Johann Christoph Altnickol
Johann Christoph Altnickol, or Altnikol, (1 January 1720 – 25 July 1759; dates of baptism and burial) was a German organist, bass singer, and composer. He was a son-in-law and copyist of Johann Sebastian Bach.
He was born in Berna bei Seidenberg, Oberlausitz, and first educated at the Lauban Lyceum in 1733. He was employed as a singer and assistant organist at St Maria Magdalena, Breslau, between 1740 and 1744. He began studying theology at the University of Leipzig from March 1744, after being granted four thalers as a viaticum in January of that year. From Michaelmas 1745 he sang as a bass in Johann Sebastian Bach's choirs (asserted by Bach in May 1747 when Altnickol claimed a grant of 12 thalers in April/May 1747 for the work), something he should not have been allowed to do as a university student. He was recommended by W. F. Bach as the successor to his post at Dresden in April 1746, with the assertion that he had studied keyboard and composition with his father, but was not awarded the appointment.
He was appointed as organist and schoolmaster at Niederwiesa, near Greiffenberg, Silesia, in January 1748, after Bach testified that he was a satisfactory student. In September of that year, he moved to a post at St Wenzel, Naumburg, after another recommendation from Bach; the council unanimously agreed to appoint him before they had received his formal application. He married Bach’s daughter Elisabeth Juliane Friederica in January 1749; their first son was born in October of the same year and named Johann Sebastian, but died in infancy. Forkel wrote that Bach dictated his last chorale prelude (Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit, BWV 668) to Altnickol on his deathbed, although this manuscript did not survive.
He acted as a trustee after Bach died in 1750, and was involved in distributing his estate. He took his brother-in-law Gottfried Heinrich Bach, believed to have been mentally handicapped, into his household, and also took on the teaching of J.G. Müthel. He was unsuccessful in an application for a post at the Johanniskirche, Zittau, in 1753, along with W. F. Bach. He taught trumpeter J. Ernst Altenburg in 1757, and is known to have directed a pasticcio Passion cantata featuring music by C.H. Graun, Bach and Telemann, as well as Bach's St. Matthew Passion. He was succeeded by Johann Friedrich Gräbner at Naumburg upon his death in 1759. His widow lived on an allowance from C. P. E. Bach, her half-brother. She is known to have remained in Naumburg until 1763, when her brother Gottfried Heinrich died; she later moved back to Leipzig, where her two daughters married; she died on 24 August 1781.
Many of his works, including a magnificat and two cantatas, have been lost. His compositions are not valued highly today; Bach spoke well of his compositional ability, perhaps due to their personal relationship.
- Frohlocket und jauchzet in prächtigen Chören
- Ich lebe und ihr sollt auch leben
- Befiehl du deine Wege
- Nun danket alle Gott
- W. Neumann and H.J. Schulz, eds.: Bach-Dokumente I–III (Kassel and Leipzig, 1963–1972)
- Alfred Dürr: ‘Zur Chronologie der Handschrift Johann Christoph Altnickols und Johann Friedrich Agricolas’, in Bach-Jahrbuch (1970)
- Peter Wollny: Eine apokryphe Bachsche Passionsmusik in der Handschrift Johann Christoph Altnickols, in Leipziger Beiträge zur Bach-Forschung I (1995)
- Walter Emery/Andreas Glöckner: 'Altnickol [Altnikol], Johann Christoph', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 2007-06-13), http://www.grovemusic.com/