A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Fasch, Carl

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FASCH, Carl Friedrich Christian, founder of the 'Singakademie' at Berlin, born Nov. 18, 1736, at Zerbst, where his father was Capellmeister. As a child he was delicate, and much indulged. He made rapid progress on the violin and clavier, and in the rudiments of harmony. After a short stay at Coethen, where he made his first attempts at composition in church-music, he was sent to Strelitz. Here he continued his studies under Hertel, in all branches of music, but especially in accompaniment, at that time a difficult art, as the accompanyist had so little to guide him. In 1751 Linicke, the court clavierist, having declined to accompany Franz Benda, Fasch otfered to supply his place at the harpsichord, and Benda's praises incited him to still greater efforts. After his return to Zerbst he was sent to complete his education at Klosterbergen near Magdeburg. Benda had not forgotten their meeting, and in 1756, when just 20, Fasch was appointed on his recommendation accompanyist to Frederic the Great. His coadjutor was no less a person than Emmanuel Bach; they took it in turns to accompany the King's flute-concertos, and as soon as Fasch had become accustomed to the royal amateur's impetuous style of execution bis accompaniments gave every satisfaction. The Seven Years War put an end to Frederic's flute-playing, and as Fasch received his salary in paper, worth only a fifth part of its nominal value,—a misfortune in which he anticipated Beethoven—he was compelled to maintain himself by giving lessons. For his lessons in composition he made a collection of several thousand examples. About the same time he wrote several most ingenious canons, particularly one for 25 voices containing five canons put together, one being in seven parts, one in six and three in four parts. After the battle of Torgau the King granted him an addition of 100 thalers to his salary, but the increase covered the direction of the opera, which was put into his hands from 1774 to 76. After the war of the Bavarian succession Frederic gave up his practice, and Fasch was free to follow his natural inclination for church music. In 1783, incited by a 16-part Mass of Benevoli's, which Reichardt had brought from Italy, he wrote one for the same number of voices, which however proved too difficult for the court-singers. He retained his post after Frederic's death, but occupied himself chiefly with composition and teaching. In the summer of 1790, as he himself tells us, he began choral meetings in the summer-house of Geheimrath Milow, which resulted in the 'Singakademie,' an institution which under his pupil and successor Zelter became very popular and exercised an important influence on musical taste in Berlin for many years. Before his death Fasch was twice visited by Beethoven, who spent some time in Berlin in the summer of 1796. On the first occasion, June 21, he heard a chorale, the three first numbers of Fasch's mass, and several movements from his 119th Psalm, and he himself extemporised on one of the subjects of the latter. On the 28th he reappeared and again extemporised, to the delight of Fasch's scholars, who, as Beethoven used to say, pressed round him and could not applaud for tears (Thayer's 'Beethoven,' ii. 13). The Academy at that date was about 90 strong, but at the time of Fasch's death, Aug. 3, 1800, it had increased to 147. In accordance with a wish expressed in his will, the Academy performed Mozart's Requiem to his memory—for the first time in Berlin. The receipts amounted to 1200 thalers, an extraordinary sum in those days, and were applied to founding a Fund for the perpetual maintenance of a poor family. In 1801 Zelter published his Life—a brochure of 62 pages 4to., with a portrait. In 1839 the Academy published Fasch's best sacred works in 6 volumes. A 7th, issued by the representatives of Zelter, contains the mass and the canon above alluded to. Of his oratorio 'Giuseppe riconosciuto,' performed in 1774, one terzetto alone remains, Fasch having destroyed the rest, together with several other works composed before the 16-part mass. As a master of composition in many parts, Fasch is the last representative of the great school of sacred composers which lasted so long in Italy, and his works are worth studying. They combine the severity of ancient forms with modern harmony and a fine vein of melody, and constitute a mine which would well repay investigation.

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