Happy birthday, Johann Friedrich Agricola!

Johann Friedrich Agricola is one of the lesser-known names in the world of composers. He is better known to experts for his music theory writings, but not as a creator of music. His father was a gifted piano and organ player and his mother was a close relative of George Frideric Handel. Born on January 4, 1720, the foundations for his musical education were laid by the Dobitschen schoolmaster Johann Paul Martini.

At the age of 18, he initially appeared to follow in his father’s footsteps by beginning to study law in Leipzig. At the same time, he took piano, organ and composition lessons with Johann Sebastian Bach. From Leipzig, his path led him to Berlin, where he came into contact with Johann Joachim Quantz and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

In 1751, he was appointed chamber musician and court composer to Frederick II. In addition to his very practical work as a conductor, singer, translator, reviewer, music writer and teacher, he continually composed new music for the court and organized private concerts. He mainly composed oratorios, cantatas, songs and operas for the Prussian court. Stylistically, they are reminiscent of Johann Adolph Hasse and Carl Heinrich Graun.

Back in 2014, the Kölner Akademie dedicated a recording to three cantatas by Johann Friedrich Agricola that are explicitly dedicated to Christmas.