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Johann Adam Reincken (Composer)

Born: April 27, 1623 (Ulf Grapenthin suggests December 1643 as a possible alternative) - possibly Deventer, the Netherlands
Died: November 24, 1722 - Hamburg, Germany

Johann [Jan, John] Adam [Adams] Reincken [Reinken, Reinike] was a distinguished North German organist who was remarkable for his longevity, encompassing style, and his influence on young organists such as J.S. Bach.

In 1654 J.A. Reincken went to study with Johann Heinrich Scheidemann at the Katharinenkirche (St. Katharine's Church) in Hamburg for three years, later becoming his assistant in 1658 after a year in Deventer. When J.H. Scheidemann died in 1663, Reincken took his position, remaining there for the rest of his 99-year life. Reincken was also instrumental in founding the celebrated Hamburg opera in 1678, and his instrumental suites show his close relationship with the burgeoning collegium musicum tradition. J.A. Reincken knew Dietrich Buxtehude well, as evidenced by a 1674 oil painting by Johannes Voorhout depicting the two of them together in a domestic music scene (see below). In 1705, some church elders attempted to appoint Johann Mattheson as Reincken's successor, but the latter prevented this from happening. Unlike many other contemporary organists, Reincken died wealthy.

The most celebrated work from Johann Adam Reincken's remarkably small surviving output, the enormous Fantasia on the Lutheran chorale An Wasserflüssen Babylon, provides a compendium of most of his styles, techniques and figurations available to a German composer of the mid- to late 17th century.

J.S. Bach Connection

Johann Adam Reincken is also thought to have been a significant influence on the young J.S. Bach. It was on this very same chorale that JSB improvised in from of J.A. Reincken, just before the latter's death at an advanced age. It is said that after hearing the younger man's improvisation, Reincken remarked: "I thought that this art was dead, but I see that it lives in you." So if the story is true, it would indicate J.S. Bach showing respect for Reincken's craft. J.S. Bach had, in fact, been intimately acquainted with Reincken 's music some years before, when he based a fugue and two sonatas for keyboard on pieces drawn from Reincken's Hortus musicus (1687). These provide an extremely productive window into J.S. Bach's compositional practice, his transcriptions ranging from embellishments to entirely independent pieces based on Reincken's subjects.

In 2006, the earliest autograph by J.S. Bach was discovered in Weimar, showing a copy of J.A. Reincken's An Wasserflüssen, which Bach made for his then teacher Georg Böhm in Lüneburg c1700.

List of works

2 chorale fantasias for organ: An Wasserflüssen Babylon, Was uns kommen an für Not
4 Toccatas (G major, G minor, A major (doubtful), G major (by
Girolamo Frescobaldi?)
Fugue in G minor
8 suites for harpsichord
3 sets of variations for harpsichord

Breitkopf & Härtel: Complete organ works / edited by Pieter Dirksen (c2005)
Breitkopf & Härtel: Klavierwerke (Keyboard works) / edited by Klaus Beckmann (c1980)

Johannes Voorhout: Domestic Music Scene (the man at the harpsichord is believed to be Reincken, on his left Johann Theile playing the viola da gamba, on his right Dietrich Buxtehude) [03]

Source: Wikipedia Website; HOASM Website; Malcom Boyd, editor: Oxford Composer Companion J.S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 1999, Article author: John Butt)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2008)

Works previously attributed to J.S. Bach

Toccata quasi Fantasia con Fuge for organ in A major, BWV Anh 178 (also M. Rossi, H. Purcell, W.H. Pachelbel, Johann Pachelbel, R. King)

Works arranged by J.S. Bach

Fugue for keyboard in B flat major (after J.A. Reincken), BWV 954 [Doubtful; based on Allegro from Sonata No. 6 Hortus musicus]
Sonata for keyboard in A minor,
BWV 965 [based on Sonata No. 1 from Hortus musicus by J.A. Reincken]
Sonata for keyboard in C major,
BWV 966 [based on Sonata No. 1 from Hortus musicus by J.A. Reincken]

Works in J.S. Bach's Library

Toccata G-dur

Links to other Sites

Jan Adams Reincken (Sojurn)
HOASM: Johann Adam Reincken

Johann Adam Reincken (Wikipedia)


Ulf Grapenthin: "Reincken, Johann Adam", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001)
W. Breig: 'Composition as Arrangement and Adaptation', in John Butt's, ed.: The Cambridge Companion to Bach (Cambridge, 1997), 154-170
Ulf Grapenthin: ' Johann Adam Reincken: Leben und Werk' (dissertation, University of
Hamburg, forthcoming)
Christoph Wolff: 'Bach and Johann Adam Reincken: A Context for the Early Works', in Bach: Essays on his Life and Music (Cambridge, Mass. 1991), 56-71

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