Johann Krieger (28 December 1651 ? 18 July 1735) was a German composer and organist, younger brother of Johann Philipp Krieger. He was one of the most important keyboard composers of his day, highly esteemed by, among others, George Frideric Handel. After spending several decades in central Germany, Krieger moved to Zittau, where he spent some 53 years, working as organist of the Church of St. John. He was a prolific composer of church and secular music, and published several dozens of his works. However, much of his work was lost when Zittau was destroyed by fire in 1757, during the Seven Years' War.
Johann and his older brother Johann Philipp came from a Nüremberg family of rugmakers. Neither are related to Adam Krieger, another Baroque composer. Johann studied with Heinrich Schwemmer (teacher of Johann Pachelbel) at St. Sebaldus, and sang in the choir there for several years. In 1661?68 Krieger studied keyboard playing with Georg Caspar Wecker. His older brother's development was different, for Johann Philipp studied with a Froberger pupil, Johann Drechsel. However, for about a decade from 1668 the two brothers' lives shared the same course. In 1671 both Kriegers studied composition at Zeitz. In 1672 Johann Philipp moved to Bayreuth and became court organist there. He very quickly rose to the rank of Kapellmeister, and was succeeded as court organist by Johann. In 1677 Johann Philipp was employed as court organist at Halle, and Johann soon became chamber musician at Zeitz, a city some 30 miles away. He then attained the position of Kapellmeister at Greiz (a further 30 miles south from Zeitz).
After Count Heinrich I of Greiz died in 1680, Johann worked as Kapellmeister at Eisenberg for a little less than two years. He then moved far to the east, to Zittau, to become director chori musici and organist of the Church of St. John (Johanniskirche) there. He held the post for 53 years, until his death. The Zittau position evidently suited the composer. The church stood in the center of the city and was one of the most important churches of Zittau. It had several organs, providing ample opportunity to experiment. There was no opera house in Zittau, but Krieger's Singspiels were, nevertheless, performed, by the pupils of the city's Gymnasium. Soon after getting the Zittau position, Krieger started publishing his music. The first to appear was Neue musicalische Ergetzligkeit, a large collection of arias and songs for one to four voices, published in 1684 in Frankfurt and Leipzig. Keyboard collections Sechs musicalische Partien and Anmuthige Clavier-Übung followed more than a decade later, in 1697 and 1698 respectively, both printed in Nuremberg.
Krieger died on 18 July 1735 at the advanced age of 83. According to Johann Mattheson, whose Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte remains the main source for biographical detail on Krieger, the composer was active until the very end of his life, still performing at a service on 17 July 1735, the day before he died. He outlived his brother by some 10 years: Johann Phillip died in 1725, after spending 45 years of his life in Weißenfels, a city in central Germany, not far from the places the two brothers worked at when they were young. The city of Zittau was destroyed in 1757 during the hostilities of the Seven Years' War, the Church of St. John is no longer standing. Among the numerous lost works are all of Krieger's known Singspiels. His older brother's oeuvre also suffered from events that occurred after his death: of some 2000 cantatas by Johann Phillip, only 76 survive.
The most important part of Krieger's surviving oeuvre is his keyboard works, particularly the content of Anmuthige Clavier-Übung. Ricercares and fugues of this collection display a penchant for contrapuntal complexity. Most of the ricercares consistently employ inversion of the subject, and No. 7 even inverts the countersubject. The fugues have been compared to Bach's in their structural traits: a restriction to one subject, attention to the individual character of the subject and the answer, and prominent use of episodes. Fugues 11?15 form a cycle: four fugues on four different themes followed by a quadruple fugue on these themes. Krieger's skill in writing double fugues was a characteristic singled out by Mattheson: 'of the old excellent masters, I know of none who surpasses the Zittau Kapellmeister Johann Krieger in [writing double fugues].' Anmuthige Clavier-Übung is also an important milestone in the development of Central German organ school: it includes a fantasia in the manner of Pachelbel, and particularly important toccata?Toccata mit dem Pedal aus C?which includes virtuosic use of pedal, and fully worked out free and imitative sections. Noted keyboard music scholar Willi Apel called the piece 'perhaps the only fully-developed toccata written in central Germany before Bach', although a Pachelbel pupil, Johann Heinrich Buttstett, attempted a fusion of North and Central German styles in his toccatas as well. The harpsichord dances of Sechs musicalische Partien are less important historically, and so are the surviving vocal works by Krieger, which are conservative in style; however, some of the cantatas occasionally include advanced imitative writing reminiscent of Krieger's best fugues.
Handel took a copy of Anmuthige Clavier-Übung with him to England, and gave it to his friend Bernard Granville, whose note on the pages of the print states that '[this] printed book is by one of the celebrated Organ players of Germany; Mr. Handel in his youth formed himself a good deal on his plan, and said that Krieger was one of the best writers of his time for the Organ.'
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