Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Biographies of Poets & Composers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Bach & Other Composers

Johann Melchior Molter (Composer)

Born: February 19, 1696 - Tiefenort, near Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany
Died: January 12, 1765 - Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg Germany

Johann Melchior Molter was a German Baroque composer and violinist. He was the son of a Kantor, and attended the Eisenach Preparatory School (Gymnasium) before entering the service of the Margrave Carl-Wilhelm of Boden-Durlach in Karlsruhe in 1717, working as a violinist. Here he married Maria Salome Rollwagen, with whom he had eight children. Studies of composition in Venice and Rome during 1719-1721 brought him into direct contact with Italian musicians such as Antonio Vivaldi and Alessandro Scarlatti.

Johann Melchior Molter was appointed to the post of court Kapellmeister (music director) in Karlsruhe in 1722. After the disbandment of the court orchestra at the end of 1733 as a result of the outbreak of the Polish War of Succession, Molter was appointed to the then vacant Kapellmeister's post at the court of Duke Wilhelm Heinrich of Saxe-Eisenach. He began his service in Eisenach during Easter 1734 and held this post until the dissolution of the Eisenach court in the summer of 1741. Maria died in 1737 and by 1742 Molter had married Maria Christina Wagner. In that year he returned to Karlsruhe and began teaching at the Gymnasium there. From 1747 to his death Molter was employed by Margrave Carl Friedrich of Baden-Durlach, the son of his first employer.

Johann Melchior Molter's surviving works include an oratorio; several cantatas; over 140 symphonies, overtures, and other works for orchestra (or 170 sinfonias, according to; over 40 solo concertos (including some of the first clarinet concertos ever written); 21 orchestral sonatas (a genre unique Molter), other orchestral music and over 100 chamber works. His music reflects many influences and shows a move from late Baroque to galant style; imaginative instrumentation is often a feature. He also composed oratorios, cantatas and keyboard music. One of Molter's many Trumpet Concertos is the signature piece of C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

J.S. Bach Connection

The identity of the composer of the Lukas-Passion (BWV 246) is a question that has often been considered. He must have been a musician active in Central Germany around 1735 and was probably born shortly before 1700. In Klaus Häfner's research he has come up with a number of bits of evidence suggesting the possibility that its composer may have been the still little-known Eisenach court music director Johann Melchior Molter.

The Lukas-Passion exhibits many parallels and points of relation to other compositions known to be by Molter, not only to eleven church cantatas discovered in Regensburg some years ago and a two-part passion oratorio extant in Sondershausen, all doting to his Eisenach years, but also to other works of his. All of this makes his authorship at least seem possible. These resemblances have been overlooked for the simple reason that Molter's sacred works have managed to elude researchers up until now.

This almost direct juxtaposition of old-fashioned traditional elements and modern elements is also found in Molter's passion oratorio dating to around 1735. Elegant instrumentations with, for example, a solo instrument and string pizzicato occur repeatedly in his arias and in the clearly recognisable technique combining different tonal and motion layers (oboes, strings, chorus, continuo) in the introductory passion chorus. It is precisely the introductory measures ascribed to J.S. Bach at the beginning of the second part that correspond especially well to Molter's orchestral style of strong Venetian stamp. Linguistic and formal points of relation also exist between the madrigal texts in the Lukas-Passion and those by Gottfried Loos (1686-1741), the Eisenach court poet who wrote for Molter.

If Molter did in fact compose the Lukas-Passion, then it was the inaugural music for his Eisenach post and was premiered at St. George's City and Court Church in Eisenach on Good Friday, April 23, 1734. The gifted tenor Johann Ebert (his participation would explain the no fewer than three tenor arias) and the organist Johann Bernhard Bach would have been among the performers. It is through Johann Bernhard Bach that J.S. Bach could have learned about the work in Leipzig and expressed the wish to see the score. Molter would have then sent his score together with a copy of the printed text (such texts were obligatory for Eisenach vocal performances) to Leipzig, and J.S. Bach and his son would have completed their copy of the score before Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach left home in the autumn of 1734. The first Leipzig performance of the Lukas-Passion would presumably have taken place on Good Friday, April 8, 1735. The J.S. Bach scholar Alfred Dürr also regards this date as possible.

Source: Liner notes to the album 'J.S. Bach: Apocryphal St; Luke Passion', conducted by Wolfgang Helbich (CPO, 1997; Article author: Klaus Häfner, English translation by Susan Marie Praeder); Wikipedia Website (from Klaus Häfner. "Molter, Johann Melchior." Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy, accessed December 1 2006); Website (from Music Encyclopedia)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2008)

Works previously attributed to J.S. Bach / performed by J.S. Bach

Lukas-Passion BWV 246, previously attributed to J.S. was probably composed by J.M. Molter. The only source for the Lukas-Passion is a score copy begun by J.S. Bach and completed by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The thought now is that Molter was not the composer either because, if he were, then the manuscript copy that exists now would have had to have been made later than 1730-1731, and this would not have been possible because Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (who also worked along with his father on the manuscript copy) was only in Leipzig until 1734, after which time he entered the University of Frankfurt an der Oder.
1st performance by J.S. Bach in
Leipzig on Good Friday April 7, 1730
2nd performance:by J.S. Bach in
Leipzig on Good Friday April 8, 1735
3rd performance (Later Version) by J.S. Bach in
Leipzig on Good Friday: April 16, 1745 ? or 1743-1746 (including at least one movement by J.S. Bach Aus der Tiefe rufet ich (BWV 246/40a)

Links to other Sites

Johann Melchior Molter (Wikipedia)
Johann Melchior Molter Biography (Naxos)

Johann Melchior Molter (



Biographies of Poets & Composers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Bach & Other Composers


Back to the Top

Last update: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 23:35