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Johann Michael Nicolai (Composer)

Born: 1629 - probably at Ulrichshalben, near Weimar, Germany
Died: January 26, 1685 - Stuttgart, Germany

Johann Michael Nicolai [Nicolaÿ] was a German composer. Although nothing is known of his musical studies they must have reflected the high level of the musical tradition of Thuringia. Before 1655 he was a member of the court orchestra of the Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg, whose musicians were often invited to play for the Margrave of Brandenburg; in 1675 he dedicated his first set of Instrumentalische Sachen to Margrave Christian Ernst in remembrance and gratitude. From October 11, 1655 until his death he was an instrumentalist in the Stuttgart court orchestra, and he also taught the choirboys. Among other instruments he played the violone. According to contemporary accounts, members of the court orchestra met regularly in his house for an ‘exercitium musicum’. He was friendly with the composer P.F. Böddecker, organist of the collegiate church, though on less good terms with the deputy Kapellmeister, the composer J.A. Kress.

Johann Michael Nicolai’s Geistliche Harmonien consists of three-part settings of ten German and two Latin psalm texts; the dedication shows that in spite of their uncommitted nature they were intended for the Protestant liturgy. The manuscript cantatas of the Evangelische Harmonien were destined for narrower liturgical use, in accordance with the church’s calendar, for the two months from the first Sunday in Advent to the Purification. In several of his numerous instrumental works the lower instruments, such as the bass viol and the bassoon, are contrasted with the violins or viols independently of the basso continuo. In the sonatas two lively central movements are enclosed and connected by short adagio sections, and the movements of a single work are often based on the same thematic material in varied rhythms.


Sacred Vocal:
Erster Theil [12] Geistliche Harmonien, 3vv, 2 vn, bc (Frankfurt, 1669)
Evangelische Harmonien Erster Theil (24 cants.), 4vv, 2 vn, 2 viols, bc, D-Sl
Allein zu dir
, 10vv, bc; Herr wenn ich nur dich habe, 3vv, 2 vn, bc: Bsb
Der Tod seiner Heiligen
, 3vv, insts, S-Uu

Erster Theil instrumentalischer Sachen (12 sonatas), 2 vn, b viol/bn (Augsburg, 1675)
Anderer Theil instrumentalischer Sachen (24 capriccios), 4 viols, bc (Augsburg, 1675)
Dritter Theil instrumentalischer Sachen, vn, 2 viols, vle, bc (Stuttgart, 1682), lost
2 sonatas, vn, b viol/trbn, bc, S-Uu
XII Aria a 4, 2 vn, bn, bc, Uu
2 sonatas, vn, 2 viols, bc; 1 sonata, vn, b viol, bc; 1 sonata, 2 vn, bc: F-Pn
4 sonatas and suites, incl. 1 anon. probably by Nicolai, 2, 3 viols, bc, GB-DRc (2 attrib. J. Jenkins in Lbl)

Details of other works, now lost, in Seiffert and Bopp


Source: Grove Music Online, © Oxford University Press 2006, acc. 5/10/06 (Author: Eberhard Stiefel)
Contributed by
Thomas Braatz (May 2006)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, Setting for 10 voices + bc

Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ

Links to other Sites



EitnerQ | MGG1 (E. Stiefel)
M. Seiffert: ‘Die Chorbibliothek der St. Michaelisschule in Lüneburg zu Seb. Bachs Zeit’, SIMG, ix (1907–8), 593–620, esp. 611
A. Bopp: ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte der Stuttgarter Stiftsmusik’, Württembergisches Jb für Statistik und Landeskunde 1910 (1911), 211–50, esp. 239, 242
G. Bossert: ‘Die Hofkapelle unter Eberhard III (1628–1657)’, Württembergische Vierteljahrshefte für Landesgeschichte, new ser., xxi (1912), 69–137, esp. 124
E.H. Meyer: Die mehrstimmige Spielmusik des 17. Jahrhunderts in Nord- und Mitteleuropa (Kassel, 1934/R), 228-9
P. Evans: ‘Seventeenth-Century Chamber Music Manuscripts at Durham’, ML, xxxvi (1955), 205-23

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