HILLER, FERDINAND (1811–1885), composer and conductor. Son of a Frankfurt merchant, Justus Hiller (originally Isaac Hildesheim), he studied in Weimar and went to Vienna in 1827. He visited Beethoven just before the latter's death. From 1828 to 1835 Hiller was a music teacher and successful pianist in Paris, and was the first to play Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto in that city. He subsequently converted to Christianity, held various positions in Germany and Italy, and was the friend of outstanding composers such as Schumann and Wagner.
In 1850 he founded the Conservatory of Cologne, which he directed almost until his death. Hiller's oratorio Die Zerstoerung Jerusalems (1840) is considered his best composition. He also wrote the oratorio Saul (1853), cantatas, among them Rebecca, operas, symphonies, chamber and vocal music, and settings of the Psalms. Few of his works attained great success. He therefore devoted himself to conducting and to writing the lives of the Romantic composers of his generation, particularly Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Berlioz, Meyerbeer, and Liszt. His book on musical theory, first published in 1860, was reissued many times (26th edition, 1924). In 1849 he was elected a member of the Berlin Academy.
R. Sietz (ed.), Aus Ferdinand Hillers Briefwechsel (1826–1885), 5 vols. (1958–66); Baker's Biog Dict; Grove's Dict; Riemann-Gurlitt; mgg.