Christoph W. Gluck

Biography

Born: 1714   Died: 1787   Country: Germany   Period: Classical
One of the great masters of eighteenth century opera, Gluck is known for his elegant synthesis of the French and Italian operatic traditions, exemplified by such remarkable works as Orfeo ed Euridice and Alceste. A native of the Upper Palatinate, Gluck first studied with the Czech cellist and composer (and Franciscan friar) Bohuslav Cernohorsky, later continuing his studies with Sammartini in Italy. Already known as an opera composer in the Read more 1740s, Gluck visited Paris and London, where he met Handel. He married in 1750, settling in Vienna as an opera conductor.
In 1762, Gluck wrote his Orfeo ed Euridice, heralding a new era in the history of opera. Combining the Classical ideals of beauty and simplicity with an innate sense of dramatic impetus, it broke down many of the overwrought formal conventions of the Baroque and set the standard for a whole generation of operatic composers. In many ways, opera in the nineteenth century had its conception in the works of Gluck.
While Gluck achieved wide fame in his own time, his works are rare in opera houses today; he is primarily remembered as a reformer and revolutionary. In his dedication to Alceste, Gluck wrote that he "sought to confine music to its true function of serving poetry by expressing feelings and the situations of the story without interrupting and cooling off the action through useless and superfluous ornaments." This statement has often been interpreted as a desire to subordinate music to poetry; however, what inspired Gluck's reform was his belief that music gains in expressiveness when it is properly balanced with poetry. Thus, for example, by abolishing the traditional strict separation of recitative and aria, Gluck used music as a means of maintaining an uninterrupted flow of the dramatic action. Gluck's librettist for Orfeo ed Euridice, Alceste, and Paride ed Elena -- the three works best representing his reformist ideas -- was Raniero de Calzabigi, a poet and critic who anticipated some of the composer's fundamental ideas concerning poetry and music. For example, Calzabigi opposed the traditional poetic approach to mythology, exemplified by Pietro Metastasio, the greatest librettist of the opera seria tradition. While Metastasio's mythological figures appear as thinly disguised eighteenth century characters, Calzabigi's poetry strives to create an atmosphere of timelessness, which perfectly suited Gluck's artistic intentions.
After bringing his reforms to fruition, Gluck had several new works produced in Paris. The most remarkable of these works is Armide (1777), based on an old libretto by Philippe Quinault, which Lully used for his eponymous work in 1686. Viewed by conservatives as an attack on the French musical and literary traditions, Gluck's operas were targeted by a literary cabal, which decided to embrace Niccolò Piccinni, a respected composer of comic operas, as a standard-bearer. In a literary squabble reminiscent of the "quarrel of the buffoons" in 1752, the traditionalists proclaimed the superiority of traditional (that is: Italian, or, more precisely, Metastasian) opera over French opera, represented by the iconoclastic Gluck. It should be noted that the two composers, who respected each other, refused to participate in the war of words, leaving the polemics to Parisian pseudo-intellectuals.
In essence, Gluck's victory over his adversaries was the triumph of music. His works are regarded as seminal contributions to musical drama, and his ideas were gradually accepted, first by Piccinni himself, and later by Cherubini, who flourished as an opera composer in the 1790s and early 1800s. In the nineteenth century, Gluck's approach to opera was adopted by Spontini, who in turn influenced Berlioz as an opera composer. Read less
Gluck: Alceste / Baudo, Norman, Gedda, Krause, Weikl, Et Al
Release Date: 03/10/1995   Label: Orfeo  
Catalog: 27823   Number of Discs: 3
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Gluck: Alceste - Highlights / Baudo, Norman, Gedda, Nimsgern
Release Date: 04/20/1994   Label: Orfeo  
Catalog: 27901   Number of Discs: 1
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Gluck: Iphigenie In Aulis / Böhm, Borkh, Ludwig, Berry, Etc
Release Date: 07/09/1996   Label: Orfeo D'or  
Catalog: 428962   Number of Discs: 2
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Gluck: Paride Ed Elena / Zagrosek, Cotrubas, Bonisolli
Release Date: 05/23/1995   Label: Orfeo  
Catalog: 118842   Number of Discs: 2
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Gluck: Iphigenie En Tauride / Gardelli, Lorengar, Bonisolli
Release Date: 05/23/1995   Label: Orfeo  
Catalog: 52832   Number of Discs: 2
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Work: Orfeo ed Euridice: Dance of the Blessed Spirits

 

About This Work
The gently pastoral Dance of the Blessed Spirits beautifully exemplifies Gluck's revolutionary principle that in opera, music and poetry should never overstate their message. In other words, any complexity -- verbal or musical -- needs to be Read more justified by essential dramatic content. Listeners will perhaps be astonished to hear this tranquil music in an opera about Orpheus' journey to Hades, the realm of the dead, in search of his departed wife Eurydice. In fact, in Act II of Gluck's great opera Orfeo ed Euridice, the Dance of the Blessed Spirits immediately follows the Dance of Furies, the vengeful spirits of Hades. Indeed, Greek mythology located Elysium, the world of the blessed, far from Hades. Gluck, however, follows the Homeric tradition, which places Elysium in the Underworld. Written for solo flute with string accompaniment, this piece is in simple ternary form (ABA), the first part an elegant, stately melody that conjures up images of pastoral tranquility under resplendent azure skies. It would be profoundly startling to encounter Death in this pastoral abode of the eternally blessed. The contrasting minore part, like a sudden zephyr disturbing the profound calm of a summer's afternoon, introduces, with its muted passion still within the confines of classical simplicity, an element of anguish that is perhaps an echo of the protagonist's earlier dialogue with the Furies. However, as the A section is reiterated, the idyllic landscape reappears, perhaps suggesting that Orpheus' quest will be successful. Of course, Gluck's vision of Greece was idealistic and in harmony with contemporary scholarship; nevertheless, this vision inspired music of great beauty and dramatic power. The Dance of the Blessed Spirits composition, which has appeared in many popular arrangements, truly embodies Gluck's classical genius.

-- Zoran Minderovic Read less

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Christoph W. Gluck


WORKS
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) - Overtura
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Coro: "Ah, se intorno a quest'urna funesta"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Recitativo: "Basta, basta, o compagni!"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Ballo (Larghetto)
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Coro: "Ah, se intorno a quest'urna funesta"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Aria: "Chiamo il mio ben così"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Recitativo: "Euridice, ombra cara"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Aria: "Cerco il mio ben così"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Euridice! Ah! questo nome sanno le spiaggie
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Piango il mi ben così
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Recitativo: "Numi, barbari numi"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Recitativo: "T'assiste Amore!"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Aria: "Gli sguardi trattieni"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 1 - Recitativo: "Che disse? che ascoltai?"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Ballo. Maestoso
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Coro: "Che mai dell'Erebo"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Ballo. Presto
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Coro: "Che mai dell'Erebo"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Ballo delle furie
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Ballo. Maestoso
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - "Deh! placatevi con me"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Coro: "Misero giovane"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Aria: "Mille pene, ombre sdegnose"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Coro: "Ah, quale incognito"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Aria: "Men tiranne"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Coro: "Ah, quale incognito"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung In Italian/Vienna Version (1762) / Act 2 - Ballo (Andante)
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Arioso: "Che puro ciel, che chiaro sol"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Coro: "Vieni a' regni del riposo"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Ballo (Andante)
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Recitativo: "Anime avventurose"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 2 - Coro: "Torna, o bello, al tuo consorte"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Recitativo: "Vieni, segui i miei passi"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Duetto: "Vieni, appaga il tuo consorte!"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Recitativo: "Qual vita è questa mai"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Aria: "Che fiero momento"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Recitativo: "Ecco un nuovo tormento"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Aria: "Che farò senza Euridice?"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Recitativo: "A finisca e per sempre"
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Orfeo, che fai?
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Maestoso
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Ballo - 1. Grazioso
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Ballo - 2. Allegro
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Ballo - 4. Allegro
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Eurydice) - Sung in Italian/Vienna version (1762) / Act 3 - Coro: "Trionfi Amore!"


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