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