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Paul Agnew (b1964)

Adolphe Adam must be best remembered for his music for the ballet Giselle. Born in Paris in 1803, he was the son of Louis Adam, a native of Alsace, who earned his son's later description of him as the founder of the French school of piano playing. Louis Adam taught at the Paris Conservatoire from 1797 until 1842 and included among his pupils Kalkbrenner and other musicians of future distinction. Adolphe Adam had varied schooling, eventually as a boarder in a parental attempt to induce better application. After private coaching, however, he was able in 1819 to enter the organ class of Benoist at the Conservatoire. Nevertheless, as he later admitted, his chief ability at this time was in improvisation and it was only when he was allowed to take over his older contemporary Halévy's class in solfège that, by teaching, he was able to acquire this necessary and basic knowledge. He studied counterpoint with Anton Reicha but he owed the greatest debt in the end to Boieldieu, who gave him every encouragement. In spite of this he failed to win the expected Grand Prix de Rome, taking instead the deuxième second Grand Prix in 1825 with his setting of Ariane à Naxos. During these years, however, he was able to earn a living as an organist, following the example of so many French composers, and to gain experience of the theatre first as an unpaid triangle-player at the Gymnase Dramatique and later as timpanist and chorus-master. As a composer he began to provide material for vaudevilles and collaborated with the librettist



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