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Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (Composer)

Born: February 3, 1736 - Kloserneuburg, near Vienna, Austria
Died: March 7, 1809 - Vienna, Austria

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger was an Austrian musician, mster of musical theory, and teacher of Hummel and L.v. Beethoven.


Johann Georg Albrechtsberger began his musical career at the early age of seven as a choir-boy with the Augustinians in Klosterneuburg, , where he also studied the organ and composition. The pastor of St. Martin's, Klosterneuburg, observing the boy's talent and his remarkable industry, and being himself an excellent musician, gave him the first lessons in thoroughbass, and even had a little organ built for him. Young Albrechtsberger's ambition was so great that he did not even rest on Sundays and holidays. To complete his scientific and musical studies he repaired to the Benedictine Abbey at Melk (from 1749). Here his beautiful soprano voice attracted the attention of the future Emperor Leopold, who on one occasion expressed his high appreciation and presented the boy with a ducat. The library at Melk gave him the opportunity to study the works of Antonio Caldara, Johann Joseph Fux, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, George Frideric Handel, Graun etc. He also studied philosophy at a Benedictine (Jesuit) seminary in Vienna (1754) and became one of the most learned and skillful contrapuntists of his age. His his profound knowledge of music gave him a high rank among theorists.

Having completed his studies, J.G. Albrechtsberger became organist at the Melk cathedral, where he remained for twelve years. He next had charge of the choir and organist at Raab in Hungary (1755), and at Mariatfel (1757), and back in Melk (1759-1765). Subsequently, in 1765, he went to Vienna having been named choir-director of the church of the Carmelites. Here he took lessons from the court organist, Mann, who was highly esteemed at that time. Mann became his friend, as did also Joseph and Michael Haydn, Gassmann, and other excellent musicians. In 1772 he obtained the position of second court organist (and in 1792 promoted to First organist) in Vienna, which Emperor Joseph had promised him years before. This position he held for twenty years. He became Assistant Kapellmeister at St. Stephen's Cathedral in 1791, where he was promoted to Kapellmeister in 1793.

J.G. Albrechtsberger's fame as a theorist attracted to him in the Austrian capital a large number of pupils, some of whom afterwards became eminent musicians. Among them were Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Joseph Eybler, Ignaz Moscheles, Josef Weigl (1766-1846), Ludwig von L.v. Beethoven and others. L.v. Beethoven had arrived in Vienna in 1792 to study with Haydn but quickly became infuriated when his work was not being given attention or corrected. Haydn recommended his friend Albrechtsberger, with whom L.v. Beethoven then studied harmony and counterpoint (1794-1795). On completion of his studies, the young student noted, "Patience, diligence, persistence, and sincerity will lead to success," which reflects upon Albrechtsberger's own compositional philosophies. The Swedish Academy of Music at Stockholm made him an honorary member in 1798. J.G. Albrechtsberger died in Vienna on March 7, 1809, less than three months before Josef Haydn. His grave is in St. Marx cemetery. His status in musical history rests mainly on his theoretical writings and his knowledge of counterpoint.


Johann Georg Albrechtsberger will probably always hold a high rank among musical scientists, his treatise on composition especially will ever remain a work of importance by reason of its lucidity and minuteness of detail. He composed nearly 300 church works, around 300 keyboard works (mainly organ) and over 240 various other works. His many church compositions, on the other hand, while technically correct and ornate, are dry, and betray the theorist. Of his compositions, only 27 are printed; of the unpublished remainder, the larger part is preserved in the library of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde at Vienna. His published compositions consist of preludes, fugues and sonatas for the piano and organ, string quartets, etc.. His compositional style derives from Johann Joseph Fux's counterpoint, who was Kapellmeister at St. Stephen's Cathedral 1713-1741, a position that Albrechtsberger would hold 52 years later. Around 1765, Albrechtsberger wrote at least seven concerti for Jew's harp and strings (three survive in the Hungarian National Library in Budapest). They are pleasant, well written works in the galant style. One of his most notable works is his concerto for Alto Trombone and Orchestra in Bb Major. As the trombone has few works dating back to the classical period, his concerto is often highlighted by the trombone community.

Probably the most valuable service he rendered to music was in his theoretical works. As a highly influential composition teacher, he published in 1790 at Leipzig his famous Treatise on composition, a clearly written and accessible work in which he formulated 18th-century theory, of which a third edition appeared in 1821. His complete works on thoroughbass, harmony and composition were published, in three volumes, by his pupil, Ignaz Von Seyfried (1776-1841) in 1826. An English version of this was published by Novello in 1855.

Source: Wikipedia Website; Catholic Encyclopedia Website; Michael Haydn Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2008)

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger: Short Biography | Bach-inspired Piano Works: Works | Recordings

Works previously attributed to J.S. Bach

Fugue (or Fugato) for keyboard in E minor, BWV 962

Links to other Sites

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (Wikipedia)
Catholic Encyclopedia: Johann G. Albrechtsberger
Michael Haydn: Johann Georg Albrechtsberger

HOASM: Johann Georg Albrechtsberger
Johann Georg Albrechtsberger Biography (Naxos)
Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (Britannica Encyclopedia)



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