JOHANNES MATTHIAS SPERGER (1750 - 1812)
Johannes Matthias Sperger was one of the most prolific composers of his time. Nevertheless his reputation rested largely on his abilities as a player of the double bass, an instrument for which he wrote eighteen concertos, as a performer using a five-string bass with various tunings. Born in Feldsberg, the modern Valtice in the Czech Republic, he apparently studied first there with the organist Franz Anton Becker, before moving to Vienna, where he was a double bass pupil of Friedrich Pichlberger, a member of Emanuel Schikaneders orchestra. Sperger took composition lessons from Beethovens later teacher, Albrechtsberger, and made his début in Vienna with his own compositions at the age of eighteen. There are records of a performance of a symphony and double bass concerto by Sperger in Vienna by the Tonkünstler-Sozietät on 20 December 1778 and the following year he became a member of the society. From 1777 until 1783 he served as a chamber musician in the musical establishment of the Cardinal Primate of Hungary, Prince Joseph von Batthyányi in Pressburg, the modern Bratislava and, as Pozsony, the then capital of the kingdom of Hungary, giving solo performances also at the Stadttheater in Brünn (Brno). The Pressburg orchestra included fifteen string-players, the oboists Johann and Philipp Teimer and the horn-players Karl Franz and Anton Böck, and there were string-players able to double on clarinets, bassoon and flute, as necessary. Trumpets and drums were also available, as usual in establishments of this kind. Sperger entered the service of Count Ladislav Erdödy at Fidisch in 1783, continuing there until his patrons death in 1786. In the following years he continued to appear as a soloist, travelling to various cities in Germany and in 1789 to Northern Italy. In 1788 he had played in Ludwigslust and the following year he was appointed to the musical establishment of the Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, with its band of 21 musicians, continuing in this employment until his death in 1812, when he was commemorated by a performance, a fortnight after his death, of Mozarts Requiem.