Franz Abt was born at Eilenburg in Prussian Saxony, Dec 22, 1819. His father was a clergyman, and Franz, though destined to the same profession, received a sound musical education, and was allowed to pursue both objects at the Thomasschule and University of Leipzig. On his father’s death he relinquished the Church as a profession and adopted music entirely. He was successively capellmeister at Bernburg and Zurich (1841), where he occupied himself more especially with men’s voices, both as composer and conductor of several societies. In 1852 he entered the staff of the Hof-theater at Brunswick, where until his retirement in 1882 he filled the post of leading capellmeister. He died at Wiesbaden, March 31, 1885.
Abt is well known by his numerous songs for one or more voices, which betray an easy fluency of invention, couched in pleasing popular forms, but without pretece to depth or individuality. Many of his songs, as for instance ‘When the swallows’, were at one time universally sung, and have obtained a more or less permanent place in the popular repertory. His greatest successes in Germany and Switzerland have been obtained in part songs for men’s voices, an overgrown branch of composition unfortunately devoted to the pursuit of the mere superficial enjoyment of sweet sounds, and to a great extent identified with his name.
The list of Abt’s compositions is enormous, and contains more than 400 works, consisting chiefly of ‘Lieder’ of the most various kinds for one, two, or three solo voices, as well as for chorus, both female and mixed, and, as already mentioned, especially for men’s voices. Of the solo ‘Lieder’, a collection of the less-known ones has been published by Peters under the title of ‘Abt-Album’. In the early part of his life Abt composed much for the pianoforte, chiefly pieces of light salon character. These have never had the same popularity as his vocal works, and are now virtually forgotten.