Neefe, Christian Gottlob

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Neefe, Christian Gottlob

Neefe, Christian Gottlob, German composer and conductor; b. Chemnitz, Feb. 5, 1748; d. Dessau, Jan. 26, 1798. He studied music in Chemnitz with Wilhelmi, the city organist, and with C. G. Tag, the cantor of Hohenstein. He began to compose when he was 12, and studied the textbooks of Marpurg and C. P. E. Bach. He studied law at the Univ. of Leipzig (1769–71), and subsequently continued his studies in music with A. Hiller, then succeeding Hiller as conductor of Seyler’s traveling opera troupe (1776). In 1779 he became conductor of the Grossmann-Hellmuth opera enterprise in Bonn. Neefe’s name is especially honored in music history because about 1780 Beethoven was his pupil in piano, organ, figured-bass practice, and composition in Bonn; there is evidence that Neefe realized the greatness of Beethoven’s gift even as a child. In 1782 he was named court organist. After the Grossmann theater closed in 1784, he devoted himself mainly to teaching as a means of support. The theater was reopened in 1789, and Neefe served as its stage director until 1794, when the French army occupied Bonn and the theater was closed again. He then moved to Dessau, becoming music director of its theater in 1796. His autobiography, Lebenslauf von ihm selbst geschrieben, dated 1782, was revised by F. Rochlitz for publ. in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (1798–99; Eng. tr. in P. Netti, Forgotten Musicians, N.Y., 1951).


dramatic:Die Apotheke, comic opera (Berlin, Dec. 13, 1771); Amors Guckkasten, operetta (Leipzig, May 10, 1772); Die Einsprüche, operetta (Leipzig, Oct. 16, 1772); Zemire und Azor (Leipzig, March 5, 1776; not extant); Heinrich und Lyda, Singspiel (Berlin, March 26, 1776); Die Zigeuner (Frankfurt am Main, Nov. 1777); Sophonisbe, monodrama (Mannheim, Nov. 3, 1778); Adelheit von Veitheim, opera (Frankfurt am Main, Sept. 23, 1780). other: Lieder; concertos; keyboard music.


M. Stöpgeschoff, N. als Liederkomponist (diss., Univ. of Bonn, 1924); I. Leux, CG. N., 1748–98: Biographie und Instrumentalkompositionen (Leipzig, 1925); A. Becker, C.G. N. und die Bonner Illuminaten (Bonn, 1969).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis Mclntire