Carl Friedrich Zöllner (1800–1860)
Carl Friedrich Zöllner was a German composer and choir director. In Leipzig, he went to the St. Thomas School. As of 1820 he worked at Ratsfreischule (the first public school in Leipzig) and then starting in 1840 at St. Thomas School as a singing teacher.
“Zöllner, with this song it is truly as if you had eavesdropped on the god of song himself.”_ Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy on Zöllners song “Das Wandern ist Müllers Lust” (Hiking is the Miller’s Delight)
Carl Friedrich Zöllner was born on the 17th of March 1800, in Mittelhausen near Sangerhausen (Thuringia), the third of Johann Andreas Zöllner and his wife Caroline’s five sons. His first music lessons came from his father, who was the cantor and school principal in Mittelhausen. After his father’s early death (1809), his uncle took care of him and brought the boy to Eisleben with him, where Zöllner went to Gymnasium (high school). Later, however, he moved to Eisenach and went to the Oberschule (secondary school) there. Starting in 1814 Carl Friedrich Zöllner went to the St. Thomas School in Leipzig where he was a student of J.G. Schicht, who supported his musical gifts. Schicht encouraged Carl Friedrich Zöllner to give up his theology studies, which he started in 1819, and to take on the position of singing teacher at the Ratsfreischule in 1820. In 1822 Zöllner opened a private musical institute dedicated to choral singing. Carl Friedrich Zöllner became famous especially for his development of male choral singing. Carl Friedrich Zöllner worked in Leipzig until his death on the 25th of September 1860.
2. Private Life
On the 31st of October 1841 Carl Friedrich Zöllner married Marianne Schaarschmidt, 23 years his junior, from Limbach near Chemnitz. The couple was married in St. Thomas Church. The marriage bore seven children, only three of which outlived their father. Carl Friedrich Zöllner met his wife-to-be in the Zöllner women's chor that he directed. The former home of the Zöllners can be found on Matthäikirchof 34 in the west part of Leipzig city center. After her death, Marianne was buried in a cemetery in Dresden. Carl Friedrich Zöllner’s son, Heinrich Zöllner, was like his father a successful composer and conductor.
3. Connection to Leipzig
In 1814 Carl Friedrich Zöllner attained a place at the St. Thomas School in Leipzig through his uncle, who had a personal connection to the school. After graduating, he decided to begin studying theology at the University of Leipzig in 1819. However, he gave up his studies in 1822 because the Thomas cantor Johann Gottfried Schicht arranged for him to fill a position of singing teacher at the Leipzig Rasfreischule, the city’s first public primary school. He held the position already in 1820. As a singing teacher his methodical lessons were highly valued by both students and teachers. Then in 1822, together with his friend Wilhelm, he established a private musical institute in Leipzig, which focused especially on choral singing. At first Zöllner dedicated himself to church music, later however his musical focus became more and more worldly. His vision was to make music available not only to a small privileged circle, but to use it as an essential educational tool for the people.
In 1833 he founded the first Zöllner club. This sparked the creation of numerous additional male choirs in and around Leipzig, which were all directed by Zöllner. The only one of these clubs that is still active today, and still follows Zöllner’s tradition, is the Zöllner-Männerchor Bernburg e.V (Zöllner men’s choir Bernburg), founded on the 23rd of October 1849. In the same year that the first club opened, his first song book for men’s voices appeared in the Leipzig music publishing house of Friedrich Kistner. Starting in 1840 Zöllner worked as a singing teacher at St. Thomas School. In 1859 for a special concert celebrating Friedrich Schiller’s 100th birthday, Zöllner conducted 20 Zöllner clubs with several hundred singers. For Zöllner’s 60th birthday in 1860, 500 singers met in Leipzig to honor him with an evening anniversary concert.
Carl Friedrich Zöllner died on the 25th of September, 1860 in his house on Matthäikirchhof west of the Leipzig city center. On the 27th of September 1860 he was buried in the new Johannisfriedhof (Johannis cemetery) in the third area, which was reserved for special burials sponsored by the city. On the evening of September 28th 1860 there was a benefit concert for the widow and her children in Leipzig. In other German cities and even in Australia, USA, and Russia there were concerts of a similar vein. On the behalf of the Leipzig men’s singing clubs, the attorney Carl Emil Heinze asked the city council, on February 25th 1861, for an expansion of Zöllner’s grave, to make it more impressive. The council was not very enthusiastic about the idea, saying that this had never been done for any of the other important people buried there, however in the end they agreed to the proposal. On each corner of the grave an oak tree was planted, these were however later cut down. On March 17th 1861, for Zöllner’s 61st birthday, the newly designed grave was publically dedicated with song. Today Zöllner’s tombstone can be found without a pedestal in Johannisfriedhof’s lapidarium. On the behalf of the Leipzig Men’s singing clubs the Leipziger Zöllnerbund (Zöllner association) was founded with 700 members and continued until 1945.
The monument to Zöllner, which was dedicated on the 24th of May 1868, was built in Leipzig Rosenthal in 1868. The monument consists of a marble portrait statute of Zöllner, circled by four bronze choir boy figures on a platform. The monument is surrounded by a delicate fence. Due to windy weather conditions the marble statue of Zöllner, which was made by the sculptor Hermann Knauer, was exchanged for a copy by sculptor Paul Stuckenbruck. The monument was restored in 1996. In December 2016 three of the choir boys were violently stolen. Since then, the monument has been made whole again with copies of the three stolen choir boys. The originals are still missing without a trace.
Even though Carl Friedrich Zöllner enjoyed great fame during his lifetime, today his name has been forgotten. He composed folk songs, some of which are still sung today. Zöller was essential to the shaping of the middle German men’s choir in the 19th century, which is why he is also known as the “the father of men’s singing”. He became famous for his setting of the poem “Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust” ( Hiking is the miller’s delight) to music. Today that song is considered one of the most famous German folk songs.
His songs are still widely sung today and his most famous song is “Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust” (Hiking is the Miller’s Delight).
1841: Der Speisezettel – Ein Scherz, für Männerchor (in Leipzig veröffentlicht)
Liebesfrühling, Friedrich Kistner Verlag, Leipzig
1844: Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust, op.6, in: Des Müllers Lust und Leid. 6 Gesänge aus der „Schönen Müllerin“ von Wilhelm Müller (in Leipzig veröffentlicht)
1853: Im Krug zum grünen Kranze, op. 14,3, in: Wanderlieder von Wilhelm Müller (in Leipzig veröffentlicht)
105. Morgengebet (Text von Joseph von Eichendorf)
Der Jäger zieht zum grünen Wald mit fröhlichem Hallo (Text von Ernst Moritz Arndt)
1854: Die Nachtklänge der Liebe, Gesänge für vier Männerstimmen, Friedrich Hofmeister Verlag, Leipzig
6. Sources and Links
Rudolf Hänsch: Der Liedermeister Carl Friedrich Zöllner 1800–1860. Eine Darstellung seines Lebens und Wirkens. Wilhelm Limpert Verlag, Dresden: 1927
R. Kötzschke: Carl Zöllner in: Sächsische Lebensbilder 2, Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig: 1928
Carl Friedrich Zöllner
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