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Christoph Willibald Gluck

A German composer of great import, particularly in operatic reform. His native tongue was Czech but he ran away from home at the age of 13 to study music in Prague; while there he worked as an organist. Soon thereafter he moved to Vienna and then Milan where his first opera "Artaserse" was perfromed. He spent a couple of years in London where he became familiar with Handel's music and then traveled to Dresden, Copenhagen, Naples and Prague. Gluck finally settled in Prague where he served the Prince of Saxe-Hildburghausen as the Concert Master for the orchestra and then as Kappelmeister. The first reform opera, "Orfeo et Euridice," was composed in 1762 after meeting the poet Calzabigi. They had good success with this opera as well as with the ballet-pantomime "Don Juan" (in conjunction with Angiolini) and another opera "Alceste; " however, their third collaboration, the opera "Paride ed Elena," was not as well received. During his life in Vienna, Gluck made travels to Paris for performances of the comic operas and, subsequently, this is where many of his operas were initially performed. After 1770 he decided to treat the French opera with his new innovative ideas. The greatest success he had came in 1779 with "Iphingenie en Tauride." It was only eight years after his greatest success that he died, hailed as the dean of Viennese composers. The principles that Gluck brought to bear upon the reform of opera included: making the music serve the text by giving expression to the events; non-interruption of the story-line for orchestral ritornellos and flowery, embellished singing; and, to alleviate the distinction between arias and recitatives. Even "Orfeo" carried with it most of these ideals. Compositional abilities at Gluck's disposal were not abundant but they were present enough to serve his purposes and to accomplish his idea of reform. (Others were also wanting to reform the composition of operas -- Jomelli and Traetaa who had also been influenced by the French). Historically Gluck was important to musical composition by bringing about a balance between music and drama; the music could be powerful and lively if the dramatic situation arose or the music could be soft and majestic. ~ Keith Johnson
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Gluck - Orphée Et Euridice (1774 Paris Version)

Disc 1
Title: Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41

1. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Overture

2. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 1. Scene 1

3. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 1. Scene 2

4. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 1. Scene 2 / Scene 3

5. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 1. Scene 4

6. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 2. Scene 1

Disc 2

1. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 2. Scene 2

2. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 2. Scene 3

3. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 3. Scene 1

4. Orphée Et Eurydice (French Version), Opera In 3 Acts, Wq. 41: Act 3. Scene 1 / Scene 2 / Scene 3

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