Wilhelmine of Bayreuth

Feminale of Music

Painting of the Composer Wilhelmine of Bayreuth

»Nothing gives me more pleasure than a beautiful opera. The sweet sounds of the human voice enter my heart.« – Wilhelmine of Bayreuth in a letter to Frederick II.

Wilhelmine of Bayreuth was born in Berlin on July 3, 1709. She is the eldest daughter of the Prussian »Soldier King« Frederick William I and Queen Sophie Dorothea of Hannover. At the royal courts of her time, music was part of a woman's profession. Wilhelmine therefore received a thorough musical education as a child, learning to play the harpsichord and lute in particular and performing regularly at court concerts. Wilhelmine's close lifelong relationship with her brother Frederick the Great is documented in an extensive exchange of letters in which the two exchanged views on musical themes.

Wilhelmine is married to the Margrave Friedrich von Brandenburg-Bayreuth. At his court, Wilhelmine devoted herself to far-reaching tasks: Under her direction Bayreuth develops into a leading centre of Italian opera music in Germany. She is in close contact with Italian opera centres, she designs the repertoire, hires musicians, buys musical instruments, invites ensembles, a library with a large collection of opera text books is created, and last but not least she builds the new Margravial Opera House.

In Bayreuth, Wilhelmine also begins to take composition lessons of her own. Her most important surviving composition is the opera Argenore, which she composed in 1740 for her husband's birthday. In a letter to her brother Frederick, Wilhelmine sees herself as a pioneer and hopes that the musicians will treat her composition with kindness, since »women have not yet dealt with such things«. She died in Bayreuth on October 14, 1758.

Compositions

Aria of the Palmide 'Quell'orror' from the opera »Argenore« published by Doerthe Maria Sandmann: Ensemble »Batzdorfer Hofkapelle« conducted by Jan van Slageren, Doerthe Maria Sandmann, soprano

Sonata for flute, gamba and basso continuo in A minor published by and performed by the ensemble PAN HARMONIA: Gail Ann Schroeder, gamba, Kate Steinbeck, flute, Barbara Weiss, harpsichord recorded on September 20, 2018 at The Haen Gallery, Asheville, NC

Concerto for obbligato harpsichord and strings in G minor published by TCU School of Music, played by the Collegium Musicum TCU with soloist Dawen Li conducted by H. Joseph Butler.

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