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Beethoven Piano Sonata Op.31 No.3: Hans Georg Nägeli

By Sean Burnham

Hans Georg Nägeli

Hans Georg Nägeli, engraving by Martin Esslinger, 1838

Martin Esslinger (1793−1841), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Publisher, Composer, Proprietor

Hans Georg Nägeli was born in 1773 in the town of Wetzikon, part of the Zurich Highlands in Switzerland. Taught and raised by his father, Nägeli received musical instruction continuously throughout his life. In 1790 he moved to Zürich to study Bach privately under Johann David Brünings, while also founding his first music shop and lending library. This music shop propelled his name across Europe, eventually leading to opportunities with many renowned composers of the era. Thus began Nägeli's work on one of his first major series, Répertoire des Clavecinistes. Through his lending library and contacts with European composers, he compiled a collection of first edition pianoforte works, including Beethoven's Sonata Op. 31 No. 3. This series prompted Nägeli to create more subscriptions of keyboard works, and eventually led to his departure from the publishing house in Zürich in 1807.

Nägeli was not limited to purely the realm of publication, however. As a trained musician, he composed many of his own works. After founding two singing societies, he had access to many avenues to have his works performed. His subsequent work with German lieder led to a deeper understanding of the Romantic style. Nägeli devoted himself to the study of musical aesthetics, theory, and harmony. His skill as a writer on music, composer, and publisher established Nägeli as an inspiration for many future proprietors of music in the late Romantic era.