Today we’ve a birthday tribute to French violinist and pedagogue François-Hippolyte Barthélémon; born this day in 1741 in Bordeaux (Gironde).
Barthélémon was educated in Paris, where he studied musical composition and violin, and performed in the orchestra of the Comédie-Italienne. In 1764, he travelled to England to lead a group at the King’s Theatre as well as Marylebone Gardens, where he was received with enthusiasm. This led to a commission for his first dramatic stage work, Pelopida, an opera in three acts in the Italian style, that was performed at the King’s Theatre in 1766.
David Garrick, of the Drury Lane Theatre, then engaged him to compose music to his own two-act farcical burletta based on the Orpheus myth, which premiered in 1768. In the same year, Barthélémon also premiered Oithona, a three-act dramatic operatic poem; La fleuve Scamandre (“The Scamander River”), a French-style comic opera based on a Greek myth; and The Judgment of Paris, another two-act burletta. Further engagements lead him to decide to stay in England, where he married soprano and composer Polly Young, settled down, and started a family.
He is probably best known for his tune ‘Morning Hymn’ to Thomas Ken’s hymn ‘Awake my soul, and with the sun…’, but he also wrote the tune of the hymn, Mighty God While Angels Bless Thee.
Barthélémon’s dashing French style of composition allowed him to produce musical entertainments in a wide range of styles; composing salon and chamber music as well as volumes of popular songs, some of which were published in London in 1790, with the King’s Theatre engaging him to write ballet music. Barthélémon also composed scenes for humorous English ballad operas and for masques. The Maid of Oaks, a masque within a comedy in five acts based on Sylvain by Jean-François Marmontel, enjoyed much success in 1774. He also wrote six symphonies, and some concertos.
As a private tutor, Barthélémon received approval for his “scientific” technique of violin playing, however, some popular critics felt his musical compositions lacked “a clearly developed personal style.”
Barthélémon died at Christ Church, Surrey, England, aged 66.
[Apologies for the poor picture quality; it was the only one we could verify as being Barthélémon]