Born: 1630; Lübeck, Germany
Died: July 27, 1663; London, England
German violinist and composer Thomas Baltzar was a native of Lübeck, born around 1630 into a long-established family of musicians active in that town. After studying with Johann Schop and some others, Baltzar served as violinist in the final months of the Swedish court of Queen Christina and, after she abdicated, returned to Lübeck to assume a minor position in 1655. Later that year, Baltzar departed for England, where he spent the restRead more of his short life, never returning to Continental Europe. In September 1656 Baltzar was one of the musicians in the Siege of Rhodes, a collaboration between librettist William Davenant and several composers -- including Matthew Locke and Henry Lawes -- believed to have been the first English opera. English author John Evelyn witnessed one of Baltzar's recitals and recorded that Baltzar "plaid on that single Instrument a full Consort, so as the rest, flung-downe their Instruments, as acknowledging a victory." However, Baltzar spent most of the waning days of the Commonwealth away from London in Oxfordshire, and his appearances in Oxford were further noted by local chroniclers such as antiquary Andrew Wood, who stated that Baltzar's playing was of a kind "which I nor any in England saw before" and that one in the audience approached Baltzar "to see whether he was a devill or not, because he acted beyond the parts of a man." By the time of the Restoration, Baltzar's reputation was of such prominence that he was able to command top dollar as a violinist in the consort of Charles II. But by July 1663, Baltzar -- barely over 30 -- had died of what Wood called "the French pox and other distempers," aggravated by Baltzar's dependency on alcohol.
The 17 pieces Baltzar published in John Playford's 1684 publication The Division Violin were the only printed exemplars of Baltzar's work to appear in the 17th century. Manuscripts of six more works, including his masterpiece, the Sonata for 3 violins in C major, are known from elsewhere. That is yet more music of Baltzar's music that was once available is documented through auction catalog listings stretching into the early 19th century, but apparently none of these additional works are extant. Read less