Who is Antonin Reicha? And why isn’t this composer better known? He wrote a great deal of music for wind instruments, symphonies, and some piano music. Since my instrument was the piano, I figured there’s a wealth of music I couldn’t access as a player, so maybe my non-piano musician friends may have heard of him. Turns out they haven’t. I listened to some of his music, and he has “that sound” … meaning, the sound of someone fully developed and well-rounded as a composer, someone whose works I feel like I ought to be familiar with, and for some reason, I’m not.
As it turns out, Reicha, along with Beethoven and Schubert, studied with Salieri and Albrechtsberger. He became a longtime friend of Beethoven’s, and is best known for a significant contribution to the wind quintet literature, and taught Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, and César Franck. He also excelled at music theory and wrote a great deal of literature on the subject.
More than once, Reicha’s life was thrown into upheaval by war, causing him to flee whatever city he was currently residing in (he’s lived in Prague, Bonn, Vienna, and Paris). I think he was more of a musical theorist than composer or performer, because unlike any composer I’ve ever met, he wasn’t keen on seeking out performances of his works, nor concerned himself with getting his works published. That would explain his obscurity, and why he didn’t become as well-known as I believe he would have. Other composers, such as Clementi, were much more aggressive about having their works published, and it worked – they are played to this day. It’s a shame Reicha isn’t a standard, well-known classical composer – check him out. There are a quite a few posts on YouTube, and we’re richer for it.
Have a listen to Reicha’s Octet in E-flat major Op. 96 (1806).
Antonin Reicha was born February 26, 1770 in Prague, Bohemia, (now the Czech Republic) and died in May 28, 1836, in Paris, France.