Johann Joseph Fux

Johann Joseph Fux (ca. 1660–1741) had a great impact on the history of music as the author of the theoretical work Gradus ad Parnassum (Vienna 1725). Generations of composers, including Leopold Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, learned the basics of counterpoint following Fux’s method. Well into the 20th century, Fux was considered a composing theorist, of whom only a few sacred works in the historicizing “stile antico” were known.

However, this narrow image of Fux emerged only after his death. For his contemporaries, on the other hand, he was, as Imperial chapelmaster, the highest ranked musician in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, whose music made an important contribution to the Habsburg policy of representation. Fux had a distinctive sense of style and a great adaptive capacity. With over 600 surviving works in all the leading secular and sacred genres of his time, Fux is the most important composer of the Austrian Baroque. His church music (especially masses, requiems, oratorios), operas and instrumental works bear witness to his skill at fulfilling the demands of three emperors (Leopold I, Joseph I, Charles VI) and at adapting to the particulars of different performance conditions.

Originating from rather simple family backgrounds, Fux had systematically worked his way up from an organist to various positions as chapel master at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and at the court, eventually becoming chapel master of the Imperial court. In this position as composer and “manager” of court music, he shaped local, Austrian and Central European music history for more than a quarter of a century. His pupils include the Viennese composers Gottlieb Muffat and Georg Christoph Wagenseil as well as Jan Dismas Zelenka, who worked at the Dresden court and studied with Fux for three years. 

In 2015, the new edition of Johann Joseph Fux – Werke has been installed at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, where the staff unit was formed in 2008. The critical-historical edition with a scientific introductory text, literary-historical comments on the libretti as well as a critical report provides reliable scores for music research and performance practice. It also considers the fact that the Fux transmission is often complex due to a wide range of sources or uncertain chronology. Moreover, there are only a few extant autographs; sometimes the diverse reception history is reflected in multiple recensions. 

Since July 2016, the platform Fux Online has been offering comprehensive information on Fux and his work, as well as a listing of digital sources. Furthermore, there are references and additions to the printed volumes Johann Joseph Fux – Werke. With the series Fux concertato, performance material for selected works is freely available online (open access).

The department has a source and microfilm archive, a reference library, as well as scores and recordings. Further research focuses on the life and work of Fux in the dynastic context at the Habsburg court. In addition, the acoustic representation of the edited works through targeted promotion of reception is a further focal point. The research group welcomes all artistic and scholarly questions.