The Kennedy Center

Georg Christoph Wagenseil



Biography

Georg Christoph Wagenseil was an Austrian composer, keyboard player and teacher.  He was one of the pivotal figures in the development of the Classical style in Vienna and served as a precursor to Haydn and W. A. Mozart. 
 
He was born in Vienna on January 29, 1715.  Both his father and grandfather were functionaries at the Viennese imperial court.  In his teens, Wagenseil began composing keyboard pieces and taking keyboard instruction. His accomplishments were such that the court Kapellmeister recommended him for a court scholarship in 1735.  For the next three years he received intensive instruction in keyboard playing, counterpoint and composition, culminating in his appointment as composer to the court in 1739, a post he held until his death.
 
Up to 1745, Wagenseil's creative efforts focused on sacred music, particularly masses.  His early pieces are in the Baroque style while later pieces are in the lighter gallant style.
 
His first opera, Ariodante, composed in 1745, began a five-year period where he focused on stage works, many of which were composed to celebrate events in the imperial family.  His operas are noteworthy for the way he welded arias, ensembles, recitatives and choruses into large unified tableaux, pointing the way to Gluck's operatic reform of 1762. 
 
Wagenseil was well-known in his day; both Haydn and Mozart are known to have been familiar with his works. Through the publication of his symphonies, Wagenseil reached international prominence by the mid-1750s. He was also renowned as a keyboard virtuoso and earned the highest praise from contemporaries. 
 
But around 1765, steadily worsening lameness and an attack of gout that affected his left hand curtailed his activities at court and eventually confined him to his quarters where he continued to compose and to teach.  He died in Vienna on March 1, 1777.
 
Source: Grove Music Online
 
 
Georg Christoph Wagenseil