Christoph Willibald Gluck – Life and Work

Christoph Willibald Gluck is regarded as one of the leading opera composers of the second half of the 18th century. He began other studies in Prague but soon devoted himself entirely to music. After a period in Vienna, he relocated to Milan in 1736. There, as well as working as an orchestral musician, he probably also studied with Sammartini and enjoyed his first success with his debut opera Artaserse. In 1745 he went to London where he performed with Handel whom he greatly admired. After further years spent travelling he lived in Vienna from 1752. Gluck’s name is inextricably linked with his operatic reforms in which he turned against the prevailing Italian and French conventions, instead placing importance on the supremacy of word over music, the faithfulness of expression, and dramatic unity. The works which follow these ideals (particularly Orfeo ed Euridice, but also Alceste, Armida and the two Iphigenie operas.) are frequently performed today and have defined our image of Gluck. There is however increasing interest in the treasures which remain to be rediscovered amongst his other operas.