A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Reber, Napoléon-Henri

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REBER, Napoléon-Henri, born at Mulhausen, Oct. 21, 1807; at 20 entered the Conservatoire, studying counterpoint and fugue under Seuriot and Jelensperger, and composition under Lesueur. His simple manners and refined tastes, high sense of honour, and cultivated mind, gave him the entrée to salons where the conversation turned on art and intellectual subjects, instead of on the commonplaces of ordinary circles. This led him to compose much chamber-music, and to set poems by the best French poets of the period. The success of these elegant and graceful works induced him to attempt symphony and opera. His music to the 2nd act of the charming ballet 'Le Diable amoureux' (Sept. 23, 1840) excited considerable attention, and was followed at the Opéra-Comique by 'La Nuit de Noël,' 3 acts (Feb. 9, 1848), 'Le Père Gaillard,' 3 acts (Sept. 7, 1852), 'Les Papillotes de M. Benoit,' 1 act (Dec. 28, 1853), and 'Les Dames Capitaines' 3 acts (June 3, 1857). In these works he strove to counteract the tendency towards noise and bombast then so prevalent both in French and Italian opera, and to show how much may be made out of the simple natural materials of the old French opéra-comique by the judicious use of modern orchestration.

In 1851 he was appointed Professor of harmony at the Conservatoire, and in 1853 the well-merited success of 'Le Père Gaillard' procured his election to the Institut as Onslow's successor. Soon after this he renounced the theatre, and returned to chamber-music. He also began to write on music, and his 'Traité d'Harmonie' (1862), now in its 3rd edition, is without comparison the best work of its kind in France. The outline is simple and methodical, the classification of the chords easy to follow and well-connected, the explanations luminously clear, the exercises practical and well calculated to develop musical taste—in a word, everything combines to make it the safest and most valuable of instruction-books. The second part especially, dealing with 'accidental' notes or, notes foreign to the constitution of chords contains novel views, and observations throwing light upon points and rules of harmony which before were obscure and confused.

In 1862 M. Reber succeeded Halevy as Professor of composition at the Conservatoire; since 1871 he was also Inspector of the succursales or branches of the Conservatoire. He died in Paris, after a short illness, Nov. 24, 1880, and was succeeded as Professor by M. Saint-Saëns.

His compositions comprise 4 symphonies, a quintet and 3 quartets for strings, 1 PF. ditto, 7 trios, duets for PF. and violin, and PF. pieces for 2 and 4 hands. Portions of his ballet 'Le Diable amoureux ' have been published for orchestra, and are performed at concerts. In 1875 he produced a cantata called 'Roland,' but 'Le Ménêtrier à la cour,' opéra-comique, and 'Naïm,' grand opera in 5 acts, have never been jerfonned, though the overtures are engraved. His best vocal works are his melodies for a single voice, but he has composed choruses for 3 and 4 men's voices, and some sacred pieces.

There is an admirable portrait of this distinguished composer by Henri Lehmann.

[ G. C. ]