Jullien, Louis Antoine


A popular but eccentric conductor. His father was a band-master in the Pope's body-guard. Louis was born near Sisteron in the French Alps and spent his early years there. He learned some French and Italian songs from his father and was presented at concerts but lost his voice when he was only five and returned to Sisteron to study the violin. He soon became proficient and toured Italy with his father, being well received everywhere. While at Marseilles both father and son entered the navy and were present at the battle of Navarino. On his return Louis became a soldier. On his discharge he went to Paris, where he entered the conservatory in Halevy's and Le Carpentier's classes. In 1836 he obtained the position of director to the Jardin Turc, where his dance-music concerts became the rage. Encouraged by his success he established a musical periodical which failed and the debts which he incurred forced him to go to London in 1838. There in 1840 he began his immensely popular Promenade concerts at Drury Lane and the Lyceum. His policy was to please and at the same time to educate the public. He engaged large bands of excellent musicians, and selected the attractive music, gradually adding more and more of the works of the great masters as he cultivated the taste of his audiences. He came to America in 1853, conducting at Castle Garden, New York. His was the first large orchestra that this country had ever known, and to the enthusiasm which he then created is due no small part of the progress of orchestral work here. The band which he brought with him numbered about a hundred members, among them the great contrabass, Bottesini; the clarinettist, Wuille; Hughes, the famous ophicleidist, and the coronetist Konig. It is interesting to note that Theodore Thomas, then a boy, played with Jullien.

Jullien's ambition caused his ultimate ruin. He undertook to establish an English opera in London, renting the Drury Lane Theatre in 1847, producing Lucia; the Maid of Honor; Linda; and Figaro, with Gye as manager, Berlioz as conductor, and Sir Henry Bishop as inspector of rehearsals. So great were the expenses and so small the receipts that even the sale of his music shop could not prevent bankruptcy. He gave concerts at Surrey Gardens and later conducted oratorios without much success. In 1852 he wrote an opera, Pietro il Grande, and presented it at his own expense at Covent Garden. Its failure involved his affairs more deeply. When he returned from America he lost all his music in the Covent Garden Theatre fire in 1856, and his Farewell concerts, given in London and the provinces, did not mend his lost fortune. He went back to Paris, but was arrested and thrown into the debtor's prison. He was soon released, but as he attempted to commit suicide, was taken to the  insane asylum, and very shortly died. His compositions are chiefly dancemusic, among them the popular British Army and Navy Quadrilles; Havelock's March; and Nightingale Waltzes. Monsieur Jullien introduced Dorus Gras, Fannie Persian!, Anna Thellon and Sim Reeves to the English public, and Ernst, Pischek, Sainton, Sivori, Vivier, Vieuxtemps, Wieniawski and other celebrated performers played at his concerts. As a conductor he was the subject of much ridicule, and has been criticized as over-emotional and too fond of noisy effects, yet his very popularity proves that he possessed considerable worth.