William H. Grattan Flood
Chapter XXVIII

MUCH as I should like to dwell on the musical doings of the nineteenth century, the time is hardly ripe to form an unprejudiced judgment, and therefore I shall merely touch on the more important composers, namely, Field, Cooke, O'Rourke, Wade, Balfe, Wallace, Osborne, Stewart, Holmes, and Stanford.[1]

John Field, born in Dublin, on July 26th, 1782, showed a marvellous precocity as a boy pianist. His father and grandfather were musicians of Dublin fame, the latter an organist, and the former a violinist at Crow-street Theatre. In 1794 his father took him to London, where he appeared as a prodigy, and was then placed under the tuition of Clementi. During the Christmastide of 1799 young Field again appeared, and his playing elicited universal admiration, so much so that Clementi decided to take him on tour. From 1802 to 1804 Field astonished delighted audiences in Paris, Germany, and Russia; and Spohr writes most enthusiastically of the marvellous Irish pianist. During eighteen years he was the fashionable piano teacher in St. Petersburg, and in 1823 he removed to Moscow, where he met with even greater success. His reappearance in London at a Philharmonic concert, on February 27th, 1832, showed a more robust virtuosity, and was also remarkable for a concerto of his own. He died at Moscow on January 11th, 1837. Davey writes as follows:—

"Here at last we meet with a musician who invented, who had a style of his own—a composer and performer of European celebrity. As a player, Field is reckoned among the very greatest that ever lived. He is said to have kept the fingers almost perpendicular, and his touch was distinguished by an unprecedented richness and sostenuto, and by the subtlest details of expression. . . . He made an important addition to existing means of expression by his new form, the NOCTURNE, . . . and we owe it entirely to Field. Chopin, a man of far greater intellectual power, applied deeper science and richer poetry to the Nocturne; but he did not altogether eclipse Field, the original inventor."[2]

Amongst the numerous sonatas, concertos, divertimenti, rondos, airs varies, valses, etc., few are now heard in his native country, though well known on the continent. Of course, his Nocturnes are popular everywhere, and Liszt edited a collection with a most sympathetic foreword. However, it has often been stated that Field never drew any inspiration from the incomparable folk-melodies of his native land. This is not so. In 1818 he published an arrangement of "Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself (The Growling Woman), a Munster tune, whilst his "Rondo Ecossaise" is also founded on an Irish air.

Tom Cooke (as invariably called) was also a Dublin man, and was born in Dublin in 1782. At Christmas, 1797, he was leader of the orchestra at Crow-street Theatre, and continued as such till 1812—composing much popular music, some of which was published by himself at his music warehouse, 45, Dame-street, between the years 1810-1812. One of his earliest attempts was "Lord Hardwick's March," in 1804, published by Power, of No. 4, Westmoreland-street, followed by an "Irish Capriccio," in 1810.[3] One night at his benefit, on June 18th, 1811, he made a sensation as a tenor vocalist in Storace's Siege of Belgrade, and soon after determined to try his fortune in London, appearing at the English Opera House, in the same piece, on July 13th, 1813. He became director of the music at Drury-lane in 1821, of which theatre he was principal tenor for over eighteen years. At a benefit in 1820 he proved his extraordinary versatility by performing successively on nine instruments, namely, the violin, flute, oboe, clarionet, bassoon, horn, cello, bass, and pianoforte. As a composer his versatility was equally great, as may be evidenced by his operas, masses, glees, catches, songs, duets, etc., besides treatises on singing.[4] Among his pupils were Miss Tree, Miss Povey, Miss Austin, Miss Rainsforth, the Misses Williams, and the late Sims Reeves. He died February 26th, 1848.

William Michael O'Rourke—who changed his name to Rooke—was another Dublin musician of fame. Born in South Great George's-street, September 29th, 1794, he was an excellent violinist, and was Balfe's instructor from 1815 to 1817. O'Rourke was chorus master and deputy leader at Crow-street Theatre from 1817 to 1823, and, in 1818, composed his first opera, Amilie; or, The Love Test. Removing to England in 1824, he settled in London in 1826, and his opera, after lying in manuscript for close on twenty years, was produced at Covent Garden on December 21st, 1837, with much success. Henrique; or, The Love Pilgrim, followed on May 2nd, 1837, but did not catch on. Two other operas, Cagliostro and The Valkyrie, were not performed. O'Rourke died on October 14th, 1847, and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.

John Augustine Wade, born in Thomas-street, Dublin, in 1796, was clerk in the Irish Record Office in 1820, and studied the violin under O'Rourke. He married Miss Kelly, of Garnavilla (Athlone), studied medicine, and removed to London in 1822.[5] His oratorio, The Prophecy, was produced at Drury-lane in 1824, and then followed an opera, The Two Houses of Granada (1826), in which occurs the time-honoured ballad, "Long, long ago." In the following year (1827) he published Songs of the Flowers, in two books, and, some years later, Select Airs and Polish Melodies. Early in 1831 he negotiated with James Power (Moore's publisher) for the publication of a History of Music, and in 1833 he collaborated with Hawes in Convent Belles. His song, "Meet me by moonlight alone," had an extraordinary popularity, and in October, 1834, the inimitable "Father Prout" published a French version of it in Fraser's Magazine.[6] A duet of his, "I've wandered in dreams," is still to be heard at concerts. Alas! from 1837 till his death he was the victim of intemperance, and he died in London, September 29th, 1845.

Michael William Balfe belongs to European musical history, and two excellent biographies of him have been published. Born in Dublin, at No. 10, Pitt-street, on May 11th, 1808, he studied under O'Rourke, Barton, and Horn, and his song, "Young Fanny," was published by Willis in 1823. His opera, The Siege of Rochelle, produced at Drury-lane on October 29th, 1835, was the first of a series of operatic triumphs. On December 26th, 1838, he was given a public dinner at Morrison's Hotel, Dublin, and in the following year he had a successful tour in Ireland. Keolanthe was produced on March 9th, 1841, and the Bohemian Girl on November 27th, 1843. From 1846 to 1852 he was conductor at Her Majesty's Theatre vice Costa resigned, and during that time he paid a second visit to Dublin as conductor for Lumley in 1848. In 1859 Balfe edited a collection of Moore's Irish Melodies for Novello, with new symphonies and accompaniments. His death occurred at Rowney Abbey, Herts, on the 20th of October, 1870. A good summary of his works will be found in Brown and Stratton's British Musical Biography, to which the reader is referred. A statue to his memory was unveiled in the vestibule of Drury-lane Theatre, on September 25th, 1874, and a Balfe Festival was given at the Alexandra Palace on July 29th, 1876. A bust of Balfe, from the chisel of Sir Thomas Farrell, R.H.A., was placed in the Irish National Gallery on July 6th, 1878, where also may be seen a list of his operas, with dates of their production, in his own handwriting, and fragments of his manuscript diary. Finally, a tablet in his honour was placed in the north-west aisle of Westminster Abbey, which was formally unveiled on October 20th, 1882.

William Vincent Wallace also belongs to European fame. Born in the city of Waterford on March nth, 1812, he was known as a musician of promise in his fifteenth year, having been taught by his father (bandmaster of the 29th Regiment) and Otho Hamilton. In 1826 the family removed to Dublin, where his father got an engagement as bassoon player in the Theatre Royal orchestra, and, in 1828, we find young Wallace as violinist in the band—his brother Wellington being second flute. At the age of seventeen William Vincent Wallace was a proficient organist, pianist, and violinist, and he could also play on the clarionet and guitar. His first public appearance was in June, 1829, at a Dublin concert, and, in the autumn of that year, (having become a Catholic), he was appointed Organist of Thurles Cathedral, and Professor of Music at the Ursuline Convent. He returned to Dublin in September, 1831, to take part in the Dublin Musical Festival, at which Paganini was the chief attraction, and this event was the turning point in the career of Wallace, who determined to get to the top of the tree in the musical profession In this same year he married Miss Isabella Kelly, of Blackrock (County Dublin), and continued to work at the violin and composition. Winning much applause for a violin concerto of his own, which he performed at a concert in Dublin in May, 1834, he resolved to go to Australia as a larger field for his talents.

His wanderings between the years 1835 and 1845 read like romance, and, at length, Maritana was produced at Drury-lane on November 15th, 1845, followed by Matilda of Hungary in 1847. From 1849 to 1853 Wallace was in Germany, France, South America, North America, etc., and his Lurline was given at Covent Garden on February 23rd, 1860. He died at Chateau de Bagen, Haute Garonne, France, on October 12th, 1865, but his remains were brought over to England and interred in Kensal-green. His widow [7] survived till July 25th, 1900, at the age of eighty-seven, and his last surviving son is now (1904) in London. It is sufficient to add that the list of his compositions fills upwards of a hundred pages of the British Museum Catalogue, of which a good summary is given in Brown and Stratton's British Musical Biography.


[1] Some persons may wonder at my non-inclusion of Sir Arthur Sullivan, but, though his father was Irish, he himself may be regarded as a typical English composer.

[2] Davey's History of English Music, pp. 436-8.

[3] He collaborated with Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan) in the music for The Whim of the Moment—an operetta produced on March 5th, 1807, in the Theatre Royal, Dublin, on which occasion Mr. Owenson appeared for the last time.

[4] One of his songs, "Gentle Zitella" (also known as "Love's Ritornella"), in The Brigand (1829) had a wonderful popularity.

[5] In 1811 he composed a ballad, "I have culled every flowret that blows," which was published by Thomas Cook & Co., of 45, Dame-street, Dublin, in 1812. Sir Robert Stewart says that Wade composed "Lovely Kate of Garnavilla," but this is not so.

[6] His song, "Love was once a little boy," was also much in vogue during the forties and fifties. For the farewell dinner to Cramer, in May, 1835, Wade composed a song which was sung by John Parry, and accompanied by Moscheles. He travelled with Liszt, Parry, Knight, and others to Dublin at Christmas, 1840.

[7] Wallace separated from his wife in 1835, and never saw her again. He married Helene Stoepel, a pianist, in 1850. A good water colour of Wallace, by J. Hanshew, dated 1853, is in the National Gallery of Ireland.