A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Monpou, François
MONPOU, François Louis Hippolyte, born in Paris, Jan. 12, 1804; at 5 became a chorister at St. Germain l'Auxerrois, and at 9 was transferred to Notre Dame. In 1817 he entered as a pupil in the school founded by Choron, which he left in 1819 to be the organist at the Cathedral at Tours. For this post he proved unfit, and soon returned to Choron, who was extremely fond of him, and made him, although a bad reader, and a poor pianist, his accompagnateur (or assistant) at his Institution de Musique religieuse. Here he had the opportunity of studying the works of ancient and modern composers of all schools, while taking lessons in harmony at the same time from Porta, Chelard, and Fétis; but notwithstanding all these advantages he showed little real aptitude for music, and seemed destined to remain in obscurity. He was organist successively at St. Nicolas des Champs, St. Thomas d'Aquin, and the Sorbonne, and sacred music appeared to be his special vocation until 1828, when he published a pretty nocturne for 3 voices to Béranger's song, 'Si j'étais petit oiseau.' He was now taken up by the poets of the romantic school, and became their musical interpreter, publishing in rapid succession romances and ballads to words chiefly by Alfred de Musset and Victor Hugo. The harmony of these songs is incorrect, the rhythm rude and halting, and the arrangement wretched, but the general effect is bold and striking, and they contain much original melody. Backed as the composer was by influential friends, these qualities were sufficient to attract public attention, and ensure success. But though he was the oracle of the romanticists, Monpou found himself after the close of Choron's school without regular employment, and being a married man found it necessary to have some certain means of support. The stage seemed to offer the best chance of fortune, and though entirely unpractised in instrumentation, he unhesitatingly came forward as a composer of operas. Within a few years he produced 'Les deux Reines' (Aug. 6, 1835); 'Le Luthier de Vienne' (June 30, 1836); 'Piquillo' 3 acts (Oct. 31, 1837); 'Un Conte d'Autrefois ' (Feb. 20, 1838); 'Perugina' (Dec. 20, 1838); 'Le Planteur,' 2 acts (March 1, 1839); 'La chaste Suzanne,' 4 acts (Dec. 27, 1839); and 'La Reine Jeanne,' 3 acts (Oct. 12, 1840). These operas bear evident traces of the self-sufficient and ignorant composer of romances, the slovenly and incorrect musician, and the poor instrumentalist which we know Monpou to have been; but quite as apparent are melody, dramatic fire and instinct, and a certain happy knack. His progress was undeniable, but he never became a really good musician. Unfortunately he overworked himself, and the effort to produce with greater rapidity than his powers would justify, resulted in his premature death. Being seriously ill he was ordered to leave Paris, but he became worse, and died at Orleans Aug. 10, 1841. He left unfinished 'Lambert Simnel' (Sept. 16, 1843), completed by Adolphe Adam, and a short opéra-comique, 'L'Orfèvre,' which has never been performed.
[ G. C. ]