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Gluck, Christoph Willibald


Eminent composer whose operatic reform initiated the classical operatic style; b. Weidenwang (Upper Palatinate), Germany, July 2, 1714; d. Vienna, Nov. 15, 1787. He studied music privately in Prague and later, for four years, in Milan with Sammartini. His first dozen operas (174146), some with librettos by Metastasio, contained the conventional features of the current Italian style. With a new librettist, Calzabigi, he initiated his "reform" with Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). His principal goals were to subordinate musical effects to dramatic truth by avoiding complicated plots, superfluous melodic ornamentation, and vocal display; and to unify the hitherto disparate elements of aria and recitativo secco. Encouraged by the marriage of Marie Antoinette, his former pupil, to the heir of the French throne, Gluck composed a series of works for the Paris Opéra incorporating these reforms: Iphigénie en Aulide (1774), Orphée and Alceste (revisions of earlier works), Armide (1777), and Iphigénie en Tauride (1779). The last named won out in the bitter controversy between Gluckists and Piccinists that climaxed the "war" between French buffonists (partisans of traditional Italian opera) and antibuffonists (admirers of Lully and Rameau). Irritated by the failure of Echo et Narcisse (1779), Gluck retired to Vienna. Apart from its historical importance Gluck's music is outstanding. His symphonic instrumentation, dramatic use of the chorus, and incorporation of the overture into the general mood of the work are particularly noteworthy.

Bibliography: Sämtliche Werke, ed. r. gerber (Kassel 1951); o. strunk, ed., Source Readings in Music History (New York 1950) 673675, 681683. m. cooper, Gluck (New York 1935). p. howard, Gluck and the Birth of Modern Opera (New York 1964). a. a. abert, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 5:320380. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (5th ed. New York 1958) 574577. d. j. grout, A Short History of Opera, 2 v. (2d, rev. and enl. ed. New York 1965). i. a. brandenburg, "Le Cinesi di Pietro Metastasioe Christoph Willibald Gluck: Un primo avvicinamento del futuro riformatore al genere comico," Esercizi: Musica e Spettacolo 13 (1994) 1732. g. croll, "Glucks Alceste in Wien und Paris," Österreichische Musik Zeitschrift 48 (1993) 231236; "' mit Leben und Geschick arrangiert ' Zu Glucks Iphigénie en Tauride, " Österreichische Musik Zeitschrift 49 (1994) 283288. p. howard, Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait in Letters and Documents (Cambridge, Eng. 1995).

[r. w. lowe]

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