1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wieprecht, Wilhelm Friedrich
WIEPRECHT, WILHELM FRIEDRICH (1802-1872), German musical conductor, composer and inventor, was born on the 10th of August 1802, at Aschersleben, where his father was town musician. According to his autobiography, Wieprecht early learned from his father to play on nearly all wind instruments. It was in violin-playing, however, that his father particularly wished him to excel; and in 1819 he went to Dresden, where he studied composition and the violin to such good purpose that a year later he was given a position in the city orchestra of Leipzig, playing also in those of the opera and the famous Gewandhaus. At this time, besides playing the violin and clarinet in the orchestra, he also gave solo performances on the trombone. In 1824 he went to Berlin, where he became a member of the royal orchestra, and was in the same year appointed chamber musician to the king. His residence at Berlin gave Wieprecht ample opportunity for the exercise of his genius for military music, on which his fame mainly rests. Several of his marches were early adopted by the regimental bands, and a more ambitious military composition attracted the attention of Gasparo Spontini, at whose house he became an intimate guest. It was now that he began to study acoustics, in order to correct the deficiencies in military musical instruments. As the result, he improved the valves of the brass instruments, and succeeded, by constructing them on sounder acoustic principles, in greatly increasing the volume and purity of their tone. He also invented the bass tuba or bombardon in order to give greater richness and power to the bass parts. In recognition of these inventions he was, in 1835, honoured by the Royal Academy of Berlin. In 1838 he was appointed by the Prussian government director-general of all the guards' bands, and in recognition of the magnificent performance by massed bands on the occasion of the emperor Nicholas I.'s visit the same year, was awarded a special uniform. In 1843 he became director-general of the bands of the 10th Confederate army corps, and from this time exercised a profound influence on the development of military music throughout Germany, and beyond. He was the first to arrange the symphonies and overtures of the classical masters for military instruments, and to organize those outdoor performances of concert pieces by military bands which have done so much to popularize good music in Germany and elsewhere. The performance arranged by him of Beethoven's “Battle of Vittoria,” in which the bugle calls were given by trumpeters stationed in various parts of the garden and the cannon shots wore those of real guns, created immense sensation. Besides the great work he accomplished in Germany, Wieprecht, in 1847, reorganized the military music in Turkey and, in 1852, in Guatemala. He composed military songs as well as numerous marches, and contributed frequently on his favourite subject to the Berlin musical papers. He died on the 4th of August 1872. Wieprecht was a man of genial, kindly and generous nature, and was associated with many charitable foundations established for the benefit of poor musicians.