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Johann Hiller.

Johann Adam Hiller (December 25, 1728 – June 16, 1804) was a German composer, conductor and writer on music, regarded as the creator of the Singspiel, an early form of German opera. In many of these operas he collaborated with the poet Christian Felix Weiße. Furthermore, Hiller was a teacher who encouraged musical education for women, his pupils including Elisabeth Mara and Corona Schröter.[1]



Hiller learned the basics of music from a school master in his home town, Wendisch-Ossig. From 1740 to 1745 he was a student at the Gymnasium in Görlitz, and in 1746 he went to study at the famous Kreuzschule in Dresden. There he took keyboard and basso continuo lessons with Gottfried August Homilius. In 1751 he moved to Leipzig where he enrolled in the university to study law. Hiller immersed himself in the rich musical life of the town and took an active role in the Grosses Concert, which was the leading concert undertaking in Leipzig. During that time he wrote several symphonies, church cantatas, and arias, as well as a fragmentary Singspiel entitled Das Orackle. Hiller also published an essay on the Mimesis of Nature in Music (Abhandlung über die Nachahmung der Natur in der Musik) in 1754, the year he became steward to Count Brühl in Dresden. He remained in that position until 1760 when health problems (depression) forced him to resign.

Moving back to Leipzig, Hiller became the director of the Grosse Concert, a position he held until 1771. Four years later, Hiller founded his own concert society, the Musikübende Gesellschaft. In Leipzig he also founded a school in which he trained young musicians in singing and playing instruments. Two of his most famous students were Corona Schröter and Gertrud Elisabeth Mara née Schmeling, both acclaimed vocalists. In 1778 Hiller was appointed music director at the Paulinerkirche, the church that belonged to Leipzig University. During that time he also organized Concerts spirituels for lent.

In the 1780s he acquired new positions with increased alacrity. In 1781 he became conductor of the Gewandhaus concerts. During the same year he visited the court of Duke of Courland in Mitau, a journey that resulted in Hiller's appointment as Kapellmeister there four years later. In addition to his posts at the Gewandhaus and the Paulinerkirche, in 1783 he also became the music director of the Neukirche which made him a top authority on music in Leipzig. However when taking up his new job in Mitau in 1785 he resigned all his posts in Leipzig. Due to the instable political situation at the court of Courland he resigned from his position there after only one year. Since he no longer had any occupation in Leipzig he had to organize concerts to earn his living, but fortunately he was able to secure for himself the post of music director of the city of Breslau in 1787. He spent two years in Breslau and returned to Leipzig in 1789 to become cantor at the Thomaskirche, a position once filled by Johann Sebastian Bach. Hiller held it until 1800 when he resigned due to his age. He died in Leipzig.

He was the father of the composer Friedrich Adam Hiller (c.1767-1812), but he was not related to the musician Ferdinand Hiller.


See List of operas by Johann Adam Hiller.

Literary work

Hiller's major contribution in this field include the Wöchentliche Nachrichten, a music journal in which he published reviews of performances, new music publications, and essays on various music related topics. From his articles in this journal it becomes clear that Hiller was open to new trends in music, and that he preferred Hasse over J. S. Bach and Gluck.

Hiller's aesthetical writings include the Abhandlung über die Nachahmung der Natur in der Musik (1754) and Über die Musik und deren Wirkungen (1781), which is a translation from Chabanon’s Observations sur la musique.

As a historian Hiller published a series of anecdotes and biographies, the Anecdoten zur Lebensgeschichte grosser Regenten und berühmter Staatsmänner and Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Musikgelehrten und Tonkünstler neuerer Zeit and the Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Musikgelehrten und Tonkünstler neuerer Zeit.

The majority of his writings concern pedagogy. In these publications Hiller presents himself as a highly competent teacher who regarded knowledge of music an essential part of everyone's education.


List of writings

  • "Abhandlung über die Nachahmung der Natur in der Musik" in Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg: Historisch-kritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1754)
  • Anecdoten zur Lebensgeschichte grosser Regenten und berühmter Staatsmänner (Leipzig, 1766–72)
  • As an editor: Wöchentliche Nachrichten und Anmerkungen die Musik betreffend (Leipzig, 1766–70)
  • Anweisung zur Singekunst in der deutschen und italienischen Sprache (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1773)
  • Musikalisches Handbuch für die Liebhaber des Gesanges und Claviers (Leipzig, 1773)
  • Anweisung zum musikalisch-richtigen Gesange (Leipzig, 1774, enlarged 1798)
  • Exempel-Buch der Anweisung zum Singen (Leipzig, 1774)
  • Anweisung zum musikalisch-zierlichen Gesange (Leipzig, 1780)
  • Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Musikgelehrten und Tonkünstler neuerer Zeit (Leipzig, 1784). Includes autobiography.
  • Über Metastasio und seine Werke (Leipzig,1786)
  • Nachricht von der Aufführung des Händelschen Messias, in der Domkirche zu Berlin den 19. May 1786(Berlin, 1786)
  • Fragmente aus Händels Messias, nebst Betrachtungen über die Aufführung Händelscher Singcompositionen"" (Leipzig, 1787)
  • Über Alt und Neu in der Musik (Leipzig,1787)
  • Was ist wahre Kirchenmusik? (Leipzig, 1789)
  • Co-authored with J. A. Hasse: Beyträge zu wahrer Kirchenmusik (Leipzig, 2/1791)
  • Kurze und erleichterte Anweisung zum Singen (Leipzig, 1792)
  • Anweisung zum Violinspielen für Schulen und zum Selbstunterrichte (Leipzig, 1792)
  • Erinnerungen gegen das Melodien-Register in Freyes kleiner Lieder-Konkordanz (Leipzig, 1798)


  • Thomas Bauman: North German Opera in the Age of Goethe (Cambridge, 1985).
  • Georgy Calmus: Die ersten deutschen Singspiele von Standfuss und Hiller (Leipzig, 1908).
  • Kyoko Kawada: Studien zu den Singspielen von Johann Adam Hiller (1728–1804), diss., University of Marburg, 1969.
  • Carl Naumann: Johann Adam Hiller: eine bescheidene Würdigung seiner Verdienste als Mensch, Künstler und Schulmann (Leipzig, 1804).
  • Karl Peiser: Johann Adam Hiller (Leipzig, 1894).
  • Johann Friedrich Reichardt: Briefe eines aufmerksamen Reisenden die Musik betreffend, 1st vol. (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1774), 2nd vol. (Frankfurt and Breslau, 1776).
  • Friedrich Rochlitz: "Zum Andenken Johann Adam Hillers", in: Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, vol. 6 (1803–4), pp. 845–58, 861–72.


  1. ^ Bowers, Jane, ed.; Tick, Judith, ed. (1986). Women making music: the western art tradition, 1150–1950. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252012046.  

External links

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