Hérold, (Louis-Joseph) Ferdinand

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Hérold, (Louis-Joseph) Ferdinand

Hérold, (Louis-Joseph) Ferdinand, celebrated French composer; b. Paris, Jan. 28, 1791; d. Themes, near Paris, Jan. 19, 1833. His father, François-Joseph Hérold (b. Seltz, Bas-Rhin, March 18, 1755; d. Paris, Oct. 1, 1802), a piano teacher and composer, did not desire his son to become a musician, and sent him to the Hix school, where his aptitude for music was noticed by Fétis, then asst. teacher there. After his father’s death, Hérold began to study music seriously; in 1806 he entered the Paris Cons., taking piano lessons with Louis Adam, and winning 1st prize for piano playing in 1810. He studied harmony under Catel, and (from 1811) composition under Méhul; in 1812 his cantata Mlle, de la Vallière won the Prix de Rome. From Rome he went to Naples, where he became pianist to Queen Caroline; he produced his first opera, La gioventù di Enrico Quinto (Jan. 5, 1815), which was well received. From Naples he went to Vienna, and after a few months’ stay returned to Paris, where he finished the score of Boieldieu’s Charles de France, an “opéra d’occasion” (Opéra-Comique, June 18, 1816), and where all the rest of his operas were produced. The flattering reception of Charles de France led to the successful production of Les Rosières (Jan. 27, 1817), La Clochette (Oct. 18, 1817), Le Premier Venu (Sept. 28, 1818), Les Troqueurs (Feb. 18, 1819), and L’Auteur mort et vivant (Dec. 18, 1820); the failure of the last- named opera caused him to distrust his natural talent, and to imitate, in several succeeding stage works, the style then in vogue—that of Rossini. With the comic opera Marie (Aug. 12, 1826) Hérold returned, however, to his true element, and won instant and brilliant success. Meantime he had obtained the post of chorus master at the Italian Opera (1824); during this period he brought out Le Muletier (May 12, 1823), Lasthénie (Sept. 8, 1823), Vendôme en Espagne (Dec. 5, 1823), Le Roi René (Aug. 24, 1824), and Le Lapin blanc (May 21, 1825). In 1826 he was appointed to the staff of the Grand Opéra, for which he wrote several melodious and elegant ballets: Astolphe et Jaconde (Jan. 29, 1827), La Somnambule (Sept. 19, 1827), Lydie (July 2, 1828), La Fille mal gardée (Nov. 17, 1828), La Belle au bois dormant (April 27, 1829), and La Noce de village (Feb. 11, 1830). La Somnambule furnished Bellini with the subject of his popular opera. On July 18, 1829, Hérold produced L’Illusion, a 1-act opera full of charming numbers. Emmeline, a grand opera (Nov. 28, 1829), was a failure, but his next opera, Zampa (May 3, 1831), was sensationally successful and placed him in the first rank of French composers. He then wrote L’Auberge d’Aurey (May 11, 1830) jointly with Carafa, and La Marquise de Brinvilliers (Oct. 31, 1831), in collaboration with Auber, Batton, Berton, Blangini, Boieldieu, Carafa, Cherubini, and Paër; he also produced La Médecine sans médecin (Oct. 15, 1832). His last completed work, Le Pré aux clercs (Dec. 15, 1832), had a remarkable vogue. He died of tuberculosis shortly before his 42nd birthday. His unfinished opera Ludovic was completed by Halévy and produced posthumously at the Opéra-Comique on May 16, 1833. Hérold’s piano music (55 opus numbers) consists of sonatas, caprices, rondos, divertissements, fantasies, variations, and potpourris.


B. Jouvin, H.: Sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris, 1868); A. Pougin, H. (Paris, 1906).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire