Johann Christoph Schmidt spent all his life in the service of Augustus the Strong at Dresden. He participated in and organised some of the most elaborate musical celebrations in that city's history. As a composer he favoured the French style and the his French divertissement Les quatre saisons was performed during the extensive celebrations of 1719.
Johann Christoph Schmidt was born in Hohnstein near Pirna on the 6th August 1664 the son of a Hohnstein Kantor. His service at Dresden which continued until his death commenced in 1676 when he became a chorister at the court chapel and received his musical instruction from Christoph Bernard. His path to prominence in Dresden began in 1687 when he was appointed master of the choristers. By 1692 he was second organist and in 1694 he travelled to Italy to further his musical education with the support of the Elector. On the recommendation of Adam Strungk the Kapellmeister he became deputy Kapellmeister and chamber organist in 1696. With the blessing of the Elector Johann Georg III Strungk was engaged in the establishment of opera in Leipzig and this may explain why Schmidt was appointed principal Kapellmeister in 1698. Schmidt's responsibilities included direction of the Hofkapelle and Protestant church music. With Augustus the Strong's conversion to Catholicism he was also director of Catholic court church music. In 1717 he was made Oberkapellmeister and responsibility for the Catholic church music to the Protestant Heinichen.
In 1718 Mattheson published a letter from Schmidt in his 'Critica Musica' dealing with solmization. Schmidt acting as an intermediary in the controversy over this old method proposed that solmization be retained for vocal music but that the 'stylo moderno' should adopt the French modes as major and minor. During the extensive wedding celebrations of 1719 as part of the Festival of Venus Schmidt's French divertissement de musique et de danse Les quatres saisons was performed in the gardens of the Zwinger palace on the 23rd September. The work was a series of recitatives, arias, instrumental and choral numbers interspersed with ballet and utilised 100 performers.
Hiller regarded Schmidt as "a solid composer with a good grasp of counterpoint; but although he lacked exceptional gifts he was not a dry or infertile composer." Schmidt's organisation of the musical establishment in Dresden, Warsaw and Kracow during the first zenith of music making associated with Augustus the Strong should not be underestimated. Pupils of Schmidt's include C.G. Schroter, C.H. Graun and Melchior Hoffmann. ~ Copyright © 1996, David Charlton.