Open main menu

LA FAGE, Juste Adrien Lenoir de, born in Paris, March 28, 1801, grandson of the celebrated architect Lenoir. After trying education for the church and the army, he settled to music as a pupil of Perne's for harmony and counterpoint, devoting himself especially to the study of plain-chant. Perne recommended him to Choron, who took him first as pupil, and then as répétiteur, or assistant-master. In 1828 he was sent by the government to Rome and studied for a year under Baini. While in Italy he produced a comic opera 'I Creditori,' but comic opera was not to be his road to distinction. On his return to Paris, in Dec. 1829, he was appointed maitre de chapelle of St. Etienne du Mont, where he substituted an organ (built by John Abbey) for the harsh out-of-tune serpent hitherto used to accompany the voices—an excellent innovation! 1833 to 36 he spent in Italy, and lost his wife and son. He returned to Paris, and there published the 'Manuel complet de Musique' (1836–38), the first chapters of which had been prepared by Choron; 'Séméiologie musicale'; 'Miscellanées musicales'; 'Histoire générale de la musique,' and many biographical and critical articles collected from periodicals. He again visited Italy after the Revolution of 1848, and during this trip took copies of MSS. never before consulted. He also visited Germany and Spain, and during the Exhibition of 1851 made a short excursion to England. He then settled finally in Paris, and published the works which have placed him in the first rank of 'musicists'—to use a favourite word of his own. Over-work as an author, and as editor in chief of 'Le Plain-Chant,' a periodical which he founded in 1859, brought on a nervous affection, which ultimately led to his removal to the asylum for the insane at Charenton, where he died March 8, 1862.

La Fage composed much music of many kinds, both vocal and instrumental, sacred and secular, but it is as a historian and didactic writer that his name will live. His 'Cours complet de Plain-Chant' (Paris 1855–56, 2 vols 8vo.) is a book of the first order, and fully justifies its title. It was succeeded by the 'Nouveau Traité de Plain-Chant romain,' with questions, an indispensable supplement to the former. His 'Histoire générale de la musique' (Paris 1844, 2 vols. 8vo., with an album of plates) is incomplete, treating only of Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, and Hebrew music, but it is a careful and conscientious work, and has been largely used by Fétis. His learning and method appear conspicuously in his 'Extraits du Catalogue critique et raisonné d'une petite bibliothèque musicale' (Rennes, undated, 120 pp. 8vo., 100 copies only), and in his 'Essais de Diphthérographie musicale' (Paris, 1864, 2 vols. 8vo., one containing very curious musical examples). A perusal of these two books will amply corroborate every word we have said in praise of this erudite musician. He left a valuable library (the catalogue was published, Paris 1862, 8vo.), afterwards dispersed by auction; but his unpublished works and materials are in the Bibliothèque nationale, to which he bequeathed all his papers, with the MSS. of Choron and Baini in his possession.

[ G. C. ]