FLORIAN LEOPOLD GASSMANN (1729 - 1774)
Like many musicians who achieved fame and fortune in eighteenth-century Vienna, Florian Leopold Gassmann was of Bohemian origin. Little is known about his early years although it is believed that he received his early musical training from Johann Woborschil, regens chori at Brüx, the small town north-west of Prague where Gassmann was born. His father, a goldsmith, was apparently opposed to his son pursuing a musical career and had him apprenticed to a merchant. It seems that Gassmann ran away and after a period spent living precariously in Karlsbad made his way south to Italy, where he may have studied with the celebrated theorist Padre Martini. By 1757 Gassmann was well enough established as a composer to secure a commission to compose an opera, Merope, which was produced for the carnival season at the Teatro S. Moisè in Venice. The work was well received and he was invited to compose a new opera annually for the next five years.
Although he was initially engaged to compose ballet music, Gassmann also undertook to compose operas for the Viennese theatre. Gassmann also directed performances of operas by other composers which kept him in touch with the latest musical developments in Vienna and elsewhere. Although Gassmann is thought of primarily as a composer of operas and perhaps to a lesser extent of church music, he also composed in other genres including chamber music.
Gassmann’s appointment as Hofkapellmeister in March 1772 marked the summit of his professional career. He owed his appointment in part to his reputation as a composer but also perhaps to his recent initiative in founding the Tonkünstler-Societät for one of whose first public performances (19 March 1772) he composed the oratorio La Betulia liberata.