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The world of the classical composer

The Career of an Eighteenth-Century Kapellmeister: The Life and Music of Antonio Rosetti - Sterling E. Murray

Antonio Rosetti may not be the household name today that his contemporary Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is, but he nonetheless ranks as one of the more popular composers of the classical era. Born in Bohemia, at a young age he found employment as a musician at the court of the south German prince of Oettingen-Wallerstein. There he wrote a steady stream of compositions which soon gained him renown, while a five-month trip to Paris in 1781-2 both boosted his profile further and introduced him to musical ideas that he adopted to produce even finer works. After rising to the position of Kapellmeister, he moved north to the court of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where he continued composing until his premature death in 1792.

Though Rosetti left an impressive body of work relatively little is known about his life. For much of what is known we have Sterling Murray to thank for decades of labor in archives throughout Europe. He has written an exemplary biography of the man, one that fills in many of the gaps by reconstructing life at the Oettingen-Wallerstein court. As a result, he gives readers what is not just the best account of Rosetti's life we are likely to have but a look at the experience of the 18th century musician, one that Murray follows with a comprehensive style study of his compositions in various forms, from symphonies to vocal works. It is an impressive achievement, one that should be read not just by students of Rosetti but anyone interested in early modern European music history or the world of the 18th century European court.