1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hiller, Ferdinand

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6886911911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 13 — Hiller, Ferdinand

HILLER, FERDINAND (1811–1885), German composer, was born at Frankfort-on-Main, on the 24th of October 1811. His first master was Aloys Schmitt, and when he was ten years of age his compositions and talent led his father, a well-to-do man, to send him to Hummel in Weimar. There he devoted himself to composition, among his work being the entr’actes to Maria Stuart, through which he made Goethe’s acquaintance. Under Hummel, Hiller made great strides as a pianist, so much so that early in 1827 he went on a tour to Vienna, where he met Beethoven and produced his first quartet. After a brief visit home Hiller went to Paris in 1829, where he lived till 1836. His father’s death necessitated his return to Frankfort for a time, but on the 8th of January 1839 he produced at Milan his opera La Romilda, and began to write his oratorio Die Zerstörung Jerusalems, one of his best works. Then he went to Leipzig, to his friend Mendelssohn, where in 1843–1844 he conducted a number of the Gewandhaus concerts and produced his oratorio. After a further visit to Italy to study sacred music, Hiller produced two operas, Ein Traum and Conradin, at Dresden in 1845 and 1847 respectively; he went as conductor to Düsseldorf in 1847 and Cologne in 1850, and conducted at the Opéra Italien in Paris in 1851 and 1852. At Cologne he became a power as conductor of the Gürzenich concerts and head of the Conservatorium. In 1884 he retired, and died on the 12th of May in the following year. Hiller frequently visited England. He composed a work for the opening of the Royal Albert Hall, his Nala and Damayanti was performed at Birmingham, and he gave a series of pianoforte recitals of his own compositions at the Hanover Square Rooms in 1871. He had a perfect mastery over technique and form in musical composition, but his works are generally dry. He was a sound pianist and teacher, and occasionally a brilliant writer on musical matters. His compositions, numbering about two hundred, include six operas, two oratorios, six or seven cantatas, much chamber music and a once-popular pianoforte concerto.