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Kapellmeister (pronounced [kaˈpɛl.ˌmaɪstɐ]) is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle (“choir”, “orchestra”, or originally, “chapel”) and Meister (“master”). Thus, the word was originally used to refer to somebody in charge of music in a chapel. However, the term has evolved considerably in its meaning in response to changes in the musical profession.

Equivalent terms in other European languages: maestro di cappella (Italian), maître de chapelle (French), chapel master (English), kapellmästare (Swedish), kapelmeester (Dutch), kapellimestari (Finnish), mestre de capela (Portuguese), and maestro de capilla (Spanish).

Historical usage[edit]

In German-speaking countries during the approximate period 1500–1800, the word Kapellmeister often designated the director of music for a monarch or nobleman. For English speakers, it is this sense of the term that is most often encountered, since it appears frequently in biographical writing about composers who worked in German-speaking countries.

A Kapellmeister position was a senior one and involved supervision of other musicians. Johann Sebastian Bach worked from 1717 to 1723 as Kapellmeister for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. Joseph Haydn worked for many years as Kapellmeister for the Eszterházy family, a high-ranking noble family of the Austrian Empire. George Frideric Handel served as Kapellmeister for George, Elector of Hanover (who eventually became George I of Great Britain).

A Kapellmeister might also be the director of music for a church. Thus, Georg Reutter was the Kapellmeister at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where his young choristers included both Joseph and Michael Haydn.

Becoming a Kapellmeister was a mark of success for professional musicians of this time. For instance, Joseph Haydn once remarked that he was glad his father (a wheelwright) had lived long enough to see his son become a Kapellmeister.[1]

By the end of the 18th century, many of the nobility had declined in their economic power relative to the newly prosperous middle class. Eventually, the maintenance of a Kapelle became too expensive for most nobles, which lead to a decline in the number of Kapellmeister positions. A well-known instance occurred in 1790, when Prince Anton Esterházy succeeded his father and dismissed almost all of the latter's extensive musical establishment.[2] But as Jones (2009) points out, Esterházy was hardly alone in doing this; during this same period, "the steady decline in the number of orchestras supported by aristocratic families represented a ... change that affected all composers and their works."[3] This was a difficult time for musicians, who needed to find new ways to support themselves. For instance, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) never worked as a Kapellmeister, but was supported by a somewhat unreliable combination of noble patronage, publication, and concert income.

The case of Mozart[edit]

Mozart never was a Kapellmeister in the sense given above. In 1787, he was given a paid position in the court of the Austrian Emperor, as Kammercompositeur ("chamber composer"), but authority in matters musical at the court was exercised primarily by Antonio Salieri. However, in reviews, diaries, and advertising, Mozart was commonly referred to as "(Herr) Kapellmeister Mozart". It seems that Mozart's prestige, along with the fact that he frequently appeared in public directing other musicians, led to the use of "Kapellmeister" as a term of respect.[4]

In April 1791, Mozart did apply to become the Kapellmeister at St. Stephen's Cathedral, and was in fact designated by the City Council to take over this job following the death of the then-ailing incumbent, Leopold Hofmann. However, this never took place, since Mozart died (December 1791) before Hofmann did (1793).[5]

Contemporary usage[edit]

In contemporary German, the term “Kapellmeister” has become less common in favor of the term Dirigent (“conductor”). When used today, however, it designates the director or chief conductor of an orchestra or choir. It suggests involvement in orchestra or choir policy (for example, selecting repertoire, concert schedules, choosing guest conductors and so on) as well as conducting. In military settings it refers to a bandmaster.[6] The music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra traditionally holds the old-fashioned title Gewandhauskapellmeister.[7][8] In other German opera houses, the term generally refers to a deputy conductor reporting to the Generalmusikdirektor (General Music Director, usually also the chief conductor). An opera company may have several Kapellmeisters, ranked as Erste Kapellmeister, Zweite Kapellmeister, etc.

Variant spellings capellmeister and capelle, to refer to the orchestra or choir,[9] are sometimes encountered in English language works about composers who held the title.[10][11][12][13]

Similar terms and equivalents[edit]

The word Hofkapellmeister specified that the Kapellmeister worked at a nobleman's court (Hof); a Konzertmeister held a somewhat less senior position.[14]

Composers who held the post of Kapellmeister[edit]

(listed chronologically by date of birth)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Griesinger 1810, 16
  2. ^ Haydn himself was retained in an essentially honorary role, but was free to pursue independent plans, his journeys to England; for details see Anton Esterházy.
  3. ^ Jones (2009:324)
  4. ^ For extensive discussion of the use of "Kapellmeister" to describe Mozart, see Deutsch 1965, 306-307.
  5. ^ Deutsch 1965, 393-395
  6. ^ Peter Terrell, ed. Collins German-English English-German dictionary. 2nd edition, pp.380.
  7. ^ "Riccardo Chailly". Gewandhausorchester. 2005. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  8. ^ "Aus der Geschichte des Gewandhausorchesters". Gewandhausorchester. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  9. ^ Galkin, Elliott W. (1988). A history of orchestral conducting: in theory and practice. Pendragon Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-918728-47-0. 
  10. ^ Siblin, Eric (4 January 2011). The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece. Grove Press. pp. 61, et seq. ISBN 978-0-8021-4524-6. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  11. ^ Wolff, Christoph (2000). Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 24, et seq. ISBN 978-0-393-32256-9. 
  12. ^ Terry, Charles Sanford (April 2003). Bach: A Biography. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 11, et seq. ISBN 978-0-7661-4677-8. 
  13. ^ Jullien, Adolphe (1892). Richard Wagner: his life and works. J.B. Millet company. pp. 67, et. al. 
  14. ^ Peter Terrell, ed. Collins German-English English-German dictionary. 2nd edition, pp.356, 405.

References[edit]

  • Jones, David Wyn (2009) "Reception," in David Wyn Jones, ed., Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965) Mozart: A Documentary Biography. English translation by Eric Blom, Peter Branscombe, and Jeremy Noble. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965.
  • Griesinger, Georg August (1810) Biographical Notes Concerning Joseph Haydn. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel. English translation by Vernon Gotwals, in Haydn: Two Contemporary Portraits, Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin Press.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapellmeister — Please support Wikipedia.
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1031 news items

 
sz-online
Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:03:51 -0700

Zwar hat der Erste Kapellmeister der Neuen Lausitzer Philharmonie in seinem Leben schon einige Auszeichnungen erhalten. Zum Beispiel gewann er 2006 den Dirigentenwettbewerb der Herbert-Karajan-Stiftung, im vorigen Jahr wählte ihn das Görlitzer ...
 
Tips - Total Regional
Mon, 13 Oct 2014 05:11:15 -0700

NIEDERTHALHEIM/BEZIRK. Auch heuer haben wieder mehrere junge Musiker den Dirigierlehrgang sowie den Basiskurs der Kapellmeisterausbildung an der Landesmusikschule Vöcklabruck bei Bezirkskapellmeister Walter Baldinger erfolgreich absolviert.

tz online

tz online
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 11:14:54 -0700

München - 30 Mal am Tag "Prosit" und vier Mal "Atemlos": Ein Wiesn-Kapellmeister hat mit der tz über seinen Job gesprochen. „Ein Proooosit!“ Diesen Einspieler kann der Leiter der Kapelle Otto Schwarzfischer, Christian Sachs (53), schon im Schlaf.

Aberdeen Press and Journal

Aberdeen Press and Journal
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 01:03:45 -0700

Rossini's bright, energetic score will be conducted by William Lacey, who makes his Scottish Opera debut after serving as Kapellmeister with Oper Leipzig. Director Sandrine Anglade said: “While the frantic pace and vitality of Rossini's music propels ...

Telegraph.co.uk

Washington Post
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 01:21:46 -0700

Bach was employed as a court musician and then “Kapellmeister” — essentially, a music director and teacher — for German princes, churches and towns, most notably Weimar, Cöthen and Leipzig. His job required the regular, even weekly production and ...

Augsburger Allgemeine

Augsburger Allgemeine
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 21:01:13 -0700

Und er ist Kapellmeister mit kompromissloser Leidenschaft. Die Rede ist von Alexander Haninger, der seit nunmehr 25 Jahren bei der Stadtkapelle Neuburg den Dirigentenstab schwingt. Alexander Haninger (49) stammt aus Siefhofen bei Berg im Gau.

Harrogate Advertiser

Buxton Advertiser
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 02:56:15 -0700

Life on the Moon was written by Haydn during his period as Kapellmeister or music director of the powerful Hungarian noble house of Esterházy. The action sees a young heiress and her maid team up with a quack astronomer and his servant to trick her ...
 
Ad-Hoc-News (Pressemitteilung)
Sun, 26 Oct 2014 10:26:15 -0700

Das Streichorchester unter Kapellmeister Markus Springer geleitet die Besucher sicher durch einen Seesturm (?La Tempesta di Mare? von Antonio Salieri) über die endlose Weite der asiatischen Steppe (?Steppenskizze? von Alexander Borodin) hinauf in ...
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