In German, “Gluck” means ‘luck’, and today’s date marks the birthday of a German composer named Christoph Willibald Gluck, whose good fortune it was to be credited with “reforming” the vocally ornate but dramatically static form of Baroque opera.
In the 18th century, opera was the biggest and most high-profile of all musical forms, and Gluck wrote 49 of them during his 67 years of life. Like many 18th century opera composers, the stories Gluck chose were often based on ancient Greek myths such as “Orpheus and Eurydice.”
It wasn’t the matter of Gluck’s operas that was revolutionary, but the manner in which he set these stories to music. When the British music historian Charles Burney visited Gluck in 1771, he recorded the composer’s own words on the subject.
“It was my design,” said Gluck,” to divest music of those abuses which the vanity of singers, or the complacency of composers, had so long disfigured Italian opera and made the most beautiful and magnificent of all public exhibitions into the most tiresome and ridiculous.”
To sum it all up, Gluck told Burney, “My first and chief care as a dramatic composer was to aim at a noble simplicity.”
Music Played in Today's Program
Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714 - 1787) Dance of the Blessed Spirits, fr Orpheus Academy of Ancient Music; Christopher Hogwood, cond. L'Oiseau-Lyre 410553
On This Day
1714 - German composer Christoph Willibald (Ritter von) Gluck, in Erasbach, Upper Palatinate
1778 - French writer, music critic, and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, age 66, in Ermenonville
1900 - Sibelius: tone poem "Finlandia," in Helsinki, with Robert Kajanus conducting; An earlier, vocal version of this music was first performed at the Swedish Theater in Helsinki on Nov, 4, 1899
1929 - Gershwin: musical "Show Girl," at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York; This show included the classic Gershwin song "Liza"
1949 - John Alden Carpenter: Symphony No. 2 (revised version), by the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia, with Fritz Busch conducting; The New York Philharmonic premiered the first version of this symphony on October 22, 1942, with Bruno Walter conducting
1983 - Libby Larsen: "Deep Summer Music" for orchestra, in Terrance, Minn., by the Minnesota Orchestra, Joseph Giunta conducting
1723 - Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi agrees to write and rehearse the music for two concerts a month at the Pièta School for Orphaned Girls in Venice
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About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.