Neefe, Luchesi, Schubert, Beethoven, Vanhal: The Organ in the Age of Beethoven


  • Artist(s): Eugenio Maria Fagiani
  • Composer(s): Andrea Luchesi, Christian Gottlob Neefe, Franz Schubert, Giovanni Morandi, Guillaume Lasceux, Johann Baptist Vanhal, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Justin Heinrich Knecht, Ludwig van Beethoven
  • EAN Code: 7.46160911748
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Instrumental
  • Instrumentation: Organ
  • Period: Classical
  • Publication year: 2020
SKU: C00337 Category:

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As happens to many musicians, at the beginning of their educational journey they get a direct touch of church music (as singers) and of the organ, as well as of a keyboard instrument. They then complete their full learning path, always including the basics of composition along with the development of their improvisatory skills.
As any novel music student, young Beethoven was introduced to harmony, counterpoint and keyboard/violin technique. After this, as witnessed in a few sources, in exchange for his lessons he held a church position, playing at a few services.
The question about Beethoven’s earliest organ instruction is still unsolved. He was a pupil of Heinrich (or Gilles) van den Eeden (the Court Organist), then of friar Willibald Koch (of the Franciscan monks in Bonn, at whose convent Beethoven also became his assistant). At twelve years of age he was appointed organist at the six o’clock morning mass at the Remigiuskirche in Bonn, thanks to Father Hanzmann (the titular organist of the church who probably also gave Beethoven a few lessons). Alexander Wheelock Thayer (the author of the first biography of Beethoven) reports that the young musician received also some lessons by Zensen (unfortunately no source reports his given name), the organist of the Münster Church in Bonn. Finally, in 1781, Beethoven was accepted as a student by Christian Gottlob Neefe, the successor of van den Eeden as the Court Organist: Beethoven himself acknowledged him as his main teacher.
Neefe was a thorough musician, with experiences in many fields of music, such as opera, but also church and chamber music. He was a curious man who loved and praised the importance of past traditions: he famously instructed young Beethoven to study Johann Sebastian Bach’s Wohltemperierte Clavier and invited him to experience the new Empfindsamer Stil or Empfindsamkeit championed by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach. “A musician cannot move others unless he too is moved” states C.P.E. Bach in his ‘Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments’: this was the musical expression of a larger artistic movement, developed in Germany by the middle of the 18th century with the main goal of turning the spectator’s affections into emotions. In fact, Neefe’s Sonata included in this program, belonging in a collection published in 1774, follows these steps exactly.

All this said, the organ is also related to one of the very few official positions that Beethoven held in his lifelong career. Actually, after the election of the new Archduke Maximilian Franz of Austria (Elector of Cologne), in 1784 (when Beethoven was almost 14) the newly formed Court Chapel appointed Beethoven as the Court Organist instead of Neefe. One of the merits of the musical court of Bonn is that it widened Beethoven’s musical interest to encompass many different musical fields: French and Italian opera, via Andrea Luchesi (the Kapellmeister), but also the new chamber and keyboard music through Neefe’s eyes. Luchesi’s Sonata and Guillaume Lasceux’ Symphonie Concertante (actually an Offertory for the liturgy) demonstrate how their sonata form belonged to a more Latin tradition, derived partially from the Scarlatti and the Neapolitan style, and very different from the German ones which were familiar to the young Beethoven.
Moreover, in Bonn in 1790 he made his acquaintance with Joseph Haydn. When Beethoven moved to Vienna, in 1792, Haydn became his teacher and at the same time he continued his counterpoint studies under the guidance of Georg Albrechtsberger. At that time, Albrechtsberger was the newly appointed Kapellmeister of St. Stephen’s Cathedral; he was a very conservative composer, remembered today especially for his theoretical works, and with whom Beethoven had a very complex relationship. Albrechtsberger’s Fugue performed here, masterfully composed is a precise source of how deep was his knowledge of counterpoint and of fugal writing, as well as of how much he may have demanded of his students. The tradition of a very strict method of teaching counterpoint was then followed by Simon Sechter, after Abrechtsberger’s death; the piece by Franz Schubert concluding the program of this recording reflects in some ways the feelings of a man that has to confront himself with such an exacting form. Actually, following a suggestion by Franz Lachner, it is believed that this Fugue was performed on the organ by Schubert and himself on June 4th 1828, and then used as an example to be shown to Simon Sechter for a counterpoint lesson. It is interesting to remember that Sechter would later be the professor of Anton Bruckner, who in turn would be his successor as counterpoint and fugue professor.
Beethoven also received violin lessons from Ignaz Schuppanzigh, who would later become a champion of Beethoven’s music, especially as concerns the quartets which he frequently premiered (almost all of the late quartets where premiered by him and his own quartet, called Razumovsky, and which he founded in 1808). In the years 1800-1802, as witnessed in some sources, further studies with Antonio Salieri completed his education.
Beethoven was a very fine organist, as witnessed by several sources, but after the period in Bonn he rarely played this instrument. However, a very interesting document from 1821, reporting a witness by Friedrich Starke, shows that Beethoven still loved to perform at the organ: they went to the Johannes Church in Döbling and, upon Starke’s request, Beethoven improvised for almost half an hour in two main musical forms. He played prelude, defined as con amore (with love), and a fugal movement which is believed to be linked to the Credo fugue “Et vitam venturi saeculi” of the Missa Solemnis.
The composer left very few original pieces for organ, but this is unsurprising: indeed, this reflects the use of the in the Court worships of the Roman Catholic rite. In fact, the organist at the Great Organ had to perform normally only upon the opening and at the closing of the services with improvised voluntaries with a requested fugal part; their duration could change substantially depending on the variety of situations that can occur in a Pontifical liturgy. This means that a composed piece could be either too short or too long for a particular situation. All Court Organists needed to follow exactly what happened during those parts of the liturgy. This was specific of the German and Austrian traditions, while noteworthy differences were observed with the other European countries (even if ruled by part of the same aristocratic families). In France and Italy, for instance, there was an old tradition of organ compositions to be performed during the liturgy. In Italy during the 18th Century, as well in almost the whole 19th, the main organ music consisted of organ sonatas whose movements corresponded to specific parts of the Mass: Offertorio (fast movement, sonata form); Elevazione (slow movement); Post Communio (fast movement, almost always in a Rondò form). Sometimes there was also a fourth movement (which would then represent the first movement of this virtual Sonata) consisting of an opening prelude, but this happened almost exclusively in the Tuscan tradition whose Grand Duke, incidentally, was the cousin of the Austrian Emperor.

The Elevazione by Giovanni Morandi, who was also a close friend of Gioacchino Rossini, was published in Germany at the beginning of the 19th Century; it shows how the cantabile of the Italian tradition was developing in a fashion similar to the Galant Style.
Other sources where it was possible to find any kind of organ music were the Organ Methods, where a musician could find pieces of many different levels of difficulty. Actually, Justin Heinrich Knecht’s method contains such a variety of marvelous organ music that it was certainly really useful for any church musician of his time. The two pieces presented here reflect two forms cherished by Beethoven: the variation, which was probably Beethoven’s favourite form, especially when he was improvising, and the cantabile in a more Italian mood. The Prelude by Johann Baptist Vanhal Prelude has been selected from a different source, i.e. a practical collection of organ music conceived for the use of City and Land Organists.
The pieces by Beethoven performed in this recording come from two very different periods of his life. The Fugue in D major was composed in 1783, and it is thought to be a demonstration of the young musician’s skills in order for him to obtain the position as Second Organist at the Court of Bonn. The other pieces come from the compositions he wrote for the Müllerische Kunstcabinet of Count Joseph Deym, for which also Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed at least three works, i.e. Adagio and Allegro K.594, Fantasie K. 608 and Andante K. 616: according to the dedication they were composed in 1799,
Beethoven actually owned copies of Mozart’s K. 594 and K. 608, and it is suggested that he probably obtained them from Deym in order to use as patterns for similar pieces of his own.

Album Notes by Eugenio Maria Fagiani
Translation revision by Chiara Bertoglio


Eugenio Maria Fagiani: Renowned internationally for his impressive, enthralling and vibrant musical language, the Italian organist Eugenio Maria Fagiani performs regularly on the most important instruments in Europe, Russia, Middle East and Northern America such as Notre Dame de Paris (F), Berlin’s Dom (D), St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York (US), Tchaikovsky's Great Hall in Moscow (RU), the Royal Albert Hall in London (UK), Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Firenze (I). the Hofkirche St. Leodegar in Luzern (CH), the St. James Anglican Cathedral in Toronto (CDN), the Skt. Florian Stiftsbasilika (A), the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (IL). Besides his activity as a soloist, he holds a long term collaboration with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano La Verdi (since 2010) and the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini (since 2020), and has been directed by eminent conductors as Jeffrey Tate, Riccardo Chailly, Xian Zhang, Claus-Peter Flor, Jens Georg Bachmann, John Axelrod, Missak Baghboudarian, Yusuke Kumehara, Giuseppe Grazioli, Daniel Kawka and Alpesh Chauhan. Celebrated as “the wizard of improvisation”, he’s also a fine composer. His works are now part of the repertoire of some of the most prestigious artists of our time as David Briggs and Stephen Tharp. Since 2008 he is the Organist of the Franciscan Shrine of La Verna, Arezzo (IT). Eugenio is the Artistic Director of the Festival Internazionale di Musica d’Organo de La Verna and the Festival Organistico “S.Donato” in the Arezzo’s Dome, and also since 2016 the Artistic Advisor of the Terra Sancta Organ Festival, across seven countries in the Middle-East region, organized by the Custody of the Holy Land. He is invited to hold masterclasses (both in Interpretation and Improvisation) and lectures for several top-class music institutions around Europe and North America such as the Cambridge University Organ Scolar’s Forum (UK), the RCCO, Toronto (CDN). He is also invited to serve as juror in international competitions. He records with: VDE-Gallo, Spektral Records, Fugatto, Da Vinci and Decca.


Andrea Luchesi (b Motta di Livenza, nr Treviso, 23 May 1741; d Bonn, 21 March 1801). Italian composer. By 1757 he was in Venice where, according to Neefe, he was trained ‘in the theatrical style’ by Gioacchino Cocchi, and ‘in the church style’ by Padre Giuseppe Paolucci and Giuseppe Saratelli, the maestro di cappella of S Marco. From 1765, with the support of his patron, the music theorist Count Giordano Riccati, Lucchesi made a name for himself in Venice as an opera composer and wrote sacred and secular occasional works on commission. He also travelled to neighbouring cities as a virtuoso performer on the harpsichord and particularly organ. In 1768, for instance, he played for the dedication of the organ in Padua Cathedral.

In 1771, like many of his colleagues, he went to Germany as the director of a travelling opera company. A decree of 26 May 1774 from the Elector Archbishop of Cologne appointed him court Kapellmeister in Bonn, succeeding Beethoven's grandfather. In 1775 he married into the distinguished d'Anthoin family. As the opera company had dispersed and the court theatre had been closed, Lucchesi was now principally active as a composer of church music. Nonetheless, he still wrote a few small-scale stage works, and in 1785 composed a serenata for the elector on the occasion of his consecration as bishop. However, the musical direction of the Nationaltheater in Bonn, built in 1778, was in the hands of the court organist C.G. Neefe, while instrumental music at the court was the responsibility first of the violinist Gaetano Mattioli and later Josef Reicha.

Apart from a visit in 1783–4 to Venice, where Lucchesi produced his opera seria Ademira, and where he probably received the title of director of the Accademia Musical de' Tedeschi, Lucchesi remained in Bonn until the court was dissolved after the French occupation of the Rhineland in 1794. In 1787 he was appointed Titularrat. From 1782 to 1792 the young Beethoven was a member of the court Kapelle, first as assistant organist, then as harpsichordist and viola player. In addition to Neefe's teaching and his experience in Reicha's orchestra, Beethoven's musical development must have been considerably influenced by Lucchesi, who, as Kapellmeister, determined the repertory of sacred music performed at the court. After the elector's flight in 1794 and in the event of the court returning, plans for church music on a smaller scale were entrusted to Lucchesi. However, they came to nothing, and his final years were spent in poverty and obscurity.

In line with his career, Lucchesi's works can be divided into the operas and instrumental works of his time in Venice and early years in Bonn, and his sacred music for the electoral Kapelle. His secular works were performed in many different European cities, ranging from Lisbon, where one of his operas was performed, to Stockholm and Prague, where several of his symphonies found their way into the archives. While he had been most famous for his organ works in Italy, according to La Borde his symphonies were held in particularly high esteem in Germany, a notable achievement for an Italian at this time. Leopold Mozart, writing in his 1771 diary of his Venetian travels, described Lucchesi as a maestro di cemballo and liked to use one of his harpsichord concertos when teaching. Although only a few of Lucchesi's works appeared in print, his Sei sonate op.1 for harpsichord and violin (1772), was the first music to be printed in Bonn. Lucchesi's sacred music, apart from the early works (mostly lost), is now at the Biblioteca Estense in Modena, together with a large part of the manuscript and printed music from the elector's collection. Apart from many compositions for liturgical use, his sacred works include a Passion to a Metastasio libretto for concertante performance during Holy Week.

Various contemporary assessments of Lucchesi's style have come down to us. Burney called him ‘a very pleasing composer’, while La Borde speaks of ‘a particularly graceful style, concise and energetic arrangement of the parts, and new ideas’. Neefe described him as ‘a light, agreeable and lively composer, whose counterpoint is cleaner than that of many of his countrymen’, adding, however, that in his sacred works he ‘does not always confine himself to the strict style’. Lucchesi's approach to sacred music reconciled the stile antico and the stile moderno, combining an early form of the imitation of Palestrina with the secularized, fashionable operatic style of the 18th century. It was entirely in the spirit of the contemporary theory of church music that he had learnt from his teacher Paolucci (a pupil of Padre Martini) and from Vallotti in Padua.

Christian Gottlob Neefe(b Chemnitz, 5 Feb 1748; d Dessau, 26 Jan 1798): German composer. He received his initial musical education from Wilhelmi, city organist of Chemnitz, and C.G. Tag, Kantor of Hohenstein. He was composing at the age of 12, and partly educated himself from the textbooks of Marpurg and C.P.E. Bach. From 1769 to 1771 he studied law at Leipzig University, and then continued his musical training under J.A. Hiller, whom he replaced as music director of Seyler's theatre troupe in 1776. He joined the Grossmann-Hellmut troupe in 1779 and moved to Bonn, where, perhaps as early as 1780, he began teaching the young Beethoven the piano, organ, thoroughbass and composition, acquainting him also with Bach's Das wohltemperirte Clavier and C.P.E. Bach's Gellert-Lieder. From 1782 he served as court organist (Beethoven occasionally deputized for him in this post); he also substituted for Lucchesi as court Kapellmeister during the latter's Italian journey of 1783–4. With the death of the Elector Max Friedrich in 1784 Neefe's financial situation deteriorated considerably. The Grossmann theatre was closed and his salary as organist reduced, and he was forced to depend on an income from private teaching. Shortly before the French invasion in 1794 the court disbanded, leaving Neefe unemployed; the occupying French forces allowed him only a minor official post. He became music director of the Dessau theatre at the end of 1796, but fell seriously ill and died soon afterwards.

Neefe was important both as a composer of lieder and Singspielen and as a teacher. While a student he became acquainted with Hiller's efforts at a comprehensive music pedagogy, which later influenced his teaching at Bonn. Hiller also stimulated Neefe's interest in music theatre, and as early as 1771 commissioned him to compose ten songs for Der Dorfbalbier. In these, as in his later work, Neefe showed a particular gift for writing in smaller forms. His theatrical works (the most popular being Adelheit von Veltheim, based on Turkish exoticisms similar to those in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail of two years later) reveal attractive melodic writing and character realization. For dramatic climaxes he occasionally made use of melodrama, as previously developed by Benda, and he composed a full monodrama Sophonisbe on Benda's models. To help disseminate Mozart's operas he prepared vocal scores of five of these works for the publisher Simrock.

Neefe's lieder show an unmistakable inclination towards dramatic effects, especially in the Serenaten of 1777, whose texts are probably his own. These works show great variety of form, and turn away from the folk style of the Berlin school towards cantata-like ballades. The Klopstock odes similarly reflect Neefe's efforts to create novel forms, and his prefaces to the three editions of them (1776–c1785) touch on the then progressive issues of the relation of words to music and the singer's understanding of the text. The elaborately varied strophic songs of Neefe's later years foreshadow the lieder of the Romantic period, above all those of Schubert.

Franz Schubert: (b Vienna, 31 Jan 1797; d Vienna, 19 Nov 1828). Austrian composer. The only canonic Viennese composer native to Vienna, he made seminal contributions in the areas of orchestral music, chamber music, piano music and, most especially, the German lied. The richness and subtlety of his melodic and harmonic language, the originality of his accompaniments, his elevation of marginal genres and the enigmatic nature of his uneventful life have invited a wide range of readings of both man and music that remain among the most hotly debated in musical circles.

Giovanni Morandi: Morandi was born in Pergola (1777), and died in Senigallia (1856), Italy. He was the most-important Italian composer of organ music in the first half of the 19th century, and was an early mentor of Gioachino Rossini.

Guillaume Lasceux(b Poissy, 3 Feb 1740; d Paris, 1831): French organist and composer. He began his career as an organist at the church of St Martin in the village of Chevreuse, near Poissy, at the age of 18. He went to Paris in 1762 and spent five years studying composition with the organist Charles Noblet, who was also harpsichordist of the Opéra. In 1769 he became supernumerary organist to Claude-Nicolas Ingrain at St Etienne-du-Mont and took over the post in 1774. Other positions which he held simultaneously were at the church of the Mathurins (from 1769, succeeding Noblet), St Aure (from 1769), the Minims convent in the Place Royale (from 1779), Collège de Navarre and Séminaire St Magloire. As a result of the Revolution he lost his patronage and most of his organ positions and then, in order to support himself, played for the services of the Theophilanthropists in St Etienne-du-Mont (renamed Temple de la Piété-filiale). When St Etienne-du-Mont was restored to Roman Catholic worship in 1803 he resumed his former duties until he retired on 2 January 1819.

Lasceux was known as a virtuoso organist, and was particularly celebrated for his improvisations depicting the Last Judgment. He composed in many genres, including opéras comiques, accompanied keyboard sonatas, sacred organ pieces and vocal music, and made keyboard arrangements of popular songs. The novelty of his works gained them some success, particularly with amateurs.

Johann Baptist Vanhal: Johann Baptist Vanhal (b Nechanicz [now Nechanice], nr Hradec Králové, Bohemia, 12 May 1739; d Vienna, 20 Aug 1813). Bohemian composer, violinist and teacher, active in Austria. His present reputation is derived mostly from his symphonies, his many published keyboard pieces and the comments of writers. He himself spelt his name Johann Baptist Wanhal; his Viennese contemporaries and most scholars until World War II used the spelling Wanhal, but later in the 20th century a modern Czech form, Jan Křtitel Vaňhal, was erroneously introduced. Only one writer, Bohumír Dlabač, had extensive contact with him, acquired in 1795 in Vienna. An anonymous Viennese necrology, based mostly on local gossip, is complementary, but differs somewhat from Dlabač’s account. Additional observations based on fleeting contact in Vienna were mostly derived from one or other of these writers or from Charles Burney, who visited Vanhal on 12 September 1772.

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger: (b Klosterneuburg, nr Vienna, 3 Feb 1736; d Vienna, 7 March 1809). Austrian composer, teacher, theorist and organist. From the age of seven he served as a choirboy for the Augustinians in Klosterneuburg, where he learnt the organ and figured bass from the dean, Leopold Pittner. His studies in composition under G.M. Monn (if accurately reported by Albrechtsberger’s pupil Johann Fuss) must have taken place during this period. As a student and choirboy at Melk Abbey from 1749 until 1754, he received a thorough training in composition and organ from Marian Gurtler, the regens chori, and Joseph Weiss, the abbey’s organist. After a year of study at the Jesuit seminary in Vienna he worked as an organist in various provincial localities: Raab (now Győr, Hungary), 1755–7; Maria Taferl, near Melk, 1757–9; and Melk Abbey, 1759–65, where he succeeded his former teacher Weiss. His precise place of employment in 1766 remains unknown, but Melk sources indicate that he left the abbey voluntarily in November 1765 to join his brother Anton in the service of a Baron Neissen in Silesia (perhaps at what is now Nysa, Poland).

Albrechtsberger’s activities can be traced from his parents’ home in Ebersdorf (near Melk) in 1767 to Vienna, where he married in May the following year. From 1772 he served both as regens chori for the church of the Carmelites (later known as St Joseph’s) and as organist in the imperial court orchestra. In addition he was appointed assistant to the Kapellmeister Leopold Hofmann at the Stephansdom in 1791, a position arranged for him by his friend and predecessor Mozart. All of these duties were set aside when he became Kapellmeister following Hofmann’s death in 1793. He retained this post – the highest in the empire for a church musician – for the remainder of his life.

Albrechtsberger was a prolific composer of some 284 church compositions, 278 keyboard works and over 193 works for other instruments. His most interesting and original music was composed during his years as a provincial organist before settling permanently in Vienna. He cultivated a modern, homophonic idiom in the instrumental works of this period and used unusual instrumentation with special effects such as scordatura and slow movements marked ‘con sordino’. The church music is more contrapuntal in conception and occasionally experimental in its treatment of the voices (e.g. alternating solo quartet and chorus, and the use of recitative). Some of his best vocal music is in the early oratorios, several of which belong to the Austrian tradition of Easter sepolcro. At Melk he was considered ‘a most commendable artist in this genre’, although there seems to have been no occasion for him to write oratorios after 1781.

After his imperial appointment in 1772 he became increasingly preoccupied with the composition of fugues – over 240 for instruments in addition to numerous examples in the sacred music. His two-movement sonate (slow homophonic, fast fugal), of which he wrote over 120 for various instrumental combinations after 1780, developed out of the Baroque church sonata but were intended for chamber rather than church performance. They had little influence on the already mature sonata form. His approach to Viennese church composition tended, as Weissenbäck noted, towards formal sectionalization or polarization of homophonic and polyphonic textures. In spite of their technical refinements, these late works seem less imaginative than those of his earlier years.

Eye-witness accounts by critics such as Maximilian Stadler, Burney, Nicolai and Pasterwitz leave little doubt that Albrechtsberger was an extraordinarily talented organist. Mozart, the most reliable judge of all, considered his playing the standard by which other organists were to be measured (letter to Constanze, 16 April 1789). Towards the end of his life he was recognized as ‘perhaps the greatest organist in the world’.

Nevertheless it was through his teachings and theoretical writings that Albrechtsberger exerted the strongest influence on his contemporaries and succeeding generations of composers. He began attracting students as early as 1757 (Franz Schneider), and by the time of his death he was the most sought-after pedagogue in Europe. Haydn regarded him as ‘the best teacher of composition among all present-day Viennese masters’ and unhesitatingly sent Beethoven to him for instruction (1794–5). The fugues of Beethoven’s last years, particularly op.133, owe much to his teachings. His international reputation as a theorist rested on his extremely popular treatises on composition (1790) and figured bass (c1791). In place of innovatory theoretical concepts these works contained a skilful combination of elements borrowed primarily from Fux and Marpurg. His principal achievement in this area was to formulate 18th-century theory in a language and format which were practical and suitable to the needs of contemporary instruction.

As a champion of the contrapuntal tradition Albrechtsberger occupied a unique position among composers of the Viennese Classical school. His intensive study of polyphonic writing – as shown by music examples in his theoretical works, and by his copies and arrangements – extended from Palestrina to Mozart (k228/515b). He copied most of the fugues in Bach’s ‘48’ and collected canons by other north German Protestant composers (Mattheson, C.P.E. Bach, Kirnberger, Marpurg and C.F.C. Fasch). By perpetuating this tradition into the second half of the 18th century, he helped to create the atmosphere in which Baroque polyphony and mid-century homophony fused to form mature Classicism. Unfortunately his own music remained largely unaffected by this stylistic synthesis.

From The New Grove dictionary of Music and Musicians

Justin Heinrich Knecht(b Biberach an der Riss, 30 Sept 1752; d Biberach an der Riss, 1 Dec 1817): German writer on music and composer. He had his first musical training (in organ, keyboard, violin and singing) in his native town. From 1768 to 1771 he attended the Lutheran collegiate institution in Esslingen am Neckar (where he was deeply impressed by a visit from C.F.D. Schubart), and in 1771 he became Lutheran preceptor and music director in Biberach. He received early encouragement from C.M. Wieland, who was town clerk of Biberach until 1769. In 1792 Knecht gave up his teaching post to become organist at the church of St Martin, simultaneously used by the Lutherans and Catholics. Biberach, a free imperial city until 1803, had a rich cultural life, and it was chiefly due to Knecht that the musical life of the middle classes in church and concert hall reached such a high standard. Besides pursuing his activities in church music, Knecht organized subscription concerts, wrote many works for the theatre, and offered courses in music theory, acoustics, aesthetics and composition as well as normal instrumental teaching in the Gymnasium (which was affiliated to the Musikschule in 1806). In December 1806 Knecht went to Stuttgart, hoping to obtain an appointment as court composer or vice-Kapellmeister. Eventually, in April 1807, the King of Württemberg did appoint him Direktor beim Orchester, but Knecht resigned the post at the end of 1808 and returned to his former position in Biberach, which he held until his death.

As a composer, Knecht left an extensive body of instrumental works, stage works and church music; as a music theorist, he espoused the ideas of G.J. Vogler. His pastoral symphony, Le portrait musical de la nature (1784–5), was much admired, and was issued by one of the young Beethoven's publishers; it anticipates the programme of Beethoven's own Sixth Symphony. As well as the pastoral symphony Knecht's great sacred vocal works are of some importance and show the composer at his best. Knecht succeeded with his Magnificat and Dixit Dominus in compositional competitions in 1791 and 1800, where he won the second and first prizes. Both here and in his Te Deum with double choir he composed with a higher pretension, finding a good balance between extensive choir figures in strict counterpoint and arias in the modern classical style.

Knecht was particularly well known for his teaching manuals, in particular his Orgelschule (1795–8), which was innovative and influential in its time (Beethoven himself owned a copy of the work); it gives a clear insight into contemporary views on organ playing, sonorities and organ building Knecht's reputation as an excellent theorist and master of the strict style is obvious from the fact that in 1803 he completed J.S. Bach's Art of Fugue to the entire satisfaction of the Zürich publisher H.G. Nägeli, who had commissioned the work. Such works as the Musikalischer Katechismus (1803) were widely distributed and contributed greatly to general musical education. Knecht also wrote for the Musikalische Real-Zeitung and Musikalische Korrespondenz der Teutschen Filarmonischen Gesellschaft (1788–92) and for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. He must be considered one of the major figures of musical life in south Germany in his period.

Ludwig van Beethoven: (b Bonn, bap. 17 Dec 1770; d Vienna, 26 March 1827). German composer. His early achievements, as composer and performer, show him to be extending the Viennese Classical tradition that he had inherited from Mozart and Haydn. As personal affliction – deafness, and the inability to enter into happy personal relationships – loomed larger, he began to compose in an increasingly individual musical style, and at the end of his life he wrote his most sublime and profound works. From his success at combining tradition and exploration and personal expression, he came to be regarded as the dominant musical figure of the 19th century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence or failed to acknowledge it. For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is probably the most admired composer in the history of Western music.

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