Christian Gottlob Neefe

Christian Gottlob Neefe

Birth
Chemnitz, Stadtkreis Chemnitz, Saxony (Sachsen), Germany
Death 26 Jan 1798 (aged 49)
Dessau, Stadtkreis Dessau-Roßlau, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Burial Dessau, Stadtkreis Dessau-Roßlau, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Memorial ID 82687903 · View Source
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Composer, Conductor, Organist, Teacher. He was probably the most important teacher of Ludwig van Beethoven, and the first to recognize his genius. Neefe was born in Chemnitz, Germany, the son of a tailor, and received musical training as a choirboy at the municipal school. At age 14 he came down with rickets, which permanently affected his bones and left him (as he admitted) a lifelong hypochondriac, convinced he was not long for this world. No doubt it was this belief that led him to abandon law studies in Leipzig and become a pupil of composer Johann Adam Hiller, the creator of the singspiel (a form of German comic opera). He enjoyed his first success with the light opera "The Apothecary", premiered in Berlin in 1771. In 1776 Neefe joined the traveling theatrical company of Abel Seyler in Dresden, and in 1779 he settled in Bonn as music director of its new National Theatre. He was appointed court organist in 1781. As a Protestant at a Catholic court Neefe's position was sometimes precarious, but he was a central figure in the city's musical and intellectual life. He conducted the Bonn premieres of five Mozart operas and further popularized them with such piano arrangements as "Variations on 'The Magic Flute'" (1792). His own biggest hit was the singspiel "Adelheit von Veltheim" (1780). To supplement his income he taught privately. The 1794 occupation of the Rhineland by French Revolutionary troops halted cultural life in Bonn and Neefe was forced to seek a living as a minor civil servant. In late 1796 he was finally offered the music directorship of a theatre in Dessau. He was there just over a year before he died of pneumonia, 10 days before his 50th birthday. Neefe composed 10 operas, a Piano Concerto (1781), 12 chamber sonatas, six piano sonatas, and numerous songs and sacred vocal pieces. Even in his lifetime he was described as a man of modest talents, and little of his music is heard today. His fame rests on his formative association with Beethoven. It began soon after Neefe's arrival in Bonn, when Beethoven was eight, and initially consisted of giving him lessons in keyboard, thoroughbass and composition. Little is known of this relationship, but Neefe obviously provided the encouragement the boy's drunken, abusive father (his first teacher) did not. He arranged for Beethoven's first publications, the "9 Variations on a March by Dressler" for piano (1782) and three early piano sonatas (1783), appointed Beethoven his deputy organist in 1782, and subsequently hired him as a musician in his theatre orchestra. In 1783, Neefe published a magazine article about Bonn's music scene and capped it with a bold prediction about his favorite pupil: "This young genius deserves to be supported in his artistic endeavors. If he continues in the same manner he started, he is sure to become a second Mozart". They remained friends until 1792, when Beethoven left Bonn for good to study with Haydn in Vienna. He and Haydn failed to get along and the following year Beethoven wrote Neefe bluntly, "If I ever amount to anything, I shall owe it to you". Later he would downplay his additional studies with Albrechtsberger and Salieri, so Neefe's role in Beethoven's development - certainly in Beethoven's eyes - should not be underestimated.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 29 Dec 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 82687903
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Christian Gottlob Neefe (5 Feb 1748–26 Jan 1798), Find a Grave Memorial no. 82687903, citing Historischer Friedhof I, Dessau, Stadtkreis Dessau-Roßlau, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany ; Maintained by Find A Grave .