Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda

Biography

Born: February 21, 1801; Prague, Czech Republic   Died: December 3, 1866; Karlsruhe, Germany  
Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda was a music director and violinist in Germany during the first half of the nineteenth century and a composer who seemed more important at the time than his subsequent place in history indicates. His given name was in Czech, Jan Krtitl Vaclav Kalivoda, the more familiar form is a Germanized version. He excelled at violin as a boy and with the help of the Prince of Thurn and Taxis was enrolled in the Prague Conservatory, Read more then a brand-new institution. His violin teacher was Bedrich Vilem Pixis and he studied composition with Dionys Weber. He graduated in 1816 at the age of 15 and got a job in the orchestra of the Stavovske Theatre. At the time, its conductor was Carl Maria von Weber. It is not known if he had informal studies or consultations with Weber, but his music shows Weber's influence.

When Kalliwoda left the orchestra in 1821, it gave him a farewell concert comprising his own compositions. He went on a tour of Germany, Holland, and Switzerland as a violinist. When he visited Munich, Prince Karl Egon II of Fürstenberg invited him to become music director of his musical establishment. The terms included hard work but generous benefits. He was to conduct the prince's orchestra in Donaueschingen, teach singing, play violin as a soloist, and supervise the music of the cathedral. However, he was given two or three months off every year to study, travel, and undertake concert tours. Kalliwoda moved there with his family at the end of 1822. Donaueschingen was already known as one of the most cultured capitals among the many German states, and Kalliwoda elevated its musical life to rank with the finest in Germany, residing there most of the rest of his life. While there, he married Teresa Brunetti, who was one of the leading prima donnas of the day. Their son, Wilhelm (1827 - 1893), was a notable pianist and conductor who also composed.

In 1848, revolution broke out in many parts of Europe and the Principality of Fürstenberg was not spared. Its ruler was forced to give up the symphony orchestra, which dispersed. In 1856, the theater burned down and at that point, Kalliwoda effectively retired, but was given a generous pension. He moved to Karlsruhe in 1857 to live with Wilhelm, who directed the city theater there, and retired from concert touring in 1858. One of his last performances was in Prague, where he conducted a program including his own Overture in E, Op. 226, at a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Prague Conservatory. Kalliwoda was given a chance to rebuild the Prince's orchestra in 1857, but was unable to establish the high level he had previously attained.

Kalliwoda was a prolific composer. His published works run to 243 opus numbers and there were nearly 50 others without opus numbers. He left at least that amount of music in manuscript form. His music was widely played during his lifetime; a choral work, Das Deutsche Lied, remained solidly entrenched in the repertory in Germany until the 1930s.

He was capable of considerable inventive power, with fresh melodies and well-executed counterpoint, with truly inspired ideas in his orchestration. This is mostly evident in his early music. After he was securely established in Donaueschingen, the quality of his work drastically dropped, whether from complacency or the pressures of his jobs. He seemingly no longer worked at shaping his thematic ideas into truly good melodies, treating the resulting second-rate material with conventional musical devices. The music is regarded as pretty, but little more. Read less

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