Andrew Dziedzic discovers an operatic master in Conradin Kreutzer

When I came across a work by a composer called Kreutzer in the library at 2MBS Fine Music, I assumed that this might be the same Kreutzer after whom Beethoven had named one of his most famous violin sonatas. To my surprise, this particular Kreutzer was another composer altogether! The composer Conradin Kreutzer was born in Germany in 1780, 14 years after violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer was born in Versailles. Rodolphe died in 1831, some 18 years before Conradin.

Rodolphe was foremost a violinist, as well as a composer of 40 operas and a teacher. Conradin was primarily an opera composer and conductor, although he also composed in other genres, his works including piano concertos, lieder, instrumental chamber pieces and choral works.

After abandoning legal studies, Conradin met with Haydn in Vienna and likely studied with Albrechtsberger, but his subsequent efforts at the composition of Singspiels met with little initial success. By the age of 30 his successful staging of operas in Stuttgart led to his appointment in 1812 as Hofkapellmeister (court composer), and he married and remained there for four years. In 1816 he was appointed Kapellmeister to the regional Prince in Donaueschingen, but there he felt as if he was lost in a backwater. So, from 1822 until 1827, and from 1829 until 1832, he held the post in Vienna as Kapellmeister to the Kärntnertortheater, a prestigious post, as the theatre’s official title was the Imperial and Royal Court Theatre of Vienna.

He then moved to a suburban Vienna theatre in der Josefstadt where he stayed from 1833 to 1835, staging his two greatest operatic successes, Das Nachtlager in Granada and Der Verschwinder. Kreutzer returned to his post at the Kärntnertortheater for a few years and was subsequently music director in Cologne from 1840 until 1842. His career focus then turned to the support of his talented daughter Marie, who was a singer, accompanying her and touring with her. Sadly, when he accompanied his daughter to an important engagement in Riga in 1849, her voice broke down and she was dismissed. He suffered a stroke soon after, and died within a few days, aged 69.

His two operas Das Nachtlager in Granada and Der Verschwender have had periodic revivals (the latter mostly in Austria), and some of the arias from those operas as well as several of his songs continue to be performed.  

On Monday 4 September at 2:30pm you can tune in to The other Kreutzer on 2MBS Fine Music, when you can hear the overture from Das Nachtlager in Granada and some of his sensitive song settings of the Swabian poet Uhland. You can also listen to what is probably his most highly esteemed chamber work, his Grand septet in E flat for clarinet, horn and string quintet, op 62, in an excellent recording by the Nash Ensemble.

This article appears in the upcoming September Issue of the 2MBS Fine Music Sydney Magazine.