Charles Oberthür (composer)

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Charles Oberthür (1819–1895), German-born harp player and composer

Charles Oberthür (born as Carl Oberthür) (4 March 1819 – 8 November 1895) was a German harpist and composer active in Germany, Switzerland and England.


The son of a violin maker, Oberthür was born in Munich and studied the harp there with Elisa Brauchle and composition with Georg Valentin Röder (1776–1848), music director at the Bavarian court. He was successively employed at theatres in Zürich (1837), Wiesbaden (1839), and Mannheim (1842), before he settled in London in 1844, initially as harpist at the Royal Italian Opera House. In 1861, he became the first Professor of Harp at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He died in London in 1895.

Oberthür was the composer of over 450 works, most for or including the harp. He also published a useful harp method, his opus 36. His large-scale works have not been performed for many years and included the opera Floris de Namur (performed at Wiesbaden) and the cantatas The Pilgrim Queen, The Red Cross Knight, and Lady Jane Grey. As a harpist, he became "unrivalled as a virtuoso and teacher".[1] A contemporary source described him as "the leading harpist in Britain, and on the Continent he is held in the highest esteem."[2]

Selected compositions[edit]

Harp solo

  • Reminiscences de Suisse op. 3
  • Souvenir de Genève op. 4
  • Fantaisie et variations brillantes sur le Valse du désir op. 5
  • Addio, mia vita, addio! Barcarolle op. 25
  • Souvenir de Londres. Fantaisie et variations brillantes sur un thême original op. 26
  • Bijou de Nabucco. Grande fantaisie sur l'opéra de Verdi op. 28
  • Souvenir de Boulogne. Nocturne op. 30
  • La Belle Emmeline. Impromptu op. 51
  • Trois Mélodies religieuses op. 52
  • The Nun's Prayer. Mélodie religieux op. 54
  • Gems of German Songs. Twelve Recreations op. 61
  • Le Désir op. 65
  • Au bord de la mer. Nocturne op. 68
  • Bel chiaro di luna. Impromptu op. 91
  • Cradle Song (Wiegenlied) op. 93
  • Voyage en Suisse. Trois Morceaux originaux op. 99
  • Pensées musicales. Trois Pièces de salon op. 110
  • Stray Leaves. Three Sketches op. 114
  • Fantaisie brillante on Motives of Flotow's Opera 'Martha', introducing 'The Last Rose of Summer', performed by the author before Her Majesty Queen Victoria op. 116
  • Six Sacred Melodies op. 127
  • Gems of Verdi. Twelve operatic airs op. 149
  • La Sylphide. Morceau caractéristique op. 150
  • Seaside Rambles. Four Musical Sketches op. 158
  • Le Réveil des elfes. Morceau caractéristique op. 181
  • A Fairy Legend op. 182
  • Erin, oh! Erin! Mélodie irlandaise favorite op. 183
  • The Harp that once through Tara's Hall. Transcription of a favoured Irish air op. 187
  • Old English Melodies (Englische Melodien aus alter Zeit) op. 221
  • Within a mile of Edinbro' Town. Capricio op. 285
  • Conte de fées. Caprice op. 301 – see YouTube video of performance
  • Rêverie. Impromptu op. 314
  • Le Papillon. Caprice op. 317 - see YouTube video of a performance

Harp and orchestra

  • Concertino for harp and orchestra op. 175 (c.1863)
  • Loreley op. 180
  • Orpheus op. 253 – see YouTube video of live performance


  • Rübezahl Ouvertüre op. 82 (1867)
  • Vorspiel zu 'Shakespeare, ein Winternachtstraum' op. 210 (1885)

Chamber music

  • Souvenir à Schwalbach op. 42 for horn and harp
  • Mon séjour à Darmstadt op. 90 for horn and harp
  • Trio op. 139 for violin, cello, harp
  • Trio op. 162 for violin, cello, harp (1867)
  • Orpheus op. 253 for harp and piano
  • Sweet Dreams op. 300 for clarinet and piano

Selected recordings[edit]

  • La Sylphide op. 150, performed by Catherine Eisenhoffer, on: Gallo CD-622 (1990)
  • La Sylphide op. 150, performed by Marielle Nordmann, on: Erato 2292-45482-2 (1990)
  • Le Réveil des Elfes op. 181; A Fairy Legend op. 182; Conte de Fées op. 301, performed by Elizabeth Jane Baldry, on: Campion Cameo 2025


  1. ^ Stanley Sadie (ed.): The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music (London: Macmillan, 1988), p. 531.
  2. ^ James Duff Brown: Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (Paisley and London: Alexander Gardner, 1886; reprint Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1970), p. 449.

External links[edit]