Antoine de Lhoyer (6 September 1768 – 15 March 1852) was a French virtuoso guitarist and an eminent early romantic composer of mainly chamber music featuring the classical guitar.
He was an approximate musical contemporary of Beethoven. L'Hoyer also had a notable military career, he was an elite member of Gardes du Corps du Roi, a Knight of the Order of St John and a Knight of the Order of St Louis. His music fell into obscurity even before his impoverished death at the age of 83 in Paris.
Born 6 September 1768 in the French commune of Clermont-Ferrand Antoine de Lhoyer was a member of a wealthy bourgeois family. From an early age he was well educated in music learning to play at first the harpsichord then the five string guitar. An early teacher may have been Pierre Jean Porro a music teacher at the Royal Military School of Effiat, near Clermont. De Lhoyer moved to Paris in 1774. To further his musical education, he visited major European capitals and by the age of 21 already enjoyed a reputation as a virtuoso guitarist.
The rest of Lhoyer's life was to be buffeted by the momentous events of the French Revolution.
A devout royalist, in 1789 he became a soldier in the Gardes du Corps du Roi the bodyguard to Louis XVI. He fled from France after the massacre of guards by the crowd that invaded Versailles on October 6, 1789. By 1792, in Koblenz he had enlisted with the armée des Princes which joined with an allied army of Prussian and Austrian soldiers led by the Duke of Brunswick in an unsuccessful invasion of France in 1792. The years 1794-97 saw him participating in the campaigns with the Austrian army, and in 1799-1800 he served with counter revolutionary forces in the Army of Condé. He was wounded in battle and lost the use of his right hand for three years. He took refuge in Hamburg between 1800 and 1804 where his first known musical works were published (Opuses 12 to 18).
He next travelled to St Petersburg where he was well received by the royal court there, obtaining employment as a guitar teacher to the Tsarina and becoming a favorite of the Empress Elizabeth. He spent a productive ten years in Russia, arranging Russian folk songs for the guitar and publishing solo and ensemble guitar works as well as several collections of Romances for voice and guitar (Opuses 18b to 26).
He returned to France after the fall of Napoleon to rejoin the forces of the King. Eventually, in 1814, he became a sergeant in the elite Garde de la Manche du Roi after the Bourbon Restoration. At about this time he published his first works for six-string guitar the "Duos concertants for two guitars" op.31 and 32.
Louis XVIII appointed him "Major de la place" on the Île d’Oléron in 1816. Between 1820 and 1825, he established his home in nearby Niort where he married and had four children. From this time he published his opuses 38 to 45. He became Lieutenant du Roi (a vice regal appointment) at Saint Florent in Corsica from 1826.
Possibly due to the decline in popularity of the guitar in salon music, replaced by the increasingly popular pianoforte, no more music of L'Hoyer appears to have been published from this time (1826) onward. In 1830 he became "Commandant du la place" in Bonifacio, Corsica. His life took another change in fortune with the abdication of the French King in the July Revolution of 1830 and the subsequent reorganisation of civil and military administration, losing his position as commandant
In 1831 he established his home in Aix en Provence staying there until 1836. Next he took his family to Algeria settling near the capital Algiers and then finally in 1852 to Paris where he died in poverty on 15 March during the reign of Napoleon III.
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