Samuel Friedrich Capricornus

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Aliases: Samuel Friedrich Bockshorn; Samuel Friedrich Brockshorn


Born: 21 December 1628, Schertitz (now Zerčiče, near Mlodá Boleslav)

Died: 10 November 1665, Stuttgart

German composer and teacher of Bohemian birth. While Capricornus was still very young his family fled to Hungary to escape religious persecution. He was an eager student and studied theology, languages and philosophy in various places, including Silesia between 1643 and 1646. His choice of a musical profession led him to the imperial court in Vienna in 1649, where he came to know the music of Giovanni Valentini and Antonio Bertali. He taught briefly at Reutlingen, and for two years was private tutor to the children of a physician at Pressburg (now Bratislava). In 1651 he became director of music to the churches there and a master at the Gymnasium, but after a year he asked to be relieved of the teaching. He became Kapellmeister to the Württemberg court at Stuttgart on 6 May 1657. His tenure in Stuttgart was marked by bitter contention with Philipp Friedrich Böddecker, organist of the collegiate church. Böddecker, who had expected the Kapellmeister position, criticized Capricornus’s compositions and stirred up the court musicians against him. Capricornus wrote a petition to the duke in self-defense, which provides detailed insight into his compositional process. Capricornus’s years in Stuttgart were further marred by illness and unhappiness in his marriage. Johann Fischer studied with him there from 1661 until his death.

Capricornus was an important figure in the development of German sacred music between Schütz and J.S. Bach. He was ambitious – he sought and won the approbation of Schütz and Carissimi – and prolific, being one of the few German composers of his time whose works were widely distributed both in manuscripts and prints. Extant inventories list over 400 works, although many of them are lost, especially from his secular music, which included chamber music, ballets and operas. His sacred music, which was still in use liturgically in the early 18th century, includes large concerted works (Opus musicum) and many small concertos, both with instruments (Geistliche Harmonien, Theatrum musicum) and with only continuo accompaniment (Geistliche Concerten). He showed a strong preference for Latin devotional texts, which he set in a very expressive, Italianate manner. The attribution of Carissimi’s oratorio Judicium Salomonis to Capricornus in the posthumous print Continuatio theatri musici has raised questions about the attributions in all of the posthumous prints. His music merits further editing, performance and study.

View the Wikipedia article on Samuel Friedrich Capricornus.

List of choral works

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