The Great German Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about The Great German Composers.

Before we relate the great episode of our composer’s life, let us take a backward glance at his youth.  He was the son of a forester in the service of Prince Lobkowitz born at Weidenwang in the Upper Palatinate, July 2,1714.  Gluck was devoted to music from early childhood, but received, in connection with the musical art, an excellent education at the Jesuit College of Kommotau.  Here he learned singing, the organ, the violin and harpsichord, and had a mind to get his living by devoting his musical talents to the Church.  The Prague public recognized in him a musician of fair talent, but he found but little encouragement to stay at the Bohemian capital.  So he decided to finish his musical education at Vienna, where more distinguished masters could be had.  Prince Lobkowitz, who remembered his gamekeeper’s son, introduced the young man to the Italian Prince Melzi, who induced him to accompany him to Milan.  As the pupil of the Italian organist and composer, Sammartini, he made rapid progress in operatic composition.  He was successful in pleasing Italian audiences, and in four years produced eight operas, for which the world has forgiven him in forgetting them.  Then Gluck must go to London to see what impression he could make on English critics; for London then, as now, was one of the great musical centres, where every successful composer or singer must get his brevet.

Gluck’s failure to please in London was, perhaps, an important epoch in his career.  With a mind singularly sensitive to new impressions, and already struggling with fresh ideas in the laws of operatic composition, Handel’s great music must have had a powerful effect in stimulating his unconscious progress.  His last production in England, “Pyramus and Thisbe,” was a pasticcio opera, in which he embodied the best bits out of his previous works.  The experiment was a glaring failure, as it ought to have been; for it illustrated the Italian method, which was designed for mere vocal display, carried to its logical absurdity.


In 1748 Gluck settled in Vienna, where almost immediately his opera of “Semiramide” was produced.  Here he conceived a passion for Marianne, the daughter of Joseph Pergin, a rich banker; but on account of the father’s distaste for a musical son-in-law, the marriage did not occur till 1750.  “Telemacco” and “Clemenza di Tito” were composed about this time, and performed in Vienna, Rome, and Naples.  In 1755 our composer received the order of the Golden Spur from the Roman pontiff in recognition of the merits of two operas performed at Rome, called “Il Trionfo di Camillo” and “Antigono.”  Seven years were now actively employed in producing operas for Vienna and Italian cities, which, without possessing great value, show the change which had begun to take place in this composer’s theories of dramatic music.  In Paris he had been struck with the operas of Rameau, in which the declamatory

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The Great German Composers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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