Frantisek Koczwara

Biography

Born: 1750; Prague, Czech Republic   Died: September 2, 1791; London, England  
Koczwara was an eccentric and colorful Czech multi-instrumentalist and composer who contributed to London's colorful musical life in the second half on the eighteenth century. Above all he is remembered for his programmatic piece The Battle of Prague (published in 1788). Koczwara's early life and career remain obscure, but he seems to have arrived in England sometime around 1775 when his first publications were printed in London. To judge from Read more details of his printed collections, he lived for a while in London, then went to Bath, Ireland, and then back to London again.

His output consists mostly of chamber music in the early Classical style aimed at England's large market of amateur musicians. He also composed a handful of parlor songs in English, which, like the bulk of his output, are tuneful and easy. The Battle of Prague, originally for piano trio with ad-lib percussion effects, was a huge success even in Koczwara's lifetime and circulated throughout Europe and North America. A somewhat plundered version also appeared under the title The Siege of Quebec, this latter version is now generally acknowledged as an arrangement by W.B. de Krifft. Not long after its initial publication, The Battle of Prague was arranged for solo piano where it became, and has since remained, a staple of the parlor piano repertoire. It is said to have been amongst Jane Austen's favorite pieces of music.

As a personality Koczwara seems to have been something of a rogue. He exploited his central-European credentials by peddling forged compositions as those of Haydn and other continental composers. However, the most notorious story connected with the eccentric Bohemian was the unusual manner of his death. According to the reports from the trial of the Old Bailey in London, Koczwara died as part of a "sexual experiment" in a brothel. Read less
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