Reichardt, Johann Friedrich



German composer, conductor and writer on music; born at Konigsberg; studied piano and musical theory under the organist, Carl Gottlieb Richter, and violin under Veichtner and studied philosophy at Leipsic. In 1775 he applied for and obtained the post of Court chapelmaster to Frederick the Great. The year after his visit to Italy, in 1782, he organized the Concerts Spirituels for the performance of new compositions, and wrote for these brief analytical programs, composing in the meanwhile, but keeping his own works for the most part in the background, until 17851786, when he visited London and Paris; in both cities he produced his Passion Music, and received a commission in the latter for two operas, Tamerlane and Panthee, to be given at the Grand Opera. The death of Frederick the Great, however, recalled him to Berlin and prevented their production. Frederick's successor, Friedrich Wilhelm II., supported Reichardt in his endeavors to improve the Court music; the orchestra was increased, and Reichardt was dispatched to Italy in search of new singers. His energetic and confident career had made enemies among the conservatives at court, who lost no time in informing the King of Reichardt's sentiments toward the French Revolution, unwisely expressed before his departure; and the result was three years' leave of absence, and then dismissal in 1794. A period of retirement followed, which was devoted to composition and musico-literary labors; and in 1796 he was appointed inspector of salt works near Halle, in the vicinity of which he owned an estate. The year following, on the death of Friedrich Wilhelm II., he returned to Berlin to produce the funeral cantata, and a little later brought out several operas. He was reinstated as Court conductor by Friedrich Wilhelm III. The French invasion of 1806 drove him to Konigsberg, but he returned under compulsion of Jerome Napoleon, who appointed him Court conductor at Cassel, where he did not remain because of some difficulties with the authorities at Cassel, but went to Vienna, and endeavored to make a mark in that city, and, failing, retired to his estate at Giebichenstein, where he died later.


Reichardt's best work was done in his vocal compositions; his German songs, aside from their historical value, possess intrinsic merit. Mendelssohn was a warm admirer of Reichardt's vocal works, and especially of the Morning Hymn, a setting of Milton's poem of that name, which ranks first of all his compositions. Besides this there are several other large choral works to his credit; a Passion Music, various cantatas, both secular and sacred, and other  church-music; his numerous songs include settings of about sixty  of Goethe's poems, four of these being in the form of Singspielen (a kind of operetta), viz.: Claudina von Villabella, Erwin und Elmire, Jery und Bately, and Lilla; these, with his four other Singspielen, are considered important as being an influential factor in the growth of German Opera.


He also composed considerable orchestral and chamber-music, including seven symphonies, an overture, fourteen concertos, and seventeen sonatas for piano; one concerto and eleven sonatas for violin; concertante for string quartet and orchestra; a sonata for flute; quintet for piano, two flutes and two horns; six trios for strings; and quartet for piano and strings. In musical literature he was also energetic, editing several musical periodicals, contributing numerous articles, largely of a critical nature; also autobiographical notes in the Berlinische Musikalische Zeitung. His larger published works include Studien fur Tonkünstler und Musikfreunde; Oeber die deutsche komische Oper; Ueber die Pflichten des Ripienviolinsten; Briefe eines aufmerksamen Reisenden; Schreiben über die Berlinische Musik; Vertraute Briefe aus Paris, . . . 1802-1803-1804-1805; Vertraute Briefe geschrieben auf einer Reisenach Wien, 1808-1809-1810.