A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Duport

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DUPORT. Two eminent cellists, brothers.

1. Jean Pierre—'Duport l'ainé'—born at Paris, Nov. 27, 1741. Considered the best pupil of Berthaut. Soon achieved a great reputation in Paris, but after 10 years of success started on a lengthened tour through England and Spain, and finally in 1773, on the invitation of Frederick the Great, settled at Berlin as first cello in the king's band, and after Frederick's death director of Court concerts. After the battle of Jena, his post was abolished, but he continued to live at Berlin till his death in 1818 [App. p.619 "Dec. 31"]. His publications are few and unimportant.

2. He was eclipsed by his brother, Jean Louis, also born at Paris, Oct. 4, 1749. His fame, like his brother's, came early [App. p.619 "he made his début at the Concert Spirituel in 1768"], but it was the arrival of Viotti in Paris (1782) that inspired him to imitate the breadth and brilliancy of style of that great violinist, and thus to become the extraordinary player he was. About this time he made the acquaintance of Crosdill, and at his invitation visited London for six months. On the breaking out of the Revolution he joined his brother in Berlin, and entered the king's band. At that time he had the reputation of being one of the first cello players of the day, and was much visited and sought after. He had not the force and execution of Romberg, but in tone and style was unrivalled. It was either with him or his brother—probably with him—that Beethoven played his two sonatas for piano and cello (op. 5) at the Prussian Court in 1796. Duport returned to Paris in 1806 ruined by the war. Though his playing was as fine as it had ever been, he had great difficulty in obtaining employment. He entered the service of the ex-King of Spain at Marseilles, but returned to Paris in 1812. At length fortune smiled on him, he was admitted into the private band of Marie Louise, then into that of the Emperor, and at length as professor into the Conservatoire. In the evening of his life he composed a great deal, but the work by which he will survive is his 'Essai sur le doigter du violoncello et la conduite de l'archet, avec une suite d'exercises.' A sentence from this work exhibits the modesty of a great artist. 'Tout le monde connoît le coup d'archet martelé ou staccato; c'est une affaire de tacte et d'addresse. Il y a des personnes qui le saisissent tout de suite, d'autres ne parviennent jamais à le faire parfaitement. Je suis du nombre ' (p. 171). His cello became the property of Franchomme, who purchased it for the enormous sum of 25,000 francs (£1,000). He died at Paris 1819 [App. p.619 "Sept. 7"].

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