Czech-born French theorist, teacher, and composer. After working in Bonn 1787–94, where he was friendly with Beethoven, he travelled widely in Europe, settling finally in Paris where he spent the rest of his life. He wrote much experimental music and tried many orchestral innovations but only his more conventional works were published in his lifetime. His compositions include eight operas, two symphonies, three concertos and much piano and chamber music, especially for wind quintet.
He was born in Prague, and studied at Wallerstein, Bavaria, under his uncle Joseph Reicha (1746–1795), from whose wife he learnt French. In 1785 he went to Bonn with his uncle, who became music director there and worked at the electoral court, where he got to know Beethoven. He taught music in Hamburg 1794–99, and had some success as a composer in Paris 1799–1802, but then went to Vienna, where he remained until 1808 and was patronized by the empress. He spent the rest of his life in Paris and became professor at the Conservatory in 1818, where his pupils included Berlioz, Franck, and Gounod.
He produced five books on music theory, providing a progressive course to a high compositional and aesthetic level; these were internationally successful.
WorksOperaGodefroid de Montfort (1796), Ouboualdi, ou Les Français en Egypte (1798), Cagliostro (with Dourlen, 1810), Natalie (1816), Sapho.
Orchestral 16 symphonies, Scènes musiciennes for orchestra.
Chamber 20 string quartets, six string quintets, Diecetto and Octet for strings and wind, 24 wind quintets, six string trios, duets for violins and for flutes; 12 violin and piano sonatas; piano sonatas and pieces.