His legacy outshone his works: celebrating Albrechtsberger’s birthday, February 3

His legacy outshone his works: celebrating Albrechtsberger’s birthday, February 3 featured image

Close up detail of a harp, an instrument rarely highlighted in orchestral settings; Albrechtsberger wrote a lovely Partita for Harp and Orchestra. 


Johann Georg Albrechtsberger may not be the most famous composer ever, but for what he lacks in eternal fame he more than made up for by teaching theory and mentoring a serious roster of composers, including Hummel (whose piano sonatinas pop up in Royal Conservatory repertoire books), Mozart, and Beethoven. When Beethoven was upset that Hadyn wasn’t offering enough correction or advice, Haydn recommended Albrechtsberger to him. Beethoven came away from his studies stating “patience, diligence, persistence, and sincerity will lead to success,” which is a direct reflection of Albrechtsberger’s compositional philosophy.

Albrechtsberger published books on theory and composition and he was skilled at counterpoint (combining musical lines at once in a way that makes sense and sounds good). When I listen to his music, it sounds like it should be familiar, something part of the standard performance repertoire. Take for example, the Partita for Harp and Orchestra – a charming work that reminds me of Haydn, with similar idioms and turns of phrases, but the melody itself isn’t familiar to me. The Partita is a lovely respite from the stress of the day, and I encourage you to listen to it while you work. I’d love to see it programmed with orchestras more often, giving Principal Harpists a rare chance to shine as soloist.

Johann Albrecthsberger was born February 3, 1736 near Vienna, Austria, and died March 7, 1809, in Vienna.

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