Johann Kaspar Kerll (1627-1693): Missa pro Defunctis

image Kerll was born in Saxony the son of the organist at Adorf. He must have shown a fair amount of talent and aptitude early on because the first confirmed record of him composing dates from 1641. He studied under Giovanni Valentini in Vienna in the early 1640s and took up a post as organist at the court of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in Brussels. The Archduke must have been pleased with him because he sent him to Rome to study under Carissimi for several years. 1 He was appointed vice-Kapellmeister the Elector Ferdinand Maria in Munich on March 12th 1656 and six months later on September 22nd as Kapellmeister following the death of Giovanni Giacomo Porro. Amongst his students during his time as Kapellmeister in Munich was Agostino Steffani. He was clearly well thought of by his contemporaries – it was Kerll who was commissioned to write the coronation Mass for Emperor Leopold I at Frankfurt and he was ennobled by the Emperor in 1664. Following a row with Italian musicians in Munich he resigned and moved to Vienna where the Emperor first granted him a pension and then gave him a post as one of the court organists. He’s best known now for his keyoard music – none of his operas have survived, but his religious music is also very fine. His Missa pro Defunctis which you can hear below dates from 1669 and is the earliest of his 18 surviving Masses it’s a five-part unaccompanied setting that’s very reminiscent of  Palestrina’s plainsong Masses. Enjoy :-)


Performed by Ricercar Consort.

Video Source: Johann Kaspar Kerll: Missa pro Defunctis [LATIN and ENGLISH subtitles] – YouTube Published on 8 Nov 2014 by Ashe Chisolm


  1. There is no truth to the assertions that he studied under Frescobaldi who died in 1643.

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