Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dubourg, Matthew

DUBOURG, MATTHEW (1703–1767), violinist, born in 1703, was the son of a famous dancing-master named Isaac. He learnt the violin at an early age, and first appeared at Thomas Britton's [q. v.] concerts, where he played a solo by Corelli, standing on a joint-stool. Tradition says he was so frightened that he nearly fell to the ground. When Geminiani came to England in 1714, Dubourg was put under him. Even at this time he must have been a remarkable performer, for on 7 April 1715 he played a solo on the stage at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre at a benefit performance, in the advertisement of which he is described as ‘the famous Matthew Dubourg, a youth of 12 years of age,’ and on the 28th of the same month he had a benefit concert of his own. In 1728 he succeeded Cousser as master of the viceroy of Ireland's band, the post having been previously refused by Geminiani. Dubourg went to Ireland, but his duties were not onerous, and he spent much of his time in England, where he taught both Frederick, prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cumberland. In his official position at Dublin he composed birthday odes and other ceremonial music, but none of his works have been printed. He led the orchestra for Handel on the latter's visit to Ireland in 1741, taking part in the first performance of the ‘Messiah;’ he also played at the Oratorio concerts at Covent Garden given by Handel in 1741 and 1742. It is said that on one occasion when Handel was conducting, Dubourg, ‘having a close to make ad libitum, wandered about so long in a fit of abstract modulation that he seemed uncertain of the original key. At length, however, he accomplished a safe arrival at the shake which was to terminate this long close, when Handel, to the great delight of the audience, cried out, loud enough to be heard in the most remote parts of the theatre, “Welcome home, welcome home, Mr. Dubourg!”’ On 3 March 1750–1 Dubourg was elected a member of the Royal Society of Musicians, and in 1752 he succeeded Festing as master of the king's band; but he still continued to retain his post at Dublin, where he was visited in 1761 by Geminiani, who died in his house. Dubourg died at London, 3 July 1767, and was buried in the churchyard of Paddington Church. The epitaph on his gravestone has been printed by Burney. As a violinist he was remarkable for his fire and energy, and it was noticed that his style differed materially from that of his master, Geminiani. Hawkins mentions a portrait of him when a boy, which hung in a Mrs. Martin's concert room, Sherborn Lane: this seems to have disappeared, though a miniature of him when a boy is now in the possession of his great-granddaughter. Burney says a portrait of him was in the possession of his daughter, Mrs. Redmond Simpson. A portrait of him by Van der Smissen is now in the possession of his great-grandson, Mr. A. W. Dubourg.

[Dubourg's Hist. of the Violin, ed. 1836, p. 184; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, v. 76, 362–3; Burney's Hist. of Music, iv. 645; Records of the Royal Society of Musicians; Egerton MS. 2159, 51; newspapers for 1715; Schœlcher's Life of Handel; information from Mr. A. W. Dubourg.]

W. B. S.