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Melchior Vulpius (Hymn-Writer, Composer)

Born: c1560 (or c1570 according to Grove Music Online) - Wasungen (Hennelberg Territory), Thuringia, Germany
Died: August 7, 1615 - Weimar, Thuringia, Germany

Melchior Vulpius [Fuchs] was German composer, schoolmaster and writer on music. He was the most important composer of Protestant hymn tunes in Germany in his day and one of the most productive and popular of lesser Lutheran composers.

Life

Together with one of his brothers, Melchior Vulpius latinized the family name, Fuchs, but still occasionally used that form. He was the son of poor parents and as a result was only able to attend the small Lateinschule in his home town, where he was a pupil of Johann Steurelein. In 1588 he was at Speyer as a fellow pupil of Christoph Thomas Walliser, whom he instructed in the elements of musica poetica, and he was there again in 1589. In that year he was appointed, on the recommendation of the Wasungen preacher A. Scherdiger and in spite of his not having attended a university, to a position as a supernumerary teacher of Latin at the Lateinschule at nearby Schleusingen, the former residence of the counts of Henneberg (who had become extinct in 1583). He was generally referred to, however, as ‘composer’, for he had already distinguished himself as such at Wasungen in the sphere of church music. His salary at Schleusingen was at first extremely modest, and it rose only slightly even after he secured a permanent appointment in the lowest grade of teacher in 1592 and had to assume the duties of Kantor. He was required to write music for the Lutheran service, chiefly motets and hymns. While at Schleusingen he no doubt became acquainted with the three Passions of Jacob Meiland, which survive in manuscripts copied there between 1567 and 1570, for his own St Matthew Passion is influenced by them (see below). From 1596 until his death he was municipal Kantor and a teacher at the Lateinschule at Weimar.

Music

With nearly 200 motets and some 400 hymns and similar pieces to his credit, not to mention various other works, Melchior Vulpius was a prolific composer, and he was also a popular one, as is shown by the second and later editions of some of his publications and the appearance of his works in 17th-century anthologies. He flourished towards the end of the period in which the motet was pre-eminent, at a time that in the context of Lutheranism saw a transition from the Latin to the German motet. He wrote all of his music for Lutheran services, and he remained impervious to stylistic changes associated with the development of the continuo. His three books of Latin Cantiones sacrae, the first two of which are his earliest extant works, betray the influence both of the age of Lassus and of Venetian polyphony. The pieces in them are scarcely original, but many are undeniably attractive. Historically more important, though intrinsically less so, are his Protestant Sprüche for the church year (1612–21), the first four-voice collections of their kind (though there are pieces for more voices towards the end of the second book); they thus complement the five- and six-voice volumes of Andreas Raselius (1594) and Johann Christoph Demantius (1610) respectively. He here showed that he was aware of the needs of smaller choirs, yet his use of only four voices was clearly no bar to the interpretation of the text through skilful alternation of graphic polyphony and expressive homophony. His Passion oratorio (St. Matthew) (1613) belongs to the genre of the responsorial Passion, and in it he effectively continued the dramatization of the turbae initiated by Meiland; here too he showed consideration for modest choral resources by including four-voice settings as well as five- and six-voice ones. The narrator has a tenor voice.The unaccompanied narrative parts of this work were taken over by Christian Flor into his St Matthew Passion (1667).

The two editions of Vulpius’s 1604 hymn collection belong to the series of hymnals containing basically homophonic settings with clearly audible descant cantus firmi that was inaugurated by Lucas Osiander in 1586. The practice of including second and third arrangements is much in evidence, as are settings for equal voices, again no doubt with a view to accommodating limited choral resources. The homophonic nature of the writing does not preclude light and charming figuration in the subsidiary parts. The two volumes include a number of the staple hymns from the Reformation period, but there are also more than 30 by Vulpius himself, several of which are still reckoned among the most admired of Protestant hymns and reveal him as the leading composer of hymn tunes between Martin Luther and Johannes Crüger.

Following the publication of the Amorum filii Dei decades duae (1594-1598) by Johannes Lindemann, which shows for the first time the influence of ballettos and other Italian dance-song forms on the texts of German hymns, Vulpius was the first composer to use the rhythm of the balletto in hymn tunes, and in doing so he introduced a new type of Protestant hymn of great originality; the tunes of Gelobt sei Gott im höchsten Thron and Lobt Gott den Herrn, ihr Heiden all are two examples. Two notable characteristics of this new style are its marked tonal feeling and the close relationship between words and music as determined by the first strophe of each such hymn; Vulpius’s tunes for Die helle Sonn leucht jetzt herfür, Hinunter ist der Sonnen Schein and Christus der ist mein Leben in particular display both features. Other known cjorale melodies by him are: Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod, and Weltlich Ehr und zeitlich Gut. The important Cantionale sacrum (Gotha, 1646-8) still contains more than 30 of his hymns.But he accomplished much more in harmonising tunes for many voices, in which he showed himsell a sound contrapuntist.

Although Vulpius did not receive the academic education that most 16th- and 17th-century Lutheran Kantors enjoyed, he was nevertheless held in the highest regard during his lifetime, and he had some success as a writer as well as a composer. His most sought-after publication was his expanded edition of Heinrich Faber’s extremely popular Compendiolum musicae (1548), which, like the original version, went through numerous editions. His Musicae compendium (1610) went through many editions. It is interesting to note that Goethe's wife was 'nee Vulpius of Weimar.'

Works

Sacred Vocal - German
Kirchen Geseng und geistliche Lieder … mehrerntheils auff zwey oder dreyerley art … contrapunctsweise, 4, 5vv (Leipzig, 1604 [incl. 2 melodies attrib. Vulpius]; enlarged 2/1609 as Ein schön geistlich Gesangbuch [incl. 31 melodies attrib. Vulpius])
Erster Theil deutscher sonntäglicher evangelischer Sprüche von Advent biss auff Trinitatis, 4vv (
Jena, 1612, repr 1615, 1619); ed. H. Nitsche and H. Stern (Stuttgart, 1960)
Das Leiden unnd Sterben … Jesu Christi, aus dem heiligen Evangelisten Matthäo, 4 and more vv (
Erfurt, 1613); ed. K. Ziebler (Kassel, 1934)
Der ander Theil deutscher sonn-täglicher evangelischer Sprüche von Trinitatis biss auff Advent, 4 and more vv (
Jena, 1614, repr. 1617, 1622); ed. H. Nitsche and H. Stern (Stuttgart, 1960)
Complementum unnd dritter Theil fest- und aposteltägiger evangelischer Sprüche, durchs gantze Jahr … nach madrigalischer Manier … componieret und gesetzet, 4–8vv (
Erfurt, 1621, repr. 1625)

Sacred Vocal - Latin
[Motets] (Erfurt, 1595 or earlier), lost (cited in MGG1)
Parprima cantionum sacrarum, 6–8 and more vv (
Jena, 1602, 2/1610); ed. M. Ehrhorn (Kassel, 1968)
Pars secunda selectissimarum cantionum sacrarum, 6–8 and more vv (
Jena, 1603, repr. 1610-11)
Canticum Beatissimae Virginis Mariae, 4–6 and more vv (
Jena, 1605)
Opusculum novum selectissimarum cantionum sacrarum, 4–8vv (
Erfurt, 1610)

Occasional
Felicibus connubiis … Schärfii, 8vv (Jena, 1608), lost (cited in EitnerQ)
Coniugii dum sacra paras: auspicatissimis nuptiis … Joh. Poppi, civis Vinariensis … et Mariae … Langii, 6vv (
Jena, 1609)
Epigramma quo nuptiis Dn. Joan. Fliegelii … per musicos numeros … congratulabatur Joh. Gebawer, 7vv (Liegnitz, 1609), lost [contrafactum of work from Pars prima cantionum sacrarum, see EitnerQ]
Nuptiis Ebaldo Langianis, 12vv (
Jena, 1614), inc.
Christus der ist mein Leben, 4vv, Christliche Leich- Trost- und Ehren-Predigt … bey Begräbnüs des … Herrn Georgii Erffurdii Franckenhusani (
Jena, 1618)
Sacred vocal works in 16171, 16181, 16212, 162215, 16278, 16414, D-Bsb, Dl, Lr, Us, Z, H-Bn, PL-WRu, S-Uu

Theoretical
Musicae compendium latino germanicum M. Heinrici Fabri … aliquantulum variatum ac dispositum, cum facili brevique de modis tractatu (Jena, 1608, 8/1665)

 

Source: Cyber Hymnal Website; Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition, by Russell Martineau, Esq.); © Oxford University Press 2005 (by Walter Blankenburg)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2003, September 2005), Thomas Braatz (September 2005)

Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

BWV 281, BWV 282

Chorale Texts used in Bach’s Vocal Works

 

Chorale Melodies used in Bach’s Vocal Works

Title

Year

EKG

Zahn

Christus, der ist mein Leben

1609

316

132

Jesu, nun sei gepreiset

1609

39

8477a

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works

Title

Chorale Melody

Year

Das neugeborne Kindelein, 4-pt. setting

Das neugeborne Kindelein

1604

Herr Gott, dich loben wir a 4-pt. setting for 2 choirs from Kirchen Geseng vnd Geistliche Lieder D. Martini Lutheri vnd anderer frommen Christen

Herr Gott, dich loben wir [The German Tedeum]

1604

Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn, 4-pt vocal setting

Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn

1609

Links to other Sites

Melchior Vulpius (Cyber Hymnal)

 

Bibliography

BlumeEK | MGG1 (F. Reckow) | ZahnM
O. Kade: Die ältere Passionskomposition bis zum Jahre 1631 (Gütersloh, 1893/R)
H.J. Moser: Die mehrstimmige Vertonung des Evangeliums, i (
Leipzig, 1931/R)
K. Ameln, C. Mahrenholz and W. Thomas, eds.: Handbuch der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenmusik (Göttingen, 1935/R)
G. Kraft: Die thüringische Musikkultur um 1600 (Würzburg, 1941)
H.H. Eggebrecht: Melchior Vulpius (diss., U. of
Jena, 1949)
H.H. Eggebrecht: ‘Die Matthäus-Passion von Melchior Vulpius (1613)’, Mf, iii (1950), 143-8
H.H. Eggebrecht: ‘Melchior Vulpius’, Musik und Kirche, xx (1950), 158
H.H. Eggebrecht: ‘Die Kirchenweisen des Melchior Vulpius’, Musik und Kirche, xxiii (1953), 52
H.H. Eggebrecht: ‘Das Leben des Melchior Vulpius’, Festschrift
Max Schneider zum achtzigsten Geburtstag, ed. W. Vetter (Leipzig, 1955), 87–104
W. Blankenburg: ‘Geschichte der Melodien des evangelischen Kirchengesangbuchs: ein Abriss’, Handbuch zum evangelischen Kirchengesangbuch, ed. C. Mahrenholz and O. Söhngen, ii/2 (Göttingen, 1957), 45–120
B. Smallman: The Background of Passion Music: J.S. Bach and his Predecessors (London, 1957, enlarged 2/1970), 37, 47–8, 69–70, 145, 148
W. Braun: Die mitteldeutsche Choralpassion im achtzehnten Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1960)
C.R. Messerli: The ‘Corona harmonica’ (1610) of Christoph Demantius and the Gospel Motet Tradition (diss., U. of Iowa, 1974)
K.W. Niemöller: ‘Parodia – imitatio: zu Georg Quitschreibers Schrift von 1611’, Studien zur Musikgeschichte: eine Festschrift für Ludwig Finscher, ed A. Laubenthal (
Kassel, 1995), 174–80

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Last update: ýOctober 10, 2012 ý10:58:21