Grimm, Baron Friedrich Melchior von

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Grimm, Baron Friedrich Melchior von (1723-1807): German Critic.

Baron Friedrich Melchior von Grimm was born in Regensburg on 26 December 1723. As a young man he studied literature under the tutelage of Gottsched, Johann Christoph in Leipzig. In 1749 Count Friese of Saxony sent Grimm to Paris. Soon thereafter, Grimm established himself as a critic with two essays that appeared in the Mercure de France in 1750 and 1751. Despite a lack of formal training in music, Grimm also forayed into music criticism with his review of Destouche’s opera Omphale. Grimm derived many of his ideas from the Encyclopedists, with whom he became closely affiliated. This group, which included – among others – Diderot, Denis and Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, advocated the reform of French opera and championed Rameau, Jean Philippe’s theory of harmony, until a war of polemics arose that pitted Italian opera against French.

In 1753, Grimm established the Correspondence littéraire, which chronicled the literary and artistic events in France, as well as the cultural events of Paris. Handwritten copies of this journal were privately circulated to sovereigns and princes throughout Northern Europe. Among other topics, the Correspondence concerned itself with the day’s debates over music. Within the pages of this journal, Grimm critiqued, among others, the composers of Mannheim and Gluck, Christoph Willibald. In line with the rift between the Encyclopedists and Rameau, Grimm wrote a biting satire of French music in 1753, arguably aimed at composer Johann Stamitz. Regarding Gluck, however, Grimm reversed his opinion several times over the course of his career. Eventually, Grimm came to acknowledge that Gluck’s reform opera Iphigénie en Tauride did indeed incorporate the same neo-classical ideals that he supported.

Grimm continued to edit the Correspondence littéraire, which included important contributions by Diderot, until 1773.

Further Reading:

André Cazes, Grimm et les encyclopédistes, 1970.


Sarah Tusa

Lamar University

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