IGNAZ HOLZBAUER (1711 - 1783)
A native of Vienna, Ignaz Holzbauer was obliged to study music by himself and with the help of pupils from the Choir School of St Stephen’s, while following his father’s wishes as a student of law. He was able, however, to embark on a career as a musician, at first as nominal secretary to a nobleman. He visited Venice, where he was able to learn from the leading composers there, as well as from works by Neapolitan musicians. In 1737 he entered the service of Count Franz von Rottal in Moravia as Kapellmeister, returning to Vienna in 1741 to work in the theatre and, after further travel in Italy, to the position of composer at the Vienna Burgtheater. After employment at the Württemberg court in Stuttgart, in 1753 he joined the musical establishment of the Elector Palatine Karl Theodor at Mannheim, remaining there as Kapellmeister until 1778, when the court moved to Munich. His long period of service at Mannheim, interspersed with journeys to Italy, established him as an important figure in one of the leading musical capitals of Europe in its heyday.
Holzbauer wrote a number of Italian operas, several of them with libretti by Metastasio. He won particular praise, however, for his Günter von Schwarzburg, a Singspiel, staged in Mannheim in 1777 and winning approval, at least for its music, from Mozart. The work marked a new interest in German opera. It was followed in 1779 by the one-act Italian opera La morte di Didone (‘The Death of Dido’), with a libretto by Metastasio, adapted as the German Die Verstorung von Carthago (‘The Destruction of Carthage’) in 1780. His last opera, Tancredi, was staged posthumously in 1783 in Munich.
Holzbauer wrote a quantity of symphonies, with a much smaller number of concertos, including works for solo violin, flute, cello, harpsichord, and a Double Concerto for viola and cello. His varied chamber music includes string quartets and works for wind instruments.
Holzbauer’s vocal music includes a number of Mass settings, motets, and four oratorios.