#51 Obituaries for Giulio Regondi from The Musical World

Below are two obituaries of Giulio Regondi published in The Musical World on May 18, 1872 (p.315) and May 25, 1872 (p.332) respectively. The original is actually quite readable. I just typed it out for my own reading convenience.

May 18, 1872

It is almost two years since the above well-known name was no longer met with in concert announcements, nor its amiable bearer’s gentle face seen in those places, where formerly his exquisite talent delighted every one. The great artist is no more – he died on Monday, the 6th inst., after a severe and painful illness of more than eighteen months’ duration. Giulio Regondi’s unrivalled talent will not be forgotten by those who had the good fortune to hear him play; to others. It will become manifest by many of the compositions he has left. Giulio Regondi would have been a great performer on whatever instrument he might have chosen for the expression of his thorough musical mind; his refined taste would have elevated the poorest medium for the production of musical sounds. Neither the guitar nor the concertina are concert instruments which could be considered graceful; but, in his hands, they spoke with an eloquence never to be forgotten. We only will refer to his charming concertina solo, “Les Oiseaux,” which he used to perform so often to admiring audiences. Giulio Regondi’s talent was manifested very early. He played at public concerts when he was only ten years of age. Some few years later, he was travelling with his friend, Joseph Lidel, in Germany, where they played at Darmstadt, Frankfort, Carlsruhe, and then went to Vienna, playing repeatedly at the Imperial Court, besides giving, with immense success, twelve concerts, in which the son of Mozart also assisted. Not less enthusiastic was Signor Regondi’s reception in Prague, and afterwards in Dresden. That in England he was on musical tours with many of the greatest artists, is well known. He was of the kindliest disposition, ever ready to acknowledge talent in others; and many were the occasions on which his own talent generously assisted any good and charitable object. Signor Giulio Regondi’s funeral took place last Saturday at Kensal Green Cemetery. According to his own particular wish, it was conducted in the simplest manner, in the presence of only a few intimate friends of the deceased. Three mourning coaches accompanied his remains, from his residence in Portman Place, to Kensal Green Cemetery. The mourners were: – Father White (his confessor), Mr. Binfield, Mr. Gaisford, Mr. Boleyne Reeves, Dr. D’Alquen, Herr Lidel, Herr Oberthur, Mr. G. Forbes, Mr. Theed, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Bosen. A private brougham followed, in which were Mrs. Culpin and the Misses Lidel. A beautiful wreath of”immortelles,” white lilies and pansies, the offering of the last-named ladies, was laid on the coffin, which, at Kensal Green, was met by a few attached friends, among whom was a gentleman who came up from Brighton especially for the purpose, and a lady, the wife of one of the mourners, who, at the conclusion of the ceremony, had a white rose tree planted on the grave. Father White performed the funeral service, and the coffin bore the simple inscription: –

May 25, 1872

It has often been said that the world knows nothing of its greatest men. This is hardly true with regard to the admirable musician and artist who has just left us. The world does know something of Giulio Regondi, though by no means all it might have known. Man is the creature of circumstances; and circumstances were against him, otherwise he would have had a place among the most illustrious sons of art – a place for which he was fitted by supreme endowments. Such a man should not “join the majority,” without the tribute which is his due, the more because, owing to the despotism of events, it was not paid during his life; and we are, therefore, glad to present our readers with an article contributed by one of his personal friends, and most ardent admirers. The details that article communicates will not fail to be read with interest, especially by amateurs who were discerning enough to recognise, during his lifetime, all the merit of the man.

        Our valued contributor, Mdme. Fauche, writes: –

        On Monday, at twelve o’clock, on the 6th of May, 1872, in a small house near Hyde Park, died Giulio Regondi. He was known to the world as a wonderful musician; but that is not the only light in which he merits to be remembered. His first recollection of himself was in a grand old house at Lyons, where he resided with a man who called himself his father, and who gave instruction in the Italian language. Dr. George Young, a physician of repute in London, and brother to Charles Young, the tragedian, was travelling to Italy, but stopped at Lyons to take lessons and improve himself in speaking Italian. In the course of his study, Regondi constantly expatiated on the talents of his son.

        Dr. Young heard Giulio play the guitar, and was both charmed and astonished. He advised Regondi to take the bot to London. It was probably with this object in view that the poor bot was made to practise five hours per day; while the father left home early and only returned to dinner late. The outward door of their apartment was kept locked to prevent the bot from leaving the house, where he remained always alone, and a neighbour, residing in a room adjoining theirs, was induced to watch and report on the boy’s practice. According to that report he was placed at the father’s bedside to make up whatever time he was said to have missed during the day.

        The boy had not remembered having left the house, when a man appeared who measured him for a suit of clothes, in which he went to a public concert where he performed. On that occasion Regondi carried him arrayed in a velvet tunic, ornamented with gold, and a velvet hat and white feathers. On looking at the audience from the back of the stage, the bot was too frightened to move, and Regondi took him and his guitar in his arm and placed them on a stool in the front of the stage. As soon as the piece of music was finished the house rose to applaud and encore, upon which Giulio ran off the stage in alarm. With difficulty he was caught and made to play again.

        He said that he had been sent for more than once to play with the Duc de Bordeaux, but whether in passing through Paris to England, or in England, is not known. He also said (to the writer of this sketch) that, some years later, he became intimate with a gentleman who professed to be the son of Louis XVI (who is thought to have died, and was buried in the prison where the Royal family were confined). This intimacy led to a proposal that he should marry the pretender’s daughter, a proposal which gave him no little discomfort, until a letter from the younger lady explained that, from her father’s destitute state, she felt it her duty to accept an offer she had received, which would ensure him independence for life. On the testimony of several professional gentlemen, who knew Giulio on his arrival in London, he was not seven years old. Mr. Charles Neate was one of those gentlemen, also the late Mr. Tomkinson. His success both in public performances and private society was complete. He made two tours in Germany – one with Mdme. Dulken, the other with Mr. Lidel – in both instances with great triumph. He spent several days at the country seats of the English aristocratic families and went with Regondi to private houses for an hour’s performance, and constantly received a much higher remuneration in presents than the sum for which he was engaged (twenty pounds).

        He believed there must have been several thousand pounds in the finds when Regondi left England with his earnings. At the termination of one London season, Regondi gave Giulio a five pound note, and sent him to prepare for their “season” at Brighton, which they had regularly attended since coming to London. After waiting until his pecuniary resource was exhausted, without receiving any reply to many letters he had addressed to his father, the poor boy drooped and would have died from starvation but for the care and thoughtfulness of his hostess. He was roused by her to the necessity of learning “how to live.”

        It was many years after this event that Regondi “wrote for money, saying he was dying!” Giulio sent for him to London, where he spent the last years of his life. The first medical men in London – Ashley Cooper was one – saw him from time to time, each visit being paid two guineas, besides a daily attendance from his regular physician. We must turn back to the great musical event of his life – the invention of “the concertina” by Mr. Wheatstone. This clever man of science required an artistic mind to bring the instrument into life. Regondi being shown the ingenious masterpiece, was asked what could be done with it. He replied, “My son will bring out its powers if anyone can do so.” The lad did indeed give it life. He did indeed study it! He published a “Method” or “Guide Book,” which gave clear, concise rules for pupils which no master since has been able to improve upon. It is not too much to say that Giulio Regondi’s performance can never be equalled. All he did has died with him. No other equally great musician, with the same scientific talent would likely to devote year after year to the enormous amount of practice which he bestowed on his fingers. And when will an individual arise possessing the taste and refinement which perfected this wondrous union of means to an end? He was a fine linguist, speaking and writing French, Italian, and English with rare purity. He spent but little on his own person, but to those whose age required comforts beyond their means to obtain, or wherever he saw sickness or sadness, he poured forth his earnings with generous sympathy. It is delightful to record the affection and care with which he was watched and attended during the last twenty months of intense and constant sufferings by his professional friends. Every medical treatment and known remedy was applied during his illness. A subcutaneous injection of morphia, continued for several months twice a-day, relieved his sufferings.

        He was a rare creature, and, like all such exceptionally organized men, his experience in life partook of more grief and pain than of enjoyment and pleasure. May a higher state of existence be his portion.


These details, while of extreme interest, are of extreme sadness, but the fate of Giulio Regondi is only another illustration of the sorrow which waits upon genius. We join in the concluding aspiration of our correspondent’s letter. Canning called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old; and were we not instinctively sure of an Hereafter, it would be necessary to create one.

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