HEINRICH WILHELM ERNST (1814 - 1865)
The violinist and composer Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst was born in Brno in 1814 and after early study and appearances in his native city entered the Vienna Conservatory in 1825 as a pupil of Joseph Böhm, whose pupils were to include Joseph Joachim and Brahms’s early collaborator, Ede Reményi.
He took composition lessons with Ignaz von Seyfried, who had been a piano pupil of Mozart and a composition pupil of Albrechtsberger and Winter. In 1828 he heard Paganini in Vienna and soon abandoned his studies, after disciplinary action against him for unauthorised absence. Setting out on a concert tour, he made his way to Paris, where he was able to hear more of Paganini, whose unpublished compositions he played by ear, in 1837 anticipating Paganini’s arrival in Marseilles by giving his own concert there.
He visited London in 1843 and settled there in the 1850s. Ernst continued to appear throughout Europe until about 1857, when he turned his attention rather to chamber music, collaborating from 1859 with Joachim, Wieniawski and Piatti in the Beethoven Quartet Society. In 1864 he retired to Nice, to find some relief from gout, and died there the following year.
Ernst was greatly respected as a performer and as a musician. He collaborated with Berlioz in performances of Harold en Italie, was accompanied by Mendelssohn, and was regarded by Joachim as the greatest violinist of the time. Berlioz, indeed, had the highest praise for him as a man and as a musician. His technical accomplishments reflected the strong influence of Paganini, many of whose innovations he made part of his virtuoso armoury.
Ernst’s compositions were chiefly for his own instrument. Most popular were the pieces His Fantaisie Brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d’Otello de Rossini a feats of virtuosity, and the lmore lyrical Elégie sur la mort d’un objet chéri, Op.10, described as a Chant pour violon and published in Vienna in 1840.