Johann [Johannes] Eccard was a church composer of importance in the development of the German chorale.
Johann Eccard was a pupil of David Köller in the Kapellschule at Weimar from 1567 to 1571, when he was paid three gulden 'zu endlicher Abfertigung'. He probably went that year to Munich to study under Orlando di Lasso; Stobræus refers to him as a pupil of the 'world-famed' Orlando. Eccard had returned to Mühlhausen in 1574. In 1578 he was musician in the household of Jacob Fugger of Augsburg; for in dedicating his 'Newe deutsche Lieder,' 1578, to the three brothers Fugger, he says:
'Also hab' ich verschiener Zeit, In des. . . Herrn Jacob Fuggers, meines gnedigen Herm, E. G. gebrüder dienst etliche deutsche Lieder, etc.,'
dated from Augustae Vindelicorum, 1578. Similarly a manuscript Mass in the Munich Hofbibliothek is dated 'de Jacobi Fuggeri Musico, 1578.' By 1581 Eccard was settled in Königsberg; in that year he published there his five-part music to some wedding hymns, in conjunction with the Kapellmeister, Theo. Riccio, and in the following year the five-part music to Psalm cxxxiv. Eccard was appointed vice.-Kapellmeister and Musicus by the Markgraf Georg Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and later, in 1604, he succeeded Riccio as Kapellmeister. On July 4, 1608, Eccard was summoned to Berlin to be Kapellmeister to the Kurfürst Joachim Friedrich of Brandenburg; the latter died on July 18, and was succeeded by Johann Sigismond, who in a letter on the following September 11, confirmed the appointment on the grounds that Eccard was greatly famed and his equal not easily to be found, that he was an old, peaceful and quiet man, and that the salary, considering his attainments, was not too high!
Eccard's treatment of well-known chorales in his great work Geistliche Lieder, 1597, as well as of the fine chorales of his own composition, causes him to stand out prominently among his contemporaries. This work, consisting of motets for five voices, was undertaken at the request of the Markgraf Georg Friedrich; Eccard himself thought it the first real attempt to produce a cantional, written not only with religious but with musical and artistic aims: 'Darin nach musikalischer Art, was anmüthiger und der Kunst gemässer enthalten ware.' Among his choreles which became a permanent part of church-song were the three, first published in 1574 (IIIII Odae); the four which appeared in Dreissig geistliche Lieder, 1594; 'Es rühmt die heiIige Schrift,' composed for a wedding-hymn in 1591; and 'Nachdem die Sonn, beschlossen,' from the 'Gebetlein,' 1600. Zahn (Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder, 1889-93) gives twenty melodies with their sources and the various publications in which they subsequently appeared. There have beeh many reprints of Eccard's sacred Songs; Herr v. Winterfeld, who considered that the characteristic strength and feeling in these compositions fully egualled anything produced by his Italian contemporaries, printed altogether forty-six of them.2 Ten of Eccard's compositions, including 'O Freude uber Freude' for double choir, are in Musica sacra, vols. v. and vi., edited by A. Neithardt for the use of the Berlin Domchor; eleven are in Fr. Wüllner's Chorübungen der Münchener Musikschule, 1893-95; in Commer's Geistliche und weltliche Lieder, 1870, Nos. 5 and 6; in Reissmann's Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik, 1863, Nos. 10 and 11; in Sir H. Bishop's '12 Coräle,' 1844, No. 11; one set to the English words 'When Mary to the Temple went,' edited by Otto Goldschmidt in the Bach Ohoir Magazine, has a quaint simplicity which is very pleasing. G. W. Teschner (1860-1890) reprinted both the Geistliche Lieder, two vols., and the Preussische Festlieder, two vols.
On the other hand, Eccard's secular works, comparatively limited in number, have been carefully edited by Robt. Eitner, in the Publ. älterer prakt. u. theoret. Musikwerke, vol. xxi., 1897. He notes approvingly that Eccard differs from his contemporaries inasmuch as he always marks-the necessary sharpening or flattening of notes. In his works Eccard clearly shows the influence of Lassus, as well as his ability to realize the full implications of his text through the relationship of words to music and in terms of texture. In the 19th century Eccard’s music was regarded as the epitome of the a cappella ideal, and in an age of Protestant revival, he was seen as the counterpart to Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Johannes Brahms is said to have prized Eccard’s music.