1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fux, Johann Joseph

FUX, JOHANN JOSEPH (1660–1741), Austrian musician, was born at Hirtenfeld (Styria) in 1660. Of his youth and early training nothing is known. In 1696 he was organist at one of the principal churches of Vienna, and in 1698 was appointed by the emperor Leopold I. as his “imperial court-composer,” with a salary of about £6 a month. At the court of Leopold and of his successors Joseph I. and Charles VI., Fux remained for the rest of his life. To his various court dignities that of organist at St Stephen’s cathedral was added in 1704. He married the daughter of the government secretary Schnitzbaum. As a proof of the high favour in which he was held by the art-loving Charles VI., it is told that at the coronation of that emperor as king of Bohemia in 1723 an opera, La Constanza e la Fortezza, especially composed by Fux for the occasion, was given at Prague in an open-air theatre. Fux at the time was suffering from gout, but the emperor had him carried in a litter all the way from Vienna, and gave him a seat in the imperial box. Fux died at Vienna on the 13th of February 1741. His life, although passed in the great world, was eventless, and his only troubles arose from the intrigues of his Italian rivals at court. Of the numerous operas which Fux wrote it is unnecessary to speak. They do not essentially differ from the style of the Italian opera seria of the time. Of greater importance are his sacred compositions, psalms, motets, oratorios and masses, the celebrated Missa Canonica amongst the latter. It is an all but unparalleled tour de force of learned musicianship, being written entirely in that most difficult of contrapuntal devices—the canon. As a contrapuntist and musical scholar generally, Fux was unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries, and his great theoretical work, the Gradus ad Parnassum, long remained by far the most thorough treatment of counterpoint and its various developments. The title of the original Latin edition is Gradus ad Parnassum sive manuductio ad compositionem musicae regularem, methoda nova ac certa nondum ante tam exacta ordine in lucem edita, elaborata a Joanne Josepho Fux (Vienna, 1715). It was translated into most European languages during the 18th century, and is still studied by musicians interested in the history of their art. The expenses of the publication were defrayed by the emperor Charles VI.

Fux’s biography was published by Ludwig von Köchel (Vienna, 1871). It is based on minute original research and contains, amongst other valuable materials, a complete catalogue of the composer’s numerous works.