Cornelius, Peter


A dramatic composer and one of the principal members of the new German school of music. He was born at Mayence, and was a nephew of the painter Peter von Cornelius. He first took up the profession of an actor, but after an unsuccessful debut on the stage he turned to music, studying counterpoint with Dehn at Berlin, from 1845 to 1852, and then joined Liszt's following of young artists in Weimar, who were the champions of Wagner and his ideas. The failure of Cornelius' opera, The Barber of Bagdad, produced at Weimar in 1858, so disgusted Liszt with the public's judgment that he left Weimar, and so influenced other musicians that it ceased to be the center of the school. This opera of Cornelius' met with much success at Dresden about 1886, also later at Hamburg and other cities in Germany. Its composer went to Wagner, at Vienna, in 1859, and followed him to Munich in 1865, where he was appointed reader to King Ludwg II. and professor of harmony and rhetoric at the Royal Music School. A second opera, The Cid, was produced at Weimar in 1865; a third, Gunlod, in which he took the subject from the legends of the Edda, remained unfinished and was completed long after the death of Cornelius by Lassen and produced at Strasburg. Cornelius wrote and published numerous song cycles, and other pieces of music which had considerable vogue. He also wrote the librettos of his operas, translated many works, and many of his pieces were settings for his own poems. He left three books consisting of eleven songs and four duets, which were published in 1898.