Johann Baptist Vanhal

Johann Baptist Vanhal

Johann Baptist Vanhal (Jan Křtitel Vaňhal) ["He himself spelt his name Johann Baptist Wanhal; his Viennese contemporaries and most scholars until World War II used the spelling Wanhal, but later in the 20th century a modern Czech form, Jan Křtitel Vaňhal, was erroneously introduced." Paul R. Bryan, "Vanhal, Johann Baptist [Jan Křtitel] " in "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians", ed. Stanley Sadie (New York: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2001), 19:592.] also spelled Wanhal, Waṅhall or Wanhall (May 12, 1739August 20, 1813) was an important classical music composer.

Biography

Born in Nechanice, Bohemia to a Czech peasant family, Vanhal received his early training from a local musician. From these humble beginnings he was able to earn a living as a village organist and choirmaster. The Countess Schaffgotsch, who heard him playing the violin, took him to Vienna in 1760 where she arranged lessons in composition with Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Further patronage helped him to travel and gain further knowledge of music and by the age of 35, he was moving in exalted musical company: it is reported he played quartets with Haydn, Mozart and Dittersdorf. [James Webster and Georg Feder, "The New Grove Haydn", first published in "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians", 2nd ed. 2001 (New York: Palgrave; London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 2002, ISBN 031223323X), 28.] He wrote three operas: "Il Demofoonte" (1770), "Il trionfo di Clelia" (1770), and "The Princess of Tarento". [ [http://opera.stanford.edu/composers/V.html Opera Glass] ]

He was reported to have suffered from an unspecified nervous disorder which eventually went away, [Paul Bryan, "Johann Waṅhall, Viennese Symphonist: His Life and His Musical Environment" Stuyvesant: Pendragon Press (1997): 18. Dlabacž said that Vanhal "was overcome by a mental disturbance that hindered his musical work."] but which gave rise to the opinion held by Burney and others that the quality of Vanhal's compositions deteriorated with the disappearance of his condition. [Bryan (1997), ibid: 18. In 1772 Burney opined that "Wanhal's recent music lacks its former inspiration: because of his present cold, sedate, and wary disposition, his mind is now calm and tranquil. Therefore, his recent compositions are uninteresting because they lack the 'extravagance' they formerly had and are now limited by 'too great economy of thought.' The physicians who cured his 'insanity' did him a disservice."] Scholars such as Paul Bryan find that "the quality and quantity of the serious works he [Vanhal] composed after 1770, ... belie that assertion." [Bryan (1997), ibid: 19]

Style

He had to be a prolific writer to meet the demands made upon him, and attributed to him are 100 quartets, at least 73 symphonies, 95 sacred works, and a large number of instrumental and vocal works. The symphonies, in particular, have been committed increasingly often to compact disc in recent times, and the best of them are comparable with many of Haydn's. Many of Vanhal's symphonies are in minor keys and are considered highly influential to the "Sturm und Drang" movement of his time. "Vanhal makes use of repeated semiquavers, pounding quavers in the bass line, wide skips in the themes, sudden pauses (fermatas), silences, exaggerated dynamic marks ... and all these features ... appear in Mozart's first large-scale "Sturm und Drang" symphony, no. 25 (K. 183) of 1773." [H. C. Robbins Landon, "Mozart and Vienna: Including Selections from Johann Pezzl's 'Sketch of Vienna' (1786–90)" (London: Thames and Hudson; New York: Schirmer Books, 1991, ISBN 0500015066), 48.]

Such was his success that within a few years of his symphonies being written, they were being performed around the world, and as far distant as the United States. [Bryan (1997), ibid: 245. To give one example, a 19th Century manuscript set of all the parts (except the trumpet) of the Symphony in C major, Bryan C6, was found in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.] In later life, however, he rarely moved from Vienna where he was also an active teacher.

References

External links

*WIMA|idx=Wanhal|name=Johann Baptist Vanhal
* [http://www.mutopiaproject.org/cgibin/make-table.cgi?Composer=WanhalJ Works by Vanhal] at the Mutopia project
*IMSLP|id=Vanhal, Johann Baptist|cname=Johann Baptist Vanhal
* [http://www.lib.duke.edu/music/vanhal/wanhal1.html Duke University website]
* [http://www.pendragonpress.com/cgi-bin/bl.cgi?isbn=0-945193-63-7 Dr. Paul Bryan: Thematic Catalog of Vanhal's music.]


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