and pure style made her one of the greatest vocalists, in opera as well as in oratorio and on the concert stage, from 1833 onwards. In 1843 she married Count Gigliucci, but after a few years returned to her profession, and only retired in 1860.

Vincent Novello was a good friend of Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846), also an executor of his will, and persuaded 'Il Drago' to come out of 'solo retirement' to play this Concert Aria.

"Works for soprano and double bass date back to the early 1790s and the music of Johannes Matthias Sperger (1750-1812). His two concert arias for soprano double bass and orchestra -'Se Tene, del tuo fuoco' and 'Non t'avvilir la cura' date from 1791 and 1793 respectively and Vincent Novello's Concert Aria 'Thy Mighty Power' for soprano, double bass and piano is in a long line of works for this interesting combination, which is far from uncommon. My wife, Sarah Poole, is a magnificent soprano soloist and we have been together for 33 years, and I know of many other soprano-double bass couples, so there is something about an attractive soprano that attracts a bassist! Even Patrick Susskind's eponymous hero in his play 'The Double Bass' is in love with a soprano called Sarah. Who wouldn't be? Vincent Novello (1781-1861) was an organist, pianist, conductor, composer, editor and publisher and the founder of Novello's publishing house which is still in existence today. He was a successful and popular musician throughout his lifetime and was a prolific composer, although his daughter Mary wrote that his compositions were "over-shadowed by his still more abundant arrangements." Novello edited and produced editions of many choral works at a price which was affordable - with the addition of a piano or organ accompaniment and these were the foundation of his publishing empire. Vincent Novello would have known many of the leading figures of his day and of particular interest to double bassists is his long and enduring friendship with Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846). Dragonetti had lived in London from 1794 and was one of the most famous and beloved musicians of the first half of the 19th-century. His cello-bass partnership with Robert Lindley (1776-1855) was legendary and it was said that no musical festival was complete without the participation of these two musicians. Novello was one of the executors of Dragonetti's will and he spent a number of years collating and documenting the music of this great Italian double bassist which he presented to The British Library in 1849, on his retirement to Italy. Novello composed Thy Mighty Power for a concert at the Hanover Square Rooms, London on Monday 24 April 1837. His daughter Clara (1818-1908), a noted singer of the day, was intending to study in Italy in the autumn of 1837 and this concert was an opportunity 'to take leave of her Friends' as the playbill notes. Composed for soprano, double bass and piano, it was remarkable that Dragonetti, at the age of about 74 years, performed as the bass soloist at a time when he no longer performed solos in public and this is probably in no small part because of his close personal friendship with the composer and his family. The original playbill states "MISS CLARA NOVELLO has the gratification of announcing, she has prevailed upon SIGNOR DRAGONETTI to depart from his resolution of not playing Solos in public, and for this time only, he will accompany her in A NEW SONG, WITH CONTRA BASSO OBLIGATO, composed expressly for the concert, by VINCENT NOVELLO." The New Monthly Belle Assemble (May 1837) stated that "...the performance was magnificent and drew forth immense applause." Similarly, The Musical World (28 April 1837) reviewer stated "...The gem of the concert consisted in a new, sacred, triumphant song ('Thy mighty Power'). It is saying little that the whole interest of the performance was engrossed by the illustrious Contra-basso, although the singer acquitted herself very admirably, taking the D in alt, at the close, with the utmost precision, and apparent ease. The piece was enthusiastically encored from every quarter of the Room...joining in their admiration of the astonishing feat which had been performed. The chief merit in the song lies in the accurate knowledge the composer has displayed of the genius and resources of the double bass." Thy Mighty Power is a fun work which exploits the tessitura differences between the high soprano and low double bass, particularly in the original version in orchestral tuning, and works well as a final item in a concert. The music is accessible and pleasant - nothing here to frighten the horses - and is simply an entertainment and nothing more. Fiona M. Palmer isn't so enamoured of the song however and mentions it, rather uncharitably in my opinion, in her book 'Vincent Novello (1781-1861): Music for the Masses, Ashgate Publishing): "Novello's aria, Thy Mighty Power is a musical 'lollipop'; it demonstrates little sense of harmonic adventure and is firmly rooted in tonic-dominant relationships. Novello writes idiomatically for Dragonetti's bass exploiting the projection and timbre of the highest string. The voice and bass parts interweave in contrasting motion, word painting abounds and the influence of Handel oratorio is fully evident..." It was first published in The Musical World (A Weekly Record of Musical Science, Literature and Intelligence) on 12 May 1837 (No. LXI-Vol.V), which also includes an article about the 'Violoncello and contrabasso' as part of Cipriani Potter's 'Companion to the Orchestra; or history of instrumentation - No.V'. It obviously travelled worldwide and New Zealand's Auckland Star (19 November 1904) announces a forthcoming performance at Pitt Street Methodist Church on Wednesday 23 November when it was to be performed by tenor (Mr R. James) with violin obbligato (Mr J. Shaw). The song had been out of print for many decades before the first modern edition (RM003) was produced by Recital Music (www.recitalmusic.net) in 1986 - it's third publication, after two charming salon works by the Czech bassist-composer, Vojta Kuchynka. An edition for double bass in solo tuning (RM109) is also available, and a version with string orchestra is in preparation. Thy Mighty Power is fun and lively, has great player and audience appeal, and doesn't outstay its welcome. Admittedly Novello had none of the skills of a Mozart or Beethoven, but without the lesser names would we appreciate the great composers as much? Probably not. Novello's music certainly deserves the occasional performance, after all he did make a fantastic contribution to the musical world as a whole, and this is a charming piece which doesn't hurt anyone. Just sit back and enjoy..." David Heyes (12 May 2014)

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Cat No. RM003
Price £10.50
ComposerVincent Novello
CategoryDouble Bass & Voice
PublisherRecital Music
Difficulty level7 - 8
ISMN 979-0-57045-003-9
EAN-13 9790570450039
Weight 144 grams
Published 19th July 2009
Availability 9 in stock
See also...
RM109  Concert Aria - Thy Mighty Power (Solo Tuning)
RM180  Tutto il Mondo Serra
RM384  Tutto il Mondo Serra