Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714 - 1787) Pathography

Article excerpt

Christoph Willibald Gluck (or Clue either Kluk, ashewas sometimes orthographically spelled) was born in 1714 in the village of Erasbach in Bavaria, at that time occupied by Austrian Empire. His father, Hans Adam, was a hunting and forest master for the noble Lobkowitz family. They moved several times during his early years. In 1731, the young Christoph Gluck had left home and escaped to Prague, where he supported himself as an organist in different churches, also studying music and philosophy at the University. In music he remained essentially self-taught. After Prague, he went to Vienna in 1735 and then in 1736 to Milan, where he was hired as a chamber musician. There, he played violin in the prince's court orchestra and probably also studied counterpoint and composition with the city's leading musician, Giovanni Battista Sammartini.1 In 1741 he composed his first opera "Artaserse". In 1745, he traveled to London, where he met Georg Friedrich Handel. Later on, he was on his way to Dresden and Bohemia and in 1748 he was back in Vienna. In his manhood he abused alcohol and drugs also had some gallant affairs, especially with the buffosinger primadona Gaspera Bacheroni. She had affairs with other men in the same time and transmitted to him the so called "gallant" disease - lues. In 1750, Gluck married Maria Anna Bergin, daughter of a merchant with close ties to the imperial court. Because of lues and consequential sterility caused by chronic inflammation of the testical ducts they did not have children.2 From 1752 to 1770 he settled in Vienna. When Italian opera made a comeback on the Viennese stage, around 1760, Gluck was introduced to librettist Calzabigi. Already from the beginning, their collaboration turned out to be a big success - Don Juan in 1761 and even more next year, when they triumphed with Orfeo et Euridice - first performed in 1762, which soon became one of the most rewarding 18th century operas.3 In 1767, they collaborated successfully again on Alceste. During the 177Os Gluck won further acclaim with Iphigénie en Aulide (1774), Armide (1777), and Iphigénie en Tauride (1779).4 Christoph Willibald Gluck was probably the most important opera composer of the 18th century and precursor to the music dramas of Richard Wagner. Hector Berlioz was his devoted fan. His historical importance rests on his establishment of a new equilibrium between music and drama, and his greatness, on the power and clarity with which he projected that vision; he dissolved the drama in music instead of merely illustrating it. …


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