Daniel Gottlieb Steibelt (Berlin, October 22, 1765 - St. Petersburg, October 2 [O.S. September 20] 1823), was a German pianist and composer. Daniel Steibelt studied music with Johann Kirnberger before being forced by his father to join the Prussian army. Deserting, he began a nomadic career as a pianist before settling in 1790 in Paris. Here his dramatic opera entitled Romeo et Juliette, which was later highly regarded by Berlioz, was produced at the Théâtre Feydeau in 1793. This is held by many to be his most original and artistically successful composition.
Steibelt began to share his time between Paris and London, where his piano-playing attracted great attention. In 1797 he played in a concert of J. P. Salamon. In 1798 he produced his concerto (No. 3, in E flat) containing a Storm Rondo characterised by extensive tremolos, which became very popular. In the following year Steibelt started on a professional tour in Germany; and, after playing with some success in Hamburg, Dresden, Prague and Berlin, he arrived in May 1800 at Vienna, where he challenged Beethoven to a trial of skill at the house of Count von Fries.
Accounts of the contest record it was a disaster for Steibelt; Beethoven reportedly carried the day by improvising at length on a theme taken from the cello part of a new Steibelt piece -- placed upside down on the music rack. Following this public humiliation Steibelt quit his tour. In 1808 he was invited by Tsar Alexander to St Petersburg, succeeding Boïeldieu as director of the Royal Opera in 1811.
Besides his dramatic music, Steibelt left behind him an enormous number of compositions, mostly for the piano. His playing, though brilliant, lacked the higher qualities which characterized that of his contemporaries such as Cramer and Muzio Clementi. Grove describes him as 'extraordinarily vain, arrogant, discourteous, recklessly extravagant and even dishonest.' But his playing and compositional skills enabled him to maintain a respectable career and reputation in his time.
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