Composers you have never heard of, and their strange deaths (part one)……


Lets hear it for Jean-Baptiste Krumpholtz (1742–1790) who was a minor composer not particularly well known these days, maybe because his last name sounds a bit like a German skin complaint. He was revered in his time as a skilled harpist, indeed one of the greatest of the later eighteenth century. He served in the employ of the Esterházys, a wealthy Hungarian noble family  who were great patrons of the arts. Haydn, who was also under their patronage, gave him lessons in composition during his stay. Eager to improve the structure and sound of his instrument, he was responsible for working on some new innovative designs for the harps of his time with Jean-Henri Naderman, a well-known harp maker.
His wife, Anne-Marie, was also a virtuoso harpist and had been his student. With the apparent thought that she could do better than poor Jean-Baptiste, Anne-Marie began an affair in 1788 with pianist and composer Jan Ladislav Dussek and allegedly ran off to London with him a year later. Dussek was eager to escape the dangers of revolutionary France, and taking refuge in England with someone else’s young wife seemed an appealing alternative.
Dussek was apparently quite proud of his good looks, or at least his profile. When performing, he turned the direction of the piano by 90 degrees. Previously, pianists had faced the audience. But with this new configuration, audiences now viewed him in profile and thus were spared none of the thrill. Interestingly, the idea caught on and is still the preferred positioning of pianists on stage to this day, regardless of how dashing (or not) their profiles may be. Dussek grew tired of Anne-Marie and abandoned her in 1792. He married the singer (and yet another harpist) Sophia Corri in that year but also left her by the century’s end. He was a bit of a twat.
Back to Jean-Baptiste: he was so despondent over the whole thing that he jumped into the frigid waters of the Seine in Paris in February 1790 and promptly drowned..

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