The Kennedy Center

Johann Walter


A German composer and poet, honored as the "master of the music and words of the German hymn" and for whom "120481 asteriod Johannwalter" was named, Johann Walter (original name Blanckenmuller) was born in Kahla, Thuringia in 1496. He was very poor; a Kahla citizen adopted him and sent him to school under the name Johann Walter. It was claimed he took music at an early age. He attended Leipzig University in 1527. He got married in June 1526.
He was a bass in 1521 – 1525 at the Elector of Saxony's Hofkapelle, in Altenburg, Torgau and Weimar. At the death of Elector Friedrich III in 5 May 1525, when he was about to lose his job, Luther chose to continue Friedrich III's Kantorei providing him financial support. Eventually he returned to Torgau when he was offered a financially secure job. 
Walter was rewarded by a vicarship in Altenburg in December 1527, granted an annual pay of 100 thalers for his new Kantorei in 1535, and directed the Dresden Hofkapelle from 1548 until his retirement in 1554.
Walter is best known for his manuscripts on Geystliches gesangk Buchleyn (1534-1551), his establishment of ecclesiastical music in Saxony, Torgau and Dresden. The German Mass (hymnbook) he first drafted in autumn of 1525 that contained 38 German settings and five in Latin  was a huge success with countless editions, extensions and reports. These hymns were sung primarily by the Saxon Hofkapelle (Dresden). As Melanchthon wrote, it "created the hymn which is so much in use today."  Walter's works were styled from Josquin, especially his seven-voice motet (1544) while settings were from Isaac.
He was a dedicated Lutheran and opposed theological and liturgical changes as shown in his letters in Dresden and writings in Torgau until his old age. He died in Torgau on 25 March 1570.
Oxford Music Online
Johann Walter