Classic Cat

Biography of

Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga

27 jan 1806 (Bilbao) - 17 jan 1826 (Paris)
Buy sheetmusic from Arriaga at SheetMusicPlus
Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola

Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Born January 27, 1806(1806-01-27)
Bilbao, Spain
Died January 17, 1826(1826-01-17) (aged 19)
Paris, France
Occupation Composer
Parents Juan Simón de Arriaga

Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola (January 27, 1806 – January 17, 1826) was a Basque-Spanish composer. He was nicknamed the "Spanish Mozart" after he died, because, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he was also a child prodigy and an accomplished composer who died young. Whether by coincidence or design, they also shared the same second given name.



Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga was born in Bilbao, Biscay, on what would have been Mozart's fiftieth birthday. His father and older brother first taught him music. He then studied the violin under Pierre Baillot, and counterpoint and harmony under François-Joseph Fétis at the Paris Conservatoire. He was so talented that he soon became a teaching assistant in Fétis's class. He died in Paris at the age of nineteen, of a lung ailment, or exhaustion, perhaps both.


The amount of music by Arriaga which has survived to the present day is quite small, reflecting his early death. It includes:

  • Opera: Arriaga wrote an opera, Los esclavos felices ("The Happy Slaves"), in 1820 when he was thirteen. It was successfully produced in Bilbao. Unfortunately, only the overture and some fragments have survived.
  • Symphony: Arriaga composed a Symphony in D—which uses D major and D minor so equally as to not actually be in either key.
  • String quartets: Arriaga wrote three sparkling and idiomatic string quartets at the age of eighteen. These fine string quartets were the only works published during his lifetime.
  • Other works: In addition to the aforementioned major works, Arriaga also wrote the following:
    • An octet (Nada y Mucho)
    • Pieces of church music (A Mass (lost), Stabat Mater, Salve Regina, Et vitam venturi saeculi (lost)), cantatas (Agar, Erminia, All' Aurora, Patria)
    • Instrumental compositions (a nonet, Tres Estudios de Caracter for piano, La Hungara for violin and piano, Variations for String Quartet and numerous Romances).


The Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao is one of the centers of the August city festivals

Arriaga's music is "elegant and accomplished and notable for its harmonic warmth" (New Grove Concise Dictionary of Music). There is nothing characteristically Spanish or Basque in Arriaga's music. Rather it is international (European) music from the formative period between the late classical music of Mozart to the early Romanticism of the young Beethoven.

According to Grove, Arriaga's death "before he was 20 was a sad loss to Basque[citation needed] music." Following his early death, with the only reliable biographical material being some reports by Fétis, Arriaga's life story was fictionalized to play into rising Basque nationalism. A public theatre in his home city of Bilbao carries his name.

Selected recordings

  • O salutaris Hostia. Stabat Mater dolorosa. Air d’Oedipe à Colone. Herminie. Air de Médée. Duo de Ma Tante Aurore. Agar dans le desert. Il Fondamento, Paul Dombrecht. Fuga Libera FUG515 2005

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
Buy sheetmusic from Arriaga at SheetMusicPlus

Our dream: to make the world's treasury of classical music accessible for everyone.
Help us with donations or by making music available!

Contact us     Privacy policy    Looking for classical mp3 downloads? We index the free-to-download classical mp3s on the internet.
©2020 Classic Cat - the classical music directory
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale