Cramer, Johann Baptist (DNB00)

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CRAMER, JOHANN BAPTIST (1771–1858), pianist and composer, the eldest son of Wilhelm Cramer [q. v.], was born at Mannheim 24 Feb. 1771. He came with his mother to London in 1774, and when seven years old was placed under the care of a musician named Bensor, with whom he studied for three years. He then learned for a short time from Schroeter, and after a year's interval had lessons from Clementi, until the latter left England in 1781. In 1785 he studied theory with C. F. Abel, but otherwise he was entirely self-taught, and seems to have had no lessons after he was sixteen. But he was assiduous in the study of the works of Scarlatti, Haydn, and Mozart, and it is probable that his father, who was an admirable musician, supervised his education throughout. Although originally intended for a violinist, his talent as a pianist soon asserted itself, and in 1781 he made his first appearance at his father's yearly benefit concert. In 1784 he played at one concert a duet with Miss Jane Mary Guest; at another a duet for two pianofortes with Clementi. In the following year he played at a concert with Dance, and in 1799 with Dussek. In 1788 Cramer went abroad. At Vienna he made Haydn's acquaintance, and in Paris, where he stayed for some time, he became first acquainted with the works of Sebastian Bach, which he obtained in repayment of a loan. He returned to England in 1791, but in 1798 he again went abroad, renewing his friendship with Haydn at Vienna, and making the acquaintanceship of Beethoven, with whom, however, he seems to have been in little sympathy. On his return to England he married. He remained in England until 1816, when he went to Germany, but returned in 1818. On the establishment of the Royal Academy of Music in 1822 Cramer was appointed a member of the board of management. In 1828 he founded the firm of music publishers ‘J. B. Cramer & Co.,’ but in 1835 he resolved to retire from active interest in the business and settle in Munich; he accordingly gave a farewell concert and left England. He did not stay in Germany long, but returned to London, afterwards living in retirement in Paris. In 1845 he once more came back to England, where he remained for the rest of his life. In June 1851 he was present with Duprez and Berlioz at the festival of charity children at St. Paul's. Berlioz, disguised in a surplice, obtained admission among the bass singers. On meeting Cramer after the service he found the old musician deeply affected; forgetting that Berlioz was a Frenchman, he exclaimed, ‘Cosa stupenda! stupenda! La gloria dell' Inghilterra!’ Cramer died in London on Friday, 16 April 1858, and was buried at Brompton on the Thursday following. He wrote an immense amount of music for the pianoforte—sonatas, concertos, and smaller pieces—all of which are now forgotten; but one work of his, the ‘Eighty-four Studies,’ is still an accepted classic. As a pianist he occupied the foremost rank of his day; his power of making the instrument sing was unrivalled, and the evenness of his playing was remarkable. As a musician he was more in sympathy with the school of Haydn and Mozart than with that of Beethoven. The latter in one of his letters alludes to a report that had reached him of Cramer's want of sympathy with his music, and it is said that in later years Cramer was fond of praising the days when Beethoven's music was not understood. But against these stories must be set an account of a meeting of Hummel, Kalkbrenner, Moscheles, and Cramer, when Cramer played a work of Beethoven's to such perfection that Hummel rapturously embraced him, exclaiming, ‘Never till now have I heard Beethoven!’

The following is a list of the portraits of Cramer: (1) Oil painting, by Marlow, in the possession of Messrs. Chappell & Co.; (2) oil painting, by J. C. Horsley, in the possession of Messrs. Broadwood & Sons; (3) drawing by Wivell, engraved (a) by Thomson in the ‘Harmonicon’ for 1823, and (b) by B. Holl, published 21 July 1831; (4) oil painting by J. Pocock, engraved by E. Scriven, and published 14 June 1819; (5) drawing by D. Barber, engraved by Thomson, and published 1 March 1826; (6) lithograph drawn and engraved by W. Sharp, published 15 Nov. 1830; (7) medal by Wyon, with Cramer's head on the obverse, and heads of Mozart, Raphael, and Shakespeare on the reverse; engravings of this medal are in the Print Room of the British Museum.

[Pohl's Mozart und Haydn in London; Fétis's Biographies des Musiciens; Musical World, 24 April 1858; Musical Recollections of the Last Century, i. 75; Life of Moscheles, i. 318; Ries, Notizen über Beethoven; Harmonicon for 1823, p. 179; Evans's Cat. of Portraits; Grove's Dict. of Musicians, i. 414, in which there is an excellent estimate of Cramer's position as a pianist and composer.]

W. B. S.