Bochsa, Robert Nicolas Charles


Celebrated harpist and dramatic composer. He was born in France, where his father, Karl Bochsa, a Bohemian musician, was a flute and clarinet player. His musical talent developed very early, so that at the age of seven he played a piano concerto in public. At nine he composed a duet and a symphony for the flute and at sixteen he wrote an opera, Trajan. His family having moved to Bordeaux, he studied composition for a year with the celebrated Franz Beck. During this time he wrote an oratorio, Le Deluge Universal; and a ballet. In 1806, having already become very proficient on the harp, piano, the violin and flute, Bochsa entered the Conservatory of Paris where he took up composition and harmony under Catel and Mehul. Later he studied the harp under Nadermann and Marin, but formed an entirely new style of his own and completely revolutionized harp-playing. In 1813, he became first harpist to the Emperor Napoleon and, in 1816, was appointed to the same position for Louis XVIII. In 1817, being detected in large forgeries, he fled to London and never returned to France. Bochsa popularized the harp in London and became a much sought for and fashionable teacher. In 1822, when the Academy of Music was established, he was made professor of the harp, but charges of misconduct were brought against him and in 1827, he was dismissed. From 1826 to 1832 he conducted the Italian Opera at the King's Theatre. In 1839, he eloped with Sir Henry Bishop's wife, with whom he made concert tours through Europe, America and Australia, where he died in Sidney, of dropsy.

Bochsa composed nine operas; four ballets; an oratorio, already mentioned; a Requiem Mass and several orchestral works; beside about one hundred and fifty works for the harp, consisting of concertos, symphonies, fantasias, sonatas and capriccios. He also wrote a Method for the Harp, which is still a standard. Bochsa is said to have been too prolific for his own fame as a musician and as a man he was very unreliable and dissipated.