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Johann Baptist (Krtitel) Vanhal

May 12, 1739 - August 20, 1813
born in Nové Nechanice, Czech Republic, composed during the Classical period
It sometimes seems a misfortune that the latter half of the eighteenth century saw three musical titans -- Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven -- arrive in such close proximity to one another. For the deserved, but sometimes overdone, adoration afforded that trio has allowed a corresponding under-appreciation of a handful of lesser but highly-gifted composers -- composers who might, had they lived at another time, themselves have been placed in the top drawer of musicology. So, while the Bohemian composer Johann Baptist Vanhal (or Wanhal) was without a doubt one of the century's finer musicians, precious little attention has been paid him, and a thorough list of his works has never been managed. Vanhal's music was much-loved in Vienna and much-published in both Paris and Vienna during his lifetime, and there are hundreds of works to his credit; but a lack of reliable contemporary accounts of him (there is really just one) and difficulties in distinguishing authentic and spurious works have made assessment of him as a man and as a composer difficult.

Vanhal was born in rural Bohemia; he was born not free but an indentured (bonded) servant to a noble family of not insignificant wealth and power. As a boy he learned to play the violin and keyboard instruments, becoming organist in Opoczna at the age of 13. When he was about 20 years old he moved to the big city: Vienna. There Vanhal was quick to make a name for himself as a violinist and a composer, and in the process earned enough hard cash to buy his own freedom. He gave singing and instrumental lessons, Ignace Pleyel being one of his students. It is documented that he was first violinist for the premiere of Gluck's Orfeo in 1763.

The years 1769 and 1770 were spent in Italy, and then Vanhal returned to Vienna to remain, save for minor excursions and visits to local courts, for the rest of his life. Between 1770 and 1780, he visited his patron Count Ladislaus Erdödy, in what is now Croatia, several times. In 1784, he apparantly played in a quartet that included Haydn, Dittersdorf, and Mozart. He never married and had no heirs when he died at the age of 74, having lived not uncomfortably.

Vanhal was a prolific composer; and some writers have given him credit for being even more prolific than he actually was, such that we must sift through the works attributed to him and try to select those which were actually drawn up by his pen. Up until about 1780, Vanhal's most significant musical essays were of the symphonic type -- he composed somewhere around 75 of them altogether. There is a distinct evolution of his style in the symphonies, from the Baroque feeling of the first ones to the Sturm und Drang of those that followed. The majority are four movement (fast-slow-minuet-fast) works using the sonata form and cantabile thematic material. But there is not a single symphony by him that postdates 1780, a fact probably attributable to changes in Viennese aristocratic taste. He wrote somewhere between 50 and 90 string quartets, and over 70 keyboard sonatas.

Just as Vanhal's independent spirit found a way to lift itself from the shackles of servitude, so too did it sometimes press and pull against the ways and means of the Classical era -- some of Vanhal's works really do approach a freely-built kind of Romanticism in which content and localized expression are more significant by far than the demands of preconceived form. However many question marks still accompany the man, Vanhal's absolute uniqueness among the musicians of his day cannot be doubted. ~ Blair Johnston, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

say douchebag 5 times then place pillow over your face
Say iPhone 5 times post this on two other artist look under pillow
Don't read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the the best day of your life. However if you do not post this comment on at least 3 different songs you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually works
It's cool to learn about Vanhal especially since I am preparing a double reef trio of his right now.
david_annie0 4 2 7
Luv this composer
david_annie0 4 2 7
1.kiss your left hand
2.say your crush
3.say a school day
4.close your hand
5.say your hand
6.open your hand
7.post this on 15 other songs and it will come true
The sound is abrupt , somewhat hurried and hesitant. Every so often do I hear Joann's influence in the music.
music to read master and commander by
koh knee tchee wah! WTK
Wow, hosomatamoto you really have no reason to live.
Do the world a favor and please stop making comments on subjects in which you have no comprehenshi o n .
Yes, I hear the sadness too. Perhaps it is the sound of a man discovering, through his music, that he is merely a poser and an imitator.
owl1861
Ja this is very gute music Danke.
Thank you, Pandora Gods, for introducing me to this musician! Perfec5t for this Solstice celebration. I feel as excited about this new "disc-overy" as I did at 17 when I first heard Vivaldi, on a ranch in Topanga Canyon, watching the sunset.
graceful
To me there is a tint of sadness in the music
sole_strings
Good Music, I play the Cello, and I would love to get my hands on a translated version into the Bass Cleft.
arico.gabe
Very good music, worth listening to! A great contrast to other things I listen to.

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