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Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander) (Poet)

Born: January 14, 1700 - Stolpen, near Dresden, Germany
Died: May 10, 1764 - Leipzig, Germany

Picander, the pseudonym of one of Bach's most important poets, Christian Friedrich Henrici, studied law at Wittenberg University.

He began his career as a poet in Leipzig in 1721, at first with erotic poems and dramas. His relations with J.S. Bach were perhaps only casual at first. In 1725 Picander wrote the texts for J.S. Bach's secular cantatas Entfliehet, verschwindet BWV 249a and Zerreißet, zersprenget BWV 205, but as early as 1723 J.S. Bach's sacred cantata ‘Bringet dem Herrn Ehre’ BWV 148 was based on Picander's strophic poem Weg, ihr irdischen Geschüfte, and in 1726 ‘Es erhub sich ein Streit’ BWV 19 was based on a similar poem. Both are printed in Picander's collection of shorter (and tamer) poems published in 1724-1725 as Sammlung erbau licher Gedancken. The volume was dedicated to Count Franz Anton Sporck, who was also in contact with J.S. Bach and may have acted as intermediary between poet and composer.

Collaboration between Picander and J.S. Bach later intensified. All five volumes of Picander's Ernstschertzhaffte und satyrische Gedichte (Leipzig, 1727-51) contain texts set to music by J.S. Bach, including those for the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) (and its associated funeral music for Prince Leopo1d of Anhalt-Cöthen) and the St Mark Passion (BWV 247). In the preface to the third volume (1732) Picander claimed that J.S. Bach set a whole cycle of his cantata texts in 1729. This has been a matter of speculation, however, since only nine of J.S. Bach's settings are known; they include the cantatas for Christmas (Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe BWV 197a), New Year (Gott, wie dein Name BWV 171), Whit Monday (Ich liebe den Höchsten BWV 174), and the feast of St Michael (Man singet mit Freuden BWV 149). These Compositions were spread widely over the liturgical year, and it is therefore possible that J.S. Bach did in fact set all the texts, even if the compositions are lost. Eut it is doubtful that these 'Picander' cantatas were J.S. Bach's principal sources for parodies, as Klaus Hafner argued. Picander's third volume also contains an interesting numerical paragram.

Picander also wrote the texts for J.S. Bach's Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan BWV 201 and Laßt uns sorgen BWV 213; his Coffee Cantata BWV 211 was perhaps not written expressly for J.S. Bach. The last text of a J.S. Bach cantata published by Picander is that of the Peasant Cantata BWV 212 (1742), printed in 1751. Picander was then serving as Assessment and Liquor Tax Collector, Wine Inspector and Vizier, a post he held from 1740 until his death.

Source: Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach, edited by Malcolm Boyd (1999)
Contributed by Aryeh Oron (May 2003)

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