(fl 1732–59). English bass of German birth. His first known appearances were in Arne’s English opera season at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in spring 1732, when he sang in Lampe’s Amelia and a pirated production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea (Polyphemus). The following season (1732–3) he sang in Lampe’s Britannia, J.C. Smith’s Ulysses and Arne’s Opera of Operas at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. On 17 March 1733 he took a small part, probably the Chief Priest of Baal, in the first performance of Handel’s Deborah at the King’s Theatre. He accompanied Handel to Oxford in July, singing in the first performances of Athalia (Abner), the bilingual Acis and Galatea (Polyphemus), probably Esther (Haman) and Deborah (Abinoam and Priest of Baal), and in anthems at St Mary’s church. He then joined Handel’s opera company, first at the King’s Theatre, later at Covent Garden, until the summer of 1736. He was to have made his Italian début in the pasticcio Semiramide riconosciuta on 30 October, but was apparently replaced. He took part in the revivals of Ottone (Emireno), Sosarme (Altomaro) and Il pastor fido (Tirenio), the pasticcios Caio Fabricio and Oreste, and the first performances of Arianna in Creta (Minos), Il Parnasso in festa (Mars), Ariodante (King of Scotland), Alcina (Melisso) and Atalanta (Nicander). At his benefit at Hickford’s Room on 21 February 1735 he advertised himself as ‘Singer in Mr Handel’s Operas’. He also repeated his Oxford parts in oratorios, including the first London performances of Athalia, and continued to sing in English theatre pieces, among them Lampe’s Opera of Operas and Cupid and Psyche, The Tempest and Arne’s Britannia in 1733–4, and Arne’s Grand Epithalamium in April 1736, all at Drury Lane. He had another benefit at Hickford’s on 7 April 1737.
Waltz rejoined Handel for the oratorio season of 1738–9, singing the title role in the first performance of Saul on 16 January, in the première of Israel in Egypt on 4 April, and probably in Jupiter in Argos on 1 May. He had meanwhile appeared in Pescetti’s Angelica e Medoro at Covent Garden on 10 March. His later career was associated with English theatre pieces of the lighter type, chiefly by Lampe and Arne, though he sang occasionally at concerts and in December 1739 in a composite Purcell masque at Covent Garden. He was employed at that theatre in 1739–42 and again in 1749–51, at Drury Lane and the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in 1743–5, and in May and June 1744 at Ruckholt House, Essex, where he sang in Boyce’s Solomon and Handel’s Alexander’s Feast. He had a benefit at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket on 19 December 1748. Handel cast him as Charon in the unperformed incidental music to Alceste in January 1750. He was the teacher of Isabella Young (ii) (later Mrs Scott) and gave a concert with her at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket on 18 March 1751. He was a choral bass at the Foundling Hospital performances of Messiah on 15 May 1754, 27 April 1758 and 3 May 1759, on each occasion receiving the minimum fee of 10s. 6d. He may have sung in the chorus of Handel’s Covent Garden oratorios at this period.
Waltz is generally recalled for the wrong reasons. Burney and Hawkins both said he was at one time Handel’s cook, which is possible but unverifiable. He may well have known as much counterpoint as Gluck in 1745: there is a ring of truth about this reported mot of Handel’s. But Burney’s notorious aspersions on Waltz – ‘a German, with a coarse figure, and a still coarser voice’, ‘Waltz had but little voice, and his manner was coarse and unpleasant’ – almost certainly do him an injustice. Burney did not hear him until his later years, when he admitted that ‘as an actor, [Waltz] had a great deal of humour’. Although he was never in the class of Montagnana, whom he replaced in 1733, some of Handel’s parts for Waltz, notably the King in Ariodante and Saul, suggest that he commanded not only dramatic power but majesty and pathos, with a good legato and a compass of nearly two octaves (G to f'). A portrait by Hauck, engraved by Müller, shows Waltz playing the cello with refreshments at his elbow (see illustration).
W.C.Smith: ‘Gustavus Waltz: was he Handel’s Cook?’, Concerning Handel: his Life and Works (London, 1948), 165–94
Wamsley [Walmsley, Warmsley], Peter
(fl London, c1725–45). English maker of violins, violas and cellos. Although the foremost English maker of his time, following Daniel Parker and Nathaniel Cross, his reputation suffered with the publication of Sandys and Forster’s The History of the Violin, in which his instruments were criticized for having had the wood worked too thin. The repetition of this allegation has tended to obscure his considerable merits as a maker.
Wamsley was evidently a pupil of Cross, and inherited from him a respect for the work of Stainer and for a pleasing pale golden varnish of rather brittle consistency. Later he developed a much softer dark brown oil varnish, quite satisfactory from the tonal viewpoint and similar in all but colour to that used by the Forsters in the second half of the century. In his woodwork he was one of the makers who exaggerated Stainer’s archings by hollowing out too much towards the edge, but in thus leaving his edges thin in wood he was doing no worse than near-contemporaries such as Rombouts in the Netherlands, most of the Florentines and literally dozens of fine German and Austrian makers. In the relatively few instances where his instruments have not been treated harshly by the passage of time, they are both handsome in appearance and of fine quality tonally. His numerous cellos are the forerunners of an English school of making which is often regarded by players as second only to the best of the Italians. He made quite a number of violins, and also a few violas of good size.
Wamsley's shop, at the sign of the Harp and Hautboy in Piccadilly, was taken over by his pupil, Thomas Smith. Another pupil was Joseph Hill, perhaps the most successful London maker of his time, and the first of the Hill dynasty of violin makers and experts.
W.Sandys and S.A.Forster: The History of the Violin (London, 1864)
W.M.Morris: British Violin Makers (London, 1904, 2/1920)