Dolmetsch, (Eugène) Arnold

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Dolmetsch, (Eugène) Arnold

Dolmetsch, (Eugène) Arnold, eminent French-born English music scholar and instrumentalist, father of Carl Frederick Dolmetsch; b. Le Mans, Sarthe, Feb. 24, 1858; d. Haslemere, Surrey, Feb. 28, 1940. His father and maternal grandfather maintained an organ and piano workshop in Le Mans in which he was apprenticed in the construction and repair of instruments. He received piano lessons at age four, then took violin lessons from an itinerant violinist, and later from his uncle. After his father’s death in 1874, he carried on the family business. In 1878, however, he eloped to Nancy with Marie Morel, a widow ten years his senior; following the birth of their daughter, they proceeded to London, where they were married (May 28, 1878). In 1879 he went to Brussels to study violin with Vieuxtemps; he then came under the influence of Gevaert at the Brussels Cons., where he also studied harmony and counterpoint with Kufferath and piano with de Greef (1881–83); also learned to play the viola d’amore. Upon his return to London, he took courses in violin with Henry Holmes, in harmony and counterpoint with Frederick Bridge, and in composition with Parry at the Royal Coll. of Music (1883–85). From 1885 to 1889 he was an asst. violin teacher at Dulwich Coll.; he also spent much time researching and copying early MSS in the Royal Coll. of Music library, and later in the British Library. He began collecting old books on early music, and proceeded to collect and restore viols; he also taught his wife, daughter, and selected pupils to play the instruments, and presented concerts of Elizabethan music. Expanding his activities still more widely, he set about restoring a variety of keyboard instruments, and later learned to build the instruments himself. At the invitation of Bridge, he performed the music of Byrd, Bull, Purcell, Locke, Lawes, Jenkins, and Simpson at Bridge’s lecture at Gresham Coll. on Nov. 21, 1890; this was the first time the music of these early composers had been played on original instruments in modern times. On April 27, 1891, he gave a notable “Concert of Ancient Music of the XVI and XVII Centuries” in London, playing works on the viols, lute, and harpsichord, assisted by two vocal soloists. He worked industriously to establish himself as an authority on early music and instruments, a distinguished performer, and a skilled craftsman; his cause was championed by George Bernard Shaw. Dolmetsch and his wife sepa-rated in 1893 and were divorced in 1899. From 1895 he lived with his divorced sister-in-law, Elodie, a fine keyboard player; in 1899 they were married. Dolmetsch, his wife, and Mabel Johnston, a player on the viola da gamba and the violone, made their U.S. debut in N.Y. on Jan. 6, 1903. Dolmetsch and his 2nd wife were divorced later that year, at which time he married Johnston; with Kathleen Salmon, his pupil and a harpsichordist, they made an extensive U.S. tour in 1904–05. He was hired by Chickering & Sons of Boston in 1905 to oversee the manufacture of early keyboard instruments, viols, and lutes. From 1906 to 1911 he lived in Cambridge, Mass.; he also continued to give concerts. In 1911 he began working at the Gaveau factory in Fontenay-sous-Bois, near Paris. In 1914 he returned to England and settled in Haslemere in 1917, where he maintained a workshop and built the first modern recorder (1918). In 1925 he organized the Haslemere Festivals, where he and his family presented annual concerts. In 1927 the Dolmetsch Foundation was organized by his pupils and friends with the goal of furthering his work. Its journal, The Consort, began publication in 1929. Dolmetsch was awarded the cross of the Legion d’honneur of France (1938) and an honorary doctorate in music from the Univ. of Durham (1939). He prepared eds. of early music, including Select English Songs and Dialogues of the 16th and 17th Centuries (2 vols., London, 1898, 1912), English Tunes of the 16th and 17th Centuries for Treble Recorder in F and Pieces for 2, 3 and 4 Recorders (Hasle-mere, 1930), Select French Songs from the 12th to the 18thth

Century (London, 1938), and The Dolmetsch Collection of English Consorts (ed. by P. Grainger; N.Y, 1944). He also contributed articles to journals and publ. the book The Interpretation of the Music of the XVII and XVIII Centuries (London, 1915; 2nd ed., 1946). U. Supper ed. A Catalogueof the Dolmetsch Library (Haslemere, 1967).


I R. Donington, The Work and Ideas of A. D. (Hasle-mere, 1932); M. Dolmetsch, Personal Recollections of A. D. (London, 1958); M. Campbell, D.: The Man and His Work (London and Seattle, 1975).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire