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Roman Hoffstetter: Wikis

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Roman Hoffstetter (born: April 24, 1742, in Bad Mergentheim, Germany; died: May 21, 1815, in Miltenberg-am-Main, Germany; alternate spelling Roman(us) Hofstetter) was a classical composer and Benedictine monk who also admired Joseph Haydn almost to the point of imitation. Some of his compositions – namely the six String Quartets of Opus 3 otherwise known as Haydn's Serenade – were mistakenly attributed to his famed contemporary. He published two other sets of string quartets (Op. 1 by Diller and Hummel in 1771 and Op. 2 about 1782) under his own name. In addition there exist between two and three single quartets in manuscript form.

Hoffstetter took his vows as Pater Romanus at the Benedictine monastery in Amorbach in 1763, and remained there until the monastery was secularized in 1803. Nothing is known about his early training or life, though it is likely that he came from a musical family. He succeeded in due time to the position of Regens chori (choir director), also functioning as an organist and on-call parish priest for smaller churches in the Odenwald region, although his principal position at the monastery was as culinary overseer (Kuchenmeister). Besides his string quartets (which have had to be carefully researched for stylistic earmarks that distinguish them clearly from Haydn), Hoffstetter composed at least ten Masses (several of which are preserved at the Archdiocesian Archives in Würzburg), as well as a number of smaller church works, including a lost Miserere on which he collaborated with Swedish-German composer Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792). In addition, there exist three viola concertos offered for sale in the Breitkopf catalogue in 1785. They are arguably the most virtuosic vehicles for viola written in the eighteenth century, and, if genuine, would represent the apex of Hoffstetter's creative career. [Fine, M., "The Viola Concertos of Fr. Roman Hoffstetter, OSB", DMA diss., Memphis St. Univ., 1990]

Hoffstetter is best known for his friendship with Kraus, who was born in nearby Miltenberg-am-Main. Their friendship began as early as 1774 and continued through Kraus's appointment as court composer to Swedish king Gustav III, and on through to Kraus's death. Hoffstetter corresponded with both Kraus, and his early biographer, Swedish diplomat Fredrik Samuel Silverstolpe, who put him in touch with his idol, Haydn. Nine of these letters, written in 1800 to 1802, have been preserved in Silverstolpe's collection at Uppsala University library. [Unverricht, H. "Die Beide Hoffstetter," 1968]

Following the secularization of Amorbach, Hoffstetter retired – almost completely deaf and blind – to Miltenberg-am-Main with his abbot, Benedikt Kuelsheimer. The majority of works written for Amorbach were lost in the dissolution of the monastery library by French forces in 1803.

Literature

  • Marshall J. Fine: The viola concertos of Fr. Roman Hofstetter, OSB. A new edition based on the manuscripts found at the University of Lund. UMI Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990
  • Hubert Unverricht: Beiträge zur Mittelrheinischen Musikgeschichte. Bd 10. Die beiden Hoffstetter. Zwei Komponistenporträts mit Werkverzeichnissen. Schott, Mainz 1968, ISBN 3795713102
  • L. Somfai: Zur Echtheitsfrage des Haydnschen op. 3. Haydn-Jahrbuch III, 1965.

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