Christoph Willibald Gluck: biography, interesting facts, videos, creativity

Christoph Willibald Gluck

Christoph Willibald von Gluck is a musical genius whose work in the history of world music is hard to overestimate. His reforming activity can be called a revolution that reversed the previous foundations that existed in opera art. Having created a new opera style, he defined the further development of European opera art and had a significant influence on the work of such musical geniuses as L. Beethoven, G. Berlioz and R. Wagner.

A brief biography of Christoph Willibald Gluck and many interesting facts about the composer can be found on our page.

Short biography of Gluck

In 1714, on July 2, a joyful event occurred in the family of Alexander Gluck and his wife Maria, living in the town of Erasbach, not far from the Bavarian city of Berching, the first child born to the happy parents named Christoph Willibald. Elder Gluck, who served in the army in his youth, and then chose a forester as his main occupation, initially had no luck with employment, and for this reason the whole family had to move often, changing their place of residence, until in 1717 they had to move to the Czech Bohemia.

Biography Gluck says that from an early age, parents began to notice from his son Christophe special musical abilities and interest in the development of various kinds of musical instruments. Alexander was categorically against the boy's similar enthusiasm, since in his thoughts the firstborn had to continue the family business. As soon as Christoph grew up, his father began to attract him to his work, and when the boy was twelve years old, his parents assigned him to a Jesuit college in the Czech town of Chomutov. At school, Christophe mastered the Latin and Greek languages, and also studied ancient literature, history, mathematics, and natural science. In addition to the main subjects, he enthusiastically mastered musical instruments: violin, cello, piano, organ and, having a good voice, sang in the choir of the church. In college, Gluck studied for more than five years and, despite the fact that parents were eagerly awaiting the return of his son to his home, the young man, in defiance of their will, decided to continue his education.

In 1732, Christoph entered the University of Prague at the Faculty of Philosophy, and, having lost his relatives' material support because of his disobedience, earned his living by playing the violin and cello as part of a traveling group. In addition, Gluck served as a chorister in the choir of the Church of St. Jacob, where he met the composer Bohuslav Montenegrin, who was a music teacher for Gluck, who introduced the young man to the basics of the composition. At this time, Christoph begins to gradually compose, and then persistently improve his composer knowledge acquired from an outstanding maestro.

Beginning of creative activity

In Prague, the young man lived only two years, after reconciliation with his father, he was introduced to Prince Philip von Lobkowitz (he had a senior Gluck at that time). A distinguished grandee, appreciating Christoph's musical professionalism, made him an offer that the young man could not refuse. In 1736, Gluck becomes a chorister in the chapel and a chamber musician in the Viennese palace of Prince Lobkowitz.


In the life of Christophe began a new period, which can be designated as the beginning of his creative path. Despite the fact that the Austrian capital has always attracted a young man, since there was a special musical atmosphere here, his stay in Vienna was not long. One evening, an Italian magnate and philanthropist A. Melzi was invited to the palace of the princes Lobkowitz. Delighted with Gluck's talent, the count invited the young man to go to Milan and take the position of a chamber musician in his home chapel. Prince Lobkowitz, being a true connoisseur of art, not only agreed with this intention, but also supported him. Already in 1937, Christophe in Milan took up his duties in his new position. The time spent in Italy was very fruitful for Gluck. He met, and then became friends with a prominent Italian composer Giovanni Sammartini, who for four years taught Christophe the composition so effectively, that by the end of 1741 the young man’s musical education could be considered fully completed. This year in the life of Gluck became very important also because it marked the beginning of his career as a composer. It was then that Christophe wrote his first opera Artaxerxes, which premiered successfully at the Reggio-Doucal theater in Milan and brought recognition to the young composer, which resulted in orders for musical performances from theaters of various Italian cities: Turin, Venice, Cremona and Milan .

Christophe began an active life as a composer. For four years he wrote ten operas, the productions of which were successful and brought him recognition from the sophisticated Italian public. Gluck's fame grew with each new premiere and now he has started receiving creative offers from other countries. For example, in 1745, Lord Mildron, the manager of the Italian opera of the famous Royal Theater Haymarket, invited the composer to visit the English capital so that the London public could become acquainted with the works of the maestro, which became very popular in Italy. This trip became very important for Gluck, as it had a significant impact on his future work. Christoph in London met Handel, who was the most popular opera composer at the time, and for the first time listened to his monumental oratorios, which made a strong impression on Gluck. According to the contract with the London Royal Theater, Gluck presented two pastichchoes to the public: “The Fall of the Giants” and “Artamena”, but both performances of great success with English music lovers did not have.

After touring in England, Gluck's creative tour lasted another six years. In his position as conductor of the Italians' opera troupe Mingotti, he traveled around European cities, where he not only staged, but also composed new operas. His name gradually gained more and more fame in cities such as Hamburg, Dresden, Copenhagen, Naples and Prague. Here he became acquainted with interesting creative people and enriched his stock of musical impressions. In Dresden, in 1749, Gluck staged the newly written musical play "The Wedding of Heracles and Hebe", and in Vienna in 1748, to the opening of the reconstructed Burgtheater, he composed another new opera called The Semiramide Recognized. The magnificent magnificence of the premiere, timed to the birthday of the wife of Emperor Maria Theresa and with great success, marked the beginning of a series of subsequent Viennese triumphs of the composer. In the same period, there was a good change in the personal life of Christoph. He met a charming girl, Maria Pergin, with whom he entered into legal marriage two years later.

In 1751, the composer accepts an offer from the entrepreneur Giovanni Locatelli to become the conductor of his troupe, and, in addition, receives an order to create a new opera "Ezio". After staging this musical performance in Prague, Gluck sent to Naples in 1752, where the premiere of the next new Gluck opera The Mercy of Titus was successfully held at the San Carlo Theater.

Vienna period

The changed marital status forced Christoph to think about a permanent place of residence and, undoubtedly, the choice fell on Vienna, a city with which the composer had a lot to do. In 1752, the Austrian capital adopted Gluck, then there was already a recognized master of the Italian opera - seria, with great cordiality. After Prince Josef Saxe-Guildburggauzensky, a great music lover, suggested that the maestro take the position of conductor at his orchestra palace, Christoph weekly began to organize "academies", so-called concerts, which soon became so popular that the most eminent soloists and vocalists considered it an honor to receive an invitation to speak at such an event. In 1754, the composer occupied another solid position: the manager of the theaters of Vienna, Count Giacomo Durazzo, appointed him as the conductor of the opera troupe in the Court Burgtheater.


Gluck’s life during this period was very tense: in addition to active concert activities, he devoted a lot of time to creating new works, writing not only opera, but also theater and academic music. However, during this period, while working intensively on operas-seria, the composer began to gradually become disillusioned with this genre. He was not satisfied with the fact that the music did not at all obey the dramatic action, but only helped to show the singers their vocal art. Such dissatisfaction forced Gluck to turn to other genres, for example, on the advice of Count Durazzo, who wrote several scenarios from Paris, he composed a number of French comic operas, as well as several ballets, including his famous "Don Juan". This choreographic performance, created by the composer in 1761 in a creative collaboration with prominent Italians - librettist R. Calzabiji and choreographer G. Angiolini, became the forerunner of Gluck's subsequent transformations in operatic art. A year later, in Vienna, the premiere of the opera Orpheus and Eurydice, which is still considered the best reformatory musical performance by the composer, was successfully held. The beginning of a new period in the development of the musical theater Gluk was confirmed by two more operas: "Alcesta", presented in the Austrian capital in 1767 and "Paris and Elena", written in 1770. Unfortunately, both of these operas were not properly recognized by the Viennese public.

Paris and the last years of life

In 1773, Gluck accepted an invitation from his former student, the young Archduchess Marie-Antoinette, who became Queen of France in 1770 and gladly moved to Paris. He relied on the fact that his transformations in operatic art would be more appreciated precisely in the French capital, which was at that time the center of advanced culture. The time spent by Gluck in Paris is marked as the period of his greatest creative activity. As early as next year in 1774, the theater, which today is referred to as the Grand Opera, successfully hosted the premiere of the opera Iphigenia in Aulis, written in Paris. The staging provoked violent controversy in the press between supporters and opponents of the Glucov reform and ill-wishers even summoned from Italy N. Piccinni, a talented composer who personified the traditional opera. Confrontation arose, which lasted almost five years and ended with Gluck's triumphal victory. The premiere of his opera "Iphigenia in Tauris" in 1779 was a great success. However, in the same year, the composer’s health condition deteriorated sharply, and for this reason he returned to Vienna, from which he no longer traveled until the end of his life, and where he died in 1787 on November 15.

Interesting facts about Christoph Willibald Gluck

  • The merits of Gluck in the field of musical art have always been adequately paid. Archduchess Marie-Antoinette, who became Queen of France, generously rewarded the composer for the operas Orpheus and Eurydice and Iphigenia in Aulis: for each he received a gift of 20,000 livres. And the mother of Marie-Antoinette - Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresia, built the maestro in the title of "Real Imperial and Royal Composer" with an annual remuneration of 2,000 guilders.
  • A special sign of the high honors of the composer’s musical achievements was his knighthood and the Order of the Golden Spur awarded to him by the Pope Benedict XIV. This award was very difficult for Gluck and it is connected with the order of the Roman theater "Argentina". The composer wrote the opera "Antigone", which fortunately for him really liked the sophisticated audience of the Italian capital. The result of such success was a high reward, after the possession of which the maestro began to be called none other than "Gavar Gruck".
  • Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann, a wonderful German romantic writer and composer, gave his first literary composition devoted to music and musicians, by chance, gave the name "Cavalier Gluck". This poetic story tells of an unknown German musician who appears to be Gluck and considers himself the custodian of the invaluable heritage left by the great maestro. In the novel, he seems to be a living embodiment of Gluck, his genius and immortality.
  • Christoph Willibald Gluck left a rich artistic heritage to his descendants. He wrote works in various genres, but he preferred opera. Critics still argue about how many operas came from the composer’s pen, but some sources indicate that there were more than a hundred of them.
  • Giovanni Battista Lokatelli - an entrepreneur, with whose troupe Gluck worked as a conductor in Prague in 1751, made a significant contribution to the formation of Russian musical culture. In 1757, arriving in St. Petersburg with his troupe at the invitation of Empress Elizabeth I, Locatelli began to organize theatrical performances for the sovereign and her entourage. And as a result of such activities, his troupe became part of the Russian theaters.
  • During his touring tour to London, Gluck met the distinguished English composer Handel, whose work he spoke with great admiration. However, the writings of Gluck didn’t like the brilliant Englishman at all, and he disdainfully expressed his opinion about them, stating that his cook was better than Gluck in counterpoint.
  • Gluck was a very gifted person who not only composed music with great talent, but also tried himself in the invention of musical instruments.

  • It is well known that during his tour of the foggy Albion, at one of the concerts, the composer performed pieces of music on the glass harmonica of his own design. The instrument was very peculiar, and its originality was that it consisted of 26 glasses, each of which was adjusted to a certain tone with the help of a certain amount of water.
  • From the biography of Gluck, we learn that Christophe was a very lucky man and not only in his work, but also in his personal life. In 1748, the composer, who was 34 years old at the time, while working in Vienna on the opera “Recognized Semiramide” met the daughter of a wealthy Viennese merchant, sixteen-year-old Marianne Pergin. A sincere feeling arose between the composer and the girl, which was fixed by the wedding ceremony held in September 1750. Marriage Gluck and Marianne, despite the fact that they did not have children, was very happy. The young wife, surrounding her husband with love and care, accompanied him on all touring tours, and the impressive state inherited after the death of her father allowed Gluck to be engaged in creative work without thinking about material well-being.
  • The maestro had many students, but the composer himself believed that the best of them was the famous Antonio Salieri.

Creativity Gluck

All the work of Gluck has played a very important role in the development of world opera art. In musical drama, he created a completely new style and introduced all his aesthetic ideals and forms of musical expression into it. It is believed that, as a composer, Gluck began his career quite late: the maestro was twenty-seven years old when he wrote his first opera Artaxerxes. At that age, other musical composers (his contemporaries) already managed to gain fame in all European countries, though then Gluck wrote so much and earnestly that he left a very rich artistic legacy. How many operas the composer has written, nobody can say for sure today, the information is very different, but his German biographers offer us a list of 50 works.

In addition to the operas in the composer's creative baggage, we meet 9 ballets, as well as instrumental works, such as a concerto for flute, a trio sonata for a duet of violins and bass, several small symphonies that look more like overtures.

Of the vocal compositions, the most popular are the composition for choir and orchestra "De profundis clamavi", as well as odes and songs for the words of a contemporary of the composer, a popular poet F.G. Klopstock.

The biographers of Gluck conditionally composers' creative career is divided into three stages. First period, which is called pre-reform, began with a composition in 1741 of the opera Artaxerxes and lasted twenty years. Such works as Demetri, Demofont, Tigran, Virtue triumph over love and hate, Sofonisba, Imaginary Slave, Hypermester, Poro , "Hippolytus". A significant part of the composer's first musical performances were composed on the texts of the famous Italian playwright Pietro Metastasio. В этих произведениях в полной мере ещё не было раскрыто всё дарование композитора, хотя они и имели большой успех у зрителей. К большому сожалению, первые оперы Глюка до настоящего времени полностью не сохранились, из них до нас дошли лишь небольшие эпизоды.

Further, the composer has created many differently-genre operas, including works in the style of the Italian opera-seria: “Recognized Semiramide”, “The Wedding of Hercules and Eba”, “Ezio”, “Conflict of the Gods”, “Mercy of Titus”, “Issipille”, “Chinese Women” , "Country Love", "Justified Innocence", "Shepherd King", "Antigone" and others. In addition, he gladly wrote music in the genre of the French musical comedy - these are musical performances "Island of Merlin", "Imaginary Slave Girl", "Devil's Wedding", "Deposited Zither", "Deceived Guardian", "Revised Drunkard", "Frowned Caddy ".

According to Gluck’s biography, the next stage of the composer’s creative journey, called “Viennese Reformist,” lasted eight years: from 1762 to 1770. This period was very significant in the life of Gluck, since among the ten operas written this time, he created the first reformatory operas: "Orpheus and Eurydice", "Alceste" and "Paris and Elena". The composer continued his operatic transformations in the future, living and working in Paris. There he wrote his last musical performances “Iphigenia in Aulis”, “Armida”, “Liberated Jerusalem”, “Iphigenia in Tauris”, “Echo and Narcissus”.

Gluck Opera Reform

Gluck entered the world history of music as an outstanding composer who accomplished significant changes in opera art in the 18th century, which had a great influence on the further development of European musical theater. The main provisions of his reform are reduced to the fact that all components of an opera performance: solo singing, choir, orchestra and ballet numbers must be interconnected and subject to a single concept, that is, to reveal the dramatic content of the work as fully as possible. The essence of the transformation was as follows:

  • In order to more clearly reveal the feelings and experiences of the heroes, music and poetry must be inextricably linked,
  • Aria is not a concert number in which the singer sought to show his vocal technique, but the embodiment of feelings expressed and expressed by one or another drama hero. The technique of singing is natural, without virtuosity.
  • Opera recitatives, so that the action does not seem interrupted, should not be dry. The distinction between them and the Aryans should be made more relaxed.
  • Overture is a prologue - a preface to action that will unfold on stage. In her musical language should make an introductory review of the content of the work.
  • The role of the orchestra is greatly increased. He is actively involved in the characterization of the characters, as well as in the development of the whole action.
  • The choir becomes an active participant in the events taking place on the stage. It is like the voice of a people who reacts very sensitively to what has happened.

Christoph Willibald von Gluck is an outstanding composer who entered the history of world music culture as a great opera reformer. The music, written by the ingenious maestro two and a half centuries ago, still captivates listeners with extraordinary elevation and expressiveness, and his operas are included in the repertoire of the largest musical theaters around the world.

Watch the video: Italian opera. Wikipedia audio article (January 2020).


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