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Musikfeste Sachsen-Anhalt

Johann Friedrich Fasch | Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758)

NOTE: J. F. Fasch's autobiography from 1757 was published in volume 3 of F. W. Marpurg's Historisch-Kritische Beyträge der Musik. A digital scan is available online. English translations of the 1757 autobiography (and the entry on Fasch in Walther's Musicalisches Lexicon) are provided by Barbara M. Reul in the 2015 Fasch Conference Report, pp. 334-337.


Johann Friedrich Fasch was born in Buttelstedt near Weimar on 15 April and baptized in the local St. Nicolai Church on 17 April. J. F. was the first child of school principal Friedrich Georg Fasch (died 1700) and Sophia Wegerig (also Wegerich), daughter of a Lutheran pastor. Soon after J. F.'s birth, his father took a position as teacher and Cantor at the Henneberg Secondary School in Schleusingen.


The Fasch family relocated to Suhl, where Fasch's father had been appointed principal of the local Secondary School.


Fasch sang in the soprano (discant) section during performances of sacred music in Suhl.


After his father's death, Fasch was raised by Gottfried Wegerig, one of his mother's brothers. He was a chaplain in Teuchern, the birth place of the Hamburg opera composer Reinhard Keiser. A relative of Fasch's family, Andreas Scheele, chamber musician and tenor soloist at the court of Weißenfels, arranged for J. F. to become a choral scholar at the Weißenfels court, an important performance venue of early German opera. Court Kapellmeister Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725), a renowned composer of early German operas, most likely fostered Fasch's musical talent.


Fasch attended St. Thomas's School in Leipzig during Cantor Johann Kuhnau's (1660-1722) tenure as principal and became a member of the Thomaner Choir. Fasch taught himself how to play the violin and keyboard instruments, composed his first vocal works, setting to music texts by Menantes (C. F. Hunold). Among other works, Fasch also composed overture suites modelled after those of G. P. Telemann. These were performed with much success by the Collegium musicum, an orchestral force consisting of secondary school and university students.


Fasch began to study theology and law in Leipzig and founded the "second ordinary Collegium musicum"; among its members were J. D. Heinichen, G. H. Stölzel and J. G. Pisendel. Fasch also composed numerous incidental works.


Fasch and his Collegium musicum were requested to perform regularly at worship services at the Pauliner Kirche and for other festive academic events of the University of Leipzig.


Fasch's application for the position of Cantor at St. Jakobi at Chemnitz was not successful.


Fasch received commissions from Duke Moritz Wilhelm of Sachsen-Zeitz to compose operas for the Peter and Paul Fair in Naumburg and later for the Court of Zeitz ("Clomire", "Lucius Verus" and "Die getreue Dido"). Fasch also requested financial support for a study trip to Italy from the Duke but received a recommendation to the Court of Gotha instead.


After finishing his university studies in Leipzig, Fasch undertook a musical study trip through the southern and western parts of Germany, ending up in Kassel, having passed through Zeitz, Gera, Gotha, Eisenach and Mühlhausen. He spent much of spring of 1714 in Kassel, eventually travelling to Darmstadt via Marburg, Gießen and Frankfurt/Main. Fasch received 14 weeks of complimentary composition lessons from his former St. Thomas's School prefect, Court Kapellmeister Christoph Graupner at Darmstadt, and from his concertmaster Gottfried Grünewald. Upon returning to Saxony Fasch visited his mother in Suhl, before departing for a second trip that leads him to the court of Oettingen via Bamberg, Nürnberg and Ansbach. His hopes of going to Italy remained unfulfilled; instead, he accepted employment as a violinist in Bayreuth during the Carnival season.


Fasch accepted a position as "secretary and administrative assistant" in Gera.


On 16 November, Fasch married Johanna Christiane Laurentius, a pastor's daughter, in Roben near Gera.


Fasch's oldest daughter, Sophia Maria, was born in Roben on 23 January. As of May 1732 she attended the Fräuleinstift (a private school for girls) in Coethen; she died on 13 May 1746.

On 7 May, Fasch took a position as town clerk (later also working as organist) in Greiz, where his father-in-law Georg Michael Laurentius served as archdeacon.


On 4 October, Fasch's wife passed away, after giving birth to their son Christian Friedrich; the child died on 15 March 1721.


On 29 September, Fasch left Greiz for personal and professional reasons. He accepted a position as "Componist" to Count Morzin in Prague for whom he continued to compose works throughout his career. In 1725 Antonio Vivaldi dedicated his Four Seasons to Morzin's orchestra.


Upon the recommendation of his friend and colleague in Gotha, G. H. Stölzel, Fasch assumed the position of Court Kapellmeister of Anhalt-Zerbst on 29 September (Michaelis); in December, he turned down the vacant position of Cantor at the St. Thomas Church at Leipzig, which Johann Sebastian Bach would eventually accept. Fasch's work load at Zerbst was extremely heavy: he set to music a double cycle of church cantatas, a passion, and secular vocal music (serenatas), and he also composed instrumental works on the occasion of princely celebrations.


"On account of musical matters" Fasch left Zerbst in October 1726 to visit Dresden, which he had previously visited when passing through on his way to Carlovy Vary, Teplice and Prague. He intended to stay only until Easter 1727 but may have returned to Zerbst in the summer. During his sabbatical in Dresden (financed by the Zerbst court) Fasch set to music sacred Latin texts for the Catholic court chapel, on which a friend from his youth, the Dresden court Kapellmeister Johann David Heinichen, offered advice. Heinichen's successor as of late 1733 was none other than the arguably most prolific composer of Italian operas in Germany, Johann Adolf Hasse. Fasch supplied the Dresden court Kapelle with his own instrumental music until at least 1755, the year his close friend, concertmaster Johann Georg Pisendel, passed away.

Fasch attended undercover Bible studies disguised as Tafelmusiken, led by Pietist Nikolaus Ludwig Count of Zinzendorf, with whom Fasch regularly corresponded during the 1730s. Fasch met his future wife, Johanna Helena Simers, a pastor's daughter from Kmehlen (died 1743) and probably a member of Zinzendorf's Dresden circle, at these gatherings. They married on 22 July 1728 in Groß-Kmehlen. As a practicing Pietist Fasch continued to experience conflict with the Lutheran-Orthodox clergy in Zerbst.


On 16 June, Fasch wrote to Johann Mattheson, editor of the music periodical "Der musicalische Patriot" in Hamburg. Fasch requested to be put in touch with colleagues who would be willing to exchange cycles of cantatas. An "exchange of musical compositions" began, with Zerbst, Dresden, Darmstadt and other cities participating.


Fasch's second daughter, Johanna Friedericka, was born on 3 October in Groß-Kmehlen.


On 18 November 1736, Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch was born. His older brother August Friedrich Christian (born 1735) most likely died as an infant. Fasch junior secured his rank in music history by founding the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin.


In March Fasch specified the compositions of the Zerbst ducal music library in an inventory ("Concert=Stube des Zerbster Schlosses"). It includes numerous works of the Hamburg music director G. P. Telemann as well as compositions of French and Italian masters, in particular works by A. Vivaldi. After the death of his second wife, Fasch raised his son as a single parent and, despite continuous financial worries, made sure that Carl received a solid musical education.


Fasch composed a serenata on the occasion of the marriage of princess Sophie Auguste Friederike of Anhalt-Zerbst to Duke Peter of Russia on 1 September. (In 1762 she ascends the Russian throne as Catherine II.)


Fasch travelled to Dresden with his son Carl Friedrich Christian to visit J. G. Pisendel. They attended a Catholic mass which deeply moved and impressed Carl.

On 29 October Fasch applied for the position of music director and Cantor of Freiberg, but was rejected due to his advanced age.


The reigning Prince Friedrich August of Anhalt-Zerbst and his mother left the city. On the run from enemy troops which threatened Berlin during the Seven Years War, Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch, second harpsichordist to Frederick the Great of Prussia since 1756, and his colleague Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and his family spent the summer and the fall in Zerbst. During his stay, Bach composed works for keyboard.

Fasch died on 5 December 1758 in Zerbst. His daughter Johanna Friedericka arranged his "quiet" funeral.

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The most recent issue of our annual newsletter Faschiana appeared in December 2021. No issue was published in 2022.