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Johann Peter Kellner (Composer, Bach's Pupil)

Born: September 28, 1705 - Gräfenroda, Thuringia, Germany
Died: April 22, 1772 (buried) - Gräfenroda, Thuringia, Germany

Johann Peter Kellner [Keller, Kelner] was a German organist and composer, father of Johann Christoph Kellner (1736-1803). His parents wished him to become a lamp-black merchant like his father, but he was determined to study music. He probably received his first training at the village school in Gräfenroda, where he sang under the Kantor Johann Peter Nagel; his first keyboard teacher was Nagel's son Johann Heinrich. He next studied for a year in Zella (presumably 1720-1721) with the organist Johann Schmidt and then for a year in Suhl (presumably 1721-1722) with the organist Hieronymous Florentius Quehl, who gave him his first composition lessons. Kellner next returned to Gräfenroda and served for three years as a tutor. On October 21, 1725 he successfully auditioned for the post of Kantor in neighbouring Frankenhain, where he remained for over two years. In December 1727 he was back in Gräfenroda, first as assistant Kantor under J.P. Nagel and later, after Nagel's death in 1732, as Kantor. He remained in this post until his death.

Johann Peter Kellner was famous throughout Thuringia as an organist and teacher. According to his autobiography, published in F.W. Marpurg's Historische-kritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik (Berlin, 1754-1778/R, i, 439-45) he performed for the dukes of Coburg and Weimar and the Prince of Sondershausen. Among his many pupils were Johann Philipp Kirnberger, J.E. Rembt and Johannes Ringk. Kellner also played a critical role in the dissemination of the music of J.S. Bach, evinced by the many manuscript copies of J.S. Bach's compositions - primarily keyboard and organ works - that stem from his circle. These manuscripts, many of which are in Kellner's hand, often represent the earliest or only source of a work, and they shed light on the chronology, compositional history and authenticity of the music. Kellner appears also to have transcribed for keyboard certain chamber works by J.S. Bach, such as the sonatas BWV 1027 and BWV 1039. Whether he was a pupil of J.S. Bach is unclear, but the two knew one another personally. Another of Kellner's acquaintances was George Frideric Handel.

On the whole, Johann Peter Kellner's keyboard music typifies the galant idiom of the post-J.S. Bach generation, despite the obvious influence of J.S. Bach's Das wohltemperierte Clavier on certain movements of the Certamen musicum. Although his organ works incline more toward late Baroque style, the setting of Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan achieves a thoroughly Rococo texture. The D minor organ fugue (BWV Anh.180) is a double fugue featuring separate expositions for the two subjects. Rather pedestrian by comparison is the C minor organ fugue, which is merely a transposition of a movement from the Certamen musicum and was published in 1947 as a work by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (ed. E. Power Biggs). The Prelude and Fugue in D minor is noteworthy for its brilliant pedal solo, which reflects Kellner's virtuosity as an organist. His ornamental setting of Herzlich tut mich verlangen (BWV Anh. 47) is still regularly played.

Bach's Pupils: List of Bach's Pupils | Actual and Potential Non-Thomaner Singers and Players who participated in Bach’s Figural Music in Leipzig | Bach’s Pupils - Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2


printed works published in Arnstadt unless otherwise stated; MSS in B-Bc, D-Bsb, Dl, LEm, NL-DHgm

Fugue, d, Prelude and Fugue, d, 2 trios, D, G, all ed. G. Feder, Die Orgel, ii/7 (Lippstadt, 1958); Prelude in C, ed. R. Wilhelm, Orgelmusik um Johann Sebastian Bach (Wiesbaden, 1985); 2 fugues, c, D; 3 preludes, C, C, g; 2 preludes and fugues, both G; chorale settings: Herzlich tut mich verlangen (Leipzig, 1907); Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (Leipzig, 1907); Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten (Wiesbaden, 1985); Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich; Nun danket alle Gott; Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her

Other Keyboard:
Certamen musicum, bestehend aus Präludien, Fugen, Allemanden, Couranten, Sarabanden, Giguen, wie auch Menuetten, 6 suites (1739–49); 3 Sonates (1752); Manipulus musices, oder Eine Hand voll kurzweiliger Zeitvertreib, 4 suites (1752–6); Concerto, F (Leipzig, 1956); 2 fugues, a, C; Menuet, a; 3 preludes and fugues, a, C, G; 2 sonatas; 12 Variationes

36 church cants., D-F; annual cycle of church cants. with obbl org, 1753 (lost)

Other works listed in Fechner and MGG1 may be by Kellner's son,
Johann Christoph Kellner


Source: Grove Music Online, © Oxford University Press 2006, acc. 3/5-06 (Author: Russell Stinson)
Contributed by
Thomas Braatz (April 2006)

Works previously attributed to J.S. Bach

Fugue for organ in G major, BWV Anh 44 (or by Johann Christoph Kellner)
Chorale Prelude for organ Herzlich tut mich verlangen, BWV Anh 47
Fugue for keyboard in D minor, BWV Anh 180

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


3 Chorale Variations for 2 Manuals & Pedal Organ Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

Chorale Prelude for organ Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich

Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich

Chorale Prelude for organ Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan

Chorale Prelude for organ Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten

Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten

Links to other Sites



FrotscherG | MGG1 (L. Hoffman-Erbrecht)
W. Kahl, ed.: Selbstbiographien deutscher Musiker des XVIII. Jahrhunderts (Cologne, 1948/R)
Gedenkschrift anlässlich der Johann-Peter-Kellner-Festwoche in Gräfenroda (Gräfenroda, 1955)
M. Fechner: Die Klavier- und Orgelwerke Johann Peter Kellners (Diplomarbeit, U. of Leipzig, 1965)
H.-J. Schulze: Bach-Dokumente, iii (Kassel and Leipzig, 1972)
R. Stinson: The Bach Manuscripts of Johann Peter Kellner and his Circle: a Case Study in Reception History (Durham, NC, 1989)
R. Stinson: ‘“Ein Sammelband aus Johann Peter Kellners Besitz”: neue Forschungen zur Berliner Bach-Handschrift P804’, BJb 1992, 45-64
R. Stinson: Preface to Keyboard Transcriptions from the Bach Circle (Madison, WI, 1992)

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