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Johann Caspar Bachofen (Composer)

Born: December 26, 1695 - Zürich, Switzerland
Died: June 23, 1755 - Zürich, Switzerland

Johann Caspar [Kaspar] Bachofen was a Swiss composer and music teacher. Bachofen, son of a teacher, grew up in Zürich and studied theology (1719 he was admitted to the ministry), but only worked as a music teacher. As early as 1711 he was a member of the Collegium Musicum “zum Chorherrensaal“, the oldest of the private Zürich’s Collegium Musica, which was established in 1600. From 1715 he played in the Collegium Musicum “zur deutschen Schule“ (also known as the “zum Fraumünster”), which had been established in 1679. From 1720 (or 1718Grove) he served as singing-master at the Latin School and Kantor at the Grossmünster (Great Cathedral)) and Fraumünster (Women's Cathedral). Since 1739 he served as the Kapellmeister of the Collegium “zur deutschen Schule“. In 1742 he succeeded Johann Caspar Albertin as Kantor of the Grossmünster and also director of the Collegium Musicum “zum Chorherrensaal“ (director of the' “Chorherrn-Gesellsohaft”Grove.)

Johann Caspar Bachofen published several collections of sacred songs and arias, some written by himself. In 1727 followed his musical opus magnum, the extensive collection of songs Musicalisches Hallelujah, or Schöne und Geistreiche Gesänge (Beauty and Spiritual Songs), accompanied with new and revived melodies, and encouragement to praise God, printed by Hans Heinrich Bürkli in Zürich. The collection contains mainly three-part hymns for organ basso continuo accompaniment. His hymns were very popular in Switzerland, and his works give abundant evidence of his diligence and the wide range of his talent. The enormous popularity of the Musicalische Hallelujah, encouraged Bachofen to publish further five editions during his lifetime (1733, 1739, 1743, 1750, 1754), which were augmented by new songs. Even after his death the collection continued to be in print, the 11th and last edition appeared in 1803.

Four years after Johann Caspar Bachofen death appeared in 1759 his setting to music of the Passion-Oratorio Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus, also known as Brockes-Passion. The text from 1712 by Barthold Heinrich Brockes had been already previously set to music by composers such as Reinhard Keiser (1712), Georg Friedrich Handel (c1715), Georg Philipp Telemann (1716), Johann Mattheson (1719), Johann Friedrich Fasch (1723) and Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1725).


(1) Musicalisches Hallelujah oder Schöne und Geistreiche Gesänge, etc. (1727), containing 600 melodies for 2 and 3 voices with organ and figured bass (8 editions down to 1767)
(2) Psalmen Davids . . . samt Fest- und Kirchengesängen, etc.. 8 voices (1759; 2nd edition)
(3) Vermebrte Zusatz von Morgen, Abend. . . Gesängen (1738)
(4) 12 monthly numbers containing sacred airs arranged in concert-style for 2 and 3 voices (1755; 4th edition)
B.H. Brockes' Irdisches Vergnügen in in Gott, set to music 1740
(6) Musikalische Ergetzungen (1755)
(7) Der für die Sünde der Welt, etc. (Brockes-Passion) (1759)
(8) Music. Notenbüchlein, an instruction-book in lUmie ltnd singing


Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition; Author: Dr. Franz Gehring); German Wikipedia Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (October 2010); Website (from Music Encyclopedia)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2010)

Links to other Sites

Johann Caspar Bachofen (Wikipedia) [German]
Bachofen, Johann Caspar (Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz) [German]
Bachofen, Johann Caspar (BBKL) [German]

Johann Jaacob Bachofen (
Heinrich Brockes And Handel:- Connections to a German Past by Sarah Fuhs [PDF]


Byron D. Arnold: The life and works of Johann Caspar Bachofen. Ph. D. Diss. (University of Southern California, Los Angeles 1956)
Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz: Bachofen, Johann Caspar. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Band 1, (Hamm 1975, Sp. 326)
Eduard M. Fallet: Johann Kaspar Bachofen, in: Schweizer. Musikztg. 66 (1926)
Karl Nef: Schweizer Passionsmusiken, in: Schweizer. Jb. f. Musikwiss. V (1931)
Max Menge: Über Brockes und Bachofen, in: Schweizer. Musikztg. 79 (1939)

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