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Brian Zeger

Johannes Matthias Sperger was one of the most prolific composers of his time. Nevertheless his reputation rested largely on his abilities as a player of the double bass, an instrument for which he wrote eighteen concertos, as a performer using a five-string bass with various tunings. Born in Feldsberg, the modern Valtice in the Czech Republic, he apparently studied first there with the organist Franz Anton Becker, before moving to Vienna, where he was a double bass pupil of Friedrich Pichlberger, a member of Emanuel Schikaneder’s orchestra. Sperger took composition lessons from Beethoven’s later teacher, Albrechtsberger, and made his début in Vienna with his own compositions at the age of eighteen. There are records of a performance of a symphony and double bass concerto by Sperger in Vienna by the Tonkünstler-Sozietät on 20 December 1778 and the following year he became a member of the society. From 1777 until 1783 he served as a chamber musician in the musical establishment of the Cardinal Primate of Hungary, Prince Joseph von Batthyányi in Pressburg, the modern Bratislava and, as Pozsony, the then capital of the kingdom of Hungary, giving solo performances also at the Stadttheater in Brünn (Brno). The Pressburg orchestra included fifteen string-players, the oboists Johann and Philipp Teimer and the horn-players Karl Franz and Anton Böck, and there were string-players able to double on clarinets, bassoon and flute, as necessary. Trumpets and drums were also available, as usual in establishments of this kind.


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