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Mehul, Etienne Henri

MEHUL, ETIENNE HENRI (or ETIENNE NICOLAS) (1763- 1817), French composer, was born at Givet in Ardennes, on the 24th of June 1763. His father being too poor to give him a regular musical education, his first ideas of art were derived from a poor blind organist of Givet; yet such was his aptitude that, when ten years old, he was appointed organist of the convent of the Recollets. In ,1775 an able German musician and organist, Wilhelm Hauser, was engaged for the monastery of Lavaldieu, a few miles from Givet, and Mehul became his occasional pupil. In 1778 he was taken to Paris by a military officer, and placed himself under Edelmann, a good musician and harpsichord player. His first attempts at instrumental composition in 1781 did not succeed, and he therefore turned his attention to sacred and dramatic music. Gluck gave him advice in his studies. After various disappointments during his efforts for six years to obtain, at the Grand Opera, a representation of his Cora et Alonzo, he offered to the Opera Comique his Euphrosine et Coradin, which, being accepted and performed in 1790, at once fixed his reputation. His opera of Sir atonies. was also received with enthusiasm in 1792. After several unsuccessful operas, his Adrien appeared, and added much to his fame, which was further increased by his three best works, Le Jeune Henri, Uthal and Joseph, the finest of the series. Uthal was written for an orchestra without violins. Mehul held a post as one of the four inspectors of the Paris Conservatoire, but this office made him feel continually the insufficiency of his early studies, a want which he endeavoured to remedy by incessant application. Timoleon, Ariodanl and Bion followed. Epicure was composed by Mehul and Cherubini jointly; but the superiority of the latter was evident. Mehul's next opera, L'Irato, failed. After writing forty-two operas, besides a number of songs for the festivals of the republic, cantatas, and orchestral pieces of various kinds, his health gave way, from an affection of the chest, and he died on the 18th of October 1817 in Paris.

See Lives by Pougin (1889), Viellard (1859), and Quatremere de Quincey (1818).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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