Wolfgang [Egenolf] Dachstein was a German composer and organist. He belonged to a family of theologians and musicians that had originally come from Dachstein, near Strasbourg. In the summer of 1503 he began his studies in theology at Erfurt University where Martin Luther, a contemporary, was also studying. By 1520 he had taken the vows of the Dominican order and was organist of Strasbourg Cathedral. On March 11, 1521 he became organist at St Thomas’s, also teaching at the school associated with St Thomas’s. He remained in Strasbourg for the rest of his life. By June 18, 1523 he had converted to Lutheranism. He retained his post at St Thomas’s even after his conversion. In 1541 he once again became organist at the cathedral. In 1542 he and Matthias Greiter became teachers at the Gymnasium Argentinense. On October 27, 1549, during the suspension of Protestantism in Strasbourg (1549-1560), Dachstein reverted to Catholicism, enabling him to keep his position at the cathedral. A pamphlet he wrote criticizing the magistrate resulted in his dismissal from St Thomas’s in 1551.
Together with Matthias Greiter, Dachstein created some of the most famous melodies of the Reformation. He composed melodies for the psalms Der Töricht spricht: Es ist kein Gott (Ps.xiv), O Herr, wer wird sein Wohnung han (Ps.xv) and Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (II) (Ps.cxxx), and a hymn melody, Ich glaub darum red ich, in the Strassburger Kirchenampt of 1525; and An Wasserflüssen Babylon (Ps.cxxxvii) in Psalmen, Gebett und Kirchenübung (Strasbourg, 1525). The latter served as a model for the psalm melody in the 1541 Genevan Psalter (Calvin heard Dachstein’s melodies in Strasbourg in 1538).
Dachstein's melodies resemble the ‘Hofweise’ style, but much simplified, with sparing use of melismas and cadences, as they were intended for the general population. They are also similar to the melodic odes of Petrus Tritonius, Heinrich Glarean and Ludwig Senfl. Two lines predominate in his polyphonic settings of Psalms xiv, cxxv and cxxxvii (Grossen Kirchen-Gesangbuch, 1572), making them especially suitable for popular use. One polyphonic song by him is also extant: Ach Elslein, ach Elslein wilt mit mir in die Ernte, in CH-Bu F.X.1–4. Some of his compositions may be described as quodlibets, combining as they do a newly composed melody with a familiar one.
BlumeEK | EitnerQ | MGG1 suppl. (S. Fornaçon)
J. Zahn: Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder (Gütersloh, 1889–92/R)
S. Fornaçon: ‘Wolfgang Dachstein, der erste evangelische Organist’, Der Kirchenmusiker, vii (1956), 37-40
C.M. Roper: The Strasbourg French Psalters, 1539-1553 (diss., University of Southern California, 1972)
M. Honneger: ‘La place de Strasbourg dans la musique au XVIe siècle’, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, xiii (1982), 5-19