Born: 1553; South Tyrol, Italy
Died: September 9, 1606; Stuttgart, Germany
The musical career of Leonhard Lechner included some fits and starts, and though one prior employer tried to have him hunted down, his impact on German protestant music was eventually great. Lechner, who called himself Athesinus, apparently came from somewhere along the shores of a Tyrolean river of that name. He seems to have pursued music from a young age, singing as a choirboy in the choir at Landshut, and probably in the Bavarian HofkapelleRead more at Munich. His earliest teachers were thus the directors of these two establishments: Ivo de Vento, Antonius Gosswin, and the incomparable international star Orlande de Lassus. Like his German Protestant contemporary Johannes Eccard, Lechner went from Lassus' tutelage to develop a strongly versatile and individual musical style. Unlike Eccard, Lechner's career trajectory took him through some surprising turns.
Already by 1581, Lechner stated he had already "roved far and wide, visiting various places." He probably spent part of the 1570s in Italy, and the latter part of it teaching in a Nuremberg grammar school. He spent nearly 10 years in Nuremberg and was once promoted, but remained in a depressingly subordinate position. He thus sought, and attained, new employment with the Count of Hollenzollern in 1583-1584. Unfortunately for Lechner, who was a spirited convert to the Lutheran religion, the Count turned out to be a staunch Catholic counter-reformer; it was for Lechner like serving the hated papacy itself. Lechner tried to leave his employment honorably in 1585. He failed, but escaped in the night without the furious Count's permission. When the musician refused to return to Hechingen, the Count treated him (with some justice) as a runaway, and begged nearby lords to capture him and return him by force. Thankfully, Duke Ludwig of Württemberg took Lechner in, and the man would sing, compose, and direct in the Duke's Stuttgart court chapel until his death. After nine years' service (in 1594), Lechner was named hofkapellmeister. He continued writing music until close to the time of his death in 1606, though it seems his final decade was plagued by bad health. He undertook numerous curative trips to the spas, but still was able to compose what may have been one of his last pieces: a huge Psalm-motet for the wedding of his patron's daughter. Read less