Otto Nicolai

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nicolai, Otto


(full name Carl Otto Ehrenfried Nicolai). Born June 9, 1810, in Konigsberg; died May 11, 1849, in Berlin. German composer. Member of the Berlin Academy of Arts (1849).

Nicolai studied composition in Berlin under C. F. Zelter and B. Klein. From 1841 to 1847 he served as court choirmaster in Vienna, where he won recognition as a conductor and public music figure. He was one of the founders of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (1842), which still exists. In 1848 he became conductor of the Royal Opera and director of the cathedral choir in Berlin.

Nicolai gained fame as a composer for his comic opera Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor, based on Shakespeare’s comedy, premiere 1849, Berlin), which is noted for its bold melodies, well-balanced drama, and joyful spontaneity. Although in the tradition of the Austrian singspiel (especially of Mozart), the opera shows the influence of the Italian opera buffa. Nicolai also wrote two symphonies, an overture, a cantata, instrumental ensembles, piano pieces, and choral works.


Mendel, H. Otto Nicolai: Eine Biographic 2nd ed. Berlin, 1868.
Kruse, G. R. Otto Nicolai Berlin [1911].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The new society's place in existing and emerging Viennese concert life included its relation to the Concerts spirituels (Ulrike Lampert, Vienna), to Viennese church-music societies, discussed in the first half of the nineteenth century by Walter Sauer (Vienna), and to the blossoming of musical societies in Vienna from the middle of the century (Hartmut Krones, Vienna); and finally to the later emergence of the Wiener Philharmoniker, founded in 1842 by Otto Nicolai (Clemens Hellsberg, Vienna).
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Giacomo Meyerbeer, however, was one of the few (like Otto Nicolai) who was intoxicated by Italian music and entertained dreams of making a successful career as a composer of Italian opera.