WEISS, Willoughby Hunter  [1820 - 1867]

The singer Willoughby Hunter Weiss was considered one of the outstanding bassists of the 19th century as well as being a notable composer, some of whose works are still fairly well known.

He was born in Liverpool on 2nd April 1820, the son of Willoughby Gaspard Weiss and his wife Ann (née Hunter). His father was a flautist and music publisher who had premises in Lord Street, the address which appears on the baptism register at the time of his birth. The family later lived for some years at 10 Pembroke Place L3. On 15th September 1845 he married Georgina Ansell Barrett, at which time his address was Bedford Street North. (All of his Liverpool homes have been demolished).

Having been a pupil of George Smart and Michael Balfe at the Royal College of Music he made huis first public appearance in a solo concert in Liverpool on 5th May 1942. His opera debut was as Oroveso in Bellini’s Norma at Dublin on 2nd July 1842. He subsequently gained a distinguished reputation as a singer of opera and oratorio.

As a composer his main claim to fame was The Village Blacksmith, a setting of Longfellow’s poem which he wrote c.1854. A firm of publishers turned down the work, for which he sought £5 for the copyright, so he published the song himself which brought him and his family a considerable income over many years.

He died at his home in regent’s Park, London on 24th October 1867 and is buried in Highgate cemetery.

Pembroke Place L3

This picture shows part of Pembroke Place c.1890.

Weiss' grave at Highgate Cemetery


There is a comprehensive entry for Weiss in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and a detailed entry in Wikipedia.