Bochsa, (Robert-) Nicolas-Charles

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Bochsa, (Robert-) Nicolas-Charles

celebrated French harpist; b. Montmédy, Meuse, Aug. 9, 1789; d. Sydney, Australia, Jan. 6, 1856. He first studied music with his father, and played in public at the age of 7. He wrote a sym. when he was 9, and an opera, Trajan, at 15. He then studied with Franz Beck in Bordeaux, and later at the Paris Cons, with Méhul and Catel (1806). His harp teachers were Nadermann and Marin. Of an inventive nature, Bochsa developed novel technical devices for harp playing, transforming the harp into a virtuoso instrument. He was the court harpist to Napoleon, and to Louis XVIII. He wrote 7 operas for the Opéra-Comique (1813–16), several ballets, an oratorio, and a great number of works for the harp; also a method for harp. In 1817 he became involved in some forgeries, and fled to London to escape prison. He became very popular as a harp teacher in London society; organized a series of oratorio productions with Sir George Smart (1822). He was also the first prof. of harp at the Academy of Music in London, but in 1827 he lost his position when he committed bigamy. However, he obtained a position as conductor of the Italian Opera at the King’s Theatre (1826–30). Another scandal marked Bochsa’s crooked road to success and notoriety when he eloped with the soprano Anna Bishop, the wife of Henry Bishop, in Aug. 1839. He gave concerts with her in Europe, America, and Australia, where he died.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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