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Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga


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Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola (January 27, 1806 – January 17, 1826) was an early 19th-century Spanish composer who has been called the “Spanish Mozart.”

Arriaga acquired this nickname after he died because, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he was also a child prodigy and an exceptionally gifted composer who died at a young age. Coincidentally, he was born on what would have been Mozart’s fiftieth birthday.

Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga was born in Bilbao, Spain. His father and older brother first taught him music. He then studied the violin under Pierre Baillot, and counterpoint and harmony under François-Joseph Fétis at the Paris Conservatoire. He was so good, he soon became a teaching assistant in Fétis’s class.

Arriaga died in Paris at the age of nineteen, of a lung ailment, or exhaustion, perhaps both.

The amount of music by Arriaga which has survived to the present day is quite small, reflecting his early death. It includes:

Opera: Arriaga wrote an opera, Los esclavos felices (“The Happy Slaves”), in 1820 when he was thirteen. It was successfully produced in Bilbao. Unfortunately, only the overture survives.
Symphony: Arriaga composed a Symphony in D—which uses D major and D minor so equally as to not actually be in either key.
String quartets: Arriaga wrote three sparkling and idiomatic string quartets at the age of eighteen. These fine string quartets were the only works published during his lifetime.

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