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Waltershausen, Hermann Wolfgang (Sartorius), Freiherr von

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Waltershausen, Hermann Wolfgang (Sartorius), Freiherr von

(b Göttingen, 12 Oct 1882; d Munich, 13 Aug 1954). German composer, teacher and writer on music. He studied composition in Strasbourg with M.J. Erb, and in Munich with Thuille in 1901. Remaining in the Bavarian capital, he founded the Praktisches Seminar für fortgeschrittene Musikstudierende as a private music school in 1917, and was subsequently invited to be professor and assistant director of the Akademie der Tonkunst in 1920. Two years later he was made director and, together with the Academy’s president Siegmund von Hausegger, overhauled the institution’s curriculum, adding a drama school, advanced composition classes and lectures (he himself gave those in dramaturgy and aesthetics). He was also active in other spheres, in particular organizing the Münchener Tonkünstlerverein and advising the newly established Bavarian Radio. He was retired from the Academy in 1932, and during the Third Reich founded the Seminar für Privatemusiklehrer which became the state-recognized Waltershausen-Seminar in 1954.

One of the younger members of the Munich School, Waltershausen sprang to international prominence with his second opera Oberst Chabert (1912), based on a story by Balzac set in Paris during 1817. Performed in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, London and Budapest, it represents one of the earliest attempts to integrate elements of verismo into a post-Wagnerian operatic tradition, and is notable for its harmonic adventurousness. Waltershausen’s later operas, however, attracted far less attention. Richardis (1915), modelled to a certain extent on Wagner’s Parsifal, suffered from a lack of dramatic intensity while the comedy Die Rauensteiner Hochzeit (1919) appeared reactionary in its reversion to the dramatic structures of 19th-century Volksoper. After the failure of his later operas, Waltershausen concentrated his attention on orchestral music, conducting the first performances of a sequence of works during the 1920s. Yet by this stage, his aspirations as a composer had been overtaken by interests in writing and administration, and in the 1930s he felt less compelled to write music.


(selective list)

Ops: Else Klapperzehen (musikalische Komödie, 2, Waltershausen), Dresden, 1909; Oberst Chabert (Musiktragödie, 3, Waltershausen, after H. de Balzac), Frankfurt, 1912; Richardis (romantsiche Oper, 3, O. Anthes), Karlsruhe, 1915; Die Rauensteiner Hochzeit (3, Waltershausen), Karlsruhe, 1919; Die Gräfin von Tolosa (7 scenes, Waltershausen), Munich Radio, 1954

Orch: Apokalyptische Sym., op.19, orch, org, 1924; Hero und Leander, op.22, sym. poem, 1925; Krippenmusik, op.23, chbr orch, hpd obbl, 1926; Orchesterpartita über 3 Kirchenlieder, op.24, 1928; Lustspielouvertüre, op.26, 1930; Passions- und Auferstehungsmusik, op.27, 1932

Vocal: 8 Songs, S/T, orch, 1913; Cophtisches Lied (J.W. von Goethe), 1v, pf, 1914; 7 Poems (R. Huch), S, pf, 1914; 3 weltgeistliche Lieder, high S, small orch, 1915; Alkestis, chorus, orch, 1929

Inst: Str Qt, e, 1910; Polyphone Studie, pf, 1925

MSS in D–Mbs, Mmb

Principal publishers: Drei Masken Verlag, Tischer & Jagenberg, Verlaganstalt Deutscher Tonkünstler


Der Freischütz; ein Versuch über die musikalische Romantik (Munich, 1920)

Das Siegfried-Idyll oder die Rückkehr zur Natur (Munich, 1920)

Die Zauberflöte: eine operndramaturgische Studie (Munich, 1920)

Richard Strauss: ein Versuch (Munich, 1921)

Orpheus und Euridike: eine operndramaturgische Studie (Munich, 1923)

Musik, Dramaturgie, Erziehung (Munich, 1926) [collected essays]

Die Kunst des Dirigierens (Berlin, 1942, 2/1954)


L.K. Mayer: ‘Hermann Wolfgang von Waltershausen’, ZfM, cxv (1954), 541–3

R. Sailer: Waltershausen und die Oper (diss., U. of Cologne, 1957)

K.R. Danler: Hermann Wolfgang Sartorius Freiherr von Waltershausen (Tutzing, 1984)


Walther, Ignaz.

See Walter, Ignaz.

Walther, Johann.

See Walter, Johann (i) or (ii).

Walther, Johann Gottfried

(b Erfurt, 18 Sept 1684; d Weimar, 23 March 1748). German organist, composer, theorist and lexicographer. His father was Johann Stephan Walther, an Erfurt fabric maker; his mother, Martha Dorothea, née Lämmerhirt, was a close relative of J.S. Bach’s family. Walther’s autobiography was published in Mattheson's Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte. His education began at the age of four with private instruction; in 1691 he entered the lower school of Erfurt. Organ lessons were begun with Johann Bernhard Bach, organist of the Kaufmannskirche, and continued with his successor, Johann Andreas Kretschmar. Walther said he learnt in less than a year to sing well enough to become a soloist in church music performances. According to Walther, his teacher was Jakob Adlung, but he probably meant David Adlung, the father of Jakob. The latter, born in 1699, became a friend of Walther in the early 1720s and later a prominent Erfurt organist and theorist.

In 1697 Walther went to the Ratsgymnasium where he received a humanistic education. In summer 1702 he obtained his first position as an organist at the Thomaskirche in Erfurt. He entered the University of Erfurt to attend lectures in philosophy and law, but soon decided to devote himself entirely to music. He began a lifelong study of music theory, reading the treatises of Werckmeister, Fludd and Kircher, and for a brief period he studied composition with Buttstett. In autumn 1703 he started to travel, going first to Frankfurt (probably to the book fair) and Darmstadt. The following autumn he went to Magdeburg and also to Halberstadt, where he met Andreas Werckmeister, one of the most distinguished names in German music at that time, an organist and a writer of major works on music theory. Werckmeister was sympathetic to young Walther, presented him with a gift of Baryphonus’s treatise Pleiades musicae (Halberstadt, 1615), and subsequently corresponded regularly and sent him music, including the keyboard works of Buxtehude. In Halberstadt Walther also visited his friend Johann Graff, who had been a student of Johann Pachelbel in Erfurt. In 1706 he went to Nuremberg to study with Pachelbel’s son Wilhelm Hieronymus, whom he had known during their childhood together in Erfurt.

Walther’s years of apprenticeship ended on 29 July 1707 when he was appointed organist at the Stadtkirche (St Peter und St Paul), Weimar, a post he retained until his death. Immediately upon coming to Weimar he was made the music teacher of Prince Johann Ernst, nephew of the reigning Duke Wilhelm Ernst; the former was a gifted musician, and after he had returned from the University of Utrecht in 1713, Walther also taught him composition. Walther dedicated his manuscript treatise Praecepta der musicalischen Composition (1708) to Johann Ernst, and the prince’s early death in 1715 was a severe loss to Walther.

In 1708 J.S. Bach, Walther’s cousin, joined the ducal court Kapelle, and there began a friendship of great mutual benefit for these exceptionally gifted colleagues, who were almost of equal age. In 1712 Bach became godfather to Walther’s eldest son. Of Walther’s eight children, two daughters and two sons survived him; the younger son, Johann Christoph (1715–71), followed his father’s career of organist (he was appointed to the cathedral at Ulm in 1751). The final important professional appointment in Walther’s career occurred in 1721 when he was asked to join the ducal orchestra as Hofmusicus. Much of Walther’s career centred on his duties as organist and his instruction of many private pupils. He wrote sacred vocal music, numerous chorale preludes and other organ music. Particularly valuable for his continuing impact on music history was his energetic pursuit of musical knowledge and his collecting of a remarkable library of music and books on music. His enthusiasm led to the idea of publishing a dictionary of musicians and musical terms, the monumental Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732/R).

Walther's last years were marked by ever-increasing disillusionment. His private pupils diminished in number. He did not receive, for reasons that are not clear, a position of greater distinction and remuneration, although more than one opportunity arose for him to become Kantor of the church in which he was organist. Similarly, when Bach left the Weimar court to accept a post at Cöthen, Walther was passed over in the search for Bach’s successor. His financial position worsened and he was forced to sell much of his extensive library. Finally, in autumn 1745 his health declined so seriously that he asked his younger son Johann Christoph to return from Jena, where he was a student, in order to substitute for his father as organist. A final blow to Walther’s pride came when Duke Ernst August refused his request to make his son his successor as organist in Weimar.

Walther is a notable figure in German Baroque music history. His greatest contribution is the Musicalisches Lexicon, the first major music dictionary in German and the first in any language to include both musical terms and biographies of musicians from the past and present (see illustration). To the continuing gratitude of music historians, it serves as a still unexhausted repository of facts about musical conditions, concepts, performing practices, the major composers and writers on music up to the first decades of the 18th century. Walther’s gift in codifying musical knowledge was based on a number of earlier musical dictionaries of various kinds, most particularly, as he himself made clear, the work of Sébastien de Brossard (Paris, 1703). However, Walther conceived his work as a comprehensive collection both biographical and bibliographical in nature as well as fully representative of European musical terminology as he knew it. The Musicalisches Lexicon includes more than 3000 musical terms; more than 200 authors and 250 sources are drawn upon, first and foremost Mattheson, to whose works more than 200 references are made. Walther’s consummate command of the materials of music theory and history are evident in the wide range of these sources, including most of the 17th-century European treatises, and also earlier treatises from the Renaissance as well as works from antiquity quoted from Meibom’s Antiquae musicae of 1652 (see Eggebrecht’s valuable article). Walther continued to work on his dictionary after its publication and hoped to publish a second, revised edition, for which he completed a manuscript (in A-Wgm). Many of Walther’s revisions and supplementary entries were subsequently incorporated by E.L. Gerber into his Lexicon der Tonkünstler (Leipzig, 1790–92).

As a theorist Walther is represented by a treatise written early in his career, probably as a manual of instruction for Prince Johann Ernst. The Praecepta der musicalischen Composition is an important compilation of theoretical concepts drawn largely from treatises of the 17th century. It is divided into two large parts, the first discussing the rudiments of music such as notation and scales, and including a brief, alphabetically arranged list of musical terms, an obvious first stage towards the subsequent music dictionary. More important, however, is part ii, entitled Musicae poëticae, an instructive record of mid-Baroque German concepts of the art of composing, both in the practical application of the materials of music, such as intervals, consonance and dissonance, chords and contrapuntal procedures, and also in the stress on the techniques appropriate to expressing the affective connotations of words. Walther’s work includes an important explanation of the musical-rhetorical figures which played an important part in the compositional practices of German Baroque composers. Walther apparently never intended to publish his treatise, which he frequently drew upon in writing his dictionary (see Benary’s edition and his important discussion of the work).

As a composer, Walther reported in his autobiography that he wrote ‘92 vocal and 119 keyboard works based on chorales’ as well as 78 works by other composers that he arranged for keyboard. Only one vocal work survives, Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie eleison über Wo Gott zum Haus nicht giebt sein Gunst (in D-Bsb). Most of Walther’s organ works have been published (DDT, xxvi–xxvii; see Breig for comments regarding works falsely attributed to Walther in this edition). They are mainly chorale preludes – over 100 – that range from brief two-manual, three-part settings to extensive chorale partita arrangements and chorale fugues. These superbly varied pieces display most of the chorale variation techniques developed by German composers beginning with Pachelbel and including Böhm, Buxtehude and, of course, Bach. Walther’s chorale variations are uniformly of the highest merit, perhaps the only ones comparable to Bach's examples of the genre (see Seiffert’s discussion of Walther’s chorale preludes). The close personal friendship with Bach undoubtedly influenced Walther’s treatment of the chorale, but his compositions are nevertheless highly personal in style. Walther’s sensitivity to the affective connotations of the melodies, his rich harmonic variety, the brilliant keyboard technique rooted in motivic counterpoint, and the strength of the contrapuntal ideas are all worthy of comparison with Bach’s organ chorales.


Praecepta der musicalischen Composition (MS, 1708, D-WRtl); ed. P. Benary (Leipzig, 1955)

Alte und neue musicalische Bibliothek (Weimar and Erfurt, 1728) [letter A only of the following item]

Musicalisches Lexicon, oder Musicalische Bibliothec (Leipzig, 1732/R); MS with addns for 2nd edn in A-Wgm


Edition: J.G. Walther: Gesammmelte Werke für Orgel, ed. M. Seiffert, DDT, xxvi–xxvii (1906/R) [W]

Musicalische Vorstellung zwey evangelischer Gesänge, nemlich Meine Jesum lass ich nicht und Jesu meine Freude, kbd (Erfurt, 1712), lost; most music in MSS, W

Harmonische Denck- und Dankmahl, bestehend aus VIII Vor-Spielen über das Lied: Allein Gott in der Höh sey Ehr, kbd (Augsburg, 1738), W

Monumentum musicum concertam repraesentans (G), kbd (Augsburg, 1741), W

Preludio con Fuga (A), kbd (Augsburg, ?1741), W

Vorspiele über das Advents-Lied Wie soll ich dich empfangen? Und wie begegn’ ich dir?, kbd (Augsburg, 1741), W

Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie eleison über Wo Gott zum Hauss nicht giebt sein Gunst, 4vv, bc; Güldener Friede uns wohl ergetzet, 8vv, ?bc [only S extant]; Öffnet die Thüre, macht weiter die Thore, 5vv [only 2nd S extant]: all D-Bsb

c65 multiple and 53 single chorale variations (incl. some of the printed works), kbd, mostly autograph, Bsb, NL-DHgm, W [see MGG1 for misattribs.]

3 preludes and fugues (C, d, A), kbd; toccata and fugue (C), kbd; fugue (F), kbd: all D-Bsb, NL-DHgm, W

14 concs. by other composers, arr. kbd, all D-Bsb, NL-DHgm, W

Canone infinito gradato à 4 voci sopra ‘A solis ortus cardine’, kbd, Bsb*, ed. in P. Spitta: Johann Sebastian Bach (Leipzig, 1873–80/R)

For lost works see Brodde, p.56



MGG1 (W. Breig)

H. Gehrmann: ‘Johann Gottfried Walther als Theoretiker’, VMw, vii (1891), 468–578

H.W. Egel: Johann Gottfried Walthers Leben und Werke (Leipzig, 1904)

M. Seiffert: Preface to Johann Gottfried Walther: Gesammelte Werke für Orgel, DDT, xxvi–xxvii (1906/R)

G. Schünemann: ‘J. Gottfried Walther und H. Bokemeyer’, BJb 1933, 86–118

O. Brodde: Johann Gottfried Walther: Leben und Werk (Kassel, 1937)

A. Schmitz: ‘Die Figurenlehre in den theoretischen Werken J.G. Walthers’, AMw, ix (1952), 79–100

H.H. Eggebrecht: ‘Walthers Musikalisches Lexikon in seinen terminologischen Partien’, AcM, xxix (1957), 10–27

P. Benary: Die deutsche Kompositionslehre des 18. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1961)

E. May: ‘J.G. Walther and the Lost Weimar Autographs of Bach's Organ Works’, Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Music in Honor of Arthur Mendel, ed. R.L. Marshall (Kassel, 1974), 264–82

I.K. Beckmann and H.-J. Schulze, eds.: Johann Gottfried Walther: Briefe (Leipzig, 1987)

K. Beisswenger: ‘Zur Chronologie der Notenhandschriften Johann Gottfried Walthers’, Acht kleine Präludien und Studien über Bach: Georg von Dadelsen zum 70. Geburtstag (Wiesbaden and Leipzig, 1992), 11–39


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