J. J .Fux Keyboard Music

Johann Joseph Fux (German: c.1660 – 1741) was an Austrian composer, music theorist and teacher from the late Baroque era. He wrote a famous book on counterpoint, Gradus ad Parnassum, which was very influential.

He was born to a peasant family in Hirtenfeld, Styria, In 1680 he was accepted at the Jesuit Ferdinandeum University in Graza, where his musical talent became apparent. From 1685 until 1688 he was organist at St. Moritz in Ingolstadt.

By the 1690s he was in Vienna, and attracted the attention of Emperor Leopold I with some masses he composed; the emperor was impressed by them and assisted him with his career . In 1698, Leopold hired him as court composer. Fux travelled again to Italy, studying in Rome in 1700.

Fux became the Hofkapellmeister of the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle in 1715, along with Antonio Caldara as his number 2 and F.B. Conti as the court composer.

Fux served Leopold I until the emperor's death, and two more Habsburg emperors after that: Joseph I, and Charles VI, both of whom continued to employ him in high positions in the court. His mastery of counterpoint influenced many composers through his book Gradus ad Parnassum (1725). Haydn largely taught himself counterpoint by reading it and recommended it to the young Beethoven. Mozart also had a copy which he annotated. Fux dedicated it to Emperor Charles VI.

The work is divided into two major parts. In the first part, Fux presents a summary of the theory on Musica Speculativa, or the analysis of intervals as proportions between numbers. This section is in a simple lecture style, and looks at music from a purely mathematical angle, in a theoretical tradition that goes back, through the works of Renaissance theoreticians, to the Ancient Greeks. Fux also goes into temperaments - he explains that intervals in exact mathematical proportions result in larger and smaller half tones, and he also mentions that some organists added extra keys (split halves to use smaller and bigger half tones), but that adding extra keys on a keyboard was difficult, so for practical reasons they divided every note into two equal parts, resulting in 'equal temperament'. He continues: "Because experience told us that one cannot do this by means of numbers, you have to do it by ear, by taking away an almost non-detectable amount from one note and adding it to the others".

The second part, on Musica Pratica, is the section of the book where the author instructs in counterpoint, fugue, double counterpoint, agives a brief essay on musical taste, and his ideas on composing sacred music, writing in the 'a cappella' and in the 'recitativo' style. This part is in the form of a dialog, between a master (Aloysius, Latin for Luigi, who is meant to represent Palestrina's ideas) and a student, Josephus, who represents Fux himself.

In species counterpoint, as given in Fux, the student is to master writing counterpoint in each species before moving on to the next. The species are, in order, note against note; two notes against one; four notes against one; ligature or suspensions (one note against one, but offset by half of the note value); and florid counterpoint, in which the other species are combined freely. Once all the species are mastered in two voices, the species are gone through again in three voices, and then in four voices.

Fux's compositions were catalogued by Ludwig Ritter von Köchel who also catalogued Mozart's works.

He didn't write a lot of keyboard music but what exists is of excellent standard.

Fux, along with other composers, such as Hofer, Biber, and Caldara established a solid repertory of Catholic church music in southern Germany and Austria, despite the presence of the better-known Protestant church music in northern Germany.

I have the pieces from the DTO volume - 7 sonatas, 4 suites, a long Chaconne and 12 Minuets.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website

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