A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Pleyel, Ignaz

2102376A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Pleyel, IgnazCarl Ferdinand Pohl

PLEYEL, Ignaz Joseph, a most prolific instrumental composer, born June 1, 1757, the 24th child of the village schoolmaster at Ruppersthal in Lower Austria. His musical talent showed itself early. He learnt to play the clavier and violin in Vienna, the former from Van Hal, or Wanhall, and found a patron in the then Count Erdödy, who put him under Haydn, as a pupil composition, in 1774. After remaining several with Haydn he went to Italy, where he fully imbibed the taste of the Italian opera, and lived in intercourse with the best singers and composers. In 1783 he was called to Strassburg as Capellmeister to the cathedral. In 1791 he was invited to London to take the control of the professional Concerts of the following season. He was probably not aware of the fact that his appointment was a blow aimed at Salomon, and that he would be in competition with Haydn. The blow, however, missed its aim. Pleyel conducted his first Professional Concert Feb. 13, 1792. Haydn was present, and the programme contained 3 symphonies, by Haydn, Mozart, and Pleyel himself (composed expressly for the concert). On May 14 he took his benefit. The visit was a satisfactory one, both in an artistic and a pecuniary point of view. On his return to France he found himself denounced as an enemy to the Republic, and was forced to fly. He succeeded in clearing himself from the charge, at length settled in Paris as a music-seller. In 1800 the musicians of the opera proposed to perform Haydn's 'Creation,' and Pleyel was selected to arrange that Haydn should himself conduct the performance. He got as far as Dresden on the road to Vienna, but all the influence of Haydn and Artaria failed to obtain a pass for him any further, and the direction of the performance came finally into the hands of Steibelt. The evening of the concert—3 Nivôse, or Dec. 24, 1800—was a memorable one, since on his road to the opera house, in the Rue Nicaise, Bonaparte nearly met his death from an infernal machine. Pleyel was the first to publish the complete collection of Haydn's quartets (except the three last, of which two had not then been printed, and the third was not composed till some time afterwards). The edition, in separate parts only, has a portrait of Haydn by Darcis after Guerin, and is dedicated to the First Consul. It was followed by 30 quartets and 5 symphonies in score. In 1807 Pleyel founded the pianoforte factory which has since become so widely celebrated. [See Pleyel & Co.] He died Nov. 14, 1831.

Haydn considered Pleyel as his dearest and most efficient pupil. He writes from London: 'Since his arrival (Dec. 23, 1791), Pleyel has been so modest to me that my old affection has revived; we are often together, and it does him honour to find that he knows the worth of his old father. We shall each take our share of success, and go home satisfied.' Pleyel dedicated to Haydn his opera 2, six quartets 'in segno di perpetua gratitudine.' When Pleyel's first six string quartets, dedicated to his patron, Count Ladislaus Erdödy, appeared in Vienna, Mozart wrote to his father (April 24, 1784): 'Some quartets have come out by a certain Pleyel, a scholar of Jos. Haydn's. If you don't already know them, try to get them, it is worth your while. They are very well written, and very agreeable; you will soon get to know the author. It will be a happy thing for music if, when the time arrives, Pleyel should replace Haydn for us.' This wish was not destined to be fulfilled. In his later works Pleyel gave himself up to a vast quantity of mechanical writing, vexing Haydn by copying his style and manner without a trace of his spirit, and misleading the public into neglecting the works of both master and scholar, including many of Pleyel's own earlier compositions, which were written with taste and care, and deserve a better fate than oblivion.

Pleyel was emphatically an instrumental composer, and wrote an enormous number of symphonies, concertanti, and chamber pieces, of which a list will be found in Fétis, comprising 29 symphonies; 5 books of quintets; and 7 of quartets, some of them containing as many as 12 compositions each; 6 flute quartets; 4 books of trios; 8 concertos; 5 symphonies concertanti; 8 books of duets for strings; 10 books of sonatas for PF. solo, and 12 sonatas for PF. and violin. When in Italy he wrote an opera, 'Iphigenia in Aulide,' which was performed at Naples. A 'Hymn to Night,' probably a revolutionary piece, was published by André at Offenbach in 1797. A series of 12 Lieder, op. 47, was published at Hamburg by Günther and Böhme. It has never yet been mentioned that his introduction to the world as a vocal composer was with an opera for the Marionette theatre at Esterház in 1776, 'Die Fee Urgele,' containing a quantity of vocal pieces. A portrait of him, painted by H. Hardy and engraved by W. Nutter, was published by Bland during Pleyel's residence in London.

Camille, eldest son of the foregoing, born at Strassburg 1792 [App. p.749 "Dec. 18, 1788"], took over the music business in 1824, associating himself with Kalkbrenner for the pianoforte department. He had had a good musical education from his father and Dussek; he lived for some time in London, and published several pieces which evince considerable talent. He died at Paris May 4, 1855, leaving August Wolff at the head of the firm.

His wife, Marie Felicité Denise Moke [App. p.749 "or Mooke"], known as Madame Pleyel, was born at Paris, July 4, 1811, and at an early age developed an extraordinary gift for playing. Herz, Moscheles, and Kalkbrenner, were successively her masters, and she learnt much from hearing Thalberg; but her own unwearied industry was the secret of her success. Her tournées in Russia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, and England, were so many triumphal progresses, in which her fame continually increased. Mendelssohn in Leipzig, and Liszt at Vienna, were equally fascinated by her performances; Liszt led her to the piano, turned over for her, and played with her a duet by Herz. Not less marked was the admiration of Auber and Fétis, the latter pronouncing her the most perfect player he had ever heard. In this country she made her first appearance at the Philharmonic, June 27, 1846, in Weber's Concertstück. To Brussels she always felt an attraction, and in 1848 took the post of teacher of the PF. in the Conservatorium there, which she retained till 1872. Her pupils were numerous, and worthy of her remarkable ability. She died near Brussels, March 30, 1875. [App. p.749 "Berlioz in 1830 was violently in love with her, as an episode in his great passion for Miss Smithson; and her coolness after his departure for Rome nearly caused him to commit a frightful crime. See his Biography, chap. 34, and 'Lettres intimes,' xxvii–xxxiii. Also in M. Jullien's 'Hector Berlioz,' 1888."]