Correspondence between Johann George Roellig and the Court of Anhalt-Zerbst: musical responsibilities in the 1780s and the Swedish connection

Nigel Springthorpe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Johann Georg Roellig (1710-1790), organist and chamber musician at Zerbst from 1737, rose to become vice-Kapellmeister and eventually the last Kapellmeister of the court, responsible for the provision of all liturgical music from 1758. Of Johann George Roellig’s private life we know very little, since no known private correspondence comes down to us other than those letters preserved in the court records. During his fifty three-year tenure in Zerbst, Roellig found the need to write to the court on several occasions and nearly all these letters are related in some way to financial concerns. They reveal not only some of the tensions and frustrations of court and church musicians of the eighteenth century musician but also help to paint a picture of the composer himself. The correspondence that survives in Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abteilung Dessau can be divided into three distinct groups: 1) letters written by Roellig, and often co-signed by the other Schosskirche musicians, to the court concerning the payments of emolluments (Accidentien); 2) letters from Roellig to Prince Frederich August about general financial concerns; and 3) four letters in 1785-86 concerning purchases of bows and mouthpieces of for the court instruments. It is this third batch of letters that will be examined in this paper, since they illuminate Roellig’s dealings with the court in the 1780s and some of his responsibilities during this period, including the provision of music for the service to celebrate the birthday of the Queen of Sweden in 1786. The link between the courts of court of Zerbst and Sweden has hitherto been unrecognised and is explored in the final section, a discussion in which the celebratory works that Roellig composed for the Funeral of King Fredrik Adolf of Sweden in 1771 and the coronation of Gustav III of Sweden in 1772 are addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFasch Studien 13: 'Zerbst zur Zeit Faschs - ein anhaltinischer Musenhof'', Bericht über die Internationale Wissenschaftliche Konferenz am 17. bis 18. April 2015 im Rahmen der 13. Internationalen Fasch-Festtage in Zerbst.
Subtitle of host publicationFasch-Studien Herausgegeben von der Internationale Fasch-Gesellschaft e.V. Band XIII
EditorsBert Siegmund, Konstanza Musketa, Barbara M. Reul
Place of PublicationBeeskow
PublisherOrtus Musikverlag
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)978-3-937788-47-0
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Roellig
  • Gustav III
  • Zerbst
  • Frederik Adolph
  • Sweden

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