Johann Gottlieb Janitsch
Most of what we know about the Silesian composer, Johann Gottlieb Janitsch comes from the Berlin music publicist Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg who wrote about Janitsch in the mid-18th century. According to Marpurg, Janitsch was born in 1708 in what is now Swidnica, Poland into a family who made a living selling tobacco.
Janitsch probably grew up playing music in his native town and later got his first job in Breslau where he played in an electoral court orchestra. But in a classic case of parental pressure and career expectation, Janitsch left his music job at his father insistence in order to pursue a law degree in Frankfurt instead.
In 1736, Janitsch made more headway in his career in music than in law when he was hired as a chamber musician in the private orchestra of the Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia. At first, Janitsch was stationed in Rupping, but later followed the Prince to Rheinsberg. And in 1740 when Frederick ascended the throne, Janitsch moved with him again to Berlin to be part of Frederick the Great’s newly reinstated royal court orchestra which had been disbanded by his predecessor.
The Friday Academy
While in Rheinsberg, Janitsch had founded an ‘Academy of Music’ It was a sort of weekly club for enthusiasts, professionals and amateurs alike to meet, read music and perform together. Janitsch continued the Academy when he moved to Berlin. He held these music parties at his home, always on Fridays, and so, Janitsch’s Academy came to be known as the “Friday Academy.” The Friday Academy model was repeated many times by various musical societies, its popularity fed in part by the rise of music publishing and a burgeoning 18th century public concert tradition outside of church and court.
The Friday Academy gave Janitsch the chance to write lots of chamber music and his work was apparently well respected by his contemporaries. Fellow composer Wilhelm Hertel described Janitsch’s quartets as ‘paragons of their kind.’ Perhaps it was the more casual, social setting, paired with a growing trend away from traditional baroque clichés, that allowed Janitsch freedom to explore a more varied and innovative style of composing.
Johann Gottlieb Janitsch’s chamber music can be heard on a 2014 CPO recording performed by the ensemble, Epoca Barocca.