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Fischer, Johann

(b Augsburg, 25 Sept 1646; d Schwedt, Pomerania, ?1716/17). German composer and violinist. He studied as a boy with the Augsburg Kantor Tobias Kriegsdorfer. In 1661 he went to Stuttgart to study with Samuel Capricornus, after whose death in 1665 he went to Paris and spent five years as one of Lully’s copyists. He returned to Stuttgart in 1673 and a year later settled in Augsburg, where in 1677 he is heard of as a church musician. In 1683 he became a violinist at the Ansbach court chapel, where he stayed for three years as player, teacher and composer. From 1690 to 1697 he held a similar appointment in Mitau (now Jelgava, Latvia) with Duke Friedrich Casimir of Kurland. In the late 1690s he seems to have developed a restless passion for travel and in the first ten years of the 18th century he was constantly moving around Europe. In 1700 he sought employment in Poland, in 1701 in Lüneburg. In the latter year he became Konzertmeister to Duke Friedrich Wilhelm Mecklenburg at Schwerin. In 1704 he travelled to Copenhagen, where he hoped to gain employment at court but was disappointed. He was in Bayreuth in 1707, went to Scandinavia again in 1710 and contemplated a visit to England. He spent his last years as Kapellmeister to Margrave Philipp Wilhelm of Brandenburg-Schwedt. According to Mattheson he died at the age of 70.

Fischer was one of those who, like Kusser, wholeheartedly transplanted the French style of Lully into German music; several of his works reveal this influence. His surviving chamber music leaves no doubt about his gifts. His melodies are fresh and original, his rhythms and harmony varied and engaging. His music was widely played, and highly praised by Mattheson. Fischer was an important pioneer in requiring scordatura tunings in some of his writing for the violin and even for the viola.


Motet: So wünsch ich manche gute Nacht, 1v, acc (Augsburg, 1681); according to EitnerQ authenticity questionable

Musikalische Mayen-Lust, a 7 (Augsburg, 1681)

Himmlische Seelen-Lust, 1v, acc (Nuremberg, 1686)

Musicalisch Divertissement, a 2 (Dresden, 1699)

Neuverfertigtes musicalisches Divertissement, a 4 (Augsburg, 1700)

Tafelmusik, a 3, 4 (Hamburg, 1702); ed. in HM, xvii (1951)

Musicalische Fürsten Lust, a 4 (Augsburg, 1706)

Feld- und Heldenmusik (Augsburg, 1706)

MSS of vocal and instrumental music in D-Bsb, Dl, SWl, S-Uu; 3 suites, rec, bc, in D-SWl, ed. in HM, lix (1950)



W.C. Printz: Historische Beschreibung der edelen Sing- und Kling-Kunst (Dresden, 1690/R1964 with introduction and index by O. Wessely)

B. Wojcikowna: ‘Tance polskie Jana Fischera (1702)’, KM, ii, (1913–14)

G. Beckmann: Das Violinspiel in Deutschland vor 1700 (Leipzig, 1918, music suppl. 1921)

B. Wojcikowna: ‘Johann Fischer von Augsburg (1646–1721) als Suitenkomponist’, ZMw, v (1922–3), 129–56

G. Schmidt: Die Musik am Hofe der Markgrafen von Brandenburg-Ansbach vom ausgehenden Mittelalter bis 1806 (Kassel, 1956)


Fischer, Johann Caspar Ferdinand

(b Schönfeld, nr Carlsbad [Karlovy Vary], ?6 Sept 1656; d Rastatt, 27 Aug 1746). German composer. His italianate vocal compositions, liturgical organ works in the German tradition, and orchestral and keyboard works influenced by Lully were of high quality and influenced the generation of composers before J.S. Bach, as can be seen from references to Fischer in the preface to J.A. Schmierer's Zodiaci musici Pars I (1698) and in encyclopedia articles by T.B. Janovka (1701), Mauritius Vogt (1719) and J.G. Walther (1732).

1. Life.

2. Works.




Fischer, Johann Caspar Ferdinand

1. Life.

Fischer came from a family of craftsmen and attended the Piarist grammar school, or at least its final class, at Schlackenwerth in the Egerland, the residence of Duke Julius Franz of Saxe-Lauenburg. He must also have received a good basic musical education there, for the Piarist order performed contemporary music in its schools and churches and expected active participation from its members. He may have been first taught composition by the Kapellmeisters and court musicians Johann Hönel and Augustin Pfleger, and by Georg Bleyer. Since Duke Julius Franz sent gifted musicians to receive further training elsewhere, and had connections with the Dresden court, Fischer may have acquired his high degree of contrapuntal skill from Christoph Bernhard in Dresden. There is no evidence that he ever studied with Lully in Paris. Lully's works were known and performed in Bohemia through printed scores and from Georg Muffat's visit to Prague in 1677. Fischer could have made an intensive study of them during his journeys to Prague and Schloss Raudnitz on the Elbe in the course of his professional duties.

In 1689 or earlier Duke Julius Franz appointed Fischer to succeed Pfleger as Kapellmeister in Schlackenwerth; his name appears with that title in financial statements relating to the weddings of the two princesses in 1690. After the partition of the state at the end of 1690 Fischer may have been appointed Hofkapellmeister to Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden. The margrave had married the heiress of Schlackenwerth, Princess Sibylla Augusta, and made his residence there at the time of the war with France. There is clear evidence of Fischer's position in the titles of his printed works from 1695 onwards. The court moved to Rastatt in 1705, but because of reductions in the personnel during the war years Fischer did not accompany it. It was not until October 1715, after a Piarist foundation had been set up in the city, that he was finally given a post there, which he held until his death.

Fischer's link with the Augsburg publishing firm of Lorenz Kroninger and Gottlieb Göbel, which issued his opp.1, 2, 3 and 5, was probably provided by the cathedral organist Johannes Speth, the son of a schoolmaster from Speinshart where there was a Premonstratensian monastery. Speth may have met Fischer through the Premonstratensian monastery of Tepl near Marienbad, bordering on the Schlackenworth estates. He presented Fischer's op.1 to the cathedral chapter of Augsburg in 1694, and his op.3 in 1701, and in a letter he mentioned making corrections to op.3. In 1691 Fischer married Maria Franziska Macasin, daughter of the mayor of Joachimsthal. His young wife's background, and the identity of his children's godparents, show that he was highly regarded in the circles where he moved. After his first wife's early death in 1698 Fischer re-married, probably at the beginning of 1700, and this marriage lasted until 1732.

The sacred works, operas and compositions for court festivities that Fischer wrote in Rastatt are all lost; only some texts survive. Two collections of compositions for keyboard instruments were published without opus numbers. Fischer may have met the engraver and publisher Johann Christian Leopold of Augsburg through the 23 chinoiserie engravings done at Schloss Ettlingen in Baden in January 1729. Schloss Ettlingen was Margravine Sibylla Augusta's residence in her later years, and one of the series of engravings shows the Hofkapelle in Chinese costume. A catalogue of Leopold's (in the Bavarian State Library, Munich) indicates that Fischer's two collections, Praeludia et Fugae for organ and Musikalischer Parnassus, must have appeared at the latest in 1736 (not 1738 as E.L. Gerber suggested for the Musicalischer Parnassus). The volume of organ music entitled Blumen Strauss was a reprint of the Praeludia et Fugae.

Fischer, Johann Caspar Ferdinand

2. Works.

Fischer's works for the Piarists' didactic theatre, as well as his staged dialogues and as dramatic works for court festivals, cannot be assessed, since none of them seems to have survived. Most of the texts were by the Viennese father superior of the Piarist monastery, Martinus a Sancto Brunone (1662–1733), a talented writer in both Latin and German; his lay name was Johann Jakob Schubart. French influence was probably evident in the dances, which, like those in Lully's operas, were part of the action rather than being performed at the end of the acts. The chorus, too, was employed repeatedly, not just at the end.

The eight surviving masses, like the lost requiem, are mostly for soloists, chorus, instruments and continuo. Fischer preferred chamber music instrumentation. Only one, Magnae exspectationis, is a missa solemnis with trumpets. The Missa in contrapuncto is of the missa quadragesimalis type, for voices and continuo only. There are three unusual features in this penitential mass: first, Fischer set two different Kyries, one for Advent and one for Lent; second, it is a missa integra on sacred melodies, not a missa brevis (Kyrie and Gloria) such as Knüpfer, Selle, Bernhard, Telemann and others wrote; third, Fischer worked a Gregorian melody, the tonus in directum, into the Gloria. All Fischer's masses show a high degree of contrapuntal skill in strettos, inversions, augmentations, diminutions, double counterpoint and so on. Ostinato sections, such as the final section of the Gloria of the Missa Inventionis sanctae crucis or the Benedictus of the Missa Sancti Michaelis archangeli, suggest a knowledge of north Italian and Roman settings of the Ordinary, for instance the Messa sopra l'aria del Gran Duca by Merula (1652) and the Missa a quinque et novem by Carissimi (1666). The same ‘Amen’ after the Gloria and Credo, the same ‘Hosanna’ for the Sanctus and Benedictus, and a return to earlier music in ‘Agnus Dei’ or ‘Dona nobis pacem’ all serve the purpose of formal unification. The ‘Symphonia’ after the Credo in the Missa Inventionis sanctae crucis may be intended as instrumental offertory music on the pattern of the offertoires by French composers such as Nivers, Raison and Couperin.

It seems strange that, with so many settings of the Ordinary to his credit, Fischer did not publish any masses, as did Kerll in Munich and M.F.X. Wentzely and Gunther Jacob in Prague. One reason may have been his straitened financial circumstances, particularly between 1705 and 1715; another may have been that his settings sometimes called for large forces: five solo vocal parts, a five-part string orchestra and a double choir.

The offertories are settings of non-liturgical texts. Some are scored for solemnity of effect (the Offertorium in dedicatione templi and the Concertus de sancta cruce), and they are diverse in form and always well-rounded. The printed psalms and litanies were known throughout central Europe on account of their simple scoring, their brevity and the way the music interprets the text (see Walter, 1990). Stylistically they stand between the works of Biber and Fux in the same genre, and they provided inspiration for Jacob, J.J.I. Brentner, J.F. Richter and Česlav Vaňura.

The eight orchestral suites of Le journal du printems show the influence of Lully, for instance in their scoring for five-part string orchestra (the only bass part being for bass viol), their introductory overtures with trio episodes, the use of two trumpets in nos.1 and 8, their metrically differentiated minuets, chaconnes and passacaglias, and their programmatic titles, such as ‘Air des combattans’, ‘Plainte’ and ‘Echo’. Suites 1 and 8 frame the collection, being in the same key (one in the major and the other in the minor). The number of movements varies from four (no.3) to eight (no.6).

The Musicalisches Blumen-Büschlein and the Musikalischer Parnassus, containing eight and nine suites respectively, exemplify the French ballet suite transferred to a keyboard instrument. Few contain the usual movements of the suite (although nos.1 and 6 of Blumen-Büschlein and nos.1 and 9 of Parnassus approach that type); most consist of a number of free movements strung together. Two of the Blumen-Büschlein have only two movements: a prelude and figural variations (no.5) and a prelude and contrapuntal variations (no.8). A prelude always comes first, taking into account the ‘sound-surface type’ among other things; there are passacailles en rondeau in the inner movements of the suites, and each collection contains an extensive contrapuntal movement (a chaconne in Blumen-Büschlein, a passacaglia in Parnassus). Fischer clearly wished to unite the French and German styles in these two collections.

In Parnassus no.2 a French overture in two sections is the prelude; the minuet and trio and the rondo occur frequently; three character pieces are ranged side by side in no.8 (‘Marche’, ‘Combattement’, ‘Air de triomphans’), reminding one of the similar structure of no.1 in the journal de printems. The number of parts varies in both keyboard collections, with three or four parts predominating. As in the keyboard music of French composers of the same period, such as J.-H. d'Anglebert (1689), Gaspar Le Roux (1705) and François Couperin (ii) (1713), the outer parts in particular are lavishly provided with ornamentation. In Blumen-Büschlein Fischer provided instructions for their execution in Latin, with examples in musical notation. As Janovka said in his encyclopedia, these instructions for ornamentation were a great help to German musicians.

The compass in both collections is C to c''', so that they can be played on either clavichord or harpsichord. A broken octave in the bass is taken as standard, with one split key sounding D and F and another E and G; stretches not only of 10ths but of 12ths are required in the player's left hand.

The theory that Fischer's son, also named Johann Caspar Ferdinand (1704–73), was the composer of Musikalischer Parnassus has been refuted (see Lebermann, 1971, and Walter, 1990). An entry in the Rastatt marriage register of 1738 describes the son as nobilis dominus and consilii aulici cancellista. In about 1740 he was transferred to Kirchberg in the Hunsrück and worked as an administrative official there for the rest of his life. Apel (1967, p.575) said of the two collections that ‘the later collection is perhaps as good as the earlier, but is certainly not superior’. The Notenbüchlein des J.K.F. Fischer, edited by Franz Ludwig (Mainz, 1940), must have been a forgery and was probably the work of one of Fischer's pupils; the additional numbers are well below Fischer's level.

Of the two organ collections, Praeludia et Fugae per 8 tonos ecclesiasticos, a cycle of versets for alternatim performance in divine service, seems to date from the beginning of the 18th century but was not published until later. Although its themes (which are repeated and inverted in successive versets) are more malleable and its counterpoints more masterly, it is stylistically on a par with the composer's other organ collection, Ariadne musica. Because of the large number of keys employed, the 20 preludes and fugues of Ariadne musica are historically more important. The original print of 1702 is lost, but a manuscript copy in the Minorite convent in Vienna and a mention in Walther's Lexicon provide evidence of its existence. This series of pieces begins in C major and ends, after 18 keys with accidentals, in C minor (closing in the major). The collection contributed to the question of the tempered tuning of keyboard instruments, described most clearly and thoroughly by Werckmeister in his Orgel-Probe (1681) and more particularly in its second edition (1698). J.S. Bach knew and valued the collection, and adopted some of the themes in Das wohltemperierte Clavier.

Fischer's bold venture was probably the result of cooperation with an organ builder who had a liking for experiments. With the consent of Abbot Raimund Wilfert of Tepl, to whom Ariadne musica is dedicated, Fischer and Abraham Stark (1659–1709), an organ builder from Elbogen, tuned the choir organ of Tepl monastery to something approaching equal temperament in 1700. Their success was followed by the composition and printing of Ariadne musica, an experiment which Fischer repeated, although with fewer keys, in the litanies printed in 1711. He later added a conservative appendix to Ariadne: five ricercares on Catholic hymns, preludes to the main feasts of the church year.

Like his contemporary Georg Muffat, Fischer strove for a ‘mixed style’, if without actually saying so. His style may be described as ‘German-Bohemian’, like that of his countryman Wentzely. To quote from the perhaps excessively enthusiastic verdict of the Cistercian Mauritius Vogt in 1719 on Fischer's work as a whole, he could be called ‘componista aevi sui probatus’.

Fischer, Johann Caspar Ferdinand



Edition:Sämtliche Werke für Klavier und Orgel, ed. E. von Werra (Leipzig, 1901/R) [W]

Le journal du printems, 8 suites, 5 str, 2 tpt ad lib, op. 1 (Augsburg, 1695), ed. in DDT, x (1902/R); suites 3 and 4 ed. in HM, ccxxvii (Kassel, 1976)

Les pièces de clavessin, 8 suites, kbd, op.2 (Schlackenwerth, 1696, 2/1698 as Musicalisches Blumen-Büschlein), W

Ariadne musica neo-organoedum, 20 preludes and fugues, org, op.4 (Schlackenwerth, 1702), W

Praeludia et Fugae per 8 tonos ecclesiasticos, org (Augsburg, n.d.; repr. 1732 as Blumen Strauss … in 8 tonos ecclesiaticos eingetheilet), W

Musikalischer Parnassus, 9 suites, kbd (Augsburg, n.d.), W

sacred vocal

Vesperae, seu Psalmi vespertini, 4vv, 2 vn, bc, op.3 (Augsburg, 1701), ed. in Erbe deutscher Musik, xcv (Wiesbaden, 1991)

Lytaniae Lauretanae, 4vv, 2 vn, 2 tpt/hn ad lib, bc, op.5 (Augsburg, 1711), ed. in Erbe deutscher Musik, xcvi (Wiesbaden, 1996)

8 masses, Prague, Kreuzherren Music Archive: Sanctae crucis (g), 8vv, insts; Sancti Dominici (d), SATB, insts, ed. R. Walter (Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1987); Magnae expectationis (C), 4vv, insts, ed. R. Walter (Adliswil, 1982); Inventionis sanctae crucis (d), SATB, insts, ed. H.P. Eisenmann (Magdeburg, 1996); Sancti Michaelis archangeli (C), SSATB, insts, ed. H.P. Eisenmann (Magdeburg, 1996); Sanctae Caeciliae (B), SSATB, insts; Sancti Spiritus (c), 4vv, insts, ed. H.P. Eisenmann (Magdeburg, 1995); In contrapuncto (d), 4vv, org, ed. in Das Chorwerk, cxxxiv (Wolfenbüttel, 1983)

3 int, Prague, Kreuzherren Music Archive: Rorate coeli (d), SATB, 2 vn, 2 va; Rorate coeli (d), 4vv; Rorate coeli (d), SATB, org, 1685

6 off, Prague, Kreuzherren Music Archive: O crux venerabilis (F), 5vv, 2 vn, 3 va, org; Magnus Dominus et laudabilis (C), SATB, insts; Crux tua Domine magnificata est (F), 4 solo vv, 4vv, 2 vn, 2 va, vc, org; Coelum plaude dulce laude (g), SATB, 2 org, theorbo; In dedicatione templi (C), S, A, T, B, SATB, insts, ed. H.P. Eisenmann (Magdeburg, 1996); Jubilate Deo (Concertus de Sancta cruce), SATB, insts, ed. H.P. Eisenmann (Magdeburg, 1996)

O salutaris hostia (a), SSATB, org, Prague, Kreuzherren Music Archive; ed. R. Walter (Hilversum, 1973); O salutaris hostia, SATB, SATB, 2 vn, org, Bm

Ave mundi spes, Maria, SS, 2 vn, bc, Prague, Kreuzherren Music Archive; ed. R. Walter (Altötting, 1995)

70 others cited in contemporary inventories, lost


music lost

Abdarameno gemarterte Pelagius (school drama), Horn, Austria, 1712

Sing-klingendes Schnee-Opffer (dramatic dialogue), 1717

Waffen-, Bücher- und Jägerlust (dramatic dialogue), 1717

Huldigungs-Fest der Zeit, Rastatt, 1718

Meleagers Gelübd-mässiges Ehren-Feuer-Opffer, Rastatt, 1718

Erkandte und bereuete Undanckbarkeit Philenae gegen ihren Erlöser Soteriastes (school drama), Rastatt, 1719

Ancaeens zu seiner Ehe-verlobten Alcathose, Rastatt, 1721

Vergnügte Ehe-Liebe in Hochbeglücktester Wiederkunfft, Rastatt, 1721

Die lobsingende Unschuld, oder Der um den christlichen Glauben unter dem König (school drama)

Fischer, Johann Caspar Ferdinand




MGG1 (R. Sietz)

MGG1 (‘Speth, Johannes’; A. Layer)


J.A. Schmierer: Introduction to Zodiaci musici, Pars I (Augsburg, 1698, ed. in DDT, x, 1902, 2/1958)

T.B. Janovka: Clavis ad thesaurum magnae artis musicae (Prague, 1701/R)

Martinus a S Brunone: Memorabilia (MS, 1715–19, D-RT Q*7)

M. Vogt: Conclave thesauri magnae artis musicae (Prague, 1719)

Archivum musicum Sacri ac Militaris Ordinis Crucigerorum cum Rubrea Stella, Prag (MS, 1738–59, CZ-Bu H4)

E. von Werra: Introduction to Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer: Sämtliche Werke für Klavier und Orgel (Leipzig, 1901/R)

L. Schiedermair: ‘Die Oper an den badischen Hofen des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts’, SIMG, xiv (1912–13), 191–209

A. Gnirs: Das ehemalige herzoglich sächsisch-lauenburgische und markgräflich badische Amstarchiv aus dem Schlosse Theusing in Böhmen (Brno, 1933)

O. Kamper: Pražký Hudební Archiv: Kníha Památni na sedmisetleté založení českých křižovniků s červenou hvězdou 1233–1933 (Prague, 1933)

A. Buchner: Hudební Sbírka Emiliána Troldy (Prague, 1954), 51–2

A. Nausch: Augustin Pfleger: Leben und Werke (Kassel, 1954)

F.W. Riedel: Das Musikarchiv im Minoritenkonvent zu Wien (Kassel, 1963)

Česko-Slovenský hudební slovník (Prague, 1963–5)

G.C. Mulacek: The ‘Musikalisches Blumen-Buschlein’ of Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer (diss., U. of Colorado, 1965)

W. Lebermann: ‘Johann Caspar Ferdinand und (oder) Johann Caspar Fischer?’, Mf, xxiv (1971), 40–41

O. Biba: ‘Libretti und Periochen in den Bibliotheken österreichischer Piaristenkollegien’ Jb für österreichische Kulturgeschichte, iii (1973), 7–33, esp. 10, 14

O. Biba: ‘Der Piaristenorden in Österreich: seine Bedeutung für bildende Kunst, Musik und Theater im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert’, Jb für österreichische Kulturgeschichte, v (1975), 102–79, esp. 131–2

I. Sumikura: ‘Johann Sebastian Bach und Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer’, Internationales Bach-Fest III: Leipzig 1975, 233–8

R. Walter: ‘Zu J.C.F. Fischers geistlicher Vokalmusik: neue Funde’, AMw, xxxii (1975), 39–71

R. Walter: ‘Der Kirchenkomponist Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer’, Musica sacra, xcvii (1977), 342–9

A.H. Plotinsky: The Keyboard Music of Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer (diss., City U. of New York, 1978)

M.L. Curry: A Stylistic Study of the Clavier Works of Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer (diss., U. of Oregon, 1980)

R. Walter: ‘Die Aufhebung der Rastatter Piaristen-Niederlassung in den Jahren 1729–1736’, Freiburger Diözesan-Archiv, c (1980), 402–11

K. Häfner: ‘Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer und die Rastatter Hofkapelle’, Barock in Baden-Württemberg (Karlsruhe, 1981, enlarged 2/1994)

L. Finscher, ed.: J.C.F. Fischer in seiner Zeit: Rastatt 1988

R. Walter: Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, Hofkapellmeister der Markgrafen von Baden (Frankfurt, 1990)

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