Franz Anton Hoffmeister

(1754-1812)

Franz Anton Hoffmeister was a German composer and music publisher, highly respected by his contemporary.

Born in Rottenburg am Neckar, he went to Vienna at the age of fourteen to study law. Following his studies, however, he decided on a career in music and by the 1780s he had become one of the city’s most popular composers, with an extensive and varied catalogue of works to his credit.

Hoffmeister’s reputation today however rests almost exclusively on his activities as a music publisher. By 1785 he had established one of Vienna’s first music publishing businesses, second only to Artaria & Co which had ventured into the field just five years earlier. Hoffmeister published his own works and those of many important composers of the time, including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clementi, Albrechtsberger, Dittersdorf, and Vanhal. These famous composers were also among Hoffmeister's personal friends: Mozart dedicated his String Quartet in D (K.499) to him, and Beethoven addressed him in a letter as "most beloved brother".

Hoffmeister’s publishing activities reached a peak in 1791, but thereafter seemed to take a back seat to composition. Most of his operas were composed and staged during the early 1790s, and this, combined with an apparent lack of business sense, led to a noticeable decline in production.

In 1799 Hoffmeister and the flautist Franz Thurner set off on a concert tour which was to have taken them as far afield as London. They got no further than Leipzig however, where Hoffmeister befriended the organist Ambrosius Kühnel. The two must have decided to set up a music publishing partnership for "within a year" they had founded the Bureau de Musique which would eventually be taken over by the well-respected firm of C.F. Peters, still active today. Among their publications was the first edition of Johann Sebastian Bach's Keyboard Works in 14 volumes, in 1802. Until 1805 Hoffmeister kept both the Viennese firm and the newer Leipzig publishing house going, but in March 1805 he transferred sole ownership of the Bureau de Musique to Kühnel. His interest in the Viennese firm was waning too, for in 1806, apparently to allow time for composition, he sold his 20-year-old business.

Prominent in Hoffmeister’s extensive oeuvre are works for the flute, not only concertos but also chamber works with the flute in a leading role. Many of these works would have been composed with Vienna’s growing number of amateur musicians in mind for whom the flute was one of the most favoured instruments. Besides flute music Hoffmeister also composed at least eight operas, over 50 symphonies, numerous concertos (at least 25 of these are for the flute, and including an often-played concerto for the viola), a large amount of string chamber music, piano music, and several collections of songs.

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