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Johann Christoph Pezel

1639 - October 13, 1694
born in Klodzko, Poland, composed during the Baroque period
Johann Christoph Pezel was born in the little town of Glatz, near Bautzen in Silesia, and was probably educated in the city Gymnasium of Bautzen. He was a Ratsmusiker, meaning that his professional roots went back to the trumpeters who used to keep watch from city towers and give signals with their trumpets. As such, he made his living as a member of various town bands.

Over the years, the Ratsmusiken evolved into a group providing music for civic functions and by the seventeenth century, it had string instruments as well as brass.

Pezel did not spend his entire career in the Bautzen area. In the first place, there is evidence that he traveled widely before he received his first appointment. He is first mentioned in Leipzig and the city fathers decided in 1664 to increase their town band from seven members to eight and Pezel got the job, listed as "fourth Kunstgeiger" (the word means something like "artist/violinist"). In 1670, Pezel was promoted to Stadtpfeifer (city piper), which was a musicians' rank equivalent to "Meister" in a craft guild. It also was a life appointment.

His first important published work was Hora decima musicorum, which appeared in 1670, with his name given as Joanne Pezelio, although he signed the dedication Johann Bezeld. Over the years, he used a puzzling variety of different versions of his name, such as Petzoldt, Bezel, Bezelius, Petzel, and Pecelius. The last variant is unfortunate because there is a Johannes Pecelius who was a Czech musician and confusion has resulted.

Pezel made some efforts to find a different job and once he applied for the post of Cantor of St. Thomaskirche in Leipzig (Johann Sebastian Bach's future post) and another time for a position in Dresden's Ratsmusiken.

Pezel's important music is for cornet or trombone ensembles, typical Ratsmusik. While he worked in Leipzig, this brass music would be played twice a day from the town tower, or Rathaus. It is collected in the Hora decima musicorum and the Funf-stimmigte blasende Music.

Hora decima musicorum comprises 40 sonatas in one movement for wind or strings, the type of figurations used show that it was conceived as brass music and the sonatas are grouped according to tonality. In addition, in every case a piece in double time is followed by one in triple measure, leading one commentator to suggest they are conceived as two-movement pairs.

Fünf-stimmigte blasende Music is a group of 76 wind pieces, mostly intradas but also including some dance movements. Sharing of motives between pieces strongly suggests that they were arranged in performance pairs and the music is harmonically conservative. The composer shows great skill in devising fresh textures to overcome the inherent lack of variety in color caused by the instrumentation. An example of this is alternating sections in imitative counterpoint and homophonic texture. The part writing is smooth and interest mainly lies in the outer parts. The music is lively and shows that Pezel was fine composer within the limited possibilities of this genre. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi
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