Friedrich Schneider (1786-1853)
Johann Christian Friedrich Schneider was born on 3 January 1786 in Altwaltersdorf, near the city of Zittau, Saxony; he was the elder of two sons born to the schoolmaster and organist, Johann Gottlob Schneider (1753–1840). During his subsequent schooling at the Zittau Gymnasium, Schneider developed a remarkable talent for composition. In 1805 he moved to Leipzig to study Humanities and further his musical education with August Eberhard Müller (1767–1817) and Johann Gottfried Schicht (1753–1823); he was even promoted by Johann Friedrich Rochlitz (1769–1842), the founder of the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung. In this way he rapidly became one of the leading figures in Leipzig’s musical world.
Although he devoted himself to composition in various musical genres during his Leipzig years, he did not achieve a reputation as a composer until 1820. Indeed, it was the unexpected success of his second oratorio, Das Weltgericht (The Last Judgement), at its first performance on 6 March 1820 that finally marked his breakthrough as a composer of note. The unique triumph of that work within his output continued for almost three decades, with numerous performances that gained Schneider a considerable reputation and lasting recognition, both nationally and internationally. The following year, he succeeded the late Leopold Carl Reinicke (1774–1820) as the court Kapellmeister of Anhalt-Dessau. After the Leipzig model, periodical subscription concerts were established, a singing academy was inaugurated and – together with the poet, Wilhelm Müller (1794–1827) – he also founded the Dessau Liedertafel. In line with the prevailing trend for opening conservatories in Germany, Schneider himself opened a music school in 1829, an institution from which more than 120 students graduated before its closure in 1844. His nationwide reputation was strengthened by – in addition to his compositions – Schneider’s regular appearances as a conductor at the numerous music festivals taking place across Germany; he continued to fulfil engagements such as this until late in his life.
During his years in Dessau, oratorios, sacred music and many works for male choir were the focus of his compositional output. By this point in his life, Schneider was an honorary member of at least twenty-five musical organisations. Among the many awards he received, particularly worthy of mention are the honorary doctorates he was accorded by the universities of Halle and Leipzig, and his honorary membership of the New York Philharmonic Society and the Stockholm Academy of Music, as well as the Royal Danish Dannebrog order.
Schneider undoubtedly owed his reputation to the overwhelming triumph of his Last Judgement, in the contemporary press, he was even described as the “Handel of our time.” Through his work as conductor, administrator and composer, he exerted considerable influence over the development of the music festival in the nineteenth century. The Elbemusikfeste (Elbe Music Festivals), which began in 1826, were inextricably linked with his name.
Edition of printed and posthumous works
Friedrich Schneider's catalogue of works contains not less than 16 Oratorios, 23 Symphonies, 60 Piano Sonatas (both two and four hands), several Cantatas, Motets, Masses and countless works for chamber music. Not the less he composed more than 400 songs for (male-)choir.
In close cooperation with the Anhaltische Landesbücherei Dessau (Saxony Anhalt State Library), where Schneiders's estate is kept, we are about to publish all of his major works for all instrumentations. All works will be published in critical Urtext-Editions.
- Das Weltgericht op. 46 (The Last Judgement)
- Gethsemane und Golgatha op. 96 (Passion Oratorio)
- Piano Quartet c-Moll op. 36
- String Quartet g-Moll op. 90
- Grande Sonate "Pathétique" op. 14