1902 Encyclopedia > Daniel Auber

Daniel Auber
(full name: Daniel François Esprit Auber)
French composer

DANIEL FRANÇOIS ESPRIT AUBER, musical composer, the chief representative of the French school, was the son of a Paris printseller. He was born at Caen, in Normandy, on the 29th January 1782, while his mother was on a visit to that town. Destined by his father to the pursuits of trade, he was allowed, nevertheless, to indulge his fondness for music, and learnt to play at an early age on several instruments, his first teacher being the Tyrolean composer, Ladurner. Sent at the age of twenty to London to com-plete his business training, he returned after the rupture of the peace of Amiens. He had already attempted musical composition, and at this period produced several concertos pour basse, in the manner of the violoncellist, Lamare, in whose name they were published. The praise given to his concerto for the violin, which was played at the Conservatoire by Mazas, encouraged him to undertake the resetting of the old comic opera, Julie. Conscious by this time of the need of regular study of his chosen art, he placed himself under the severe training of Cherubini, by which the special qualities of the young composer were admirably developed. In 1813 he made his début in an opera in one act, the Séjour Militaire, the unfavourable reception of which put an end for some years to his attempts as composer. But the failure in business and death of his father, in 1819, compelled him once more to turn to music, and to make that which had been his pastime the serious employment of his life. He produced another opera, the Testament et les Billets-doux, which was no better received than the former. But he persevered, and the next year was rewarded by the complete success of his Bergère Chatelaine, an opera in three acts. This was the first in a long series of brilliant successes, terminat-ing only in the eighty-sixth year of his age. In 1822 began his long association with M. Scribe, who shared with him, as librettist, the success and growing popularity of his compositions. The opera of Leicester, in which they first worked together (1823), is remarkable also as showing the first evidences of the influence of Rossini on Auber's style. This style was, however, distinctly original, and was easily recognisable. A phrase of Auber, said his friend Theodore Gantier, is not the phrase of any one else. His characteristics are lightness and facility, sparkling vivacity, grace and elegance, clear and piquant melodiousness,—these marking him out as a true son of France, and making him her darling singer. Depth of thought, elevation of sentiment, intensity of passion, inspiration which grasps the sublime and the infinite—these are not in Auber.

Devoted by preference to the comic opera, as the most fitting field for his talents, he ventured on more than one occasion to pass into the field of grand opera, and in his La Muette de Portici, familiarly known as Masaniello, he achieved his greatest musical triumph. Produced at Paris in 1828, it rapidly became a European favourite, and its overture, songs, and choruses were everywhere heard. The duet, Amour sacre de la patrie was welcomed like a new Marseillaise; sung by Nourrit at Brussels in 1830, it became the signal for the revolution which broke out there. Among his other works, about fifty in all, the more important are—Fra Diavolo (1830), Lestocq (1834), L'Ambassadrice (1836), Le Domino Noir (1837), Le Lac des Fees (1839), Les Diamants de la Couronne (1841), Haydée (1847), Marco Spada (1853), and La Fiancee du roi de Garbe (1864). Official and other dignities testi-fied the public appreciation of Auber's works. In 1829 he was elected member of the Institute, in 1830 he was named director of the court concerts, and in 1842 he succeeded Cherubini as director of the Conservatoire. He was also a member of the Legion of Honour from 1825, and attained the rank of commander in 1847. One of Auber's latest compositions was a march, written for the opening of the International Exhibition in London in 1862. His fascinating manners, his witty sayings, and his ever ready kindness and beneficence won for him a secure place in the respect and love of his fellow-citizens. He remained in his old home during the German siege of Paris, 1870-71, but the miseries of the Communist war which followed sickened his heart, and he at last refused to touch his beloved instrument, or to take food. He died May 13, 1871. (W. L. B. C.)

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