Music from the Court of Johann Wilhelm van der Pfalz,
duke of Jülich-Berg
Johann Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg was born April 19, 1658 in Düsseldorf. His grandfather, Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, was given the important dukedom of Jülich-Berg at the beginning of the 17th Century. His father, Philipp Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, ensured a complete education for his son, who, even at an early age, showed a significant interest in the arts. Music and the Fine Arts became Johann Wilhelm’s dominant passions.
He married archduchess Maria Anna Josepha of Austria in 1678, which gained him access to the rich musical culture of the Emperor’s court. On August 1, 1679, he became the regent of the dukedom of Jülich-Berg with capitals in both Jülich and Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf was the focal point of his reign; he helped develop it to become a center of art and culture. After the death of his first wife in 1689, Johann Wilhelm married Anna Maria Luisa de Medici in 1691. After the death of his father in 1690 he became the Elector of Pfalz and one of the distinguished leaders of his era. Johann Wilhelm shared his passion for art and music with his new wife. The opera performances during Carnival in Düsseldorf in the years following 1690 became legendary. The court orchestra, which Johann Wilhelm formed, could compete with Imperial standards, and was admired by contemporaries in 1711 at the Imperial Election in Frankfurt. In the words of a guest of the Düsseldorf court, “[the orchestra was] a felicitous lot of fine artists.” The amount of money Johann Wilhelm invested in courtly show was not atypical for its time, but he did receive criticism from his fellow Electors. Johann Wilhelm dreamt of being named a King.
Pierre Schwickerath - Pizzicato magazine - October 2012