Johann Heinrich Walch

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Johann Heinrich Walch (born November 21, 1775 in Groß-Neuhausen ; † October 2, 1855 in Gotha ) was a musician, composer and conductor at the Fürstenhof in Gotha. He is regarded as the reformer of the military music of the Saxon-Gotha military and is the composer of numerous dances and marches , which are now mainly played in Sweden .


Johann Heinrich Walch spent his youth in Groß-Neuhausen, where his mother Marie worked as a servant to Count Johann Georg Heinrich von Werthern (1730–1790) in the castle. His father Heinrich was a soldier. The village school teacher and the pastor soon recognized Johann Heinrich's musicality and trained him to be a musician. He soon played in the court orchestra. After the death of Count von Werthern, the court in Groß-Neuhausen was dissolved. Johann Heinrich Walch was a soldier in the Electoral Saxon Life Guard Grenadier Regiment in Dresden until 1805. Then he got a job as a French horn player in the court chapel of Duke August von Sachsen-Gotha and Altenburg . In 1806, Duke August joined the military alliance founded by the Emperor of the French, Napoleon I , the Rhine Confederation and commissioned his chamber musician Walch to set up a military music corps based on the French model and to compose military marches.

One of his two most famous works is the Paris march (Prussian Army March Collection II, 38), which was trotted out in 1814 during the victory parade of the Bavarian, Prussian and Saxon cavalry regiments .

The second work , which is still very famous today, is his Funeral March No. 1 , to which Ludwig van Beethoven was attributed for a long time and which is nicknamed 'Beethoven's Funeral March'. It was played at the funeral of Edward VII .

When Duke August died suddenly in 1822, his older brother Friedrich took over the rule until 1825 and dissolved the court orchestra. Johann Heinrich Walch received unpaid leave and went on concert tours to Denmark , Sweden and Russia . His compositions were valued there and sold well.

With the death of Duke Friedrich, the line of the dukes of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg died out; the line of the dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha followed. Duke Ernst I had the famous court orchestra in Gotha rebuilt and reinstated Johann Heinrich Walch as a chamber musician. Walch served until 1845, when he retired for reasons of age, composed and taught talented students to play the piano , violin and French horn until his death in 1855 .

His extensive correspondence with personalities of his time shows how famous Johann Heinrich Walch was at that time. In Germany he is forgotten, in Sweden his reveille and his tattoo can be heard every day in front of the Stockholm Palace .


  • Robert Eitner: Biographical-bibliographical source-lexicon of musicians and music scholars of the Christian calendar up to the middle of the nineteenth century. Graz: Academic printing and printing Publishing company, 1959.
  • Paul Frank, Wilhelm Altmann : Concise Tonkünstler Lexicon for musicians and friends of music. Regensburg: Gustav Bosse, 1936, page 730.
  • Werner Probst: Johann Heinrich Walch composed the famous Beethoven funeral march. In: Bulletin of the Military Music Working Group of the German Society for Heereskunde, Volume 21, No. 2, June 1998, pages 98-105.


Beethoven's funeral march [by Johann Heinrich Walch] in: Munich Favorite Pieces for the Pianoforte, Volume 19. Bayer. State Library Munich, call number 4 54112-19 March of the Royal Guard Rifle Battalion, [1810]. Bayer. State Library Munich, call number 4 2009.4223