Franz Xaver Gruber


Franz Xaver Gruber was born in Hochberg, Austria, the son of a poor weaver whose intentions were that his son would follow in the family trade. As the young Franz Gruber came of age he discovered that his true interest was in music, and he cultivated it by taking music lessons in secret from organist Georg Hartdobler at the parish church in Burghausen. When Hartdobler died, Gruber replaced him in the post. In 1807 Gruber accepted a teaching post in Arnsdorf where he served also as organist and sexton, and from 1816 Gruber also filled in from time to time in the frequently vacant organ loft at the church at St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf. In Oberndorf Gruber met Friar Joseph Mohr (1792 – 1848), who was serving as an assistant pastor at St. Nikolaus and adept at writing sacred poetry. Mohr may have contributed the text to the German Te Deum which Gruberset in February 1818.
Gruber was a prolific composer. A thematic catalog of his manuscripts published in 1989 claims more than 60 masses for Gruber, plus more than two dozen additional liturgical settings and about 35 songs both sacred and secular. Gruber also wrote dance music and made copious amounts of arrangements of popular melodies taken from operas. But out of all this activity, it is Silent Night that truly prevails, and it has paid off handsomely for Gruber: there are museums dedicated to him in Arnsdorf and Hallein, and a chapel built in honor of Silent Night itself opened in Oberndorf in 1937.