1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eccard, Johann

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ECCARD, JOHANN (1553-1611), German composer of church music, was born at Mühlhausen on the Unstrut, Prussia, in 1553. At the age of eighteen he went to Munich, where he became the pupil of Orlando Lasso. In his company Eccard is said to have visited Paris, but in 1574 we find him again at Mühlhausen, where he resided for four years, and edited, together with Johann von Burgk, his first master, a collection of sacred songs, called Crepundia sacra Helmboldi (1577). Soon afterwards he obtained an appointment as musician in the house of Jacob Fugger, the Augsburg banker. In 1583 he became assistant conductor, and in 1599 conductor, at Königsberg, to Georg Friedrich, margrave of Brandenburg-Anspach, the administrator of Prussia. In 1608 he was called by the elector Joachim Friedrich to Berlin as chief conductor, but this post he held only for three years, owing to his premature death at Königsberg in 1611. Eccard’s works consist exclusively of vocal compositions, such as songs, sacred cantatas and chorales for four or five, and sometimes for seven, eight, or even nine voices. Their polyphonic structure is a marvel of art, and still excites the admiration of musicians. At the same time his works are instinct with a spirit of true religious feeling. His setting of the beautiful words “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott” is still regarded by the Germans as their representative national hymn. Eccard and his school are inseparably connected with the history of the Reformation.

Of Eccard’s songs a great many collections are extant; see K. G. A. von Winterfeld, Der Evangelische Kirchengesang (1843); Döring (Choralkunde, p. 47).