Philipp Spitta: he deserves a monument

Philipp Spitta in later years


Philipp Spitta was the first to collect all of the at the time remaining data about Sebastian Bach. Published in two parts in 1873 and 1880, his impressive set of data is still the foundation of Bach research throughout the 20th century. As probably most or all biographers of Sebastian Bach, he had great admiration for the person he was writing about.

But what is stunning for a 19th century Romantic, is the relative objectivity with which he is telling the story of the life and work of Sebastian. In the 20th century, his work of discovering new Bach - data and writing about them objectively has been continued mainly by Charles Stanford Terry and Prof. Christoph Wolff.


Of course, Spitta created his own monument by writing his magnificent biography of Johann Sebastian Bach. But the man himself deserves also to be known by his life - data and portrait.

Johann August Philipp Spitta was born on 27 12 1841 in Wechold near Hannover. He studied in Göttingen, teached in Reval (1864 - 1866), Sondershausen (until 1874) and Leipzig. In 1874, he was one of the "founding fathers" of the Bachverein. He became Professor of music history at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1875. Mind: at the age of 34! In 1891 he became a "Geheimrat".


Philipp Spitta in his younger years


During his life, he also performed researched on music by Buxtehude, Schütz and Friedrich der Große. He wrote numerous papers in several journals and was publisher of a periodical dedicated to musical research: "Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft". He also led an interesting correspondence with Johannes Brahms.

Philipp Spitta died in Berlin on April 13 1894, only 52 years old. But the work he did to uncover the facts of life of Sebastian Bach has held out for over 100 years already.


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