Andreas Hammerschmidt

An organist and composer who was the leading figure in German Baroque music of the mid-seventeenth century. He became an organist at Wesenstein, Frieberg and Zittau. He succeeded Schreiber at St Johannis in Zittau (1639) and maintained this position for the rest of his life. The majority of his compositions were written while at Zittau and little is known of his previous musical training. He did know Schreiber and Otto but there is no evidence that he was a pupil of either of these musicians. Hammerschmidt composed over four hundred sacred vocal pieces in fourteen separate collections. Though he was an organist all of his life none of his organ woks survive. His most important collection was the "Musicalische Andachten" consisting of arias, madrigals, motets and sacred concertos. The structures were based upon motets, concertos and arias including sacred madrigals which emphasized the text and were set for four to six voices. The concerto style, however, dominated most of his music and these works were forerunners to the German cantata. Hammerschmidt employed the use of dialogues, definite solo parts, solo and chorus contrasts, and an extensive score. Even his motets were structured consistent with concertos and included melodic lines that were highly decorated. The masses which he composed were diligently marked for solo parts, tutti, pro organo, and also included song-like arias. Hammerschmidt was considered to be the best composer in the world during his time by many contemporaries and as gifted as the mythical Orpheus. ~ Keith Johnson

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