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Horn, Charles Edwardlocked

  • Clive Brown

Horn, Charles Edward (1786–1849), composer and singer, born in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 21 June 1786, was the eldest son of Charles Frederick Horn (1762–1830) and his wife Diana Dupont. After moving to England in 1782, his father was appointed music master to Queen Charlotte in 1789. Charles Edward Horn was taught music by his father, and also studied briefly, in Bath in 1808, with Venanzio Rauzzini. He began his career as a cello and double bass player in London theatres, and made his singing début at the Lyceum on 26 June 1809, in M. P. King's Up All Night. In 1810 he left the stage to take singing lessons from Thomas Welch, but in the same year his comic opera Tricks upon Travellers and his 'dramatic romance' The Magic Bride were produced at the Lyceum. During the next four years he wrote or collaborated in some nine stage works, of which The Devil's Bridge (1812) was particularly successful; it was frequently revived in England, Ireland, and the USA. He also began composing glees and songs.

In 1814 Horn made his mark as a singer, in the part of Seraskier in Storace's The Siege of Belgrade. Good acting and a wide vocal range rather than quality of voice brought him moderate success for the next ten years, but his popularity increased greatly after a highly acclaimed performance as Caspar in an English version of Weber's Der Freischütz at Drury Lane in 1824. He composed some eighteen stage works during those years. Although most are a heterogeneous mixture of original and borrowed music, many contain the simple but effective solo and concerted songs that were an essential feature of successful English operas at that period. 'On the banks of Allen Water', from Rich and Poor, and the duet 'I know a bank', from The Merry Wives of Windsor, quickly became popular, while the ballad 'Cherry Ripe', apparently written for Madame Vestris to sing in Paul Pry (1826), with which Horn was otherwise unconnected, almost attained the status of a folk-song. Charles Mackay recalled in 1841 that, for a time,

‘Cherry Ripe!’ ‘Cherry Ripe!’ was the universal cry of all the town. Every unmelodious voice gave utterance to it; every crazy fiddle, every cracked flute, every wheezy pipe, every street-organ was heard in the same strain, until studious and quiet men stopped their ears in desperation, or fled miles away into the fields and woodlands to be at peace. This plague lasted for a twelvemonth, until the very name of cherries became an abomination in the land.

Mackay, 627

'Cherry Ripe' involved Horn in an action for plagiarism with Thomas Attwood, from one of whose songs he was supposed to have derived the melody, but he was acquitted of the charge.

In 1827 Horn travelled to New York, where he sang, produced The Devil's Bridge (known there since 1820), staged arrangements of operas by Mozart, Rossini, Storace, Mayr, and Weber, and performed his cantata The Christmas Bells. Soon after his return to London in 1830 his opera Honest Frauds, in which Maria Malibran enjoyed great success with the song 'Deep, Deep Sea', was staged. During 1831–2 he was music director at the Olympic Theatre. In 1832 he was again in New York, where he became music director of the Park Theatre. He produced there his opera Nadir and Zulika and also arranged works by Mozart and Rossini. Two of his glees from this period, 'Wisdom and Cupid' (1834) and 'Forest Music' (1835), earned him prizes in America. After losing his voice through illness in 1835 he went into partnership in a music business with W. J. Davis; from 1836 he managed it alone as Horn's Music Store, at 411 Broadway. His compositions of these years include the oratorio The Remission of Sin (1835), considered by a New York paper to be the first oratorio composed in America, and his last operas, Ahmed al Ramel (1840) and The Maid of Saxony (1842). In 1842 he also helped to found the New York Philharmonic Society.

After returning to London in 1843 Horn became director of music at the Princess's Theatre. His American oratorio, revised and retitled Satan, was given by the London Melophonic Society in 1845, and a second oratorio, Daniel's Prediction, was performed at the Hanover Square Rooms in 1847 without much success. He then returned to America, where he was offered the directorship of the Boston Haydn and Handel Society on 23 July 1847; commenting on this, The Athenaeum (20, 15 May 1847, 1226) described him as 'the best of our ballad composers … who, if trained under a better dispensation might have done much for English music'. He was married twice, first to a Miss Rae, then to Maria Horton (d. 1887); a son, also Charles Edward, became a tenor. Charles Horn senior died in Boston on 21 October 1849.


  • R. A. Montague, ‘Charles Edward Horn: his life and works’, PhD diss., Florida State University, 1959
  • [J. S. Sainsbury], ed., A dictionary of musicians, 2 vols. (1825)
  • D. Baptie, Sketches of the English glee composers: historical, biographical and critical (from about 1735–1866) [1896], 114–15
  • H. C. Lahee, Annals of music in America (1922)
  • E. W. White, The rise of English opera (1951)
  • J. Mattfeld, A handbook of American operatic premières, 1731–1962 (1963)
  • C. Mackay, Memoirs of extraordinary popular delusions (1841)


  • Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo, Japan, Nanki Collection, account of C. F. Horn
  • Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo, Japan, Nanki Collection, letter (draft), 1830


  • S. De Wilde, watercolour drawing, 1811, Garr. Club
  • J. McDougall, lithograph, BM
  • Pocock, oils (as Seraskier in The siege of Belgrade), Royal Society of Musicians, London