Elias Parish Alvars

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File:Elias Parish Alvars.jpg
Elias Parish Alvars.

Elias Parish Alvars (born Eli Parish; 28 February 1808 – 25 January 1849), also known by the nom de plume Albert Alvars, was an English harpist and composer.

Early years

Alvars was born in Teignmouth, Devon in 1808. The baptismal record found at St James’s Church, West Teignmouth, reports: "Eli, son of Joseph and Mary Ann Parish". His father, an organist, voice teacher and book dealer in Teignmouth, gave him his first musical instruction.

He gave his first concert in Totnes in 1818 and in 1820 was sent to London to study with Nicolas-Charles Bochsa. In 1822 he applied to the Royal Academy of Music, where Bochsa had been appointed harp professor but was not accepted, probably because of his family's 1818 bankruptcy.[citation needed] Alvars was able to continue his lessons with Bochsa with the financial help of a local landowner.

Chronology of travels and concerts

  • 1828: He finished his studies and left for Florence, where he remained for a year, studying singing with Guglielmo family and composition with Maximilian Leidesdorf. He started using the pseudonym "Albert Alvars"
  • end of 1829 – mid-1830: back in London, he worked for harp maker Schweiso & Grosjean;
  • June 1830: North Germany tour (Magdeburg, Bremen, Hamburg and Brandenburg);
  • beginning of 1831: concerts in Copenhagen and Stockholm;
  • Summer 1831: concerts in Saint Petersburg and Moscow;
  • Spring 1832: concerts in Constantinople for Sultan Mahmud II. He collected a series of popular melodies which he was to publish as "Travel of a Harpist in the Orient op. 62". Invited by Count Boutinoff, Russian ambassador in Constantinople, he remained in the city for about 3 months;
  • late 1832: he start using name "Elias Parish Alvars" for concert programmes and publications.
  • Spring 1833: He met in Vienna Sigismund Thalberg and Carl Czerny: he composed and performed regularly with the latter between 1836–1842.
  • late Spring- Summer 1833: concerts in Hungary, Switzerland and France;
  • end of 1833: concerts with John Field in Switzerland and North Italy (29 November 1833: concert at Teatro alla Scala in Milan);
  • 1834–1835: living in Vienna and Munich. In Munich, Falter Editions published his first composition for harp under the pseudonym Albert Alvars (probably composed when he was still using this first pseudonym);
  • 1836–1842: living in Vienna, teaching, appointed solo harpist at Hofopertheater. He studied composition with Simon Sechter and Ignaz von Seyfried and performed several times in the city with Joseph Fahrbach and the Lewy brothers at Hofoperntheater and Kärthnerthortheater;
  • March 1842: German tour: concerts in Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt;
  • April 1842: concerts in London;
  • June 1842: concerts in Germany. Franz Liszt wrote: "Our bard has a somewhat rugged appearance; his gigantic figure, with his square shoulders, recalls the mountain peasant. His face is comparatively mature for his years, and from underneath his prominent forehead speak his dreamy eyes expressive of the glowing imagination which lives in his compositions". (Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 1842, June);
  • August 1842: concerts in Milan;
  • October 1842: He married pianist and harpist Melanie Lewy (?–1857) who had also been his pupil and was sister of the French horn-playing Lewy brothers;
  • December 1842 and January 1843: concerts in Vienna with Lewy brothers and Melanie at Hofoperntheater;
  • January 1843: in Prague with Lewy brothers, performing at "Plaitteirs Hall". On 28 January he played "Grande Fantaisie sur Moïse de Rossini op. 58" and the "Grande Fantaisie sur Lucrezia Borgia de Donizetti op. 78" and on 30 January, the "Gran Duo sur Linda di Chamounix de Donizetti pour harpe et piano op. 65", accompanied by his wife Melanie.
  • February 1843: concerts in Dresden and Leipzig.

After the Dresden concert, Hector Berlioz wrote: "In Dresden, I met the prodigious English harpist Elias Parish Alvars, a name not yet as renowned as it ought to be. He had just come from Vienna. This man is the Liszt of the harp. You cannot conceive all the delicate and powerful effects, the novel touches and unprecedented sonorities, that he manages to produce from an instruments in many respects so limited. His fantasy on Moses (imitated and adapted for the piano with such happy results by Thalberg), his Variations for harmonic notes on the Naiads Chorus from Oberon, and a score of similar taste, delighted me more than I can say…" (Mémoires de Hector Berlioz, Paris, 1903);

  • March 1843: Berlin (11 March);
  • April 1843: Gotha (12 April);
  • May – October 1843: concerts in Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart. Berlioz met him again and wrote: "Here [in Frankfurt] I again met Parish Alvars. This man is a magician. In his hands the harp becomes a siren, with lovely neck inclined and wild hair flowing, stirred by his passionate embrace to utter the music of another world." (Mémoires de Hector Berlioz, Paris, 1903);
  • November 1843: Birth of his daughter Aloisia in Vienna;
  • end of 1843 – beginning of 1844: holiday in Naples with his family. He composed the collection of harp pieces "Souvenir de Naples";
  • February–July 1844: concerts in London at "Royal Philharmonic Society" and at "Princess Concert Room" where he performed the Gran Concerto in C major for harp and orchestra op. 60", some of his most famous Fantasias, the Overture: The Legend of Teignmouth, the Concerto in G minor for piano and orchestra op. 90 and the Concertino in D minor for 2 harps and orchestra op. 91;
  • August 1844: Concerts in Vienna;
  • September 1844: concerts in Berlin;
  • October 1844: concerts in Frankfurt;
  • November 1844 – March 1845: holiday in Naples (just one concert on 26 November after his arrival in the city). He was expected in London in February, but fell and hurt himself while on an excursion to Mount Vesuvius and was obliged to stay an additional two months in Naples. During this time he wrote the Symphony in E Minor PA 1 ms and finished the Concerto in E flat Major for harp and orchestra op. 98;
  • April 1845: concerts in Vienna on 8 and 24 April at Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde);
  • late Spring-Summer 1845: concerts in Cologne, Berlin, Leipzig (he performs his "Sinphony in E minor");
  • November- December 1845: back in Vienna he performed on 16 November atKonzert-Salon and on 7 December at Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde;
  • December 1845 – February 1846: holiday in Naples;
  • March 1846: concerts in Leipzig and Stuttgart (Concerto in E flat major for harp and orchestra op. 98, directed by Bernhard Molique);
  • Spring 1846: concerts in London performing "Concerto in G minorfor piano and orchestra op. 90" and a new Ouverture entitled "Scene from Child Harold's Pilgrimage" by Byron);
  • August 1846: Birth of his son Arthur in Vienna
  • Autumn 1846: in Vienna he was granted the title of Imperial Virtuoso, and started teaching harp at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde;
  • November 1846 – February 1847: concerts in Berlin and Leipzig
  • March 1847: the European political situation was beginning to show signs of instability, so he returned to Vienna, which was subdued thanks to the repressive measures of Metternich;
  • 9 January 1848: he gave a large concert in the Musikvereinssaal in Vienna.


On 13 March 1848 the first riots erupted in Vienna and in April amid the general confusion, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde closed suddenly, stopping all payments, and even refusing to pay the salary owed for the last six months. Alvars found himself in serious financial straits. He could not travel to other cities or countries, as they were experiencing similar political difficulties, and he had lost most of his pupils, who, as members of noble families, had left town out of fear. Regional music life had stopped, and the Hofoperntheater burnt down.

During this troubled period, which reached a climax in October, Alvars and his family found refuge in Leopoldstadt, on the outskirts of Vienna (now a part of the city). They lived at [[{{{1}}}]][] 53, on the first floor. His health worsened suddenly and he died, likely of pneumonia, on 25 January 1849. His wife returned with their daughter to London. He was buried in the St. Marx Cemetery.

Main works

  • "Tema e Variazioni PA 1" (Munich, 1834)
  • "Sehnsucht" or "Romance melancholique op. 27" (Milan, 1835)
  • "Tema e Variazioni op. 29" (Vienna 1836)
  • "Favourite Sultan's March op. 30" (1836)
  • "Scenes of my Youth" (Vienna, 1837, series of Romances)
  • "Grande Fantasia sul Moïse di Rossini op. 58" (Vienna 1837)
  • "Fantaisie sur Oberon by Weber op. 59" (Vienna 1837)
  • "Gran Concerto in C major for harp and orchestra op. 60" (Vienna 1837, published in 1842 by Ricordi) – (dedicated to Queen Victoria)
  • "Travel of a Harpist in the Orient op. 62" (1843–1846)
  • "Gran Duo sur Linda di Chamounix de Donizetti pour harpe e pianoforte op. 65"
  • "Grande Fantaisie sur Lucrezia Borgia de Donizetti op. 78"
  • "Gran Concerto in sol minore per arpa e orchestra op. 81" (1842)
  • "Serenata op. 83" (Naples, 1843–1844)
  • "Il mandolino op. 84" (Naples, 1843–1844)
  • "Il pappagallo op. 85" (Naples, 1843–1844)
  • "Ouverture The Legend of Teignmouth"
  • Concerto G minor for piano and orchestra op. 90 – dedicated to Franz Liszt
  • "Concertino in D minor for 2 harps or piano and harp and orchestra op. 91"
  • Sinfonia in E minor PA 1 ms (Naples, 1845, performed in Leipzig)
  • Concerto in E flat major for harp and orchestra op. 98 (Naples, 1845, performed in Leipzig in 1846)
  • Ouverture, scene from “Childe Harold's Pilgrimage” by Byron
  • "Gran concerto in C minor for harp and orchestra PA 2 ms"
  • "Grande Fantasia su I Capuleti e i Montecchi di Bellini e Semiramide di Rossini PA 2 post"


External links