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
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
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
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; on that occasion he composed the opera "Die königliche
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
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
"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 1734) 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
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
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
Fasch died on 5 December 1758 in Zerbst. His daughter Johanna
Friedericka arranged his "quiet" funeral.
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