Herz was born Heinrich Herz in Vienna. He was Jewish by birth, although he asked the musical journalist François-Joseph Fétis not to mention this in the latter’s musical encyclopaedia, perhaps a reflection of endemic antisemitism in nineteenth-century French cultural circles. As a child he studied with his father, and in Koblenz with the organist Daniel Hünten. In 1816 he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied under Victor Dourlen and Anton Reicha. His brother Jacques Herz (1794–1880) was a fellow-pupil at the Conservatoire who also became a pianist and teacher.
Herz was married to Pauline Thérèse Lachmann (or Esther Lachmann), a French courtesan known as La Païva. Richard Wagner, Hans von Bülow, Théophile Gautier and Émile de Girardin attended her salon. Her spendings nearly ruined Herz’s finances, and he traveled to America in 1848 to pursue business opportunities. While he was away, her spending continued, and Herz’s family turned Thérèse out of the house in frustration. In 1830, he founded his own piano factory in Paris. In 1838, he built the Salle Herz on the rue de la Victoire, used for performances by Berlioz and Offenbach. He died in Paris aged 84.
A celebrated pianist, Herz traveled worldwide, including tours in Europe, Russia, Mexico, South America, and in the United States between 1846 and 1850, where he concertized all the way to San Francisco. His performances were compared to the more extravagant manner of Leopold de Meyer, concertizing in the United States during the same period (1845–47). He wrote a book about his experiences abroad, Mes voyages en Amérique (Paris: Achille Faure, 1866), translated by Henry Bertram Hill as My Travels in America (1963). Herz taught at the Conservatoire between 1842 and 1874. Of his pupils, only Marie-Aimée Roger-Miclos (1860-1950) recorded, in the early 1900s, for Dischi Fonotipia.
- Piano Trio, Op. 54
- Grand Variations pour Piano, Violon, Alto et Violoncelle, Op. 6
- Rondo de concert pour Piano, 2 violons, alto et basse ad libitum, Op. 27
- Duo & variations concertans pour Piano et Violon sur la romance: C’est une larme, Op. 18
- Fantaisie & variations pour Piano et Violon composées sur des thèmes russes, Op. 19
- Variations concertantes pour Piano et Violon sur la chansonnette favorite de L’enfant du régiment, Op. 24
- Variations brillantes pour Piano et Violon sur la marche favorite de Moïse, Op. 42
- Variations concertantes pour Piano et Violon sur la tyrolienne favorite de La fiancée d’Auber, Op. 56
- Variations concertantes pour Piano & Violon sur la barcarolle favorite de Fra Diavolo de D. F. E. Auber, Op. 59
- Dernier grand duo concertant pour Piano et Violon sur une cavatine favorite de la Niobe de Pacini, Op. 110
- Three Nocturnes Caracteristiques, Op. 45
- Variations on ‘Non Più Mesta’ from Rossini’s ‘La Cenerentola’, Op. 60
- Introduction & Variations on an original Theme, Op. 81
- Fantaisie dramatique, Op. 89
- Trois morceaux de salon, Op. 91; No. 3 “Le mouvement perpetuel”
- Ballade, Op. 117/1
- Ballade, Op. 117/2
- Fantasy & Variations on various American National Themes, Op. 158