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Schmelzer

(1623-1680), Austrian violinist, composer and conductor, one of the most renowned representatives of Austrian Baroque music, who exerted a decisive influence on the development of the genres of the sonata and the suite.  His father participated in the thirty-year war, probably as an officer, and the composer spent most of his childhood in various military camps. We do not know when and how he ended up in Vienna, neither do we have any information on his masters.  The first written document mentioning his name dates back to 1643 and is related to his wedding: he is referred to as the cornettist of the orchestra of the St. Stephen Cathedral (Stephansdom) in Vienna. However, in a decree issued by the emperor in 1674 mention is made of Schmelzer as a violinist, who started to work in the court orchestra in 1635 or 1636, which later, in 1649, he officially became a member of.  We do not have any accurate information as to his position in the orchestra in the following two decades.  From the scarce information available we can conclude that Schmelzer might have been a prolific composer and an exceptionally gifted violinist.  In 1658, at the coronation ceremony of Leopold I. in Frankfurt, he conducted instrumental music.   He was in a close relationship with the Emperor, who relied on his advice in questions of music.  In 1665 he received the title of court ballet composer.  As holder of that title he had to compose ballet scores for contemporary opera performances.  In 1671 he was appointed by the Emperor as vice-Kapellmeister, then in 1679 as Kapellmeister.  Schmelzer was the first non-Italian musician to fill this position.  In 1673 he was ennobled by the ruler.  He fell victim to the plague epidemic in 1680 in Prague, and died.  Schmelzer had an influence on the music of his students, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber and Johann Jakob Walther. He left behind a rich legacy for future generations, with outstanding achievements in the area of instrumental music.