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Florian Leopold Gassmann

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Biography

Florian Leopold Gassmann (3 May 1729 – 21 January 1774) was a German-speaking Bohemian opera composer of the transitional period between the baroque and classical eras. He was one of the principal composers of dramma giocoso immediately before Mozart.

Gassmann was born in Brux, Bohemia, and appears to have been trained by Johann Woborschil, the local chorus master. His father was a goldsmith who appears to have opposed his son’s choice of a musical career.

From 1757 until 1762, he wrote an opera every year for the carnival season in Venice, and was also made choirmaster in the girls’ conservatory in Venice in 1757. Many of the librettos he set were by the great Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni.

In 1763 he was called to be court ballet composer in Vienna, where he was held in great affection by Emperor Joseph II. In 1764, Gassmann became chamber composer to the Emperor, and in 1772 court conductor.

In 1766, Gassmann met the young Antonio Salieri in Venice, who he invited to return to Vienna with him, and who, based on Johann Joseph Fux’s textbook Gradus ad Passarnum, he taught composition. Salieri remained in Vienna, and succeeded Gassman as chamber composer to the Emperor upon the latter’s death in 1774. Another Italian composer, Giuseppe Bono, succeeded him as court conductor.

In 1771, Gassman founded the Tonkünstlersozietät (Society of Musical Artists), which organised the first musical events for the general public in Vienna. This social institution was particularly concerned with widows and orphans of its deceased members.

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