Sunday, April 7, 2013

Casimir von Blumenthal

Casimir von Blumenthal was a German violinist, conductor, composer, and teacher born (in Brussels, Belgium) on August 8, 1787.  His father was Baron Joseph von Blumenthal.  Unfortunately, some political turmoil which began in 1787 resulted in his losing most of his fortune.  His sons, including Casimir, instead of becoming titled nobles, became musicians.  In 1789, the family moved to Prague to avoid the short-lived revolution and subsequent violence.  Blumenthal began to study violin and composition with Georg Joseph Vogler.  Two sources state that Blumenthal studied with Vogler (aka Abbe Vogler) in Vienna.  Vogler is mainly known as an organist and teacher who traveled far and wide and did not stay put too long in one place so Blumenthal’s lessons could have taken place sporadically.  I am not certain of that but I’m not taking the trouble to precisely ascertain it one way or the other.  Be that as it may, Casimir and his two (older) brothers were all admitted into the Orchestra of the Theatre on the Banks of the Wien River (Theater an der Wien, in Vienna.)  This venue was brand new and became very famous in its day and still (for the most part) stands today.  It was the site selected for some of Beethoven’s most important premieres.  Casimir was 17 years old then.  Prior to 1811, the violinist Franz Clement was Director at the theatre but sometime after 1811, Blumenthal took his place.  Blumenthal later worked as a teacher and conductor in Czechoslovakia (Prague, Brno, and Bratislava.)  In 1821, he was appointed conductor of the Allgemeine Musik-Gesellschaft (aka the AMG - General Music Society or Universal Music Company) and settled in Zurich, Switzerland, where he married, founded a choral society, and joined a Masonic Lodge.  He was 34 years old and he never looked back.  Until the Tonhalle Orchestra came along in 1868, the AMG had the best orchestra in Switzerland, although it was composed of both amateur and professional musicians who would often not attend all rehearsals required for performances.  He was there for 25 years.  Blumenthal conducted the Swiss Music Society Festivals in Zurich in 1828 and 1838.  For the inaugural performance in the Aktientheater, on November 10, 1834, he composed an overture based on Swiss folk songs.  I’m guessing the piece is not nowadays available through a publisher.  The AMG library might have it.  With the reluctant blessing of the authorities, Blumenthal began to also conduct opera performances at that theatre.  Blumenthal retired from his post in 1846.  He died on July 22, 1849 (in Lausanne, Switzerland) at age 61.  Today, he is completely forgotten.  


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