Composer of the month: Franz Doppler

Posted by
Erin Nichols
Date
 June 25, 2019
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For our composer of the month of June, we’re featuring Franz Doppler, who was both a flute performer and composer of several well-known flute works. In fact, he was one of the leading performers and composers (of flute music specifically) of the Romantic era. He wrote several operas for Budapest, and his ballet music was also quite popular during his lifetime.

Doppler was born in Poland in Lemberg now Lviv, Ukraine. From 1828 to 1831, he received flute lessons from his father, Joseph Doppler, who was an oboist, and he made his debut as a flautist at the age of 13. He formed a flute duo with his brother Karl, and as a duo they caused quite a sensation throughout Europe. Franz and Karl continued to make regular tours of Europe after performing in the Hungarian National Theatre and helped found the Hungarian Philharmonic Orchestra in 1853.

Doppler composed primarily for the flute, as well as opera—and indeed, his operatic writing style is prominent even in his showpieces for flute. He composed concertos, showpieces, and many flute duets, which were played by himself and his brother Karl. His music contains aspects of Russian and Hungarian music. He wrote seven operas and fifteen ballets in total (which were quite popular in their time) and was a brilliant orchestrator. In fact, he gave some help to Franz Liszt when the latter was just learning to orchestrate. Liszt gave Doppler such generous praise as a collaborator on the Hungarian Rhapsodies that some authorities list Doppler as the orchestrator of some of them.

Doppler’s Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy is probably his most popular piece for flute. It is a beautiful and challenging piece, with a very evocative use of descriptive melodies and unusual textures. Please enjoy this fabulous recording of this piece, performed by Jonathan Brahms:

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