Born: February 15, 1789; Magdeburg, Germany
Died: May 23, 1826; Karlsruhe, Germany
Although he has been neglected for much of the nearly two centuries since his death, Friedrich Ernst Fesca was regarded in his own time as a respected and critically favored composer of both orchestral and operatic works. Born in Madgeburg in 1789, he was the son of a civil servant who played the cello and the piano in his spare time on one side and of a former singer on the other. Fesca first emerged as a violin virtuoso in 1800 -- at age 11 --Read more and it was not long after that he began composing chamber music. He is known to have received encouragement at the time from his slightly older contemporary Louis Spohr. At 15, he went to Leipzig to pursue further musical study and, soon after, composed several violin concertos, one of which was performed in 1805 at the Gewandhaus. He remained best known as a violinist and became part of the chamber ensemble engaged by Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig von Oldenburg for court functions. His progress in such official circles in Oldenburg was halted by the region's subsequent annexation by France, and by 1810 he was employed in an orchestra serving Jerome Bonaparte -- the youngest brother of the Emperor Napoleon -- who ruled Westphalia for six years (1807-1813) as its king (so named by the emperor). Fesca survived professionally in these difficult and uncertain political circumstances, participating in first performances of works by Spohr, amongst numerous other contemporary pieces. His first two symphonic works were also premiered during this period. The collapse of Napoleon's political fortunes after the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812 led to the end of French-sponsored rule over Westphalia the following year, and Fesca found a new post in Karlsruhe, where he rose from solo violinist to concertmaster in the ducal court orchestra. By this time, he was also becoming known in Vienna as a composer, both for his chamber works and his symphonies, and saw the first formal publication of his compositions. Chronic, intermittent health problems involving his lungs prevented Fesca from ascending as high as his skill and talent as a performer might have allowed. But his reputation as a composer was of the first rank by the second decade of the nineteenth century. From the end of the teens, his works were published by Peter, Breitkopf & Hartel, one of the leading music houses in Vienna, and he was the subject of positive critical analyses and essays. His health failed in the middle of the next decade, and he died in Karlsruhe in 1826, at age 37, leaving to the world three symphonies, three string quartets, and the operas Omar und Leila and Cantemire. His music -- all of which, in keeping with his short life (and perhaps representing a denial -- or rejection -- of his chronic illness) seems to possess a vibrancy of youth -- fell into neglect soon after his death, possibly owing to the changes in public taste taking place at the time. The Beethoven symphonies No. 8 and No. 9 bridged the most productive of Fesca's years, and by the time the public finished absorbing those works (which, in the case of the latter, took several years), the definition of the symphony, along with what constituted success in that realm of composition, had been completely altered. And Fesca, along with Spohr and other contemporaries George Onslow and Ferdinand Ries, were left behind. At the end of the twentieth century, more than 150 years after his death, Fesca's work began to be rediscovered as part of the search by conductors and orchestras for neglected works out of music's past, and in the early twenty first century his chamber and symphonic works received their first recordings. Read less
There are 6 Friedrich Ernst Fesca recordings available.
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