NOTE: 2014 marks the Gluck tercentenary and the bicentenary of The Star-Spangled Banner. We treat the latter in a forthcoming post.
website lists a number of Gluck-related events for the tercentenary celebration: visitors can see a multimedia presentation at the Gluck Museum and, similar to the Goethewanderweg in Thuringia, can walk a 6.5 km (two-hour) Gluck-Wanderweg past the Geburtshaus and baptismal church. It seems quite a production for a composer who lived there for only the first three years of his life. (The nearby village of Weidenwang, likewise a district of Berching, long claimed Gluck as its native son also: both places have a monument and a Geburtshaus.)
But was Gluck Bavarian or Bohemian?
The confusion over his birthplace and national identity, as Daniel Heartz points out, comes from the fact that the Upper Palatinate originally belonged to Bohemia and was only awarded to Bavaria after the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714, the year Gluck was born.<1> (His baptism was recorded in the shared parish register for Weidenwang and Erasbach.)<2> To add to the confusion, when Gluck married Maria Anna Bergin in 1750, the marriage certificate indicates the nearby town of Neumarkt as his birthplace.<3> The family moved to Reichstadt (now Liberec) in Bohemia when the composer was three, later relocating to several other villages in the region; finally his father, Alexander Johannes Gluck, moved the family to Eisenberg (Jezeří) to become the head forester for Prince Philipp Hyazinth von Lobkowitz. In their recent biography, Gerhard and Renate Croll note how the young Gluck was surrounded by Germans—his mother was definitely a German and his father was in daily contact with Germans and had to use German for official purposes—and the composer’s German letters have peculiarities of the Upper Palatinate dialect.<4> Yet his student Salieri said that Gluck spoke Czech.<5>
Gluck’s first biographer, Johann August Schmidt, noted Bavaria's claim <6>: in addition to the two monuments in Berching, there is also one in Munich (where he never spent much time).<7> On 15 October 1848, right in the middle of the revolution, Munich paused to unveil the statue and honor a composer whose works had revolutionized opera. Joseph Hartmann Stunz, the local Kapellmeister, composed a Festgesang celebrating the “German tone poet Gluck”:
Hail the dearest fatherland,
Which in an age long since past
As a pledge to its ancient powers
Gave rise to men of immortality!
Men, whom a god protected
Against saucy, degenerate art
With the holy flaming sword
Of the artist’s burning love:
Hail to him! who with strict rule
Strove for the highest truth,
To form the soul into being
Through iron song!
As Orpheus brought
His wife back to life from the night of Orcus,
The master, with faithful striving,
Has brought art home to us.
And in the kingdom of eternal beauty
He came triumphantly, with the heroic Grecian sons,
[He] drinks the German nectar of the gods;
For art firmly weaves around the races a holy band,
And the furthermost gladiators for truth
Offer each other a brotherly hand.
Heil dem theuern Vaterlande,
Das in tief versunkner Zeit
Zeugte, alter Kraft zum Pfande,
Männer der Unsterblichkeit!
Männer, die ein Gott bewehrte
Gegen freche Afterkunst
Mit dem heil’gen Flammenschwerte
Heil ihm! der mit strengem Walten
Nach der höchsten Wahrheit rang,
Nur die Seele zu Gestalten
Schuf in ehernem Gesang!
Wie die Gattin in das Leben
Orpheus aus des Orkus Nacht,
Hat die Kunst mit treuem Streben
Uns der Meister heimgebracht.
Und im Reich des ewig Schönen
Zog er triumphirend ein,
Mit den griech’schen Heldensöhnen
Trinkt der deutsche Götterwein;
Denn es webt um die Geschlechter
Fest die Kunst ein heilig Band,
Und der Wahrheit fernste
Fechter Reichen sich die Bruderhand.<8>
The monuments in Bavaria and the Berching Gluckjahr festival bring to mind the ease with which later writers manipulated the composer’s biography to meet personal aesthetic, nationalistic, and political agendas. In the nineteenth century, Gluck’s identity was always changing: at one moment a dogmatic German fighting against the excesses of Italian and French opera; at another, a child of Nature, absorbing music from his Bohemian homeland.
For some, Gluck’s childhood evoked a Romantic, nostalgic image of a callow youth venturing through the untamed Bohemian countryside. The German painter Johann Christian von Mannlich, who shared lodgings with Gluck in Paris, recounted his anecdote of a back-road journey through Bohemia to Vienna:
Wanting to husband the little wealth I had, I approached a rustic cottage where the family were sitting down to eat. I took my Jew’s harp from my pocket and treated them to a few tunes. Seeing that I was decently dressed, they bade me enter and made room for me at their table. When night fell, I found myself in another village, where my Jew’s harp earned me eggs, bread, and cheese, which were given me at the windows of houses where I made myself heard.<10>This account, certainly embellished by Mannlich, casts Bohemia as a rustic place of wandering artists and welcoming peasant homes.<11> In his Künstlernovelle Gluck in Paris (1836), Johann Peter Burmeister-Lyser has the old Gluck fondly tell young Méhul of finding his passion for music:
When a boy, in my home, in lovely Bohemia, I heard her voice, as a divine voice, in all that surrounded me—in the dense forest, in the gloomy ravine, the romantic valley—on the bold, stark cliff—in the cheerful hunter’s call, or the hoarse song of stream and torrent, her voice thrilled to my heart, like a sweet and glorious prophecy. All was clear to my youthful vision.<12>A. B. Marx mirrored these sentiments: “The youth could not think of Weidenwang or Neuschloss [two residences of Gluck’s childhood] as his home—it was the forest, the forest with its dreamy shadows and fantastic, flashing streaks of light.”<13> For Marx, these “sounds of nature” (Naturklänge) later manifested themselves in Orfeo and its successors.<14>
While Gluck the Bohemian indulged in flights of fancy into the Bohemian wilderness, Gluck the German fought tirelessly to upend Italian and French traditions. Watching rehearsals of Iphigénie en Aulide, Mannlich supposed “Gluck was also at war with the orchestra and the singers, who in his opinion, knew neither how to sing, nor to declaim, nor how to get the best out of their instruments. Their French vanity was sorely wounded to be taught all these things by a Teutonic master.”<15> In an 1806 review of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride and Armide, Johann Friedrich Reichardt described the supposed Piccinni-Gluck querelle as a battle between “the enjoyable Italian comedian [Comiker]” and “the tremendously huge German tragic poet [Tragiker].”<16> Though Gluck composed only a few German Lieder and his operas were in French or Italian, opera houses in the major German cities usually gave the operas in translation—a practice that led critics and audiences to perceive his works as relevant to the creation of a unified German opera in the nineteenth century.<17> In a review of the 1808 premiere of Orpheus und Eurydice at the Berlin Nationaltheater, for example, the critic for the Vossische Zeitung praised the opera as a monument to German art:
It does the directors the highest honor that they have erected for us these monuments of German art, which the German Orpheus, Gluck, created so powerfully and truly for us with the irresistible magic of his song, so that they will remain the admiration of posterity, with regard to drama, and the enjoyment of which we had been so long without on our stage—with the splendor and honor, which we owe to the memory of this great German artist.<18>In the end it did not matter where the composer was born and where he grew up—nor even what language he may have first spoken. His nationality was most often derived by agenda. If you visit Berching to celebrate Gluck’s 300th birthday, then, you might want to think less about Germany, or Bavaria, Bohemia, and more about E. T. A. Hoffmann's evocation in his novella Ritter Gluck (1809): of Gluck as a wandering spirit whose sense of revolution transcended national borders.
1. Daniel Heartz, “Coming of Age in Bohemia: The Musical Apprenticeships of Benda and Gluck,” Journal of Musicology 6, no. 4 (Autumn, 1988): 518. Additionally, Alexander Rehding notes the difficulty in placing Gluck in the German or the Austrian Denkmäler series, when they started in the 1890s (Music and Monumentality [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009], 142).
2. Patricia Howard, Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait in Letters and Documents (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 1.
3. Ibid., 31
4. Gerhard and Renate Croll, Gluck: Sein Leben, seine Musik (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2010), 17.
5. Ignaz Franz Edler von Mosel, Über das Leben und die Werke des Anton Salieri (Vienna, 1827), 93; translated in Howard, Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait, 238-39. Salieri’s memory, however, was filtered through Mosel, and there are no correspondences from Gluck in Czech to back his claim.
6. Anton Schmidt, Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck, dessen Leben und tonkünstlerisches Wirken (Leipzig: Friedrich Fleischer, 1854).
7. Gluck did stop at the Inn Zum goldenen Hirschen on his trips between Vienna and Paris; see Robert Münster, “Christoph Willibald Gluck und München: Aufenthalte und Aufführungen bis 1787,” in Festschrift Otto Biba zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. Ingrid Fuchs (Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 2006), 71-72.
8. Joseph Hartmann Stuntz, “Dem deutschen Tondichter Gluck. Geb. den 4. Juli 1714 in der Oberpfalz, gest. den 17. Nov. 1787 zu Wien, Festgesang bei der Enthüllungs-Feier sei[n] es Denkmals zu München den 15. Oktober 1848.” The text for Stuntz’s Festgesang has been made available through the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek website HERE.
9. The score (Mus. ms. 4037) and parts (Mus. ms. 4038) are located at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. A description of the event is in -f-, “Das Glucksdenkmal zu München,” Neue-Illustrirte Zeitschrift für Bayern 5, no.1 (1849): 5. Apparently, due to the civil unrest of the 1848 Revolution, the unveiling was not well attended.
10. This account is found in Johann Christian von Mannlich’s memoirs, Histoire de ma vie, which circulated in manuscript form throughout the nineteenth century (Howard, Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait, viii). Parts of Mannlich’s account were excerpted for the article “Gluck à Paris en 1774,” in La Revue musicale (1934); selections have been reprinted and translated by Daniel Heartz, “Coming of Age in Bohemia,” 521, and Patricia Howard, Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait, 3.
11. Both Howard and Heartz note certain inconsistencies in Mannlich’s account. In her article “The Wandering Minstrel: An Eighteenth-Century Fiction?” (Eighteenth-Century Fiction 13, no. 1 : 41-52), Howard observes the similarity between some of Mannlich’s narrative and popular “wandering minstrel” narratives from the eighteenth century.
12. “Gluck in Paris” first appeared in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, as J. Burmeister-Lyser, “Gluck in Paris: vom Verfasser des ‘Vater Doles’ etc.” 5, nos. 45-49 (December 1836): 179-80, 183-84, 187-89, 191-92, 195-96. It was later republished in the second volume of Lyser’s collection Neue Kunst-Novelle (Frankfurt am Main: Johann David Sauerländer, 1837), 77-114. Translations of Lyser’s novella come from Elizabeth Fries Ellet’s Nouvellettes of the Musicians (New York: Cornish, Lamport & Co., 1851), 184-200. The novella was translated into French for the Belgian journal La Renaissance: Chronique des arts et de la littérature 1 (1839-40): 145-50. Lyser, along with many other 19th-century writers, believed that Gluck was Méhul’s teacher.
13. “Nicht Weidenwang, nicht Neuschloss konnte der Kleine als seine Heimath empfinden lernen; der Wald war es, der Wald mit seinen träumerischen Schatten, mit den märchenhaft durchzitternden Streiflichten”; A. B. Marx, Gluck und die Oper (Berlin: Otto Janke, 1863, reprint, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1980), 14.
14. Marx, Gluck und die Oper, 15.
15. Howard, Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait, 109.
16. “Etwas über Glucks Iphigenia in Tauris und dessen Armide,” Berlinische Musikalische Zeitung 2, no. 15 (1806): 58. Reichardt’s use of the word “Comedian” here was likely an allusion to Piccinni’s wonderful contribution to the opera buffa tradition.
17. 18th- and 19th-century writers often emphasized Gluck’s interactions with other 18th-century German intellectuals to suggest that Gluck planned on composing a German opera and other works for the German-speaking public. Carl Friedrich Cramer published an anecdote in his Magazin der Musik in 1783 describing Gluck and Klopstock’s meeting at the court of the Margrave of Baden, where the composer and his niece sang the Odes to the poet. For Christoph Martin Wieland’s Teutscher Merkur (Weimar, 1776), Philip Kayser wrote “Empfindungen eines Jüngers in der Kunst vor Ritter Glucks Bildniße,” in which the narrator describes to the bust of Gluck the overwhelming emotional sensations he receives when hearing and playing his Odes. Howard has reprinted Gluck’s letter to Klopstock stating his intention to compose Hermannsschlacht, in Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait, 215. Visitors to Gluck’s house claimed they heard him perform the work from memory. See Howard, Gluck: An Eighteenth-Century Portrait, 234-35 for translations of Joseph Martin Kraus’s account of hearing Gluck perform Hermannsschlacht. Gluck’s plan for Hermannsschlacht was first made public by Friedrich Rochlitz in “Glucks letzte Plane [sic] und Arbeiten,” Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 11, no. 25 (22 March 1809): 387-90 written as a statement from the composer’s student, Salieri. Additionally, Gluck himself oversaw the German translation of Iphigénie en Tauride by Johann Baptist Alxinger for the 1781 visit to Vienna of the Russian Grand Duke, which famously delayed Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail.
18. “Es gereicht der Direction zu hohen Ehre, daß sie uns diese Monumente deutscher Kunst, die der deutsche Orpheus Gluck mit dem unwiderstehlichen Zauber seine Gesanges, so kraftvoll und wahr schuf, daß sie die Bewunderung der Nachwelt in dramatischer Hinsicht bleiben werden, und deren Genuß wir so lange haben entbehren müssen––mit der Pracht und der Würde auf unserer Bühne aufstellt, die wir dem Andenken dieses großen deutschen Künstlers schuldig sind.” Review of Orpheus by Christoph Gluck (Nationaltheater, Berlin), 23 April 1808, in the Vossische Zeitung.