Fransua-Josef Fety

Fransua-Josef Fety

Belgian musicologist
Date of Birth: 25.03.1784
Country: Belgium

Biography of François-Joseph Fétis

François-Joseph Fétis, a Belgian musicologist, critic, educator, conductor, and composer, was born in 1784. He began studying music under his father and became an organist at the age of nine at the Saint-André Church in Mons.

In 1800, Fétis enrolled at the Paris Conservatory, where he studied under François-Adrien Boieldieu, Jean-Baptiste Rey, and Louis-Barthélémy Pradher. In 1806, he embarked on his musicological studies and started working on the Universal Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, which was first published in 1834.

From 1821 to 1832, Fétis taught at the Paris Conservatory. However, he gained significant recognition in the 1820s and 1830s as a music critic. After collaborating with several French newspapers, he founded his own newspaper, "Revue musicale" (Musical Review), in 1827. Fétis became its main author, and his opinions sparked significant public resonance.

Fétis had conservative tastes and strongly disapproved of Hector Berlioz's music. In 1835, he harshly criticized Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, stating that the composer lacked melodic taste, rhythmical sense, and his harmonies were monstrous and flat.

In 1833, Fétis was invited by King Leopold I of Belgium to lead the Brussels Conservatory. During his 37-year tenure, he transformed the institution into a renowned European music school. Fétis not only taught but also conducted highly popular conservatory concerts and delivered numerous lectures.

His musicological works encompassed comprehensive and universal subjects. In his early years, Fétis aimed to address less-qualified readers, creating something akin to popular encyclopedias. Some of his notable works include "Galerie des musiciens célèbres, compositeurs, chanteurs et instrumentistes" (Gallery of Famous Musicians, Composers, Singers, and Instrumentalists), "Manuel des compositeurs, directeurs de musique, chefs d'orchestre et de musique militaire" (Manual for Composers, Music Directors, Conductors, and Military Music), and "La musique mise à la portée de tout le monde" (Music Made Accessible to Everyone).

Fétis's most significant contribution to music history was his "Biographie universelle des musiciens et bibliographie générale de la musique" (Universal Biographical Dictionary of Musicians and General Bibliography of Music), published in 1834. Despite some factual errors and inaccuracies, it remains a valuable historical and methodological resource. The book was reissued in facsimile in 2001.

His later works included the five-volume "Histoire générale de la musique depuis les temps les plus anciens jusqu'à nos jours" (General History of Music from the Earliest Times to the Present) and "Esquisse de l'histoire de l'harmonie considérée comme art et comme science systématique" (Outline of the History of Harmony as an Art and Systematic Science). Fétis also collaborated with Ignaz Moscheles to create an instructional piano book titled "Méthode des méthodes de piano" (Method of Methods for Piano), published in 1840.

Although Fétis's compositional legacy is not as significant as his musicological contributions, some of his educational works, such as études, gained popularity. He was also known as a mystifier and attributed several works, particularly Baroque music, to other composers. One of his most popular attributed works is the Concerto for Lute, which was falsely attributed to Valentin Strobel.