Much of the early part of Florian Leopold Gassmann’s life is shrouded in mystery although it is known that Gassmann’s father, a goldsmith, was opposed to his son pursuing a musical career and had him apprenticed to a local merchant at the age of twelve. Shortly afterward he ran away, eking out a precarious existence playing the harp in Karlsbad, if one account is to be believed, before making his way to Italy where he may have studied with the celebrated theorist Padre Martini. Gassmann’s reputation in Italy - and the success of his opera Cantone in Utica which was was staged at the Burgtheater in the 1761- 62 season - led to an invitation to take up the post of ballet composer (as successor to Gluck) to the Viennese court. Gassmann was the founder of the oldest Viennese musical society, the Tonkünstler-Societät, and his oratorio La Betulia liberata was written for one of the society’s first public performances (19 March 1772). The same month he succeeded the younger Georg Reutter as Hofkapellmeister and immediately began an important reorganisation of the court chapel’s personnel and library. Gassmann’s tenure of the position was brief: he died in 1774 as a result of a fall from a carriage.
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