Gluck, Christoph Willibald Ritter von
- Jeremy Hayes,
- Bruce Alan Brown,
- Max Loppert
- and Winton Dean
(b Erasbach, nr Berching, Upper Palatinate, July 2, 1714; d Vienna, Nov 15, 1787). Bohemian-Austrian composer of Italian and French opera, a leading figure in opera of the second half of the 18th century, and the person chiefly credited with the ‘reform’ of opera after the age of Metastasian opera seria.
Gluck’s interest in music was evident from an early age. He studied the violin, the cello and singing, but his father was opposed to his becoming a professional musician and wanted him to follow his own career as a forester. To escape this, Gluck ran away from home at the age of 13 or 14 and went to Prague, earning his living on the way by singing and playing the jew’s harp (as he later told the painter Christian von Mannlich). Although he was involved in a great deal of music-making in the Bohemian capital, and for a time was organist at the Tyn Church, he does not appear to have received any systematic musical education there and was largely self-taught. An early influence must have been the Prague opera house, where Italian opera was popular: Vivaldi, Albinoni and Lolli were among the composers whose works were most often performed there in the first half of the 18th century....