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LAFONT, Charles Philippe, an eminent violinist, was born at Paris in 1781 [App. p.694 "Dec. 1"]. Fétis relates that he got his first instruction on the violin from his mother, a sister of Bertheaume, a well-known violinist of that period, whom he also accompanied on his travels through Germany, performing successfully, when only eleven years of age, at Hamburg, Oldenburg and other towns. On his return to Paris he continued his studies under Kreutzer; and soon appeared at the Théâtre Feydeau, though not as a violinist, but as a singer of French ballads. After some time he again took up the violin, this time under the tuition of Rode, and soon proved himself a player of exceptional merit. Fétis credits him with a perfect intonation, a pure and mellow, though somewhat feeble tone, great powers of execution, and a remarkable charm of expression. From 1801 to 1808 he travelled and played with great success in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Russia. In 1808 he was appointed Rode's successor as solo-violinist to the Emperor of Russia, a position in which he remained for six years. In 1812 [App. p.694 "1816"] he had a public contest with Paganini at Milan. In 1815 he returned to Paris, and was appointed solo-violinist to Louis XVIII. In 1831 he made a long tour with Henri Herz, the pianist, which occupied him till 1839 [App. p.694 "Aug. 23"], when his career was suddenly ended by a carriage accident in the south of France, through which he lost his life.

Spohr in his Autobiography praises his fine tone, perfect intonation, energy and gracefulness, but deplores the absence of deep feeling, and accuses him of mannerism in phrasing. He also relates that Lafont's repertoire was confined to a very few pieces, and that he would practise a concerto for years before venturing on it in public,—a method which, although leading to absolute mechanical perfection, appears absurd from an artistic or even musical point of view. Lafont's compositions for the violin are of no musical value; they comprise seven Concertos, a number of Fantasias, Rondos, etc. He wrote a number of Duos concertants in conjunction with Kalkbrenner, Herz, etc.; more than 200 ballads (romances), which for a time were very popular; and two operas.

[ P. D. ]