Historian of music and art critic, one of the greatest in modern times, b. at Mauth, near Prague, in Bohemia, 17 November, 1816; d. in Vienna, 28 June, 1876. Although destined for the profession of law, in which he obtained the doctor's degree, and advanced to the point of becoming Councillor of State, he studied music seriously and under the best auspices. He was soon appointed a member of the board of governors of the Royal Conservatory at Prague, and became active as a musical critic. At this period of his career Ambros wrote several overtures for orchestra and a "Stabat Mater." As a composer he reflected very strongly the influence of Robert Schumann. Lacking the vital spark of originality, his compositions have not survived him. He became generally known as an art critic through his book "Die Grenzen der Musik und Poesie," written in reply to Edward Hanslick's treatise "Vom Musikalisch-Schönen." The latter assumed a materialistic basis for the art of music, defining musical forms as being nothing more than "sounding arabesques." Ambros's work defines what can be expressed by means of music, and what needs one of the other arts for its manifestation. In this remarkable book the author not only lays down the principles of Catholic philosophy in the light of which he judges the art works of the past and present, but he also displays that extensive knowledge of the architecture, the sculpture, the painting, and the literature of all schools and nations, their inter-relation and common origin which at once attracted the attention of the scientific world. With every new work of Ambros, such as "Kulturhistorische Bilder aus dem Musikleben der Gegenwart," "Bunte Blätter" and numerous magazine articles, his reputation increased, until the Breslau publisher Leuckart (now in Leipzig) induced him to write a complete history of music. Ambros embraced with alacrity this great opportunity for, as he put it, "rendering a service to science and art." The result was the greatest historical work on the art of music in existence. Beginning with the music of antiquity in the first volume, the second is devoted to the Middle Ages, the third to the Netherland school, and the fourth deals with Palestrina and the transitions to the moderns. This history, revealing the great artistic past of the Church, appeared at the time of the revival brought about by the publication of Proske's "Musica Divina," and gave tremendous impetus to the movement. Proske made the treasures of polyphonic art accessible, and Ambros told of their origin. Aside from the permanent historical value of his work, Ambros has rendered the Catholic cause untold service by vindicating the past, and by proclaiming with a powerful pen and with vast erudition sound philosophic principles in the midst of a well-nigh all-pervading pantheism. Ambros died before completing the fourth volume of his history. Otto Kade published, in 1882, a fifth volume consisting of musical illustrations collected from the historian's literary remains, and W. Langhans has brought the history up to date, without, however, showing Ambros's acumen or soundness. It should be mentioned that Ambros, while holding his official positions in Prague and, after 1872, in Vienna, as an officer of the Department of Justice, professor at the Conservatory, and private tutor to Prince Rudolf, was given leave of absence six months in the year, and provided with the means to enable him to visit the principal libraries of Europe in search of material for his great work.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online