Swieten, Gottfried (Bernhard), Baron Van

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Swieten, Gottfried (Bernhard), Baron Van

Swieten, Gottfried (Bernhard), Baron van, Dutch-born Austrian diplomat, music patron, librettist, and composer; b. Leiden, Oct. 29, 1733; d. Vienna, March 29, 1803. His father was appointed personal physician to Empress Maria Theresa in 1745 and settled in Vienna. After attending the Theresianum Jesuit school, Gottfried entered the Austrian civil service; subsequently was active in the foreign diplomatic service from 1755 to 1777, serving as ambassador to Berlin from 1770 to 1777. Upon his return to Vienna, he was made Prefect of the Imperial Library. In his early years he wrote some opéras-comiques and at least 10 syms., 3 of which were printed under Haydn’s name. Van Swi-eten’s significance rests upon his activities as a music patron; he did much to promote the music of J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach and Handel. He founded a group of aristocratic patrons, the Associierte, which supported private performances of oratorios. This group commissioned Mozart to prepare his arrangements of Handel oratorios and also sponsored Haydn’s 7 Last Words (choral version, 1796), The Creation (1798), and The Seasons (1801), the latter 2 works utilizing librettos by van Swieten. Beethoven also found a patron in van Swieten and dedicated his first Sym. to him.


D. Olleson, G., Baron v.S. and His Influence on Haydn and Mozart (diss., Univ. of Oxford, 1967).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire