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Johann Schelle (Composer, Thomaskantor)

Born: September ??, 1648 (Baptised: September 6, 1648) - Geissingen, Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Died: March 10, 1701 - Leipzig, Germany

The German composer, Johann Schelle, was born into a musical family - his father was himself a Kantor - and in 1655, at age 7, he entered the choir of the Dresden electoral chapel under the great composer Heinrich Schütz. In 1657 he went to Wolfenbüttel, where he joined the choir of the ducal court. When his voice broke in 1665, he entered the Thomasschule in Leipzig under Sebastian Knüpfer, and later attended the university.

In October 1670 Johann Schelle became Kantor in Eilenburg. When his former teacher Sebastian Knüpfer died, Schelle succeeded him as Kantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, a post later held by J.S. Bach. He obtained the post on January 31, 1677, and held it until his death. His appointment was made against the wishes of the city mayor, who remained antagonistic to him and the changes he introduced in the musical content of services. The matter came to a head when Schelle replaced the Latin compositions written by Italian masters with music to German texts, especially cantatas. When the city council finally took Schelle’s side on the problem Schelle started the practice of introducing into the Protestant liturgy in Leipzig not only the Gospel cantata to German texts but later the chorale cantata, too. This remains one of his most important achievements.

Almost all of Johann Schelle's compositions are sacred works, most of them to German texts. Not many of his works are extant, and few were published in his lifetime. Only some of his songs were published in Feller's Andächtige Student and Vopelius' song-book. 25 manuscript cantatas, with instrumental accompaniment, are in the Berlin library.


Source: HOASM Website; San Francisco Bach Choir Website; Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition)
Contributed by
Thomas Braatz (September 2005), Aryeh Oron (December 2005)

Thomaskantors: Thomanerchor Leipzig | Gewandhausorchester Leipzig | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Ach, Gott und Herr Cantata for 5 voices, 4 violins, 4 violas, 3 trombones, bassoon, bc

Ach Gott und Herr

Christus, der ist mein Leben, Cantata 5 voices, 4 violins, 4 violas, bassoon, bc

Christus, der ist mein Leben

Nunc Dimittis, a 20: all lost, listed in inventories, 1686 and 1712 [entirely in Latin]

Das Nunc dimittis


Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, Cantata for 2 Clarini, Timpani, 2 Violini, 2 Violette, 2 Cornetti, 2 Tromboni, 5 Voices and Organo

Vom Himmel hoch

Es ist genug, mein matter Sinn for 3 Violette, 3 Bassoons, Soprano, Alto, Organo, Violone [This may not be the same chorale text, nor the same melody]

Es ist genug

Canon à 6 voices on Nun komm der Heiden Heiland

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

Links to other Sites

HOASM: Johann Schelle

San Francisco Bach Choir: Johann Schelle
Schelle, Johann (Leipzig Lexikon) [German]



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Last update: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 16:22