JOHANN LUDWIG KREBS (1713 - 1780)
Born near to Weimer in Germany in 1713, he received his early musical education from his father, the distinguished organist, Johann Tobias Krebs. Johann Ludwig, one of three musically gifted sons, was sent to study organ, lute and violin in Leipzig. He was to form part of the organ classes of Johann Sebastian Bach, who regarded his pupil very highly, and gave him the most outstanding testimonial on his graduation. He was technically the most gifted young musician of his time, yet found it difficult to gain employment. He eventually took a modest position in Zwickau, and throughout his life he was never to work in a major church. His last appointment in 1755, at the court of Prince Friedrich of Gotha-Altenburg, having such a lowly remuneration, that a public request was made for food to feed his large family.
Though circumstances left him in poverty, it did provide adequate time for him to build a sizeable catalogue of works. How much found its way into print is unclear, most remaining unpublished until the 20th century. From the music we do have, it is obvious that Krebs was a very gifted composer, who had received a complete academic training. He had seven children, his three sons all gaining some degree of distinction as performing musicians.
Though his music has become restricted to the periphery of the organ repertoire, its quality is exemplified by the fact that academics have argued as to whether certain works were by Johann Sebastian Bach or Johann Ludwig Krebs. He was to follow in Bach's footsteps by writing in each of his mentor's modes - Toccatas and Fugues, Chorales and Fantasias being among his major output. They do not have the wealth of melodic invention we find in Bach's output, though they lack nothing in dramatic impact. His Toccata and Fugue in E is certainly one of the masterpieces of the Baroque era. The exact date of composition is uncertain, though it is thought that much of his output comes from his younger years. If this were the case, his Fantasias would show an originality that would be unequalled at that time.