(b Weimar, 1696; d Frankfurt, 1 Aug 1715). German composer and violinist. This gifted, short-lived prince was the second son of Johann Ernst IX of the Ernestine branch of the Saxon house of Wettin. He was highly regarded by his contemporaries, J.S. Bach, Telemann, Walther, Mattheson and Bellermann.
As a child, he was taught the violin by G.C. Eilenstein, court musician, and, after 1707, the keyboard by J.G. Walther, Weimar town organist. Walther’s birthday gift to the young prince in 1708 was a manuscript treatise, Praecepta der musikalischen Composition (ed. P. Benary, Leipzig, 1955). He was in direct contact with J.S. Bach, Weimar court organist from 1708 to 1717. He was sent to study at the University of Utrecht, returning in spring 1713; thereafter he studied composition with Walther for nine months.
Of his 19 instrumental works cited by Walther, six violin concertos survive as op.1, Six Concerts à un Violon concertant, deux Violons, une Taille, et Clavecin ou Basse de Viole. They were engraved on copper plates and published posthumously by Telemann in 1718 (according to Telemann’s preface, the prince was engraving the plates before his death). Four of the concertos are in three movements, two in four; four are in minor keys, two in major. Italian violinistic figures are common. Vivaldi’s influence is quite possible: the prince could have returned from Holland with Vivaldi’s op.3 concertos published in Amsterdam in 1712. Four compositions by Johann Ernst provide the basis for six keyboard concerto arrangements by J.S. Bach: unknown works were used for bwv592 and 595, for organ (or 592a and 984 for harpsichord), and op.1 nos.1 and 4 became bwv982 and 987, for harpsichord. Telemann dedicated his first published music, Six Sonates à violon seul (Frankfurt, 1715), to the prince.