ERK, Ludwig Christian, born Jan. 6, 1807, at Wetzlar, where his father was cathedral organist; has rendered very important services to German popular music. He studied music under his father and André of Offenbach, receiving his general education from Spiess, a well-known teacher at Frankfort. Here he remained for some years enjoying the society of the best Darmstadt musicians. In 1826 he was appointed professor at the teachers' seminary at Moers on the Lower Rhine, and it was here that his connection with popular music began. He started musical festivals at Remscheidt, Ruhrort, Duisburg, and other small towns, which largely contributed to the taste for sacred and secular part-music. In 1836 he was appointed musical professor of the royal seminary at Berlin, and in the following year conductor of the newly-formed cathedral choir, which post, for want of proper support, he relinquished in 1840 in favour of Neithardt. In 1843 he founded a Männergesangverein, which still exists in Berlin, for the express purpose of singing Volkslieder. He himself states that, apart from the members of this choral society, he has given musical education to no less than 400 Prussian schoolmasters. While still at Moers he published some collections of Lieder harmonised by himself, and these now amount to forty, large and small—comprising chorals and other sacred and liturgical music—of which a list is given by Mendel. Among them the most important is his 'Deutscher Liederhort,' of which vol. i. contains modern 'Volkslieder,' and vol. ii., now in the press, those of the 13th–18th centuries. Jacob Grimm says of vol. i., 'Of all collections of our German Volkslieder this is the fullest and most trustworthy.' Erk still continues his useful and indefatigable researches on this subject. In 1857 he was appointed director of music. In the beginning of 1877 he resigned his post in the seminary at Berlin, and was succeeded by Dienel. [App. p.629 "date of death, Nov. 25, 1883"]
[ F. G. ]
ERNANI. Italian opera in 4 acts, by Verdi, founded on the Hernani of Victor Hugo; produced at Venice in March 1844. On its production at the Théâtre-Italien, Paris—Jan. 6, 1846—the libretto was altered in obedience to the wish of Victor Hugo. The personages were changed from Spaniards to Italians, and the name of the piece was altered to 'Il Proscritto.' In England Ernani was first played at Her Majesty's Theatre, March 8, 1845.
ERNST, Heinrich Wilhelm, celebrated violin-player, was born at Brünn in Moravia in 1814. As a pupil of the Vienna Conservatoriun he had Böhm for his master on the violin, and studied counterpoint and composition under Seyfried. He afterwards received instruction from Mayseder, and soon achieved great proficiency on his instrument. When sixteen he made his first tour and played with much success at Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfort. At that time Paganini was travelling in Germany, and Ernst, greatly fascinated by this extraordinary artist, followed him from town to town in order to become familiar with the peculiarities of his style and technique. Towards the end of 32 he went to Paris, and lived there for six years, studying and repeatedly playing in public. Between 1838 and 44 he travelled over a great part of Europe, meeting everywhere with enormous success. On his appearing in Leipzig Schumann greeted him with one of those genial criticisms which are so characteristic of him ('Gesammelte Schriften,' Jan. 14, 1840.) On April 15, 1844 he made his first appearance at the Philharmonic, after which he regularly came to London for the season and soon settled there entirely. After some years however his health began to fail, and he had to give up playing in public. He died at Nice October 8, 1865, after a painful and protracted illness. Ernst's playing was distinguished by great boldness in the execution of technical difficulties of the most hazardous character. At the same time his cantilène was full of deep feeling, and his tone had a peculiar charm. The warm impulsive nature of the man was reflected in his fiery passionate style. But it must not be supposed that he was a mere virtuoso. Ernst was a thorough musician, and although critics have found fault with his reading of classical music, on the other hand very competent judges have pronounced him to have been an excellent quartet-player.
As a composer he started with salon-pieces and brilliant fantasias, which have not much intrinsic merit, but are extremely effective and well written for the instrument, and mostly very difficult. The 'Elégie,' which has had a long run of popularity, is perhaps the best specimen of the first, the fantasias on airs from Rossini's Otello, and on Hungarian airs, of the second kind. The Concerto in F sharp minor (op. 23) deserves special notice. It is a composition of no mean order, equally distinguished by the nobility of its ideas and its skilful treatment of the orchestra. That it is seldom heard is due to its enormous technical difficulties, which even Ernst himself did not always succeed in mastering. This work may well justify the assumption that Ernst, had he lived, might have made some valuable additions to the literature of the violin. The best-known among his compositions for the violin are: Deux nocturnes, op. 1; Elégie, op. 10; Fantasia on airs from Rossini's Otello, op. 11; Concertino in D, op. 12; Polonaise de Concert, op. 17; Variations on Dutch airs, op. 18; Introduction, caprice, and finale, on airs from Il Pirata, op. 19; Rondo Papageno, op. 30; Fantasia on Le Prophète, op. 24; Hungarian airs, op. 22; Concerto pathétique in F♯ minor, op. 23. In conjunction with S. Heller he wrote a number of very pretty duets for piano and violin, which were published under the title of 'Pensées fugitives.' He also published an imitation of Paganini's once famous 'Carnaval de Venise.' He wrote two string quartets, in B♭ and A. The latter of these was his last work, and was played under Joachim's lead at the Monday Popular Concerts, June 6, 64.
[ P. D. ]