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Émile Waldteufel

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Biography

Émile Waldteufel (9 December 1837 – 12 February 1915) was a French composer of popular music, such as waltzes and polkas.

Life

Waldteufel (German for forest devil) was born in Strasbourg to a Jewish Alsatian family of musicians. His father Louis had a respected orchestra, and his brother Léon was a successful musician. When Léon won a place to study violin performance at the Conservatoire de Paris, the entire family followed him there. It was in Paris that Émile would spend the rest of his life.

Waldteufel studied the piano at the Conservatoire de Paris from 1853 to 1857. Among his fellow pupils was Jules Massenet. During his time at the conservatory, Louis Waldteufel’s orchestra became one of the most famous in Paris, and Émile was frequently invited to play at important events. At the age of 27, Émile became the court pianist of the Empress Eugénie. After the Franco-Prussian War had dissolved the Second French Empire, the orchestra played at Presidential balls at the Élysée. At this time only a few members of the French high society knew of Émile; he was nearly 40 before he became better known.

In October 1874 Waldteufel played at an event that was attended by the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. The Prince was enthralled by Waldteufel’s “Manolo” waltz, and was prepared to make Waldteufel’s music known in Britain. A long-term contract with the London-based editor Hopwood & Crew followed. Part of the company belonged to Charles Coote, director of the Coote & Tinney’s Band, the first dance orchestra in London.

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