French composer, born at Metz, 5
August, 1811; died at Paris, 12 February, 1896. He gained the
Grand Prix at the Paris Conservatoire in 1832, having previously
won first prize for piano and for harmony. Continuing his studies
with Kalkbrenner, Barbereau, and Lesueur, he composed much during
the years 1836-50, including three motets and a requiem mass.
Turning his attention to comic opera he produced a number of
ballets, of which "Le Caid" showed great promise. In
1851 he became a member of the Institute, and in the following
year was appointed professor of composition at the Conservatoire.
At length he captured the opera-going public with "Mignon",
produced on 17 November, 1866. This success he followed up with
"Hamlet", a five-act opera first given on 9 March, 1868.
In 1871, on the death of Auber, he was appointed Director of the
Conservatoire, a position he held till his death. Among his sacred
compositions, his "Messe Solennelle" was given on 22
November, 1857, the feast of St. Cecilia, at the Church of St.
Eustache, for the benefit of the Society of Artist Musicians. On
the same feast, in 1865, his "Marche Religieuse" was
performed. His merit was recognized by several decorations
including the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1894. From a
musical standpoint, Thomas holds a high place by reason of his
dramatic instinct, admirably shown in "Mignon" and
"Hamlet". He just falls short of being in the first
rank, but his "Mignon" retains its popularity, after
close on half a century.
MATTHEW, Handbook of
Musical History (London, 1898); GROVE'S Dict. of Music and
Musicians, ed. MAITLAND (London, 1904-10), s. v.; LEE, Story of
Opera (London, 1909); DUNSTAN, A Cyclopedic Dict. of Music
W. H. Grattan-Flood.