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Johann Friedrich Agricola


Born: January 4, 1720; Dobtischen   Died: December 2, 1774; Berlin, Germany  
Johann Friedrich Agricola's joint careers as musician and writer about music placed him at the heart of north German musical life during the important generation after Johann Sebastian Bach; his studies with Bach and Quantz, and his other prominent musical contacts, also certainly fostered his stellar career. Though Agricola began his time at the University of Leipzig as a law student (1739), he had already studied music for some years and he Read more quickly was accepted by J.S. Bach as a music student. Continuing the musical endeavors, Agricola moved to Berlin in 1741 to study with Quantz, and he never turned back. By 1751, he was firmly ensconced in Berlin's musical culture. His first opera, a thoroughly fashionable Italianate work, was premiered in 1750. On the merits of this work, he was appointed one of the court composers for Frederick the Great. He had already published his first two treatises on music (1749 and 1751); by 1754 his musicological pen was well-known enough that Agricola co-wrote the important obituary for J.S. Bach with Bach's son, Carl Philip Emmanuel. Agricola was also becoming prominent in Berlin vocal circles, marrying one of Frederick the Great's opera singers, performing a vocal role in the premiere of Graun's Der Tod Jesu, and taking on a variety of voice students. (Unfortunately, his marriage displeased his patron Frederick.)

Each element of Agricola's musical life continued almost until the day of his death. He published three further prominent theoretical treatises, including a seminal work on the subject of melody; he contributed articles and concert reviews to a central Berlin journal, as well as a biographical essay on Graun. He continued to compose works for both keyboard and voice, becoming a founding member of the First Berlin Lied School. In addition, upon the death of Graun in 1759, Agricola was named his successor as opera director to Frederick the Great. Eventually, he composed over a dozen operas, plus heavy revisions to many of them according to the whims of his patron. In 1772, two years before Agricola's death, Charles Burney visited his Berlin home, and called him "the best organ player in Berlin, and the best singing master in Germany." Read less

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