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Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola

Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Born January 27, 1806(1806-01-27)
Bilbao, Spain
Died January 17, 1826 (aged 19)
Paris, France
Occupation Composer
Parents Juan Simón de Arriaga

Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola (January 27, 1806 – January 17, 1826) was a Spanish composer. He was nicknamed the "Spanish Mozart" after he died, because, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he was also a child prodigy and an accomplished composer who died young.



Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga was born in Bilbao, Spain on what would have been Mozart's fiftieth birthday. His father and older brother first taught him music. He then studied the violin under Pierre Baillot, and counterpoint and harmony under François-Joseph Fétis at the Paris Conservatoire. He was so talented that he soon became a teaching assistant in Fétis's class. He died in Paris at the age of nineteen, of a lung ailment, or exhaustion, perhaps both.


The amount of music by Arriaga which has survived to the present day is quite small, reflecting his early death. It includes:

  • Opera: Arriaga wrote an opera, Los esclavos felices ("The Happy Slaves"), in 1820 when he was thirteen. It was successfully produced in Bilbao. Unfortunately, only the overture and some fragments have survived.
  • Symphony: Arriaga composed a Symphony in D—which uses D major and D minor so equally as to not actually be in either key.
  • String quartets: Arriaga wrote three sparkling and idiomatic string quartets at the age of eighteen. These fine string quartets were the only works published during his lifetime.
  • Other works: In addition to the aforementioned major works, Arriaga also wrote the following:
    • An octet (Nada y Mucho)
    • Pieces of church music (A Mass (lost), Stabat Mater, Salve Regina, Et vitam venturi saeculi (lost)), cantatas (Agar, Erminia, All' Aurora, Patria, La Hungara)
    • Instrumental compositions (a nonet, Tres Estudios de Caracter for piano, and numerous Romances).


The Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao is one of the centers of the August city festivals

Arriaga's music is "elegant and accomplished and notable for its harmonic warmth" (New Grove Concise Dictionary of Music). There is nothing characteristically Spanish or Basque in Arriaga's music. Rather it is international (European) music from the formative period between the late classical music of Mozart to the early Romanticism of the young Beethoven.

According to Grove, Arriaga's death "before he was 20 was a sad loss to Basque[citation needed] music." Following his early death, with the only reliable biographical material being some reports by Fétis, Arriaga's life story was fictionalized to play into rising Basque nationalism. A public theatre in his home city of Bilbao carries his name.

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