WALLACE, William Vincent (1812-1865)


WALLACE, William Vincent (1812-1865)
musical composer
son of William Wallace, bandmaster in the army, was born at Waterford, Ireland, on 11 March 1812. Both parents were Irish. He showed talent as an organist at Waterford, and as a violinist at Dublin, where he played in a theatre orchestra. At 17 he appeared on the concert platform as a solo violinist. In 1831 he married Isabella Kelly, having previously become a Roman Catholic, and in 1834 he played a concerto of his own composition at a Dublin concert. He went to Australia in 1835 for the sake of his health, gave concerts at Hobart, and going on to Sydney arrived there on 12 January 1836. In February he gave two concerts and appeared as a soloist on the violin, also accompanying all the songs on the piano. He was the first important musician to appear in Australia. He was still in Sydney about the end of 1837, subsequently travelled in Australia and New Zealand and went to South America. He and his wife parted about the time of Wallace's coming to Australia and they did not live together again. Wallace had many adventures during his travels but in 1840-1 settled in North America. He was a member of the Philharmonic Society at New York about this time, and a little later was conductor at an Italian opera season in Mexico. In 1844 he toured Germany and Holland, found his way to London in March 1845, gave a concert in May, and in November his opera Maritana was produced at the Drury Lane Theatre with much success. Another opera, Matilda of Hungary, now forgotten, was brought out in 1847, and in 1849 he was with a concert party in South America. He was giving concerts in the United States in 1850 with success, but lost his savings by the failure of a pianoforte company in which he was interested at New York. During the eighteen-fifties his instrumental compositions were in much favour in London, and in 1860 his opera Lurline was very successful at Covent Garden. The Amber Witch and other operas followed, but his health was failing, and having been sent to the Pyrenees he died there on 12 October 1865. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. His wife survived until 1900; his son, Vincent Wallace, died in 1909.
Wallace had a gift for melody and was a most prolific composer. It has sometimes been stated that he wrote the music for Maritana while he was in Sydney, but no evidence for this is available and it appears to have been unlikely.
W. H. G. Flood, The Musical Times, 1912, p. 448; Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. V; P. A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music; Black's Dictionary of Music and Musicians; A Century of Journalism, pp. 576-7. For a discussion of Wallace's alleged second marriage and his religion see The Musical Times, 1912, pp. 595-6. See also A. Pougin's William Vincent Wallace and W. H. G. Flood's William Vincent Wallace A Memoir. J. F. Hogan's account of Wallace's experiences in Australia (The Irish in Australia, pp. 338-9) is inaccurate.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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