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William Vincent Wallace

William Vincent Wallace, the Irish travelling musician, was probably the first great instumentalist to visit Australia. He was born in Waterford on 11 March 1812, son of William Wallace, Bandmaster of the Twenty-Ninth Worcester Regiment. Vincent played the violin in Dublin's Theatre Royal Orchestra, occasionally leading, and he wrote and played his own violin concerto. Because of bad health, he and his wife Alicia emigrated to Australia in 1835, settling soon afterwards in Sydney, where he practically took over the city's concert life, also founding a music academy, and was nicknamed 'The Australian Paganini'. (On an 1829 visit to Ireland, the real Paganini - Niccolo Paganini - had been a strong influence.)

Wallace's considerable charms got him into trouble with the rich ladies of Sydney, and their menfolk paid him to leave town. At this point his travels really began, with considerable folklore surrounding his adventures. Included were Boston, Buenos Aires, Cuba, Germany, Holland, India, Jamaica, Lima, Mexico City, New Orleans, New Zealand, Panama, Santiago, Tampico and Vera Cruzhe. Maritana, his first opera, for which he is mainly remembered, provided his greatest success, first in London and then in Vienna, and he produced six operas in total, including Lurine and The Amber Witch.

His private life was just as colourful - in New York he married the German pianist Helen Stoepel (despite already having a wife and son) and by the time of his death on 12 October 1865 at Vieuzos in France, he had fathered two more sons.

A selection of M&V articles about William Vincent Wallace

Provocative thoughts, from Patric Standford - School Orchestra

Provocative thoughts, from Patric Standford - All-round musical greatness

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