Friedrich Theodor Fröhlich
Streichquartett g-Moll; Streichquartett E-Dur; Streichquartett c-Moll.
Many people in the German-speaking countries know a work by Friedrich Theodor Fröhlich without ever having heard his name – he’s the composer of the song “Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen” to a text by Joseph von Eichendorff, which was a hit that was included in every song book until the early 20th century. This song’s popularity surely lies in Fröhlich’s singable but by no means simple melody. No other work by this Swiss composer has achieved any similar degree of popularity, and in fact most of his works have not even been published to this day. During his academic years, Fröhlich spent four years in Berlin, and his experiences in the highly lively music scene of the big city made this a formative time for him. He was given composition lessons by no less a figure than Carl Friedrich Zelter, the director of many years standing of the Sing-Akademie, the founder of the Berlin Liedertafel (literally “song table”, a German term for a choral society) and the teacher of Felix Mendelssohn. Also just like Mendelssohn, Fröhlich took piano lessons from Ludwig Berger, at the time the most famous piano teacher in Berlin. Berger, like Zelter, was an advocate of folk song and of choral singing. He founded the “Jüngere Liedertafel” (the “younger Liedtafel”), a male choral society so named to differentiate itself from Zelter’s choir. Fröhlich, too, sang in Berger’s choir. In 1830 Fröhlich returned to Switzerland in the hope that he might build up a career for himself there. His brother, Abraham Emanuel Fröhlich, procured a job for him at the Cantonal High School in Aarau, though this did not suffice to cover all his living costs. He also conducted amateur orchestras and the Singing Institute in Aarau, though Fröhlich felt constricted in his activities: “From seven on a morning to six, often even seven in the evening”, he said, he existed “under the yoke of a miserable career”. Nevertheless, Fröhlich succeeded in composing in his spare time. While working in Aarau in the 1830s he wrote a concert overture, chamber music, piano pieces and part-songs. The last of his four string quartets, in C minor, was also composed in these years. Despite his numerous commitments, Fröhlich still had financial difficulties. Besides problems in his private life he also seems to have suffered from depression and from a lack of recognition for his works. He was not able to withstand the pressure these worries exerted on him, and in October 1836, at the age of 33, he jumped into the River Aare and drowned.
Friedrich Theodor Fröhlich (1803-1836)
BeethovenQuartett: Matyas Bartha und Laurentius Bonitz, Violinen; Vahagn Aristakesyan, Viola; Carlos Conrad, Violoncello.
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