HERMANN GOETZ (1840 - 1876)
Hermann Goetz was born in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) in December 1840. His parents enjoyed domestic music-making but they did not regard music as a suitable career for their son. Nevertheless, the young Hermann persevered, and he entered the famous Stern Conservatoire in Berlin in 1860 after only three years of serious study. His piano teacher was Hans von Bülow, who later told Goetz: ‘You were one of the few that I was happy and proud to have taught.’ His leaving certificate attests to his ‘artistic intelligence’ and ‘felicitous talent for composition’. In 1863 Goetz moved to Switzerland to become an organist and teacher, first in Winterthur and then in Zurich, where he remained for the rest of his life. The ravages of consumption forced him to withdraw from public life in his early thirties, though he still had the energy to compose. His greatest artistic success came with his comic opera Der Widerspenstigen Zahmung (after Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew), which was given its première in 1874. For a while it held a prominent place in the international repertoire and was warmly received by the critics, including Shaw. Goetz died at Hottingen in December 1876, having, in the words of The Musical Times, ‘nearly attained the fatal age of thirty-six’—a clear reference to Mozart, who also died just shy of his thirty-sixth birthday.