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Classical Composers A-Z: Christoph Willibald Gluck

Peter Wintersgill gives details of the life of Christoph Willibald Gluck, composer of operas such as Orfeo et Eurydice and Alceste.

Born
2nd July, 1714, in Eresbach, near Neumarkt, Bavaria.

Father
Alexander, forester.

Adolescence
Went to Prague University in 1732 at eighteen.

Adult Life
Moved to Vienna in the orchestra of Prince Lobkowitz, then on to Milan where he studied under Sammartini and wrote his first opera Artaserse (1741).

On to Paris and London, where he met Handel and Arne. Handel gave him good advice - 'The English like a tune that they can whistle and hum."

He married Marianne, a wealthy merchant's daughter, in 1750. He wrote a ballet Don Juan (1761).

He travelled widely e.g. to Austria, Denmark and Italy. He was made Court Musician to the Empress in 1745.

Gluck's main contribution to opera was to take the emphasis away from the soloists and give it to the plot and the text. This is shown in his next two operas - Orfeo et Eurydice (1762) and Alceste (1767).

He went to Paris in 1773, wrote two operas - Iphigenie et Aulide (1774) and Iphigenie et Tauride (1779).

He influenced 19th century composers like Cherubini, Berlioz and Wagner.

He died in Vienna 25th November, 1787, aged 73 of a stroke

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