Berlin

Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, a great patron of music and talented composer and flutist in his own right, assembled an impressive coterie of composers and musicians at his court in Potsdam, but does not figure in our discussion.  His father, who had a violent temper, felt Frederick was a weenie because he neglected the study of war in favor of the arts, amassing some three thousand volumes of poetry, Greek and Roman classics, and French philosophy against his father’s wishes.

After numerous beatings and humiliations at the hands of his father, in 1730, when Frederick was 18, he tried to run away to England, where his mother’s brother was the king, with his best friend, who may have also been his lover.  I don’t know if his library slowed him down, but his father caught them, had the friend’s head chopped off in front of Frederick, and sentenced his son to death unless he got serious about studying war—sorry, “statecraft and administration”.  Frederick got to work and was let off the hook after two years.

As a consequence of another order of his father that he not be taught about predestination, rebellious Frederick adopted at least the pretense of a strong Calvinist faith, just to piss him off further.  If he had instead adopted Catholicism, we might have had cantata masses in Potsdam.  Instead we have, well, a whole lot of flute music from Johann Joachim Quantz and Frederick himself, symphonies from C.P.E. Bach and Franz Benda, and operas from Carl Heinrich Graun (who?).  Graun was considered the second-best German composer of Italian opera after Hasse.

PREVIOUS: “NEW” SALZBURG

NEXT: VIENNA