1789–1860

Born: June 27, 1789, Schnait im Rems­tal, Ger­ma­ny (near Stutt­gart).

Died: Au­gust 26, 1860, Tü­bing­en, Ger­ma­ny.

Buried: Tü­bing­en, Ger­ma­ny. In 1912, Sil­cher’s birth­place, the old school build­ing in Schnait im Rems­tal, be­came a mu­se­um and me­mor­i­al to him.

portrait

Silcher’s fa­ther died when he was four years old, and his mo­ther mar­ried Chris­tian Hein­rich Weg­mann, the lo­cal school teach­er. Weg­mann was a faith­ful and lov­ing step­fa­ther, and Fried­rich was his spe­cial dar­ling.

Silcher’s school­ing end­ed at age 14, and he want­ed to be­come a teach­er. At that time, train­ing in­volved a three year ap­pren­tice­ship with a mas­ter school­teach­er (Schul­meis­ter), so Sil­cher be­came an as­sist­ant teach­er in Ge­rad­stet­ten, Rems­tal.

His Schul­meis­ter was not on­ly a teach­er, but al­so a re­nowned choir­mas­ter, which in­flu­enced Sil­cher’s fuuture de­vel­op­ment.

In 1806, when his ap­pren­tice­ship was fin­ished, Sil­cher be­came as­sist­ant teach­er in Fell­bach, near Stutt­gart.

From 1809 on, he taught school in Lud­wigs­burg, where he met com­pos­ers Carl von We­ber and Kon­rad­in Kreutz­er. Both en­cour­ag­ed him to make mu­sic his pro­fess­ion.

While in Lud­wigs­burg, Sil­cher al­so came in­to con­tact with the ideas of Swiss teach­er Hein­rich Pes­ta­loz­zi. Pes­ta­loz­zi ad­vo­cat­ed un­i­vers­al ed­u­ca­tion, and us­ing mu­sic and sing­ing as ed­u­ca­tion­al tools.

In Swit­zer­land, Hans Nä­ge­li tried to put Pes­ta­loz­zi’s ideas in­to act­ion: he found­ed nu­mer­ous cho­ral so­ci­e­ties, main­ly male (Män­ner­ge­sang­ve­rein). Nä­ge­li’s ideas great­ly in­flu­enced Sil­cher, and the two cor­res­pond­ed and vi­sit­ed each oth­er fre­quent­ly.

Silcher high­ly ad­mired Nä­ge­li, and his let­ters re­ferred to him as My dear­est friend and pa­tron. (Once he wrote to Nä­ge­li that Nä­ge­li was a he­ro and knight of sing­ing, and he, Sil­cher, was his squire.)

In 1815, Sil­cher moved to Stut­tgart to be­come a mu­si­cian and mu­sic teach­er. One of his men­tors was com­pos­er Kon­rad­in Kreutz­er, di­rect­or of the Würt­tem­berg Court Cha­pel. Sil­cher lived with the fa­mi­ly of pi­a­no ma­nu­fac­tur­er Schied­may­er.

In 1817, Sil­cher be­came Mu­sic Di­rect­or at the Un­i­ver­si­ty of Tüb­ing­en, where he stayed the rest of his life. In Tüb­ing­en, Sil­cher found­ed the Akad­e­mische Lied­er­ta­fel (Un­i­ver­si­ty Sing­ing So­ci­et­y) in 1829, and was its pre­si­dent for ov­er 30 years.

In 1852, the Un­i­ver­si­ty made him Doc­tor Phi­lo­so­phi­ae ho­nor­is cau­sa, high­est of his ma­ny hon­ors.

To give new­ly formed cho­ral so­ci­e­ties some­thing to sing, Sil­cher col­lect­ed, com­posed and ed­it­ed hun­dreds of folk songs, tunes, and hymns, and wrote set­tings and ar­range­ments for choir and home sing­ing.

One of the best known, by Sil­cher him­self, was Ich weiß nicht, was soll es be­deut­en, the Lor­e­ley song (words by Hein­rich Heine, 1823). Sil­cher pub­lished the me­lo­dy in 1838, but may have writ­ten it some­what ear­li­er.

He was al­so a pi­o­neer in re­dis­cov­er­ing sac­red mu­sic by 16th and 17th Cen­tu­ry com­pos­ers such as Hass­ler, Pal­es­tri­na, Prae­to­ri­us, and Bach.

His works in­clude:

  1. Das Lieb­en
  2. Golden Gate
  3. Gott ein Va­ter
  4. Highton
  5. Pastor Pas­tor­um
  6. So Nimm denn Meine Hände