The Sacred cantatas of Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758)

Date

2017-05-31

Authors

Reul, Barbara Margaretha

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Abstract

J.F. Fasch, the Kapellmeister at the Court of Anhalt-Zerbst from 1722 to 1758 and one of the most neglected contemporaries of J.S. Bach, composed approximately 1400 sacred cantatas during his life time. Seven cycles comprising 1000 cantatas were listed by Fasch in a music inventory, the Concert=Stube des Zerbster Schloβes. Using data recorded in volumes 352-369 of the Konsistorium Zerbst Rep 15 IXa chronicle, this dissertation sheds light on the musical-liturgical activities at the Court Chapel during the years of Fasch's tenure. This primary source was hitherto thought to be lost but it is indeed held at the Landesarchiv Oranienbaum, Germany, and has provided a wealth of illuminating information for this study. It allows us to solve a number of enigmas which have long puzzled scholars. First, we can gain insight into the music and worship traditions at the Court Chapel and examine Fasch's role as Kapellmeister in a contemporary mid-eighteenth century context. In addition to performing his own cantata cycles and premiering cycles by other composers such as Telemann and G.F. Stölzel, Fasch repeated these cycles between two and six times. Secondly, we can date the largest collection of sacred cantatas by Fasch preserved at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin—Preuβischer Kulturbesitz. The majority of cantatas form part of a cycle from 1735/36, Das in Bitte, Gebeth, Fürbitte and Dancksagung bestehende Opffer. The extant copies were prepared by Fasch in the early 1750s, probably upon the request of a fellow composer who participated in the Musikalientausch which Fasch had begun organizing in 1728. Finally, an examination of Fasch's compositional procedures as evident in the sacred cantatas preserved at the Staatsbibliothek shows that while his musical style was firmly rooted in the mid-eighteenth century, Fasch also employed forward-oriented techniques and developed an Individualstil. This investigation, having brought to light important source materials and offered significant insights, provides a useful basis for, and stimulus to any future research into the sacred music of J.F. Fasch as well as the musical-liturgical activities at German Courts during the first half of the eighteenth century.

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Keywords

Fasch, Johann Friedrich, Cantatas, Sacred

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