Kritel Krumpholtz was born in Prague on 5 August 1747. His mother
was a harpist who, as Krumpholtz himself says 'had no inheritance
to leave me other than her passion for the harp'; his father was
a military bandsman in bond to the powerful Kinsky family, who
were great landowners and patrons of the Arts.
As a young man Krumpholtz was taught to play the horn, the violin
and the viola, but he longed to have composition lessons, and longed
to play the harp. Aged fourteen, he reached Paris, where he had
some harp lessons with Christian Hochbrucker, but it was after
some five or six years as a military bandsman playing horn that
he eventually reached Vienna, where Georg Christoph Wagenseil encouraged
his attempts at composition.
It was in Vienna that he wrote
his first harp concerto, entrusting the scoring to his compatriot
Vàclav Pichl. In July 1773,
Haydn heard him perform this concerto, and was so impressed that
he offered him an immediate engagement at Esterházy. On
1 August 1773, he signed his indenture as J B Krumpholtz, the form
of his name by which he became best known.
Krumpholtz stayed at Esterházy for three years, and during
this time he worked with Haydn on his sixth concerto. He was most
probably the harpist when Haydn conducted a performance of the
Italian version of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at Esterházy
Apparently encouraged by Haydn, that same year he took a two-year
leave of absence, arriving in the autumn at Metz, where he worked
in the harpsichord workshop of Simon Gilbert. By February 1777,
and married to Marguerite, Simon Gilbert's daughter, he had arrived
in Paris; with them was the ten-year-old child prodigy harpist,
Anne-Marie Steckler, later to become his second wife.
In Paris, Krumpholtz soon became known for his talents as harpist,
composer, teacher and inventor. He played his 5th Concerto at the
Concert Spirituel, taught and composed (he was most probably the
teacher of Mademoiselle de Guines, to whom he dedicated his Receuil
de douze preludes), and worked closely on improvements to the harp,
especially with Jean-Henri Naderman. He was a close neighbour of
Naderman in the rue d'Argenteuil, and a Naderman harp with which
he may have been associated figures on the cover of this publication.
After the death of his first wife, on 26 February 1783 Krumpholtz
married the sixteen-year-old Anne-Marie Steckler, and three children
were born to them before 1787. Leaving a distraught Krumpholtz
in Paris, Anne-Marie Krumpholtz left for London, where she was
a sensational success. Haydn was, of course, in London at this
time and Anne-Marie featured at his benefit concert at the Drury
Lane Theatre on 13 May 1788. Whether or not she ever paid him the
compliment of playing her husband's Variations on Haydn's Andante
is not known.
The innocence of this delightful early piece is in sharp contrast
to the highly dramatic sturm und drang of Krumpholtz's late harp
works of which the Sonate dans
le style pathétique (Op.14) (Adlais catalogue no. 101)
gives an insight into the mental torture and turmoil which led
Krumpholtz, in Paris, in a final dramatic gesture of despair, to
end his own life.
Krumpholtz's Variations on Haydn's Andante are published by kind
permission of the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen who hold an
original print of the work. www.kb.dk
Cover picture by permission of the Salvi Foundation. www.museodellarpavictorsalvi.it
See also extensive article about Krumpholtz written by Ann Griffiths