Anton Zimmermann (1741-1781)
String Quartets Nos. 1-3
An acclaimed contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, AntonZimmermann spent a considerable span of his productive life in Bratislava(Pressburg, the Hungarian Pozsony). Not only did he fit in perfectly with theprevailing cultural environment, but very soon after settling there, at thebeginning of the 1770s, he found himself in a leading position in the musicallife of the city. Then the capital of Hungary, it was also the centre ofpolitical, economic, religious, and cultural development of the country. As animportant centre of European musical culture of the time, the city was able toprovide a good living and ample creative space for many prominent composers.The cultural standards of the day also attracted a great many skilledmusicians, and even such important figures as Joseph Haydn, Mozart andBeethoven contributed to the city's rich cultural heritage.
It seems probable that Anton Zimmermann had his musicaleducation in Silesia, where he was born in 1741 at Siroka Niva (Breitenau). Itis known that he had served as an organist at the cathedral in Hradec Kralove(Koniggratz). In Bratislava he was employed by the Bishop and, some time later,by the Cardinal and Hungarian Primate Count Jozef Batthyanyi (1727-1799). Untilhis premature death in October 1781, Anton Zimmermann served there in a varietyof r??les, as an artistic manager, a conductor, a violinist, and a PrincelyCourt Composer (f??rstlicher Hofkompositeur).
Cardinal Batthyanyi's orchestra enjoyed a very considerablereputation throughout Central Europe, and it was for this that Zimmermanncomposed much of his instrumental music. He left an extensive body of work inalmost all musical genres and forms of the day. Most significant in terms ofdevelopment, however, are his instrumental compositions, above all symphonies,concertos, sonatas, and chamber compositions, with duets, trios, quartets,quintets, sextets, and various other works.
A major part of Zimmermann's music which he managed topublish himself is in the field of chamber music. To this belong the SixSonatas, Op. 2, and the Six Quartets, Op. 3, issued under the title SEI/QUARTETTI/ per / Due Violini, Viola e Basso /Composti/ del Signore /ZIMMERMANNThedesco. / OPERA IIIa. These were published by Quera in Lyons. But while thepublic was informed of the publication of the Sonatas, Op. 2, by the Journal deParis in 1777, the appearance of the Quartets, Op. 3, seems to have had nomention in the press. More information as to the date of publication, however,comes from Breitkopf's thematic catalogue. In the list of works published inthe years 1776-1777, the catalogue records the printed edition of AntonZimmermann's Six Quartets, Op. 3. At the moment, the printed version of thequartets is preserved in the Brussels Conservatoire, while the manuscripts arein the Prague National Museum, Vienna National Austrian Library, and at theBenedictine monastery of Kremsm??nster.
Anton Zimmermann drew heavily on Joseph Haydn'scompositional idiom. The latter's influence is clearly identifiable not only insymphonies, which led to some confusion of attribution, but also in the chambermusic. Apart from comparable melodic writing, affinities can be tracedprimarily in the compositional techniques employed and in the way the cycles ofworks have been constructed. Zimmermann, of course, was not the only composerto have broken away from earlier restrictions of phrasal forms and to producemore flexible structures, capable of accommodating and combining a variety offormal elements.
The principal feature of Zimmermarm's chamber music forstrings, compared with the work of other composers of the period, is itstendency towards orchestral idioms in structure and style. The application oforchestral stylistic elements brought remarkable melodic results, leading to anenhanced expressive capacity and an economy of compositional devices. Thisallowed Zimmermann to attain in his chamber music fresh, innovative effectswhich set it apart from mainstream stile galant chamber music of the day. Thisjudgement is amply supported by the first three of the Six Quartets, Op. 3, theQuartets in E flat major, B major, and F major).