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A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Niedermeyer, Louis

< A Dictionary of Music and Musicians
NIEDERMEYER, Louis, born at Nyon, Lake of Geneva, April 27, 1802, studied under Moscheles and Förster in Vienna, Fioravanti in Rome, and Zingarelli in Naples, where he formed a lasting intimacy with Rossini. At Naples he produced his first opera 'Il reo per amore.' He next settled in Geneva, taught the piano, and composed melodies to Lamartine's poetry, one of which, 'Le Lac,' obtained great success, and made his name known in Paris, before his arrival there in 1823. Through Rossini's influence his one-act opera 'La Casa nel bosco' was produced at the Théâtre Italien (May 28, 1828), but its reception not satisfying him he left Paris and became music-master at a school in Brussels. Wearied of this drudgery, he returned to Paris, and published melodies distinguished for style and sentiment, and worthy of the poems by Lamartine, Victor Hugo, and Emile Deschamps, which they illustrated. The success of these songs made Niedermeyer anxious to return to the theatre, but 'Stradella' (5 acts, March 3, 1837) failed, though supported by Mlle. Falcon, Nourrit, and Levasseur. It was however revived in 1843 in 3 acts. 'Marie Stuart,' 5 acts (Dec. 6, 1844), was scarcely more successful, and would be forgotten but for its 'Adieu à la France.' Other numbers however, deserve attention. The revival of the 'Donna del Lago' having been resolved on at the Académie, Rossini summoned Niedermeyer to his residence at Bologna, and empowered him to adapt the score to a French libretto entitled 'Robert Bruce' in 3 acts (Dec. 30, 1846). The opera failed, but the introduction of the saxhorn, the eight trumpets in four different keys in the overture, and the skill with which various movements from 'Zelmira' and 'Armida' were adapted, attracted the attention of musicians. Niedermeyer's last attempt at opera was 'La Fronde' (5 acts, May 2, 1853)—a failure like its predecessors. His true vocation was sacred music. His mass with full orchestra, his 'messes basses,' motets, and anthems, pure in style, and abounding with graceful melody, are still sung. We have mentioned elsewhere his connexion with d'Ortigue in the foundation of a periodical for sacred music, intended to maintain the old traditions. [See Maitrise.] Unfortunately he knew but little of either the history or the practice of plain-song, and his 'Méthode d'accompagnement du Plain Chant' (1855), hastily compiled, was severely criticised. Niedermeyer must be ranked among the musicians whose merits are greater than their success. Some of his melodies will live, and the Ecole de Musique still known by his name (a continuation of that founded by Choron) will ensure for his sacred works an honourable place in the repertoires of the Maîtrises de France. He died in Paris, March 14, 1861.

[ G. C. ]