A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Eck, Johann

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From volume 1 of the work.

ECK, Johann Friedrich, an eminent violin-player, born 1766 at Mannheim, where his father was a member of the band. He was a pupil of Danner, and soon rose to be one of the best violin-players in Germany. Reichardt of Berlin speaks of him as having all the qualities of a really great player—large tone, perfect intonation, taste and feeling, and adds that, with the single exception of Salomon, he never heard a better violinist. From 1778 to 88 Eck was a member of the band at Munich, and afterwards conducted the opera of that town. In 1801 however, having married a lady of rank and wealth, he quitted Germany and spent the rest of his life in Paris, and in the neighbourhood of Nancy. The date of his death is unknown. Eck published 4 Concertos for the violin, and a Concertante for 2 Violins.

His most distinguished pupil was his brother Franz, also an eminent violin-player, born at Mannheim 1774. He entered the band at Munich while very young; but, driven from that city by a love-affair, he travelled in 1802 through Germany, and gained a great reputation as violinist. The Duke of Brunswick was at that time looking out for a master on the violin for Spohr, then 18, in whose rising talent he took a lively interest. He invited Eck to Brunswick and confided to him the technical education of the future great musician. They at once set out on a tour to Russia, Spohr getting instruction at the places where the journey was broken, but otherwise profiting chiefly by hearing his master. In his autobiography he speaks very highly of Eck as a violin-player. He describes his style as powerful without harshness, exhibiting a great variety of subtle and tasteful nuances, irreproachable in his execution of difficult passages, and altogether possessing a great and peculiar charm in performance. On the other hand, Eck was evidently an indifferent musician, unable to enter into the compositions of the great masters, and showing great incapacity in his own attempts at composition. That he was not ashamed to pass off unpublished compositions of his brother and other composers under his own name confirms the low estimate of his general character to be gathered from Spohr's narrative. On arriving at St. Petersburg in 1803 he met with great success, and was appointed Solo-Violinist to the Court, but becoming involved in a scandalous affair, he fell into disgrace and was transported by the police over the Russian frontier. His health broke down and he became insane. After living for some time near Nancy he appears to have died in a lunatic asylum at Bamberg in 1809 or 10. Eck's importance in musical history rests mainly on the fact of his having been the master of Spohr, and thus having handed over to that great artist the traditions and principles of the celebrated Mannheim school of violin-playing.
[ P. D. ]