Circa 1611–1675
portrait

Brüx, Bo­he­mia (now Most, Czech­ia).

Oc­to­ber 29, 1675, Zit­tau, Ger­ma­ny.

Called the Or­pheus of Zit­tau, Ham­mer­schmidt was a com­po­ser and or­gan­ist of the ear­ly to mid­dle Ba­roque era. He was one of the most significant and popular composers of sacred music in Germany in the mid-17th Century.

Born to a Sax­on fa­ther and a Bo­he­mi­an mo­ther, An­dre­as’ fa­mi­ly fled Bo­he­mia in the Thir­ty Years’ War af­ter it had be­come Ca­tho­lic. They set­tled in Frei­berg, Sax­o­ny, where An­dre­as must have re­ceived his mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Many famous musicians of the early Baroque period spent time in Freiberg, but it is uncertain which of them taught Hammerschmidt. At any rate, he received superb musical training while there.

Hammerschmidt left Frei­berg in 1633, through his men­tor Stephan Otto, tak­ing a post as or­gan­ist for Count Ru­dolf von Bü­nau in Wee­sen­stein, but he r­eturned to Frei­berg the next year as an or­ganist.

He was mar­ried short­ly after his re­turn there. Three of his six child­ren died in infancy.

In 1639, he left Frei­berg again, mov­ing to Zit­tau, where he suc­ceed­ed Chris­toph Schrei­ber as or­gan­ist. He re­mained at this post for the rest of his life. While mu­si­cal life in Zit­tau was se­vere­ly da­maged by the Thir­ty Years’ War, in­clud­ing the de­ci­ma­tion of choirs and gen­e­ral re­duc­tion in mu­si­cal stan­dards, Ham­mer­schmidt sur­vived. Af­ter the war end­ed in 1648, mu­sic­al life slow­ly re­gained its for­mer high stan­dard.

Exact re­cords of Ham­mer­schmidt’s ac­ti­vi­ties in Zit­tau are spot­ty, as the do­cu­ments were burned in 1757 when the Aus­tri­ans de­stroyed the ci­ty in the Se­ven Years’ War. How­ev­er, dur­ing this part of his ca­reer, Ham­mer­schmidt be­came one of the best known com­po­sers in Ger­ma­ny, and the most fa­mous rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the con­cer­t­ato style of the gen­er­a­tion after Hein­rich Schütz.

While well res­pect­ed and called on as an ex­pert in ma­ny mat­ters, he seems to have been prone to out­bursts of rage, some of which in­volved him in brawls. He al­so seems to have pro­fit­ed from his ac­ti­vi­ties as a mu­si­cian and ci­vic lead­er, and ev­i­dent­ly lived quite well, with a house in town as well as a coun­try es­tate.

  1. Freuet Euch, Ihr Chris­ten
  2. Saxony