(b ?London, 1784; d London, 28 Nov 1840). English clarinettist and basset-horn player of German descent. His father, John Willman, was a German bandsman who came to Britain, probably in the second half of the 18th century, and obtained employment with various regiments in both England and Ireland. Thomas had a brother, Henry, who was a trumpet player. One of his sisters, a harpist, married the flautist Charles Nicholson, and another sister married the pianist Johann Bernhard Logier. Thomas received his early musical training under Christopher Eley in the East India Company’s volunteer band. From 1805 he played the clarinet in the orchestra of the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, appearing as a soloist in other parts of Ireland as well, until he came to England in 1816. He then took over Eley’s post as bandmaster to the Coldstream Guards, with whom he remained until 1826. During that time the band became famous as ‘a veritable school of clarinet playing’, thanks to the exceedingly skilful training he gave it.
Willman’s long association with the Philharmonic Society began with his appointment as first clarinet in 1817 and lasted until the year before his death. He appeared as soloist with it no fewer than 56 times and became a director of the society. In 1838 he gave the first English performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. A very popular artist, he was in constant demand for festivals all over the country. He enjoyed the frequent travelling in company with his brother-in-law Nicholson and friend Dragonetti. His programmes would include the sublime and the ridiculous, from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet to Bochsa’s Cease your Funning on the basset-horn.
Willman’s tone had a ‘mellifluous, liquid, glassy quality’ which blended superbly with the human voice. His favourite obbligato part was in Guglielmi’s Gratias agimus tibi. Camporese, Catalani, Dorus-Gras, Grisi, Malibran, Novello and Sontag all sang with him. Many times critics upbraided these singers for appropriating all the applause, much of which was due to Willman’s fine playing. Goulding D’Almaine & Co. published Willman’s A Complete Instruction Book for the Clarinet in 1826. It was written for the 13-keyed Müller clarinet, the English variety of which he used.
(b Wolfach, 2 Nov 1739; d Breslau [now Wrocław], 28 May 1815). Instrumentalist. At the age of 26 he played the flute, violin and cello at Montjoie (now Monschau). On 10 April 1767 he became a musician of the electoral court at Bonn, where he met Beethoven’s family. He made various journeys after 1774, including one to Vienna, where he became a member of the Tonkünstler-Sozietät on 21 August 1777. On 16 March 1784 he arranged the concert début of his children (2) Max, (3) Walburga and (4) Magdalena. That year he was appointed music director for Count J. Pálffy at Erdöd, but was soon pensioned. He returned via Brünn (now Brno) to Vienna (29 April 1786), where he probably initiated Beethoven’s trip to study with Mozart. By 15 May 1787 Willmann was in Mainz (where Goethe’s mother described him as ‘ein sehr böser Mann’), in 1788 in Frankfurt and Berlin, accompanied by his daughters; in 1794 they all returned to Bonn. After another stay in Vienna during which he tried unsuccessfully to arrange Beethoven’s appointment as court conductor to King Jérôme Bonaparte, Willmann was conductor and director of the court theatre in Kassel (1 June 1805 to Easter 1808). He married his second wife (Anna Maria Antonetta) Marianne de Tribolet (b Paderborn, 17 Feb 1768; d Klosterneuburg, 21 April 1813), on 15 May 1793. She was a singer at the Bonn court theatre, and after making her début in Vienna on 21 March 1795 she gave performances for nearly a decade at Schikaneder’s Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden and Theater an der Wien. Via Munich, she accompanied Willmann to Kassel (1805–12), where she was appointed a royal Westphalian Kammersängerin. After her death Willmann travelled to Pest, Vienna and Breslau with his daughter (5) Caroline.
(2) Max(imilian Friedrich Ludwig) Willmann
(b Bonn, 21 Sept 1767; d Vienna, 7 March 1813). Cellist, son of (1) Ignaz Willmann and godson of Beethoven’s grandfather. At an early age he was a virtuoso on the cello, and later played in the chamber orchestra of the Elector of Cologne, the orchestra of the court of Thurn und Taxis, Regensburg (until 1798), and at Schikaneder’s theatre in Vienna (where his stepmother was a singer). His compositions include a set of variations for cello solo with two violins and a viola (n.p., n.d.; now in A-Wgm). His brother Karl (Johann) Willmann (b Bonn, 10 Oct 1773; d Vienna, 9 May 1811) was a violinist at the electoral court in Bonn and from 1800 at the imperial court in Vienna. Another brother, Franz Willmann (1765–89), was not a musician.
(3) (Maximiliana Valentina) Walburga Willmann
(b Bonn, 18 May 1769; d Mainz, 27 June 1835). Pianist, daughter of (1) Ignaz Willmann. She was reported to be a piano pupil of Mozart. She gave concerts at an early age and in 1788 was a piano teacher in Frankfurt. Later she joined the theatre at Bonn as a chamber virtuoso. In the presence of F.X. Süssmayr on 28 September 1797 in Vienna, she married F.X. Huber (1755–1814) who was later the librettist for Beethoven’s Christus am Ölberge. In 1800 she resumed her concert tours, but in 1804 followed her husband (who sympathized with Napoleon) into exile in Mainz. Her works include a piano concerto (now lost), written at Leipzig in 1801.
(4) (Johanna) Magdalena Willmann
(b Bonn, 13 Sept 1771; d Vienna, 23 Dec 1801). Soprano, daughter of (1) Ignaz Willmann, and the supposed fiancée of Beethoven. She studied singing with Righini and performed in the opera houses of Vienna, Brno, Frankfurt (from 1788), Berlin and Bonn. In 1794 she sang in Venice and from 1 April 1795 at the Viennese court theatre. On 13 July 1796 she married the merchant A. Galvani in a ceremony witnessed by F.X. Süssmayr and F.X. Huber. From 1800 to her death she made concert tours to Leipzig, Dresden and Hamburg. She wrote and translated the lyrics for Süssmayr’s two-act opera Soliman II, oder Die drey Sultaninnen, first performed in Vienna at the Kärntnertor theater on 1 October 1799 (Vienna, 1807).
(5) (Maria Anna Magdalena) Caroline Willmann
(b Vienna, 25 Feb 1796; d Vienna, c1860). Soprano, the only child of (1) Ignaz Willmann and Marianne de Tribolet. She was a pupil of Felice Blangini at Kassel and made her début as a soprano and pianist at theatres in Pest, Vienna (Theater an der Wien), Breslau (where she was prima donna from 1814 to 1816), again in Vienna, Munich and Stuttgart until 1820, when Weber took her to Dresden. She returned to Kassel in 1822, then went to Berlin, remaining until April 1825. By 1830 she was in Bayreuth as ‘Madame Willmann-Debberton’, giving singing lessons and appearing in 1831 as a guest at the margrave’s opera house. She was a noted bravura singer.
W.Müller: Tagebuch (MS, A-Wst)
C.F.Pohl: Joseph Haydn, ii (Leipzig,1882/R); iii (Leipzig, 1927/R) [completed by H. Botstiber]
O.Bacher: Die Geschichte der Frankfurter Oper im achtzehnten Jahrhundert (Frankfurt, 1926)
O.E.Deutsch: Das Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden 1781–1801 (Vienna, 2/1937)