Fischer, John Christian

, an eminent performer and composer for the hautbois, was born at Fribourg, and educated at a common reading school at a village in Bohemia, where all the children learn music, reading, and writing, as a matter of course. He first learned a little on the violin, but changed it soon for the hautbois, and became early in life so excellent a performer on that instrument, as to be appointed one of the king of Poland’s celebrated band ait Dresden. On the dissolution of this band he went to Berlin, where he had the honour, during a month, to accompany Frederick the late king of Prussia alone, four hours every day. From Berlin he went to Manheim, and thence to Paris, where he was heard with admiration, and as soon as he had acquired some money he came over to England, and here, as soon as he had been once heard in public, which was at a benefit, no other concert, public or private, was thought complete without his performance; and being engaged to play a concerto every night at Vauxhall, he drew thither all the lovers of music, but particularly professors. When the queen’s band was formed, Fischer was appointed one of her majesty’s chamber musicians; and when Bach and Abel, uniting, established a weekly subscription concert at Hanover-square, where, for a long time, no music was heard but that of these excellent masters, Fischer was allowed to compose for himself, and in a style so new and fanciful, that in point of invention, as well as tone, taste, expression, and neatness of execution, his piece was always regarded as one of the highest treats of the night, and heard with proportionate rapture.

In all musical performances at the universities, and at the periodical meetings at the provincial towns, Fischer’s concertos were eagerly expected, and heard with rapture. His tone was not only uncommonly sweet, but so powerful, that Giardini, who never could praise a German but through the medium of abuse, used to say that he had such an impudence of tone as no other instrument could contend with, and his execution was quite as much as the instrument would bear to produce an agreeable effect. His taste and chiaro-scuro were exquisite, and he had his reed perfectly under his command. As to his composition, he was | always so original, interesting, and pleasing, that he may be pronounced one of the few intuitive musicians who had powers which he knew not how he acquired, and talents at which study alone can never arrive. His taste and ear were exceeding delicate and refined; and he seemed to possess a happy and peculiar faculty of tempering a continued tone to different bases, according to their several relations: upon the whole, his performance was so capital, that a hearer must have been extremely fastidious not to receive from it a great degree of pleasure.

Fischer left England in 178G, and in the beginning of the next year had not been heard of. His majesty inquired several times, with some solicitude, whether he had written to any of his friends in England, and was answered in the negative; one of them understood, by report, that he was at Strasburg. He returned, however, at the end of 1787, and continued in England during the rest of his life. About 1777 he had married a daughter of the admirable painter, Gainsborough, an enthusiastic lover of good music and performance, and of none so much as Fischer’s; indeed he enchanted the whole family with his strains, which were beyond measure captivating, and he stood so well at his instrument, that his figure had all the grace of a Tibian at the altar of Apollo, But this marriage was not auspicions; Fischer, with a good person, and superior genius for his art, was extremely deficient in colloquial eloquence, and in all those undefinable charms of conversation which engage the attention and endear the speaker. He had not a grain of sense but what he breathed through his reed; he never spoke more than three words at a time, and those were negatives or affirmatives. Yet, though he had few charms for a friend or companion, he delighted the public at large in a higher degree than is allowed to any but gifted mortals. This admirable musician was seized with an apoplectic fit April 29, 1800, during the performance of a solo at the queen’s house, at his majesty’s concert. Prince William of Gloucester, observing his situation, supported him out of the apartment, whence he was conveyed to his residence in Compton-street, Soho, where he expired about an hour afterwards. 1


Rees’s Cyclopædia, by Dr. Buruey.