A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Beer, Joseph

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BEER, Joseph (sometimes written BOER), a remarkable clarinet-player; born 1744 at Grünwald in Bohemia, served as trumpeter first in the Austrian and then in the French army during the Seven Years' War. In 1771 he went to Paris, and there took up the clarinet, on which he rapidly became the first performer of his time. In 1782 he left Paris, and travelled through Holland, Italy, Russia, and Hungary, exciting everywhere the greatest possible enthusiasm. He died at Potsdam in 1811. As a performer Beer united a masterly execution to great power of expression, and indeed effected a complete revolution in the clarinet, which he greatly improved by the addition of a fifth key. Till nearly fifty years old he had heard only French players, and had insensibly acquired their loud harsh tone; but having heard in Brussels a German performer, Schwartz, he discovered what the instrument was capable of, and finally became as celebrated for the softness and purity of his tone, for the delicacy of his nuances, and especially his decrescendo, as he was for his execution. In fact he marks an epoch in the history of the instrument. His compositions comprise three concertos for two clarinets, variations, and duets.

[ M. C. C. ]