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Sigismund Neukomm

born: 10 July 1778
died: 3 April 1858
country: Austria

Neukomm, born in Salzburg, was related by marriage through his mother to one of Schubert’s favourite composers, Michael Haydn. He lived in Vienna between 1797 and 1804 as a student of Joseph Haydn. He worked as a music assistant to the great composer and prepared the vocal score of Die Schöpfung. He also gave singing and piano lessons; his most celebrated students were Anna Milder and Franz Xaver Mozart, son of Wolfgang Amadeus. He then spent four years in St Petersburg as the Kapellmeister of the German theatre in that city. After living in Paris he returned to Vienna for the famous Congress (1814) in the musical entourage of Prince Talleyrand and was duly investigated by the Austrian secret police. In the next year his Requiem in C Minor in memory of Louis XVI, performed in St Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna, earned him his French knighthood. He spent four years in Rio de Janeiro as a music master at the court of the Portuguese king (where he performed the music of Haydn and Mozart tirelessly) and later returned to Talleyrand in Paris. This meant that Neukomm was away from the European musical scene during the years of Schubert’s maturity. After Talleyrand’s death there were further journeys and projects including the Mozart Memorial erected in Salzburg in 1842 when Neukomm directed all the music. He was particularly at home in England and claimed to have set more English words than any other foreign composer. His output remains largely unknown and unexplored in modern times. Neukomm was a friend of Mendelssohn, and of the important Leipzig critic Rochlitz (who was also one of Schubert’s poets). His achievements were rewarded with numerous honours and decorations.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006


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