GOTTLIEB MUFFAT (1690 - 1770)
Gottlieb (Liebgott) Muffat, the youngest son of the composer and Kapellmeister Georg Muffat (1753–1704) and his wife Anna Elisabetha (ca. 1646–1721), was baptised in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Passau on 25 April 1690. Although several of Georg Muffat’s children followed in their father’s footsteps as musicians (three were court musicians), Gottlieb may be considered the true ‘fortunate heir of paternal genius’. The first concrete reference to him is in a document dating from spring 1705. Here it is reported that the emperor had heard Gottlieb play the harpsichord five years earlier, when he would have been around ten years old, and consoled him and his father that if he pursued his studies, he would be taken into imperial service. We also learn that this prodigious child had been instructed so well by his father in both playing and the rudiments of composition that he could soon develop into a ‘perfect’ organist. Following his father’s death and his relocation to Vienna, Gottlieb continued his musical education under Johann Joseph Fux (ca. 1660–1741). He was accepted as an organ scholar at the Viennese imperial court in 1706. In 1714 he received his first official post at the court of the dowager empress Amalia Wilhelmina. Three years later he was appointed organist proper at the court of Karl VI and received a pay rise in 1723, making him one of the better paid instrumentalists with an annual salary of 900 Fl (with an additional 600 Fl for his services at the court of the dowager empress). According to several reports Muffat was incapable of performing all his duties from the mid-1750s and he was eventually pensioned in 1764, to be succeeded at St Stephen’s Cathedral by the renowned composer and Kapellmeister Leopold Hofmann (1738–1793). Aside from his duties as organist Muffat was also responsible for teaching various members of the imperial family, including the young Archduchesses Maria Anna and Maria Theresia (the future empress) and her husband Franz Stephan. Other identifiable pupils include the children of some of the most influential aristocratic families in Vienna such as the daughter of Johann Adam von Questenberg (1678–1752) and a Renatha von Harrach—possibly Maria Renata von Harrach (1721–88). Muffat seemingly spent most of his career in Vienna. In Fux’s testimonial regarding Muffat’s appointment as court organist in 1717, we find a mention of an elusive ‘forthcoming journey’, for which it is recommended that he should receive a considerable salary. Although no further evidence of this anticipated journey has yet been uncovered, it is entirely possible that Muffat studied elsewhere before his marriage in 1719. It is known, however, that he travelled to Prague in 1723 in connection with the coronation of Karl VI as King of Bohemia; the high point of these festivities, and arguably one of the most important musical events to have taken place in the eighteenth century was the ceremonial performance of Fux’s opera, with a libretto by Pietro Pariati (1665–1733), Costanza e Fortezza. He went to Pressburg (Bratislava) for the coronation festivities of Maria Theresia as King [sic] of Hungary in 1741.
As with many musicians serving at the Viennese imperial court in the eighteenth century, little can be ascertained about the private life of Gottlieb Muffat. He married Maria Rosalia Eineder (or Einöder) (1700–1781) in 1719 and together they had five children (two of whom died in infancy). Only one son, Franz Joseph (1720–1763), embarked on a musical career. Franz Joseph was granted a scholarship at court at the age of twelve but for unknown reasons later abandoned the profession for a job as Lower Austrian Regime secretary. Gottlieb Muffat died at his family home (on the corner of Weihburggasse and Kärntnerstraße) from ‘Lungenbrand’ in December 1770 and was buried at St Stephen’s cathedral.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. – Alison J. Dunlop (MUFFAT Suites for Harpsichord, Naxos 8.572610)