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Johann Joseph Abert (Composer, Arranger)

Born: September 20, 1832 - Kochowitz, Bohemia, Germany [now: Kochovice, Hoštka, Czech Republic]
Died: April 1, 1915 - Stuttgart, Germany

Johann Joseph Abert was a double bassist, conductor, and composer whose entire musical career was centered in Stuttgart, Germany. An ethnic German from the Sudetenland, he is also known by his Czech name Jan Josef Abert. At the age of 15, he ran away to Prague, and through the assistance of an uncle entered the Conservatorium there. Abert studied double bass at the Prague Conservatory with Josef Hrabě and also received lessons in theory from Johann Friedrich Kittl and August Wilhelm Ambros. In 1852 (or 1853), having attracted the attention of Peter Josef von Lindpainter, then Kappelmeister in Stuttgart (the royal capital of Württemberg), he received the post of double bassist in the theatre orchestra (Court Orchestra) of that town. In 1867, he succeeded Carl Anton Eckert as Court Kappelmeister, retiring in 1888. His son, Hermann Abert (1871-1927), became a renowned musicologist, as did his granddaughter, Anna Amalie Abert (1906-1996).

Johann Joseph Abert was a well-respected composer in his day who worked in an arch-Romantic style derived from the example of Felix Mendelssohn that by the time of his opera Ekkehard (1878) had adopted some elements of Wagnerian style as well. He composed five successful operas, of which Astorga (1866) was the most popular. Of his seven symphonies, the Frühlingssinfonie (Spring Symphony, No. 7) in C, the Symphony in C minor (No. 2), and the program symphony Columbus (No. 4), decribed as "musical sea picture in the form of a symphony," are generally considered to be the best. This latter work, in addition to his virtuoso pieces for double bass (including a concerto), account for Abert's tenuous hold onto posterity. He also composed chamber music and lieder.

After his death at age 82 in 1915, Johann Joseph Abert's son Hermann published a biography of Abert that included a thematic catalogue. The younger Abert also donated his father's music manuscripts to the Württemburgische Landesbibliothek in Stuttgart, where they continue to reside. This institute and Literaturarchiv Marbach currently share responsibility for the preservation of his manuscripts and other personal papers. There is even a Johann Joseph Abert Society in Germany.

Works (Selection)

Symphony No.1 in B minor (1852)
Symphony No.2 in C minor (1854)
Symphony No.3 in A major (1856)
Symphony No.4 in D major, Op. 31 (1865), Columbus (Musikalisches Seegemälde in Form einer Sinfonie)" (Crystal Palace, March 4, 1865)
Symphony No.5 in C minor (1870)
Symphony No.6 in D minor, Lyrische Sinfonie (1890)
Symphony No.7 in C major, Frühlingssinfonie (1894)

Other works for orchestra:
Overture in E major for large orchestra (1850)
Overture in D minor for large orchestra (1851)
Jubilation Overture for large orchestra, dedicated to Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria (1855)
Festive Overture in D major, composed at the occasion of the Württemberg royal wedding (1874)
Concert Overture
Tragic March, dedicated to the soldiers fallen in 1866 war (1866)
Celebration March, for the 25-year anniversary of the reign of King Karl I (1889)
Festive March for Harmony Band for the anniversary of the Ulanen Regiment of Queen Olga of Württemberg (1883)

Polonaise and Introduction in D major for double bass and orchestra (1848)
Variations and Rondo in C major for double bass and orchestra (1849)
Introduction and Polonaise in C major for double bass and orchestra (1849)
Concertino in F major for double bass and orchestra (1851)
Rondeau for double bass and orchestra in C major (1852)

Chamber Music:
String Quartet in A, dedicated to Karl Eckert (1862)

Anna von Landskron, libretto by Christian Gottfried Nehrlich (premiered 1858, Stuttgart)
König Enzio, libretto by Friedrich Albert Bernhard Dulk (premiered 1862, Stuttgart)
Astorga, libretto by Ernst Pasqué (premiered 1866, Stuttgart)
Enzio von Hohenstaufen (premiered 1875, Stuttgart)
Ekkehard, based on the novel by Joseph Viktor von Scheffel about Ekkehard von St. Gallen (premiered 1878, Hofoper Berlin)
Die Almhoaden, based on the play The Clock of Almudaina by Don Juan Palon y Col, libretto by A. Kröner (premiered 1890,

Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition, Author: J.A. Fuller Maitland); All Music Guide (Author: Uncle Dave Lewis); Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2009)

Johann Joseph Abert: Short Biography | Orchestral Arrangements: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Johann Joseph Abert-Gesellschaft e.V. [German]

Johann Joseph Abert (
Johann Joseph Abert (Wikipedia)


Hermann Abert. Johann Joseph Abert (1832–1915): sein Leben und seine Werke. 2nd extended edition, reprint of the Leipzig Edition. Bad Neustadt a. d. Saale, 1983. ("Beiträge zur Musikgeschichte der Sudetendeutschen", Vol. 1)

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