FRIEDRICH KIEL (1821 - 1885)
Born on 7 October 1821 in Puderbach on the Lahn (Westphalia), Friedrich was the second of five children of the schoolmaster Jost Kiel. Though he learned the rudiments of music from his father, he was in large part self-taught. Something of a prodigy, he played the piano almost without instruction at the age of six, and by his thirteenth year he had composed much music. When the Kiel family moved to nearby Schwarzenau, a set of the young boys piano variations came to he attention of Prince Karl von Sayn-Wittgenstein at Berleburg. The prince was a music lover whose court boasted an orchestra of above average abilities, and in 1835 it was arranged that Kiel would study the violin with the court conductor. He soon joined the orchestra, and at the age of fifteen he appeared as soloist in a concerto by Viotti.
At the princes instigation Kiel received solid theoretical training from the renowned flautist Kaspar Kummer (1795-1870) at Coburg. The studies proved a stimulus for all sorts of compositions, which were played by the court orchestra. Around 1840 Kiel became the court conductor and the music teacher to the princes children.
Stopping in Kassel in October of 1842, Kiel aroused the interest of the great Louis Spohr. With a stipend from King Wilhelm Fredrich IV, Kiel was on his way to Berlin, where he would perfect his technical knowledge under Siegfried Dehns tutelage. The theorist and teacher Siefried Dehn (1799-1858) had been appointed custodian of the royal library in 1842, and he was responsible for the publication of the Branderburg Concertos in 1849.
In Berlin the industrious Kiel soon earned a fine reputation and became sought after as an instructor. That reputation was firmly established in 1865 by his election to the Prussian Academy of the Fine Arts. The next year saw his appointment to the Stern Conservatory, where he taught composition and was elevated to a professorship three years later. In 1870 he joined the faculty of the newly founded Hochschule für Musik, which under Joseph Joachims direction from 1869-1907 achieved a well deserved reputation as one of the finest German music schools. Kiels first position there was as professor of counterpoint and fugue and of vocal and instrumental composition, and from 1882 he sat on the board of directors. Among his composition students he could claim Noskowski, Paderewski and Stanford. Kiel died in Berlin on 13 September 1885 as the result of injuries from a traffic accident. In 1906 a short-lived Kiel association was founded. Today, when he is remembered at all, it is as a beloved and important teacher, dedicated to preserving the high-minded principles and good taste of classical-romantic art in the German musical culture of his time.