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Composer (MIDI)

Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787); DEU

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Christoph Willibald von Gluck

Gluck, Christoph Willibald von (b Erasbach, 1714; d Vienna, 1787). Ger. composer. Went to Prague Univ. in 1732 to study mus. and philosophy, also learning vc. In 1735 travelled to Vienna under protection of Prince Lobkowitz. Joined private orch. of Prince Melzi, who engaged him for his orch. in Milan 1737. There he probably studied with Sammartini. Wrote his first opera Artaserse, 1741, 7 more following up to 1744. Travelled with Prince Lobkowitz to London 1745, composing 2 operas prod. 1746, meeting Handel, and giving 2 concerts as performer on glass armonica. After 1746 travelled in Austria and Denmark and again visited Prague and Naples. In 1754 Empress Maria Theresa appointed him opera Kapellmeister to court th. in Vienna, a post which required him to compose in the more lively and flexible style of the fashionable Fr. opéras-comiques. During 1755-61 he was closely assoc. with Durazzo (court th. Intendant), Quaglio (scene-painter), Angiolini (dancer), and the poet Calzabigi, with whom he evolved his operatic ‘reforms’ in which the singers' claims were subjugated to those of the drama, with recitativo accompagnato ousting the more formal secco recit. His ballet Don Juan (1761) and opera Orfeo (1762) embodied these principles which reached full expression in Alceste (1767), an anticipation of Wagner's music-drama. Gluck set forth his operatic creed in the preface to Alceste.

He resigned his Vienna court post in 1770 and in 1773 went to Paris, having been contracted to compose Iphigénie en Aulide for the Opéra. Its prod. in 1774 was followed by a slightly rev. Fr. version of Orfeo and 2 years later of Alceste. Jealousy of Gluck's success in Paris led to an engineered quarrel with the It. composer Piccinni, who was asked to set the same lib. on which Gluck was known to be working. Gluck destroyed his sketches but composed Armide (1777), followed by Iphigénie en Tauride (1778). In 1779 he returned to Vienna and retired, living in a grand manner and dying after defying his doctor by drinking a post-prandial liqueur. The simplicity and sublimity of Gluck's melodies, supported by a vivid dramatic sense, have ensured the survival of a large proportion of his mus. Works incl.:

OPERAS: Artaserse (Milan 1741); La caduta dei giganti and Artemene (London 1746); La Semiramide riconosciuta (Vienna 1748); La contesa dei Numi (Copenhagen 1749); La clemenza di Tito (Naples 1752); Le Cinesi (1754); La danza (Vienna 1755); Il rè pastore (Vienna 1756); Orfeo ed Euridice (Vienna 1762); Telemaco (Vienna 1765); Paride ed Elena (Vienna 1770); Iphigénie en Aulide (Paris 1774); Orphée (Paris 1774); Alceste (Vienna 1767, Paris 1776); Armide (Paris 1777); Iphigénie en Tauride (Paris 1778); Echo et Narcisse (Paris 1779).

OPÉRAS-COMIQUES: L'Île de Merlin and La Fausse Esclave (Vienna 1758); La Cythère assiégée (Schwetzingen 1759); L'Arbre enchanté (Vienna 1759); La Rencontre imprévue (often known as The Pilgrimage to Mecca) (Vienna 1764).

BALLETS: Don Juan (Vienna 1761); Semiramide (Vienna 1765).

MISC.: De Profundis, ch.; 6 sonatas a tre (London 1746); 9 syms. (Vienna 1753).

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