Salomon, Johann Peter (DNB00)
SALOMON, WILLIAM (1745–1815), musician, was born at Bonn in the house (515 Bonngasse) where Beethoven was born twenty-five years later. He was baptised on 2 Feb. 1745. His father, himself a musician of small account, had him educated for the law; he attained some classical learning, and spoke four modern languages perfectly, accomplishments of the greatest service to him in after life. At the same time the boy distinguished himself in music, and about 1757 the elector of Cologne appointed him court musician, without regular pay, in the palace at Bonn. On 30 Aug. 1758 he was ordered 125 gulden. Leave of absence was refused in 1764; but on 1 Aug. 1765 he left the establishment with high testimonials, and, after touring as a violinist, was engaged as concertmeister (leader) by Prince Henry of Prussia. For the prince's French company at Rheinsberg several operettas were composed by Salomon, who also helped to make Haydn's works (then ‘music of the future’) better known and appreciated in north Germany. After some years the orchestra was discharged, upon which Salomon went to Paris, and thence to London. During this period he had often revisited Bonn, and won the affection of the child Beethoven. Salomon's first appearance in England was at Covent Garden on 23 March 1781; he led the orchestra and played a solo of his own composition. At once he became one of the principal London musicians, and his name constantly appears as soloist, leader (time-beating was not then practised), and occasionally as composer, during the next twenty years, both in London and the provinces. In 1786 Salomon began concert-giving on his own account, in opposition to the professional concerts, from which he had been excluded. In 1790 he went to the continent to engage opera-singers for the impresario Gallini. At Cologne he heard that Prince Esterhazy was dead, and Haydn free to travel. It was then arranged that Haydn should accompany Salomon to England, and Mozart should follow next year. During the spring of 1791 the famous ‘Salomon concerts’ were given at the Hanover Square rooms, and were so successful that, Mozart having died, Haydn remained for another year. Salomon again brought over Haydn in 1794. For these two visits Haydn composed his finest instrumental works, the ‘Twelve Grand [called in Germany the Salomon] Symphonies.’ In 1796 Salomon, when on a visit to Bath, recognised the talent of young John Braham, whom he brought to London; and his promising pupil, G. F. Pinto, aroused great expectations.
The world also owes Haydn's oratorios to Salomon, who suggested that Haydn should attempt work in this style, and procured him the libretto of the ‘Creation.’ The oratorio was published in 1800, and a copy was sent to Salomon, who paid 30l. 16s. postage; but was forestalled in his intention of producing it in public by John Ashley, who caused it to be performed on 28 March at Covent Garden. Salomon first gave it on 21 April in the concert room of the King's Theatre. Next year Salomon himself took Covent Garden, in partnership with Dr. Arnold, for the Lenten oratorio performances. From this time his name appears less frequently in concert programmes; but in 1813 he took a very active part in establishing the Philharmonic Society, and led the orchestra at the first concert. He afterwards planned an academy of music; but in the summer of 1815 a fall from his horse brought on dropsy, of which he died on 25 Nov., at his house, 70 Newman Street. He was buried (2 Dec.) in the south cloister of Westminster Abbey.
Of Salomon's compositions, now long forgotten, the most important was a spectacular opera, ‘Windsor Castle,’ composed for the Prince of Wales's wedding (8 April 1795). Burney (Hist. of Music, iv. 682) praises the ‘taste, refinement, and enthusiasm’ of Salomon's violin-playing; and the last quartets of Haydn (in which the first violin part is written very high) were especially intended to suit his style. The Stradivarius violin he used had been Corelli's. He bequeathed considerable property, although he was always generous to excess; he fortunately possessed a faithful and vigilant servant, who lived with him twenty-eight years, and saved him from ruining himself through liberality.
Salomon presented his portrait, by James Lonsdale [q. v.], to the museum at Bonn. Another is in the Music School collection, Oxford (cf. Bromley, Portraits, p. 412).[Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, iii. 220, iv. 727; Thayer's Beethoven's Leben, i. 31, 43, 104, 203; Pohl's Haydn und Mozart in London, ii. 73–85, 123, 314; Gent. Mag. December 1815, p. 569; the article ‘Salomon’ in Knight's Penny Cyclopædia; Morning Chronicle, 30 Nov. 1815; Times, 2 Dec. 1815. The account in the Georgian Era is untrustworthy as regards dates.]