1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Woelfl, Joseph
WOELFL, JOSEPH (1772-1812), Austrian pianist and composer, was born in 1772 at Salzburg, where he studied music under Leopold Mozart and Michael Haydn. After a short residence at Warsaw he produced his first opera, Der Höllenberg, with some success at Vienna, where it was soon followed by Das schöne Milchmädchen and some other dramatic pieces. His fame now rests upon his compositions for the pianoforte, and the skill with which he is said to have met their formidable demands upon his power as an executant. The perfection of his technique was immeasurably enhanced by the enormous stretch of his fingers (his hand could strike a thirteenth with case); and to his wide grasp of the keyboard he owed a facility of execution which he turned to excellent account, especially in his extempore performances. His technique was superior even to that of the young Beethoven, who played in company with him at the house of Count Wetzlar, and in memory of this exhibition of good-humoured rivalry he dedicated to Beethoven his “Three Sonatas,” Op. 6. Quitting Vienna in 1798, he exhibited his skill in most of the great European capitals, and, after spending some years in Paris, made his first appearance in London on the 27th of May 1805. Here he enjoyed a long term of popularity, crowned about 1808 by the publication of his sonata, Op. 41, containing some variations on “Life let us cherish.” This, on account of its technical difficulty, he entitled Non Plus Ultra; and, in reply to the challenge, Dussek's London publishers reprinted a sonata by that composer, originally called Le Retour à Paris, with the title Plus Ultra, and an ironical dedication to Non Plus Ultra. Woelfl died in Great Marylebone. Street, London, on the 21st of May 1812.