Above: A Chart Depicting Relationships Among People I Have Named in This Post
Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor
JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM (MAY 12, 1690-MAY 4, 1762)
DAVID TANNENBERG, SR. (MARCH 21, 1728-MAY 19, 1804)
German-American Moravian Organ Builder
mentor and father-in-law of
JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN (APRIL 22, 1762-NOVEMBER 15, 1837)
German-American Instrument Maker
JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK (1729-1801)
Bohemian-American Organ Builder
TOBIAS FRIEDRICH (NOVEMBER 25, 1706-JUNE 8, 1736)
German Moravian Composer and Musician
A process which began when I wrote a name–Johann Philip Bachmann–out of a book then assigned him a provisional date on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days led recently to taking notes on Herr Bachmann. Then one person led to another and I had taken notes on five saints during several hours. These life stories are like circles in a Venn Diagram, but I will do my best to minimize, if not prevent, confusion.
If I have prompted a desire for more details in you, O reader, some of the hyperlinks I have embedded in this post might interest you. Others have devoted much time and effort into sharing such details online; I have endeavored to refer people to such websites in this post.
Johann Gottlob Klemm (I)
Our story begins with Johann Gottlob Klemm (1690-1762), born near Dresden. Klemm’s father was an organist, organ builder, and schoolmaster. The saint trained in the art of building organs near Dresden, starting circa 1710 after having studied theology at Freiberg and Leipzig. Among his clients was Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), for whom he build a harpsichord. The Zinzendorf connection brought Klemm into the Moravian Church in 1726, when the saint moved to Herrnhut, where he lived for seven years. There he was present for the Moravian Pentecost (August 13, 1727), the birth of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum, and taught boys and led some services.
Klemm also built a clavichord for Tobias Friedrich (1706-1736). This saint came from a farming family, but God put him on the Earth for music, not agriculture. Friedrich trained to become the cantor in the nearby town of Castell when he was twelve years old. At age fourteen (1720) he met Count Zinzendorf. The die was cast. Friedrich became one of the early settlers at Herrnhut, where he remained for the rest of his life, except for a few months in 1731, when the Church sent him on a missions trip to Denmark and Sweden. He worked for Zinzendorf in a variety of capacities over time, ending as the Count’s secretary. Friedrich served also as the first organist at Herrnhut, as a member of the Church’s Board of Direction (from 1731 to 1736), and as one of the founders of the collegium musicum (musical ensemble) at Herrnhut.
Friedrich’s lasting legacy to the Moravian Church was in the realm of hymnody. He, a fine violinist and organist, understood well how to accompany a worshiping congregation. He also grasped the importance of hymn tunes. He laid the strong foundation of hymnody in the Renewed Unitas Fratrum. More than 200 tunes in the Church’s first post-renewal hymnal, the Herrnhuter Gesangbuch (1735), flowed from his pen. At least twenty of them reamined in Christian Gregor‘s standard-setting Choralbuch (1784).
Friedrich died on June 8, 1736, after a brief illness. He was just twenty-nine years old. What more might he have accomplished had he lived longer?
Johann Gottlob Klemm (II)
Klemm, once a devout Moravian, walked away from the Unitas Fratrum in 1733 and emigrated to Pennsylvania with a group of Schwenkfelders, who belonged to the sect which Kaspar von Schwenkfeld (1489-1561) had founded. Schwenkfeld preferred a style of Protestantism more mystical than either the Lutheran or Reformed traditions, so he argued with both Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, who also argued with each other, especially regarding Eucharistic theology. Schwenkfeld, who made good use of the printing presses to spread his ideas, had to contend with other Protestants banning his books. He spent the last twenty-one years of his life as a fugitive due to his theology, for the religious freedom he championed did not exist for him.
Klemm, once he settled near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, chose to live without a formal religious affiliation for decades. He also Anglicized his name as “John Clemm” and worked as the first professional organ and keyboard builder in the American colonies. His market was ecumenical, including the following:
- Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1738);
- Trinity Church (then Anglican, now Episcopal) Church, Wall Street, New York, New York (1741);
- the Moravian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1742); and
- the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1746).
Klemm returned to the Unitas Fratrum at the end of his life. The Moravian community at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, accepted him. There he mentored David Tannenberg, Sr. (1728-1804), in the art of building organs. They built five organs for the Moravians. One of those instruments went to the church at Bethabara, North Carolina. Klemm died at Bethlehem on May 4, 1762.
David Tannenberg, Sr.
Tannenberg, born into a Moravian Church family, became the major organ builder in America during the 1700s. He grew up at Herrnhut, except for a period of schooling elsewhere from his tenth to fourteenth years of life. In 1748 he lived at Zeist, The Netherlands. The following year he emigrated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Shortly after Tannenberg arrived he married Anna Rosina Kern. For eight years he worked as a joiner and a business manager at Bethlehem then at Nazareth. This experience helped him succeed as a master organ builder.
As I wrote, Johann Gottlob Klemm (1690-1762) settled at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1757. Then Tannenberg became his apprentice. Tannenberg persisted in the art and trade of building organs despite the request of Moravian Elders that he make cabinets instead. Building organs was, they said, “tied up with much disorder.”
Tannenberg’s skill extended beyond the bounds of organ building. He and his family relocated to Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1765. There he not only established his workshop but performed as a vocalist and a violinist in the community. Tannenberg, who built an average of one organ annually, constructed fifty during his lifetime. Nine of them survive in 2014. He installed organs in Pennyslvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, for Roman Catholic, Moravian, Reformed, and Lutheran churches plus private homes. Tannenberg’s output increased in 1793, when, at his request, Johann Philip Bachmann (1762-1837) arrived from Herrnhut. They built fourteen organs in either seven or ten years. I am unsure of the length of their professional relationship, for my source tells me that they parted ways in 1800 on one page then in 1803 on another. (One of those dates might be a typographical error.) That source does agree with itself, however, on the existence of tension between the men, hence their professional parting.
Tannenberg built and installed organs to the end. His final professional act was to install an organ at Christ Lutheran Church, York, Pennyslvania. He was ill, but he completed the job before suffering a stroke then dying. The organ’s premiere was his funeral.
Tannenberg also built stringed instruments. He made at least one harpsichord, which, to the best of current knowledge, no longer exists. There is hope, however, for his oldest stringed instrument, a clavichord dating to 1761, resurfaced in 2004.
Johann Philip Bachmann
Johann Philip Bachmann (1762-1837), whose name launched me on the process of researching and writing this post, was German. The native of Thuringia learned carpentry from his father, who might been a piano maker. Young Bachmann left home at age sixteen to apprentice to a master carpenter. This saint went from there to the Herrnhut, having joined the Unitas Fratrum. At Herrnhut the carpenter learned how to make musical instruments. In April 1793, after he arrived in Pennyslvania, he married Anna Maria Tannenberg, the youngest daughter of David Tannenberg, Sr. Bachmann apprentice under Tannenberg until 1800 or 1803, traveling sometimes to install organs. The two men collaborated until Tannenberg’s death (1804), despite their differences. Bachmann turned from building organs to making pianos and cabinets by 1819, by which time he had begun to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which afflicted him for the last two decades of his life. He, an invalid for the final months, died on November 15, 1837.
Joseph Ferdinand Bulitschek
A previous apprentice to Tannenberg was Joseph Ferdinand Bulitschek (1729-1801), a native of Bohemia. He, an organ builder, millwright, and cabinet maker, apprentice under Tannenberg sometime before 1771, when he left Pennsylvania for North Carolina. He built at least two organs there–one for the Moravian congregation at Bethabara, the other for the Moravian church at Bathania. The Bethania organ was unusual, for the organist’s console was behind the case, requiring a window cut through the center of the case so the organist could see the congregation.
David Tannenberg, Jr.
Tannenberg had a son, David Tannenberg, Jr. (1760-circa 1802), who also learned the art and trade of building organs. The younger Tannenberg, unlike his father, was often at odds with the Moravian community. The son did, however, work in the field of organ construction, infusing the Pennsylvania German school of organ building with elements of the Moravian school thereof. One example of the fusion of these two schools was the organ for Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Bally, Pennsylvania.
The worship of God is a serious matter, as the saints of whom I have written in this post knew well. They employed their skills with great care for the glory of God. Some of their products survive–often in museums, sometimes in churches. The old instruments remain functional if people have maintained them. And at least one cabinet Bulitschek made survives. It is, according to what I have read, beautiful and well-crafted.
May we do everything excellently, so that even our must mundane and seemingly meaningless tasks may glorify God. One can glorify God by washing the dishes if one completes the chore properly, after all.
THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF GENOA, MYSTIC AND HUMANITARIAN
THE FEAST OF SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF DANTE ALIGHIERI, POET
THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST
Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:
Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of your servants
Johann Gottlob Klemm;
David Tannenberg, Sr.;
Johann Philip Bachmann;
Joseph Ferdinand Bulitschek; and
may persevere in running the race that is set before us,
until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
–Common of a Saint I, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724