Johann Joseph Fux


Born: 1660 Died: February 13, 1741
Born into a peasant family, Austrian composer and music theorist Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741) showed a strong interest in music from childhood. In 1680, he entered the Jesuit University in Graz. In 1681, his skill in the musical arts earned him entrance to the imperial Ferdinandeum, a residential school run by the Jesuits, which was designed to give special priority to musically gifted students. By the end of 1683, Fux was listed as a student of at the Jesuit University at Ingolstadt. Until the end of 1688, he also served as the organist at St. Moritz, in Inglostadt. His movements after 1688 are uncertain, but the influence of Corelli and Bolognese composers suggests a study trip to Italy, perhaps under princely patronage.

After this time, Fux was in the service of a Hungarian bishop, presumably Leopold, Count von Kollonitsch, who, despite becoming Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary, often made his residence in Vienna. On two visits to the Archbishop, Emperor Leopold I, heard some masses by Fux, which he praised highly. From this point on, Fux enjoyed imperial favour to an ever increasing degree. In 1696 Fux married C.J. Schnitzenbaum, the daughter of a secretary in the Lower Austrian government. In 1698 the emperor appointed Fux court composer, going over the heads of both his Kapellmeister and Chief Steward. Fux also served as organist at the Schottenkirche in Vienna until 1702.

Around the year 1700, at the emperor's expense, he traveled to Rome to study under Pasquini. After Leopold's death, Fux retained the office of court composer under Joseph I, who ruled from 1705 to 1711. On 1 October 1705, Fux took on the added responsibility of vice-Kapellmeister at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. He concentrated his efforts at St. Stephen's on the music which was performed before the statue of Our Lady of Patsch, which had been brought to Vienna and placed on the high alter of the cathedral in 1697 by Emperor Leopold I. In 1712, Fux succeeded J.M. Zacher as Kapellmeister at St. Steven's, a position he was to hold for the next three years. Meanwhile, in 1713, after the ascension of Charles VI to the imperial throne, Fux became vice-Kapellmeister to the court and Kapellmeister to Wilhelmine Amalia, the widow of Joseph I. With the death of M.A. Ziani, Charles VI appointed Fux to the position of principal court Kapellmeister. Fux occupied this important post until his death in 1741.

Today, Fux is perhaps best known for his counterpoint treatise Gradus Ad Parnassum, written in 1725. In this text, written in dialogue form after the works of Plato, Fux outlines the rules of counterpoint according to the usage of Palestrina. In the text, it is Palestrina who plays the role of the teacher Aloisius, while Fux himself is the student. As a composer, Fux wrote many secular works, including both operas and secular oratorios, but he was first and foremost a composer of music for the church. Here, Fux composed in two distinct styles; the stylus a cappella, in which he took the music of Palestrina as his model, and the stylus mixtus. It is this musical conservatism, as both a theorist and composer, that made the music of Fux the culmination of Baroque music in Austria. At the same time, his reliance on contrapuntal technique helped to lay the foundations of Viennese Classicism.
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