(flc1530–68). Scottish composer, poet, priest and teacher. There are many references to a John Fethy in 16th-century Scotland – possibly not all to the same man; e.g. one to a ‘dominus Johannus Fethy, noster confrater’ who received permission from the Abbot of Arbroath to study abroad at university is perhaps rather too early (1498) to refer to this composer. A note by Thomas Wood (i) in his partbooks (IRL-Dtc, GB-Eu, Lbl, US-Wgu) in 1592 recorded that Fethy was a ‘papeist preist’, spent some time abroad, returned to Scotland in about 1530, brought the new technique of five-finger organ playing with him and that he wrote both text and music of O God abufe (MB, xv, 1957, 3/1975 no.37), a partsong in a motet-like style similar to Josquin’s. Traces survive of other songs (both music and text) in the later Claudin style. In the 1540s Fethy was canon of the Chapel Royal and spent a short time as Master of the Aberdeen song school between 1544 and 1546, though there is evidence of dispute on a matter of discipline with John Black, also composer and teacher there. He was Master of the Edinburgh song school from 1551 until his resignation in 1568, and was named as one of the prebendaries of the Chapel Royal to receive a ‘teind of benefice’ in 1561.
J.Stuart, ed.: Extracts from the Council Register of the Burgh of Aberdeen, i: 1398–1570 (Aberdeen, 1844)
G.Donaldson, ed.: Accounts of the Collectors of Thirds of Benefices, 1561–72, Scottish History Society Publications, ser.3, xlii (Edinburgh, 1949)
H.M.Shire: Song, Dance and Poetry of the Court of Scotland under King James VI (Cambridge, 1969)
J.MacQueen, ed.: Ballattis of Luve (Edinburgh, 1970)
Belgian family of musical scholars, critics, teachers and composers.
(b Mons, nr Liège, 25 March 1784; d Brussels, 26 March 1871). Musicologist, critic, teacher and composer. At once both a pioneer and a conservative, he was among the most influential musical figures in continental Europe for most of the 19th century, occupying key posts within the Franco-Belgian musical establishment and initiating significant cultural trends through his theoretical works and his concert activity.
Fétis came from a family of musicians and instrument makers: his grandfather, Simon-Joseph, was an organist and organ builder; his father, Antoine-Joseph, an organist, violinist in a local theatre and a conductor of subscription concerts in Mons. As a child he played the organ, piano and violin and began to compose; he was giving piano lessons in his early teens in order to help his family out of financial difficulties. As a result of playing continuo for his father's musical gatherings, he became well acquainted with the music of C.P.E. Bach, Viotti, Mozart and Haydn before leaving for Paris aged 16 to study at the Conservatoire, where he matriculated on 31 October 1800. His piano teachers included Boieldieu and Louis Pradher; he studied harmony with J.-B. Rey, a disciple of Rameau, but soon recognized the conflict between Rey's teachings and the new theories propounded in Catel's Traité de l'harmonie. The incompatibility of the two theories provoked Fétis to undertake a detailed study of harmonic systems that was to culminate in his own highly influential treatise of 1844. Since the Conservatoire offered no formal tuition in the history of music, it was through his own interest, kindled by Cherubini's encouragement, that Fétis began to study the writings of Zarlino and Martini, the music of Palestrina, and the notational problems of medieval music; the latter resulted in an unfinished commission to prepare a new edition of the Gradual and the Antiphonal. In 1806 he married the 14-year-old Adelaïde Robert, the wealthy daughter of the editor of the Mercure national, and was able to look forward to a life of independent means, his career prospects boosted by the award of second prize in composition at the Conservatoire in 1807 (the competition later became the Prix de Rome). In 1811, however, the sudden loss of his wife's fortune forced the couple to move to the provinces in search of employment. Settling first in Bouvignes in the Ardennes and then, in 1813, in Douai, Fétis made a living as an organist and schoolteacher of harmony and singing, studying and writing throughout. His tenure as organist at St Pierre, Douai, fuelled his enthusiasm for the music of J.S. Bach. Fétis's return to Paris in 1818 marked the rather belated beginning of his professional career as a composer, teacher and critic, and he began by piecing together a freelance existence. He seems to have been music director at the Comédie-Française briefly during 1820, and was appointed professor of counterpoint and fugue at the Paris Conservatoire in 1821, a post which paid only 1800 francs per year. To supplement his income, he taught privately, was tutor in harmony at Choron's Institution Royale de Musique Classique et Religieuse and composed music in popular genres: piano variations and fantasias, and teaching pieces. His first published treatise, the Méthode élémentaire et abrégée d'harmonie et d'accompagnement, appeared in 1823. Seven operas were staged at the Opéra-Comique between 1820 and 1832, of which only one, La vieille (1826), was a success. That year, Fétis was appointed librarian at the Conservatoire, a post he had coveted for several years and from which he was removed in 1831 (on account of absenteeism in the cause of his research) to be succeeded by Bottée de Toulmon. Fétis's departure was followed by a storm of accusations of theft; until October 1871 there were concerted attempts to retrieve from Brussels valuable historic items still ‘on loan’ to their erstwhile curator. During the 1820s Fétis supplemented his income through writings which made him a particularly influential figure in Parisian musical life. He wrote reviews for Le temps and Le national, and in 1827 founded and wrote almost single-handedly the Revue musicale, a weekly specialist journal which became a model for future publications (his first attempt at a specialist journal, the Journal de musique of 1804, was short-lived). He also instituted in 1832 a series of Concerts Historiques, in which he introduced his chosen repertory with a set of mini-lectures which were then printed in the Revue. Sometimes lasting over three hours, the concerts were carefully organized around themes (the first presented a history of opera; the second was devoted entirely to music of the 16th century), but often marred by inadequate performance.
Following his appointment in 1833 as Director of the Brussels Conservatory and maître de chapelle to Léopold I, Fétis continued many of the activities which had earned him renown in Paris. From August 1833 until July 1834 he published the Gazette musicale de la Belgique, whose text was almost identical to that of the Revue musicale, now supervised in Paris by his son, Edouard. After the takeover of his Revue by Maurice Schlesinger in November 1835, he wrote for the new Revue et gazette musicale until his death, though with decreasing frequency. He resumed his Concerts Historiques in 1839 and continued to compose, also beginning a prolific period of theoretical, pedagogical and historical writing marked in particular by the first edition of the Biographie universelle des musiciens (1835–44) and the Traité de l'harmonie (1844), in which his ideas on the philosophy of tonality were fully expounded. Fétis remained based in Brussels for the rest of his life, regularly visiting Paris. Of immense influence in his native Belgium, he remained powerful in France, where he regularly caused controversy with his writings for the Revue et gazette (the Wagner essays of 1852–3 are perhaps the most important example).
Fétis's immersion in the musical past was undoubtedly a reaction against much of the music of his own time, particularly that of Wagner, Liszt, Berlioz and Schumann. His own output was suitably eclectic: his instrumental compositions are classically inspired, the most well-known during his lifetime being the Grand sextuor (1820), which was written for the unusual combination of piano duet and string quartet but conservative in form. Mozartian in its melodic chromaticism and its concertante treatment of the piano in the finale, it reveals piano writing and use of texture which look towards Schubert, combined with contrapuntal work reminiscent of early Beethoven. His opéras comiques are firmly situated within Grétry's model. Doubtless on account of a long-standing friendship and abundant reviews revealing Fétis's empathy with his compositional style, Meyerbeer regarded Fétis as the person most suited to making the final revisions of his last opera, L'africaine, in 1865.
The trajectory of Fétis's thought was set definitively by the nature of his studies in Paris. His interests in early music and music theory, first pursued in 1800, found a decisive philosophical focus 26 years later in the lectures on aesthetics of a man eight years his junior, Victor Cousin, whose thought appeared most famously as Du vrai, du beau, et du bien of 1853. Both men shared intellectual empathy with the German idealists, particularly Schelling and Herbart. Moreover, Cousin's new theory of eclecticism, with its rejection of all forms of philosophical extremism, including positivism's theories of progress, offered an aesthetic justification for renewed interest in the early music Fétis so admired. Cousin's argument that all periods of history contained valuable truths, and that truth existed on two levels (the apparent and the real) enabled Fétis to argue that great music of any period embodied a real and universal truth which was shrouded by a surface level of apparent truth dictated by fashion. Hence his maxim that although music changes over time (its apparent truth is altered), it does not progress (its real truth, the expression of emotion, remains constant).
Cousin's anti-extremist promotion of a juste milieu (middle way) in government, aesthetics and philosophy, was to prove of supreme importance in all Fétis's future writing. The conflict between Fétis and Berlioz (from 1832 until their partial rapprochement in the face of a common enemy: Wagner) arose not from the incompatibility of a French Romantic and a French Classicist, but from the incompatibility of a philosophy of extremes with the philosophy of the juste milieu. However, throughout his career, Fétis was caught between two contradictory musical philosophies which he never convincingly reconciled. The philosophy of the juste milieu gave rise to his celebrated claim that ‘art does not progress, it merely changes’, a belief that underpinned the revival of early music in 19th-century France and Belgium, since it allowed early music to be judged by standards other than those of the 19th century; yet elements of his theory of harmony, as presented in 1844 and applied in his other writings, suggested that he subscribed to a theory of progress more akin to the work of the positivist Auguste Comte on the progress of civilization. Fétis identified four periods in the history of harmony: the ordre unitonique (modal music); the ordre transitonique (precipitated by the discovery of tonal modulation); the ordre pluritonique (a mature modulatory system epitomized by Mozart); and the ordre omnitonique (modulatory practice so chromatic that it threatens tonality itself). Fétis elevated Monteverdi above all other 17th-century composers, crediting him with the invention of the dominant 7th, which enabled the development of the tonal system which Mozart had brought to its height; conversely, music of the ordre unitoniquewas incomplete, as though an art in waiting. By relegating pre-tonal music to an inferior order, Fétis suggested that his philosophy of harmony was based on the principle of progression; however, he retreated from the logical consequences of his prophetic ordre omnitonique, in which the hierarchies of tonality itself came under threat from the ‘beginning of an acoustic division of the scale into 12 equal semitones, on account of the equality of attractions’. Since he detected (and could not accept) the extended use of the fourth ordre in the music of his own time, he advocated the eclectic use of all the ordres in appropriate combination, a procedure which he found at its most sophisticated in the operas of Meyerbeer, and which he applied in his own compositions. The effect of Fétis's theorizing on his own criticism was profound, resulting in a view of music history which lionized Mozart as the peak of two centuries of development surrounded by chromatic decadence on the one hand and music based on an incomplete harmonic system on the other. Nevertheless, his commitment to the performance of such ‘incomplete’ music remained undiminished.
From Cousin, too, came Fétis's suspicion of composers such as Wagner and Berlioz who theorized about their work and who were rejected by the public. Cousin's Hegelian theory of ‘great men’ held that such figures were vessels through which predestiny worked, and that they expressed the unarticulated desires of the people; the only unrecognized genius was therefore a false genius. Yet Fétis followed Hoffmann rather than Cousin in his view of programme music, which he disparaged as a regression to 18th-century ideas of imitation. For him, the project of the Fantastique was misguided because it put untexted music's most attractive quality, the expression of indeterminate emotion, into a straitjacket: it stemmed from ‘the narrowest possible conception of music's purpose’.
Such aesthetic principles are abundantly evident in Fétis's biographical dictionaries: the two editions of the Biographie universelle des musiciens (1835–44 and 1860–65), though they are less blatant in the second edition, a collaborative volume in which Aristide Farrenc wrote, checked and revised many of the entries. Despite the subjective and error-strewn nature of the dictionary, it was a landmark in the discipline of musicology, and indicated the comprehensivity of knowledge for which Fétis craved, yet which he was prepared to compromise in the interests of evangelism (the same is true of his Concerts Historiques, for which on at least one occasion he composed an aria by ‘Stradella’). Many vast projects were left incomplete at his death; all indicate his intention, driven by the eclectic need to gather information from all relevant periods of history before making a judgment, to provide the widest possible coverage and to bring to the public's attention the greatest variety of music. He planned or partly completed anthologies containing historical treatises in translation and comprising four centuries of music, including harpsichord, piano and organ works, early modern music of the Netherlandish schools, and international folksong; moreover, he acted as a catalyst and adviser for ventures such as Aristide and Louise Farrenc's keyboard anthology Le trésor des pianistes (1861–74), which encompassed Byrd and Chopin and for which he lent manuscripts from his collection. At his death he had completed five volumes of a projected eight-volume general history of music which, exceptionally for its time, included material on ethnomusicological subjects. Sometimes referred to as the founding father of comparative musicology, Fétis brought to his work a positivistic approach (probably influenced by Arthur de Gobineau) based upon the conviction that musicality was biologically determined and unequally shared among races: the sophistication of a race's musical culture was an indicator of its brain capacity. His ethnomusicological work was necessarily limited, since he never travelled to the countries about whose music he wrote, having instead to reply upon the writings of others.
In collaboration with Ignaz Moscheles, who planned and performed his own series of Concerts Historiques in the 1840s, Fétis wrote a piano method (the Méthode des méthodes de piano of 1840) based on the eclectic principle of combining the best of diverse methods and technique, hence the title. The same principles underpinned his Méthode des méthodes de chant of 1869, in which he extracted elements from 18th- and 19th-century treatises to compile a superior method for the training of singers. Such practice illustrates the stability of Fétis's thought and practice in the 40 years since his first exposure to Cousin's work; it also underpins his reputation as a narrow-minded and stubborn teacher who, having formulated his aesthetic ideas in his maturity, remained resistant to new ideas.
Fétis was at the centre of a network of historians, librarians and early-music performers active in France and Belgium throughout the 19th century. His writings, though recognized as flawed, provided a reference point for such musicians and often offered valuable methodological models regarding the use of primary and secondary sources in the quest for historical information. Most important of all, he displayed unerring judgment regarding the most urgent historical projects which needed to be undertaken, thereby encouraging others to finish that which he was too busy to complete. His vast library and important collection of early instruments, many of them in playing condition, were bequeathed to the Belgian nation: his library is housed in the Bibliothèque Albert Ier, his instrument collection forms part of the museum of the Brussels Conservatory.
Fétis: (1) François-Joseph Fétis
printed works published in Paris unless otherwise stated
for fuller list see Huys (1972)
performed in Paris
L'école de la jeunesse, 1807 (oc, L. Anseaume), unperf.
L’amant et le mari (oc, 2, C. Etienne and J.-F. Roger), OC (Feydeau), 8 June 1820 (1820)
Les soeurs jumelles (oc, 1, F.-A.-E. de Planard), OC (Feydeau), 5 July 1823, excerpts (1823)
Marie Stuart en Ecosse (drame lyrique, 3, Planard), OC (Feydeau), 30 Aug 1823, B-Br
Phidias (op, 2), 1824, unperf., Br
Le bourgeois de Reims (oc, 1, J.H. Vernoy de Saint-Georges and C. Ménissier), OC (Feydeau), 7 June 1825, Br
La vieille (oc, 1, E. Scribe and G. Delavigne), OC (Feydeau), 14 March 1826 (1826)
Le mannequin de Bergame (opéra bouffe, 1, Planard and E. Duport), OC (Ventadour), 1 March 1832, excerpts (1832)
Other stage works
Sacred: Mass, 5vv, 1810; Requiem en expiation de la mort de Louis XVI, 1814 or 1815, lost; Requiem (1850); Te Deum (1856); Domine salvum fac regem nostrum, 4vv, orch, org (Brussels, 1866); Lamentations de Jérémie, 6vv, org, lost; many other works, some lost
Secular: Ariane (cant.), 1807, B-Br; 2 nocturnes and canzonette, 2vv (1820); other works
Orch: 2 pf concs., before 1800, lost; Concert ov. (Brunswick, 1854); Sym. no.1, E (Brussels, 1862); Sym. no.2, g (Brussels, 1863); Fantaisie symphonique, orch, org (Brussels, 1866); Fl Conc., 1869, B-Br; other works, some lost
Chbr: 3 str qts, before 1800, B-Bc; Pièces de harmonie, 8 ww insts, op.1 (1810); Grand sextuor, pf 4 hands, 2 vn, va, vc, op.5 (1820); Grand duo, pf, vn, op.8 (1821); 3 str qnts, 2 vn, 2 va, vc, no.1 (Brussels, 1860), nos.2, 3 (Brussels, 1862); other works
Org: 6 messes faciles (1840); Vêpres et saluts du dimanche (1843); 60 preludes and fugues, ?c1834, lost; La science de l’organiste, inc., Bc; other works
Fétis: (1) François-Joseph Fétis
Méthode élémentaire et abrégée d’harmonie et d’accompagnement (Paris, 1823, 3/1841; Eng. trans., 1835)
Traité au contrepoint et de la fugue (Paris, 1824, enlarged 2/1846)
Solfèges progressifs (Paris, 1827, 4/c1857)
with Chabert: Galerie des musiciens célèbres, compositeurs, chanteurs et instrumentistes (Paris, c1827–30)
Traité de l’accompagnement de la partition sur le piano ou l’orgue (Paris, 1829; Eng. trans., 1888)
Verhandelingen over de vraag: welke verdiensten hebben zich de Nederlanders vooral in de 14e, 15e en 16e eeuw in het vak der toonkunst verworven, en in hoe verre kunnen de nederlandse kunstenaars van dien tijd, die zich naar Italien begeren hebben, in vloed gehad hebben op de muzijkscholen, die zich kort daarna in Italien hebben gevormd? (Amsterdam, 1829/R)
Curiosités historiques de la musique, complément nécessaire de La musique mise à la portée de tout le monde (Paris, 1830) [collection of articles from Revue musicale]
La musique mise à la portée de tout le monde (Paris, 1830, enlarged 3/1847; Eng. trans., 1831)
Notice biographique sur Sébastien Erard (Paris, 1831)
Traité élémentaire de musique (Brussels, 1831–2)
Etudes de Beethoven: traité d’harmonie et de composition (Paris, 1833)
Biographie universelle des musiciens et bibliographie générale de la musique (Brussels, 1835–44, 2/1860–65/R1963, and many later impressions) [suppl. ed. A. Pougin (1878–80/R1963)]
Manuel des compositeurs, directeurs de musique, chefs d’orchestre et de musique militaire (Paris, 1837, 2/1864; Eng. trans., 1870)
Manuel des principes de musique à l’usage … particulièrement des écoles primaires (Paris, 1837, 2/1864)
with I.Moscheles: Méthode des méthodes de piano (Paris, ?1840; Eng. trans., 1841)
Traité du chant en choeur (Paris, 1837; Eng. trans., 1854)
Esquisse de l’histoire de l’harmonie considérée comme art et comme science systématique (Paris, 1840)
Méthode élémentaire de plain-chant (Paris, 1843, 5/1862)
Traité complet de la théorie et de la pratique de l’harmonie (Paris and Brussels, 1844, 20/1903)
Notice biographique sur Nicolo Paganini (Paris, 1851; Eng. trans., 1852); repr. in J.-B. Condat: Nicolo Paganini: musicien, magicien ou mutant de Marfan (Paris, 1990)
Antoine Stradivari, luthier célèbre (Paris, 1856; Eng. trans., 1864/R)
Mémoire sur l’harmonie simultanée des sons chez les grecs et les romains (Brussels, 1858)
‘Instruments de musique’, Extrait des rapports du jury international, ed. M. Chevalier (Paris, 1867) [paper presented at Paris Exposition Universelle, 1867]
Méthode des méthodes de chant (Paris, 1869)
Histoire générale de la musique (Paris, 1869–76/R) [inc.]
Biographies de Joseph et Michael Haydn (Paris, n.d.)
Numerous articles in Revue musicale, Revue et gazette musicale, Le temps, Le national
Fétis: (1) François-Joseph Fétis
F.-C.Busset: M. Fétis mis à la portée de tout le monde (Paris, 1838)
C.Gollmick: Herr Fétis, Vorstand des Brüsseler Conservatoriums als Mensch, Kritiker, Theoretiker und Componist (Leipzig and Brussels, 1852)
F.-A.Gevaert: Réponse à M. Fétis, sur l'origine de la tonalité moderne (Paris, 1868)
P.A.Bloom: ‘Fétis's La musique mise à la portée de tout le monde: Impetus and Impact’, IMSCR XIV: Bologna 1987, i, 530–47
P.M.Peters: French Harmonic Theory in the Conservatoire Tradition: Fétis, Reber, Durand, and Gevaert (diss., U. of Rochester, 1990)
P.Colombo: ‘Fétis–Verdi: cronaca di una polemica’, NRMI, xxv (1991), 391–425
R.Schellhous: ‘Fétis's Tonality as a Metaphysical Principle: Hypothesis for a New Science’, Music Theory Spectrum, xiii (1991), 219–40
D.M.Jenni: ‘Fétis and Le sens musical’, Convention in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Music: Essays in Honor of Leonard G. Ratner, ed. W. J. Allanbrook, J.M. Levy and W.P. Mahrt (Stuyvesant, NY, 1992), 447–72
M.I.Arlin, ed.: ‘Esquisse de l'histoire de l'harmonie’: an English Translation of the François-Joseph Fétis History of Harmony (Stuyvesant, NY, 1994)
K.Ellis: Music Criticism in Nineteenth-Century France: ‘La revue et gazette musicale de Paris’, 1834–1880 (Cambridge, 1995)
(2) Edouard (Louis François) Fétis
(bBouvignes, nr Dinant, 16 May 1812; d Brussels, 31 Jan 1909). Critic and teacher, eldest son of (1) François-Joseph Fétis. He assisted his father with the Revue musicale, and edited it after his father's departure from Paris in 1833, turning it into a more acerbic and confrontational journal. After the journal's closure he went to Brussels and became fine arts editor of L'indépendance belge. In 1836 he was employed by the Bibliothèque Royale, where he eventually became curator in the department of printed books. From 1839 he contributed to Schlesinger's Revue et gazette musicale, providing articles whose subject matter ranged from the politics, censorship and state funding of theatres (a particular interest of his) to historical essays on opéra comique (especially the music of Grétry), fiction and polemics. His musical tastes were similar to those of his father, and he argued doggedly against new music intended to challenge its audience. He taught aesthetics at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, was the first secretary to the government commission which prepared the Collection complète des oeuvres de Grétry (1884–1937), and edited the fifth and posthumous volume of his father's Histoire générale de la musique.
Description des richesses artistiques de Bruxelles (Brussels, 1847)
Les musiciens belges (Brussels, 1849, 2/1854)
Les artistes belges à l'étranger (Brussels and Paris, 1857–65)
L'art dans la société et dans l'état (Brussels, 1872)
L.Solvay: Notice sur Edouard Fétis (Brussels, 1922) [incl. bibliography]
(3) Adolphe Louis Eugène Fétis
(b Paris, 20 Aug 1820; d Paris, 20 March 1873). Pianist, teacher and composer, son of (1) François-Joseph Fétis. He studied at the Brussels Conservatory and then in Paris, where his teachers included Henri Herz (piano) and Halévy (composition). He taught harmony and piano in Brussels, Antwerp and, later, Paris. His compositions include comic operas and operettas, songs, light piano and harmonium works, and a string quintet. Of his operettas, only the one-act Le major Schlagmann (1859, Paris, Bouffes-Parisiens) was performed complete and published. Based on a weak libretto, its overture was better received than most of the numbers, the counterpoint described by Le Ménestrel's critic Jules Lovy as redolent of a Haydn scherzo. The following year an aria from his opéra comique L'oncle Tranchard was performed at the Salle Pleyel.