Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes Johann Joseph Fux

Johann Joseph Fux?

Yes, Johann Joseph Fux.  And please, let us try to refrain from joking about Herr Fux’s fuxing name.  There’s nothing we can say that hasn’t already been said by generations of young music composition students, including – to my enduring shame – yours truly.

Johann Joseph Fux (circa 1660-1741)
Johann Joseph Fux (circa 1660-1741)

Yes: for generations of undergraduate music composition students, a thorough study of Fuxian Counterpoint has been – and for all I know, continues to be – de regueur.  When I was a university freshman, the required freshman-level music theory class taught by a composer named Peter Westergaard (1931-2019) was a thorough study of something called Fuxian species counterpoint.

Westergaard’s book was largely based on Johann Joseph Fux’s instructional treatise Gradus ad Parnassum which was first published in 1725.

Fux’s Gradus was, in turn, based on the compositional techniques of the great Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (circa 1525-1594).  It is no small irony that Fux, who was considered among the greatest (and was certainly among the most honored) composers of his time is known today – to the degree that he is known at all – as a result of his instructional manual.

So: Why Fux, Here, Today?

What, you might rightly ask, made me think of Herr Fux and his music for today’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post?

Just this.

Yesterday’s Music History Monday celebrated Ludwig von Köchel, the German polymath whose ticket to what for now qualifies as immortality was his comprehensive, chronological catalog of Mozart’s music, which he completed in 1862 and which was first published in 1863.…

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