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Who is Kalliwoda?

Kalli-who? Kalliwoda!

‘His overtures and salon pieces are charming but ultimately rather superficial. In my view, only his early symphonies will stand the test of time.’

It was none other than Robert Schumann who expressed himself in these words in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik about the compositions of Jan Václav Kalliwoda. Alas, he was wrong. For even Kalliwoda’s first orchestral works were soon forgotten after the composer’s death... And yet, the violinist and composer was a key figure in the first half of the 19th century.

Who is this mystery man, Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda? Get to know him in a few words (and a Spotify playlist):


Jan Václav Kalliwoda, also known as Johann (Baptist) Wenzel Kalliwoda, lived from 1801 to 1866. He was a composer, conductor and violinist born in Prague.


Kalliwoda belonged to the very first generation of the Conservatory of Prague alumni. The school opened in 1811, one year later than planned. A certain Napoleon Bonaparte had thrown off the schedule with his European wars of conquest.


In his lifetime, two of his operas, Prinzessin Christine von Wolfenburg and Blanda, die silberne Birke were very popular, but in the specialised Operabase database, there is not a single modern production available. An idea for our colleagues?


Carl Maria von Weber was briefly Kalliwoda’s boss. But there is also another link between the two composers: their love for women of the Brunetti family. Weber was head over heels in love with the married Prague actress Therese Brunetti, whilst Kalliwoda married her daughter of the same name in 1821.


The idea for the Third Symphony came to Kalliwoda through his daughter. Yes, well, the child was still a toddler and played random keys with her little fists. The composer decided to build an entire symphony around that (particularly atonal) theme.


The only work by Kalliwoda that has succeeded in staying on the repertoire is his Deutsches Lied for male choir … because it was too deeply entrenched far into the 20th century as an unofficial anthem of the German-speaking community in Bohemia.

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