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Pierson, Henry Hugo

PIERSON, HENRY HUGO [properly HENRY HUGH PEARSON], (i8rs-1873), English composer, was the son of the Rev. Dr Pearson of St John's College, Oxford, where he was born in 1815; his father afterwards became dean of Salisbury. Pierson was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, and was at first intended for the career of medicine. His musical powers were too strong to be repressed, and after receiving instruction from Attwood and A. T. Corfe he went in 1839 to Germany to study under C. H. Rink, Tomaschek and Reissiger. He was elected Reid Professor of Music in Edinburgh in 1844, but, owing to a disagreement with the authorities, he resigned in the following year, and definitely adopted Germany as his country about the same time, making the change in his names noted above. His two operas, Leila (Hamburg, 1848) and Conlarini (Hamburg, 1872), have not retained their hold upon the German public as his music to Faust has done, a work which until quite recently was frequently associated with Goethe's drama. He was never recognized in England as he was in Germany, for most of his career fell in the period of the Mendelssohn fashion. His most important work was the oratorio Jerusalem, produced at the Norwich Festival of 1852, and subsequently given in London (Sacred Harmonic Society, 1853) and Wurzburg (1862). For the Norwich Festival (at one of the meetings a selection from his Faust music was given with success) he began an oratorio, Hezekiah, in 1869; it was not finished, but was given in a fragmentary condition at the festival of that year. These two large works and a number of Pierson's songs, as well as the three overtures played at the Crystal Palace, reveal undeniable originality and a wealth of melodic ideas. He was weak in contrapuntal skill, and his music was wanting in outline and coherence; but in more fortunate conditions his great gifts might have been turned to better account. He died at Leipzig on the 28th of January 1873, and was buried at Sonning, Berks., of which parish his brother, Canon Pearson, was rector.

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

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