A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Holzbauer, Ignaz

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HOLZBAUER, Ignaz, composer, born at Vienna in 1711. He was destined for the bar, but devoted all his spare time to music, and by study of Fux's 'Gradus' made himself a good contrapuntist. On Fux's advice he went to Italy, running away from the Prince of Tour and Taxis to whom he was secretary at Laybach; but a fever caught at Venice obliged him to return. He next became Capellmeister to Count Rottal in Moravia, and while there married. Returning to Vienna in 1745, the court-theatre engaged him as director of music, and his wife as singer. In 1747 they started on a tour in Italy, and in 1750 he became first Capellmeister to the Duke of Würtemberg at Stuttgart. In 1753 his pastoral opera 'Il Figlio delle Selve' (Schwetzingen) procured him the appointment of Capellmeister to the Elector Palatine at Mannheim. It was during his time that the Mannheim orchestra attained that excellence of performance which made it so famous, though it is difficult to say how much of this was due to Holzbauer and how much to Cannabich the leader. In 1757 he produced 'Nitteti' at Turin with great success, and in the following year his best work, 'Alessandro nell' Indie' was well received at Milan. In 1776 he composed his only German opera, 'Günther von Schwarzburg' (Mannheim), which was brilliantly successful. He was entirely deaf for some years before his death, which took place at Mannheim, April 7, 1783. He composed other operas besides those mentioned, and church and instrumental music, all now forgotten, though not without value in its day, as we may judge from the testimony of Mozart, no lenient critic: 'I heard to-day a mass of Holzbauer's, which is still good although 26 years old. He writes very well, in a good church style; the vocal and instrumental parts go well together, and his fugues are good.' (Letter, Nov. 4, 1777.) And again—'Holzbauer's music' (in Günther) 'is very beautiful—too good for the libretto. It is wonderful that so old a man has so much spirit, for you can't imagine how much fire there is in the music.' (Nov. 14–16, 1777.) He evidently behaved well to Mozart, without any of the jealousy which he too often generated.

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