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RODOLPHE KREUTZER  

(1766 - 1831)

Rodolphe Kreutzer was born at Versailles on 16 November 1766. His father, Jean-Jacob, was a native of Breslau in Germany but in 1762 moved to France, where he taught music (including violin) and played clarinet in the Swiss Guards. Kreutzer displayed musical precocity as a boy and began violin lessons with his father in 1771. He later studied with Anton Stamitz, and appeared as a public performer at the age of twelve and as a member of the orchestra of the Chapelle du Roi when he was sixteen. He was already a composer at this early date, and by 1780 he performed at a concert of the Concert spirituel with his teacher Stamitz, fully two years in advance of the great founder of the French violin school, Giovanni Battista Viotti. The Parisian advent of Viotti in 1782 was a revelation for young Kreutzer, who began writing his own great series of violin concertos at this time, publicly presenting his first concerto in 1784. Also at this time (late 1784 and early 1785) his life took a decided turn with the death of his father and mother, leaving the eighteen-yearold Rodolphe as head of a large family. Kreutzer appeared in concerts throughout the 1780s and began to take on students to earn money, but his marriage to Adélaïde-Charlotte Foucard in 1788 relieved him of immediate financial worries. Adélaïde-Charlotte was the daughter of the valet de chambre of the Comte d’Artois, brother of the King and later King himself. Such a marriage involved a contract, one of the terms of which was that in advance of inheritance Kreutzer would receive 250,000 livres. Madame Kreutzer was both a charming society partner and a highly educated woman, and when Kreutzer and other musician colleagues formed their own publishing firm, Madame Kreutzer was chosen to look after some aspects of the business side of the operation (especially on its eventual dissolution). During the crisis of the French Revolution, Kreutzer, along with other royal musicians, moved to Paris. Unfortunately he may well have suffered great financial loss during the Revolution, though the Revolution was also notable for the beginning of a new musical facet to his career—the theatre. In 1790, the year that he was named solo violin at the Théâtre Italien, Kreutzer’s first opera Jeanne d’Arc was given its première. Although he never abandoned the violin, much of Kreutzer’s future musical compositional efforts were directed to the theatre.

Bruce R. Schueneman

Role: Classical Composer 
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