Christoph Willibald Gluck

Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck ( born July 2, 1714 at Erasbach Berching, Upper Palatinate, † November 15, 1787 in Vienna ) was a German composer of the pre-classical period. He is considered one of the most important opera composers of the second half of the 18th century.

  • 2.1 operas
  • 2.2 Pasticci
  • 2.3 ballets
  • 2.4 Instrumental Works
  • 2.5 Religious
  • 2.6 cantatas
  • 2.7 Songs and Arias
  • 2.8 Letters and Documents


Childhood and youth

Gluck was born as the first of nine children. His father and forefathers were foresters, of Gluck's mother is not known, neither their origin nor their family name. 1717 the family moved to Bohemia: first to Reichenberg, 1722 by Kreibitz and 1727 according to Eisenberg, where his father was a forester in the service of Prince Philipp Hyacinth Lobkowitz. Very little is handed down over the young life of Christoph Willibald Gluck, many things can only be guessed. In stories reported Gluck: "My father was a forester champion in a bohemian place and had appointed me as his successor. But in my home drives all Music [ ... ] Passionate inflamed for this art, I came amazingly fast forward, played several instruments.. My whole thoughts and wishes finally was now more of the music and not the Ranger existence " If you believe Gluck reports, it follows a secret escape from the parental home: " One fine day, with a little pennies in my pocket, I secretly left the parental house and walked [ ... ] in a roundabout in the direction of Vienna. My accommodation and food I got me through my singing. On Sundays and feast days I played in village churches. " On the way to Vienna Gluck first visited Prague, where he studied from 1731 logic and mathematics. However, from an associate's degree is not known.


Here he was his true vocation fast approaching, after he took a job in an orchestra of Milan and there became acquainted with operation and nature of the opera. He was trained by Giovanni Battista Sammartini to the composer, and celebrated with the Italian opera soon successes on the stages. In his first proven appearance as a composer he was already 27 years old: on December 26, 1741 was premiered in Milan his opera Artaserse.

In the following years he wrote very productive for the stage: Demetrio (Venice, May 2, 1742), Demofoonte (Milan, January 6, 1743 ), Il Tigrane ( Crema, September 9, 1743), La Sofonisba (Milan, 18 January 1744 ), Ipermestra (Venice, November 21, 1744), Poro (Venice, December 26 1744), Ippolito ( Milan 31 January, 1745). In all it is quite conventional opere serie, and up to Tigrane and Ippolito used all libretti by Metastasio.


Gluck then began to travel widely through Europe. Along with Georg Christian von Lobkowitz he was in London. Since it was on January 7, 1746 Caduta de ' Giganti, listed on 4 March Artamene, but both had little success. In the same year six trio sonatas by Gluck were printed in London, which he had probably written in Italy. Then he seems to be just the touring company of Pietro Mingotti to have then connected by Giovanni Locatelli. His years of travel begin. Such mobile opera occurred in the cities that did not have a permanent opera house.

Is not known until another appearance on June 29, 1747 on the occasion of a double wedding in the Saxon manor house in Dresden. For the birthday of Maria Theresa La Semiramide was staged riconosciuta (14 May 1748). For next year, La contesa is de ' numi (9 April 1749) documented an opera for the royal court in Copenhagen. On September 15, 1750 Gluck married in St. Ulrich in Vienna, who was born in Vienna on July 24, 1732 Maria Anna Bergin, daughter of the trader Joseph Bergin ( 1686-1738 ) and Maria Theresa, nee Chini ( 1701-1756 ). Gluck is at his wedding 36 years old, twice as old as his bride. Apparently Gluck but did not at that time yet reflected in Vienna.


Finally, Gluck was established in Vienna and later became Kapellmeister. For a multi-day festival, he wrote Le Cinesi (24 September 1754) and for the birthday of Archduke Leopold La danza (5 May 1755). After the performance of his Antigono ( February 9, 1756 ) in Rome, Gluck ( 2nd class) was charged by Pope Benedict XIV Knight of the Golden Spur. Since that time, Gluck used the title " Ritter von Gluck " or " Chevalier de Gluck ."

In the following years, Gluck turned entirely on the Italian opera seria and opéra comique French edited instead. The first of these works was apparently Tircis et Doristée (1756 ), on which its share is very low. 1761 was the much acclaimed performance of the ballet Don Juan, to which the dancer and choreographer Gasparo Angiolini created the choreography instead. Mozart was in his comic opera Le nozze di Figaro (1786 ) on the Fandango, as he had heard it at Gluck in this ballet, fall back. The climax of Gluck's comic operas forms La rencontre imprévue (January 7, 1764 German: The unexpected encounter ), which coincides already in the time of his reform operas. The opera is known under the name Les Pèlerins de la Mecque ( German Pilgrims of Mecca ).

Opera reform

With time came Gluck fundamental concerns about the content and form of opera. Both leading opera forms seemed to have alienated him too far from what opera should really be. They seemed unnatural, directed the singing of opera seria on superficial effects, its contents are uninteresting and fossilized. The opera buffa lacked for quite some time to original freshness, they had consumed their jokes, you got to always see the same people as caricatures. Also in the opera seria the singer were regarded as sovereign ruler of the stage and the music they auszierten with the highest skill and throat are so severely altered that the listener the original melody could not even imagine. Gluck wanted to bring the opera back to its origin, an opera, stand in the human drama, passion, tragedy and primordial human emotions in the foreground, and where words and music were equal, if not the music should not even support or complement the dramatic situation: " prima le parole, poi la musica ".

The characteristics of the following works of Gluck, the French comic opera, are the short, song-like chants of simple construction. Gluck began a resolution process here. He gave - at ascertainable patency of the bass - now the upper voices more freedom. This meant the solution from the old foundation and an inner revival of an external schema.

Gluck had the unabridged language as the rapid mood and scene changes irritated that required him to adapt the music. The special position held by Gluck operas over his dramatic oeuvre remains. According to the judgment Eduard Hanslick, one of the most important music critics of the 19th century, Gluck was the " solemn high priest " of the musical tragedy. He was 44 years old and a famous composer in Europe when he published the first comic opera after two years of artistic silence.

Gasparo Angiolini, a choreographer, had a lively dance presentation in mind. He sat down against the specified courtly ballet tradition, with their masks and the resulting typology and rigidity; his desire to replace the typical representative ballet by one act ballet, which should follow a sensible dramaturgical process was. He expressed via Gluck " Gluck has set the music. He has recorded the piece completely and tried the passions that are presented and the horror that dominates the catastrophe express! The music is in the pantomime the main thing: it is she who speaks, we only do the movements [ ... ] It would be almost impossible for us to make us without music of course, and the more it is adapted to what we want to express, the better we are understood. "

Angiolini placed special emphasis on the finding that the music will specially composed for the ballet - not created as a choreography to older pieces. The new ballet is unthinkable without excitation from Paris. On October 17, 1761 in Vienna presented Gluck 's ballet Don Juan. This quite serious work then followed on October 5, 1762 Orfeo ed Euridice. This work, which in those days was Gluck become the creator of a new music in the literary reception, was found to be similar to heavy and dark as Don Juan. The idea of ​​the act ballet an important step towards " clearing out " of Italian opera had been, its now changed to static 'Virtuoso food " has become arias were a liquid dramaturgical process in the way.


Now Gluck himself set out to spread his ideas in France. Under the patronage of his former singing pupil Marie Antoinette, in 1770 the French Dauphin Louis XVI. married, he concluded with the Paris Opera Directorate a contract for six operas. It began with Iphigénie en Aulis (19 April 1774). Unexpectedly with the premiere of a dispute flared up almost a war, reminiscent of the Parisian Buffonistenstreit twenty years earlier. Gluck's opponents brought the Italian Opera Maestro Niccolò Piccinni to Paris to demonstrate the superiority of Neapolitan opera, and " all Paris " was involved in the dispute between the followers and the Gluck Piccinianhängern. The composer himself did not participate in the polemics, but when Piccinni was asked to set to music the libretto to Roland, on which Gluck worked known, destroyed Gluck, what he had written up to that point. With Gluck 's Iphigénie en Aulis made ​​a breakthrough, then he worked his Viennese reform operas, to transfer them into French. To this end, he wrote the lead vocals - originally composed for alto voice - for tenor voice to what brought the transpose of other voices with it.

On August 2, 1774 its French version Orphée et Euridice premiered - this was better accepted by the Parisian public. In the same year he returned to Vienna, where he was appointed imperial- royal court composer. In the following years the now famous throughout Europe composer between Vienna and Paris traveled back and forth, which in French transmitted Alceste was posted on April 23, 1776 listed in Paris.

For Paris, he wrote Armide (23 September 1777), Iphigénie en Tauride (May 18, 1779) and most recently Écho et Narcisse (24 September 1779). During the rehearsals for Écho et Narcisse Gluck suffered on July 30, 1779 a first stroke. After this opera, he returned to Vienna.

His legacy in Paris joined the Italian-Austrian composer Antonio Salieri in, the Gluck since its arrival in Vienna in 1767 was weighed amicable. Gluck brought Salieri to Paris and gave him in 1783 the libretto for Tragédie lyrique Les Danaïdes. The work was first announced in Paris as a cooperative effort between the two composers; after the overwhelming success of the premiere on April 26, 1784 Gluck did however announce the prestigious Journal de Paris that Salieri was the sole author of the work.

The last years

In Vienna Gluck wrote a few more minor works, but lived mostly withdrawn. In 1781 he produced the German version of Iphigenie auf Tauris. Other of his operas enjoyed great popularity in Vienna.

On November 15, 1787 Gluck suffered another stroke and died a few hours later. To the solemn Requiem on April 8, 1788 De profundis Gluck Salieri and a requiem by the Italian composer Niccolò Jommelli led on. Like many other prominent musicians and painters Gluck was buried in the Catholic cemetery Matzleinsdorf. This cemetery was established in 1923 converted to the Waldmüllerpark. The body Gluck was on 28 September 1890 in a grave of honor in Vienna's Central Cemetery (Group 32 A, number 49) reburied. In 1894 in Vienna Inner City (1st district) was named the Gluckgasse after him.

Christoph Willibald Gluck is regarded as the first internationally recognized star composer, past eras have referred to him as Richard Wagner of the 18th century, and Wagner himself, as well as Richard Strauss, Mozart and Beethoven saw in his music theory and the beginning of modern theater music.


Christoph Willibald von Gluck left behind some 50 operas as well as several ballets and instrumental works. Gluck's reform opera was - although he himself had composed not only German libretto - their fruit in the German opera, especially in the works of Johann Christoph Vogel, Carl Maria von Weber, Heinrich Marschner and Richard Wagner. One of Wagner 1846/47 authored processing of Iphigénie en Aulis was for decades the continuous version of the opera, and was played at numerous opera houses throughout Europe.




Instrumental works

Sacred Music


Songs and Arias

Letters and Documents