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Elias Parish Alvars

This man is the Liszt of the harp. - Hector Berlioz

English harpist and composer Elias Parish Alvars was born Eli Parish in Teignmouth on 28 February 1808, and was initially taught by his father, an organist and voice teacher. He studied privately in London with French composer Nicolas-Charles Bochsa, then in Florence with Maximilian Leidesdorf.

After working for a few months for the harp maker Schweiso and Grosjean, he began touring extensively, playing in many European countries. Whilst playing in Constantinople in 1832, he collected popular melodies.

His first work for harp was published in the 1830s by Falter Editions in Munich, under his pseudonym, Albert Alvars. Later works were to include overtures, concerti for harp and orchestra, Voyage d'un Harpiste en Orient (using melodies collected in Constantinople) and a symphony.

He settled in Vienna, where he was known as der Paganini der Harfe, but still continued to tour until 1847, when the political situation in Europe began to destabilise.

His career came to an abrupt end when riots erupted in Vienna in 1848 - local music-making stopped, and most of his pupils left town. His health took a turn for the worse, and he died in Vienna on 25 January 1849, aged forty.

A selection of M&V articles about Elias Parish Alvars

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