Erasmus Widmann (September 15, 1572–October 31, 1634) was a South German composer and organist. Widmann was born on September 15, 1572, at Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. At the Latin school he received a good musical education under John Crusius. In 1589 he enrolled at the University of Tübingen and received his baccalaurius in the following year. An accomplished instrumentalist who could play the organ, harpsichord, lute, zither, viol, flute and trombone, he held musical positions at in the mining town of Eisenerz in Styria (1595), Graz (1596-1598), and Schwäbisch Hall where he took a job as Kantor and Lateinschulpräzeptor. From 1602 he was Kapellmeister and organist to Count Wolfgang von Hohenlohe-Langenburg in Weikersheim till the count’s death in 1610, and then for his immediate successor.
His duties included teaching, composing, playing and directing. The musicians at court were required to be able to sing and to play on a variety of instruments. Widmann’s abilities were more than conducive to generate sound music. Composing a number of secular works for which he wrote his own texts, Widmann’s subjects included mythological concerns, illustrating his strong classical training, as well as those dealing with the life of a student. He used polyphony and homophony in his various works. Occasional antiphonal and character distinctions are found in Widmann’s works. “Geistlich Psalmen und Lieder” (spiritual psalms and songs) was his first sacred publication. He employed tuneful melodies which were well-suited for both melisma as well as syllabic writing. “Gantz neue Cantzon, Intraden, Balletten und Courranten” were instrumental dances published by Widmann. Most of them are modal in character and rhythms were consistent, appropriate for dancing. Harmonies used by Widmann were considered new and fresh while his motifs and phrasings without variation maintained the conservatism of the late Renaissance.
In 1607 Widmann was relieved of his teaching duties and became solely responsible for the court orchestra. He is mainly remembered for a large quantity of dances and songs in such collections as Drei Motetten, Musikalischer Tugendspiegel gantz neuer Gesäng (1613), Canzonas Intradas and Galliard (1618), and Musicalisch Kurtzweil. After the death of Count Wolfgang, his successor Georg Friedrich demanded that Widmann return to his teaching activities. This was unsatisfactory to Widmann, so he sought a new job. As a result, from 1613 on Widmann was preceptor and cantor at the Gymnasium in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where he died, along with his wife and a daughter in a plague on October 31, 1634. The Erasmus Widmann Gymnasium in Schwäbisch Hall is named after him.
My collection includes the following works by Erasmus Widmann:
Der Musicalischer Tugendspiegel (1613): Five Dances and Galliards
—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources