JOHANN FRIEDRICH KITTL: THE EARLIEST BIOGRAPHY.
Johann Friedrich Kittl was born on the 8th of May 1809 in Bohemia, at the Worlitz Castle' of the Princes Schwarzenberg. His father, the chief administrator there, gave me a very careful upbringing. As a four-year-old boy, he could already read and write and had a very lively but extremely irritable temperament. Because he showed a particular inclination for music, the castle teacher provided him with keyboard instruction from an early age. But, when one day his worthy mentor rapped him on the fingers with a ruler because of an error, the boy could no longer be convinced to continue his lessons. He was entrusted to another teacher - namely the first clerk - who was undoubtedly strict but did not resort to violence, and to whom the boy could be very grateful. When he was not yet nine years old, he went to Prague in order to attend the Latin school. Before he left his birthplace, however, he gave a farewell concert - in the most harmless meaning of the word - at his parent's house. He played, in fact, some eclogues by Tomasek, and an easy trio by Hummel for piano, violin, and violoncello.
In Prague he lived with his grandmother and aunt throughout the six years he spent there. This environment had a deleterious effect on him inasmuch as his character became soft, undecided, even fearful, and he came to know things in the world according to the limited, feminine point of view, since he had little exposure to men, and devoted all his time to study, playing the piano, and reading. The latter held an ineffable appeal for him, and he was the most well-read boy in the entire school. The choice of his piano teacher was infelicitous here too: it was a dilettante - a jurist - who greatly neglected him, and often did not teach him for eight to fourteen days running. Kittl, however, continued to learn, unimpeded, and always surprised his dilatory teacher 0with new pieces that he had prepared on his own. At the age of thirteen, he received a skilled teacher, Sawora by name, who began to work on the forty-eight Cramer studies with him and introduced him to the Beethoven sonatas. Kittl made so much progress that within two years, he was able to play the E-flat major and C-sharp minor concertos of Ries, and the E major trio and B minor concerto of Hummel without mistakes. His piano studies were interrupted by illness, and they were not continued, since Kittl no longer needed a teacher.
In the fifth year of Latin school - that of "poetry" - he experienced an unstoppable urge to write verse. He devoured the Latin and German poets, reciting and writing poetry wherever he went. During the holidays he prowled around the woods for entire days, with pencil and letter-case in hand, continually simulating, reflecting, and combining. This went so far that he neglected music, and believed that he had to become a poet. But this stormy period did not last long, and his mind returned to music once more.
Only in his sixteenth year did he write his first song, or rather, someone else had to write it down for him since he was unable to set down his thoughts on paper. By his third song, he felt ashamed of his helplessness and undertook to write it all down himself. Without the least knowledge of composition, he composed more than forty songs and a one-act idyllic opera: Daphnis' Grab, with text by his schoolmate Heinrich Poeschl.
As a first-year student of law Kittl became Tomasek's student in harmony, studies he completed in six months. At the beginning, he was inconsolable about the many rules which he viewed as so many fetters on his spirit. But when his teacher asked him "whether any writer had ever complained about the rules of orthography", he was content, and - under his master's direction - became a strict purist. On holidays, he felt his spirit very much under attack, and in particular his awareness was in a sick state of agitation - as a jurist in the first hear he had taken the test in statistics and had had to store so many figures in his head that it left him with an anxiety about whether he would notice this or that, and this anxiety extended itself to all the circumstances of daily life. Thus he, without wanting to, had to repeat to himself, each evening, everything that had taken place during the day, in the most minute details, which very much unsettled him.
In this over-excited nervous state, he met a young woman whose dark eyes bored deeply into his soul. The covenant was soon made, and an agreement was made that he would marry the maiden as soon he would ask for an apportionment. Kittl was not yet nineteen years old!
After a time, he had to learn that she - before he had met her - had been unworthy of him. For this reason, he fell into a deep depression which lasted an entire year, and as a result, he had to pay more attention to his studies. He spent the entire time in his parent's house and was incapable of looking after himself. The depression had such power over him that he twice wanted to put an end to his life. Since nothing helped, he was sent to Marienbad (Marianske Lazne) in late summer to drink from the Kreuzbrunn (Krizovy pramen). There, he saw a large, fat man on the promenade who slid along like a snail, wrung his hands at every step, and sighed and wept without ceasing. Upon inquiring, he learned that this unfortunate was a victim of the most profound melancholy, and had been declared incurable by the doctors. This sight worked like magic on Kittl. The man showed him his future as if in a mirror. From this moment on he pulled himself together in a wonderful way and was unrecognisable upon his return.
The widow of the field marshall Prince Schwarzenberg took him into her salon, and there he made the acquaintance of the entire Bohemian nobility, whom he entertained with his piano playing: the recognition that Kittl received once more aroused his amour-propre, and he travelled to Prague in order to continue the studies that he had broken off. But the sad experiences of the preceding year and the elaborate self-tortures that he prepared for himself had robbed his nerves forever of that elasticity which one needs in order to bear all the vicissitudes of luck and misfortune like a man.
In Prague, he lived in alternation with Muller, professor of aesthetics, and Lichtenfeld, professor of philosophy, and his contact with them was extremely instructive in many regards. He also often visited the house of the composer Tomasek, whose witty wife interested him very much. His visits were that much more frequent since his sister Marie lived there, and he passed many delightful hours in this circle and came into contact with all the foreign artists who visited Tomasek.
The following year, his mother moved to Prague to complete the education of her daughter. The entire family lived together for two years, with the exception of the father, who had to remain at his post. During this time, he got to know the daughter of a general, who had become aware of him through a spinning song, which pleased him to no end. Her voice and her soulful performance held such charm for him that between every visit, he would always compose a new song so he could hear her sing it. Most of the songs which were only published much later, and dedicated to other persons, were originally written for her.
When his mother, with her daughters, left Prague once again, it happened that he fell in love with a maiden whom we wanted to marry. He had already completed his juridical studies and was preparing for the judicial examinations since his father wanted him to become his successor.
Then his best childhood friend died suddenly from natural pustules. The doctor had made a false diagnosis, and, in order to prevent a suspected inflammation of the brain, had ordered ice-compresses, which Kittl spent the whole night placing on his friend, and thereby killed him, since the pustules infected the brain. His friend died in the most frightful delirium. This fatal result had such an effect on Kittl that during these days he became ten years older, and succumbed to a violent fever himself. During this attack of fever, he saw his friend coming to him at night, in his sleep. He shudders. - His friend speaks:
"Hans! Write a Requiem for my soul."
"Alois, my dear! I will never be able to accomplish that!"
"You will, and soon!" was the answer.
As soon as Kittle got out of bed, he went to the piano, and as he sang the words "Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine", the tears were streaming down his face. With great persistence and perseverance, he followed the commission that had come to him from the world of shadows and completed a vocal Requiem in less than six days.
Kittl's mother died the following year. The death of his friend had prepared his soul for this blow, and he bore it more calmly than one had generally feared due to his violent and excitable character. He had learned loss. - In the house of his bride, he found consolation and sympathy.
The following two years were dedicated to the study of civil and criminal law and political science, and under these circumstances, Kittl passed the strict judicial examinations (the so-called appellatories) with notable success. During this time, he composed little: a few songs, three scherzi, and a sonata for piano four hands.
As the time drew near for him to go to Worlitz as an official in the justiciary, he simply could not make the decision, because he could not bear to do without the spiritual pleasures that the city offered. Through many entreaties, he convinced his father to let him enter the civil service. Thus Kittl became an imperial concept-intern in the fiscal office. As such he studied simple and double counterpoint under Tomasek, and wrote, as a little study, an entire sonata in double counterpoint at the octave. Excited by Spohr's quintet and Onslow's septet, he composed a septet for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and contrabass. Because of the transition to the civil service, he was prevented from marrying as early as he had intended, and the engagement with his bride was thus dissolved through mutual consent from both parties. During this period he became acquainted with Richard Wagner, who was to become a close friend.
In the autumn of 1835, he wrote a nonet, several songs, and an ensemble piece for piano, four male voices, and four horns. Since nothing was taking place to make his compositions better-known, he decided to do so himself. For his birthday on May the 8th 1836, he organised, at his own expense, a grand concert to which he invited over 900 people. At this concert, his nonet, his septet, and the above-mentioned ensemble piece were performed, and the tenor, Breiting, at that time in full bloom, sang his song "...War ich ein Stern" from Jean Paul's "Flegeljahren" with such inwardness that it became a favourite song of the people of Prague and had to be published immediately. It was only at this time that Kittl was mentioned as a composer in the newspapers.
In autumn of the same year, he wrote his D minor symphony, and in spring of the following year his Jagdsinfonie. Both were performed under Weber's direction at the Conservatory Concerts to warm receptions. The old master Spohr, with whom Kittl had already become personally acquainted in Prague in 1833, performed his Jagdsinfonie in Cassel in 1839, and was so kind as to give the highest of recommendations for the composer to Mendelssohn, who at that time was at the zenith of his fame.
That year, Kittl was lucky enough to become acquainted with the musically-minded Countess S., who took a great interest in the aspirations of the artist, and paved the way for him to be a highly-placed personality; he later dedicated most of his works to her. He now applied himself with fiery zeal to playing the piano, and performed, in the salon of this lady, before the assembled nobility, the transcriptions of Schubert lieder by Liszt (very popular at the time) to great applause.
In the early days of January 1840, he received a friendly invitation from Mendelssohn to attend a performance of his Jagdsinfonie. He immediately travelled to Leipzig, and, on January 10th, when his work was performed to resounding success in the Gewandhaus concerts, celebrated the happiest day of his life. The symphony was dedicated to Mendelssohn; it was published by Breitkopf & Hartel, and was soon joined by other piano works and songs, some of which were also published by Hofmeister. The way was open, and Kittl's name was heard throughout Germany.
Herr Friedland, who was arriving from St. Petersburg during the performance of the symphony, and stood next to the composer, was so obliging as to invite him to arrange a performance in Paris, and it was in fact repeated there multiple times. The French papers at that the time called Kittl, prophetically, "directeur au conservatoire de Prague". This symphony was heard in almost all of Germany's cities and is one of the composer's most renowned works.
On September 24th 1840, Kittl drove to a manoeuvre. In a steep ravine, the carriage turned over and Kittl fell with the weight of his body on his left elbow, driving his upper arm out of its socket. This happened not far from the city near Villa Bertramka, which had become famous after Mozart wrote his Don Giovanni there. The philanthropic owners of the villa came to Kittl's aid and took him in. When the surgeon who had been called set his arm, quite an unusual event occurred - upon hearing the very audible pop of the bone snapping in, not Kittl, but the mistress of the house, listening in the adjacent room, fainted. Kittl spent the following days in mortal danger, the swelling increasing to the size of a child's head, and there was fear of gangrene, but this was happily averted through cold compresses that continued day and night. Only after eleven days could Kittl be brought back to the city. A long and painful convalescence awaited him here, and after three months he was finally returned to health.
When he felt that he was fully able to use his left hand, he composed a piano piece called La Guerison, in which he used difficult arpeggios in the left hand. Because of this accident, he was excused from going to the office and received permission to work at home. In early 1841, he composed a Concert Overture in D major, in the Larghetto of which there is a passage for four cellos; it was heard publicly for the first time on May 2nd in Prague, and later published by Kistner in Leipzig. It is dedicated to the Empress-Mother, Caroline Augusta. Subsequently, Kittl travelled to Vienna for six weeks to meet local notables and become acquainted with the musical scene there. He heard an Italian opera there for the first time, which was very well performed by Tadolini, Frezzolini, Moriani, Donzelli, and Badiali.
After his return, he composed a second Concert Overture, which had the unusual formal quality of having the Allegro divided into two halves, between which there is a long spun-out Andante, finely nuanced in its instrumentation. In the winter of 1842, he wrote his third symphony in D major, which was performed in April. He dedicated it to the Duke of Lucca, and in return was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of St. Louis.
On May 5, Hamburg was, as we know, severely damaged by the great fire. Everyone was deeply affected by this calamity - everyone who could help did so, each in their own way. Kittl arranged a grand concert, for which the boxes were sold at high prices - some for 100 or even 200 florins. Encouraged by the motto: "Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas" ("Though the power be lacking, the will is to be praised all the same"), he turned over the proceeds of the concert, 1600 B. M. [Marc Banco, local currency in Hamburg], to the relief effort as the first assistance from Austria.
When he drove through Leipzig, he sold some of his manuscripts, and since his travel money was thereby considerably increased, he travelled from Hamburg to London to see the famous city on the Thames. It made an overwhelming impression on him. His fellow countryman, Moscheles, who lived in London at the time, received him very amicably, and arranged entry for him to all the concerts. He was particularly interested in the Philharmonic, where he heard the D major symphony of Mozart and the Double Symphony by Spohr one evening. Molique, with whom he drove to the concert, only appeared on the list shortly before midnight. This evening had been very unpleasantly disturbed by the news that there had been an attempted attack on the Queen in Hyde Park. When, the following day at his morning concert, Thalberg had the happy and fitting inspiration to improvise on the song "God Save the Queen", people burst out in the sort of enthusiasm that only belongs to the South.
At the Italian Opera, where he heard Persiani-Tachinardi, Frezzolin-Poggi, Ronioni, and Lablache, he happened to meet Mendelssohn, who scheduled a rendez-vous with him for the following day chez Moscheles. Moscheles and his wife were so fond of Kittl that they entrusted their son Felix to him for the return journey. Looking after the boy, who was to visit his grandfather in Hamburg, was made very difficult by his extreme liveliness, not to mention the fact that Kittl had a very severe case of seasickness.
Kittl remained in Hamburg even longer and returned to Prague after an absence of nine weeks. This caused severe discontent with his superior in the civil service, and he was informed that he would have to be as regular in his hours of service as any other. This, however, was not possible for Kittl, and, without informing his father, who had been enjoying his retirement in Prague since November 1841, he submitted his resignation, and lived from art from then on. When, one day, his father read the news about his son's transition to art in a Leipzig newspaper, there was a very stormy meeting between father and son, because his father, understandably, had a harsh view of this apparently reckless and ill-considered step.
In December 1842, Dyonis Weber, the director of the Prague Conservatory of Music, died, and Kittle immediately applied for the vacant position. A competition for the position was set up, and even Spohr and Molique were among the applicants. Until the definitive decision was made, a provisional arrangement made the director of the organ school, Pietsch, responsible for theory, and the Kapellmeister for the theater, Skraup, leader of orchestral rehearsals, and these two shared responsibility for the duties of the Conservatory director.
In January 1843, Kittl received an invitation from Mendelssohn to conduct his D major symphony at the Gewandhaus. He declined, but was nevertheless present in Leipzig for the performance. The symphony was received with great applause (it was later published by Schott in Mainz), but a particularly successful performance took place some years later in Hannover, on which occasion Marschner wrote to the composer and assured him that he had been astonished at the reception, seeing as the Hannoveraner only liked symphonies by Beethoven.
On May 16, 1843, Kittl was definitively named director of the Conservatory, having been selected from among 13 candidates. Each one had to submit, in writing, his "views on old and new music, and how the two would be unified in a conservatory of music", and the especially felicitous solution of this problem must have had much to do with Kittl's selection. One cannot imagine a nicer name-day gift - Kittl's name day falls on May 16th.
However, great worries and troubles also began at this time. Kittl was standing on new ground and had to gather all his energies together in order to address his tasks. The first months were very exhausting, and Kittle lost heart several times. Richard Wagner, who was visiting him with his wife, found him in these circumstances of depression. Wagner, now the Saxon Court Kapellmeister, and the newly-minted director of the Prague Conservatory had not seen each other since the days when they were still carefree young people without names or reputations, and remembered the happy days of endless joking and laughing. The school examinations, successfully passed, and the brilliantly successful concerts gave our artists their entire amour-propre, and from now on it was invulnerable against any attack that might be launched at it by envy and resentment.
When Kittl looked back over the previous three years, he came to a remarkable conclusion: breaking his arm had been the cause of his being named director. If he had not broken his arm, then he would not have been released from having to go to his office in the civil service, but would have peacefully continued to go to work as before, would not have received a reprimand, and consequently would not have submitted his resignation; if that had not happened, then, as a civil servant of the state, he would not have been allowed to apply for the position of director, and thus breaking his arm and the position of director were in a demonstrable causal nexus. The accident that had caused him so much pain was the seed from which, three years later, his greatest happiness would bloom. Because, for a musician, there can scarcely be a more beautiful, more influential and more honourable position than that of the director of the celebrated Prague Conservatory.
His relations with the excellent Countess S. continued to be sincere and friendly, and he did not regret having remained a bachelor.
Above all, Kittl, in his prestigious position, was anxious to eliminate the barrier against new music that had previously been in force, and, in addition to classical works, create an entry for good, new compositions. He was the first to present the works of Schumann, Gade, Ries, Berlioz, et al. to the public in concert.
For his first ecclesiastical function (the so-called Veni Sancte Spiritus of the students), he prepared in quite an unusual way. He looked upon this occasion as an offering of thanks to the Creator for the fortuitous resolution of the rift in his life, and for the stable position he had finally achieved. He composed a grand mass in E-major with three fugues which he completed in three months (May, June, and July 1844).
Following the composition of the mass, he joined poet Uffo Horn on a trip to northern Italy. In Milan, he familiarised himself with the facilities of the Conservatory there and made comparisons. At La Scala he was present for the premiere of the opera Ernani, in which the public was supposed to object to a Carlo V; before then, he had no idea of the hissing, screaming, laughing, scorn, jeering, whistling, and singing along that accompanied each phrase of the unfortunate performer.
From Milan, he went over the Simplon pass to Switzerland and rode on a hinny to the Great St. Bernhard Hospice. It was September 7th, at 7:30 PM, when he, through the agility of his leader, escaped death. There is a steep slope immediately in front of the hospice. Kittl, who was tired from the long journey, was not well-seated, his eyes closed, half-asleep. All of a sudden, the saddle, on which the strap had come loose, suddenly slipped to the left side, and if Kittl had not luckily called out "Je tombe!", he would have fallen into the abyss abutting the eternal snow. The leader yanked him upwards but trembled so much that it took him a long time to recover, and the same was true for Kittl, who spent a night in the hospice in feverish dreams.
In Switzerland, he had only the pleasures of nature, and not of music. Only in Munich did he hear an excellent orchestra under Lachner's direction, and he would always remember the exemplary crescendo and decrescendo in the Andante of the overture to Fra Diavolo. Having arrived home, he immediately led the rehearsals for his grand mass, which was very successfully performed on October 30th 1844, despite the great difficulties that it presents.
During the holidays in 1845, he travelled throughout all of Germany, visited the Rhine, Belgium, and Holland, and everywhere became personally acquainted with musical notables. Thus, he came into direct contact with the bearers of the musical art, and was able, through recommendations, to be of good and thorough use to the pupils who had graduated, as can be seen through the many positions arranged by him for his students.
In December he was invited to conduct his D minor symphony at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig; however, he was unable to accept the invitation, since he did not want to be absent during the season of instruction. Thus, the composer had to make a sacrifice to the director. The D minor symphony was published by Breitkopf und Hartel and is dedicated to the King of Prussia, who sent the composer a gold medal through Alexander von Humboldt, with whom Kittl exchanged letters because of this circumstance. The symphony was also performed in Berlin under Taubert's direction, and Rellstab, in his review of the work, assigns the composer a high rank, particularly because of the Andante movement.
In January 1846, he lost his father, a noble old man of 71, who was accompanied to the grave by the undivided recognition and respect of all who knew him. Kittl, in his pain, found relief and distraction in his interaction with Hector Berlioz, who came to Prague around this time, and had considerable conversation with him, since the students of the Conservatory, exceptionally, were allowed to participate in his concerts. In the fall, he wanted to travel to Petersburg with his youngest sister, Jenny, and have his D minor and D major symphonies performed there, seeing as the city already knew the Jagdsinfonie. Kapellmeister Kazinsky had already rented him an apartment - everything was prepared for his arrival. Then he became ill in Hamburg and had to remain there for three weeks. For this reason, there was an alteration in his travel plans; he now went to Copenhagen, where he was most amicably received by Saloman, Hartmann, and Olsen, and at his departure was even accompanied a mile out to sea. From Copenhagen he travelled to Gothenburg, and then by canal to Stockholm. Here he became acquainted with Lindblad, van Boom, Danstrom, Bonnier, and Hirsch, who, by their courteousness, made the already charming stay even more pleasant. He was chosen by acclamation to become a full member of the Stockholm Academy, and, after a sea voyage of three times 24 hours, returned to Hamburg. From there he went to Hannover, where he met Marschner, and to Berlin, where he met Meyerbeer, at whose mother's house he was invited to table, when she, after the first performance of Michael Beer's Struensee, at which Kittl was also present, gave a festive meal. In Dresden, he visited his old friend, Richard Wagner. When Wagner asked him how things were going, Kittl answered: "Not well! Many people suffer from a loss of appetite, others from sleeplessness - I suffer from a lack of an opera text." This statement was indeed founded on truth; Kittl had already been looking for an opera text for three years. These came to him from inside and outside Germany, but none met his requirements.
"I want to help you, dear Hans", answered Wagner. "I have a text for you." He immediately read a manuscript to him, which he had adapted from a novel by Konig, calling it Die Hohe Braut, and Kittl was wholly enchanted.
Kittl set to work with great enthusiasm and completed this four-act opera in eleven months, calling it Bianca and Giuseppe or Die Franzosen vor Nizza. Since he was overloaded with other affairs throughout the day, he would only use evenings and nights for composition work, and thus weakened his eyes so severely that after this time he could no longer read or write without spectacles.
He presented the completed opera to the management of the Estates Theatre, it was accepted, and the director, Hoffmann, had new scenery painted and new costumes made in order to present the work to the public with pride. Kittl led everything - from the first rehearsals at the piano to the actual performance, which took place on February 19th 1848 before a crowded full house. When Kittl appeared, he was welcomed by long applause. There is probably almost nothing more thrilling for the nerves of an artist than directing a work of one's own for several hours. The success of each number always left behind such an impression that the author had to gather all his strength in order not to let his mood affect his conducting, and to work calmly with a clear vision. When, in the first act, the second tenor had an alarming memory lapse, the conductor, as he later described, literally saw black before his eyes, and only when, after the first act, he was called twice for bows did his state of mind calm down once again.
In the second act, however, he experienced a triumph which stands almost unrivalled in the annals of Prague theatre. The scene takes place at the peak of a high mountain not far from Nice. The sun, shrouded in fog, which slowly and gradually clears, presages a wonderful day; the conspirators kneel in silent prayer to gather strength for their deed. From the depths of the background, up from the valley, the martial music of the French is heard, to which the conspirators add their voices. And when the trio of the March begins, with which one of the conspirators, Giuseppe (Reichel, the first tenor), sings a thrilling melody, touching his highest note, thunderous applause was heard from the public, like a crashing avalanche, and lasted until the scene was repeated. This opera has been produced more than twenty times since then, but the effect of this scene continues, its power undiminished. The fate of the opera is thus sealed. Kittl was called twelve times for bows on the evening of the performance. With the subscriptions cancelled, the opera was given four times in a row, a success which no opera had enjoyed until then. Kittl, however, conducted four benefit performances. The director, Hoffmann, gave the composer a grand banquet, and handed him a very tasteful conducting baton, with a cordial speech.
Kittl was already negotiating with Leipzig to sell his opera when the days of March interrupted and with them all the unrest which devastatingly swept through the states of the German Confederation. Music lost all its meaning, and politics alone remained the single crucial and saving principle, and trampled, with its heavy, iron-shod foot, all the seeds and flowers of knowledge and art.
After the bloody week of Pentecost in Prague, when all the schools and institutes were demolished, and everything threatened to fall apart, a nameless melancholy took over Kittl's soul. There was also talk of the Conservatory closing, and Kittl took this so hard that he fell into an insomnia which lasted for several weeks and disturbed his nerves so much that he was unable to work in the accustomed manner. His idee fixe was that he would have nothing to eat. This obsession had put down such deep roots that it would not yield when, after a year, circumstances were friendlier, and order returned. But little by little these dark shadows departed from his life, and the sun shone amicably once again. In the meantime, the March from his opera had travelled across Europe at an incredible speed. Most of the cities of Italy and Hungary were stormed to its rhythms, it went to Belgium, France, England, and Russia, as confirmed by witnesses, and even made its way into the alpine cottages of Styria.
In February 1852, his three-act opera Waldblume, with a libretto by Hikel, was performed. The subject - idyllic/romantic - was less appealing; the music offered several favourite numbers, especially a duet, which, in the soulful performance of Eugenie Fischer (later Nimbs) created such enthusiasm that it always had to be encored. Since the opera had been rehearsed shortly before the change in direction, it could not be performed more than six times, and since the prima donna and the baritone had left, it was not produced again.
In July of the same year, Kittl received a text from Leipzig from Julius Eduard Hartmann: Die Bilderfturmer, which he found so appealing that he sketched out this four-act opera between August 5th and September 23rd, and did the instrumentation between September 23rd 1852 and March 20th 1853. For this he had established a basic rule: "Nulla dies sine Iinea" - whatever happened, Kittl worked on his piece each day, and only in this way was it possible to complete it in such a short time.
Immediately after his last concert, which fell on Palm Sunday, March 21, Kittl travelled to Frankfurt am Main following an invitation from the orchestra personnel there, in order to direct his Jagdsinfonie at the grand Good Friday Concert, and also to take over the conducting of his opera, Die Franzosen vor Nizza, which was being rehearsed there. The Jagdfinfonie was so pleasing that the members of the orchestra applauded during the rehearsal - a very unusual occurrence! - and Kittl was called for a bow after the performance. In the art and manner of his conducting, many found a resemblance to that of Kapellmeister Guhr. The opera was conducted by Kapellmeister Schmidt because Kittl was afraid that he himself would become too agitated. The March was received just as stormily as it had been in Prague, an encore was demanded, and Kittl was very enthusiastically called for a bow after the second act.
On the return journey, Kittl met with Breitkopf & Hartel in Leipzig, who published the complete piano reduction with lyrics. Much earlier, when Kittl received the libretto from Wagner, the latter had stipulated that he should not be named publicly as the author. This was the case for all the Prague performances - all the posters simply said: "after a novel by Konig". But this was an open secret that everyone knew about. When, in 1849, Wagner fled to Switzerland, and later published a volume "Three opera texts, with a message to my friends", where he literally says, in speaking about this libretto, "this is the same text which Kittl, director of the Prague Conservatory later brought to performance with the title Die Franzosen vorNizza" - Kittl naturally believed that he had been released from his commitment, immediately named him publicly in Frankfurt as author of the libretto, and wanted to indicate him as such on the title page of the piano reduction as well. Then Kittl received a message from Breitkopf & Hartel claiming that Wagner by no means wished to be named as librettist, whereupon Kittl immediately desisted from his intention. An unpleasant tension arose between the two old friends as a result of this contretemps. But when Tannhauser was supposed to be performed in Prague, and this project could not be carried out without the assistance of the Conservatory, Kittl, in the interest of this work, waived the application of the statutes which prohibited any collaboration with other institutions and permitted the participation of 49 students. This course of action was reciprocated amicably by Wagner, and through a cordial letter, which Wagner wrote to Kittl, the two friends were reconciled.
The first performance of the Bilderfturmer took place in April 1854. The poet came to Leipzig to attend the first performances. The theatre director, Steger, had had new decorations and new costumes prepared for the opera. Kittl did not conduct, and that was precisely why he was called for even more bows than was customary. The third act was the most popular - the chorus and a duet had to be repeated at all performances. The poet had promised the composer a new libretto, but scarcely had he arrived in Leipzig before he succumbed to a nervous fever, and died a few days later, in the prime of his life. Kittl received this news, without the least preparation, through the newspapers.
When, in May of the same year, the Austrian Emperor came to Prague shortly after his marriage to Empress Elisabeth, where he was received with endless festivities, Kittl conducted, at a solemn torch-parade, in the presence of their Majesties and of thousands of people who filled the castle square, a cantata he had composed for the occasion, which was published by Hoffmann immediately thereafter. In March 1855, Kittl, in recognition of his services for the Conservatory, received from His Majesty the grand gold medal for art and science.
In December of the same year, the musical world of Prague suffered a harsh blow in the death of Count S. Kittl composed a male quartet for this sad occasion, for which Meissner wrote the text. It was sung at the public blessing of the corpse. Presently Kittl is not working on any larger works, but is writing duets for soprano and alto, lieder, and characteristic piano pieces.
His works that have appeared until now are the following:
Op. 1. Six Idylles, Haslinger. Op. 2. Sechs Idyllen, Marco Berra Op. 3. Wilde Rofen, sechs Lieder, Haslinger. Op. 4. Sechs Lieder, Diabelli. Op. 5. Sechs Lieder, Breitkopf und Hartel. Op. 6. Drei Scherzi, ditto Op. 7. Klage nicht! (Lied), Hoffmann. Op. 8. Romanze fur das Pianoforte (Mozart-Album). Op. 9. Jagd-Sinfonie (Auflegftimme und vierhandiger Klavier-Auszug). Op. 10. Romanze fur das Pianoforte, Breitkopf und Hartel. Op. 11. Drei Gefange, ditto. Op. 12. Der Vogelsteller- fur Mezzo-Sopran, Hofmeifter. Op. 13. Drei Lieder, ditto. Op. 14. Prager wilde Rofe, ditto. Op. 15. Die Abfahrt des Korfaren, fur Sopran und Tenor, ditto. Op. 16. Drei Gefange, Schlesinger. Op. 17. Drei Impromptus fiir das Pianoforte, ditto. Op. 18. Six Impromptus fur das Pianoforte, Hofmeifier. Op. 19. Sinfonie (D-moll), published parts, Breitkopf und Hartel Op. 20. Der bofe Genosse (fur eine Baritonitimme), Hofmeifter. Op. 21. Sechs Lieder, Hoffmann. Op. 22. Konzert-Ouverture (D dur), Kiftncr. Op. 23. Sechs Gefange, ditto. Op. 24. Sinfonie (D dur), Schott. Op. 25. Grand Septuor, Kiftner. Op. 26. Trois Impromptus, Peters. Op. 27. Grande Sonate a 4 mains, Schuberth. Op. 28. Trio fur Klavier, Violine und Cello, ditto. Op. 29. 'Trois Impromtus, Hofmeifter. Op. 30. Bianca und Giufeppe, oder die Franzofen vor Nizza, complete piano reduction with text, Breitkohf und Hartel. Op. 31. Zwei Defilirmarsche, Spina. Op. 32. Zwei Defilirmasfche, Hoffmann. Op. 33. Jubel-Kantate, ditto. Op. 34. Sechs zweiftimmige Gefange fur Sopran und Alt, Chriftoph und Kuhe
Through Opus 44 the manuscripts have already been sold, and will soon appear with various publishers.
translated by Tom Moore
1) Now part of the town of Oranienbaum-Worlitz, on the west bank of the Elbe
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|Date:||Jul 1, 2018|
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