Paul Wranitzky

Czech Born 30 Dec 1756 Died 26 Sep 1808

Pavel Vranický (later Germanized to Paul Wranitzky) was born in Neureisch (now Nová Øíše) in Moravia on December 30, 1756 and died in Vienna on September 29, 1808. At age 20, Pavel, like so many other Bohemian composers of that period, moved to Vienna to seek out opportunities within the Austrian imperial capital.

From 1790, Wranitzky served as conductor of both royal theater orchestras. He was highly respected by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven; the latter two preferred him as the conductor of their new works. Vranický was a prolific composer. His output comprises ten operas, fifty-one symphonies, at least 56 string quartets (some sources give a number as high as 73) and a large amount of other orchestral and chamber music. His opera, Oberon - the fairy king from 1789 was a favorite in this genre and inspired Schikaneder to write The Magic Flute; in the mid-1790s, Goethe sought to collaborate with Vranický on a sequel to the Mozart opera.

Although some scholars believe that he studied with Haydn, there is no proof of this. But there can be no question that he studied and was influenced by Haydn’s quartets. Like Haydn, Vranický’s quartet writing went through many stages of development beginning with the pre-classical and evolving to the finished sonata form of the late Vienna Classics. The majority of Vranický’s quartets are in three movements; many share the qualities of the Parisian quatour concertant, with virtuoso writing in all four parts. In these works, he explored the emerging Romantic style with (for the time) daring harmonic progressions, theatrical gestures, and virtuoso display. Based on the ten Vranický quartets he's studied, the music historian and Reicha scholar Ron Drummond writes, "I can safely and with absolute confidence say that Vranický's achievement as a composer of string quartets is a greater achievement, overall, than Mozart's. Lest that statement be misunderstood, let me clarify: it's simply that Vranický's output dwarfs Mozart's, and the quality of each man's (mature) productions is so superb that Vranický wins by sheer numbers." [1]

Writing about Vranický's chamber music in the last part of the 19th century, the famous French critic and musicologist Fetis recalled: “The music of Wranitzky was in fashion when it was new because of his natural melodies and brilliant style…I recall that, in my youth, his works held up very well in comparison with those of Haydn. Their premature abandonment of today has been for me a source of astonishment.”

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