Cornelius, Peter , important German composer and writer on music; b. Mainz, Dec. 24, 1824; d. there, Oct. 26, 1874. A nephew of the painter Peter von Cornelius, he at first became an actor, but after an unsuccessful debut, changed his mind; he studied theory with Dehn at Berlin (1845–52) and then joined Liszt’s following in Weimar as a champion of Wagner, contributing frequent articles to the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. His masterpiece, the opera Der Barbier von Bagdad, was premiered at Weimar (Dec. 15, 1858) under the direction of Liszt, who resigned his position there because of hostile demonstrations while he was conducting the opera. In 1861 Cornelius went to Wagner at Vienna, and followed him to Munich (1865), where he was appointed reader to King Ludwig II, and prof. of harmony and rhetoric at the Royal Music School. A second opera, Der Cid, was premiered at Weimar on May 21, 1865; a third, Gunlod (from the Edda), remained unfinished (completed by Lassen and premiered at Weimar, May 6, 1891). Der Barbier von Bagdad was revived at Karlsruhe on Feb. 1, 1884, in a drastically altered version by Mottl. Cornelius publ. Lieder-Cyclus (op.3), duets for Soprano and Baritone (op.6), Weihnachtslieder (op.8), and Trauerchore for Men’s Chorus (op.9). A vol. of Lyrische Poesien was issued in 1861. A complete ed. of Cornelius’s works was issued by Breitkopf & Hartel (1905–06).
A Sandberger, Leben und Werke des Dichtermusikers P.C. (Leipzig, 1887); E. Istel, P. C. (Leipzig, 1904); E. SulgerGebing, P. C. als Mensch und Dichter (Munich, 1908); M. Hasse, Der Dichtermusiker P. C. (2 vols., Leipzig, 1923); A. Cherbuliez, P.C. (Zurich, 1925); C. Cornelius, P. C, der Wort- und Tondichter (2 vols., Regensburg, 1925); P. Egert, P. C. (Berlin, 1940); G. Wagner, P. C.: Verzeichnis seiner musikalischen und literarischen Werke (Mainz, 1986); R. Chraska, Der Mainzer Dichter-KomponistP. C. in Salzburg und Trier (Trier, 1992).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire