Anton (Antonín, Antoine) Reicha (Rejcha) (February 26, 1770 – May 28, 1836) was a Czech-born, later naturalized French composer. A contemporary and lifelong friend of Beethoven, Reicha is now best remembered for his substantial early contribution to the wind quintet literature and his role as a teacher – his pupils included Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz. Reicha was also an accomplished theorist and wrote several treatises on various aspects of composition. Some of his theoretical work dealt with experimental methods of composition, which he applied in a variety of works such as fugues and études for piano and string quartets.Reicha was born in Prague into a family of a town piper. His father died when Reicha was just 10 months old, and his mother was uninterested in the boy's education. At the age of 10 the young composer ran away from home, and was subsequently raised and educated in music by his uncle Josef Reicha. When the family moved to Bonn, Josef secured for his nephew a place at the Hofkapelle, but for Reicha this was not enough. He studied composition secretly, against his uncle's wishes, and entered the University of Bonn in 1789. When Bonn was captured by the French in 1794, Reicha had to flee to Hamburg, where he made his living by teaching harmony and composition, and studied mathematics and philosophy. Between 1799 and 1801 he lived in Paris, trying to achieve recognition as an opera composer, without success. In 1801 he moved to Vienna, where he studied with Salieri and Albrechtsberger and produced his first important works. His life was once again affected by war in 1808, when he had to leave Vienna. Reicha settled in Paris, where he spent the rest of his life teaching composition; in 1818 he was appointed professor at the Conservatoire.Reicha's output during his Vienna years included large semi-didactic cycles of works such as 36 Fugues for piano (which explored Reicha's "new method of fugal writing"), L'art de varier (a set of 57 variations on an original theme), and exercises for the treatise Practische Beispiele. During the later Paris period, however, he focused his attention mostly on theory and produced a number of treatises on composition. Works of this period include some 25 wind quintets, some of the earliest important music for wind ensembles. Ideas he advocated in his music and writings include polyrhythm, polytonality and microtonal music; none were accepted by the composers of the time. Due to Reicha's own attitude towards publishing his music, he fell into obscurity immediately after his death; his life and work remain poorly studied.
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