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Otto Nicolai

Carl Otto Ehrenfried Nicolai (9 June 1810 ‚Äď 11 May 1849) was a German composer, conductor, and founder of the Vienna Philharmonic. Nicolai is best known for his operatic version of Shakespeare's comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor (Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor). In addition to five operas, Nicolai composed lieder, works for orchestra, chorus, ensemble, and solo instruments.



Nicolai, a child prodigy, was born in Königsberg, Prussia. While still a youth he ran away from his home and parents and secured himself as a student of Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin. After initial successes in Germany, including his first Symphony (1831) and public concerts, he became musician to the Prussian Embassy in Rome. During the early 1840s he established himself as a major figure in the concert life of Vienna. In 1844 he was offered the position, vacated by Felix Mendelssohn, of Kapellmeister at the Berlin Cathedral; but he did not reestablish himself in Berlin until the last year of his life. On 11 May 1849, two months after the premiere of The Merry Wives of Windsor, and only two days after his appointment as Hofkapellmeister at the Berlin Staatsoper, he collapsed and died from a stroke. On the very same day of his death, he was elected a member of the Prussian Royal Academy of Arts.




Title Genre Sub­divisions Libretto Composition Première date Place, theatre
La figlia abbandonata     1837 unfinished  
Enrico II;
(originally given at the first performance as: Rosmonda d'Inghilterra)
melodramma serio 2 acts Felice Romani 1837-1838 26 November 1839 Trieste, Teatro Grande
Il templario melodramma 3 acts Girolamo Maria Marini, after Walter Scott 1839-1840 11 February 1840 Turin, Teatro Regio
Gildippe ed Odoardo melodramma 3 acts Temistocle Solera 1840 26 December 1840 Genoa
Il proscritto   3 acts Gaetano Rossi 1841 13 March 1841 Milan, La Scala
Die Heimkehr des Verbannten (revision of Il proscritto) tragische Oper 3 acts Siegfried Kapper 1843 3 February 1844 Vienna, Theater am Kärntnertor
Der Tempelritter (revision of Il templario)   3 acts Siegfried Kapper 1845 20 December 1845 Vienna, Theater am K√§rntnertor
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor komische-fantastische Oper 3 acts Hermann Salomon Mosenthal, after William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor 1845-1846 9 March 1849 Berlin, Hofopera


  • 6 four-part unaccompanied lieder, Op. 6
  • Variazioni concertanti su motivi favoriti dell‚Äôopera La sonnambula di Bellini, Op. 26, for soprano, horn and piano (or cello or clarinet) (republished in 2000 by edition mf)
  • Die Thr√§ne, Op. 30 (voice, horn and piano; republished in 1999 by "edition mf").
  • Ecclesiastical Festival Overture on the chorale "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott", Op. 31
  • Pater noster, Op. 33, for two mixed choirs (SATB/SATB) a cappella with soloists (SATB/SATB). Published by Schott Music Publishers in 1999.
  • Der dritte Psalm (Psalm 3) for alto solo. (Manuscript at Library of Congress.)
  • 3 sonatas for 2 horns: from the Handel Knot-Farquharson Cousins ms (re(?)published by Edition Kunzelmann in 1977.)
  • Mass in D major (1835). (Recorded on the label Koch Schwann in 1981, subsequently reissued on compact disc. Re?Published by Augsburg : A. B√∂hm in 1986.)
  • Te Deum; Psalm 97, Der Herr ist K√∂nig; Psalm 31, Herr, auf Dich traue ich; Ehre sei Gott in der H√∂he (psalm and liturgical settings recorded also on Koch Schwann. Te Deum was also recorded on Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft LPM 39,170 in 1966.) Psalms 31 & 97 published by Bote & Bock of Berlin in 1977.


  • Nicolai, Otto; Schr√∂der, B., ed. (1892) (in German). Otto Nicolais tageb√ľcher nebst biographischen erg√§nzungen. Leipzig: Breitkopf & H√§rtel. OCLC 17601836.  
  • Nicolai, Otto; Altmann Wilhelm, ed. (1924) (in German). Otto Nicolai, Briefe an seinen Vater, soweit erhalten. Regensburg: G. Bosse. OCLC 3463501.  
  • Sadie, Stanley; Brown, Clive, ed. (1992). Nicolai, Carl Otto Ehrenfried in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Grove's Dictionaries of Music. ISBN 0333734327.  

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

OTTO NICOLAI (1810-1849), German composer, was born on the 9th of June in Konigsberg. He studied music in Berlin and in 1833 became organist to the German embassy in Rome. There his operas Enrico II (1839) and Il Templario (1840) were produced, besides some church music, a series of songs, and a number of compositions for the pianoforte. He was subsequently appointed Hof Kapellmeister at the Berlin Opera House; and there, only two days before he died (on the 11th of March 1849), was performed his brilliant opera, The Merry Wives of Windsor, the work by which he is now remembered.

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