Kerl, Johann Caspar


Also spelled Kerll, Kherl, or Cherl

One of the first great German organists and composers for the organ; is considered by some the forerunner of Sebastian Bach. He was born at Gaimersheim, in Bavaria, but when quite young went to Vienna, where he studied with Valentini. Later he was sent by Emperor Ferdinand III. to Rome, where he became a pupil of Clarissimi, and probably of Frescobaldi. When he returned to Germany he was given a position in the service of the Elector of Bavaria at Munich in 1656, and was invited to play some of his compositions for the coronation of Emperor Leopold I., which he did so successfully that his fame as an organist dated from that event. He was Court chapelmaster at Munich from 1658 to 1673, but left the position and went to yienna, where for four years he did little beside teaching. He became organist at St. Stephen's in 1677 and Court organist in 1680. He went back to Munich in 1692 and died there a year later. One characteristic of his style is his skilful use of discord, a quality for which Bach also was known. He wrote a Black Mass, so-called because it was composed entirely on the black keys; O Bone Jesu, a duet; sonatas for two violins and a viol da gamba; other churchmusic for the organ; two operas, Oronte, and Erinto; and a serenata. Handel used one of his canzonas in his Israel in Egypt.