Johann Baptist Wanhal (or sometimes written as Vanhal) was born in 1739 and lived until 1813. Born in Nechanice, Bohemia, he became a Czech composer of importance. He was born into a peasant family and first learned violin and organ from local musicians. He was eventually able to earn a living as a young man as a village choirmaster and organist.
Under the patronage of Countess Schaffgotsch, he left for Vienna in 1760. Here he became a teacher of voice, violin, and piano to the nobility, and was invited to conduct symphonies for wealthy patrons as well.
From Vienna, he travelled to Italy in 1769, sponsored by Baron Riesch. After his trip, Wanhal was to become the Baron’s Kapellmeister in Dresden. In Italy, he met up with composers Gluck and Gassmann, visiting both Venice and Rome. He was supposed to visit Naples as well but it seems like he never quite made it. And he never made it to Dresden either. He returned to Vienna instead after touring Italy.
Wanhal continued to compose and perform in Vienna. He eventually shifted away from composing symphonies and string quartets to composing for piano, small ensembles, and more church music. Writing music for the growing middle class, he was able to live independently. While his lifestyle would have been modest on the income he made himself, he was able to stopping working for any patron for the last 30 years of his life. He stopped performing publicly around 1787 but continued to compose until close to his death in 1813.
The Eybler Quartet will perform Vanhal’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 6, No. 3 on our stage on February 16, 2017. http://music-toronto.com/