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François-Joseph Dizi is a Belgian harpist and composer.He was born in Namur in 1780 and died in Paris in 1847. As a child, he learns to play the violin with his father, a violin teacher, but the instrument that Dizi really appreciates is the harp. He trains as an autodidact and from the age of sixteen, he is already giving concerts in Holland.

To develop his concert career, Dizi decides to travel to London by boat. According to some sources, Dizi wandered around during a stopover and saw a man fall into the sea. He then tried to save him by diving into the water to catch him, although he did not know how to swim. Unconscious, both of them were rescued. Unfortunately, when he woke up, the boat was gone, taking with him his letters of recommendation, his clothes and especially his harp. He boards another boat to try to find his belongings, but in vain. In London, alone, without his harp, he wanders the city for many days. Guided by the sound of a harp in the distance, he lands in the harp-making workshop of Sébastien Erard (1752-1831). He plays in front of the latter and is immediately hired as a harp demonstrator. This marks the start of his career as a musician in England. Through this, he meets Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) as well as the pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785-1849) with whom he would subsequently tour Germany.

In London, François-Joseph Dizi is recognized as a teacher and composer. One of his best known pupils is Elias Parish-Alvars (1808-1849). Dizi is astonishingly famous and gives concerts all over Europe. In 1824, he leaves London to settle in Paris where he joins forces with Camille Pleyel (1788-1855) with the aim of manufacturing harps. In Paris, he also teaches the daughters of Louis-Philippe (1773-1850), the last king that France will know. During the 1830s, he makes a short stay in Brussels with his friend, the composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849).

Interested in harp manufacturing, he develops a few ideas, such as changing the order of the pedals or building new models of harps. Dizi ends up abandoning most of his projects in favor of Sébastien Erard’s double-movement harp mechanics.

The main compositions of Dizi are sonatas, romances, fantasies or even a duet for harp and pianoforte, a piece originally composed to be played with Kalkbrenner. His forty-eight studies are pedagogical works regularly used in harp teaching and considered as technically very interesting and diversified.

Article written by Victoria De Schrijver

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