Barnett, John


Noted English dramatic composer, vocal teacher and song-writer. Although he was born in England, his mother was a Hungarian and his father a Prussian, belonging to the same family as Meyerbeer, whose name Bernhard Beer was changed to Barnett Barnett, when he settled in England. The son showed unusual musical abilty very  early and on account of his fine voice, was placed, at the age of eleven, under the care of F. J. Arnold, proprietor of the Lyceum, who provided him musical instruction in return for his services as a singer. While under Arnold he composed 3 mass and some light pieces, one of which, The Groves of Pomona, was published and favorably spoken of. After finishing with Arnold, he studied the piano and harmony with Perez Ries. His first dramatic composition was the musical farce, Before Breakfast, produced at the Lyceum, in 1825, and which was highly successful. In 1832, Barnett became music-director of the Olympic Theatre, for which he wrote a large number of musical dramas. In 1834 he published a fine collection of beautiful songs, called Lyrical Illustrations of the Poets, and a little later, Songs of the Minstrels and Amusement for Leisure Hours. In this same year, one of his best works, an opera, The Mountain Sylph, was produced at the Lyceum with the greatest success. After spending some time in Paris, Barnett returned to London and brought out his opera, Fair Rosamond, which was not successful, though containing much beautiful music. He was married in 1837 and went with his wife to Frankfort, to study harmony and composition. A symphony and two quartets, which have never been published, were written while in Frankfort. In 1838 he returned to London, where, in .1839, he produced his opera, Farinelli, which is probably his best work. At this time he joined Morris Barnett in an attempt to found an English Opera House but the venture was not a success. Barnett settled at Cheltenham, in 1841, as a vocal teacher and built up a large business. In the latter part of his life he spent some years in Germany and Italy for the purpose of educating his children, but he died in England in 1890. Beside the works already mentioned Barnett wrote about twenty dramatic musical pieces; five operas; an oratorio, The Omnipresence of the Deity; also two unfinished oratorios; a symphony; two string quartets; and about four thousand songs. While at Cheltenham, he published a pamphlet called, Systems and Singing Masters, and also a School for the Voice. The production of his opera, The Mountain Sylph, is said to have been the commencement of an English dramatic school of music.