Vincent Novello - Encyclopedia

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VINCENT NOVELLO (1781-1861), English musician, son of an Italian who married an English wife, was born in London on the 6th of September 1781. As a boy he was a chorister at the Sardinian chapel in Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, where he learnt the organ; and from 1796 to 1822 he became in succession organist of the Sardinian, Spanish (in Manchester Square) and Portuguese (in South Street, Grosvenor Square) chapels, and from 1840 to 1843 of St Mary's chapel, Moorfields. He was an original member of the Philharmonic Society, of the Classical Harmonists and of the Choral Harmonists, officiating frequently as conductor. In 1849 he went to live at Nice, where he died on the 9th of August 1861. He composed an immense quantity of sacred music, much of which is still deservedly popular; but his great work lay in the introduction to England of unknown compositions by the great masters. The Masses of Haydn and Mozart were absolutely unknown in England until he edited them, as were also the works of Palestrina, the treasures of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and innumerable great compositions now well known to every one. His first work, a collection of Sacred Music, as performed at the Royal Portuguese Chapel, which appeared in 1811, has the additional interest of giving a date to the practical founding of the publishing firm with which his name is associated, as Novello issued it from his own house; and he did the same with succeeding works, till his son Joseph Alfred Novello (1810-1896), who had started as a bass singer, became a regular music publisher in 1829. It was the latter who really created the business, and who has the credit of introducing cheap music, and departing from the method of publishing by subscription. From 1841 Henry Littleton assisted him, becoming a partner in 1861, when the firm became Novello & Co., and, on J. A. Novello's retirement in 1866, sole proprietor. Having incorporated the firm of Ewer & Co. in 1867, the title was changed to Novello, Ewer & Co., and still later back to Novello & Co., and, on Henry Littleton's death in 1888, his two sons carried on the business.

Vincent Novello had several other children besides his son Joseph Alfred. Four of his daughters (of whom the youngest, Mary, married Charles Cowden Clarke) were gifted singers; but the most famous was Clara Novello (1818-1908), whose beautiful high soprano and pure style made her one of the greatest vocalists, alike in opera, oratorio and on the concert stage, from 1833 onwards. In 1843 she married Count Gigliucci, but after a few years returned to her profession, and only retired in 1860. Charles Lamb wrote a poem (To Clara N.) in her praise.

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