The Kennedy Center

Joseph Weigl II


Joseph Weigl, who was born on March 28, 1766, in Eisenstadt, was a respected conductor and composer of theatrical and sacred music. Weigl was the son of Joseph Weigl I, and his musical talent was apparent by age three, states Oxford Music Online. He began his early musical training, in singing and thoroughbass, with Sebastian Witzig in 1775. The following year, he began studying music with Albechtsberger, with whom he continued until 1782.
In his early teens, Weigl came into contact with a number of notable musicians. At age 16, he gained the attention of Gluck and Salieri with his first opera, Die unnütze Vorsicht, which he wrote for a marionette theater. In addition, he was regularly invited to Baron Gottfried van Sweiten's musical matinees, where he met Mozart, Teyber, and Starzer and studied works by composers such as Handel and Graun.  Salieri, in particular, supported Weigl, teaching him composition and introducing him to the court's theatrical life. Through Salieri's efforsts, Weigl served as the accompanist for Mozart's operas. He later conducted those operas himself.
In 1790, Weigl became deputy Kapellmeister at the court theater, and Leopold II appointed him Salieri's successor the following year. In the coming years  Weigl composed a number thatrical works in various genre: his first theatrical success La principessa d'Amalfi (1794); Italian and German operas such as Das Petermännchen (1794), Das Dorf im Gebirge (1794), and L'amor marinaro (1797); and a number of successful ballets, including Pigmalione (1794–5), Il ratto d'Elena (1795–6), Alonso e Cora (1796–1800), Alcina (1798–1801), I spagnoli nell'isola Cristina (1802–3) and La ballerina d'Athene (1802–4.
Though Weigl was offered positions abroad in the next decade, he declined them in favor of his lifetime appointment at the Viennese court. In the 1800s he concentrated primarily on composing opera. Among his most successful were: L'uniforme (1800); Cleopatra; II rivale di se stesso; Das Waisenhaus (1808); Die Schweizerfamilie (1809), which was performed throughout the world; and Die Jugend Peter des Grossen (1814). During this time, Weigl was also commissioned to compose operas for La Scala, including L'imboscata (1815) and Margaritta d'Anjou.
After 1822, Weigl composed primarily sacred pieces. Then, in 1827, he was appointed vice-Kapellmeister at court, a position he held until 1838. Weigl died on Feb. 3, 1846 in Vienna.
Weigl received a number of awards for his work, including the gold Civil-Ehrenmedaille and was an honorary member of the Milan Conservatory and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. In addition, in 1828 Weigl was given the freedom of the city of Vienna.
The music of opera and ballet is richer for Weigl's compositions. He used unusual orchestration, promoted an active role for the chorus and ensembles, and included instrumental solos and independent part-writing, even for the viola, in his compositions. Though his sacred works reflect the norms of post-Classical Viennese church music, they are noted for their use of sequence, unison passages, and attention to the limits of voice, states Oxford Music Online.
Joseph Weigl II