Gluck, Christoph Willibald, Ritter von (1714-1787), the great German musical composer, was born at Weidenwahg, in the Upper Palatinate, probably in 1714. He was brought up in the castle of Prince Lobkowitz at Eisenberg, in whose service his father was forester and his mother a cook. He was educated at a school in Bohemia and at Prague University, and while a student gave lessons in music. He was introduced by Lobkowitz to Prince Melzi at Vienna, and that amateur sent him to study under Sammartini at Milan. His early works, of which the opera Artaserse (1741) was the first, were popular, but had all the faults of the Italian school. His fame, however, was such that he was invited to London in 1745, where he produced three operas, and gave a performance with musical glasses. Handel had a poor opinion of his operas, and after a period of study Gluck began to change his conception of operatic music. The chief works of his second or transition period were Telemaceo (1750) and La Clemenza di Tito (1751), produced at Rome and Naples respectively. From 1755 onwards for several years he lived at Vienna, where seven years later his masterpiece, Orfeo ed Euridice, was given, the libretto being by Calzabigi. He was obliged, however, to compose a good deal for his noble patrons and to suit their taste. Nevertheless, in 1767 and 1769 he was able to produce his second and third great works, Alceste and
Paride ed Elena. The artistic revolution was carried out in Paris, where in 1774 the Iphigenia in Aulis was produced. The old school did not, however, submit, and a contest of several years was necessary to ensure the acceptance of the new theories. Gluck was backed by the influence of the Dauphiness, afterwards Queen Marie Antoinette, who had been his pupil at Vienna; but the literary band who supported Piccini, his Italian rival, included D'Alembert, Marmontel, and La Harpe. Each of the rivals composed an opera on the subject of Iphigenia in Tauris, but the success of Gluck's work was so great that Piccini delayed the publication of his own opera for two years. In 1780 Gluck returned to Vienna, having amassed a fairly large fortune. He died of apoplexy seven years later, at the age of seventy-three. He composed but little of importance that was not operatic, but in that department he was the first great master, the forerunner of Mozart, Weber, and Wagner. There are three German lives, and one in French, of this great composer, whom Burney called the Michel Angelo of music.