Hassler, Johann Wilhelm

views updated

Hassler, Johann Wilhelm

Hassler, Johann Wilhelm, German organist, composer, and pianist; b. Erfurt, March 29, 1747; d. Moscow, March 29, 1822. His father was a maker of men’s headwear. He followed his father’s trade while studying organ with his uncle, Johann Christian Kittel. At the age of 14, he was able to earn his living as organist at an Erfurt church. After his father’s death, in 1769, he maintained for some years a manufactory of fur muffs. A meeting in Hamburg with C. P. E. Bach gave him a fresh impetus toward continuing his musical activities. He gave concerts as a pianist, and publ, several piano sonatas. On Feb. 8, 1779, he married his pupil Sophie Kiel. In 1780 he opened public winter concerts in Erfurt; his wife appeared there as a singer and choral director. In 1789 he played in Berlin and Potsdam; in Dresden he took part in a contest with Mozart, as organist and pianist, without producing much impression either on Mozart himself or on the listeners. In 1790 he went to London, where he performed piano concertos under the direction of Haydn. In 1792 he went to Russia, where he remained until his death. In Moscow he became greatly renowned as a pianist, as a composer, and particularly as a teacher. Most of his works were publ, in Russia; these included sonatas, preludes, variations, fantasies, etc., and also pieces for piano, 4-hands. His style represents a transition between Bach and Beethoven, without attaining a degree of the imagination or craftsmanship of either. However, his piano pieces in the lighter vein have undeniable charm. His Grande gigue was well known. His autobiography is included in W. Kahl, Selbstbiographien deutscher Musiker (Cologne, 1948).


H. Strobel, J.W. H.s Leben und Werke (diss., Univ. of Munich, 1922).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire