Jul 21, 2014

Anton Kraft's Date of Birth (And his Wine Consumption)

Anton Kraft was the greatest cellist of his time. His significance as a pioneer regarding the technical development of cello playing is only rivalled by his French contemporary Jean-Louis Duport.

 Anton Kraft (US-NYp, Muller Collection 1258107)

To Kraft's exceptional technical skills today's cellists owe passages like the following in the third movement of Haydn's Cello Concerto i n D Major, Hob. VIIb/2:


Anton Kraft was born in the Bohemian town of Rokycany, son of Franz and Magdalena Kraft – but when exactly? The majority of the biographical and musicological literature agrees on 30 December 1749 as Kraft's date of birth, but some authors disagree. In his article in the ÖBL Theophil Antonicek gives the date 30 December 1752, which differs from the information that in 1958 Othmar Wessely published in vol. 7 of the old edition of the MGG. New Grove and the new MGG also give 30 December 1749 as Kraft's date of birth. Wurzbach's source for Kraft's year of birth were Ernst Ludwig Gerber and Gottfried Johann Dlabacz's Allgemeines historisches Künstler-Lexikon für Böhmen und zum Theil für Mähren und Schlesien, published in 1815.

The beginning of Dlabacz's article on Anton Kraft in the Allgemeines historisches Künstler-Lexikon

The English and the German Wikipedia articles (as of July 2014) give 30 December 1752 as Kraft's date of birth. The Beethoven-Haus also has 1752. Where did the wrong year 1752 originate? It entered the literature from vol. 5 of Robert Eitner's Biographisch-Bibliographisches Quellen-Lexikon. Eitner relied on what he rightly considered to be an excellent source: Carl Ferdinand Pohl's 1871 study Denkschrift aus Anlaß des hundertjährigen Bestehens der Tonkünstler-Societät. In Pohl's list of society members Kraft's name, his biographical dates and the time of his joining of the society (15 December 1791) appear on p. 107:


Pohl's data are incorrect. Kraft was not born in 1752. Pohl drew the false year of birth from the minutes of the society where Krafts career as a member is meticulously recorded. As a matter of fact Kraft had already joined the Tonkünstler-Sozietät in 1783, but was expelled for failing to pay his deposit. When in April 1786 he applied again for membership, he had to submit his birth certificate (a procedure Mozart never managed to follow through) and thus his date of birth – according to this certificate – is documented in the society's protocol. The entry in question reads as follows:
8. [1786]
Kraft Anton (gebohren den 30ten Xber 752) Hochfürstl.[ich] Esterhazischer Kammer Violoncellist, welcher a[nn]o 783 zwar in die Societät aufgenommen worden, nachhero aber seine Einlaag zu entrichten unterlassen, suchet wiederum an als Mitglied in die Societät aufgenommen zu werden. Er führet zu Unterstüzung seines Gesuchs an, daß er 1tens durch mehrere Jahre denen Societäts Musiken fleissig beÿgewohnet 2tens daß er einer dauerhaften Gesundheit geniesse und von seinen allzeit bezeigten guten Lebenswandel sich auf jedermans Zeugnüsse gründen könne. 3tens Bittet er denen in Wien domicilirenden (so wie einsmal Schöringer und Hammer) gleich benommen zu werden, da es bekannt ist, daß S[ein]e Durchl:[aucht] Fürst Esterhazy seinen Pallast und Hofstaat hier in Wienn habe, und nur Sommers Zeit gleich anderen Herrschaften sich auf dero Güter befinden. ––
Wieder hinauszugeben und kann in das Gesuch des Supplicanten, da derselbe ein auswärtiger, vermög dem Institut nicht gewilliget werden. Exped:[itum] d[en] 26t April a[nni]:c:[urrentis]
Kraft Anton (born on 30 December 1752), chamber cellist of Prince Esterházy, who joined the society in 1783, but later failed to submit his deposit, applies again to be accepted into the society. In support of his application he points out that 1) for several years he has diligently taken part in the society's concerts and 2) he is enjoying stable health and can rely on everybody's testimony concerning his moral conduct. 3) He requests to be treated like members who live in Vienna (like formerly Schöringer and Hammer), because it is known that His Excellency Prince Esterházy has his palace and his court in Vienna and, like other sovereigns, only lives on his estate in summer.––
To be returned. Owing to the society's regulation the supplicant's request cannot be granted, because he is an out-of-towner. Issued on 26 April of the current year [1786].


The entry concerning Anton Kraft's application to rejoin the Tonkünstler-Sozietät in April 1786 (A-Wsa, Private Institutionen, Haydn-Verein, 2.9.1.2. A3/1)

Kraft's situation was similar to Haydn's in 1778, who being an "Auswärtiger" (out-of-towner), residing in Hungary, had to deposit 300 gulden to be accepted as a member (Haydn's application was eventually unsuccessful for other reasons). Carl Schöringer and Franz Xaver Hammer (Marteau), whom Kraft named as precedents, were musicians in Prince Esterházy's orchestra who had been allowed to join the society in 1775 and 1776 respectively, in spite of being "Auswärtige". Kraft was only able to rejoin the Tonkünstler-Sozietät in 1791, after he had moved back to Vienna and had become an employee of Count Antal Grassalkovich.

The only possible explanation for the wrong date of Anton Kraft's birth recorded in the minutes of the Tonkünstler-Sozietät is that the date on this birth certificate was false, or the secretary of the society misread the document. It is unlikely that the parish priest had misidentified the year in the church register, because Kraft's entry is closely followed by the headline "Anno Domini 1750".

The entry concerning Anton Kraft's baptism on 30 December 1749 in the church of Saint Mary of the Snows in Rokycany with the headline of the following year 1750 (Státní oblastní archiv v Plzni. Rokycany 04, p. 270)

Pohl's book contains several wrong dates of birth of members of the society. Sometimes Pohl misread the files (as in the case of Joseph Leitgeb), sometimes the entry in the minutes is already wrong, because either the secretary made a mistake, or the original baptismal certificate was incorrect, like in the case of the Court copyist Wenzel Sukowaty who according to Pohl was born on 31 July 1746, but actually was born on 31 August of that year (Moravský zemský archiv Brno, Pozořice 1563).

Now for something completely different. At some time around 1801 Nikolaus II, Prince Esterházy thought of hiring Kraft again, but he did not want to trump the salary that Kraft received from Count Lobkowitz. And yet, in honor of his service for Nikolaus I, Anton Kraft never lost his "Deputat" (payment in kind) from the Esterházys which consisted of firewood, tallow and wine. Kraft died on 28 August 1820 at the age of 70 of exhaustion. He left behind a widow and eight grown up children of whom the eldest, the cellist Nikolaus Kraft, inherited his father's cello, an instrument by Vincenzo Ruggieri (1663-1719) which was valued at 80 gulden.

The passage in Anton Kraft's will in which he bequeaths his cello "verfertigt von Vincenz Rugger detto il Peer" and his musical scores to his son Nikolaus. (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A10, 420/1820)

This instrument is probably the cello labelled "Vincenzo Ruger detto il Per. In Cremona 1697" which was last sold in 1987 by the dealer Jacques Français (1923-2004).


The cello by "Vincenzo Ruger detto il Per" from 1697 in Sotheby's Fine Musical Instruments Auction Catalog (June 4, 1982)

Soon after her husband's death Marie Kraft applied to Prince Nikolaus II to receive the amount of wine that had been granted to her late husband. But her request was denied.
[Numerus exhibitorum] 3254. [Datum Præsentati. October 1820]
[Auszug des Exhibiti.] Kraft Marie, Wittwe des verstorbenen fürst[lichen] Violoncellisten Anton Kraft, bittet um das durch ihren Gemahl bezogene Wein Deputat.
[Erledigung.] An die Wiener Hofstaats Kellerverrechnung. der Wein des Kraft mit 6 Eimern wird von 28. Aug[ust] l.[aufenden] J.[ahres] abgestellt, u. der Witt[w]e tägl[ich] ein Seitl bewilligt.
den 22. Oct.
[Number of the exhibits] Kraft Marie, widow of the deceased princely violoncellist Anton Kraft, requests the payment in wine that her husband received.
[Conclusion] To the wine cellar management of the court in Vienna. As of 28 August the 6 buckets of wine for Kraft are cancelled and the widow is allowed to receive one seidel per day.
22 October [1820]

The entry in the protocol of the Esterházy Zentraldirektion concerning Marie Kraft's request for her late husband's Weindeputat and its rejection (Archiv der Esterházy Privatstiftung, Forchtenstein, Zentraldirektion 3254/1820)

My own experience as cellist has taught me that cellists need a sufficient amount of wine. The annual six Eimer of the better brand called "Offizierswein" that Anton Kraft had received was quite a lot of liquor. One Austrian Eimer was 56,589 liters which means that Anton Kraft received almost 340 liters of wine per year (0,93 l per day). The supply that his widow had to content herself with was much smaller. The seidel she got every day was only 0,35 liters. Marie Kraft died on 20 June 1825 at the age of 75.

Anton Kraft's signature as witness to a wedding on 13 June 1810 (St. Augustin, Tom. 8, fol. 48)

Anton Kraft's seal (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A10, 420/1820)

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2014.

Updated: 29 July 2017

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