Franz von Suppé, classical music composer

Franz von Suppé image

Franz von Suppé


Principally known today only for his overtures, Franz von Suppé was the eminent composer of Viennese operetta and light concert music during the latter part of the 19th century. Born to an Austrian civil servant of Italian and Belgian ancestry and his wife on April 18, 1819, Suppé's full given name was Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo Cavaliere di Suppé-Demelli. When he later moved to Vienna, he Germanized and shortened his name to Franz von Suppé, though outside of Germany his name sometimes appeared as Francesco Suppé-Demelli.

Suppé's parents were unsupportive of a musical career despite the early talent their son displayed for composition. Nevertheless, Suppé sought out instruction from a local bandmaster and a cathedral choirmaster. In 1832, his first extant composition, a Mass, was premiered at a Franciscan church. Regardless of Suppé's growing skill as a composer, his father sent him to Padua at the age of sixteen to study law, though he continued his musical studies during this time. He also came into contact with an already famous distant relative, Gaetano Donizetti. Donizetti took an active part in the young lad's development as a composer and Suppé even made his debut as a singer, performing the basso profundo role of Dulcamara in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore in 1842.

After his father's death, Suppé returned to Austria and made his way to the musical capital of the Germanic world—Vienna. Once in Vienna, Suppé studied with Ignaz von Seyfried and Simon Sechter. He was eventually appointed as conductor at the Theater in der Josefstadt. Though the post was without pay, Suppé secured an opportunity to present his own operas there. In 1841, his career as a composer of operetta began to take flight with the singspiel Jung Lustig (Young and Merry). A few years later in 1846, his most well-known work, Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant) appeared. Though a staple on "pops" concerts today, it was nearly passed over at the time of its premiere. Suppé's fame soon solidified and he became the premiere composer of operetta in Vienna, rivaling the fame of his French counterpart Jacques Offenbach.

After his retirement from conducting, Suppé returned to his roots and focused more on the composition of sacred music. He died in Vienna on May 21, 1895. Despite his successful career as a composer of light music, Suppé's works are but little known today with only a few exceptions. Those exceptions, however, such as Boccaccio and the overtures to Poet and Peasant and Light Cavalry are some of the most easily recognized pieces in classical music.

Composer Title Date Action
Franz von Suppé Poet and Peasant Overture 01/24/2009 Play Add to playlist