Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] 83

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Förtsch, Johann Philipp

(b Wertheim am Main, bap. 14 May 1652; d Eutin, nr Lübeck, 14 Dec 1732). German composer. At the age of seven he entered the Frankfurt am Main Gymnasium, where he received his early training in music, possibly including lessons with Johann Andreas Herbst. In 1671 he matriculated at the University of Jena, studying philosophy and medicine for three terms. He continued his education the following year at Erfurt, where he studied law. He left Erfurt in 1674, and for four years his whereabouts are difficult to trace. It is known that he travelled extensively, spending time in Hamburg and Helmstedt as well as in many other areas of Germany and in France. It was at this period that he must have continued his musical training, perhaps, as J.G. Walther reported (Musicalisches Lexicon, 1732), working with Johann Philipp Krieger.

In 1678 Förtsch moved to Hamburg, and his career during the next 12 years assured his place in music history. At first he sang with the Ratschor, but soon he joined the opera as a singer. In 1680 he succeeded Theile as director of the Hofkapelle at Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig, the residence of Christian Albrecht of Schleswig-Holstein. In 1681 he temporarily returned to his university education and completed a doctorate in medicine at the University of Kiel. He returned from Gottorf to Hamburg more than once during the next several years because of a war between Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark. Between 1684 and 1690 he became the foremost composer of the Hamburg opera, writing at least 12 operas. He then ended his official connection with music in order to pursue a lengthy and remarkable career, first in 1690 as court physician at Schleswig and then in 1692 as physician to the Bishop of Lübeck at his residence in Eutin. Förtsch lived for the rest of his life in Eutin, where he carried out numerous political and diplomatic assignments, including the role of privy councillor to the bishop; and for a period after the death of the bishop in 1705, he actually administered the bishopric (Weidemann gives a complete account of his colourful career at Eutin).

Förtsch began his brief period with the Hamburg opera just six years after the opening of the theatre, and his operas were almost the only ones heard there during this period. Unfortunately all of them seem to be lost; so also are two manuscript collections containing 20 arias from seven of them, though excerpts were published by Wolff. From these excerpts one can perceive a strongly personal style, characteristically German in its use of strophic, songlike arias and strong bass lines and in its affective rhythmic and harmonic treatment of the words. Förtsch was also a prolific composer of church cantatas, which he probably composed at Gottorf between 1686 and 1688.



all music lost

Croesus (L. von Bostel, after Minato), Hamburg, 1684

Das unmöglichste Ding (von Bostel, after F. Lope de Vega: El mayor impossible), Hamburg, 1684

Alexander in Sidon (Förtsch, after op by M.A. Ziani), Hamburg, 1688

Die heilige Eugenia (C.H. Postel), Hamburg, 1688

Der im Christentum biss in den Tod beständige Märtyrer Polyeuct (H. Elmenhorst), Hamburg, 1688

Xerxes in Abydus (after Minato), Hamburg, 1689

Cain und Abel (Postel), Hamburg, 1689

Das betrübte und erfreute Cimbria (Postel), Hamburg, 1689

Die grossmächtige Thalestris, oder Letzte Königin der Amazonen (Postel), Hamburg, 1690

Ancile Romanum, das ist Des Römischen Reichs Glücks-Schild (Postel), Hamburg, 1690

Bajazeth und Tamerlan (Postel, after C. Marlowe), Hamburg, 1690

Der irrende Ritter Don Quixotte de la Mancia (H. Hinsch, after M. de Cervantes: Don Quixote), Hamburg, 1690


20 arias from 7 of the above, formerly D-Hs, lost

other musical works

80 church cantatas, D-Bim; titles in Kümmerling (1970)

2 collections of inst canons on Christ der du bist der helle Tag, Bsb; incl. several didactic pieces of doubtful authenticity

theoretical works

Musicalischer Compositions Tractat (MS, D-Bsb)

Von dem dreyfachen Contrapunct (MS, Bsb)



W. Schulze: Die Quellen der Hamburger Oper 1678–1738 (Hamburg, 1938)

C. Weidemann: Leben und Wirken des Johann Philipp Förtsch (Kassel, 1955)

H. Kümmerling: Johann Philipp Förtsch als Kantatenkomponist (diss., U. of Halle, 1956)

H.C. Wolff: Die Barockoper in Hamburg 1678–1738 (Wolfenbüttel, 1957)

H. Kümmerling: Katalog der Sammlung Bokemeyer (Kassel, 1970), 112ff


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