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BECHER, ALFRED JULIUS:

Austrian journalist, musician, and revolutionist; born at Manchester, England, in 1803 (or 1805); died at Vienna Nov. 23, 1848. He was a son of the founder of the Rhenish-West India Company, and studied law at Heidelberg, Göttingen, and Berlin. It was not long before he conceived ultra-socialistic ideas that led to his arrest. On his release shortly after, he went to Elberfeld, where he practised law for a time. His restless spirit would not permit him to pursue his profession, so he went to Cologne to assume editorial supervision of a trade paper founded and published by his father. Restless again, Becher decided to study painting and music, and accordingly went to Düsseldorf, where he formed lasting friendships with Mendelssohn Immermann, Uetritz, and Grabbe, continuing, however, his adhesion to radical socialism. There he remained until 1838, when he was appointed professor of the theory of music at the university at The Hague. For nearly two years he labored at this, until an injudiciously worded criticism led to his departure for London, where he became professor of music in a private academy. His stay in the English capital was very short, however, for litigation with an English nobleman forced Becher to leave the country.

Then began the last act in his eventful life. In 1841 he appeared at Vienna as a performer in hisown composition, "Monologue at the Piano." He also wrote a pamphlet, "Jenny Lind, eine Skizze Ihres Lebens," and a quartet. Of the last-named composition Grillparzer declared: "It sounds as though a man were splitting wood with an ax, the while two women sawed a cord of wood."

Becher was perennially poor, and eked out a precarious existence writing for the "Sonntagsblatt" and the "Wiener Musikzeitung." He was a stanch champion of the classical school of music, and especially of Mendelssohn and Berlioz.

In the spring of 1848 Becher became the practical head of the radicals, then fomenting a revolt in the Austrian capital. He became a member of the central committee and assumed editorial charge of the revolutionary organ, "Der Radikale." While the revolution lasted and during the siege of Vienna by Prince Windischgrätz, Becher was a popular hero. When, however, the tide of war turned, and Vienna fell into the hands of the imperial troops, Becher was forsaken by his whilom friends and tried for treason. He was found guilty, and early in the morning of Nov. 23 was taken before the Neuethor, where a battalion of Jaegers shot him.

Bibliography:
  • Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, ii. 200-201;
  • Augsburger Allg. Zeit., Supplement, Dec. 3, 1848;
  • Moniteur des Dates, 1866, p. 69;
  • ib., Appendix, p. 21;
  • Meyer, Konversations-Lexikon, ii. 654.
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