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Johann Friedrich Fasch (Composer)

Born: April 15, 1688 - Buttelstedt near Weimar, Thuringia, Germany
Died: December 5, 1758 - Zerbst, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Johann Friedrich Fasch, a contemporary of J.S. Bach and Georg Frideric Handel, was one of Germany's leading composers in the first half of the 18th century. He was a chorister at Weißenfels in 1699 under Johann Philipp Krieger, a scholar of the Thomasschule in Leipzig from 1701 to 1707, where he studied law as well as music, the latter under Johann Kuhnau.

Johann Friedrich Fasch founded in Leipzig a 'Collegium Musicum,' which seems to have been the ancestor of the 'Grosse Concert' and so of the Gewandhaus concerts; he wrote overtures for the society in the style of Georg Philipp Telemann, and composed three operas. for the Naumburg fair and elsewhere. In 1712 he visited many cities and courts en route to Darmstadt, where he studied under Christoph Graupner and Grünewald. He beccame a violinist in the orchestra in Bayreuth in 1714, and also held court posts in Greiz and Lukavec. In 1714, after leading a wandering life for some years, he was an official secretary at Gera, and in 1719 went to Zeitz as organist and Rathschreiber, where he remained for two years. In 1721 he took service with Count Morzin at Lucavoo in Bohemia, and in 1722 was appointed court Kapellmeister at Zerbst, where he remained for the rest of his life. There he wrote 12 cycles of church cantatas, other sacred music and festival works for the court. He gained widespread fame, and was invited to compete for the post of Kantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig against J.S. Bach, but apparently refused to do so. J.S. Bach held Fasch's music in high esteem, and copied out five orchestral suites of his. An autobiographical sketch appeared in Marpurg's Historisch-kritisch Beyträge in 1757.

None of Johann Friedrich Fasch's music was printed in his lifetime, and much of it is lost. In the collection of music left by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was a whole set of church cantatas by Fasch. Several masses, a Requiem, eleven church cantatas and motets, one Passion-setting, various overtures, trios, sonatas, etc., are preserved in manuscript at Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin and Brussels. He is credited with at least one Passion, 14 Masses, 2 Credo, 4 Psalms, some 100 Church Cantatas, 4 Serenades, 4 Operas, plus a quantity of concertos (about 60, structured like Antonio Vivaldi's), overtures/orchestral suites (about 90), trio sonatas and symphonies. Fasch's modern reputation rests on his overtures, symphonies, concertos, and chamber music. Unusual and progressive scorings feature in his orchestral music, and his output shows a transition from Baroque to early Classical style; some late works anticipate the idioms of Gluck, Haydn and Mozart.

Johann Friedrich Fasch was the father of the composer Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch (1736-1800).

The portrait above is a bit contentious, according to Brian Clark - Fasch scholar and expert. There's a lot of debate on who the subject is in that painting. (Kim Patrick Clow, Sep 30, 2010)

Source: Mostly from Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition) & HOASM Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2006)

Johann Friedrich Fasch: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | Cantata Gehet zu seinen Thoren ein, FWV D:G 1 | Brockes-Passion, FWV F:1 | Johann Friedrich Fasch & Bach | Music Examples

Works arranged by J.S. Bach

Organ Trio in C minor after Johann Friedrich Fasch, BWV 585 [Doubtful]

Works performed by J.S. Bach

Cantata Gehet zu seinen Thoren ein, FWV D:G 1, for New Year's Day (Text: ?) - performed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig January 1, 1729-1735 ?
Cantata Gottes und Marien Kind, for Annunciation ( (Text: ?) - performed by J.S. Bach in
Leipzig March 25, 1732

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Cantata: Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid

Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht

Cantata: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

Links to other Sites

Johann Friedrich Fasch: a biographical note (Baroque Music)
HOASM: Johann Friedrich Fasch
Johann Friedrich Fasch (Wikipedia)
Johann Friedrich Fasch - Biography /Johann Friedrich Fasch
Fasch, Johann Friedrich (WQXR)

Internationale Fasch-Gesellschaft eV [German]
Fasch, Johann Friedrich (1688 - 1758) (Karadar) [German]
Stadt Zerbst: Personen: Johann Friedrich Fasch [German]
Johann Friedrich Fasch (Wikipedia) [German]
Johann Friedrich Fasch (Anhalt Zerbst) [German]
Johann-Friedrich Fasch (klassiekmuziekgids) [Dutch]



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