son of a regimental bandmaster of Bohemian origin and his French
wife, Robert Nicolas Charles Bochsa was born in the garrison
town of Montmédy in Northern France. There is no doubt
that his first impressionable years - spent surrounded by the
sound of martial music and by the pomp, circumstance and colourful
military pageantry of the parade ground - left their indelible
mark on his later life.
With his family, he moved first
to Lyon, thence to Bordeaux and finally to Paris, where his father
became a music-seller and publisher, and where Bochsa studied
the harp with F J Naderman and Marcel, Vicomte de Marin. Handsome,
charming, and prodigiously gifted, he was soon attracting the
admiration of Parisian Society, and by the age of twenty-three
he had made a brilliant marriage to Georgette Ducrest, a niece
of the redoutable Félicité,
Madame de Genlis.
By the month of March, 1817, however,
he was a fugitive from French justice, having forged signatures
and legal documents to such an incredible extent that, the following
year, tried in absentia, he was fined 4,000 francs and condemned
to twelve years of hard labour and to be branded with the letters
T.F. (Travaux Forcés).
Calling himself 'Le Chevalier Bochsa', and thus implying an aristocratic
background, Bochsa then escaped to London, where he lived life
to the full, settling in Mayfair and mixing with the aristocracy
as an equal. Within a very short time he was playing at the most
prestigious London salons, including that of Apsley House, home
of the Duke of Wellington, whose signature he had forged in Paris
only a year earlier. For a while he led a charmed life, working
as a performer, composer and fashionable teacher, eventually becoming
the harp professor and the first Secretary of the newly-established
Royal Academy of Music. However, a bigamous marriage to a Miss
Amy Dubochet led inevitably to his suspension from this post, at
which point (1826-1829) he became Director of Music at the King's
During the 1830s he compiled and published his 'New Effects' for
the harp, performed, composed, arranged, and acted as a promoter
of concerts. One of his regular artistes was Anna, the gifted wife
of the famous composer Sir Henry Bishop, whom she deserted in favour
of Bochsa in 1839.
Thus began a ceaseless odyssey which ended only with Bochsa's
death seventeen years later. Together, starting in Hamburg, they
performed in Copenhagen, Orebro, Stockholm, Uppsala, St Petersburg,
Odessa, Moldavia, Cracow, Brno and Vienna, before going on to Hungary,
Munich, Vienna and Naples, where they stayed for two years. Then
it was back to England, on to Ireland and Scotland, and in 1847
to New York and the USA. Thence to Cuba, Mexico and back to New
York and to London for the Great Exhibition of 1851, before returning
to the USA again. 1 October 1855 saw them set sail from San Francisco
for Sydney, Australia, and it was there that Bochsa died on Sunday,
6 January 1856.
Originally sub-titled En forme
de Nocturne, the Morceau d'Expression is an original composition.
Adlais's newly set edition makes this beautiful piece available
for the first time since the mid-nineteeth century.
©Ann Griffiths 2002