Open main menu

Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/503

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

workshops having been established in London near the close of the last century, not long after those in Paris. The reputation of Erard's house is as much due to successful improvements in the harp as in the pianoforte, those of the harp being of like importance to the perfecting of the violin accomplished by the famous Cremona makers.

Sebastien Erard was born at Strassburg in 1752, and was early put to his father's handicraft of cabinet-maker. His father dying when he was sixteen he went to Paris and placed himself with a harpsichord-maker. He had soon the opportunity to display his practical ingenuity by the construction of a mechanical harpsichord, which was described by the Abbé Roussier in 1776. The Duchess of Villeroi took notice of him, and allotted to him a workshop in her own chateau, where, in 1777, he made the first pianoforte constructed in France. According to Fétis this was a square with two unisons and five octaves, similar to the English and German instruments that had been imported. He now established himself, with his brother Jean Baptiste, in the Rue de Bourbon. Their success exciting the jealousy of the Parisian musical instrument-makers known as Luthiers, and belonging to the Fan-makers' Guild, they used the power they possessed to seize Erard's workshops; Louis XVI, however, came to the aid of the brothers, and conferred upon Sebastien (A.D. 1785) a brevet permitting him to make 'forte-pianos' independent of the guild, but obliging him to employ workmen who had satisfied its regulations. (Rimbault, 'The Pianoforte,' 1860, p. 124.)

The French Revolution compelled Sebastien Erard to leave Paris, and we find him in London in 1794 taking out a patent for improvements in harps and pianofortes [App. p.629 "the establishment of the London house was not due to the French Revolution; Sebastien Erard had already begun business in London in 1786"]. He returned to Paris, after the Terror, in 1796, in which year he made his first grand piano, using the English action, which, Fétis informs us, he continued with until 1808. In 1809 he patented a repetition grand piano action, the first, and improvements in the construction of the harp, nearly completing that ingenious double action which was begun about 1786 and was perfected in 1810. A feature in the 1809 patent was the inverted bridge or upward bearing at the wrestplank bridge of the piano, since universally adopted. Advanced age made Sebastien leave to his nephew Pierre Erard (born 1796) the introduction of his perfected repetition action, the patent for which was taken out in London in 1821. Sebastien died in 1831. In 1835 the patent was extended to Pierre Erard for seven years on the plea of its great value and of the losses sustained in working it. The invention in 1838 of the Harmonic Bar is claimed for him (Dr. Oscar Paul, 'Geschichte des Claviers,' Leipzig, 1868). [See Pianoforte.]

Pierre Erard died at the Chateau de la Muette, Passy, near Paris, in 1855. His widow, Mme. Erard, succeeded him, and has maintained the high reputation of the house.

[ A. J. H. ]

ERBA, Don Dionigi, a much esteemed composer of Milan at the end of the 17th century. Like Marcello and Astorga he was of noble birth, and appears never to have filled any office. The title of Don given him by Quadrio, and that of 'Rd' mentioned below, show that he was in holy orders. In 1694 he took part with Valtellina in the composition of the opera of Arion, and in 1695 with Besozzi and Battestini in that of Artemio. But Erba's interest to us lies in the fact that he is not improbably the composer of a Magnificat for 3 choirs, from which Handel borrowed more or less closely for several pieces in the second part of Israel in Egypt. A complete copy of this work, entitled 'Magnificat. Del Rd Sgr. Erba,' is in the library of the Sacred Harmonic Society, and a partial one (ending in the middle of a sheet), in Handel's writing, without title or date, in Buckingham Palace. Opinions are divided as to whether it is an original composition of Handel's Italian time (1707–10), or of Erba. In favour of the former are Mr. Schœlcher and Professor Macfarren (Preface to Israel in Egypt for the S. H. S.). It is obvious that but for the existence of the MS. by Handel the question would never have been raised. The whole evidence is examined at great length and pains by Dr. Chrysander (Handel, i. 168–178), whose conclusion is strongly in favour of its being Erba's. He shows that the date of Handel's MS. is probably 1735–40 (Israel was 1738); that it has marks of being a copy and not an original composition; that the paper is not Italian, but the same with that used for his English works; and that the style of the music differs materially from Handel's style whether early or late. In addition it might be urged that it is extremely improbable that in a copy of a work of Handel's his powerful name would be displaced on the title in favour of the insignificant one of Erba.

The pieces in which the Magnificat is employed are, according to Mr. Macfarren, as follows:—

      The Lord is my strength.
      He is my God.
      The Lord is a man of war.
      The depths have covered them.
      Thy right hand, Lord.
      Thou sentest forth thy wrath.
      And with the blast.
      The earth swallowed them.
      Thou in Thy mercy.

[ G. ]

ERBACH, Christian, born about 1560 at Algesheim in the Palatinate. About 1600 he became organist to the Fuggers at Augsburg, and in 1628 was appointed 'Rathsherr' of the same city. His 'Modi sacri seu cantus musici vocibus 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 et pluribus, ad omne genus instrumenti musici accomodatis' was published in his lifetime at Augsburg. Bodenschatz's 'Florilegium Portense' and Schad's 'Promptuarium musices' (Strasburg) contain motets of his in 4, 6, and 8 parts. MS. compositions of his are in the cathedral library at Augsburg and in the Royal library at Berlin.

[ F. G. ]