Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Latrobe, Christian Ignatius

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LATROBE, CHRISTIAN IGNATIUS (1758–1836), musical composer, eldest son of the Rev. Benjamin Latrobe, a prominent Moravian minister, was born at Fulneck, near Leeds, 12 Feb. 1758. The family is said to have been of Huguenot extraction, and to have originally settled in Ireland, coming over there with William of Orange. In 1771 Christian went to Niesky, Upper Lusatia, for study at the Moravian college there, and after completing his course was appointed teacher in the pedagogium or high school. He returned to England in 1784, was ordained, and in 1787 became secretary to the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel. In 1795 he succeeded James Hutton [q. v.] as secretary of the Unity of the Brethren in England, and at the Herrnhut synod of 1801 was appointed a 'senior civilis,' an office of the ancient brethren's church which he was the last to hold. As an advocate of the missions of his church he laboured at home with great zeal, and in 1815–16 undertook a visitation in South Africa, an account of which he published under the title of 'Journal of a Voyage to South Africa' (London, 1818). Besides this work and a translation of Loskiel's 'History of the Missions among the Indians in North America,' Latrobe wrote an account of the voyage of the brethren Kohlmeister and Kmoch to Ungava Bay, and published 'Letters on the Nicobar Islands' (London, 1812). 'Letters to my Children,' a pleasant little volume, was issued in 1851 by his son, John Antes Latrobe.

Latrobe possessed some musical talent and composed a large number of anthems, chorales, &c., of no little excellence. His first works were chiefly instrumental; three sonatas for pianoforte which Haydn had commended were published and dedicated to him. His other printed compositions include a setting for four voices of Lord Roscommon's version of the 'Dies Iræ' (1799); 'Anthem for the Jubilee of George III' (1809); 'Original Anthems for 1, 2, or more voices' (1823); 'Te Deum performed in York Cathedral;' 'Miserere, Ps. 51;' and 'Six Airs on Serious Subjects, words by Cowper and Hannah More.' He was editor of the first English edition of the 'Moravian Hymn Tune Book.' The work for which he is chiefly remembered is a 'Selection of Sacred Music from the Works of the most eminent Composers of Germany and Italy' (6 vols. 1806–25). By means of this publication, the detailed contents of which are printed in Grove's 'Dictionary of Music,' Latrobe first introduced a large number of the best modern compositions to the notice of the British public. He died at Fairfield, near Liverpool, 6 May 1836. His sons, John Antes and Charles Joseph, are separately noticed.

[Brief Notices of the Latrobe Family, London, privately printed, 1864 (a translation of article, ‘revised by members of the family,’ in the Brueder-Bote, November 1864, a periodical published in the German province of the brethren's church); Grove's Dict. of Music, ii. 102; Musical Times, September 1851; private information; Holmes's Hist. of Protestant Church of United Brethren, 2 vols. London, 1825.]

J. C. H.