by David J. Rhodes
On 22 October 1787 there died at Ludwigslust, at that time the courtly residence in northern Germany of the dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the bassoonist-composer Franz Anton Pfeiffer. He passed away unnoticed by the musical press - indeed most contemporary biographers put the year of his death as 1792, an error that has only been rectified in comparatively recent times.1 As a composer Pfeiffer was hardly prominent, for like the vast majority of 18th-century musicians he composed primarily for himself, although a set of six quartets for bassoon and string trio was published in 1785. To the bassoonist of today, however, whose repertory is hardly dominated by household names (Mozart's one-off Concerto and one or two other pieces apart), Pfeiffer's fairly substantial output of bassoon music is important, since it is thoroughly idiomatic and well-conceived for the instrument and is composed in a tuneful, attractive and formally- disciplined Classical style. It is his fairly well-chronicled life that is perhaps of more interest to scholars, however, the life, not of some 'high flyer,' but of one of the myriad of relatively ordinary musicians who lived and died in Germany during the latter half of the 18th century virtually untouched by public recognition. Recent research has revealed a great deal of hitherto unknown biographical information on Pfeiffer,2 and by exploring this it is hoped that another gap may be filled in our knowledge and understanding of the career of a more-or-less typical musician, together with the social conditions under which he worked, and that this will be of interest to a wider audience than just 18th-century scholars. In addition to relating the story of Pfeiffer's life, this article will also investigate his bassoon music and examine what is known of his own performing style and the type of bassoon he is believed to have played on.
Pfeiffer was born on 16 June 1752, the eldest son of the Roman Catholic schoolmaster of the village of Windischbuch (who was also named Franz Anton).3 A predominantly agrarian community of mixed religion (even to this day) in the Boxberg region of Baden-Württemberg, Windischbuch was at that time part of the Rhineland- Palatinate whose administrative centre was Mannheim. As one of the few educated men in the village, Pfeiffer senior would naturally have enjoyed a position of respect and some eminence, although he would hardly have been a wealthy man. As his eldest son, Franz Anton would have received a basic education (from his father) before being given the opportunity for vocational training of a professional nature that was his birthright (and that would probably be denied to most of his siblings): he must have displayed a talent for music, for at some time in the late 1760's he was sent to Mannheim to study, we are told, the double-bass. This was a common 'village band' instrument at that time, and Pfeiffer probably began to play it at home before being sent off to Mannheim.4 He later claimed to have played the instrument in the famous Mannheim court orchestra (Hofkapelle) itself, but this was undoubtedly only as one of the large number of unpaid Akzessisten.5 He must have also started to play the bassoon at Mannheim, this combination of bass instruments being not all that unusual at that time.6 There were four bassoonists in the Mannheim court orchestra in 1767: Sebastian Holzbauer, Heinrich Ritter, his more famous brother Georg Wenzel Ritter, and Anton Strasser. It is not known with which of these Pfeiffer initially studied, however.
Pfeiffer was at Mannheim during the high-point of its artistic output under Elector Karl Theodor, and at this stage in his formative years he would naturally have come under the influence of other musicians and composers such as Karl Stamitz, who remained at Mannheim until 1770. There is a marked degree of similarity in Pfeiffer's and Stamitz's respective styles of composition and their writing for the bassoon, which suggests that Stamitz may well have exerted a direct influence on the younger man at this time. In line with many other 'enlightened' rulers, Karl Theodor frequently sent promising young musicians at his own expense to Italy or elsewhere to complete their musical training prior to taking up a permanent post in his court orchestra. He was probably responsible for sending Pfeiffer to Munich around the year 1772 to perfect his study of the bassoon, which by now had become his preferred instrument, with the famous virtuoso Felix Rheiner.7 Karl Theodor subsequently became elector of Bavaria in 1778, and so the earlier choice of Munich for Pfeiffer is not unusual. Here Pfeiffer remained until 1776. Rheiner frequently undertook concert tours, and Pfeiffer may have deputized for him in the Munich court orchestra in his absence, although there is no official record of this. By 1776, however, his musical training was complete, and the next stage was for him to secure a permanent position in some musical establishment.
In 1770 the Munich court orchestra consisted of 31 musicians, including two bassoonists, but by c.1775 there were 27 singers and 57 instrumentalists. Most of these suffered from an extremely low standard of living, with an insufficient income that had to be supplemented by music copying or taking a subsidiary position as a servant or lackey. A similar situation existed at many other courts at that time. There was simply no vacancy for Pfeiffer at Munich, nor was there a place at Mannheim, whose complement of bassoonists was similarly full. It was probably Rheiner himself who suggested that Pfeiffer should travel to Frankfurt-am-Main in the search for permanent employment. Rheiner had performed there on occasion (Leopold Mozart heard him at the winter concerts in December 1774, for example) and presumably knew the city's musical scene well. Telemann had founded a regular concert system in Frankfurt in 1713, and many famous virtuosi regularly stopped off there, frequently coming together with other itinerant musicians to give concerts. In such a cosmopolitan musical community a young musician would be able to match himself up against more established talent, and in addition would hear of any vacancies that might exist at the various courts that had been visited by the touring virtuosi. These latter were given leave to tour by their aristocratic employers, the reputation of whose musical establishments would be boosted by successfully touring members, and this prestige would in turn naturally attract more musical talent to their courts. The chief hazard to an employer, however, was that a touring musician might well be offered better employment elsewhere, something that was later to happen to Pfeiffer himself.
Pfeiffer's first documented public concert was in Frankfurt on 27 December 1776. The advertisement for it already hailed him as a virtuoso performer: 'since Herr Pfeiffer, the virtuoso bassoonist, will be heard this Friday, ... this virtuoso will be heard particularly in the Adagio with a triple harmony, or blowing three notes at the same time, instead of the cadenza.'8 What a stunt for those days! The appellation of virtuoso suggests a reputation already established, although this may well have been a simple publicity gimmick. The mention of cadenza suggests a concerto performance (one of his own?). As for the triple harmony, multiphonics are not a 20th-century invention, but precisely what Pfeiffer could have played is not known.The next record of Pfeiffer is in April 1777, when he teamed up with a flautist, Kittel, and a horn player, Schmidt,9 and addressed a petition to the Burgermeister and town council of Frankfurt, requesting permission to give a concert: 'We, who were hitherto musicians with the Marchand theatre company, but a short time ago were quite unexpectedly dismissed due to causes not of our making, have decided to give an entire instrumental concert next Sunday evening in the Komodien Haus [called 'zum Junghof'], in order to have another opportunity to gain employment elsewhere by the public display of our musical talents, all the more especially because of the visitors who are still present [at the Frankfurt Fair].'10 The reason for giving this public concert - to gain the attention of any prospective employer on the lookout for musical talent - must be regarded as being quite typical of that time. Theobald Marchand ran a touring theatre company, and although these three musicians may have been employed as 'local extras' simply for the duration of the Frankfurt Easter Fair, they may alternatively have been members of his orchestra before that time, Pfeiffer having been engaged following his concert of the previous December. It is known that Marchand suddenly left Frankfurt under a cloud of discontent that Easter, never to return, and these three musicians and possibly his entire orchestra appear to have been summarily dismissed when he left town. The Frankfurt town council approved the petition, and the concert took place at 6 p.m. on Sunday 20 April. Their aims were partly realized when Pfeiffer and Schmidt were shortly afterwards given employment by Marchand's successor in Frankfurt, Abel Seyler, Pfeiffer as sole bassoonist, Schmidt as principal horn. Kittel was not so fortunate, however, and what became of him is not known.
Those musicians who actually lived in
Ludwigslust itself mainly occupied the tiny houses that were originally
built for the court officials (these can be seen to this day), which
usually also included some stabling and garden, but there were frequent
complaints about cramped living conditions. Pfeiffer eventually settled
on the Schloßstrasse,24 but he was evidently far from content when he
wrote to the duke on or around 6 October 1783, requesting a salary
increase of 100 Reichsthaler, 'in order to be able to live more
comfortably and in a better state here, to furnish myself with my own
furniture and sundry household utensils, and in addition, since the
meals at the inn are at times injurious to my health and are not
suitable for me - this happens not infrequently, to have some food
prepared for me at my dwelling [Pfeiffer was still a bachelor and
evidently not able to fend for himself!]. Finally, my need is all the
greater, if I am to maintain my position [in the court orchestra] with
my heavy and clumsy instrument ('schwehren und ingraten Instrument') in
complete strength and not to become useless before my time, and since I
foresee that I cannot possibly pay for all this, due to the expensive
prices of all necessities here [most goods apart from natural produce
would have been brought to Ludwigslust from Schwerin town], from my
graciously appointed salary of 300 Reichsthaler, I must then be plunged
into deep, tormenting, despondent- making debts that lead to
destruction, the greatest aversion for which always
troubles me...'25 The duke must have valued Pfeiffer highly, for he
readily granted this huge salary increase, to take effect from
Christmas 1783 on. Pfeiffer was by this time comparatively well-paid,
the majority of musicians at Ludwigslust receiving less than his 400
Thaler, although most did supplement their income, not as at many other
courts by taking on menial servant duties, but by giving music lessons,
copying music, dealing in instruments, undertaking concert tours, and
so on. Most married members of the Hofkapelle also pursued some form of
agriculture. Pfeiffer's final comment to the duke gives some indication
of the difficulties that he - and possibly other bassoonists of the day
- encountered with their instruments, and, in the event, Pfeiffer was
not the only 18th-century bassoonist to die at a relatively young age.26
The final two years of Pfeiffer's life are extremely well-documented, due to the large amount of correspondence that passed between him and the duke at Ludwigslust, most of it concerning his attempt to marry a singer engaged at another court. It may have been during one of his concert tours that he met and fell in love with the contralto Maria Johanna Clara Lanius (1765-1856). She was employed by the electoral court of Trier at Ehrenbreitstein, the fortress overlooking the confluence of the rivers Rhein and Mosel at Koblenz. Her modest salary there in 1785 was 140 florins [= Gulden], with various emoluments. In January 1786 Pfeiffer first wrote to his friend and patron, the Cabinet-Secretary J.M. Földner, asking him to intercede on his behalf with the new duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Friedrich Franz 1.34 He requested five to six weeks' leave to travel to Koblenz to get married before the start of Lent in addition to an advance on his salary of 100 Thaler (he had been refurnishing his house, presumably in readiness for his new bride, and only had 10 Thaler left, which would take him no further than Hannover); here he added in poetic vein 'How many pounds of beef could I not have been able to have for that [amount of money] at the butcher's! well then! if only it [marriage] does not taste salty, if only it tastes sweet ...' Földner's reply of 20 January passed on the duke's permission and best wishes for Pfeiffer's venture.35 adding in imitation of Pfeiffer's own words, 'I have indeed always believed that Cupid's arrows would be fired at you bluntly and to no avail; but now I see that you certainly prefer the flesh of woman to that of beef.' Goethe was not the only one to wax lyrical in late-1 8th century Germany!It was not to be for another year that Pfeiffer was to travel to Koblenz to get married, however. The problem lay with Clara Lanius' father, who now insisted on some form of financial security for his daughter in the event of Pfeiffer's dying before her: could this be taken as an indication that Pfeiffer was already in poor health? It was certainly not a normal demand at that time (although there was a precedent for it at Ludwigslust)36, and Clara's own profession as a singer should surely have been sufficient to support her in the event of Pfeiffer's premature death. Pfeiffer consequently sought and achieved an assurance ('Versicherung') from the duke on I March 1786 that not only raised his salary to 500 Thaler from Easter, to be paid 'until the day of his death' provided he continued to give good service, but also promised 100 Thaler annual pension for his future wife in the event of his dying before her. Pfeiffer was also guaranteed continued free housing plus the usual emoluments for life, but his request for an increase in his wood and turf allowance (to 10 cords and 8000 sods respectively) was ignored.37 This was a remarkable achievement for an ordinary musician living in the late 18th century and a sign of a truly 'enlightened' ruler in the person of Duke Friedrich Franz I of MecklenburgSchwerin.
Having obtained this assurance from the Duke, Pfeiffer's marriage ought to have gone ahead without further hindrance. The girl's father, however, now refused to allow him to marry her unless she was first engaged as a singer at the Ludwigslust court. Michael Lanius (1731-1817) had served as a bass singer at the Trier court for 32 years before being discharged in 1785, the innocent victim of slander. He was reinstated by the elector in 1786, but did not return to the Hofkapelle, however, becoming a minor court official instead. This had clearly left him with a sense of injustice, and it also appears that his family was in straightened circumstances, since Pfeiffer's correspondence implies that Clara's dowry (she was Lanius' eldest daughter) would only be very small. Lanius probably also depended on Clara's modest income to help support his family. It may well have been a combination of all these factors that prompted Lanius to insist on his daughter's future career and widow's pension being settled before allowing her to marry. Pfeiffer may not have been in the best of health, and Lanius obviously did not want to face the possibility of his eldest daughter being forced (through the poverty that could well follow in the event of Pfeiffer's premature death) to return to her parental home and become dependent on him again at some time in the future: this situation may well have been an all too common occurrence at that time. In the event, Pfeiffer wrote to the duke on 14 and again on 16 October 1786, requesting an engagement for Clara in the Hofkapelle, but he received no immediate reply. By this time he was obviously distraught, even suicidal, as his subsequent letter of desperation to Földner of 23 October indicates, for he had interpreted the duke's silence as refusal: 'I love the girl with my whole heart, ... She is beautiful, virtuous, skillful, has ability; and since she has plenty, of admirers, so she could perhaps be robbed from me, then [there would be nothing left but] a bullet for me in front of the castle.'38 The duke finally replied on 26 October, sympathizing with Pfeiffer's predicament, and assuring him that Clara would be engaged, provided the 'celebrated singer' should meet with his approval, whenever one of his female singers should leave Ludwigslust, there being at present no vacancy in the Hofkapelle.39
This further assurance must have proved sufficient to satisfy Michael Lanius, for Pfeiffer subsequently received the duke's renewed permission to proceed with his wedding on 19 January 1787, and on 11 February he married Clara at Ehrenbreitstein.40 On 7 February she had received her official discharge from the Trier court, and this gave testimony to her 'admirable good conduct,' recommending her 'to each and to all, into whose service she at some future time should come.'41 The Pfeiffers left Ehrenbreitstein on 25 February, and on the return journey to Ludwigslust they gave several concerts together, a very practical way of spending their honeymoon! Cramer records two such performances at Kassel in early March: 'Last Sunday Herr and Madame Pfeiffer from Ludwigslust gave a public concert, and yesterday [6 March] they were both heard in the amateur ('Liebhaber') concert. Herr Pfeiffer is a most excellent bassoonist, his skill and taste combined to the same degree. Only in the consideration of his tone were opinions divided, since many persons prefer the biting tone on this instrument to his indeed smooth but somewhat dull tone. Madame Pfeiffer pleased universally. She sings an admirable contralto, and is especially remarkable with regard to her passionate and expressive performance, which through her personal charm has double the effect.'42 Cramer's comments on Pfeiffer's tone indicate that even in 18th- century Germany there was no universal bassoon timbre. Pfeiffer's teacher Felix Rheiner was actually praised for his 'round, full tone.'43 Pfeiffer's performing abilities will be, discussed in more detail later.
They reached Ludwigslust around the end of March or in early April,44 and on 23 April the duke and duchess presented them with a wedding gift of 30 louis-d'or.45 Despite the duke's earlier assurance that she could only be employed once a vacancy occurred, Clara was actually appointed to the Hofkapelle on 24 or 25 April,46 although, as with her husband before her, she underwent a trial period of service with full pay from Easter. Her salary of 200 Thaler (plus a New Year's gift of 20 Thaler in gold from January 1788 onwards) was actually paid out of the ducal privy-purse until a salaried position finally did become available on 30 May 1788. This once again demonstrates the duke's great humanity towards his employees, in taking Clara into his service well over a year before any vacancy actually occurred at court.
Pfeiffer may already have been seriously ill when he wrote to the duke on or around 26 May 1787 to request a supply of 60 beanpoles for his garden (the duke sent him 200 free-of-charge!).47 As even his earliest correspondence at Ludwigslust shows, he appears to have not infrequently suffered from ill-health of one kind or another ever since his arrival there (and possibly even before). He had claimed that his playing of the bassoon contributed to this in no small way (letter of around 6 October 1783 above), but he may in fact have always had a generally sickly disposition. There is no record of exactly when he ceased to perform in the court orchestra, but on 22 October 1787 he died at Ludwigslust. According to his death certificate,48 Pfeiffer died of 'the highest level of land-scurvy' ('Landes-Scorbut'), which is primarily caused by a vitamin C deficiency brought on by the insufficient consumption of fresh produce - one possible reason for his request for beanpoles from the duke (in a last-ditch attempt to remedy it). It seems strange, however, for someone living in the middle of the countryside (Ludwigslust remains to this day surrounded by agricultural land) to suffer from such a complaint when fresh produce must have been in plentiful supply, especially at that time of year, and Pfeiffer's salary of 500 Thaler would have been more than sufficient to pay for fresh food even in the depths of winter! To add to the mystery is the fact that the very doctor who attended him during his final illness and acted as one of the signatories of his Last Will and Testament, Dr. Karl Jacob Frese, proceeded to marry Pfeiffer's widow just over a year later! A mis-diagnosis seems certain, but the true cause of Pfeiffer's death remains a mystery.
In Pfeiffer's Last Will and Testament, he bequeathed all of his estate to his wife, consisting of 'gold, silver, cash, clothing, linen, furniture and household utensils of whatever kind, nothing excluded from it,' apart from the small portion of his property (the 'Musstheil' or 'Legitimam') that the law required him to leave to his still-living father at Windischbuch if the latter should demand it.49 Various friends and colleagues witnessed the document, including three string players who may have taken part in performances of Pfeiffer's bassoon quartets with him, the violinist Benedict Friedrich Zinck (senior) (1743-1801), the court trumpeter and 'string player' (it is thought the viola) Karl Siegmund Jappelt (or Joeppel) (17??- 1835), and the virtuoso cellist (and viola da gamba player) Franz "Xaver Hammer (1741-1817), in addition to the only bassoonist believed to have been a pupil of Pfeiffer's, Johann Maximilian Kadel (or Katel or Kahtel), about whom little is known.50 Pfeiffer was buried at Ludwigslust on 23 October (no gravestone survives). Less than a month later, on 13 November, his widow gave birth to their daughter, Louisa Friderica Pfeiffer.51
Pfeiffer the Bassoonist
At the time of his death, Pfeiffer was widely regarded as one of the greatest bassoonists in all Germany. Although he was not renowned as a teacher or the continuer of any great school of bassoon playing, he did in fact continue a tradition handed down by his teacher Felix Rheiner from the great Paolo Girolamo Besozzi (1704-1778). With few exceptions, the contemporary accounts of his performing abilities already quoted emphasize his full and expressive tone (although one critic at least thought this dull!), his excellent technique and the superb agility that he displayed on the bassoon. A few years after his death, Gerber described him as 'one of the most first-rate virtuosi on the bassoon ... his skill and his execution are praised to an extraordinary level.'52
As late as 1824, the English Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review included him amongst 'the principal performers on this instrument [bassoon], who have distinguished themselves in Europe.'53 By far the longest and most significant account of Pfeiffer's talents comes from C.L. Junker in 1783, however: 'If skill united with grace constitutes the great artist, then Pfeiffer belongs to the ranks of these. He manages [to execute] the greatest difficulties with arpeggios and doubletonguing on his bassoon; but with just as much soul, just as full of feeling, and with a penetrating vigour and energy, he performs the passages which really belong only to the heart. And then through the long sustaining of his tone, and the various mezzo shades of forte and piano which he adds during this sustaining - how much he refreshes! How much he confirms the ancient truth, that half of the charm of the art of music falls back on to this intelligent distribution of light and shade, on to the tasteful application of forte and piano.'54 This praise was far more substantial than any accorded to Pfeiffer's teacher Felix Rheiner, whose performing style was apparently more controversial and whose temperament left a lot to be desired (which may well have alienated him from his audiences), if contemporary accounts are to be believed.55 Certainly, many passages of music in Pfeiffer's compositions for the bassoon tend to emphasize either technique (through virtuoso passage-work, with very few slurs to facilitate this) or musicality (in phrases of lyrical beauty which allow the performer the freedom to add subtle dynamic shading that is rarely indicated in the score).
Unlike his teacher Felix Rheiner, no portraits were painted of Pfeiffer. Of great iconographical importance, however, is the impression of his seal preserved on his Last Will and Testament of 1787. This depicts a bassoon in minute detail, not a simple artist's impression, as can be seen from Fig. 3.56 Clearly visible are an octave key and a hand rest, devices that are believed to have been only recently invented by the time of Pfeiffer's death (although he could possibly have had them on his bassoon for some time before this).57 The addition of this octave key to facilitate the performance of high notes (a,' b' flat and b' natural) was first depicted in Etienne Ozi's Methode nouvelle et raisonee pour le basson (Paris) in the same year as Pfeiffer's death, a coincidence indeed. Its use in Germany at that time is believed to have been extremely rare, however, and even in 1802 H.C. Koch considered it 'new.'58 Pfeiffer's bassoon as depicted on his seal is thought to be the earliest evidence of this key in Germany. His music certainly makes use of high a' and b' flat on a number of occasions, as shall be seen later on. The addition of the hand rest is also thought to have been a recent invention - it is certainly missing from the accurate depiction of Felix Rheiner's bassoon that dates from 1774.59 Pfeiffer must therefore be regarded as having been at the forefront as far as the implementation of new developments on the bassoon is concerned.
If it had not been for the fact that the Mecklenburg-Schwerin Hofkapelle was actively engaged in building up its collection of music at the time of Pfeiffer's death,60 many of his compositions would undoubtedly have failed to survive the ravages of time. This fate certainly befell the music of his teacher, Felix Rheiner, none of whose compositions is known to have been preserved (they would have been dispersed after his death). Although Pfeiffer undoubtedly composed most of his music before he entered service at Ludwigslust, it would have remained in his own possession and would not have become the property of his employer at any time. It is believed that his widow sold his entire music collection to the court following his death,61 and these and other contemporary copies (notably by F.C. Wilhelm Berwald) of his compositions are today preserved at the Mecklenburgische Landesbibliothek Schwerin, which houses the entire music collection of the old Hofkapelle (which was in existence until the end of the First World War). A number of duplicate and secondary sources are to be found in other libraries. A few modern editions have already been published and more are in the pipeline, which will finally make Pfeiffer's music readily available to the bassoonists of today.62
Unlike his great contemporary Mozart, whose equally short life began and ended exactly four years after his, Pfeiffer was not a prolific composer. As his appointment decrees at Mainz and Ludwigslust indicate, he was employed simply as an instrumentalist and was never required to compose for any patron or employer (nor for publication for the masses). Like many late-18th century musicians, however, he did compose music for his own use: it is purely and simply 'Gebrauchs=' or 'Gelegenheitsmusik' (in the strict sense of the word) written to satisfy a personal need for fresh repertory, generally with some specific performing occasion in mind (as with most late-18th century music), music that was played either in the line of performing duty at court or else in the numerous public performances, including the concert tours, that he is known to have undertaken. Of the 20 extant compositions known to be by him, there is only one piece (and an insignificant one at that) that does not involve the bassoon in a major capacity, simply because there was no reason for him to have written music in any other genre. He composed in the only two areas that were of interest to him as a bassoonist, namely concertos and chamber music: because he composed in all the main genres for that instrument he therefore occupies an important place in the repertory of music for the bassoon, despite the fact that he cannot be counted among the major composers of the 18th century.
As a composer, Pfeiffer appears neither to have been the direct product of any particular ,school' of composition nor to have himself influenced the work of others. Comparatively little is known about the many musician-composers under and with whom he worked and who may have exerted some influence on his compositional style. The influence of two 'schools' may be recognized above that of all others, however, that of the second generation of composers of the socalled 'Mannheim School' as exemplified by Karl Stamitz, and the Italianate mainstream 'Classical' style of composition as personified by Mozart. Reference has already been made to Pfeiffer's probable contact with Stamitz during his formative years at Mannheim, and the presence at Schwerin of music for bassoon by the latter (two concertos and the Viola da Gamba Quartet transcribed for bassoon quartet: see footnote 66), music that probably formed part of Pfeiffer's own music collection, indicates that he knew at least some of Karl Stamitz's compositions intimately. As to the influence of other composers, Neefe and the two Benda brothers who worked for Seyler in Frankfurt may have influenced Pfeiffer as he began to find his feet as a composer of bassoon music, but any direct link with them or any other composer other than Karl Stamitz is virtually impossible to prove.
Pfeiffer was composing at the end of the period of transition between the early- and matureClassical styles, at a time when sonata form, for instance, was still in its relative infancy and a hierarchy for its constituent parts not yet firmly established. This is reflected in his music by both old-fashioned and forward-looking features, as will be seen. His tours and periods of employment at various places throughout Germany were undoubtedly responsible for his assimilating elements from the music of many other composers, bad as well as good. His music must .then naturally represent a cross-fertilization of styles, for Pfeiffer was an instrumentalist first, a composer second: it comes from the general melting-pot of late-18th century musical style and contains many of the threads that go to make up the music of the Classical era. For the most part it is attractive and tuneful and is imbued with a knowledge and understanding of current musical form superior to that of many of his contemporaries. His chamber music in particular was composed on an intimate scale, with an almost ideal balance of form and content that makes such 'gems' as the bassoon quartets worthy of special praise. It is unfortunate that the only real recognition that he received for any of his music during his lifetime was the publication by Hummel of six of his bassoon quartets in 1785. He was writing mainly to display his own talent, and his music displays a fine understanding of the nature and idiom of the bassoon as a solo instrument, although he was too good a musician to let this aspect overshadow his compositions to
an overwhelming extent. Formal convention is also apparent in his music, with several examples of two works of his even sharing an identical passage of music. Although his general formal structures usually adhere to some 'textbook' scheme or other, as with most composers of the mature-Classical era, there is considerable variety in his actual composition of the various constituent elements, however, and in no way can Pfeiffer be fairly accused of simply adopting 'standardized models' for his ideas, for he writes with an inventive quality of both form and content that raises him above many of his contemporaries.
In the field of orchestral music, Pfeiffer composed seven bassoon concertos (one of them missing the solo bassoon and first violin parts but otherwise complete)63 and a double concerto for 'bassoon and oboe' (Pfeiffer's designation), in addition to the curious 'Engloise,' a brief (24 bars plus repeats) dance movement composed in a simple and comparatively immature style. He was more prominent in the field of chamber music, composing some eight quartets for bassoon and string trio (violin, viola and cello), including the six published in 1785 by J.J. Hummel as his Op. 1, a trio-divertimento for bassoon, violin and cello, and two sonatas for bassoon and cello. All three chamber music genres were relatively popular in Pfeiffer's day and provided ideal musical material for taking on concert tours, when 'local' string players could easily (and cheaply!) be utilized. Each of the 20 works consists of three movements, except for the single-movement 'Engloise' and the Bassoon and Oboe Concerto, which only has two movements in typical symphonie concertante fashion. These 20 compositions are summarized in Fig. 4.
Although no date of composition is known for any of Pfeiffer's music, a relative chronology can be tentatively established for some of it. The scoring of the 'Engloise' (with strings minus violas)suggests that this simple piece was possibly composed for Abel Seyler's theatre company in Frankfurt, perhaps as an additional piece of entr'acte music.64 The majority of the concertos and chamber works probably date from Pfeiffer's years at Mainz, although some may have been composed (or at least revised) at Ludwigslust. The presence of ripieno string parts in several bassoon concertos suggests that these at least were composed at Mainz, where ripieno players are known to have been used in the court orchestra.65 The three oboes required for the performance of the Bassoon and Oboe Concerto (one solo and two orchestral) were similarly available at Mainz between 1779 and 1784 but not at Ludwigslust during Pfeiffer's time there. For Hummel to have published six of Pfeiffer's bassoon quartets in 1785 (pre-advertising them in August 1784), all six must have been composed (and in some cases, also revised) by 1783 at the latest. Bassoon Quartets I & 3 also exist in earlier, stylistically less mature manuscript versions that Pfeiffer later revised, presumably for publication by Hummel - his revised manuscript of Quartet no. 3 also survives, indicating that even the ordering of the six Op. I quartets is undoubtedly arbitrary. The Trio-Divertimento and two bassoon sonatas appear to be earlier rather than later compositions, judging by their musical style, but Bassoon Quartets 7 and 8 contain stylistic features that are untypical of the other six quartets (notably a sparser melodic and accompanimental style), which may indicate that they were composed at Ludwigslust under some new (as yet untraced) influence. None of Pfeiffer's manuscripts is dated, and the reports of Pfeiffer's concerts unfortunately never mention exactly what music he played (nor even whether a concerto was involved).
In addition, there is a considerable amount of unattributed bassoon music in the library at Schwerin that may also be by Pfeiffer, both original compositions and arrangements for bassoon of works for various instruments by other composers that incorporate music borrowed from a known composition by Pfeiffer.66 J.J. Hummel is also known to have published two bassoon concertos by Pfeiffer in 1803, but to date no copy has been traced of either work. There is a review of these two works in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of 1804,67 but it is thoroughly derogatory. The reviewer obviously had no idea that the music had been composed many years before,68 and he unfairly compared it with concertos by the I greats' of the day (most of them composers of violin concertos), in addition to the deceased Mozart. This review shows to what extent musical style and public taste had changed in the period of time since Pfeiffer's death: 'A public which is used to hearing concertos by Kreutzer, Rode, Viotti, or indeed even by Mozart, Beethoven, etc., can find no taste in these products. The style in which they are written is antiquated; the ritornellos are insignificant and dull, the harmonies poor, and the passagework often repeated against all better taste, or varied even more tastelessly. Both of these slight works ('Werkchen') would have been laid to one side according to our plan [i.e., not reviewed at all], if the almost total lack of better music for the bassoon did not make it necessary to name for the admirers of this instrument something which may serve them as a practice piece ('Uebungsstuck').
This is hardly fair. These concertos had been composed around 20 years previously, possibly more, and so their style is naturally 'antiquated' in comparison with the latest works of Beethoven! As shall be shown in the discussion of Pfeiffer's compositional style that follows, they (and Pfeiffer's other works) are typical of late-18th century music. If many of their features can be summed up today as being 'conventional,' that is hardly a derogatory comment, it is simply a statement that they conform to the 'norms' of the Classical era. For the above reviewer to attack the ritornellos, harmonies and passagework of these two concertos and dismiss them out-of-hand, however, is at the same time to similarly dismiss literally thousands of other compositions by the many colleagues and contemporaries of Pfeiffer who composed thoroughly idiomatic music for their own instruments in a similar manner. The Classical era did not produce many composers whose music bears comparison with that of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, who were composers first and foremost in addition to being musicians, and so one must compare like with like when examining the music of the many relatively obscure men like Pfeiffer who were musicians first and composers second (comparison with the 'greats' is really only relevant whenever composers like Pfeiffer do match up to them in some aspect or other, simply to show the heights attainable by such lowly figures).Form
Lack of space prohibits any other than a relatively brief examination of this and the other elements of Pfeiffer's compositional style. There is no doubt that Pfeiffer was thoroughly au fait with the latest developments in musical form. His sonataform first movements, for example, adopt the 'textbook' structure that really only came to be established by around 1780, in contrast to the emerging form of the previous decades in which composers experimented with different procedures such as incomplete or completely reorganized recapitulations, central 'episodes' rather than fully-fledged development sections, monothematicism, and so on. His bassoon quartet first movements in particular are models of concise sonata form composition, with wellcontrasted themes, well-defined and proportioned internal divisions, and a complete recapitulation of the main thematic material.
Pfeiffer's concerto first movements similarly integrate all of the features of sonata form into the normal ritornello structure of the day. By the late 18th-century, the solo bassoon concerto had developed into a popular concerto medium, one that has since declined and all but disappeared,69 and Pfeiffer's first movements all adopt the ,standard' Classical outline of four ritornellos framing the three solo episodes that correspond to the exposition, development and recapitulation of sonata form. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Pfeiffer includes a full and regular reprise of thematic material in the third solo episode. Typical of many other composers (such as Karl Stamitz and J.C. Bach) is an incomplete recapitulation that commences with the second subject material. The ritornellos are typical of their time: the opening one of the first movement, for example, normally airs all of the main thematic material of the movement, with an opening theme of generally more rhythmic than lyrical character and a well-defined transition that contains 'noisy' tutti music for the purpose of contrast. One interesting, if old-fashioned feature is Pfeiffer's tendency to modulate to the dominant major at this point for the usually lyrical and more relaxed second subject theme (or some other contrasted melody in movements where Pfeiffer holds back the second subject theme for the soloist to unveil later on), the music only returning to the tonic for the closing codetta, evidence indeed of a true 'double exposition' that later Classical composers generally avoided.70 Subsequent ritornellos provide all the necessary contrast to the intervening solo episodes, and in most concertos there is an almost ideal balance of proportions between the ritornellos and solo episodes: most have an opening ritornello that is one quarter of the overall length of the movement, with another quarter devoted to the solo exposition and the remaining half to the development and recapitulation (with briefer intervening ritornellos).71 One surprising feature is the lack of any cadenza point except in Bassoon Concerto "no. 6," most unusual considering Pfeiffer's own undisputed virtuosity.
The bassoon quartets contain a more highlyorganized development section than in the concertos, all utilizing previously-heard thematic material at some stage, unlike in the majority of concertos, which tend more to new motivic material and passagework display (typical of most contemporary concertos, such as Mozart's own early Bassoon Concerto, K191, of 1774). Apart from their general outline, however, there is no precise 'blueprint' that Pfeiffer follows unhesitatingly within each movement, be it concerto or chamber work, for there is much variety in the actual treatment of the musical material that offsets the otherwise conventional structure.72
Pfeiffer's second (slow) and third movements generally follow the traditions of his age, in that their combined length and weight at best match up to the size and extent of the first movement but prove no counterbalance to it individually. Late- 18th century instrumental music displayed much diversity of form in these movements and Pfeiffer is no exception here. Apart from Bassoon Concerto "no. 2," which has a slow movement in binary form (within the ritornello framework), the remaining concertos adopt ternary or a kind of ternary-rondo scheme for the second movement,73 whilst the chamber works equally favour ternary, rondo or sonata form (Bassoon Quartets "nos. 1-5 are also entitled "Romance"). Six of Pfeiffer's eight concerto finales are in rondo form, whilst the other two have a preliminary section that is interrupted by a change of tempo and a set of variations, a type of finale that was not uncommon at that time. As for the chamber works, they are cast in rondo, variation or sonata form. Although his rondos may reprise musical material (typically motivic rather than a contrasted melody) from the first solo episode in the third (final) one, this remains in the original key (dominant major) and is not transposed to the tonic as in the sonata-rondo structure, whose brand-new features at that time were probably unknown to Pfeiffer. The variation movements are of the increasingly decorative/elaborate kind as far as the bassoon part is concerned, typical of the late 18th century.
As with the first movements, the slow
movements and finales contain much variety and frequently some degree
of experimentation (albeit on a small scale) that marks Pfeiffer out as
a composer who was not merely pouring his musical ideas into set moulds
without any further thought, but one who was deeply concerned with the
finer points of composition. The fact that no two movements of his
correspond exactly section for section in that stereotyped manner so denigrated
by critics of the Classical style proves just how often late-18th
century structures do fail to conform to the clear- cut ideals that we
expect of them! The most successful concertos are Bassoon Concertos
"nos. 4 & 5" and the Bassoon and Oboe Concerto, with individual
details not found elsewhere and with a craftsmanlike approach in their
composition overall that appears to mark them out as relatively mature
works in Pfeiffer's all too small compositional output. Overall
Pfeiffer's concertos must be considered as of fine a quality as those
of contemporary composers for the bassoon such as J.C. Bach and Karl
Stamitz. Even Mozart was known to repeat a standard structural
'formula' in more than a few of his concertos, so why should Pfeiffer
be criticized for this? The most successful chamber works are
undoubtedly the first six Bassoon Quartets. As a group, they are more
advanced musically than the concertos: being composed on a more
intimate scale, this genre appears to have suited Pfeiffer's talents
better than the more cumbersome concerto with its mandatory ritornello
framework. Quartets "nos. 7 & 8" are unfortunately less
successful, due in no small part to the fact that they both employ
sonata form in each of their three movements.
Pfeiffer's orchestration is quite conventional. With the exception of Bassoon Concerto "no. 5," which is scored for flutes instead of oboes, the concertos all employ the 'standard' earlyClassical orchestra of pairs of oboes and horns with strings, although the more majestic Concerto "no. 1" (but not Concerto "no. 6," which is also in C major) also utilizes pairs of trumpets and timpani. Pfeiffer may well have had to keep in mind the touring factor, not knowing if anything other than a 'basic' orchestra would be available at the other courts and concert venues where he performed (he never made use of the recently introduced clarinet, for example). There is no evidence that a harpsichord continuo was employed for any of his compositions, unlike in many other concertos and chamber works of the period. Pfeiffer writes for divided 'violas in four of the seven bassoon concertos, very much a feature also of the music of Karl Stamitz, and their use is quite utilitarian: they may provide an alternative timbre to the violins in the stating of themes (or may double themes, often in parallel thirds/sixths, at a lower octave), provide harmonies or simply bolster up (or replace) the bass line. Cellos and double- basses are rarely divided, being lumped together under the designation 'basso,' although Pfeiffer does occasionally split them up for high-lying passages, which is typical of the time.Pfeiffer's textures are also quite conventional, being generally homophonic, although more contrapuntal interplay naturally exists in the chamber music. The wind instruments are generally silent during solo episodes, although Pfeiffer occasionally retains them for the slow movement, as in Concertos "no. 1" (where even the trumpets and timpani are retained) and "no. 7," whilst Concertos "nos. 2 & 4" make use of the oboes only. During the orchestral tuttis, the wind instruments typically supply harmonies or double melody lines. There is little true dialogue between the stringed and wind instruments or between the solo bassoon and orchestral wind, and there are relatively few instances of the wind being used in a solo capacity. This may have been intentional, once again with an eye to the tours that Pfeiffer undertook: as with Mozart's early Viennese Piano Concertos K413-415, the wind instruments in the majority of Pfeiffer's concertos (but not in Concerto "no. 3," for example, where they are occasionally used for soloistic 'wind band' effects) could quite easily be dispensed with, although much orchestral ' colour' would be lost thereby, for 'a quattro' performances, especially for occasions on tour when wind players may not have been available or for venues where the general pitch level was considerably different from his own. There was no standardized pitch in those days, and Pfeiffer may well have encountered difficulties when performing at some courts where the general pitch was more than a semitone different from the pitch level he was used to (he undoubtedly had more than one bocal/crook for relatively small pitch changes). In such circumstances, the local string players could easily tune their instruments to his bassoon, even if the local wind players could not. His orchestration and orchestral textures can therefore also be viewed as utilitarian, not simply conventional: not for him the refinement of a Mozart who was composing with specific Viennese forces in mind, for example.
The texture in the bassoon quartets is more integrated overall than in the concertos. Here the bassoon is treated most frequently as the leader of the quartet, and its music often appears to have been conceived as appearing to sound an octave higher than written, with the aural effect of the occasional written 6-4 chord not being apparent in actual performance, this probably due to the instrument's distinctive timbre. Thus in duets with the violin the bassoon frequently appears to be on top of the texture, even though the violin is playing the higher line of music, simply because the bassoon has been given the main tune, such as at the start of Quartet "no. 1:" Fig. 5. Melodic ideas are sometimes thrown contrapuntally round the four instruments to good effect, and duets (often with movement in parallel thirds or sixths) between instruments are not uncommon. Of the stringed instruments, the violin naturally has the lion's share of the melodic material, and in Quartets "nos. 7 & 8" it actually dominates to a far greater extent than in the other quartets. The bassoon, incidentally, frequently takes a back seat in these two works, whereas in the other six quartets it only has brief resting periods to offset the passages in which it is the soloist and others in which it is accompanying.
As a melodist Pfeiffer, if rarely outstanding, is at least elegant after the manner of the period, with much Italianate galant charm in his attractive and often quite memorable melodies: the opening of Bassoon Quartet "no. 2" is a good example: Fig. 6. If he inevitably tends to adhere to regular four bar phrasing, he does vary this from time to time by extending a phrase or by introducing more irregular patterns, and phrase elisions often occur at major cadence points. Contrasting themes are found in sonata-form movements, with the concertos opening with a main theme of generally more motivic/rhythmic than melodic importance and a more Italianate lyrical second subject theme, as in Bassoon Concerto "no. 6:" Fig. 7. In contrast, the more intimate chamber works tend to place an emphasis on lyrical themes, as in Figs. 5 & 6.
Three rhythmic cliches dominated European music, particularly the concerto, during the late 18th century, and these are all found in Pfeiffer's music. The first is a majestic opening 'call-to-attention,' as at the start of Bassoon Concerto "no. 6" (Fig. 8), whilst the second is a stress (often syncopated) on the second beat of 4/4 time, a motif that pervades the entire first movement of Bassoon Concerto "no. 2" to its detriment: Fig. 9. The third cliche is a slurred eighth-note (quaver),sentimental' appoggiatura figure that occurs most characteristically on the first beat of the bar, (often followed by a second-beat stress as above), a figure much associated with the Mannheim composers and one that is frequently encountered in Pfeiffer's music, such as in the opening bars of Bassoon Sonata "no. 2:" Fig. 10. In using these and other commonplace rhythmic figures of the time (such as the repeated notes and syncopations of the so-called 'Mannheim crescendo'), Pfeiffer was merely following the stylistic dictates of the period, and at least he generally uses them with discretion, unlike some other minor composers. His frequent use of a limited type of material, with recurring motifs or rhythms (especially in transition and linking passages, as well as for accompaniments), helps to bind the music and give it an overall unity, although this is unfortunately overdone in a number of cases.
Tonality & Harmony
The most popular keys for bassoon concertos during the late 18th century were those of C, F and B flat major, which suit the instrument particularly well, and this is reflected in Pfeiffer's exclusive use of these three keys in all eight of his concertos (including the one for Bassoon and Oboe). They also dominate his chamber music with only two exceptions, namely Bassoon Quartet "no. 2" (G major) and Quartet "no. 6" (d minor, the relative minor of F major). The finales naturally adopt the same key signature as the first movements, but the slow movements display slightly more scope: that of Bassoon Concerto "no. 1" is in c minor (with a middle section in C major), that of Concerto "No. 2" and of Bassoon Sonata "no. 2" is in E flat major, whilst that of Bassoon Quartet "no. 1" is in G major. Otherwise, the slow movements all adopt one of the three keys listed above. Only two works retain the same key for all three movements (Bassoon Quartet "No. 5" and the Trio-Divertimento), an oldfashioned feature. It can be seen from this that Pfeiffer never strayed beyond three flats or one sharp for his basic key signature, although the various modulations within each movement naturally go further afield. These are generally predictable, after the manner of his time, although at one point in Bassoon Concerto "no. 4" the return from the dominant (F major) to the tonic (B flat) is delayed by an unexpected move to the supertonic minor (c minor), thence back sequentially to the tonic, a positively daring procedure for Pfeiffer (but not for a more skilled composer!): Fig. 11.
Pfeiffer's harmony is by and large conventional, it is often
surprisingly sensitive, and his tonal range often unexpectedly wide,
more so in the bassoon quartets than in any other works. Occasional
tonal shifts up or down a third (major
or minor) are not uncommon, as in Bassoon Quartet "no. 2:" Fig.
12, and chromaticism occasionally adds a delightful touch,
as in the Adagio of Bassoon Concerto "no. 2"
Sections of solo passagework have predominantly tonic-dominant harmonies, and this is also largely true of finale rondo refrain melodies (resulting in more memorable themes). Harmonic sequences in development sections are comparatively rare, as are pedal points leading up to major cadences (especially prior to recapitulations), contrary to the common practice of the day. One surprising feature of Pfeiffer's music is the comparatively large number of intentional harmonic minor scales (both ascending and descending), very much a propensity of his (most composers of the period prefer to use the melodic minor scale), as in Bassoon Quartet "no. 4" (Fig. 14), where each accidental sign is clearly marked in the manuscript.
is no doubt that Pfeiffer, first and foremost a bassoon virtuoso,
revels in his own undisputed virtuosity. His writing for the bassoon is
undoubtedly fine, and is far superior to that of most contemporaries of
his who wrote for the instrument but did not play it themselves. His melodic
material for the instrument is thoroughly idiomatic, written as it
generally is in the tenor register and lying easily below the
performer's fingers, as in the opening of Bassoon Sonata "no. 1," where
Pfeiffer exploits the high b' flat of the
The range of virtuosity demanded in the chamber music is overall less than in the concertos, however, since Pfeiffer was here dealing with a more intimate combination of instruments, with audience expectations substantially different from those of a concerto performance. The bassoon being more 'primus inter pares' than outright soloist of necessity curtails the scope for extended virtuosity within the quartet texture. In addition, the shorter length of the movements in comparison with those of the concertos makes sections of extended passagework almost redundant, and what there is is frequently divided between the bassoon and violin in a more democratic fashion.
achievements as a bassoonist were not inconsiderable. From humble
origins in a family of non-musicians to the principal bassoonist of one
of the best court orchestras in Germany, that in itself is quite
remarkable, but that he should also be considered one of the greatest
German bassoonists of his day is true evidence indeed of his abilities.
Today he is for the most part remembered as a minor composer, but even
that is more than can be said for the vast majority of his
contemporaries. Pfeiffer was never employed as a composer: his music
was written for his own use, but the fact remains that he still merits
attention today (even in major dictionaries such as The New Grove),
whereas most of his
Since it has proved impossible to establish an accurate chronology for his music, it is equally impossible to speculate in what direction Pfeiffer's music was progressing at the time of his premature death, or even whether it was in fact progressing in any particular direction at all. It must therefore be judged in a body exactly as it stands. Although his music has a pervasive lyricism and genuine charm, Pfeiffer was sadly no master. Each work has at least one compositional imperfection to mar one of its movements, be it structural or stylistic, or perhaps simply a matter of overall balance of proportions: perfection was certainly beyond his grasp, and this aspect marks him out as a composer of the second or third rank, not one of the 'greats.' Nevertheless, the inventiveness with which the majority of his compositions are thought out, the craftsmanship put into their construction, the general concern over minutiae, and the ever-present imagination of their creator, are all hallmarks of Pfeiffer's style.
Was Pfeiffer original? Almost certainly not, but the frequent minor 'experiments' of procedure encountered in his works,75 the successful ones often repeated elsewhere, whilst others were usually quietly forgotten or improved upon, surely indicates his concern for keeping up with current musical thought. Although largely a fusion of diverse elements from various schools of composition, the majority of works are distinctly his. While few of his compositions make any pretensions to greatness, the first six Bassoon Quartets undoubtedly constitute the finest group of compositions to issue from his pen, something that Hummel must surely have recognized when he published them in 1785. And then there is Pfeiffer's writing for the bassoon, which marks him out as a master of composition for this instrument. His achievements overall as a composer do outweigh his weaknesses and raise him above many of his fellow musician-composers who have hitherto suffered a similar amount of neglect, making him worthy of the title 'Kleinmeister' and making his music overdue for a modern revival.
1 The Begräbnisregister of the Ludwigslust-Hofgemeinde (entries for 1787, p. 29, entry no. 42), preserved at the Oberkirchenrat Schwerin, Germany, confirms the date. The first biographer to give 1792 as the year of Pfeiffer's death was E.L. Gerber, Neues Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler (Leipzig, 1812-14) - Gerber's earlier Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler (Leipzig, 1790-92) states that Pfeiffer was still living!2 The present author's PhD dissertation, The life and works of Franz Anton Pfeiffer (1752-1787) with an edition of his music (Univ. of Belfast, 1983) collates all this information. Large holdings of letters and other documents relating to Pfeiffer are located at the Staatsarchiv Schwerin.
3 The Kirchenbücher der Catholischen Pfarrei von W'buch (Liber Primus, p. 9), preserved at the Windischbuch village presbytery, records Pfeiffer's birth. All previous biographers, including The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London, 1980), give the year of Pfeiffer's birth as 1754. A daughter was born in 1748, and after Franz Anton came five more children, but none of these became musicians: the second son eventually succeeded his father as the village schoolmaster, and another became a farmer, for example.4 There were two double-bass players in the Mannheim court orchestra in 1767, Johann Wendling Schaffer and Joseph Rossler, and Pfeiffer presumably studied with one of these.
5 C.F. Cramer, Magazin der Musik (Hamburg, 1783), 1, part 2, col. 830, reported in June 1783, shortly after Pfeiffer's arrival at Ludwigslust, that 'he was in the Mannheim Kapelle as a double-bass player several years ago,' a report that must have come via Pfeiffer's own mouth. He was never a full member of the Hofkapelle, however, as his name does not appear in any of the official lists of musicians. The unpaid 'Akzessisten' were advanced students still learning their craft who occasionally played in the court orchestra to gain experience. Most courts operated such a system for training new players during the late 18th century.6 Ibid., il, col. 784-5, mentions one F.F. Hengel, of the Bentheim-Steinfurtische Kapelle, who also played both the bassoon and double-bass, for instance.
7 See the present author's article on Rheiner in the 1993 I.D.R.S. Journal. Pfeiffer would hardly have been in a financial position to finance his own studies. His teacher was not the horn player
8 C. Israël, Frankfurter Concert-Chronik von 1713-1780 (Frankfurt, 1876), p. 60, reproduces the advertisements for both this concert and the one that Pfeiffer subsequently took part in in April 1777 (p. 62). Whether Pfeiffer had given any public concerts before December 1776 is not known. K. Schweickert, Die Musikpflege am Hofe der Kurfürsten von Mainz im 17, und 18. Jahrhundert (Mainz, 1937), states that Pfeiffer learned the bassoon under Rheiner 'and could already go on tour after a short time,' but gives no details.9 Schmidt was born in Mainz and was a pupil of the famous Jan Václav Stich alias Giovanni Punto (1746-1803), the most famous horn player in Europe at that time. Nothing is known of Kittel.
10 The petition is preserved at the Stadtarchiv Frankfurt-am-Main in the Raths Supplicationen April-Juni 1777 (11. 339), pp. 71-72.11 A.R. Mohr, Frankfurter Theater von der Wandertruppen zum Komödienhaus (Frankfurt, 1967), quotes this account from the Frankfurter Dramaturgie of 1781.
12 0. Bacher, Frankfurts musikalische Buhnengeschichte im achtzehnten Jahrhundert.- Teil I - Die Zeit der Wandertruppen (1700-1786) (Frankfurt, 1925), repeats much information from the Theaterjournal für Deutschland of 1777 (1778, v, PP. 76-7). Seyler's orchestra included several prominent musicians: the musical director and 'house-composer' was C.G. Neefe, later to become a teacher of Beethoven. The brothers F.L. and H. Benda, members of the famous Bohemian family of musicians with that surname, also achieved some prominence as composers.13 C. Israel, op. cit., p. 63. Nothing more is known of the concert or the music performed by these musicians, nor is it known whether Pfeiffer was performing a concerto or else chamber music of some kind.
14 Seyler's company did in fact go bankrupt in Frankfurt towards the end of 1778: he had a very high annual expenditure (90,000 Gulden), and audiences eventually dwindled due to his promoting theatrical fare of too serious-minded a nature for popular consumption (including plays by Lessing and German translations of Shakespeare). His creditors seized the company's wardrobe in September 1778, and Seyler fled with his wife to Mannheim, where he eventually became the director of Elector Karl Theodor's National Theatre.15 Pfeiffer's petition is preserved at the Staatsarchiv Würzburg, in the Mainzer Geheime Kanzlei (225, fascicle 14, documents numbered 389-390).
16 Hogarth's undated oil painting, A Musical Party, The Mathias Family, is reproduced by kind permission of the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, England (accession no. 647).
17 J.N. Forkel, Musikalischer Almanach fur Deutschland auf das Jahre 1782 (Leipzig, 1782), chapter 5.18 C.F. Cramer, op. cit., il, col. 757ff.
19 Ibid., i, part 2, col. 830, contains the first biography of Pfeiffer. Cramer's correspondent at Ludwigslust presumably interviewed Pfeiffer on his arrival there.
20 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 838, document numbered 13-16. The general wording of Pfeiffer's decree is standard, his wife's later appointment decree of 1787 being virtually identical.
21 C. Meyer, Geschichte der Mecklenburg-Schweriner Hofkapelle (Schwerin, 1913), records these latter emoluments, although they are not listed in the archives. W.H. Bruford, Germany in the Eighteenth Century.- The Social Background of the Literary Revival (Cambridge, 1935), p. 329, states that I Gulden was the equivalent of 2/3 Reichsthaler: Pfeiffer's salary at Ludwigslust was therefore worth considerably more than that at Mainz, although the cost of living in real terms may well have been higher at Ludwigslust (as Pfeiffer's letter to the duke of around 6 October 1783 intimates).
22 Duke Christian Ludwig 11
originally built a hunting castle near the village of Kleinow, which he
renamed Ludwigslust in 1754. His successor, Duke Friedrich 'der Fromme'
('the pious'), so loved the quiet of the place that he moved his entire
court from the hustle and bustle of Schwerin town around the year 1767,
and in 1772
23 Even prominent musicians had on occasion to be turned away: in 1792, for example, Karl Stamitz applied for a position, but all the places were filled, and Duke Friedrich Franz I regretted not being able to accommodate him (Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 839: correspondence).
24 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 840, documents numbered 47, 68/75 and 90-95. Pfeiffer's widow eventually purchased the house from the then Grand-Duke in 1832. In 1828 (document 68/75), the property included a builton annex in the courtyard, a stable, a 'back premises' situated in the garden, and two separate garden plots in addition to the garden attached to the house. The property was at that time valued at 1767 Reichsthaler.
25 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 838, document 30-31.
26 One of the copyists of various manuscripts of Pfeiffer's was the oboist and bassoonist (he studied the latter during the 1790s) F.C. Wilhelm Berwald (1776-1798), for example. He died at Ludwigslust of dysentery at the age of only 22. One of his brothers was the father of the distinguished Swedish composer Franz Berwald (1796-1868).
27 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Hauptarchiv Neustrelitz (IV 146, 2: 'Stargardsche Ausgabe ...'fascicle). The document of 16 February 1785 records the gift of the snuff-box to Pfeiffer on 15 February.
28 The exact dates of Pfeiffer's visit(s) to Berlin are not known, but a period of time between October 1785 and February 1786 is implied by his subsequent correspondence with the duke at Ludwigslust (Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 838, documents numbered 25 42-3, 47-8).
29 The title-page is reproduced by kind permission of the Mecklenburgische Landesbibliothek Schwerin (shelf-mark 4211). Hummel listed the quartets in a pre-publication notice in the Berlinische Nachrichten von Staats= und gelehrten Sachen of 28 August 1784, and they were readvertised as having been published in the Amsterdamsche Courant of 15 February 1785 [from C. Johansson, J.J. & B. Hummel. Music-Publishing and Thematic Catalogues (Stockholm, 1972)].
30 According to W.H. Bruford, op. cit., p. 330, 1 louis-d'or was the equivalent of 5 Reichsthaler or 71/2 Gulden, whilst 1 ducat was worth 3 Reichsthaler or 41/2 Gulden.
31 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 838, document 25.32 Ibid., document 4748.
33 It is always possible that Pfeiffer was in fact exaggerating the extent of these offers, or perhaps they were not quite as advantageous as he made them out to be: poor conditions of service or a higher cost of living may have been involved, for example.
34 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 838, document 21-2.35 Ibid., document 20/23.
36 Pfeiffer's request for a pension for his future widow was in fact based on a similar one recently obtained for his wife by the Ludwigslust court oboist J.F. Braun (1785-1824): she received her pension after Braun's death in 1824, but years after his death, Pfeiffer's widow mistakenly believed that her pension had not been granted (it had been), and between 1820 and 1847 she made regular demands for its implementation (Kabinett I Vol. 840 documentation).
37 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 840, document 7-8.38 Ibid., Kabinett I Vol. 838, document 47-8,
40 Ehrenbreitstein (Koblenz), Roman Catholic Pfarramt, Traubuch, p.199.
41 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 939, document 24/26.
42 C.F. Cramer, op. cit., i, part 2, col. 1384, documents these concerts in a report dated 7 March 1787.
43 F.J. Lipowsky, Baierisches Musik-Lexikon (Munich, 1811), p. 272.
45 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 840, document 3: a receipt for '30 louis-d-'or or 137 Reichsthaler 24 [Kreuzer?]' - see footnote 30, however.
46 Ibid., Hofmarschallamt Hofmusiker - Personalia collection, Herr, Braun, Pfeiffer (1787) fascicle, document 3 dated 25 April, although later references in Kabinett I Vol. 840 give the date of Frau Pfeiffer's appointment as 24 April. She also received 2 cords of wood and 2000 sods of turf/peat annually.47 Ibid., Kabinett I Vol. 532, document 394.
49 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Hofsmatssachen: VIIIter Bundel collection, Frau Pfeiffer fascicle, document 511 dated 22 October 1787. Pfeiffer's father died at Windischbuch on 26 December 1811 at the age of 90 years (Kirchenbücher der Catholischen Pfarrei von W'buch, Liber Primus, p. 552). Whether he ever claimed or received his legacy is not known.
50 Kadel became an oboist in the duke's 'LeibGrenadier Regiment' at Ludwigslust in 1783 and was appointed second bassoonist in the Hofkapelle in March 1790 (with a salary of 200 Thaler). He may also have been one of Pfeiffer's copyists (perhaps in exchange for lessons). He left Ludwigslust in February 1794 on account of quarrels with the wife of the bass singer Sedlazeck and is believed to have settled in Mainz, where he remained until at least 1799 (Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett I Vol. 830 documentation).
51 Oberkirchenrat Schwerin, Geburts- und Taufregister of the Ludwigslust-Hofgemeinde, p. 16 entry no. 90.
52 E.L. Gerber, op. cit (1790-92), was one of the earliest biographers of Pfeiffer, and many later accounts were based on this and his later (1812-14) reports of him.
53 [Anon.], 'On the Rise and Progress of the Bassoon,' Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, ed. R.M. Bacon (London, 1824), vi. pp. 188-198.
54 C.L. Junker, Musikalischer Almanach (Freiburg, 1783), p. 51.
55 See the present author's article on Rheiner, op. cit., pp. 43-44.
56 The impression of Pfeiffer's seal is reproduced with the kind permission of the Staatsarchiv Schwerin (see footnote 49). It has already been reproduced in the present author's article, 'Franz Anton Pfeiffer and the Bassoon,' The Galpin Society Journal, xxxvi (1983), pp. 97-103, but U.S. readers will probably be unacquainted with it. The article includes an examination of this seal and those impressed on several earlier documents connected with Pfeiffer.
57 Unfortunately, no other impression of this particular seal has been found on any earlier document connected with Pfeiffer, although a different seal impression on a letter of his dating from October 1786 does suggest that the seal on his Last Will and Testament does in fact date from between then and October 1787.
58 H.C. Koch, Musikalisches Lexikon (Leipzig, 1802), p. 550. Koch wrote that octave keys (a second one had recently been added to facilitate the performance of high c," c#," and d") were only to be found on 'modern' bassoons, although they were sometimes added to older instruments.
59 The full-length portrait of Rheiner holding his bassoon is reproduced in the present author's article on Rheiner, op. cit., p. 41.
60 The Schwerin court music collection had been in existence since the end of the 17th century and was particularly active during the time the court was at Ludwigslust (1767-1835/37): not only did the court composers and Kapellmeister contribute music, but even the ordinary musicians of the Hofkapelle were encouraged to donate copies of their compositions. There was also a mutual exchange of music with musicians from other courts, and musicians on concert tours of Italy and France in particular were asked to purchase music for the collection 'provided it was not too expensive.' When the court finally returned to Schwerin in 1835/37, the collection was housed in the Grand-Duke's castle before being transferred to the town library in the cathedral cloisters in 1891. Unlike many other German libraries, this collection has remained intact and has fortunately survived the ravages of two world wars.
61 Staatsarchiv Schwerin, Kabinett
I Vol. 524, Hofcapelle-Allgemeines fascicle,
includes a document dated 16 October 1789 recording the payment to Pfeiffer's widow (now
remarried) of 20 louis d'or (she actually received 100 Reichsthaler)
for the sale of 'Musikalien' to the court. Unfortunately, the document
fails to specify the exact nature of this material, but the
considerable sum of money involved (an entire year's salary for some of
the lowlier employees of the court) suggests that it was probably in
exchange for Pfeiffer's entire music collection, which also included
bassoon music by a number of other composers, including Karl Stamitz.
67 Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (Leipzig, 1804), vi, p. 686. The anonymous review dated July 1804 lists the concertos as Pfeiffer's Op. 7 in B flat major and Op. 8 in C major. Only the scoring Of the Op. 7 work is given: solo bassoon, pairs Of oboes and horns, and strings, which matches that of Pfeiffer's manuscript Concerto "no. 4" (present author's numbering) exactly. Two of his concertos are in C major ("no. 1" and "no. 6"), and so Op. 8 could be either of these. The composer's name is given as 'Mr. A. Pfeiffer' (most of Pfeiffer's concerto manuscripts are in fact signed 'di Ant: Pfeiffer'). If Pfeiffer's Op. I Bassoon Quartets are counted as six separate works then Op. 7 would indeed follow on from these, although this is obviously cheating! Hummel may have thought that the higher opus numbers might ensure better sales, particularly in view of the fact that Pfeiffer's music must have sounded old-fashioned by 1803 (the year of Beethoven's 'Eroica' Symphony).68 Why Hummel did not publish these concertos earlier remains a mystery. He most likely purchased them from Pfeiffer either along with the bassoon quartets or else following the publication of those works, but there seems little reason to suppose that he could have purchased them from Pfeiffer's widow as late as c. 1800, since musical style and public taste had moved on, and Pfeiffer's music could hardly have been in demand, as was Mozart's after his death. It is therefore probable that the concertos had simply languished in Hummel's possession until 1803.
69 The bassoon's decline as a popular solo instrument is partly due to its inability to compete successfully with the modern full symphony orchestra, but also because as a soloist it does not instill the same degree of excitement into a modern audience as do the pianoforte, violin or clarinet (for example). This is partly connected with its timbre and more limited dynamic range, but is perhaps more due to its effective pitch range not extending high enough: most 19th-20th century cello concertos succeed only because of their writing for that instrument in its treble (rather than tenor or bass) register.
70 Mozart does the same thing in the first movement of his Piano Concerto in E flat, K449, for example: here the second subject theme at bar 37 is clearly in the dominant (the music only returns to the tonic at bar 63). This is a feature of the early-Classical concerto that weakens this tutti's function as an introductory ritornello.71. These proportions are not always ideal, however: Bassoon Concerto "no. 1" has an opening ritornello that is only one sixth of the overall length of the movement, resulting in proportionately overlong solo episodes, whilst Concerto "no. 3" has a huge opening ritornello but only a tiny second solo episode (= development).
72 The author's PhD dissertation, op. cit., discusses these and other aspects of Pfeiffer's compositional style in far greater detail than is possible here.73 In the latter, the A sections of the normal ABA ternary structure are subdivided into a miniature aba scheme of their own, resulting in a strong rondo feel to the movement overall.
75 Lack of space prohibits any detailed discussion of the compositional minutiae of Pfeiffer's music. Suffice it to say that there is much diversity between different movements that share a similar broad compositional framework, making it evident that Pfeiffer was constantly experimenting to achieve a perfect balance, even if he never achieved this.About the Author
David Rhodes is Lecturer in Musicology on the BA Music degree programme at the Waterford Regional Technical College, Ireland. Active as a conductor and bassoonist, he has carried out research into various areas of late-18th century German instrumental music, including the use of ripieno strings in concerto performances (including those for bassoon). He has also prepared a large number of scholarly-performing editions of late Baroque and Classical chamber and orchestral music, many of which are currently being published by Piper Publications of Scotland and Anglo-American Music Publishers of England. His article on Pfeiffer's teacher, Felix Rheiner, appeared in the 1993 ID.R.S. Journal.