Friedrich Wilhelm Rust

Friedrich Wilhelm Rust (6 July 1739  28 February 1796) was a German violinist, pianist and composer.[1] He hailed from a renowned musical family in Germany.[2] He was the father of the pianist and organist Wilhelm Karl Rust and the grandfather of Thomaskantor, composer and Bach scholar Wilhelm Rust.[3]

Friedrich Wilhelm Rust
Friedrich Wilhelm Rust

(1739-07-06)6 July 1739
Died28 February 1796(1796-02-28) (aged 56)
Wörlitz, Holy Roman Empire
Spouse(s)Henriette Niedhart


He was born in Wörlitz near Dessau, Saxony-Anhalt on 6 July 1739. Encouraged to study violin, Rust was taught early on by his older brother, Johann Ludwig Anton, who was an accomplished musician with J.S. Bach's orchestra and played as a violinist in Leipzig.[2] Rust also studied piano, particularly the works of Johann Sebastian Bach; he was able to play his collection of preludes and fugues in all keys Das Wohltemperierte Clavier from memory at the age of 13[2] or 16, according to other sources.[2][4] His father, a princely Kammerrat and bailiff, died in 1751, and he moved with his mother and brother to Gröbzig.[1] He attended the Lutheran gymnasium in Cöthen beginning in 1755, and from 1758 took law at University of Halle.[1] During this period, he studied composition and organ with Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, who he described as "stingy with his art".[5] From 1762, he took music lessons with Carl Höckh in Zerbst, and with Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Franz Benda in Berlin and Potsdam.[1]

In 1765–66, he accompanied Leopold III, Duke of Anhalt-Dessau, on a trip to Italy. While there, he trained with Giovanni Battista Martini, Pietro Nardini, Gaetano Pugnani, Giuseppe Tartini and Georg Benda.[1][2] He also became interested in the viola d'amore, for which he would compose at least nine pieces.[6]

In 1766, he returned to Dessau, where he worked as an educator and music organizer. He created a subscription concert series in 1769,[1] and on September 24, 1774, he founded an opera theatre.[2][7] In 1774, Rust was made court music director and married Henriette Niedhardt, a former pupil, who was a singer, with whom he had eight children.[1] His eldest son died in a drowning accident and his youngest son, Wilhelm Karl, became a well known music instructor.[2] He met Goethe in 1776, who was "deeply impressed" by the composer.[8] His Sonata per il Clavicordio all imitazione de Timpani del Salterio e del Liuto (1792) was considered interesting in part because of its imitation of the timpani by the tremolo effect.[9]

Rust died in Dessau on 28 February 1796, aged 56.[2]


After his death, Rust's music was largely unknown and unrecognized. In 1882, W. Hofäus and Dr. E. Prieger published a pamphlet titled "F.W. Rust, ein Vorgänger Beethovens", with a monograph.[2] Rust re-emerged in the public consciousness after 1885,[10] when his grandson Wilhelm Rust edited and republished fourteen of his sonatas. Wilhelm claimed that his grandfather deserved to be recognized as a key precursor to Romantic music, although some critics challenged his assessment because of a lack of clarity over what elements in the edited works were original and which were added by Wilhelm.[11] The sonatas were of interest as they appeared to be advanced for Rust's time, incorporating harmonic changes as well as counterpoint and even measures.[10] Vincent d'Indy was also a proponent of Rust's work. He suggested that Rust was "the connecting link between Haydn and Mozart on the one hand, Beethoven on the other".[11] Edmund van der Straeten wrote on "Some Unpublished Compositions of F. W. Rust" in 1896 and "The Violin Sonatas of Frederic Wilhelm Rust" in 1926.[12] Two recitals of Rust's compositions were presented in Paris in 1897 by Marie-Aimée Roger-Miclos.[13]

Wilhelm bequeathed his grandfather's autograph manuscripts to the Royal Library of Berlin.[11] Rust also had a large collection of works by J.S. Bach, which Wilhelm used in his edited publications for the Bachgesellschaft (Bach Society).[14] His collection contained handwritten transcripts, copies of other contemporaries, as well as printed copies, of more than 90 individual works (including BWV 525–530, 802–805, 846–869), and exclusively instrumental works, mainly for keyboard. After Rust's death, the collection was initially owned by the family and is now part of the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut in Göttingen.


Rust's oeuvre comprises every genre of the time except symphony. He wrote several large choral works, 100 lieder, and pieces for clavichord, viola d'amore, harp, lute, and "nail violin".[1] His cantatas, included Herr Gott, wir loben dich and Allgnädiger, in allen Höhen, and songs included Goethe's Wanderers Nachtlied. He composed a Schäferspiel, Korylas und Lalage, and technically demanding violin and piano works (including six sonatas). During the last twelve years of his life he composed more sacred music. His musical forte covered psalm settings for solo, chorus and orchestra, duodramas and monodramas. He also composed music for dramas and operas.[2]


  1. Buchmann, Lutz. "Rust". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press.
  2. "Friedrich Wilhelm Rust (Composer)". Library of Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  3. "Wilhelm Rust (Composer, Thomaskantor)". Bach Cantatas. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  4. "The Rust Variant: Its Appearance and Disappearance". Tureck Bach Research Institute. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  5. Schulenberg, David (2010). The music of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. University of Rochester Press. p. 9. ISBN 9781580463591.
  6. Danks, Harry (1979). The Viola D'Amore. Theodore Front Music. p. 54. ISBN 9780900998164.
  7. Kennedy, Michael (ed.). "Rust, Friedrich Wilhelm". Oxford Dictionary of Music (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
  8. "German Recital". Harp and Co. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  9. Kipnis, Igor (15 April 2013). The Harpsichord and Clavichord: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-135-94977-8.
  10. Kelly, Barbara L (2008). French Music, Culture, and National Identity: 1870-1939. University Rochester Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-58046-272-3.
  11. Calvocoressi, MD (1 January 1914). "Friedrich Wilhelm Rust, his editors and his critics" (PDF). The Musical Times. 55 (851): 14–16. doi:10.2307/905699.
  12. Katz, Mark (2006). The Violin: A Research And Information Guide. Routledge. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-8153-3637-2.
  13. "Music in Paris". The Musical Times (Public domain ed.). Novello. 38 (653): 476. 1897. doi:10.2307/3367118. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  14. Terry, Charles Sanford (1921). "Introduction". Bach’s Chorals. vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works. Cambridge University Press. p. 17.
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