Johannes Eccard

Johannes Eccard


• 1553 1611


One of the most important Lutheran composers of the sixteenth century, Johannes Eccard helped foster a new musical culture that was centered around the Lutheran chorale -- a culture that would eventually culminate in the music of Bach and even later, Brahms. Eccard was born in the Thuringian village of Mühlhausen, and began his long musical career in the Lateinschule there. He probably was a pupil of the Mühlhausen Kantor Joachim a Burck, and continued his musical education in Weimar under the tutelage of the kapellmeister David Köller (1569-1571). For the next two years, Eccard sang in the Hofkapelle of the Bavarian court, and certainly went there to study music and musical composition with the world-renowned Orlande de Lassus who led the choir. Having soaked up the best music of his Protestant (and Catholic) teachers, Eccard embarked upon a stellar musical career, starting in his mid-twenties (1577-1578) with employment in the household of the hugely wealthy Augsburg banker Jakob Fugger, for whom Eccard wrote a Mass, and with whose support he printed his second book of German-texted music.

Eccard proceeded from Fugger's patronage to a series of high court appointments across the German countryside. He served in the chapel of the Margrave of Bandenburg at Ansbach and Königsberg from 1580; he was promoted to vice kapellmeister in 1586 and finally achieved the coveted title of chapelmaster when his next patron, the Elector Jocahim Friedrich of Brandenburg, became Administrator of Prussia. By this date in 1604, Eccard had continued not only to produce the seasonal round of church music, but had printed a massive and influential collection of Lutheran chorale settings, the Geistliche Lieder of 1597. In 1608, the Elector put Eccard in charge of his main musical forces in Berlin, where the old musician expired in 1611. Yet Eccard's music did not cease with his death. It was still being printed in new editions as late as 1644, was being quoted as late as 1672 (in a Passion setting by Johann Sebastiani), and would be cherished by German musicians as late as Johannes Brahms. Eccard pioneered and developed not only the well-known simple four-part congregational settings of the Lutheran hymns (his setting of Luther's "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott" became a standard), but also the more advanced type of Lutheran chorale-motet that would become so popular in the seventeenth century.