Vogler, Georg Joseph



German organist, theorist and composer; born at Würzburg and known at Abbe Vogler. His father was a violin-maker, and began his musical training at an early age, obtaining for him a piano and an instructor. The boy also learned to play the violin and other instruments without the aid of a teacher. His boyhood was spent in poverty and his father died when he was ten years old. At this early age he invented a new method of fingering, which though much criticized by Mozart, was later used by many of the best players of the time. At the age of twenty he went to Bamberg to study law and general literature in the college there, remaining about two years. He then went to Mannheim, at that time a musical center of Germany. He obtained a commission to compose a ballet for the Court Theatre and this music so pleased the Elector, Karl Theodor, that he sent him to Bologna to study counterpoint under Padre Martini. Unfortunately, however, master and pupil did not agree and parted after six weeks. Vogler declared his system too slow and Martini complained that his pupil was unreasonably impatient. Proceeding to Padua, Vogler placed himself under Vallotti, who had been musical director of San Antonio for nearly fifty years. But he again became impatient and after five months journeyed to Rome. Although he approved of Vallptti's system of teaching harmony his method of communicating it was not satisfactory to Vogler. He had always been religiously inclined and had studied theology at the Jesuits' College at Wurzburg and at the University of Padua. Shortly after his arrival in Rome, in 1773, he was ordained priest and was made Apostolic Protonotary and Chamberlain to the Pope, also a knight of the Order of the Golden Spur, and became a member of the Academy of the Arcadians. He spent his spare time in gaining instruction from the Bohemian musician, Mysliweczek. After three years in Rome he returned to Mannheim, where the Elector promptly appointed him Court chaplain and second chapelmaster. Here he established a music school, promising to make composers of his pupils with greater expedition than could other teachers. His school was evidently successful, as it became well known and trained some noted musicians. Vogler was also busy in perfecting an organ which he had built at Frankfort, and about this time he composed his overture and entr* actes to Hamlet and the operetta, Der Kaufmann von Smirna. The Court removed to Munich about 1778, but Vogler remained behind for two years, through devotion to his school. His opera, Albert III. von Baiern, failed at Munich and in disgust he went to Paris, where he produced La Kermesse, a miserable failure. He then went to Spain, Greece, Africa and the East. Upon his return he produced his opera, Castor and Pollux, in Munich, which was a great success.


Going to Amsterdam he gave an organ recital which was a veritable triumph. About 1786 he was in Stockholm, where he became Royal Court conductor, having resigned his Munich positions. Here he established his second music school; but in three years' time he was on his travels again, having secured a pension. In 1790 he was in London, where he made a sensation by his performance on the organ at the Pantheon. It is said that he was the first to introduce organ pedals into England and that he reconstructed the great organ of the Pantheon. About this time he composed his wonderful fugue for the organ on the theme of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Leaving London, Vogler went to Warsaw and many German cities, building and improving organs, teaching and extemporiz.ing, and everywhere enthusiastically received. In 1791 appeared Athalie and Gustav Adolph. The assassination of the King of Sweden, whom Vogler loved, led him to take up his travels again, and with Weber he made a tour of the northern countries of Europe. He was again in Paris in 1794, and this time aroused the enthusiasm which he had failed to receive eleven years before. An organ recital brought him a small fortune, but he could not endure to see the suffering which had been caused by the Reign of Terror, and, distributing his money among the poor, he left the city. Again in Stockholm, he devoted four years to his school and to his duties as chapelmaster. These latter terminated in 1799 and he left with a generous pension. A long time spent in Copenhagen produced one of his great theoretical works, Choral System, also the opera, Hermann Von Unna. The year 1804 was an eventful one for the meeting with Beethoven. Age was coming upon him and three years later he settled down in Darmstadt, patronized and honored by the Grand Duke. Here, in 1808, he established his third school, which became eminently successful. Among his pupils here were Carl Maria von Weber, Meyerbeer and Gansbacher. A few years later he died, mourned by all, from the Grand Duchess to the youngest pupil. The list of his works is wonderfully long, considering the time he spent in travel. His symphony in C, and his requiem, written a few days before his death, are his best. He wrote about thirty books and treatises on the theory of music, also operas, masses, psalms and hymns, trios, cantatas, concertos, preludes and fugues.