Picture only, obtained from www.meyerbeer.com
1791 --- May 1863
Jacob Meyerbeer Born in Berlin 1791, Meyerbeer was disliked by Wagner because he was a Jew, and by Schumann because he wrote, not for art, but to curry favour with the public.
In Il Crociato Schumann said he was inclinded to place Meyerbeer among musicians, in Robert le Diable he began to doubt whether he had not made a mistake in so doing, in Las Huguenots he found that the music was best fitted for circus people!.
Yet Les Huguenots and Robert le Diable had both a long run of popularity, while Il Crociato was speedily forgotten.
Le Prophète had less favour than its two companions just named, but the two efforts in the field of opera comique, L'Étoile du Nord, and Dinorah, were great favourites with a former generation.
Meyerbeer as stated before was born in Berlin in 1791, the son of a rich father, who had been in the sugar refining business.
There is a parallel with Mendelssohn, the son of another rich father who was also jewish.
Meyerbeer made large sums of money by his operas, and was probably the wealthiest of German composers.
His mother used to say, apologetically, "He is a musican, but not of necessity."
Mendelssohn's teacher, Zelter, gave him some lessons, and then he went to Darmstadt to study with Abbè Vogler.
He gained his first distinctions as a pianist, but he took to opera, and achieved one or two triumphs in Italy in direct rivalry with Rossini, Rossini and he were good friends, all the same, in fact when Rossini heard of his death he fainted away.
There is a story to the effect that shortly after this event a amateur called to show Rossini an elegy he had written on Meyerbeer. "Well" said Rossinin after looking it through, "I think it would have been better if you had died, and Meyerbeer had written the elegy."
It was Rossini's joke to say that he and Meyerbeer liked sauer-kraut better than macaroni.
Rossini, let it be understood, was the producer of his manner of cooking macaroni than of his compositions.
Meyerbeer settled in Paris after marrying his cousin, Minna Mosson.
Here though possessed of millions, he lived in an almost miserly style, with only one servant. If he had no need to be a musician he did not show it by his labours, which were as industrious as if he had been poor.
"I am above all an artist," he said "and it gives me great satisfaction to think that I might have supported myself with my music form the time I was seven. I have no desire to stand aloof from my associates and play the rich amateur".
Meyerbeer of course met Chopin in Paris, and he had good reason to like Chopin music. He had one day quarrel with his wife, a cousin, "sweet as she was fair." He sat down to the piano and played a Nocturne sent to him by Chopin, the wife was so much taken with the piece that she went and kised the player.
Then Meyerbeer wrote to Chopin, telling him of the incident, and inviting him to come and witness the domestic calm after the storm.
Meyerbeer died in Paris in May 1863. He was curiously afraid of being buried alive.
In his pocket-book after his death was found a paper giving directions that a small bells should be attached to his hands and feet, and that his body should be carefully watched for four days, after which it should be sent to Berlin, to be interred by the side of his mother.
No composers work have been more diversely criticised than Meyerbeer's. Berlioz called Les Huguenots a musical encyclopædia, with material enough for twenty ordinary operas.
Another called it "banker's music" luxury music for la haute finance. Wagner cried out against the blatant vulgarity of Meyerbeer's style, and described him as "a most miserable music maker."
Wagner antipathy to the Jews led him to the wildest exaggerations of criticism. After all is said and done, there is no denying that Meyerbeer's operas contain many passages of supreme beauty, and the best of them would bear revival.
The above was written by Cuthbert Haddon in 1916.
Last Updated on 6th May 2000
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(1250)"Grand March". Sequenced by Reginald Steven Ritchie
(1250)"L'Africaine Selection". Sequenced by Reginald Steven Ritchie
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