Sunday, August 27, 2017

Jacob Dont

Jacob Dont (Jakob Dont) was an Austrian violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Vienna) on March 2, 1815.  Although he was a well-known musician in his day, he is now mostly remembered as a composer of several violin etude books.  His father, Joseph Valentin Dont, was a cellist who was well-acquainted with Beethoven.  I don’t know who Dont’s first teachers were but he eventually studied with Josef Bohm and Georg Hellmesberger, Sr. at the Vienna Conservatory.  (Josef Bohm was also the teacher of Joachim, Ernst, Hubay, Remenyi, and Grun.  Interestingly, there are two Georg Hellmesbergers and two Josef Hellmesbergers – all four were related and all four were violinists.)  In 1831, Dont joined the Hofburgtheater orchestra and three years later the Vienna Hofkapelle.  He began concertizing while still a teenager but decided against a solo career.  One source states he taught at the Academy of Art (Akademie der Tonkunst) and the Seminary at St Anna at around this time, although I have no idea what or where those places are - I suspect they are both located in or near Vienna.  He simply continued to play in the imperial orchestras until he was appointed violin professor at the Pedagogical Institute in Vienna in 1853.  He was 38 years old by then.  In 1871 (some sources say 1873) Dont became violin professor at his old school, the Vienna Conservatory.  He was now 56 years old.  Ironically, Dont’s many instructional books for violin were not allowed to be used at the Conservatory.  His Opus numbers 17, 18, 20, 33, 35, and 37 are his best known works for violin studies – most violin students are familiar with these etudes.  Dont also wrote considerable vocal music, some chamber music, piano music, and solo works for violin and piano.  Almost all of this music was published during his lifetime.  His most famous pupil is Leopold Auer, the Hungarian violinist and pedagogue.  This fact alone makes Dont nearly immortal as a musician and violinist.  Dont died (in Vienna) on November 17, 1888, at age 73.