The lives and works of Johann George Roellig and Johann Christian Roellig with Thematic Catalogue

Nigel Springthorpe

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

45 Downloads (Pure)


This dissertation provides the first comprehensive study of the lives and work of brothers Johann George Roellig (1710-1790) and Johann Christian Roellig (b.1716), together with a thematic catalogue to aid further research. It argues that the music of the Roellig brothers presents many insights into a period of music history often dismissed as ‘transitional’. Themes that are addressed include the contrasts between traditional employment models and the independent freelance business model emerging in the eighteenth century; new cantata structures that provide a new perspective of the state of post-Bach sacred music; a previously unidentified instrumental genre of partita linked to the political fortunes of the Wettin dynasty and new insights into the development of North German opera in the 1760s and 1770s.

Chapter 1 traces Johann George Roellig’s life, examining his employment as organist and latterly Kapellmeister at the court of Anhalt-Zerbst, revealing tensions, both professional and personal in court employment. Chapter 2 provides the first discussion of the career of Johann Christian Roellig (a composer only identified for the first time in 2008 by the author) - exploring his association with Carl Jacob Christian Klipfel, the Meissen Porcelain Factory Collegium Musicum (newly identified in the course of this study), and with the Hamburg theatre impresario Konrad Ernst Ackermann. In contrast to the more conventional career path based upon court and church patronage followed by his older brother, Johann Christian’s career illustrates an emerging new career model in the eighteenth century, namely the freelance composer-musician.

Exploring the rich documentary evidence of the performance history of sacred music in the court of Anhalt Zerbst, Chapter 3 examines J.G. Roellig’s contribution to the repertoire of the court chapel. The influence of external factors such as the Seven Years War is noted, but also the demands of the Zerbst Consistory, which censored cantata texts and, from 1752, restricted the duration of concerted music performed in Hauptgottesdienst, leading to the bifurcation of a number of single cantata cycles to make double cantata cycles. Chapter 4 uses the vocal music of J.C. Roellig to illuminate developments in the cantata in the generation after J.S. Bach, including the performance in Meissen of dedicated communion cantatas based upon biblical Sprüche and chorale texts, that challenge established conceptions of the state of German liturgical music post 1750.

Instrumental music, composed principally by J.C. Roellig, is the focus of chapters 5 to 7. The repertoire and historical scope of the ‘Dresden partita’ (a subgenre of partita identified for the first time in this study) is established, as well as the introduction of the divertimento into Dresden c.1757-1760. The symphony and concerto are examined within the context of bourgeoise music-making in Dresden and Meissen, followed by the first overview of Dresden Redoutenmusik in the mid-eighteenth century. Finally, Chapter 8 explores the context of J.C. Roellig’s three surviving stage works composed for the Ackermann company in Hamburg between 1763 and 1771 - works that belong to a largely unknown genre, mostly lost, in a little-known period of its history

The extensive appendices include a thematic catalogue of the works of the Roellig brothers, a key document that has driven the discussion in the dissertation. This is preceded by prefatory sections which include a discussion of the importance of collectors and collections in the preservation and transmission of music by the Roellig brothers, as well as sections on autograph copies, copyists, watermarks and paper-types and the dating of works in the Klipfel collection.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rose, Stephen, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 2020


  • Zerbst
  • Dresden
  • Meissen
  • Hamburg
  • Partita
  • divertimento
  • symphony
  • concerto
  • Redouten
  • polonaise
  • Dresden partita
  • communion cantata
  • opera
  • Clarisse
  • Circe
  • Die Amazonen
  • J.S. Bach
  • C.P.E. Bach
  • W.F. Bach
  • Roellig
  • Johann George Roellig
  • Johann Christian Roellig
  • Roellig junior
  • Jan Dismas Zelenka
  • Kreuzschule
  • Karl Hartwich
  • Theodor Christlieb Reinhardold
  • Brühl
  • Carl Gotthelf Gerlach
  • Princess Sophie Auguste Friederike
  • Catherine the Great
  • Prince Friedrich August
  • Zerbst Cantional
  • Zerbst Gesangbuch
  • Canatata cycles
  • Konrad Ernst Ackermann
  • Picander
  • Johann Adam Hiller
  • Carl Höckh
  • Carl Jacob Christian Klipfel
  • Johann Georg Knechtel
  • Schimmelmann
  • Gottfried Schrenkendorff
  • Schroeder
  • Uffenbach
  • Georg Peter Weimar
  • Meissen Porcelain Factory
  • collegium musicum
  • Frederick the Great
  • Graf von Brühl
  • Wagenseil
  • Christian Schöttgen
  • Poetischer Versuch
  • Neue Geistliche Gedichte
  • Das Saytenspiel des Herzens
  • Poetische Auffmunterung
  • bifurcated cycles

Cite this