Momigny, Jérôme-Joseph de

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Momigny, Jérôme-Joseph de

Momigny, Jérôme-Joseph de, Belgian-French music theorist, publisher, and composer; b. Philippe-ville, Namur, Jan. 20, 1762; d. Charenton, near Paris, Aug. 25, 1842. He studied music early in life, and at the age of 12 was already engaged as a church organist in St. Omer; in 1785 he went to Lyons. He became involved in the political struggle against the Jacobins in 1793. After their ouster, he was appointed provisional municipal officer, and took part in the resistance against the troops of the National Convention; when that enterprise failed, he fled to Switzerland. After the fall of Robespierre, he returned to Lyons. He then went to Paris, where he remained under Napoleon and the restoration of the monarchy. He opened there a successful music publishing business that flourished 1800–28 and publ. about 750 works by 153 composers, including a number of his own compositions and treatises on music, in which he claimed to have invented a new and unfailing system of theory and harmony. The titles alone of some of his tracts, containing such immoderate asseverations as “théorie neuve et générale” “seul système musical qui soit vraiment fondé et complet,” “la seule vraie théorie de la musique,” etc., reveal his uncommon faith in himself. He bolstered his self-assurance by such declarations as: there can exist only one true art of music; there is one and only one code of morals; there must be a sharp distinction between good and bad combinations of sounds, as there is between right and wrong in morality. By false analogy with order in music, he extolled monarchical rule and publ. numerous pamphlets in support of his reactionary convictions. Not finding a ready response from the authorities, he gradually sank into pathetic solitude and ended his days in an asylum. His tracts, both on music and on politics, are of interest only to investigators of material on depraved mental states, and his own compositions fell into utter desuetude during his lifetime. Riemann publ. a devastating review of Momigny’s theories which drove a mortuary nail into his hopes for recognition.

Writings

(all publ. in Paris):Méthode de piano (1802); La Première Année de leçons de pianoforte (1802–3); Cours complet d’harmonique et de composition (1803–6; 2nd ed., 1808); Exposé succint du seul système musical qui soit partout d’accord avec la nature, avec la raison et avec la pratique (1808); Le Nouveau Solfège (1808); La Seule Vraie Théorie de la musique (1821); À l’Académie des Beaux-Arts (1831); Cours général de musique (1834).

Works

dramatic:Opera: Le Baron de Felsheim (Lyons, before 1800); La Nouvelle Laitière (before 1811); Arlequin Cedrillon (Paris, 1800). Other: Cantatas; songs; chamber music; piano pieces; arrangements and transcriptions.

Bibliography

A. Palm, J.-J. d.M. (diss., Univ. of Tübingen, 1957); idem, J.-J. d.M.: Leben und Werk: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Musiktheorie im 19. Jahrhundert (Cologne, 1969).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis Mclntire

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Momigny, Jérôme-Joseph de

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