A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Himmel, Friedrich

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HIMMEL, Friedrich Heinrich, a man of some mark in his day, born Nov. 20, 1765, at Treuenbrietzen, Brandenburg. He was intended for the Church, and studied theology at Halle; but the excellence of his pianoforte playing induced the king, Frederic William II, to have him educated as a musician. After three years harmony and counterpoint under Naumann at Dresden, he took to Berlin 'Isacco,' an oratorio, performed (1792) by the court-chapel with brilliant success, and a cantata 'La Danza.' The king gave him 100 Friedrichs for his oratorio, made him his chamber-composer, and sent him to Italy for two years. While there he produced 'Il primo Navigatore' at the Fenice in Venice (1794), and 'Semiramide' at San Carlo in Naples (Jan. 1795). Reichardt having been dismissed from the Court-Capellmeistership at Berlin, the king gave the appointment to Himmel. who thereupon returned at once. When in office he composed several piéces de circonstance, such as a Trauer-cantata for the funeral of king Frederic William in 1797, and a Te Deum for the coronation of his successor. In 1798 he visited Stockholm and St. Petersburg, where the Emperor commissioned him to write 'Alessandro,' an opera for which he received 6000 roubles. In 1801 he produced 'Vasco di Gama' at Copenhagen, proceeded thence to France, England—where he made only a short stay of which we have no particulars—and Vienna, returning to Berlin in December 1802. After the battle of Jena he retired first to Pyrmont, and then to Cassel, and died of dropsy at Berlin, June 8, 1814. Besides the works already mentioned he composed—'Der Kobold' (1804); 'Fanchon, das Leiermadchen' (1805), libretto by Kotzebue, his best opera; 'Les Sylphes' (1807), all produced in Berlin; a 'Vater Unser'; Psalms; a mass, etc.: P.F. sonatas; dance music and concerted music for P.F.; and a number of songs. The sonatas and songs abound in melody, and are the work of a sound musician, but though popular in their day, they are now quite forgotten. Himmel had much intercourse with Beethoven during the visit of the latter to Berlin in 1796. If Beethoven hurt his feelings by a rude joke on his extemporising, Himmel had certainly the better of the encounter in the end. [See p. 172a]. For a song by him, 'Ada to Alexis,' see 'Musical Library,' vol. i. A couple more pieces are published by Novello.

[ M. C. C. ]