Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/137
et me'thodique pour la fete de Noel' (1787). Lesueur's rejoinder was another pamphlet, ' Ex- pose" d'une musirpie une, imitative et particuliere a chaque solennite' (Paris, Herissant, 1787), in which he gives a detailed sketch of an appro- priate musical service for Christmas, and states expressly that his aim was to make sacred music 'dramatic and descriptive.' Meantime the chapter, finding that his projects had involved them in heavy expense, curtailed the orchestra, while at the same time strong pressure was put upon him by the Archbishop to take orders. He willingly assumed the title of Abbe", but declined the priesthood, especially as he was composing an opera, 'Tele'maque,' which he was anxious to produce. Finding his reduced orchestra inade- quate for his masses he resigned, upon which an infamous libel was issued, accusing him, the most upright of men, of having been dismissed for fraud. Completely worn out, he retired in the autumn of 1788 to the country house of a friend, and here he passed nearly four years of repose and happiness. On the death of his friend in 1792 he returned to Paris invigorated and refreshed in mind, and composed a series of 3-act operas 'La Caverne' (Feb. 15, 1793), 'Paul et Virginie' (Jan. 13, 1794), and 'Telemaque' (May ii, 1796), all produced at the Feydeau. The brilliant success of ' La Caverne ' procured his appointment as professor in the ' Ecole de la Garde Nationale' (Nov. 21, 1793), and he was also nominated one of the inspectors of instruction at the Conservatoire from its foundation in 1795. In this capacity he took part with Me"hul, Gossec, Catel, and Langle", in drawing up the ' Principes e'le'mentaires de musique ' and the ' Solfeges du Conservatoire.' He was then looking forward to the production of two operas which had been accepted by the Acade"mie ; and when these were set aside in favour of Catel's ' Semiramis ' his indignation knew no bounds, and he vehemently attacked not only his colleague, but the director of the Conservatoire, Catel's avowed patron. His pamphlet, 'Projet d'un plan general de 1'instruc- tion musicale en France ' (Paris, an IX, anony- mous), raised a storm, and Lesueur received his dismissal from the Conservatoire on Sept. 23, 1802. Having a family to support, the loss of his salary crippled him severely, and he was only saved from utter indigence by his appoint- ment in March 1804 as maltre de chapelle to the First Consul, on the recommendation of Paisiello, who retired on account of his health. As the occupant of the post most coveted by musicians in France, Lesueur had no difficulty in securing the representation of ' Ossian, ou les Bardes' (5 acts, July 10, 1804). The piece inaugurated the new title of the theatre as 'Acade'mie Imperiale." Its success was extra- ordinary, and the Emperor, an ardent admirer of Celtic poems, rewarded the composer with the Legion of Honour, and presented him with a gold snuff-box inscribed ' L'Empereur des Francjais &> 1'auteur des Bardes,' intended also as an acknow- ledgement for a Te Deum and a mass performed at Notre Dame on the occasion of his coronation
��(Dec. 2, 1804). During the next five .years Lesueur undertook no work of greater import- ance than a share in Persuis's intermede ' L'ln- auguration du Temple de la Victoire' (Jan. 2, 1807), and in the same composer's 3-act opera 'Le Triomphe de Trajan' (Oct. 23, 1807), con- taining the well-known 'marche solennelle'; but on March 21, 1809, he produced 'La Mort d'Adam et son Apotheose' in 3 acts the ori- ginal cause of his quarrel with the manage- ment of the Acade'mie and the Conservatoire. The scenery and decorations of the new opera excited the greatest admiration ; when compli- mented on his work, Degotti the scene-painter replied quite seriously, ' Yes, it certainly is the most beautiful paradise you ever saw in your life, or ever will see.'
In 1813 Lesueur succeeded Gre"try at the Institut; and after the Restoration became, in spite of his long veneration for Napoleon, sur- intendant and composer of the chapel of Louis XVIII. On January i, 1818, he was appointed professor of composition at the Conservatoire, a post which he retained till his death. His lectures were largely attended, and very inter- esting from the brilliant remarks with which he interspersed them. Of his pupils no less than 12 gained the 'prix de Rome' namely, Bourgeois, Ermel, Paris, Guiraud, Hector Ber- lioz, Eugene Prevost, Ambroise Thomas (whom he called his ' note sensible,' or leading note, on account of his extreme nervousness), Elwart, Ernest Boulanger, Besozzi, Xavier Boisselot (who married one of his three daughters), and, last but not least, Gounod. Lesueur also wrote 'Notice sur la Melop^e, la Rhythmope'e et les grands caracteres de la musique ancienne,' pub- lished with Gail's French translation of Anacreon (Paris, 1793). Ancient Greek music was a favourite subject with him, and he would with perfect seriousness expound how one mode tended to licence, and another to virtue ; unfortunately however some wag in the class would occasionally mislead his ear by inverting the order of succes- sion in the chords, and thus betray him into taking the licentious for the virtuous mode, and vice versa. 1
Lesueur died in Paris on Oct. 6, 1837, at a patriarchal age, and in universal respect; even Berlioz loved and honoured him to the last (see chapters vi. and xx. of his M6moires). He left 3 operas which had never been performed, ' Tyrte'e,' 3 acts, composed in 1 794 ; ' Artaxerce,' 3 acts, accepted by the Ope"ra in 1801 ; and ' Alexandre k Baby lone,' of which the score hag been engraved, and considerable portions per- formed at the Conservatoire concerts. Of his numerous oratorios, masses, motets, etc., the fol- lowing have been published: 'L' Oratorio ou Messe de Noel'; 3 messes solennelles ; a low mass with 'Domine Salvum'; 3 'Oratorios pour la couronnement des princes souverains'; 3 Te Deums; 2 'Oratorios de la Passion'; 2 'Domine Salvum'; i Stabat; the oratorios 'Debora,'
i This Is said to have been a favourite amusement with Gounod aj- a buy.
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