Elias Parish Alvars

Elias Parish Alvars.

Elias Parish Alvars (born Eli Parish; 28 February 1808 – 25 January 1849), also known by the nom de plume Albert Alvars, was an English harpist and composer.

Early years

Alvars was born in Teignmouth, Devon in 1808. The baptismal record found at St James’s Church, West Teignmouth, reports: "Eli, son of Joseph and Mary Ann Parish". His father, an organist, voice teacher and book dealer in Teignmouth, gave him his first musical instruction.

He gave his first concert in Totnes in 1818 and in 1820 was sent to London to study with Nicolas-Charles Bochsa. In 1822 he applied to the Royal Academy of Music, where Bochsa had been appointed harp professor but was not accepted, probably because of his family's 1818 bankruptcy. Alvars was able to continue his lessons with Bochsa with the financial help of a local landowner.

Chronology of travels and concerts

After the Dresden concert, Hector Berlioz wrote: "In Dresden, I met the prodigious English harpist Elias Parish Alvars, a name not yet as renowned as it ought to be. He had just come from Vienna. This man is the Liszt of the harp. You cannot conceive all the delicate and powerful effects, the novel touches and unprecedented sonorities, that he manages to produce from an instruments in many respects so limited. His fantasy on Moses (imitated and adapted for the piano with such happy results by Thalberg), his Variations for harmonic notes on the Naiads Chorus from Oberon, and a score of similar taste, delighted me more than I can say…" (Mémoires de Hector Berlioz, Paris, 1903);


On 13 March 1848 the first riots erupted in Vienna and in April amid the general confusion, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde closed suddenly, stopping all payments, and even refusing to pay the salary owed for the last six months. Alvars found himself in serious financial straits. He could not travel to other cities or countries, as they were experiencing similar political difficulties, and he had lost most of his pupils, who, as members of noble families, had left town out of fear. Regional music life had stopped, and the Hofoperntheater burnt down.

During this troubled period, which reached a climax in October, Alvars and his family found refuge in Leopoldstadt, on the outskirts of Vienna (now a part of the city). They lived at Jägerzeile 53, on the first floor. His health worsened suddenly and he died, likely of pneumonia, on 25 January 1849. His wife returned with their daughter to London. He was buried in the St. Marx Cemetery.

Main works


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