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Johann Gottfried Walther (Composer, Music Theorist)

Born: September 18, 1684 - Erfurt, Thuringia, Germany
Died: March 23, 1748 - Weimar, Saxony, Germany

Johann Gottfried Walther was a German music theorist, organist, composer, and lexicographer of the Baroque era. Not only was his life almost exactly contemporaneous to that of J.S. Bach, he was the famous composer's cousin. He entered the lower school of Erfurt in 1691 and studied organ with Johann Bernhard Bach and Johann Andreas Kretschmar.

After studying at the Ratsgymnasium, Johann Gottfried Walther became organist at the Thomaskirche at Erfurt in 1702. He then devoted himself to music, reading the treatises of Werckmeister, Fludd, and Kircher, and studying composition with Buttstett. In 1706 he studied with Wilhelm Hieronymus in Nuremberg, and was appointed organist at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Weimar, in 1707. He remained there until his death. In Weimar he also taught music to Duke Wilhelm Ernst and Prince Johann Ernst and befriended J.S. Bach. In 1721 he joined the duke's court orchestra as Hof-musicus.

Johann Gottfried Walther wrote sacred vocal works and numerous organ pieces, consisting mostly of chorale preludes.

Johann Gottfried Walther's theoretical works include the Musicalisches Lexicon oder Musicalische Bibliothec and the Praecepta der musicalischen Composition. The Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732), an enormous dictionary of music and musicians, was the first dictionary in the German language to contain both musical terms and biographical information about composers and performers up to the early 18th century. In all, the Musicalisches Lexicon defines more than 3,000 musical terms; Walther evidently drew on more than 250 separate sources in compiling it, including theoretical treatises of the early Baroque and Renaissance. The single most important source for the work was the writings of Johann Mattheson, who is referenced more than 200 times.

Some further information on Walther can be found in the book Musica Poetica by Dietrich Bartel. On page 22, Bartel quotes Walther's definition of musica poetica, or musical rhetoric, as:

"Musica Poetica or musical composition is a mathematical science through which an agreeable and correct harmony of the notes is brought to paper in order that it might later be sung or played, thereby appropriately moving the listeners to Godly devotion as well as to please and delight both mind and soul…. It is so called because the composer must not only understand language as does the poet in order not to violate the meter of the text but because he also writes poetry, namely a melody, thus deserving the title Melopoeta or Melopoeus." (22)

Tommi Harju wrote (May 24, 2010): There is a picture of J.G. Walther circulatin over the web (i.e. hoasm.org and wikipedia). To my knowledge this picture is not J.G. Walther but somebody else. Many references show that there has not survived any paintings about Walther (see for example Heinz Lohmann in the preface of Walther's Ausgewählte Orgelwerke or Beckmann & Schulze 1987). As one can see from the picture, this person has a compass in his hands and other similarities that do not match.

Source: HOASM Website; Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (December 2005)

Works previously attributed to J.S. Bach

Chorale Prelude for organ Ach Gott und Herr, BWV 692
Chorale Prelude for organ Ach Gott und Herr, BWV 693
Chorale Prelude for organ Gott der Vater wohn uns bei, BWV 748
Chorale Prelude for organ Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren, BWV Anh 60 (Emans 144)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works

Title

Chorale Melody

Year

3 Chorale Preludes for Organ Ach Gott und Herr

Ach Gott und Herr

Chorale Prelude for Organ Alle Menschen müssen sterben, in DDT 26/27, p. 32

Alle Menschen müssen sterben (Zahn 6783)

Chorale Prelude on Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr from Harmonische Denck- und Dankmahl, bestehend aus VIII Vor-Spielen über das Lied: Allein Gott in der Höh sey Ehr, kbd

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

1738

Herzlich tut mich verlangen, 5 Chorale Preludes for Organ

Befiehl du deine Wege (I)

Christum wir sollen loben schon, 3 Chorale Preludes for Organ

Christum wir sollen loben schon

2 Chorale Preludes for Organ Christus, der ist mein Leben

Christus, der ist mein Leben

Organ Chorale Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (Breitkopf and Härtel, 1961)

Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinem Wort

Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag, 2 Chorale Preludes for Organ

Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag

Chorale Prelude for organ Es ist das Heil uns kommen her LV 84.

Es ist das Heil uns kommen her

Chorale Prelude for Organ Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele

Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ

Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn

Jesu, meine Freude, 4 Chorale Preludes for Organ (a ‘partite’ with variations?)

Jesu, meine Freude

Variations for organ on Jesu meine Freude

Jesu, meine Freude

Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott

2 Chorale Preludes for Organ on Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich
1 Chorale Prelude for Organ on Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich

Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich

Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt, 3 Chorale Preludes for Organ

Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt

Chorale Prelude for Organ in Musicalische Vorstellung Zwey Evangelischer Gesänge, nemlich: Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht und Jesu meine Freude” (Erfurt 1712)
Another Chorale Prelude attributed to Walther may really be by Scheidemantel:
Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht (in der Frankenbergerschen Handschrift als Werk von F. Chr. Scheidemantel)

Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht

1712

Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Meine Seele erhebet den Herren [The German Magnificat]

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin 4-pt. setting

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin

1524

O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, Chorale Prelude for Organ

O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort

Chorale Prelude for Organ on O Welt, ich muß dich lassen and In allen meinen Taten

O Welt, ich muß dich lassen

Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, Chorale Prelude (or Partita) for Organ, LV 52

Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele

Chaccone for organ O Jesu, du edle Gabe / Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig (?)

Sei gegrüßet, Jesu, gütig

Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, 2 Chorale Preludes for Organ, LV 104

Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn

Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, 2 Chorale Preludes for Organ

Von Gott will ich nicht lassen

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan

Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh allzeit

Chorale Prelude for Organ Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten

Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten

One of Walther’s 290 chorale preludes that has come down to us is Werde munter, mein Gemüte for organ with 3 separate settings/verses (but not directly related to the text of any given verse) – two of them are manualiter and one is with pedal.where the cantus firmus is at times in the pedal, at other times in the descant

Werde munter, mein Gemüthe

Links to other Sites

HOASM: Johann Gottfried Walther
Walther, Johann Gottfried: Biography (Sojurn)
Organ Composers: Johann Gottfried Walther
Johann Gottfried Walther (Naxos)

Johann Gottfried Walther (Wikipedia)
Johann Gottfried Walther (Encyclopædia Britannica)
Notes: Johann Gottfried Walther. (Organ Music).

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Last update: ýJuly 28, 2014 ý08:39:47