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The Career of an Eighteenth-Century Kapellmeister

The Career of an Eighteenth-Century Kapellmeister: The Life and Music of Antonio Rosetti (ca. 1750-1792)

Sterling E. Murray
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 558
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  • Book Info
    The Career of an Eighteenth-Century Kapellmeister
    Book Description:

    Today the classical style in music is defined primarily through the accomplishments of a handful of acknowledged masters, with Haydn and Mozart leading the field. Such selective fascination has all but eclipsed the music of most of their contemporaries. In this book, Sterling Murray examines one of the most talented of this group: Antonio Rosetti (ca. 1750-92). Born and trained in Bohemia, Rosetti spent most of his creative life in Germany, where he served as music director to the Prince of Oettingen-Wallerstein between 1773 and 1789 and then the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin until his death in 1792. The Career of an Eighteenth-Century Kapellmeister provides the first comprehensive investigation of Rosetti's life. The events of the composer's biography are unfolded against a vivid picture of musical life at the two small German courts where Rosetti was employed. The second half of the book is devoted to an examination of form and style in Rosetti's music, illustrated with full-score musical examples in the text and on a complementary website. What emerges from this investigation is a composer who, having conquered the stylistic language of his day, challenged those conventions to produce imaginative and highly creative works of great beauty. Sterling E. Murray is Professor Emeritus of the School of Music at West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His thematic catalog of Antonio Rosetti's music was published by Harmonie Park Press in 1997.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-826-8
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Note about Online Supporting Material
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Antonio Rosetti was a versatile and prolific composer. Although his life numbered only forty-two years—just seven years longer than that of Mozart—he authored over four hundred compositions in most of the instrumental and vocal genres popular in his day, with the notable exception of opera. Like many of his rediscovered colleagues, Rosetti was well recognized by his contemporaries. The music critic Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart (1739–91) considered Rosetti “one of the most beloved composers of our time,” a sentiment seconded by the lexicographer Ernst Ludwig Gerber.¹ Charles Burney in hisGeneral History of Music,written during the...

  9. Part One: Biography and Context

    • Chapter One Becoming a Musician, 1750–73
      (pp. 13-21)

      Rosetti’s early life remains shrouded in obscurity. Even the most basic facts surrounding his identity and the date and place of his birth have been open to multiple interpretations. Until recently, it was believed that Rosetti was born Anton Rösler in Bohemia and that he later Italianized his name. This assumption was based on a biographical account that appeared in Ernst Ludwig Gerber’sNeues historisch-biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstlerin 1812–14.¹ Gerber’s information, modified from the first edition of his dictionary published more than two decades earlier, was accepted by later commentators without question. The composer’s first modern biographer, Oskar...

    • Chapter Two Setting the Stage: The Early Years of the Oettingen–Wallerstein Hofkapelle
      (pp. 22-39)

      At the time of Rosetti’s hiring, his new employer Kraft Ernst Judas Thaddäus Notger Count of Oettingen-Wallerstein was twenty-five years old—just two years older than Rosetti himself. The young count had only two months earlier assumed control of his hereditary lands, which passed to him officially on his birthday, August 3, 1773. Less than a year later, on March 5, 1774, Emperor Joseph II elevated the countship of Oettingen-Wallerstein to a princedom. Rosetti’s productivity during his years at Wallerstein was shaped to a great extent by the daily activity of the Hofkapelle and the high level of expectation set...

    • Chapter Three Kraft Ernst Builds a Hofkapelle, 1773–76
      (pp. 40-54)

      Although Kraft Ernst officially assumed rule of his hereditary lands on his birthday, August 3, 1773, it was not until a month later, on September 10, that he returned to Wallerstein from Vienna. Almost immediately, he set in motion plans for establishing a Hofkapelle. Drawing on his own musical experiences in his father’s court, student days in Vienna, and travels on the Grand Tour, Kraft Ernst was now prepared to shape Wallerstein into a center for music. The young count had been considering his course of action for some time. As early as January 1772, he had discussed with Beecke...

    • Chapter Four Wallerstein Court Musician, 1773–81
      (pp. 55-74)

      Unfortunately, we don’t know the precise date Rosetti began his service at Wallerstein. One can, however, deduce the year and possibly even the month from evidence found in court records of a later period. In a petition to the prince dated May 19, 1786, Rosetti refers to his “thirteen years of service” placing his date of hire in 1773. This reading is further supported in a document from 1789, Rosetti’s last year at court, in which he prefaces a request for release from his position by stating that “for sixteen years I have dedicated the best years of my life...

    • Chapter Five The Oettingen-Wallerstein Hofkapelle in the 1780s
      (pp. 75-110)

      During his sixteen years in the prince’s service, Rosetti composed a substantial body of symphonies, concertos, wind partitas, and chamber music for the Wallerstein Hofkapelle. The prince’s musicians formed a discernible unit within the court structure, strengthened by family and close personal bonds. Rosetti was not writing music for an anonymous ensemble of performers, but rather for personal friends and life-long associates with whom he shared the normal joys and sorrows of human existence. This chapter considers the organization and daily activities of the Wallerstein Hofkapelle during its period of greatest achievement in the 1780s, with the intent of documenting...

    • Chapter Six Music for a Prince: The Wallerstein Court Repertory
      (pp. 111-119)

      As a Wallerstein court composer, Rosetti wrote orchestral music for regularly scheduled court concerts, special pieces for both indoor andal frescoperformances by the prince’s wind band, and various types of chamber music for informal gatherings. Also included among his duties as Kapellmeister was the selection and rehearsal of music for court concerts. In order to execute each of these tasks, he had to be conversant with a wide musical repertory. Unfortunately, since neither acquisition nor inventory lists have survived, it is impossible to identify precisely the body of music played at court during Rosetti’s tenure. The music collection...

    • Chapter Seven Rosetti in Paris, 1781–82
      (pp. 120-138)

      In the autumn of 1781, Rosetti’s career as a composer was given a major boost. Prince Kraft Ernst granted him a leave of absence to visit Paris, and even provided a substantial loan to help with travel expenses. Rosetti would be away from court for eight months. This was his first extended absence from Wallerstein, and one can only speculate as to what may have prompted the prince’s generosity. It seems most probable that Kraft Ernst’s decision came in response to a request made by the composer himself, although such a document has not been found. By 1781, Rosetti had...

    • Chapter Eight Years of Achievement and Recognition, 1782–89
      (pp. 139-162)

      In the last days of April 1782, Rosetti packed his belongings and started on the long journey back to Wallerstein. He must have done this with some conflicting emotions. Paris had been a musical oasis that he would certainly miss.On the other hand, he had not seen his wife and children for a long time. By the middle of May Rosetti was back in Wallerstein. He quickly reentered life there, resuming his musical responsibilities and renewing friendships with his colleagues in the Hofkapelle.¹

      During Rosetti’s seven-month absence from court, a number of changes had occurred in the Hofkapelle. Of special...

    • Chapter Nine Rosetti and the Mecklenburg-Schwerin Hofkapelle, 1789–92
      (pp. 163-186)

      It was August of 1789 before Rosetti was settled in Ludwigslust and ready to assume his duties as Kapellmeister to Friedrich Franz I, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. At thirty-nine years of age, Rosetti was an accomplished composer with an impressive list of works to his credit. His orchestral and chamber music was dispersed widely in both manuscript copies and printed editions, many of which were issued by some of the foremost music publishers of the day. Critics praised his gift for lyric melody and his imaginative orchestration. Passages from his compositions were cited in theoretical manuals,¹ and reviewers regularly recommended his...

  10. Part Two: The Music

    • Chapter Ten Symphonies
      (pp. 189-236)

      Symphonies formed the backbone of Rosetti’s oeuvre. At present, forty-three symphonies spanning from approximately 1773 to 1792 can be safely attributed to his pen.¹ An additional twenty works exist in sources with unconvincing attributions and are considered either doubtful or spurious. Rosetti’s symphonies achieved great popularity during his lifetime. Individual works were listed in various court and monastic inventories and advertised for sale in Breitkopf’s catalog supplements. Well over half appeared in print during his lifetime. Even today, manuscript sets of parts are found in archives throughout Europe. Rosetti composed most—although not all—of these works for the Wallerstein...

    • Chapter Eleven Concertos
      (pp. 237-268)

      While symphonies were likely to receive a wider distribution, it was concertos that constituted the “meat and potatoes” of a court composer’s productivity. Performers were continually in need of pieces to display their special talents. Regular performances of concertos in court concerts ensured that the skills of individual virtuosos would be obvious to their employers. Performers occasionally tried their hand at composing their own concertos, but more often than not this led to less than satisfactory results. Printed editions were available, but costly. Wallerstein musicians sometimes sought appropriate pieces from outside the court, but, of course, their composer colleagues in...

    • Chapter Twelve Harmoniemusik
      (pp. 269-286)

      Rosetti is known to have composed twenty works for wind ensembles of various combinations.¹ Just over half are preserved in unique manuscript copies in the Wallerstein music collection. These pieces were designed specifically for Kraft Ernst’sHarmonieand first heard in performances at Wallerstein. The remainder are preserved in manuscript part books in various other music collections. Although these pieces may also have been played at Wallerstein, they were composed with othervenues in mind.

      Unlike the symphony and concerto,Harmoniemusikwas not a public type of music and individual compositions were unlikely to gain a wide circulation. Indeed, few of...

    • Chapter Thirteen Nonliturgical Music for Voice and Orchestra
      (pp. 287-314)

      Although Rosetti was noted primarily as a composer of instrumental music, his oeuvre includes several major works for voices and orchestra, including two oratorios, a cantata, a chamber opera, and a set of choral variations. His two oratorios,Der sterbende JesusandJesus in Gethsemane,both deal with Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross. They are, however, very different pieces, dating from different periods in the composer’s career, and intended for dissimilar performance circumstances.

      Rosetti worked onDer sterbende Jesus(G1) during the winter of 1784–85. This was for him an exceptional undertaking. There was no strong tradition...

    • Chapter Fourteen Music for the Church
      (pp. 315-332)

      Although recognized primarily for his orchestral music, like most composers of his day Rosetti also wrote music for the church. Intended as a youth for the priesthood, he was introduced early in his life to the role of music in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. He then spent sixteen years at Wallerstein in the service of a Catholic family. With his move to northern Germany in 1789, Rosetti found himself at a Protestant court. While, during his last years, Rosetti composed several works that reflected the religious traditions of his new surroundings, it was the Catholic Church for...

    • Chapter Fifteen Serenade for a Prince and Requiem for a Princess
      (pp. 333-347)

      One of Rosetti’s responsibilities as court composer was to create music for special occasions: to celebrate joyful events in the lives of the prince and his family, and to offer homage on more somber occasions. Two such honorific compositions, representing emotional extremes, are the subject of this chapter. One is a birthday offering to Prince Kraft Ernst, and the other is funeral music for the prince’s young bride. These are not pieces for whoever might purchase them, but rather genuine expressions of personal esteem.

      The strict class structure of the eighteenth century did not encourage friendships or expressions of familiarity...

    • Chapter Sixteen Chamber Music
      (pp. 348-364)

      Rosetti’s involvement with chamber music spanned his entire career. His contribution to the chamber music repertory includes string trios and quartets, accompanied and unaccompanied keyboard sonatas, and a few pieces with mixed string and wind groupings. Most of it appeared in print, and it is through these printed editions that Rosetti’s chamber music reached its largest audience.

      Wallerstein had a particularly active chamber music life. Some 500 manuscript or printed copies of string quartets alone can be documented in the court music library and private collections.¹ This repertory encompasses the work of over forty composers, with house composers (Beecke, Wineberger,...

    • Chapter Seventeen Domestic Music: Keyboard Pieces and Lieder in Blumenlese für Klavierliebhaber
      (pp. 365-381)

      Eighteenth-century society valued the ability to sing and play a musical instrument as fundamental to a proper education. This was especially true for females, for whom musical proficiency was an essential social grace. For women of upper-class households, the free time afforded by being able to delegate daily routine tasks to a small army of servants was typically filled with such leisurely activities as needlework, reading, cards, painting, and music. Hunting was the favorite pastime of men, but cultivated gentlemen were also expected to possess at least a modicum of musical proficiency and taste. For ladies, keyboard instruments or harp...

    • Chapter Eighteen Rosetti in Perspective
      (pp. 382-390)

      By eighteenth-century standards, Rosetti was a successful musician. He joined the Hofkapelle of Prince Kraft Ernst while still a young man and served the Wallerstein family for sixteen years. Beginning in livery as a servant-musician, Rosetti advanced quickly to Hofmusikus and eventually Kapellmeister. Much of the recognition that Wallerstein achieved as a center of musical excellence was the result of his leadership. In particular, commentators frequently cited Rosetti’s commitment to precise performance and expressive finesse. When he left Wallerstein, Rosetti’s successful record there enabled him to secure another appointment as Kapellmeister, this time to the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, whose court...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 391-434)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 435-444)
  13. Index
    (pp. 445-464)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 465-465)