Batta, Alexander

Maastricht, 9 July 1816
Versailles, 8 October 1902

[Über Alexandre (niederländisch: Alexander) Batta gibt es eine hervorragende deutsche Wikipediaseite.]

Alexandre Batta received his first music lessons from his father, a choral conductor, as did his brothers Laurent and Joseph. When Alexandre was five years old the family moved to Brussels, where his father had been offered employment. There he witnessed a performance by the French cellist Nicolas-Joseph Platel and from that moment onwards his sole desire was to become a cellist. Eventually his father consented and Alexandre became a student of Platel himself, taking lessons partly during the same period as Adrien François Servais. In 1834 he obtained a ‘First Prize’ and a year later he settled in Paris.
He rapidly established an extensive network there, including composers such as Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Rossini, Gounod, Donizetti, Liszt and Bellini, writers such as Balzac, Eugène Sue and the Dumases, both father and son, as well as the artists Meissonnier, Delacroix, Corot, Ten Kate and Rochussen.
Chamber music concerts given in collaboration with Liszt were to resound in Paris’s collective musical memory for decades and Batta was a welcome guest in the leading Parisian salons, including those of Mme. de Girardin  and the prominent lawyer and parliamentarian Antoine Pierre Berryer.
Whereas his friend Servais consciously and significantly contributed to the development of technique and virtuosity in his compositions, it would seem that over time Batta became more and more captivated by the cello’s vocal qualities, in this respect inspired by the tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini, whom he heard performing in the Théâtre-Italien. Both Berlioz (‘son violoncelle exhalait de véritables sons de voix humaine, et l’émotion était générale…’) and Balzac (‘quand Batta peint l’amour et en rappelle les rêveries les plus éthérées aux femmes attendries…’) extolled the quality of his tone and his cantilenas.
A journalist who visited Batta shortly before his death wrote that his home in Versailles resembled a museum, full of works that he had been given by his artist friends. These included the celebrated portrait by Meissonnier, which he bequeathed to the Palace of Versailles museum.
Although Batta seldom visited Maastricht any more, he nevertheless had an enduring, special bond with his birthplace. As early as 1892, thus during his lifetime, a broad avenue in the new Maastricht station district was named after him: the Alexander Battalaan (the French version of Batta’s first name – Alexandre – is generally used outside of the Netherlands). For his part, Batta bequeathed Maastricht a number of portraits, his music library and a sum of money to be used in support of talented, impoverished musicians.

Batta’s works for cello and piano, including numerous operatic paraphrases and transcriptions, are a reflection of Parisian salon culture from 1835 to 1900.

Available for legal download on ISMLP/Petrucci:
Duo sur Robert le Diable by J.Benedict and A. Batta (1840)
Fantaisie sur Lucie de Lamermoor de G. Donizetti (1841)
Una furtiva lagrima. Romance de l’Élisire d’Amore de Donizetti (1843)
Résignation. Méditation pour Violon, Violoncelle, Piano ou Orgue-Mélodium opus 52 (1858)
Souvenirs de Gluck. Morceau de Concert (1861)

Other works:
Élégie composée par E.W. Ernst Œuvre 10 transcribed by Alex. Batta [c. 1840]
Souvenir. Chant [c. 1843/1844]
Adieu donc belle France. Romance de Marie Stuart [c. 1845/1846]
Souvenir de Dom Sébastien. Elégie opus 48 (1847)
Fantaisie sur des Motifs de l’Opéra I Puritani (1850)
6 Lieder de Fr. Schubert transcribed by A. Batta [1854/1855]
Songe d’enfant. Rêverie composed for piano by Madame Clémentine Batta. Transcribed and arranged by Alexandre Batta (1858)
Il Trovatore. Opéra de Verdi. Fantaisie [c. 1862]
La Reine de Saba. Rêverie Arabe [c. 1866]
Oh! Dites-lui. Romance de Madame la princesse Kotschoubey. Transcribed by Alexandre Batta
Souvenirs du Béarn. Chants des montagnes [?]
Passiflore. Souvenir d’autrefois [?]
Réminiscences de La Juive [?]

(July 2011, updated July 2014)