Friedrich Heinrich Himmel

A student of the organist Klaus, and later a theology student in Halle, Himmel spent most of his time at the piano in the lecture theatre. He remained a steward and favorite of the royal family upon his notice by Friedrich Wilhelm II who appreciated his piano skills having discovered Himmel during his appointment as an army post chaplain in Potsdam. Becoming the chamber composer for the Prussian court throughout his career, Himmel was able to travel to Italy where he had two operas produced, "Il primo navigatore," and "La morte di Semiramide." Upon his return to Berlin in 1795 he became the Kapellmeister but was still allowed to travel. His most important opera buffa was "Fanchon das Leyermadchen" which was popular for its pleasant qualities. This work was criticized while the less popular "Die Sylphen" was hailed as a precursor to Weber. "Fanchon" maintained continued popularity. Himmel also composed oratorios, cantatas, and instrumental music such as his "Grande Sonata for the Piano Forte in F-dur" now lost. It is difficult to analyze Himmel's music as it falls between styles reflecting the changing character of the social nexus in which he lived. ~ Keith Johnson

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