Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga

Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga Music Recordings

  • Born
    27th January 1806
  • Died
    17th January 1826
  • Birthplace
    Bilbao, Biscay, Spain

Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola (January 27, 1806 – January 17, 1826) was a Spanish composer. He was nicknamed the Spanish Mozart after he died, because, like Wolfgang Amadeus, he was both a child prodigy and an accomplished composer who died young. They also shared the same first and second baptismal names; and they shared the same birthday, January 27. Born in Bilbao, Biscay, on what would have been Mozart's fiftieth birthday, he was taught music by his father and his older brother. In September 1822 Arriaga's father, with the encouragement of composer José Sobejano y Ayala (1791 - 1857), sent Juan Crisóstomo to Paris, where in November of that year Arriaga began his studies. These included violin under Pierre Baillot, counterpoint with Luigi Cherubini and harmony under François-Joseph Fétis at the Paris Conservatoire: from all evidence, Arriaga made quite an impression on his teachers. In 1823 Cherubini, who had become director at the Conservatoire the previous year, famously asked on hearing the young composer's Stabat Mater, "who wrote this?" - and learning it was Arriaga, said to him, "Amazing - you are music itself." Arriaga soon became a teaching assistant in Fétis's class, and noted both among the students and other faculty for his talent. Cherubini referred to Arriaga's fugue for eight voices (also lost) as "a masterpiece," and Fétis was no less effusive—apparently what impressed all his mentors was Arriaga's ability to use musically sophisticated harmonies, counterpoint and related techniques, without having been taught. Arriaga was well-supported during his four years in Paris by his father, but the intensity of his commitment to his studies at the Conservatoire and the almost meteoric rise one could expect based on his teachers' compliments and assessments of his promise, may have taken a toll on his health. He died in Paris ten days before his twentieth birthday, of a lung ailment (possibly tuberculosis), or exhaustion, perhaps both. He was buried in an unmarked grave at the Cimetière du Nord in Montmartre. Thanks to the Spanish Embassy, there is since 1977 a plaque marking the house at 314 rue Saint-Honoré in memory of the composer. Arriaga's music is "elegant, accomplished and notable for its harmonic warmth". His greatest works are undoubtedly the three string quartets, which (like his predecessors D. Scarlatti, Soler and Boccherini) contain notably Spanish ethnic rhythmic and melodic elements. Periodwise, his style is on the borderline between late Classicism and early Romanticism, ranging from the late Classical idiom of Mozart to the proto-Romanticism of early Beethoven.According to Grove, Arriaga's death "before he was 20 was a sad loss to Basque music." Following his early death, with the only reliable biographical material at the time being some reports by Fétis, his life story was fictionalized to play into rising Basque nationalism. A public theatre in his home city of Bilbao carries his name.

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Instruments String Quartet
Forms Quartet