(b Schweidnitz [now Swidnica], 19 June 1708; d Berlin, c1763). Silesian composer and bass viol player. After attending the Dreifaltigkeitsschule at Schweidnitz, he went to Breslau to continue his musical studies under the guidance of the local court musicians. In 1729 he registered as a law student at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder. During his four-year stay there he took an active part in the city’s musical life: he provided music for various royal and civic occasions and on 14 November 1729 directed a performance of one of his serenades before Friedrich Wilhelm I; two years later he gave a similar concert before Crown Prince Frederick (later Frederick the Great). In 1733 Janitsch left the university and became secretary to Franz Wilhelm von Happe, an important minister of state. In 1736 he was called to Ruppin as a member of Prince Frederick’s personal orchestra. Later that year the prince’s establishment moved to Rheinsberg and there Janitsch inaugurated his famous ‘Friday Academies’. On Frederick’s accession in 1740 Janitsch was appointed ‘contraviolinist’ in the reconstituted orchestra; he remained in Berlin until his death. Other duties at Frederick’s court involved the direction and composition of music for the court balls (held annually from 1743) and some work with the opera chorus. The ‘Friday Academies’ continued to flourish at Janitsch’s house in Berlin; performers included enthusiasts from the court orchestra and many other musicians, both professional and amateur. These weekly concerts had an excellent reputation and inspired many similar undertakings, notably C.F. Schale’s ‘Monday Assembly’ and J.F. Agricola’s ‘Saturday Concerts’.
Janitsch was much respected by his contemporaries. At Frankfurt he had received several commissions for birthday, wedding and funeral music, and there was also demand for his compositions in Berlin. Works commissioned during the Berlin period include a Te Deum for the laying of the foundation stone of St Hedwig’s Basilica (1748), and festive music for the coronation of King Adolf Frederik of Sweden (1751). The latter was written at the request of Princess Amalia, but was probably not performed during the actual celebrations. Janitsch was particularly renowned for his quartets (for three melody instruments and continuo), which Johann Wilhelm Hertel described as the ‘best models’ of their kind. Certainly they show a mastery of contrapuntal technique and an awareness of texture and timbre. The most appealing aspect is the rich variety of instrumentations, including unusual sonorities like oboe d’amore and viola pomposa. Janitsch’s instrumental music is in the galant style. The writing is sometimes rather florid, in the manner of J.G. Graun. Three of Janitsch’s quartets were published by Winter in Berlin (1760), and a few other pieces by him, including harpsichord sonatas, organ sonatas, and lieder appeared in contemporary collections. It appears likely that Janitsch autographs were in the private collection of Sara Levy, which passed to the Berlin Singakademie after her death. The recent discovery of Singakademie holdings in the Ukraine may bring the autographs to light.
Edition: Johann Gottlieb Janitsch: Quartette für drei Melodieninstrumente und Generalbass. Ed. Klaus Hofmann. Das Erbe deutscher Musik, vol. 104 (EdM). Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1988.A thematic index of the quartets is in T.S. Dreisbach: The Quartets of Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708–c1763) (diss., Case Western Reserve U., 1998). [Dr.]