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Winter [von Winter], Peter

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Winter [von Winter], Peter

(b Mannheim, bap. 28 Aug 1754; d Munich, 17 Oct 1825). German composer.

1. Life.

2. Works.




Winter, Peter

1. Life.

He was a pupil of several of the Mannheim court musicians, including the elder Thomas Hampel, and as a boy showed outstanding gifts as a violinist; at the age of ten he was playing in the court orchestra, and subsequently his services were employed on the double bass as well as the violin. In 1776 he had a permanent post as a violinist. Although he had no lessons in composition, he seems at this early stage of his career to have been active as a composer of instrumental music. He was briefly a pupil of the vice-Kapellmeister at Mannheim, G.J. Vogler (who later founded the Mannheim Tonschule), but later dissociated himself from him. Winter’s work in the orchestra also brought him into contact with contemporary opera, particularly opere serie by J.C. Bach and also Anton Schweitzer’s Alceste and Ignaz Holzbauer’s Günther von Schwarzburg, and with the melodramas of Georg Benda, which were exciting much attention. In 1778 the electoral court, with all its musical personnel, moved to Munich, where Winter became director of the orchestra. In this capacity he was responsible, in particular, for conducting the opéras comiques that the Marchand troupe performed in German translation at the ‘deutsche Schaubühne’. The lively cultural atmosphere of Munich was a stimulus to his general outlook as well as to his musical development; and at this time he first met Mozart, whose Idomeneo was given in Munich in 1781. He began to compose for the stage, writing ballets, and melodramas modelled on Benda. A concert tour with the clarinettist Franz Tausch took him to Vienna (1780–81), where he learned from Salieri the Italian bel canto manner, a style whose flowing cantabile he mastered to perfection. In Vienna he also made contact again with Mozart – though evidently in somewhat strained circumstances (see Mozart’s letter to his father, 22 December 1781).

Soon after his return to Munich, in 1782, he made his début as an opera composer with Helena und Paris, but this work was unsuccessful, as was Bellerophon (1785). He was appointed vice-Kapellmeister in 1787, and in 1798 became court Kapellmeister, a post he held until his death. Despite his initial lack of success he continued to compose operas, and several times took extended leave from Munich in an attempt to make a name for himself in various centres as an opera composer. He visited Naples and Venice between 1791 and 1794 and Prague and Vienna from 1795 to 1798, and it was in Vienna that he achieved his first decisive success with Das unterbrochene Opferfest (1796). From then on he enjoyed a high reputation well beyond Munich, though the next operas he wrote for Munich were received with little enthusiasm. He was particularly pained by the failure of the heroic opera Colmal (1809), which he regarded as his most successful work. In 1804 and 1805 three new operas (all settings of texts by Da Ponte) were well received in London, but Tamerlan (1802) and Castor et Pollux (1806; a translation of Il trionfo dell'amor fraterno) met with cool receptions in Paris. In his later years Winter devoted himself increasingly to composing church music and to teaching singing, and in 1825 he recorded his teaching method in the Vollständige Singschule. To mark his completion of 50 years in court service in 1814 he was decorated and granted a personal title of nobility. In 1816 he embarked on a concert tour of northern Germany and Italy with his pupil Clara Metzger-Vespermann, later a celebrated singer, during the course of which he directed three of his operas in Milan in 1817 and 1818. His last opera for Munich was the Singspiel Der Sänger und der Schneider (1820), but he remained active until his last years as a composer of church music.

Winter, Peter

2. Works.

As Kapellmeister of a court with the high musical reputation that Munich enjoyed at the time, Winter was a well-known figure and, particularly after the success of Das unterbrochene Opferfest, a highly esteemed one. Among his collaborators were Schikaneder in Vienna and Da Ponte in London. The unfavourable opinions of such contemporaries as Mozart, Spohr, Meyerbeer and Weber, however, point to a personal character that was unstable and difficult. In his youth he had a good name as a violinist, but his international reputation rests on his operas. His instrumental works (symphonies, concertos for various instruments, several different genres of chamber music) date for the most part from his early years, and are of no particular significance. The instrumental compositions of his maturity are characterized, like all his music, by a smooth cantabile melodic style and generally simple texture. His Battle Symphony of 1814, a typical patriotic work of its time, reveals his liking for colourful orchestration, a taste that perhaps owed something to Abbé Vogler.

Winter’s church music is notable for its calm gravity and noble simplicity. Never having undergone systematic instruction in counterpoint, he was only too ready to avoid extended fugues even in his sacred works, though there are exceptions such as the Kyrie of the C minor Requiem. The emphasis, both in the predominantly homophonic choruses and in the solo movements, is rather on the finely balanced expressive simplicity of the melodic writing, which always reflects the words in a subdued manner. In accordance with the effect of dignity that Winter aimed at in his church music, the orchestration is more restrained than it is in the operas and secular cantatas. Of the latter, a particular favourite with his contemporaries was Timoteo, o Gli effetti della musica, an extended piece with loose-textured choruses and ensembles and demanding bravura arias.

Winter’s operatic output provides an accurate reflection of the situation around the turn of the 19th century, when German opera constituted a meeting-point of all the current operatic genres, either in their original forms or intermingled. Winter was a composer of great facility; tunes flowed easily from his pen. But he did not have the ability of genius to select what he needed from the various operatic types, and then to impress on his chosen material the stamp of his own personality. He wrote examples of Italian opera seria and opera buffa, French tragédie lyrique, German Singspiel, and works in the post-Gluckian and post-Mozartian traditions, but in every case was content to adhere to the conventional pattern. At the beginning of his career as a composer for the stage he also composed dramatic ballets of the Noverre type, and in his melodramas he relied heavily on the model of Georg Benda's Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea. This eclectic disposition was the fate of Winter’s generation: German composers, having no native tradition to build on like the Italians and the French, were inevitably cosmopolitan in outlook and their individuality was stifled by the weight of foreign influences. Winter thus worked as it were on foreign territory, and he did so with great expertise. In La grotta di Calipso, for instance, he spoke the language of opera seria with complete conviction, as he did that of buffa in Ogus, ossia Il trionfo del bel sesso; his gifts as a melodist were put to full use in the extended arias of the former, and his meticulous word-setting stood him in good stead in the rapid chatter of the buffo ensemble. Michael Kelly claimed that Winter wrote Il ratto di Proserpina in only three weeks. His adoption of the style of tragédie lyrique was evidently less successful, to judge from the failure of Tamerlan and Castor et Pollux in Paris. A typical example of his contribution to the German Singspiel is Der Bettelstudent, oder Das Donnerwetter, with its spoken dialogue and mixture of musical styles, including German strophic songs in a popular vein, italianate arias, and a French vaudeville. But his first opera, Helena und Paris, as Winter himself wrote in his preface, sought to take up the threads of the serious German opera of Holzbauer; this work, which seems to be based on a German adaptation of Calzabigi’s libretto for Gluck, shows Italian and French influence, including ballets, extensive choruses and arias with concertante writing. Das Labyrinth, on the other hand, was written as a sequel to Die Zauberflöte, but for all the instances of correspondence between the two operas in libretto and music, Winter’s has not a trace of the genius of Mozart’s work.

Nevertheless, Winter could scarcely have acquired such a reputation merely by imitating the work of others. His importance lies in the skill with which he fused his various stylistic ingredients, especially in Das unterbrochene Opferfest and in some of the subsequent German operas such as Der Sturm, Marie von Montalban and Colmal. There are constant reminders of Mozart, and in the choruses Gluck’s idiom is found alongside features of the German, Italian and French operatic traditions. But everything is held together by the consistently attractive melodic style that Winter’s long experience had taught him, whether he was writing in a pathetic, aria-like vein or in a songlike popular manner. Increasingly he wrote large-scale, through-composed complexes of scenes in a bold, chromatic harmonic style, and with a fine sense of sonority that depends for its effect on varied instrumentation and dynamic contrast. In these respects Winter, the follower of Mozart, heralds the beginnings of German Romantic opera.

Winter, Peter



Cora und Alonzo (melodrama, 4, J.M. von Babo), Munich, 1778, D-MHrm (lost; copy in US-Wc)

Lenardo und Blandine (melodrama, 2, J.F. von Göz, after G.A. Bürger), Munich, National, 25 June 1779, D-Mbs (facs. in GOB, x, 1986), US-Wc

Reinhold und Armida (melodrama, 3, Babo, after T. Tasso: Gerusalemme liberata), Munich, Salvator, 30 March 1780, D-DS (lost)

Helena und Paris (ernsthaftes Spl, 3, K.J. Förg, ?after R. de' Calzabigi), Munich, National, 5 Feb 1782, Mbs

Das Hirtenmädchen (Spl, 1, H. Braun), Munich, National, 26 March 1784

Der Bettelstudent, oder Das Donnerwetter (Spl, 2, P. Weidmann, after M. de Cervantes: La cueva de Salamanca), Munich, National, 2 Feb 1785, Bsb, DS (lost), Mbs, US-Cn, vs (1789)

Bellerophon (ernsthaftes Spl, 3, J.F. Binder von Krieglstein), Munich, Hof, 29 July 1785, D-DS (lost), D-DO (vocal score only)

Circe (os, 2, D. Perelli), composed for Munich, Hof, carn. 1788, but not perf.

Medea und Jason (melodrama, A.C. von Törring-Seefeld), ?Munich, Schloss Seefeld, 1789

Psyche (heroisches Spl, 2, K.F. Müchler), Munich, Hof, Oct 1790, A-Wn

Jery und Bäteli (Spl, 1, J.W. von Goethe), ? Munich, Schloss Seefeld, 1790

Das Lindenfest, oder Das Fest der Freundschaft, 1790 (operetta, 2), ?unperf.

Scherz, List und Rache (Scapin und Scapine) (Spl, 4, Goethe), Munich, Schloss Seefeld, 1790, Wgm

Catone in Utica (dramma per musica, 3, P. Metastasio), Venice, S Benedetto, May 1791, scena and aria with coro in US-Bp

Antigona (os, 2, M. Coltellini), Naples, S Carlo, 4 Nov 1791, ? I-Nc

Il sacrifizio di Creta, ossia Arianna e Teseo (dramma per musica, 2, P. Pariati), Venice, S Benedetto, 13 Feb 1792

I fratelli rivali (dg, 2, M. Botturini), Venice, S Benedetto, Nov 1793, A-Wn, B-Bc, D-DS (lost), Mbs, US-Wc, vs (Bonn, n.d.), Ger. trans. as Die Brüder als Nebenbühler

Belisa, ossia La fedeltà riconosciuta (dramma tragicomico, 2, A. Pepoli), Venice, S Benedetto, 5 Feb 1794, A-Wgm; as Elise, Gräfin von Hilburg (trans. and arr. K.L. Gieseke), Vienna, Wieden, 30 Jan 1798, B-Bc, D-DS (lost)

Die Thomasnacht (komische Oper, 2), Bayreuth, 1 July 1795

Ogus, ossia Il trionfo del bel sesso (Il tartaro convinto in amore) (dg, 2, G. Bertati), Prague, National, 1795, Bsb, Mbs, vs (Leipzig, n.d.)

I due vedovi (2, G. De Gamerra), Vienna, Burg, 13 Jan 1796, A-Wgm, Wn

Das unterbrochene Opferfest [Il sacrifizio interrotto; Le sacrifice interromptu; The Oracle, or The Interrupted Sacrifice] (heroisch-komische Oper, 2, F.X. Huber), Vienna, Kärntnertor, 14 June 1796, Wgm, D-Bsb, Mbs, Us-Bp, NYps, vs (Bonn and Leipzig, 1798)

Babylons Pyramiden (heroisch-komische Oper, 2, E. Schikaneder), Vienna, Wieden, 25 Oct 1797, A-Wgm, Wn, D-Bsb, Mbs, US-Wc, vs (Vienna, 1797), collab. J. Mederitsch

Pigmalione (dramma semiserio, 1), ? Munich, 1797, lib in D-Mbs

Das Labyrinth, oder Der Kampf mit den Elementen (Die Zauberflöte, zweiter Theil) (heroisch-komische Oper, 2, Schikaneder), Vienna, Wieden, 12 June 1798, D-Bsb, DT, F, Hs, Sl, I-Fc, vs (Offenbach and Bonn, n.d.)

Der Sturm (grosse Oper, 2, F.X. Kaspar, after W. Shakespeare: The Tempest), Munich, Hof, Oct 1798, DS (lost), Mbs

Marie von Montalban (ernsthaftes Spl, 4, K. Reger, after J.N. Komarek), Munich, Hof, 28 Jan 1800, A-Wgm, Wn, D-Bsb, F, Mbs, Sl, US-Wc, Bp, vs (Mainz, 1798)

Tamerlan (4, E. Morel de Chédeville, after Voltaire: L'orphelin de la Chine), Paris, Opéra, 14 Sept 1802, F-Pc, Po, A-Wn (Ger.), US-Su (It.); (Paris, 1802)

La grotta di Calipso (os, 2, L. da Ponte), London, Haymarket, 31 May 1803, A-Wgm, Wn, D-Bsb, vs (Leipzig, n.d.); in Ger., as Calypso, Munich, Hof, 17 Jan 1807, Mbs

Il trionfo dell'amor fraterno (os, 3, Da Ponte), London, Haymarket, 22 March 1804; as Castor et Pollux (5, P.-J. Bernard and Morel de Chédeville), Paris, Opéra, 19 Aug 1806, A-Wgm, Wn, F-Po

Il ratto di Proserpina (os, 3, Da Ponte), London, Haymarket, 3 May 1804, A-Wgm, Wn, B-Bc, D-Bsb, Us-Wc, vs (London, ?1815)

Zaire (2, Da Ponte, after Voltaire), London, Haymarket, 29 Jan 1805, A-Wgm, Wn, B-Bc, D-Mbs

Der Frauenbund (komische Oper, 3, Babo), Munich, Hof, 17 March 1805

Die beiden Blinden, 1807–10 (Spl, 3, F. von Holbein), ? Munich, Hof, spr. 1810 [cited in Manferrari]

Salomons Urtheil (3), ? Munich, Hof, 1808, Mbs

Colmal (heroische Oper, 2, M. von Collin, after Ossian), Munich, Hof, 15 Sept 1809, DS (lost), Mbs

Die Pantoffeln (Spl, J.F. Schink), Hamburg, April 1811

Maometto II [Mahomed] (tragedy, 2, F. Romani, after Voltaire), Milan, Scala, 28 Jan 1817, B-Bc, D-Bsb, Mbs, US-Wc (Ger.)

I due Valdomiri (os, 2, Romani), Milan, Scala, 26 Dec 1817

Etelinda (opera semiseria, 2, G. Rossi), Milan, Scala, 23 March 1818

Der Sänger und der Schneider (Spl, 1, F. von Drieberg), Munich, Hof- und National, 20 Jan 1820, D-Mbs

Ballets, perf. Munich: Pyramus und Tisbe (C. Legrand), 1779; La mort d’Hector (Legrand), 1779, Mbs; Die Liebe Heinrichs IV. und der Gabriele oder Die Belagerung von Paris (P. Crux), 1779, Mbs; Der französische Lustgarten (E. Lauchery), 1779; Baierische Lustbarkeiten oder Die Heirat durch Gelegenheit (Lauchery), 1779; Ines de Castro (Legrand), 30 July 1780, Mbs; Vologesus [Il trionfo della verità] (pantomime ballet, S.V. Gellet), excerpts arr. (Vienna, 1786); La mort d'Orphée et d'Euridice (pantomime, 4, Crux), 1792; 5 others, doubtful


Masses: Missa brevis, Missa solemnis, Missa, 1799, Pastoralmesse, 1805, 4 others: all 4vv, orch; 18 other masses; Requiem for Joseph II, c, 19 March 1790, 4vv, orch, D-Bsb; Missa di Requiem, 4vv, A-Wgm, KR, D-Bsb, Mbs

Other sacred: Psalme, solo vv, chorus, orch, Dlb; 2 TeD; Stabat Mater (Die Erlösung des Menschen) (Leipzig); numerous mass sections, offs, hymns, resps, pss, motets, A-Wgm, D-Bsb, Mbs, I-Mc

Secular: Timoteo o Gli effetti della musica [Die Macht der Töne] (cant.), Lucerne, 1810 (Leipzig); Die vier Tageszeiten (orat, Zabuesnig), Munich, Dec 1811, A-Wgm; Germania (cant.), Munich, 1815; Elysium (F. von Schiller), 4vv, vs (Leipzig); Fantasie der Liebe, S, chorus (Leipzig); Triumph der Liebe (Schiller), 4vv, kbd (Leipzig); Das Waldhorn, 4vv, 2 vn, va, 2 fl, 3 hn (Leipzig); 9 canzonetten, op.16 (Leipzig); 6 airs italiens avec paroles allemandes, with str qt (Bonn); numerous choral works, duets, lieder, canzonets


Solo inst, orch: Rondo con variazioni, bn, 1810; 1 fl conc., 1813; 2 ob concs., 1814; vn conc.; bn conc.; Concert-Potpourri, vn; Concertino, d; Concertino, bn (Leipzig); rondo, bn

Other orch: 3 syms. (Offenbach); Schlacht-Sinfonie, with chorus, 1814 (Leipzig), ed. in The Symphony 1720–1840, ser. C, xi (New York, 1982); Sinfonie concertante, vn, cl, bn, hn, orch, D-Bsb; Concertante, vn, ob, cl, va, bn, vc, orch, ed. in The Symphony 1720–1840, ser. C, xi (New York, 1982); Concertante, 2 tpt, 2 hn, 2 fl, 2 ob, 2 vn, 2 va, vc, b, timp, SWl; rondo, cl, vc, orch


thematic catalogue in DTB, xxviii, Jg.xvi (1915)

13 divertimentos: 12 for 2 vn, va, vc (Mannheim), 10 ed. R. Münster (Zürich, 1965); 1 for 2 vn, va, vc, 2 hn, Mbs

3 sonatas: 1 for vn, vc/bn, kbd (Munich); 1 for vn, kbd, A-Wgm; 1 for pf

Other chbr: 5 str qts (Paris); str qt, op.5 (Munich, 1800); qt for cl, vn, va, vc (Munich); 3 qnts, 2 vn, 2 va, vc, op.6 (Munich, 1802); sextet, 2 vn, va, 2 hn, b, op.9 (Leipzig, 1803); sextet, 2 vn, va, ob, 2 hn, b (Paris); septet, 2 vn, ob/cl, 2 hn, va, vc, op.10 (Paris and Leipzig); octet, vn, va, vc, fl, cl, bn, 2 hn (Leipzig); partita, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 hn, 2 bn (Vienna); trio, kbd, vn, bn, D-Mbs; 2 pieces, wind insts, a 6, a 9, LEm

theoretical works

Vollständige Singschule (Mainz, 1825, 2/1874)

Winter, Peter


GroveO (L. Tyler)


I.T.F.C. Arnold: Peter Winter (Erfurt, 1810)

Obituary, AMZ, xxviii (1826), 353, 369, 372–3, 465

M. Kelly: Reminiscences (London, 1826, 2/1826/R1968 with introduction by A.H. King); ed. R. Fiske (London, 1975)

W. Neumann: Peter Winter, Komponisten der neueren Zeit, xxxviii (Kassel, 1856)

L. Spohr: Selbstbiographie, i–ii (Kassel, 1860–61; Eng. trans., 1865/R, 2/1878); ed. E. Schmitz (1954–5)

F. Grandaur: Chronik des königlichen Hof- und Nationaltheaters in München (Munich, 1878)

P. Legband: ‘Münchner Bühne und Literatur im 18. Jahrhundert’, Oberbayerisches Archiv, li (1904), 1–546

V.E. Frensdorf: Peter Winter als Opernkomponist (Erlangen, 1908)

H. Riemann: ‘Katalog und thematisches Verzeichnis der Kammermusik’, DTB, xxviii, Jg.xvi (1915), pp.xxv, lxii–xiii

H. Kretzschmar: Geschichte der Oper (Leipzig, 1919/R)

L. Kuckuck: Peter Winter als deutscher Opernkomponist (diss., U. of Heidelberg, 1923)

E. Bücken: Der heroische Stil in der Oper (Leipzig, 1924)

O. Ursprung: Münchens musikalische Vergangenheit von der Frühzeit bis zu Richard Wagner (Munich, 1927)

E. Loeffler: Peter Winter als Kirchenmusiker (diss., U. of Frankfurt, 1929)

L. Schiedermair: Die deutsche Oper (Leipzig, 1930, 2/1940)

U. Manferrari: Dizionario universale delle opere melodrammatiche (Florence, 1954–5)

H. Becker, ed.: G. Meyerbeer: Briefwechsel und Tagebücher, i (Berlin, 1960)

H. Bolongaro-Crevenna: L’arpa festante: die Münchner Oper 1651–1825 (Munich, 1963)

D.G. Henderson: ‘The “Magic Flute” of Peter Winter’, ML, lxiv (1983), 193–205

D. Martin: ‘Peter von Winters Rinaldo-Kantate: eine unbekannte Goethe-Vertonung’, MF, xlviii/4 (1995), 398–400

M.S. Cole: ‘Peter Winter's Das unterbrochene Opferfest: Fact, Fantasy and Performance Practice in Post-Josephinian Vienna’, Music and Performance in Society: Essays in Honour of Roland Jackson, ed. M. Cole and J. Koegel (Warren, MI, 1997), 291–324

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