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Litoff, Henry Charles

1818-1891

English pianist and composer, most of whose life was spent on the Continent. His father was an Alsatian by birth, and had been taken prisoner by the English in the Peninsular War. When peace was declared he settled in London as a violinist, married, and there Henry Charles was born. In 1831 Moscheles heard the boy play, and offered to teach him gratuitously.  His first public appearance was at Covent Garden when twelve years old. When only seventeen he married, against the wishes of his parents, and left the country to live in France. The marriage proved an unhappy one and he separated from his wife. He spent several years in travel, visiting Paris, Brussels, Leipsic, Prague, Dresden, Berlin and Amsterdam, playing successfully and gaining some reputation for his compositions. In 1851 he went to Brunswick, and married the widow of Meyer, a music-publisher. He carried on this business until 1860, when he turned it over to his step-son, Theodor, who, the next year, began the well-known "Collection Litoff," which was the first of cheap and accurate editions of classical music. Litoff went to Paris, and, after a divorce, married, for his third wife, a Comtesse de Larochefoucauld. He died at .Bois le Combes, near Paris. As a pianist he had taste, fire and brilliancy, but lacked accuracy. His compositions are not of equal merit, though they contain beautiful and poetic ideas. It is a disappontiment that he did not give forth the best of his powers. Of his works, about one hundred and fifteen have been published, and include operas, among them Les Templiers; a violin concerto; a short oratorio, Ruth and Boaz; and much chamber-music. His piano music is his best, including the well-known Spinnlied; overtures; and symphony concertos. Of the lastnamed, numbers three, four, and five are especially beautiful, containing a wealth of original ideas in harmony, melody, and rhythm, and their instrumentation is remarkable.