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Dreyer, Johann Melchior (b Röttingen, Württemberg, bap. 24 June 1747; d Ellwangen (Jagst), 22 March 1824). German composer. The youngest son of a smith, he studied at the Jesuit Gymnasium in Ellwangen. Both courtly and sacred music flourished at the imperial collegiate church in Ellwangen, and Dreyer absorbed this tradition as he grew up. In 1767 he became a schoolmaster; he also composed music for performance by a variety of small ensembles (including children) at the parish church of St Maria; these works became equally popular in village churches, small convents and important centres of sacred music. He was appointed organist in the collegiate church in 1779; from 1790 he was also choirmaster and from 1802 Kantor. After the secularization of the foundation in 1802–3, Dreyer remained in his post as town organist and Kapellmeister. He was succeeded as organist by his son Heinrich Dreyer; another son, Johann Baptiste Dreyer, was Chorvikar at the Ellwangen church and later the town chaplain. Dreyer was one of the most successful composers of sacred music of his time. His music was distributed throughout Europe and as far afield as North America and Russia; almost every south German Catholic music collection of the 18th and 19th centuries contains something by him. His only known a cappella composition is a sensitive homophonic Stabat mater; he also wrote chamber music and organ sonatas in the galant style, symphonies for both liturgical and concert performance, and music for Singspiele (now lost). An oboe sonata ascribed to J.M. Dreyer (F-Pn) is probably by Giovanni Filippo Maria Dreyer (1703–72), who was active in Florence. After a period in which Dreyer’s music went out of fashion as a result of the Cecilian movement and its after-effects, new interest is now being shown in his tuneful, lively and well-constructed compositions.
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