Born: September 28, 1746
Died: February 16, 1803; Prague, Czech Republic
Like many Bohemian musicians, Jan Vaclav Stich Germanized his name and the result was Johann Wenzel Stich. He then went a step further and Italianized it to Giovanni Punto. He was one of the leading horn players of his time and a violinist. The lord who ruled the area, Count Thun, sent him to study horn with Josef Matiegka in Prague, and then with Schindelarz in Munich. He finally went to Dresden, where he encountered other teachers: Hampel, whoRead more had introduced new hand-stopping techniques, and Haudek, who worked on the lad's high register.
Virtually a serf, Stich ran away and escaped across the border into Austria (along with four friends) to get out of Count Thun's service. He adopted his Italian name to keep his true identity secret. He started touring in 1768, with a permanent position from 1769 to 1774 at the court of Mainz, which evidently permitted him also to tour since his presence in various places in Europe and England during that period is a matter of record. Punto was in Paris in 1778 and while there, met the visiting Wolfgang Mozart, who wrote his Sinfonia Concertante for winds and orchestra with him in mind for the horn part. Punto specialized in the lower horn, playing a silver horn made by Lucian-Joseph Raoux of Paris. Commentators of the time accounted him the greatest horn player of his age and this opinion was also expressed by Mozart and Beethoven. There are those who rank him as the greatest horn player of all time and he was a master of the practice of playing multi-phonics, or more than one note at a time from the horn, even extending to full chords. Commentators referred to his tone as possessing a silvery, bright quality.
During 1781 and 1782, Punto was a member of the orchestra of the Prince Archbishop of Würzburg. In 1782, he went back to Paris in the service of the Count of Artois, the later Charles X. He had, however, left the establishment of this Bourbon aristocrat and was on tour again when the French Revolution took place, so evidently he was not suspect when he returned to Revolutionary Paris, for he held the position of violinist/conductor at the Théâtre des Variétés Amusantes from 1789 through 1799, right through the Reign of Terror. He toured Germany and Austria in 1799 and 1800 and in Vienna, he met Beethoven, who wrote his Horn Sonata, Op. 17, for him and they played the premiere together on April 18, 1800. His tour extended to Prague the next year and he and Czech composer J.I. Dussek toured in 1802. After a short visit to Paris, Punto returned to Prague in 1803, where he died after a five-month illness. He had a large funeral at which Mozart's Requiem was played.
As a composer, he wrote 11 concertos for horn and several other works with horn, as well as some other instrumental chamber music. One work once attributed to him is Rosetti's horn concerto in E. He also published pedagogical works, a book of daily exercises for horn, and updatings of older horn methods. His music is accomplished, though not particularly distinguished, but possesses effective instrumental writing, particularly in the horn parts. Read less
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