Franz Xaver Richter


Born: December 1, 1709 Died: September 12, 1789
F.X. Richter was a central figure in the so-called Mannheim School of the early classical period, but little is known about him until the 1740s. From 1722 to 1727, he studied at the Jesuit seminary at Ungarisch Hradisch; immediately after that, until 1736, he spent some time in Italy and possibly in Vienna, where he may have studied with Fux.

Richter became a professional singer, a bass, who toiled in minor provincial German posts during the 1730s. In 1740 he began working as vice-Kapellmeister to the Prince-Abbot Anselm von Reichlin-Meldegg in Kempten, Allgau, although it's not known exactly how long he remained there. By 1747 he was working as a court musician, certainly as a singer (of both opera and sacred music), and possibly also a violinist for the Elector Palatine Carl Theodor in Mannheim. That is when he began to make his mark as a composer. He already had a set of symphonies published in Paris by 1744, but in Mannheim he gradually developed a reputation as a composer of sacred music, although he continued to write stylish secular pieces, including string quartets, symphonies, and concertos. Richter was also a noted teacher, and in the 1760s he wrote a composition method book based on Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum. In 1768 he seems to have given up performing to become a court chamber composer.

Despite his court duties, Richter had time for extensive travel, and he had little trouble getting his music published abroad. Perhaps this is because it was rather conservative, rooted, though certainly not trapped, in the Baroque style. He was the odd man out among Mannheim composers, resisting his colleagues' reliance on virtuoso special effects. Fed up, in 1769 he got a job as Kapellmeister at Strasbourg Cathedral, and focused more on sacred music during this final phase of his career, although he also supervised secular music at the prince-bishop's court and directed the municipal orchestra.

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