Though today he is mostly only recognized for his music for
woodwinds, Franz Krommer was a prominent composer during the waning years of
the 18th century and the early decades of the 19th. His
reputation even rivaled that of Beethoven. Though the two composers were
contemporaries in the same city, Krommer's music stylistically had more in
common with that of Mozart and Haydn than the burgeoning Romantic period being
ushered in by Beethoven. Following his death, Krommer's music eventually faded
from the concert stage, overpowered by the looming shadow of the music of
Beethoven, and suffering from the confusion brought about by the alternate
spellings of his name that his music was often published under.
Krommer was born František Vincenc Kramář on
November 27, 1759 in Kamenice in the modern-day Czech Republic. In 1774, he
began studying violin and organ with his uncle, Antonín Matthias, in Turán, and
later took it upon himself to learn theory and composition. With the help of
his uncle, he also served as a temporary organist in either 1777 or 1778. In
1785, he left Turán for Vienna, but was unable to find steady work in the
Austrian capital. After about a year, he obtained a position in the orchestra
of the Duke of Styrum at Simontornya as a violinist. Krommer was then appointed
music director of the Duke's orchestra in 1788, but left the post two years
later to accept the position of concertmaster at the Pecs Cathedral.
In 1795, Krommer returned to Vienna, this time more
successful than his previous attempt, teaching lessons and eventually taking
the post of concertmaster at the court of Duke Ignaz Fuchs three years later.
During this time, Krommer's first compositions began to appear, though it is
possible that some of them had been composed some years earlier. Krommer
remained in the service of the Duke until 1810, during which time he produced a
large body of works. In 1811, he accepted the position of ballet concertmaster
at the Vienna Hoftheater, then a few years later entered the service of Emperor
Franz I. In 1818, he was appointed court composer and director of chamber
music, in which position he served until his death. Though he attained this
prestigious position, Krommer produced significantly less
number of works during this period before his death on January 8, 1831.
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