Joseph Leutgeb

Joseph Leutgeb

Joseph (Ignaz) Leutgeb (or Leitgeb) (October 8, 1732 - February 27, 1811) was an outstanding horn player of the classical era, a friend and musical inspiration for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Little is known of his early years. The composer Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf stated that Leutgeb performed in Vienna in the early 1750s for Prince Hildinghausen. During the early 1760s, Leutgeb's career flourished; according to Daniel Heartz, he "was the most prominent horn soloist in Vienna, and evidently one of the best received players on any solo instrument." [Heartz (1995, 277)] . It is recorded that during period 21 November 1761 to 28 January 1763 he performed horn concertos by Leopold Hofmann, Michael Haydn and Dittersdorf at the Burgtheater.

Heartz suggests that at this time (1762) Joseph Haydn wrote his Concerto in D, Hob. VIId/3D, for Leutgeb. The two likely were friends, as Haydn and his wife served as godparents for Leutgeb's child. [Heartz, 535. Haydn missed the baptism, probably because of the requirements of his job in Eisenstadt (Heartz 1995, 277).] In February 1763 Leutgeb was briefly a part of the musical establishment of the Esterházy family, directed at the time by Haydn. He was paid a "high yearly salary" [New Grove] but departed, for reasons unknown, after only one month.

In the same year Leutgeb moved to Salzburg and joined the musical establishment of the ruling Prince-Archbishop; and thus became a colleague of Leopold Mozart and (later the same year), the Konzertmeister Michael Haydn. [Haydn's appointment took effect 14 August 1763; New Grove article "Michael Haydn"] . He also made friends with a seven-year-old child prodigy, Leopold's son Wolfgang. A letter to friends from Leopold, traveling with his family on tour (20 August 1763), includes a list of people that Wolfgang told Leopold he missed; Leutgeb was one of them. [Küstler 1996, 227] Wolfgang ultimately was employed by the court music establishment and thus became Leutgeb's colleague.

Like Leopold and Wolfgang, Leutgeb took frequent leaves from his job for the purpose of performing in other cities, including Paris, Vienna, Frankfurt, and cities in Italy; the three of them actually toured together in Italy in February 1773. [Steinberg 1998, 276]

In 1777, Leutgeb moved back to Vienna, where his father in law ran a cheesemonger's shop (the "New Grove" correctly suggests that the shop was merely inherited). He continued as a soloist there (see following section) and retired from playing in 1792. [New Grove]

Leutgeb and Mozart

Leutgab was most likely the adult Mozart's favorite horn player, as a number of the composer's works were written for him. These include the Horn Concertos K. 417, K. 495 and K. 412/386b (514) and "probably" (New Grove) the Horn Quintet K. 407/386c. These date from Mozart's time in Vienna, after his move there in 1781. The concertos are at the core of the solo horn literature and are widely performed today.

These works were written for natural horn, the valved instrument not being invented until about 1810. Leutgeb thus needed to exercise great lip control, as well as using the hand-stopping technique (hand in bell) to play chromatic notes.

Mozart had a curious joking relationship with Leutgeb, seen for instance in the mocking comments he placed in Leutgeb's horn parts. K. 417 bears the mock dedication: "Wolfgang Amadé Mozart takes pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox, and simpleton, at Vienna, March 27, 1783". [Jahn 1891, 338] In one place he marks the orchestra part "Allegro" and the solo part "Adagio", perhaps mocking the tendency of horn notes to come in late, dragging the tempo. [Solomon 1995] For another possible instance, see K. 412. The multicolored inks in K. 495 are often taken to be a kind of joke, though Mozart biographer Konrad Küstler has claimed they had a purpose, specifically "to make some musical suggestions to the interpreters." [Küstler 1996, pp. 231-32]

Letters from the end of Mozart's life suggests that Leutgeb didn't mind the teasing and that the two had a good friendship. A letter by Mozart of 6 June 1791 indicates that, while his wife Constanze was away, he stayed for several nights at Leutgeb's, "because I had discharged [the maid] Leonore and I would have been all alone at home, which would not have been pleasant." [Quoted from Solomon 1995, 480] Later the same year, after the highly successful premiere of his opera The Magic Flute, Mozart repeatedly took friends and relatives to performances, and wrote in a letter (8-9 October) "Leutgeb begged me to take him a second time and I did so." [Solomon 1995, 487]


A press review of one of Leutgeb's performances in Paris ("Mercure de France") indicates he was a fine performer: the reviewer said Leutgeb was a "superior talent", with the ability to "sing an adagio as perfectly as the most mellow, interesting and accurate voice".



Except where indicated by footnote, all information from this article is taken from the following source:

*Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, on line edition, article "Joseph Leutgeb". Copyright 2007 by Oxford University Press. The article is written by Reginald Morley-Pegge and Thomas Hiebert.

Other sources:

*Heartz, Daniel (1995) "Haydn, Mozart, and the Viennese School". Norton.
*Küstler, Konrad (1996) "Mozart: A Musical Biography". Translated by Mary Whittall. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
*Jahn, Otto (1891) "Life of Mozart", trans. Pauline D. Townsend, vol. 2. London: Novello, Ewer.
*Solomon, Maynard (1995) "Mozart: A Documentary Biography". Harper Collins.
*Steinberg, Michael (1998) "The Concerto: A Listener's Guide". Oxford University Press.

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