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date: 27 January 2020

Biebl, Franz (Xaver)free

  • Matthew Oltman

(b Pursruck [Oberfalz], Sept 1, 1906; d Munich, Oct 2, 2001). German composer, conductor, and recording engineer. At the Munich Hochschule, Biebl studied composition with Joseph Haas and Siegmund von Hausegger, conducting with Heinrich Knappe, and Catholic church music with Ludwig Berberich. He taught at the Mozarteum before being drafted into military service in 1943 and spent two years as an American prisoner of war at Fort Custer (1944–6) where he developed an appreciation for American folk songs and spirituals. After the war, Biebl directed a church choir and worked as a recording engineer for Bavarian Broadcasting where he helped facilitate choral programming. He was an advocate of amateur choral singing and composed over 2000 arrangements and original songs, many of which remain popular among German singing societies.

Biebl is best known for his Ave Maria (Angelus Domini). Originally written for double male chorus, it received its première in Munich on May 1, 1959. The 1964 German publication of the original version was followed by two for double mixed chorus (1985) and one for double women’s chorus (1998). Biebl gave a copy of the male chorus version to the Cornell Glee Club when they sang at Bavarian Broadcasting in 1970. It was shared with the Harvard Glee Club who recorded it in 1979. It remained relatively obscure until the professional male choral ensemble, Chanticleer, began touring with it internationally in 1989. Chanticleer recorded it on the album Our Heart’s Joy in 1990 and partnered with Hinshaw Music to publish all four versions in the United States in 1992 and 2011. It retains a prominent place in the American choral canon.

Bibliography

  • E. Valentin: ‘“Schöne auserlesene Lieder”: Ein Gruß an den 70jährigen Franz Biebl’, Lied und Chor: Zeitschrift für das Chorwesen 68 (1976), 213
  • F. Miller: ‘Franz Biebl, Achtzig’, Lied und Chor: Zeitschrift für das Chorwesen 78 (1986), 196–7
  • M. Slon: Songs from the Hill: a History of the Cornell University Glee Club (Ithaca, 1998)
  • M. Oltman: The Iconic One-Hit Wonder: the History and Reception of Franz Biebl’s ‘Ave Maria’ (diss., U. of Nebraska, Lincoln, 2017)

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Ave Maria. Franz Biebl, composer. Robert Shaw Chamber Singers. A Robert Shaw Christmas: Angels on High (Telarc: 1997). Audio.

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