Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DAVIES, Marianne, musician, born in New England about 1736; died in London in 1792. She was the elder of two sisters, both of whom made a European reputation as musicians. They were daughters of a relative of Benjamin Franklin. Marianne achieved some distinction as a performer on the harpsichord and piano, but about 1.762 acquired much greater repute for her skill on the harmonica or musical glasses, which had then been recently improved by Franklin. She was subsequently compelled to retire from the profession, owing to the effect on her nerves of constant playing upon the harmonica. This was so frequent a result of its use that it was banished from many continental towns by official prohibition.--Her sister, Cecilia, vocalist, born in 1740 ; died in London, England, 3 July 1836, visited Europe in company with Marianne, with whom she always resided. Her first public appearance was made at the concert-room, Dean Street, Soho, London, 28 April 1756. After a successful career in the English metropolis, Cecilia and Marianne left England in 1768, and visited Paris and Vienna. While they were in the latter City Metastasio wrote, and Hasse composed the music for, an ode that was sung by Cecilia, accompanied by Marianne on the harmonica.
In a letter dated 16 January 1772, the poet describes the beautiful tone of the instrument, and the admirable manner in which Cecilia assimilated her voice to it, making it difficult to distinguish the one from the other. From Vienna the sisters went to Milan, where the younger appeared with great success, in 1771, in the opera of "Ruggiero," by Metastasio and Hasse. Cecilia was the first English-speaking woman to whom the Italians accorded the rank of prima donna, bestowing on her the sobriquet "l'Inglesina," and admitting her to be the superior of any Italian singer of that time, except Gabrielli. Cecilia afterward sang in Florence, and returned in 1773 to London, where she appeared successfully in Italian opera. Her voice is described as being deficient in both power and volume, but she possessed a neat and facile execution. She revisited Florence, and sang there until 1784, when she once more returned to England, and retired from the profession soon after the death of her sister. About 1817 she published a collection of six songs by Hasse, Jomelli, Galuppi, and others. She lingered until her ninety-sixth year, borne down by the accumulated weight of years, disease, and poverty.
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