Umlauf, Ignaz, 1746-1796
- Existence: 1764 - June 8, 1796
(b Vienna, 1746; d Meidling, nr Vienna, 8 June 1796). Austrian composer, conductor and viola player, father of Michael Umlauf. His name first appears as fourth viola player in the Vienna court orchestra in 1772, from which year his Singspiel Die Insul der Liebe probably dates. By 1775 he had advanced to the post of principal viola player in the German Theatre orchestra, and by 1778 he was highly enough regarded to be given the commission to write the first work for Joseph II’s new ‘German National Singspiel’, Die Bergknappen, to a libretto by Joseph Weidmann. Umlauf was appointed Kapellmeister to the new venture at a modest 600 florins a year, less than some of the singers received. Four further works by him were given before the first closure of the Singspiel company in 1783, including Die schöne Schusterin oder Die pücefarbenen Schuhe (1779), which, partly because of the much-loved Marianna Weiss in the title role, had over 60 performances in 23 years and was also staged in at least four other Vienna theatres, and Das Irrlicht (1782), which also exceeded the 30 repetitions of Die Bergknappen.
By 1783 Umlauf had advanced to the position of Salieri’s deputy Kapellmeister at a salary of 850 florins a year, and he also had the responsibility (and additional remuneration) for instructing seven boy choristers. After the closure of the National-Singspiel in 1788 he was appointed second Kapellmeister to the Hofkapelle. He played the keyboard continuo at the performance Mozart conducted on 26 February 1788 of C.P.E. Bach’s oratorio Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu; and on 6 March 1789 he directed the singers in the Messiah performance in Mozart’s orchestration and under his direction. On the occasion of Leopold’s coronation at Frankfurt in 1790 Umlauf made his only lengthy journey from Vienna, being part of the official entourage of the emperor. He died shortly after his appointment as music teacher to the imperial children.
Umlauf was the most successful Viennese Singspiel composer before Dittersdorf began to establish himself in this popular genre in the mid-1780s; he was studious and careful and had a marked melodic gift (his air ‘Zu Steffen sprach im Traume’ from Das Irrlicht was a particular favourite, as witness Eberl’s set of variations long attributed to Mozart). His tendency to juxtapose such stylistic features as Italian coloratura arias and homely Austrian songs and dances is characteristic but by no means original; the best of his scores would still prove viable, not only because of their effective orchestration but also because, despite the occasionally jerky effect of rapid key change, they reveal sufficiently marked gifts of dramatic timing and musical characterization to make Mozart’s comments (e.g. the letters of 21 December 1782 and 5 February 1783, admittedly discussing Welche[s] ist die beste Nation?, one of his least successful scores) seem rather intolerant. It was no doubt mainly due to a lack of resilience and power of development, however, that his last success dates from his 36th year, a few months before the première of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail: none of Umlauf’s last three Singspiele achieved double figures in the repertory lists, and by the time of his death only Die schöne Schusterin and Das Irrlicht were still being performed.
Source: Peter Branscombe. ""Umlauf, Ignaz."" In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezproxy.mnl.umkc.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/28746 (accessed February 16, 2011).