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Richter was between 1747 and 1760 a part of the Mannheim orchestra, playing lead second violin. He also appeared twice as a singer in operatic performances. Later he become Kapellmeister at Strassbourg for the remainder of his life. Apart from 68 symphonies ascribed to him and numerous chamber pieces he wrote six harpsichord concertos, six horn concertos and one flute concerto, and one trumpet concerto.
(Contribution by Glenn Gabrielsen <firstname.lastname@example.org>.)
Franz Xaver Richter is best known as a singer and composer at the famous court of Elector Karl of Mannheim. He was one of those few composers, like Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach, whose styles span three different musical periods of the 18th Century: baroque, roccoco, and classical. Although highly regarded in his lifetime (Mozart had high respect for his work) , he is one of the most neglected of classical composers today. The Schwann catalogs have only a few recorded works by him.
Many of Richter’s earlier works were published in London, including rococo symphonies that included a basso continuo in the early 1740’s. However, in the 1750’s he composed a set of six string quartets (divertimenti "Op. 5"), the first of which was published by Breitkopf & H&aunl;rtel and is well-known to most professional quartet players. This beautiful quartet (the best estimate suggests it was composed around 1756) anticipates by nearly 15 years the pathbreaking Op. 20 quartets of Franz Joseph Haydn (1770), which were his first to extend solistic treatments to all the instruments. The other four surviving quartets in the "Op. 5" series are also charming, and have probably been neglected because of their lightness (several end in minuets). Professional quartet players of the later 20th Century need to be known for their technical prowess and eschew works whose main objective is to bring pleasure to audiences.
Another set of six quartets published in London in 1768 are available from the Royal Swedish Archives (I have copies) but are in a compressed notational typography that is unsuitable for playing by contemporary professionals. This set needs modern playing editions and recordings. I predict it will eventually become a major addition to the quartet literature. It should gladden quartet lovers tired of endlessly hearing the same standard works.
The least known (in the United States) side of Richter is his sacred choral/orchestral compositions, written, after he left Mannheim in 1768, during his tenure as director of the Strasbourg Cathedral. Thanks to friends in Strasbourg I have received tape recordings of some of his church music. This music is devout, powerful, and original, and emphasizes a contrapuntal style, which characterized most of Richter’s compositions. Indeed, it seems that Richter did not favor the rather secular (and Protestant) atmosphere of the Mannheim court, and the mannered, typically "classical" character of much of the music composed there.
A German PhD dissertation has been written about Richter’s work (which I have not seen), and I would otherwise welcome comments about this unusual classical composer.
(Contributed by Frank Manheim <email@example.com>.)