(b Eilenstedt, nr Halberstadt, 21 July 1779; dBrunswick, 17 April 1854). German organist, conductor and composer. Born into a family of Kantors, he first disclosed his musical gifts as a boy soprano, singing in the choirs of Halberstadt Cathedral and of his school at Magdeburg, where he studied with Zachariä. Later he moved to Brunswick, where he spent the rest of his life. He studied with his uncle and with J.G. Schwanenberger, succeeding the former as organist at the Brüdernkirche; his decision to accept the position rather than to venture upon a career as a freelance composer and teacher in Vienna was wholly due to the advice of Beethoven, whom he had consulted by letter in 1804. Wiedebein’s few published piano compositions appear to date from this period. In 1810, at considerable personal sacrifice, he was at last able to visit Vienna, where he spent three months and made Beethoven’s personal acquaintance. Later Wiedebein was obliged to support his family by teaching, but in 1816 he embarked on a new career as principal conductor of the court orchestra and from 1818 of the opera as well. In 1817 he travelled together with A. Klingemann through Germany to gather support for a national theatre, which was inaugurated the following year. As operatic director of this theatre in Brunswick he contributed substantially to its artistic success, and he brought new life to the subscription concert series. He also spent two years in Italy (1820–22). He was made Hofkapellmeister by Duke Karl II in 1824 (previously his piano pupil) on the strength of his oratorio Die Befreiung Deutschlands of c1822; he composed the overture Huldigung for the Duke’s accession and participated in the institute for military music established by the Duke to provide musicians for the Brunswick Hofkapelle and music corps.
A man of considerable culture and progressive musical tastes, Wiedebein amply deserved the gratitude and affection bestowed on him by Brunswick’s musical public and he enjoyed a great reputation. Contemporary writings speak with great admiration of his musical abilities and describe his local fame as entirely worthy of respect. His compositions show individuality of melody and harmony, a sure technique, and above all, a serious idealism, notably in his approach to the poetic content of his songs. His reviews and letters strengthen the impression of a receptive personality. The appearance of nine Lieder in 1826 or 1827 widened his reputation as a composer and earned him the lasting gratitude of Schumann, who in 1828 wrote to him for guidance and later regarded Wiedebein’s encouragement as representing a turning-point in his compositional career, retaining a vivid impression of these songs (his op.4 no.2 contains a reminiscence of Wiedebein’s Gretchens Klage). Wiedebein’s conducting career was cut short by a rheumatic ailment in 1830; he was officially replaced by Methfessel in 1832, when he retired. One of his daughters later became a pupil of Clara Schumann in Düsseldorf.
published in Brunswick unless otherwise stated
Vocal: Friedens-Kantate (biblical), solo vv, 2 choruses, ?orch (n.p., c1815);  Romances and Songs, 1v, pf (?1815–23); Die Befreiung Deutschlands (orat), c1822, unpubd; Huldigung (A. Klingemann), ov. and final chorus, ?1823, ov. pubd;  Lieder, 1v, pf (?1826–7); motets, cants., unpubd
Pf (all pubd before 1810): Variations, op.4; Variations, on ‘Zu Steffen sprach’, op.5; Rondo, on a theme from Martín y Soler’s L’arbore di Diana, op.7 (Leipzig, n.d.); Thème varié, on ‘Ich bin liederlich’ (Leipzig, ?1809); other works, unpubd
(b Hamburg, 3 Oct 1720; d Norden, Ostfriesland, 14 Jan 1800). German teacher. Born into a family of musicians, he was taught music by his father, Matthias Christoph Wiedeburg (b Berlin, 1 March 1690; d Altona, 17 Jan 1745), who from 1728 was Kapellmeister and Kantor at the court of Prince Georg Albrecht of Cirksena in Aurich (a post for which Telemann had recommended him). His grandfather was organist at the Marienkirche in Berlin. As a teenager he was a frequent participant in the twice-weekly court recitals organized by his father; he also assisted him as a substitute organist in the court chapel. In 1741 Wiedeburg competed unsuccessfully for the prestigious post of organist at the Ludgeri-Kirche in Norden, but was appointed vice-principal at the local Latin school. He competed again for the organist’s post in Norden less than seven years later, this time successfully, and remained there until his death.
Wiedeburg’s most important legacy was a substantial body of pedagogical work. In 1765 he issued the first volume of his treatise on keyboard playing for beginners, Der sich selbst informirende Clavier-spieler, and two more volumes followed in 1767 and 1775 respectively. This huge work of more than 1600 pages, the largest 18th-century published treatise on keyboard playing, was designed as a compendium of the musical knowledge that one might need to learn to play the keyboard. Volume one deals with basic keyboard skills such as note-reading, rhythm and fingering, volume two teaches the principles of thoroughbass, and volume three deals with improvisation. Two years after the appearance of volume three, Wiedeburg published a collection of 24 graded preludes and variations entitled Practischer Beÿtrag and intended to accompany the instruction in note-reading in volume one; the same pieces appeared with 24 additional preludes of slightly greater difficulty in a second collection, entitled Vermehrter practischer Beÿtrag, in the following year. Wiedeburg also developed a musical card game, Musicalisches Charten-Spiel, by means of which beginners could learn to compose, and compiled an unpublished Choral-Buch containing settings of 154 well-known chorales, probably in order to help his nephew, Hinrich Ufen Straten, learn to accompany hymns. An unpublished theological manuscript in Wiedeburg’s handwriting, entitled Die Lust und Freude der Kinder Gottes, also survives.
Der sich selbst informirende Clavier-Spieler, oder, Deutlicher und leichter Unterricht zur Selbstinformation im Clavierspielen, i–iii (Halle and Leipzig, 1765–75)
Practischer Beÿtrag, kbd (Halle, 1777)
Vermehrter practischer Beÿtrag, kbd (Halle, 1778)
Musicalisches Charten-Spiel ex G dur wobeÿ man allezeit ein musikalisches Stuck gewinnet (Aurich, 1788)
Vollst ostfriesische Choral-Buch, MS, 1790, Ostfriesische Bibliothek, Aurich, Germany, ed. B. Harrison (Stanford, CA, 1994)
EitnerQ; GerberL; RiemannL12; WaltherML
A.Kappelhoff: ‘Die Musikpflege am ostfriesischen Hofe’, Jb der Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst und vaterländische Altertümer zu Emden, xxiv (1936), 105
M.J.Bostrom: ‘Eighteenth Century Keyboard Instruction Practices as Revealed in a Set of Master Lessons’, JRME, xiii (1965), 33–8
E.A.Harrison: Michael Wiedeburg’s Der sich selbst informirende Clavier-Spieler and his Pedagogy of Improvisation (Stanford, CA, 1995)