Johann Friedrich Reichardt

Biography

Born: November 25, 1752; Königsberg, Germany   Died: June 27, 1814; Giebichenstein  
Johann Friedrich Reichardt was a minor but important German composer whose song style broke from the more rigid traditions of the late eighteenth century Berlin School to augur elements of the coming Romantic movement and whose stage works look toward newer forms, like those that were emerging in Italian and French opera.

Reichardt was born in Königsberg, then capital of East Prussia. By age 10 he was an accomplished violinist and
Read more keyboardist, having received most of his musical training from his father, Johann, a virtuoso lutenist. Reichardt had a string of notable teachers later on that included violinist F.A. Veichtner and keyboard player C.G. Richter.

Reichardt enrolled in Königsberg University at 15, spending three largely uneventful years there. After a period of travel abroad for concertizing and further instruction, he began turning out his first compositions, an opera Hänschen und Gretchen (1771-1772) and a collection of songs, Vermischte Musicalien (1773). Reichardt was appointed kapellmeister at Berlin's Royal Opera near the end of 1775 by Frederick the Great. The following year he married the daughter of composer Franz Benda, Juliane Benda. In Berlin Reichardt wrote songs and the melodrama Cephalus und Prokris, premiered in Hamburg in 1777, but without gaining much attention.

After his wife's death in 1783, Reichardt remained active as kapellmeister, traveler, and composer. In 1786, now remarried, he completed two operas, Tamerlan and Panthée, both written for Paris audiences, but with only the latter presented in the French capital. In Germany his music was also achieving little notice. With the death of Frederick the Great in 1786 and the accession of Friedrich Wilhelm II, however, Reichardt's fortunes sharply changed. Not only did he receive regular performances of his works, but his salary and powers as kapellmeister were increased.

Following a lengthy illness in 1791, Reichardt took a leave from his kapellmeister duties and never again enjoyed such success. He got into political hot water in 1794 and was dismissed from his Berlin post.

Still, he managed to support himself and his family as director of the salt mines at Halle (1796). But troubles arose once more with Napoleon's advance, which forced Reichardt and his family to move north in 1806. Thereafter, he held a musical post in Kassel (1807-1808) and did some traveling, but had to eek out a living for his remaining years largely from his compositions and writings. Read less

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