Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Augusta Mary Anne Holmès (December 18, 1847 - January 28, 1903), French composer of Irish descent. At first she published under the pseudonym Hermann Zenta. In 1871 Holmès became a French citizen and added the accent to her last name.
Holmès wrote the lyrics of almost all her songs, oratorios, choral symphonies and the opera La Montagne Noire.
Holmès, despite showing talent at the piano, was not allowed to study at the Paris Conservatoire, but she studied music outside of any institution. She developed her piano playing under the tutelage of local pianist Mademoiselle Peyronnet, Versaille cathedral organist Henri Lambert, and Hyacinthe Klosé taught her, and she showed her compositions to Franz Liszt. Around 1876, she started studies with César Franck.
Camille Saint-Saëns wrote of Holmès in the journal Harmonie et Mélodie, "Like children, women have no idea of obstacles, and their willpower breaks all barriers. Mademoiselle Holmès is a woman, an extremist."
Saint-Saëns several times asked Holmès to marry him. There are also rumors that she had a sexual relationship with Franck. Holmès never married, but she cohabitated with the poet Catulle Mendès, for whom she bore five children.
For the 1889 celebration of the centennial of the French Revolution, Holmès was commissioned to write the Ode Triomphale for the Exposition Universelle, a work requiring about 1200 musicians. She gained a reputation of being a composer of programme music with political meaning, such as her symphonic poems Irlande and Pologne.
Holmès bequeathed most of her musical manuscripts to the Paris Conservatoire.
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