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Anton Diabelli

1781 | 1858

Klassiek

(Vertaling nog niet beschikbaar) Austrian publisher and composer. He studied music in Michaelbeuren and Salzburg and in 1800 entered Raitenhaslach Abbey. After the dissolution of the Bavarian monasteries (1803) he went to Vienna, where he taught the piano and guitar, and soon became known for his arrangements and compositions (six masses by him had been published in Augsburg in 1799); many of his works were published in Vienna. His job as a proofreader for S.A. Steiner & Co. (as detailed in Beethoven’s letters) gave him an increasing interest in music publishing, and in the Wiener Zeitung (15 September 1817) he advertised a subscription for some of his sacred compositions, which were to appear from his newly established publishing house in the Schultergasse. On 29 September he moved to no.351 Am Hof. The first notice of publications (Wiener Zeitung, 11 February 1818) announced the appearance of further works, which were soon being distributed by most music retailers; the works in the subscription series were available on 27 April 1818. Wishing to acquire business premises of his own, Diabelli made contact with Pietro Cappi, who had been practising as a licensed art dealer in the Spiegelgasse since 30 July 1816. After Cappi’s shop passed to Daniel Sprenger on 8 August 1818, the firm Cappi & Diabelli was established in the Kohlmarkt, and advertised in the Wiener Zeitung (10 December 1818). From its beginning the new firm was remarkably active in publishing current operatic and dance music; anthologies such as Philomele für die Guitarre and Philomele für das Pianoforte and Euterpe for piano (solo and duet) were popular for decades. Similar series appeared for other types of music; the popular Neueste Sammlung komischer Theatergesänge reached 429 volumes. A series of light, pleasant melodies for guitar was given the title Apollo am Damentoilette. As an experienced musician, Diabelli knew how to respond to the musical fashions of the time; and the connection he formed with Schubert established the company’s widespread fame. Financed on commission, he published Schubert’s first printed works; on 2 April 1821 Erlkönig appeared as op.1 and on 30 April Gretchen am Spinnrade as op.2. Opp.1–7 and 12–14 later became the property of Cappi & Diabelli. Diabelli’s long-established acquaintance with Beethoven, however, led to only a few publications: the reissues Beethoven wanted of the sonatas opp.109–11, and a few first editions of the smaller works. The firm also published the Vaterländischer Künstlerverein, including Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations op.120. Diabelli’s intention in 1819 in sending his waltz theme to every composer he considered important in Austria was ostensibly to form a ‘patriotic anthology’; but this altruism was mixed with sound practical sense, as in an age of domestic music-making he could be sure that a collection of short pieces by the best composers would catch public attention and purse. Not every composer responded, but by 1824 the inclusion of the German composer Kalkbrenner, visiting Vienna on a concert tour, brought the total to about 50, and a coda by Czerny concluded the set. Many of the variations are similar in method, since the composers were working in ignorance of one another and since piano virtuosity and variation techniques were widely taught according to familiar principles. Many composers contented themselves with a running figure decorating the theme, as, for instance, L.E. Czapek, Dietrichstein, Hieronymous Payer, Wenzel Plachy, Ignaz Umlauf and K.A. Winkhler. A number fastened on an idea developed with great power by Beethoven, such as Beethoven’s pupil the Archduke Rudolph, in an excellent piece. Some produced contrapuntal treatment, among them Simon Sechter and Joachim Hoffmann; others applied chromatic harmony to the diatonic theme, including Rieger, Voříšek, Kerzkowsky and Hořalka. The variations by the famous piano virtuosos, especially Kalkbrenner, Czerny, J.P. Pixis, Moscheles, Gelinek and Stadler, are on the whole brilliant but shallow; for Liszt, then only 11, it was his first publication, and his piece is vigorous but hardly characteristic. Schubert’s circle contributed some of the better pieces, including those by Ignaz Assmayer and Hüttenbrenner, though Schubert’s own C minor variation is greatly superior. The variations by Drechsler, Freystädtler, Gänsbacher and J.B. Schenk are also striking. In June 1824, following Cappi’s retirement, the firm (renamed Anton Diabelli & Cie) entered its most productive period. Cappi’s place was filled by Anton Spina (b Brno, 1790; d Vienna, 8 Sept 1857), who handled the business side while Diabelli was responsible for its artistic direction. This favourable division of responsibility led to considerable success and the firm could claim to compete successfully even with Tobias Haslinger. Lesser firms were taken over: Thaddäus Weigl on 19 November 1832, Mathias Artaria on 26 June 1833 and M.J. Leidesdorf (Anton Berka) on 4 September 1835. Diabelli’s programme shows that he recognized the need to finance the publication of serious or advanced music by producing popular pieces: the firm’s output included a rich variety of fashionable music for entertainment and dancing. But his reputation rests on his championship of Schubert, whose principal publisher he became until 1823 when (probably through a fault of Cappi’s) Schubert broke off relations with the firm and turned to other publishers. After Schubert’s death Diabelli was able to obtain a large part of the estate from his brother Ferdinand; this became the property of his firm. Works owned by Leidesdorf, Pennauer, Artaria and Weigl automatically became Diabelli’s property as he purchased these firms. The publication of this unexpectedly rich body of compositions extended beyond Diabelli’s death to his successors, so that ‘new’ works by Schubert were still appearing in Paris in the 1850s. On 3 November 1851 Spina’s son Carl Anton (b 23 Jan 1827; d 5 July 1906) became a partner of the firm; on 23 January 1851 Diabelli retired, dissolving the company contract. Anton Spina continued to direct the firm until the end of the year, when he retired, passing the directorship to his son. An advertisement in the Wiener Zeitung (11 January 1852) announced the change of the firm’s name to ‘C.A. Spina, vormals Diabelli’. The firm purchased the former Mechetti publishing house in 1856. Carl Anton Spina continued the tradition of Diabelli; from May 1864 the firm published works by Johann Strauss (ii) and his brother Josef. The firm’s enormous productivity is most clearly reflected in the plate numbers of the published works. At the end of the period of Cappi & Diabelli (1824) the number 1558 had been reached; A. Diabelli & Cie closed at about number 9100. Spina afterwards extended the series to 10,900, then continued from about 16,000. The intermediate numbers may have been omitted to accommodate the works purchased with the Mechetti firm; these, however, never entered the enumeration. By the time the firm ceased activity the series of plate numbers had reached 24,670. In 1872 Spina bought the catalogue of Adolf Bösendorfer, but later in the year the firm passed to Friedrich Schreiber. It remained in his possession only a few years, for in 1876 Schreiber merged with August Cranz in Hamburg, and in 1879 the name of the company became August Cranz by purchase.

Anton Diabelli

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