A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Herz, Heinrich

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HERZ, Heinrich, born at Vienna Jan. 6, 1806, son of a musician who, anxious to turn his early talent for the piano to the best account, wisely entered him in 1816 at the Conservatoire at Paris under Pradher. He carried off the prize for pianoforte-playing in his first year, and thenceforward his career was continually successful. He became virtually a Parisian, and was known as Henri Herz. In 1821 Moscheles visited Paris, and though there is no mention of Herz in that part of hia Journal, yet we have Herz's own testimony[1] that Moscheles had much influence in the improvement of his style. For the next ten years he enjoyed an immense reputation in Paris both aa a writer and a teacher, and his compositions are said to have fetched 3 or 4 times the prices of those of much better composers. In 1831 he made a tour in Germany with Lafont, but to judge from the notices in the Allg. Zeitung Lafont made the better impression of the two. In 1833 he made his first visit to London, played at the Philharmonic on June 10, and gave a concert of his own, at which he played duets with Moscheles and with J. B. Cramer. In 1842 he was made Professor of the Pianoforte in the Conservatoire. He returned the following year, appeared again at the Philharmonic May 5, and took a long tour, embracing Edinburgh and Dublin. About this time he was tempted to join a pianoforte-maker in Paris named Klepfa, but the speculation was not successful, and Herz lost much money. He then established a factory of his own, and to repair his losses and to obtain the necessary capital for this made a journey through the United States, Mexico, California, and the West Indies, which lasted from 1845 till 1851, and of which he has himself written an account ('Mes voyages,' etc., Paris 1866). He then devoted himself to the making of pianos, and at the Exposition of 1855 his instruments obtained the highest medal, and they now take rank with those of Pleyel and Erard. In 1874 he relinquished his Chair at the Conservatoire. [App. p.672 "date of death, Jan. 5, 1888."]

Herz has left 8 concertos for P.F. and orchestra, and other compositions for his instrument in every recognised form, reaching to more than 200 in number, and including an immense number of Variations. His Etudes and his P.F. Méthode are the only things out of this mass that are at all likely to survive their author. His brilliancy and bravura and power of execution were prodigious, but they were not supported by any more solid qualities, as in the case of Thalberg, Liszt, Tausig, Bülow, and other great executants. Herz found out what his public liked and what would pay, and this he gave them. 'Is Herz prejudiced,' says Mendelssohn,[2] 'when he says the Parisians can understand and appreciate nothing but variations?'

Schumann was never tired of making fun of his pretensions and his pieces. His Gesammelte Schriften contain many reviews, all couched in the same bantering style. In fact Herz was the Gelinek of his day, and like that once renowned and popular Abbé is doomed to rapid oblivion.

[ G. ]

  1. In Fétis's Biographie.
  2. 'Goethe und Mendelssohn.' p. 48.