Composers / Thomas Tellefsen / Places catalog
Napoléon Henri Reber
Napoléon Henri Reber (1807–1880) belonged to Chopin’s circle of friends and taught composition to Tellefsen when the latter became a student of Chopin. Reber’s class was also attended by another student of Chopin, Karol Mikuli (1821–1897).
Henri Reber wrote a great deal of chamber music and composed songs to French poetry. He instrumented Chopin’s Funeral March, which was performed at the composer’s funeral. From 1851, he was a professor of harmony, and from 1862 a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory. His handbook Traité d’harmonie (1862) was later used at the Conservatory for many years. Reber had considerable influence on Parisian musical life throughout the 1860s, and we can assume that the chamber works of Tellefsen from the 1850s and 1860s were also influenced by his teacher’s stylistic ideals.
He had a reputation for being very conservative in his musical views. Saint-Säens, who knew him well, wrote: “With his predilection for the past and exquisite, almost courtly manners, he brought to mind the past: his white locks of hair, as if covered with wig powder, and long frock coat reminded one of old fashion; it seemed as if a forgotten guest from the eighteenth century, a contemporary of Mozart, were strolling through the nineteenth century, surprised and slightly bewildered by our music and our way of life”.
Napoléon Henri Reber. (creative commons)
Paris Conservatoire Library (1895), phot. Eugène Pirou (creative commons).