Novello, Vincent

1781-1861

 

Born in London in 1781; son of Giuseppe Novello, an Italian, and of an English woman. His first instruction in music was from a friend, Quellici, an Italian composer. With his brother Francis he later attended school at Huitmille, near Boulogne, and remained until France declared war against England in 1793, when he returned to London. Though but twelve years old he was made chorister at the Sardinian Chapel, Lincoln's Inn Fields, under the organist, Samuel Webbe. Later he assisted Webbe and also Dauby, the organist of the Spanish Chapel in Manchester Square. In 1797 he became organist of the Portuguese Chapel, Grosvenor Square. His organ performances here won him much commendation. George IV. was so attracted by his skill that he offered Novello a like position at Brighton Pavilion. Novello declined the offer, as his duties as conductor of musical societies and as teacher made his residence in London necessary.

 

In 1811 he founded the well-known music publishing house of Novello, Ewer & Company, of London, afterwards carried on by his son, Joseph Alfred. He also acted as pianist and conductor for the Italian Opera Company at the Pantheon during 1812, and the next year became one of the thirty original members of the Philharmonic Society, and frequently conducted their concerts. At the Festival at Westminster Abbey in 1834 he played the organ in The Creation. During his last years in London he was organist of the Roman Catholic Chapel in Moorfields; helped establish the Classical Harmonist and Choral Harmonists Societies, and acted for some time as conductor of both. For many years he had taught classes in piano-playing in Campbell's School, Brunswick Square, and in Hilbert's at Clapton, and also had a number of private pupils. As a composer he showed considerable musical knowledge and technical skill, but his work is not spontaneous and is that of the teacher rather than the artist. His cantata, Rosalba, was written for the Philharmonic Society. A glee, Old May Morning, gained for him a prize at Manchester in 1832, and his Infant's Prayer, a recitative and air, became very popular in boy choirs. He also composed a number of masses, motets and sacred pieces to Latin words. He is best known as an editor and arranger of music. He published a collection of Italian compositions, which he was allowed to copy from manuscript; eighteen of Mozart's and sixteen of Haydn's masses; PurceH's Sacred Music; Convent Music; Croft's, Green's and Boyce's anthems; Beethoven's and Hummel's masses. Novello had a fine literary taste, and such poets and writers as Shelley, Keats, Mary Lamb and Leigh Hunt were among the many famous friends who frequented the Novello home. He was married in 1808 to Mary Sabilla Hehl, of German-English parentage, and to them were born eleven children, several of whom became more or less eminent as writers or musicians. In 1848 Mrs. Novello went to Rome to benefit her health, and later to Nice, where in 1849 Novello joined her and remained the rest of his life. He died in 1861. A window in memory of him was placed in the north transept of Westminster Abbey in 1863.