1902 Encyclopedia > Johann Joseph Fux

Johann Joseph Fux
Austrian composer, musical theorist and pedagogue
(1661-1741)




JOHANN JOSEPH FUX, (1661-1741), the composer of more than 400 works of various kinds and dimensions, but chiefly remembered as the author of a theoretical work on music. He was born in 1660 at Marein in Styria, probably of poor parents. Of bis youth and early training nothing is known. All we can ascertain is that in 1696 he was organist at one of the principal churches of Vienna, and in 1698 was appointed by the emperor Leopold I. as his " imperial court-composer," with the by no means inconsiderable salary of about ¿£6 a month. At the court of Leopold and of hi3 successors Joseph I. and Charles VI., Fux remained for the rest of his life. To his various court dignities that of organist at St Stephen's cathedral was added in 1704 As a proof of the high favour in which he was held by the art-loving Charles VI., it is told that at the coronation of that emperor as king of Bohemia in 1723 an opera, La Con-stanza e la Fortezza, especially composed by Fux for the occasion, was given at Prague. The performance took place in an open-air theatre, and the mise-en-scene is said to have been of great splendour. Fux at the time was suffering from gout, but in order to enable him to be present at the performance, the emperor had him carried in a litter all the way from Vienna, and a seat in the imperial box was re-served for the composer. Fux died at Vienna in 1741. His life, although passed in the great world, was eventless, and his only troubles arose from the intrigues of his Italian rivals at court. Of the numerous operas which Fux wrote for the amusement of his imperial patrons it is unnecessary to speak. They do not essentially differ from the style of the Italian opera seria of the time. Of greater importance are his sacred compositions, psalms, motets, oratorios, and masses, the celebrated Missa Canonica amongst the latter. It is an all but unparalleled tour de force of learned 'musicianship, being written entirely in that most difficult of contrapuntal devices—the canon. As a contrapuntist and musical scholar generally, Fux was unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries, and it is owing to these qualities that his great theoretical work, the Gradus ad Parnassum, has pre-served its importance to the present day. For a long time it remained by far the most thorough treatment of counter-point and its various developments. The title of the original Latin edition may be given -.—Gradus ad Par-nassum sive manuductio ad compositionem musicce regidarem, methoda nova ac certa nondum ante tarn exacta ordine in lucem edila, elaborataa Joanne Josepho Fux (Vienna, 1725). It was translated into most European languages during the 18th century, and is still studied by musicians interested in the history of their art. The expenses of the publication were defrayed by the emperor Charles VI., to whom the musical world most probably owes the survival of the im-portant work. Fux's biography, a book full of minutest original research, and trustworthy in every respect, has re-cently been published by Ludwig von Kochel (Vienna, 1871). It contains, amongst other valuable materials, a complete catalogue of the composer's numerous works. (F. H.)







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