Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Julien, Louis Antoine
JULIEN or JULLIEN, LOUIS ANTOINE (1812–1860), musical conductor, the son of a military bandsman, was born on 23 April 1812 at Sisteron in the Basses-Alpes. He was brought up in barracks, was instructed in music by his father, and was admitted to the band as piccolo-player. From 1833 to 1836 he was a pupil of Lecarpentier and Halévy at the Paris Conservatoire, but instead of applying himself to serious study occupied himself with composing dance music. In 1836 he persuaded the manager of the Jardin Turc to allow him to direct some concerts of dance music. His skill as an advertiser combined with the quality of his music to attract large and fashionable crowds. His adaptation as quadrilles of Meyerbeer's ‘Huguenots,’ then new and very popular, was heralded in bombastic paragraphs, and was especially successful. Soon known in Paris as the Napoleon of music, he directed with much success the music at the Casino Paganini, Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin, till his debts drove him to England. Here he made his first appearance, on 8 June 1840, as conductor, with Eliason, of shilling concerts d'été at Drury Lane Theatre, with an orchestra of ninety-eight and chorus of twenty-six (Grove). He became popular at once, and his concerts d'hiver (1841) and concerts de société at the English Opera House (1842) were thronged. His winter series of concerts, beginning on 2 Dec., at the same house, continued annually until 1859.
Julien by his mannerisms drew upon himself considerable ridicule in the pages of ‘Punch,’ where he was always called ‘The Great Mons,’ and elsewhere. He would conduct Beethoven's symphonies with a jewelled bâton, and wearing a new pair of white gloves, presented to him on a silver salver; but he produced much good music, and gradually educated the taste of his vast audiences by fine performances of symphonies and overtures by Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn, Rossini's ‘Stabat Mater,’ and David's ‘Le Désert.’ At the same time he humoured his patrons with his military quadrilles and similar displays; but during his twenty years' musical reign he employed the best talent available. Artists of the calibre of Ernst, Bottesini, Sainton, Hallé, Sims Reeves, and, in his orchestra, Lazarus, Viotti Collins, Pratten, Harper, Hughes, were encouraged, and, in some cases, discovered by him. As a conductor he ranks very high. ‘He was full of tricks,’ writes one of his performers, ‘but to his orchestra they meant something easily understood, and one felt it was impossible to go wrong’ (British Bandsman, August 1890).
Julien organised a good company for the performance of English opera in London in 1847, and opened a season at Drury Lane on 6 Dec. with the ‘Bride of Lammermoor.’ Berlioz conducted, and Mr. Sims Reeves then made his début in opera in England. The outlay was very large, and the resources of the impresario could not long bear the strain. A shop which he had opened for the sale of his music, first in Maddox Street and then in Regent Street, was sold, realising 8,000l., but this did not meet the demands of creditors, and Julien was declared bankrupt 21 April 1848. Nevertheless, in June and July 1849 monster concerts were given—two at Exeter Hall, and one at the Surrey Zoological Gardens—with four hundred instrumentalists, three distinct choruses, and three distinct military bands.
Shortly afterwards Julien applied to Fétis for lessons in composition, and though a regular course of instruction was out of the question, he received advice and practical suggestions in the construction of an opera by himself, which he entitled ‘Pietro il Grande.’ The score when completed was rejected on all sides, but Julien, nothing daunted, leased Covent Garden Theatre, and produced his work on 17 Aug. 1852. It met with no success, and its production cost him about 16,000l.
In July 1853 he started for America, and gave his first concert at Castle Garden, New York, on 27 Aug. (a list of the musicians who accompanied him is in the Musical World, xxxi. 476). He returned to this country in June 1854. On the burning of Covent Garden Theatre (5 March 1856) the whole of Julien's manuscript works were destroyed; in 1857 he lost large sums by the failure of the Surrey Gardens Concert Hall; but he still conducted oratorios and concerts, and commenced farewell concerts at the Lyceum and in the provinces. His profits enabled him to buy some property near Brussels. But, still in debt, he was arrested in Paris, May 1859, and imprisoned at Clichy for several months. In February of the following year his reason gave way, and he died in a lunatic asylum at Neuilly on 14 March 1860.
Among Julien's popular compilations are: quadrilles, ‘Comte de Paris,’ London, 1840; ‘Mariage de Prince Albert,’ 1840; ‘Avon,’ 1842; ‘Real Scotch,’ 1854; ‘British Army,’ 1846; ‘British Navy,’ 1846; ‘American,’ 1853; ‘Fall of Sebastopol,’ 1855; ‘Butterfly Waltz,’ 1844; ‘Nightingale Waltzes,’ 1846; ‘Drum Polka,’ 1850; ‘Alma,’ 1854; ‘Assault Galop,’ 1855; ‘Havelock March,’ 1857.
[Grove's Dict. of Music, ii. 44; Fétis's Biographie Universelle, iv. 454; Musical World, xxxi. 307, xxxviii. 173, 186, 207, 216, 559; Berlioz's Correspondance inédite; Beale's Light of Other Days, i. 62, 78, 215–38.]