The 19th-century’s musical graveyard is littered with chipped and worn memorials to composers who were once considered the latest thing but have long since faded from memory. Henri Herz was just such a one.
Henri Herz in 1832 by Achille Devéria
Born in Vienna in 1803, Heinrich Herz was Jewish by birth but, sensitive to the inherent anti-Semitism of the times, he preferred to keep that on the low low. Indeed, he went so far as to ask that musical journalist François-Joseph Fétis didn’t mention it in the pages of his famous musical encyclopaedia.
Bu that time, Herz was a big name in Europe thanks to a relatively meteoric rise. Enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 13, he studied composition with Anton Reicha and won the Piano Prize in 1818. A series of international concert tours secured him a reputation as a consummate virtuoso, while a prolific composing career – his catalogue runs to well over 200 works, many of them charming, if occasionally forgettable – earned him money in the domestic market and praise in the salons of...