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Johann Christoph Schmidt (Composer)

Born: August 6, 1664 - Hohnstein, near Pirna, Germany
Died: April 13, 1728 - Dresden, Germany

The German composer, Johann Christoph Schmidt (i), was son of the Hohnstein Kantor Johann Christian Schmidt (d 1690), he became a chorister in 1676 at the court chapel in Dresden where, at the request of the elector Johann Georg III, he was taught by Christoph Bernhard. He later became an instrumentalist in the court orchestra. In 1687 he was appointed master of the choristers and in 1692 second organist. He went to study in Italy in 1694, with support from the elector, and in 1696, on the recommendation of Nicolaus Adam Strungk, the Dresden court Kapellmeister, became his deputy Kapellmeister and chamber organist. Soon after, N.A. Strungk left for Leipzig and Schmidt was appointed principal Kapellmeister on June 19, 1698. During the rule of August the Strong (1694–1733) the court Kapelle served both as the Saxon electoral and Polish royal orchestra, and had extensive duties in Dresden, Kraków and Warsaw; Schmidt was its director and as Kapellmeister also had responsibility for the Protestant church music at court. In addition, he was director of the Catholic church music until 1717, when he gave that task to Johann David Heinichen. During Schmidt’s term as director the Dresden orchestra became one of the most renowned in Europe owing to its many distinguished players, who around 1719 included J.B. Volumier, Johann Georg Pisendel, F.M. Veracini, Christoph Pezold, Pantaleon Hebenstreit, Silvius Leopold Weiss, Jan Dismas Zelenka, P.G. Buffardin and J.C. Richter.

In 1719 Schmidt, who had been made Oberkapellmeister in 1717, wrote a French divertissement Les quatre saisons in a sequence of recitatives, arias, concerted numbers and choruses, suited to the talents of the dilettantes who performed it on 23 September as part of a Festival of Venus on the marriage of Prince Friedrich August of Saxony to the Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria. This work, the central event in a typical Dresden court festival of August the Strong’s reign, followed the tradition of the 17th-century opéra-ballet. Schmidt was noted by Hiller as a solid composer with a good grasp of counterpoint; but although he lacked exceptional artistic gifts he was not a ‘dry’ or ‘infertile’ composer, as Hiller wrote. J.S. Bach copied out his motet Auf Gott hoffe ich. He ranks as a minor master of his time, clearly handling the musical resources and stylistic conventions of Dresden high Baroque with competence. From 1717 Schmidt and J.D. Heinichen ranked equally as Kapellmeisters of church and chamber music respectively, and divided the orchestral work between them; after Schmidt’s death J.D. Heinichen took over the Protestant church music at the court. Johann Mattheson printed a letter from Schmidt, dated 28 July 1718, in his Critica musica (vii, 1722, p.266), dealing with solmization. Schmidt acted as intermediary in the controversy over the old method, suggesting that solmization should be retained for vocal music but advocating the use of the two ‘French modes, major and minor’ for the ‘stylo moderno’. His pupils included C.G. Schröter, Carl Heinrich Graun and Georg Melchior Hoffmann.

His brother Johann Wolfgang Schmidt (b Hohnstein, November 20, 1677; d Dresden, April 5, 1744) served as copyist at the Dresden court from 1709 and was organist for the Protestant church music there from 1719.


Sacred Vocal
4 masses,
Motets: Auf Gott hoffe ich, 4vv, 4 tpt, timp, 2 fl, 2 vn, 2 vc, bn, org, theorbo; Bonum est confiteri Domino, A, 2 vn, 2 vc, bn, org, 26 Nov 1696; Wo ist solch ein Gott wie du bist, 10vv, 2 vn, 2 vc, org, 1701; motet, vv: all
Cantatas, ?lost: Gott, du bleibest doch mein Gott, 4-5vv, insts; Labe mich durch deines Mundes Kuss, S, org, insts; Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, 4-5vv, insts; Mein Herz ist bereit, T, org, insts; Schwing dich auf zu deinen Gott, 4-5vv, insts; Sie ist fest gegründet auf den heiligen Bergen, 8vv, org, insts; Zion spricht: der Herr hat mich verlassen, T, B, org, str

Other Works
Les quatre saisons (divertissement, Poisson), solo vv, chorus, 4 tpt, timp, ob, str, bc, Dresden, Grosser Garten, 23 Sept 1719; airs
Latona in Delo
4 ov.-suites


Source: Grove Music Online, © Oxford University Press 2005 (Author: ?)
Contributed by
Thomas Braatz (December 2005)

Works performed by J.S. Bach

Cantata Auf Gott Hoffe ich/motet (Text: Bible) - performed by J.S. Bach in Weimar 1713-1716 or 1714-1717 (TLM)

Works in J.S. Bach's Library

Kyrie in D major

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Cantata: Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott, 4-5 voices + instruments
(Bach copied out one of his cantatas)

Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott

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