German composer, Robert Franz, was born Robert Knauth, the son of Christoph Franz Knauth. In 1847, Christoph Knauth adopted his middle name Franz as his new surname, and his son followed suit.
One of the most gifted of German song writers, Robert Franz suffered in early life, as many musicians have suffered, from the hostility of his parents to a musical career. He was twenty years old when his father's animosity was conquered, and he was allowed to live in Dessau to study organ playing under Schneider. The two years of dry study under that famous teacher were advantageous chiefly in making him uncommonly intimate with the works of J.S. Bach and Georg Frideric Handel, his knowledge of which be showed in his editions of the Matthäus-Passion ( BWV 244), Magnificat (BWV 243), ten cantatas, and of the Messiah and L'Allegro, though some of these editions have long been a subject of controversy among musicians.
In 1843 Robert Franz published his first book of songs, which ultimately was followed by some fifty more books, containing in all about 250 songs. At Halle, he filled various public offices, including those of organist to the city, conductor of the Sing-Akademie and of the Symphony concerts, and he was also a royal music-director and master of the music at the university. The first book of songs was warmly praised by Schumann and Franz Liszt, the latter of whom wrote a lengthy review of it in Schumann's paper, Die neue Zeitschrift, which later was published separately. Deafness had begun to make itself apparent as early as 1841, and Franz suffered also from a nervous disorder, which in 1868 compelled him to resign his offices. His future was then provided for by Franz Liszt, Joseph Joachim and others, who gave him the receipts of a concert tour, amounting to some 100,000 marks.
On his 70th birthday Robert Franz published his first and only pianoforte piece. In addition to songs he wrote a setting for double choir of the 117th Psalm, and a four-part Kyrie; he also edited Astorga's Stabat Mater and Francesco Durante's Magnificat. He also transcribed Schubert's String Quartet in D minor Death and the Maiden for piano duet (1878), and made arrangements of Mozart's Quintets in C minor and C major.