Compositions for the odes of poetry professor Gellert

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – People and Places

Johann Fürchtegott Gellert (1715–1769), portrait by Gottfried Hempel (1752). (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1758 C. P. E. Bach’s first collection of songs was published under his own name, Herrn Professor Gellerts geistliche Oden und Lieder mit Melodien (Professor Gellert’s Spiritual Odes and Songs with Melodies) (Wq 194). No less than 55 of Gellert’s odes were endowed with notes by Bach. The huge success of this collection – five editions were published during Bach’s lifetime –, which immediately made Bach one of the most notable song composers in Germany, may be explained with the great popularity of Gellert.

In his time, Johann Fürchtegott Gellert (1715–1769) was the most popular poet in Germany. His Fables and Tales, bringing him the reputation of the German La Fontaine, was the most read book after the bible in 18th century Germany. Even Frederick II, who deeply disprized German literature later (La littérature allemande, 1780), was enthusiastic about it. The success of Gellert, a proponent of the Enlightenment who since 1751 was also Professor of poetry, rhetoric and ethics at the University of Leipzig, based on the smart combination of pietistic devoutness and moral instructions with humour, which was characteristic for his writings. This mixture responded exactly to the moral standards of the enlightened bourgeoisie.

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