A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Homilius, Gottfried


HOMILIUS, Gottfried August, born Feb. 2, 1714, at Rosenthal in Saxony. Beyond the facts that he was a pupil of J. S. Bach, and master of Adam Hiller, little is known of his life or circumstances. In 1742 he became organist of the Frauenkirche in Dresden, and in 1755 director of the music in the three principal churches there, and Cantor of the Kreuzschule, the choir of which he brought to a high pitch of perfection. He led a simple modest life, entirely occupied with his duties, and died June 1, 1785. He enjoyed a considerable reputation among his contemporaries as an organist, especially for his skill in combining and arranging the stops. He was an industrious composer, and in the latter part of last century his larger church works were ranked very high. Although we cannot now endorse that verdict, we must still allow Homilius to have been no unworthy pupil of J. S. Bach's. His numerous sacred compositions are characterised by a peculiarly happy vein of melody, and, in accordance with the taste of the day, an avoidance of polyphonic treatment of the parts. On the other hand, it is difficult to compare his music with more modern homophone [App. p.679 "homophonic"] compositions. His treatment of his themes as is the case throughout this period in which Bach's influence was paramount is always interesting, and sometimes masterly. His most important works are his motets, model compositions of the kind. Little of his music has been printed, but he was very liberal in allowing copies of his works to be taken. Of his 32 motets some excellent examples are to be found in his pupil J. A. Hitler's 'Vierstimmige Motetten,' in Sander's 'Heilige Cæcilia' (Berlin 1818–19), Weeber's 'Kirchliche Chorgesänge' (Stuttgart 1857), and Trautwein's 'Auswahl.' Specimens of his organ works are to be found in Körner's Orgelvirtuos. A Pater noster for 4 voices, fully bearing out the description of his style just given, is printed in Mr. Hullah's 'Vocal Scores.' His published works include, a 'Passions-Cantata' (1775); a Christmas oratorio, 'Die Freude der Hirten über die Geburt Jesu' (1777); and 'Sechs Deutsche Arien fur Freunde ernsthafter Gesänge' (1786). Those still in MS. are much more numerous, and comprise a course of church music for Sundays and festivals; several Passions, including one according to St. Mark, perhaps his best work; a 'Choralbuch' containing 107 chorales; and finally organ music, consisting of fugues, chorales with variations, and trios.

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