Karl Gottlieb Umbreit (1763-1829)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Thuringian organist Karl Gottlieb Umbreit was a pupil of the Erfurt organist Johann Christian Kittel (1732-1809), who in turn had been a pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach. Umbreit’s compositions and especially his pedagogical works and influence center around role of the organ in church services. His Allgemeines Choral=Buch für die protestantische Kirche is more than just a collection of music. It also has a pedagogical approach.

In the introduction, he complains that very few organists of his time are capable of accompanying hymns as befits the music’s noble purpose and in accordance with the rules of harmony. Umbreit names several reasons for this, one of them being the fact that many posts for organists are often filled by rural school teachers who do not have the time or opportunity to pursue further music education. He also points to a lack of adequate literature: hymn books often contain mistakes, and the unrealized figured bass lines are unsuitable for untrained organists. This is the exact gap that Umbreit wishes to fill with his Allgemeines Choral=Buch. At the same time, the book documents the transformation taking place in church music at the beginning of the 19th century.

Umbreit also uses his forward to put out a call for copies of two older music editions. He would have been able to find them easily with RISM. He was looking for Wittembergisch deudsch Geistlich Gesangbüchlein (Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1544) and Newe Deudsche Geistliche Gesenge CXXIII. mit Vier oder Fünff Stimmen (Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1544).

Image: Title page to Allgemeines Choral=Buch für die protestantische Kirche by Karl Gottlieb Umbreit (Gotha, 1811). Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (D-Mbs) 2 Liturg. 431 x. RISM ID no. 991004730. Available online (NoC-NC).

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