Johann Friedrich Fasch

Johann Friedrich Fasch was born on April 15, 1688, in Buttelstedt near Weimar. He joined the Court Chapel of the Duke of Weissenfels as a choir boy. Here, his teacher was Johann Philipp Krieger, a musician of wide culture well versed in the Venetian, Bolognese, Neapolitan, Florentine and Roman schools, acquainted with the musicians of old Bohemia and a pupil of Pasquini. His influence on young Fasch was of considerable importance.

No less decisive was that of Johann Kuhnau at the Thomas-Schule in Leipzig where we find him in 1701. Some years later he founded at the University of that city a Collegium Musicum, the birth of which caused a grave conflict between the young composer and his old master. He then traveled a little throughout Germany and Central Europe eager to widen his knowledge, and composing all the while.

In 1722 he became Kapellmeister at the court of Zerbst. It was in that same year, so tradition has it, that he refused to compete against Johann Sebastian Bach for the post of Cantor at St. Thomas' of Leipzig. Bach likewise held him in great esteem, as witnessed by copies of five Suites by Fasch found among Bach's manuscripts.

The works of Fasch, in manuscript, are dispersed among numerous libraries throughout Europe. He is credited with at least one Passion, 14 Masses, 2 Credo, 4 Psalms, some 100 Church Cantatas, 4 Serenades, 4 Operas, plus a quantity of concertos, overtures, sonatas and symphonies. Though Fasch belongs time-wise firmly in the baroque period, his lifespan closely paralleling that of the great baroque master JS Bach, one may wonder on listening to a cross-section of his works which member of the Bach family his music most resembles, that of father Johann Sebastian, of baroque-inclined son Wilhelm Friedemann, or the forward-looking Carl Philipp Emanuel. The interesting fact is that the repertoire of Fasch, perhaps more than that of any other baroque composer, marks the transition from baroque to roccoco or early classical. He was an initiator, marking and developing the breakdown of the mold of the fugal style in favor of a form of thematic development from which romantic writing was to emerge. He died on December 5, 1758, in Zerbst, leaving the legacy of an extremely engaging musician.


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