Andreas Oswald (the Younger) was baptized on 9 December 1634 in Weimar, where his father was employed as court organist. Close contacts with members of the court chapel and musicians active in the region probably helped shape the youth’s professional horizon and continued after his family had moved to Eisenach in 1642.
In 1650 the younger Oswald also joined the Weimar court chapel and remained an active member until it was dissolved in 1662. At first he probably was primarily responsible for playing the organ in performances of chamber music, and around the year 1660 he was officially installed as court organist. Between 1654 and 1657 his name does not appear in the lists of musicians employed in the chapel, which points to a prolonged leave of absence. After his dismissal in 1662 he moved back to Eisenach, where he took over the position of town organist from his father, who had died the same year. Andreas Oswald lived only to the age of thirty and was buried on 31 August 1665 in the church of St George at Eisenach.
With one exception, all of Oswald’s known works are transmitted in the “Partiturbuch” of the Gotha court musician Jacob Ludwig, which was completed in 1662; hence they must originate from the composer’s Weimar years. The large number of pieces by Oswald contained in this source points to the high esteem he enjoyed in his circles. The musical text preserved in the “Partiturbuch” is often problematic and questionable, however; this may in part be owed to the composer’s insufficient musical training or to copying errors, but it may also be caused by Oswald’s rather idiosyncratic composing style.
Particularly striking are the numerous severe compositional flaws found in the majority of pieces, which at times result directly from the disposition of the motivic material. Many of the irregularities arise from Oswald’s pronounced predilection for strict adherence to motivic patterns and structures as well as from his uncompromising voice-leading, which often violates the harmonic progressions. This compositional approach is particularly noticeable in extensive passages that are compiled in modular fashion from a small number of characteristic soggetti, or in the striking melodic preference of the interval of the third. On the other hand Oswald’s compositions often display an unintellectual, practical approach that skillfully takes up stylistic novelties in instrumental music and exploits them creatively.
Andreas Oswald represents a generation of younger musicians in central Germany who after the end of the Thirty Years’ War assertively took up the stylistic principles predominant in their time and – often in an experimental way – developed them further by exploring the scope of their own individual manner of composing. The strikingly expressive power and the joy of finding unconventional solutions render Oswald’s compositions – despite the above-described problems – particularly fascinating.
Jena, October 2020