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Johann Walter
 
 
 
Johann Walter (original name: Johann Blankenmüller; also known as Johannes Walter) (1496 – 25 March 1570) was a Lutheran composer and poet during the Reformation period.

As a young man, Walter published the Geystlich gesangk-Buchleyn in 1524 under the guidance of Martin Luther. This was a collection of 43 pieces for three to five voices arranged according to the church year. Luther said the songs were: "…to give the young-who should at any rate be trained in music and other fine arts-something to wean them away from love ballads and carnal songs and to give them something of value in their place . . ." (LW 53:31ff.).
 
 
 
Life
Walter was born in Kahla, in present-day Thuringia in 1496. According to a document filed with his will, he was born with the surname of Blanckenmüller, but adopted out of poverty by a citizen of Kahla, and given an education at Kahla and Rochlitz under his new name, Johann Walter. He began his career as a composer and bass cantor in the chapel of Frederick the Wise at the age of 21. It was a position he would hold until Frederick’s death in 1525. By this time, he was the director of the chapel and had become an outspoken musical spokesman for Lutherans. Walter edited the first Protestant hymnal, Geystliches gesangk buchleyn, published in 1524, with a foreword by Martin Luther himself and for the German-language Deutsche Messe produced in 1527.

Following the conclusion of his appointment to Frederick’s chapel, Walter became cantor for the Torgau town choir in 1525, a post he would hold until 1554 when he was named court composer for Moritz, Duke of Saxony in Dresden.

While in Dresden, Walter composed a responsorial Passion in German. In earlier musical versions of the Passion story the entire narrative was a succession of polyphonic motets, but Walter used a monophonic reciting tone for the Evangelist and dramatis personae, reserving for the people and disciples simple falsobordone (chordal) polyphony.

Walter did not remain in Dresden very long, and by 1554 he had accepted a pension from the duke and returned to Torgau, where he remained for the rest of his life. He died on 25 March 1570. The asteroid 120481 Johannwalter is named in his honour. He is also commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod as a musician on April 24.

Musical Works
Walter wrote his motets and lieder, often of high quality, in two distinct styles. For the first style he employed a polyphonic manner derived from the Franco-Flemish school, in particular showing the influence of Josquin des Prez and Heinrich Isaac. In the tenor voice of these compositions was a cantus firmus sounding as an unbroken succession of sustained notes or as a melody fragmented into short sections separated by rests. Above and below the cantus firmus were counterpoints that sometimes imitated the tenor but more often moved independently of it. In either case the melodic flow of four or more voices avoided simultaneous rests.

For the second style Walter rejected imitative or independent voice-leading for chorale writing in which each fragment of the cantus firmus rested simultaneously with the other parts. In a few such cases he placed the borrowed tune in the top voice, thereby inaugurating the favorite manner of chorale setting of the succeeding two centuries.

 
 
 

Geystlich gesangk-Buchleyn
 
 
 
Johann Walther - Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Johann Walther - Christ ist erstanden
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Johann Walther - Chorale lied: Ein feste burg
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Johann Walther - Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ - Garçimunoz
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Johann Walther - Allein auf Gottes Wort - Kantorei Kahla
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     
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