Andreas Werckmeister

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Andreas Werckmeister (November 30, 1645 – October 26, 1706) was a German organist, music theorist, and composer of the Baroque era. He was amongst the earliest advocates of equal temperament, and through this advocacy was highly influential to the harmonic basis underlying almost all of subsequent Western music.[1][2]


Born in Benneckenstein, Werckmeister attended schools in Nordhausen and Quedlinburg. He received his musical training from his uncles Heinrich Christian Werckmeister and Heinrich Victor Werckmeister. In 1664 he became an organist in Hasselfelde; ten years later in Elbingerode; and in 1696 of the Martinskirche in Halberstadt. He died in Halberstadt.

Musical compositions[edit]

Of his compositions only a booklet remains: pieces for violin with basso continuo, with the title Musikalische Privatlust (1689). Also some organ works remain: Canzon in a-minor, Canzona in d-minor, Praeludium ex G, Canzonetta in D-major.

Theoretical works[edit]

Werckmeister is best known today as a theorist, in particular through his writings Musicae mathematicae hodegus curiosus... (1687) and Musikalische Temperatur (1691), in which he described a system of what we would now refer to as well temperament (named after Bach's opus "The Well-Tempered Clavier") now known as Werckmeister temperament.

Title page of Andreas Werckmeister, Orgelprobe (1698).

Werckmeister's writings – particularly his writings on counterpoint – were well known to Johann Sebastian Bach. Werckmeister believed that well-crafted counterpoint, especially invertible counterpoint,[3] was tied to the orderly movements of the planets, reminiscent of Kepler's view in Harmonice Mundi. According to George Buelow, "No other writer of the period regarded music so unequivocally as the end result of God’s work".[4] Yet in spite of his focus on counterpoint, Werckmeister's work emphasized underlying harmonic principles.

List of works[edit]

  • Musicae mathematicae hodegus curiosus... (1687)
  • Musikalische Temperatur, oder... (1691)
  • Der Edlen Music-Kunst... (1691)
  • Hypomnemata musica (1697)
  • Erweierte und verbesserte Orgel-Probe (1698)
  • Die nothwendigsten Anmerckungen und Reglen, wie der Bassus continuus... (1698)
  • Cribrum musicum (1700)
  • Harmonologia musica (1702)
  • Musikalische Paradoxal-Discourse (1707)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bartel, Dietrich (2015). "Andreas Werckmeister's final tuning: the path to equal temperament". Early Music. 43 (3): 503–512. doi:10.1093/em/cav047.
  2. ^ "Equal Temperament". Encyclopædia Britannica. Britannica Group, Inc. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  3. ^ George B. Stauffer, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Fall 2005, p. 711.
  4. ^ George J. Buelow: "Andreas Werckmeister", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed May 7, 2006), (subscription access) Archived 2008-05-16 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

  • David Yearsley, Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint. New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

External links[edit]