(b Strasbourg, 17 April 1568; d Strasbourg, 26 April 1648). Alsatian teacher, composer and choral director. His father, also named Christoph Thomas (1542–92), left Nuremberg around 1566 and settled in Strasbourg, taking up a teaching post at the parish school of Jung St Peter. His mother, Margarethe Offner, was the daughter of the pastor there. Walliser attended the Schola Argentinensis where he followed the methods of Jean Sturm in his classical and humanist studies, until his father moved to Heilbronn in 1584. From that time he studied music, science and the liberal arts while travelling in Bohemia, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland and several places in Germany. Melchior Vulpius of Speyer and Tobias Kindler of Zittau were among his teachers. In 1595 he was awarded a scholarship by the authorities in Strasbourg which enabled him to travel to Italy, where, in Bologna, he became a student and assistant of Aldrovandus, a natural scientist.
Walliser returned to Strasbourg in 1598 to become a teacher and subsequently musicus ordinarius at the Gymnasium, where all students were required to attend five music classes each week. He wrote and directed the choral music accompanying theatrical performances, celebrations and convocations, in addition to fulfilling his duties as a figural cantor at the cathedral. In 1600 he was appointed vicarius altarius at the Thomaskirche, and was promoted to the post of magister artium on 24 March 1601. His marriage on 21 July 1601 to Margareta Kieffer, daughter of the publisher Karl Kieffer, resulted in many children, all of whom died before their father. In 1605 he assumed directorship of the publicum exercitium musicum, a group of students from various schools in Strasbourg and interested townspeople who met weekly at the Predigerkirche to perform music. A year later he took charge of the music for Sunday Vespers at the cathedral but faced serious opposition in this post from a group of radical Protestants who wanted to ban instrumental music and vocal polyphony from the church. To avoid such a restriction, in some of his compositions at that time he assigned alternate stanzas of the chorale to the congregation in unison, interspersed with vocal polyphony, instrumental interludes or organ solos.
In 1634, a year after the death of his first wife, Walliser married Margarethe Seuppel. Because of diminishing enrolment at the school due to the Thirty Years War, he was dismissed from his post in that year. He made his last public appearance in 1638 on the occasion of the centenary celebration of the founding of the Protestant Gymnasium, when he directed his work for double choir, Fons Israelis. His last work, the canon Christe, tui vivo vulneris auspicio (Christoph Thomas VValliser Argentoratensis), appeared in 1643. In his last years he was extremely poor and had to depend for his living on gifts from friends and the sale of his library to the Thomaskirche.
Walliser’s several musical appointments and his compositions show him to have been the most important musician in Strasbourg during the period 1600–50. In addition, the wide dispersion of his works attests to his reputation elsewhere. His teaching methods followed Sturm’s principles, and in his treatise, Musicae figuralis Praecepta brevia, he included about a hundred progressive exercises composed on Latin and German texts which aim at teaching and memorising Latin poetry and moral education. In the majority of his motets he made use of Strasbourg chorales, including melodies by Matthias Greiter and Wolfgang Dachstein taken from the Teutsch Kirchenampt (Strasbourg, 1525). He followed the traditional 16th-century German practice of stating the entire cantus firmus in one or more voices in such a way that the melody could be clearly heard. Less frequently the accompanying voices are constructed with motifs derived from the cantus firmus. For variety, homophonic passages alternate with imitative sections, and there is frequent rhythmic alteration of the chorale melody. Vestiges of 15th–16th century Franco-Flemish counterpoint, and of the German tenorlied technique, can be seen in his work. In his theatrical music and compositions not based on a cantus firmus Walliser included, though never to extremes, some traits of the ‘modern’ Italian secular style – rapid declamation, sharp rhythmic contrasts, word-painting, concertato effects and symbolism. His madrigals, unfortunately, are lost.
Walliser’s father composed a chorale, Am End hilf mir, Herr Jesu Christ, and set to music the German drama Ein schön tröstlich Spyl nemlich die schön History Esther, inspired by Hans Sachs’s Die gantze historie der Hester, which was performed in Strasbourg in 1568.
E.Weber: ‘Antike Stoffe in den humanistischen Schulen jenseits des Rheins’, Die Quellen Johann Sebastian Bachs: Bachs Musik in Gottesdienst: Stuttgart 1995, 439–48
E.Weber: ‘L'apport de Christoph-Thomas Walliser au théâtre scolaire’, Festschrift Christoph-Hellmut Mahling, ed. A. Beer, K. Pfarr and W. Ruff (Tutzing, 1997), 1531–40
La musique en Alsace hier et aujourd’hui (Strasbourg, 1970) [incl. J. Nogues: ‘Cinq vieux maîtres alsaciens’, 73–82 and R. Kopf: ‘Les compositeurs de musique instrumentale en Alsace au XVIIe siècle, 83–94]