Juan Arriaga

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Born: 27 January 1806

Died: 17 January 1826


Juan Crisostomo Arriaga was born in Bilbao on 27 January 1806 - 50 years to the day after Mozart. His father, Juan Simon, was a wealthy merchant and trained musician who encouraged his son's exceptional musical and artistic talents. At 11 he started composing major chamber, orchestral and choral works, the most remarkable of which was a two-act opera 'Los Esclavos Felices', written at the age of 13 and successfully performed in Bilbao. When Arriaga was 16 he was sent to study at the Paris Conservatoire where the Principal, Cherubini, judged Arriaga's choral work 'Et Vitam Venturi' (now lost) to be a masterpiece. He absorbed all the principles of harmony and counterpoint in only three months and two years later, aged 18, he became the youngest professor ever appointed at the Conservatoire.

Arriaga's feverish creativity appears to have undermined his health and towards the end of 1825 he began to suffer from an unspecified illness, probably tuberculosis. He died in Paris on 17th January 1826, ten days before his 20th birthday, and was buried the same day in a communal grave in the Montmartre cemetery. His works, which remained largely unknown for the next hundred years, are now being published and some, notably the three fine string quartets and the powerful Symphony in D major, have been recorded several times. Other works include the cantatas 'Agar', 'Erminia' and 'Edipo' and 'All'Aurora', three caprices for piano, two sets of variations and several shorter orchestral pieces.

Arriaga's music is notable for its exceptional fluency, power and technique. The overture to 'Los Esclavos Felices', written before his training in Paris, demonstrates his outstanding creativity. Sadly, the rest of this opera, Arriaga's largest work, appears not to have survived apart from a few fragments.

His opera Los Esclavos felices (The Happy Slaves) has recently been republished and his three Quartets are still played today. A Symphony, a Cantata and various religious works complete the oeuvre of a very talented composer with a undeniable gifts of freshness and grace, who was known in his time as the Spanish Mozart. Although he was a contemporary to Beethoven and Schubert his style is more akin to earlier classical period composers.

List of choral works

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External links