Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758): Leben Und Werk/Die Messen Johann Friedrich Faschs (1688-1758)

Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758): Leben Und Werk/Die Messen Johann Friedrich Faschs (1688-1758)

Article excerpt

Rüdiger Pfeiffer. Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758): Leben und Werk. Heinrichshofen Bücher. Wilhelmshaven: Noetzel, 1994. 193 pp. ISBN 3-7959-0613-X (hardcover).

Raymond Dittrich. Die Messen Johann Friedrich Faschs (1688-1758). Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1992. Europäische Hochschulschriften, series 36, vol. 84. 2 vols. 480, 232 pp. ISBN 3-631-45273-X (softcover). [Ph.D. diss., University of Hamburg, 1992.]

One will henceforth have to count [Johann Friedrich Fasch] as one of the most outstanding contemporaries of J.S. Bach...Fasch is one of the newer composers who helped to put instrumental music on its own two feet and who supplanted fugal writing with modern thematic [writing.]1

Despite this passionate testimony by the eminent German musicologist Hugo Riemann at the turn of this century, it took over ninety years, numerous specialized studies and several conference proceedings for the first monograph on Johann Friedrich Fasch to appear in print.2

In Johann Friedrich Fasch: Leben und Werk, Rudiger Pfeiffer, the former president of the International Fasch Society, provides the reader with a detailed account of the life and an overview of the musical output of this prolific composer and successful entrepreneur who held the position of Kapellmeister for thirty-six years at the the Lutheran Orthodox Court of Anhalt-Zerbst. In nineteen informative biographical chapters, Pfeiffer paints the rather gloomy yet familiar picture of a "minor master" of the early eighteenth century, complete with numerous success stories: as a student at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, for example, Fasch-following O.P. Telemann's example-founded a second Collegium Musicum (chapter II), received opera commissions for the Naumburg and Zeitz Courts (chapter IV), and was offered the position of Thomaskantor in 1722 after Telemann had declined it. Fasch rejected the position as well because he did not feel comfortable teaching Latin (chapter Vl). An intriguing question-albeit a rhetorical one-arises: would Fasch be as well-known in the twentieth century as Bach now is if he had accepted the position of Thomaskantor ...? Pfeiffer, perhaps wisely, refrains from addressing this issue altogether.

Pfeiffer does, however, relate an interesting piece of trivia in chapter V. For over 100 years, Fasch was believed to have been Kapellmeister to the same Bohemian Count Morzin who would employ Franz Joseph Haydn from 1759 to 1761.3 In 1983, Milan Postolka determined that Fasch's and Haydn's employers could, in fact, not have been identical because Fasch's employer belonged to the Prague Morzin lineage, while Haydn had been in the service of a Count Morzin from Delni Lukavec.4 The 1980 edition of the most easily-accessible article in English on Fasch still contains this error;5 undoubtedly, a correction will be made in the forthcoming edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

As presented in chapters XIII to XVI, Fasch's main "claim to fame" was the organization of a flourishing Musikalientausch, i.e., the exchange of sheet music among "... Kapellmeister, Cantoribus and other good composers" in Germany.6 A historically significant inventory from 1743, the Zerbst ConcertStube, illustrates that Fasch was not isolated musically from the major music centres in Germany. Having kept in contact with his former teacher Graupner, Kapellmeister at the Court of Darmstadt, and such influential composers as Pisendel, Heinichen and Zelenka at the Ducal Court of Dresden, Fasch became a major supplier of music to the Dresden Court in the 173Os. It should, therefore, come as no suprise that the names of composers listed in Fasch's music inventory read like an early eighteenth-century "Who's Who in European Music," with Vivaldi's andTelemann's works taking precedence over all others. Pfeiffer is quick to point out that one name is missing from the list-that of the twentieth-century icon, J.S. Bach.7

Even more interesting than Fasch's achievements are the many struggles with which he had to contend. …

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