Simon Sechter

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Simon Sechter, Austrian music theorist, teacher, organist, conductor and composer, was born in Friedberg (now called Frymburk, Bohemia) on October 11, 1788.

He moved to Vienna in 1804, succeeding Vořišek as court organist there in 1824. In 1810 he began teaching piano and voice at an academy for blind students. In 1828 the moribund Franz Schubert had one counterpoint lesson with him. In 1851 Sechter was appointed professor of composition at the Vienna Conservatorium. In his last years, Sechter was generous to a fault, and died in poverty, on September 10, 1867. He was succeeded at the Conservatorium by Anton Bruckner, a former student whose teaching methods were based on Sechter's.

Others whom Sechter taught include the composer Henri Vieuxtemps, the conductor Franz Lachner, the teacher Eduard Marxsen (who taught Johannes Brahms piano and counterpoint), Nottebohm, Carl Umlauf, Sigismond Thalberg, to list a few.

Sechter had strict teaching methods. For instance, he forbade Anton Bruckner to write any original compositions while studying counterpoint with him. The scholar Robert Simpson believes that "Sechter unknowingly brought about Bruckner's originality by insisting that it be suppressed until it could no longer be contained." Sechter taught Bruckner by mail from 1855 to 1861, and considered Bruckner his most dedicated pupil. Upon Bruckner's graduation, Sechter wrote a fugue dedicated to his student.

In the three-volume treatise on the principles of composition, Die Grundsätze der musikalischen Komposition, Sechter wrote a seminal work that influenced many later theorists. Sechter's ideas are derived from Jean-Philippe Rameau's theories of the fundamental bass, always diatonic even when the surface is highly chromatic. Sechter was an advocate of just intonation over well-tempered tuning.

Sechter was also a composer, and in that capacity is mostly remembered for writing about 5000 fugues (he tried to write at least one fugue every day), but he also wrote masses and oratorios.

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