1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fétis, François Joseph

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21700241911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 10 — Fétis, François Joseph

FÉTIS, FRANÇOIS JOSEPH (1784–1871), Belgian composer and writer on music, was born at Mons in Belgium on the 25th of March 1784, and was trained as a musician by his father, who followed the same calling. His talent for composition manifested itself at the age of seven, and at nine years old he was an organist at Sainte-Waudru. In 1800 he went to Paris and completed his studies at the conservatoire under such masters as Boieldieu, Rey and Pradher. In 1806 he undertook the revision of the Roman liturgical chants in the hope of discovering and establishing their original form. In this year he married the granddaughter of the Chevalier de Kéralio, and also began his Biographie universelle des musiciens, the most important of his works, which did not appear until 1834. In 1821 he was appointed professor at the conservatoire. In 1827 he founded the Revue musicale, the first serious paper in France devoted exclusively to musical matters. Fétis remained in the French capital till in 1833, at the request of Leopold I., he became director of the conservatoire of Brussels and the king’s chapel-master. He also was the founder, and, till his death, the conductor of the celebrated concerts attached to the conservatoire of Brussels, and he inaugurated a free series of lectures on musical history and philosophy. He produced a large quantity of original compositions, from the opera and the oratorio down to the simple chanson. But all these are doomed to oblivion. Although not without traces of scholarship and technical ability, they show total absence of genius. More important are his writings on music. They are partly historical, such as the Curiosités historiques de la musique (Paris, 1850), and the Histoire universelle de musique (Paris, 1869–1876); partly theoretical, such as the Méthode des méthodes de piano (Paris, 1837), written in conjunction with Moscheles. Fétis died at Brussels on the 26th of March 1871. His valuable library was purchased by the Belgian government and presented to the Brussels conservatoire. His work as a musical historian was prodigious in quantity, and, in spite of many inaccuracies and some prejudice revealed in it, there can be no question as to its value for the student.