Silcher was a preeminent composer, poet, editor, music teacher, director, and preserver of German folk song and traditional choral music.
Philipp Friedrich Silcher was born on June 27, 1789, in a schoolhouse in the wine area of Schnait im Remstal, a son of the teacher Karl Johann Silcher. As a teenager in 1803 he began a three-year apprenticeship as "Schulknecht" to Ferdinand Auberlen in Fellbach, who was well known as a good musician and valued arranger of men's choral music. In 1806 he became a teaching assistant (Lehrgehilfe) in Schorndorf, where he also was a tutor in the house of the Kreishauptmann Freiherr von Berlichingen.
In 1809 Silcher moved to Ludwigsburg and took a position at the Ludwigsburger Maedchenschule (School for Girls). At that time Ludwigsburg was a temporary Fuerstenresidenz, where the composers Carl Maria von Weber and Konradin Kreutzer also had been staying. Both of them advised Silcher to devote his life to music. Shortly after Kreutzer moved to Stuttgart, Silcher followed him and became a music teacher. During his two years in Stuttgart Silcher lived with the pianobuilder Schiedmayer. At this time Silcher devoted himself primarily to the music of Mozart. In 1817 Silcher became Musikdirektor at the Universitaet Tuebingen.
In 1822 he married Luise Enslin, the daughter of a Tuebingen merchant. She bore him two daughters and a son. In 1829 Silcher founded the Tuebinger Akademische Liedertafel, which he conducted for 30 years.
Silcher's musical legacy is great. Many of his melodies, settings, and texts are intimately familiar to Washington Saengerbund members. Among these are Aennchen von Tharau, Am Brunnen vor dem Tore (setting based on a melody by Franz Schubert), Hab' oft im Kreise der Lieben (Frisch
gesungen), Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten (Die Lorelei, the poem by Heinrich Heine), In einem kuehlen Grunde (the poem by Joseph von Eichendorff), Jetzt gang i ans Bruennele, Muss i' denn zum Staedtele hinaus, Rosestock, Holderbluet, So nimm denn meine Haende , Wenn alle Bruennlein fliessen, and many others.
During his lifetime Silcher was already recognized for his contributions. In 1852 the Universitaet Tuebingen honored him with the title "Dr. phil." On June 8, 1867, Silcher was made an Ehrenmitglied of the Schwaebischer Saengerbund.
On August 26, 1860, Silcher died. On his grave at the Tuebingen cemetery is a poem by Johannes Bobrowski:
Zur Seite, vor der Mauer die Ruhebank,
im Bluetterschatten, ueber dem Grabe Kreuz
und Baeumchen: in der langen Stille,
die nach den Liedern der Freundschaft anhob
und aussang Zeit und Namen. Es ist ein Rest
von toten Stimmen, Haende, wie in den Schoss
gesunken, ungeoeffnet. Keine
Frage gehoert mehr, erwidert keine
On September 22, 1912, the Schwaebischer Saengerbund dedicated the Silchermuseum in Schnait. Schnait, together with the tradition-rich towns of Beutelbach, Endersbach, Grossheppach, und Struempfelbach, forms a part of the city of Weinstadt im Remstal, one of Baden-Wuerttemberg's largest wine growing areas, located a short distance from Stuttgart. The Silcher Museum, Silcher's birth house, is today a memorial and museum dedicated to the life and work of the Swabian musician.
A Heimatmuseum is attached to the collection. In the Museum may be seen the Ehrenhalle fuer tote Saenger, the Saengerfahnensammlung, the Saengerbundraum and Archives with collections of handwritten material and first
editions. Located in Weinstadt-Schnait, Silcherstrsse 49, the Silcher Museum is a repository for materials from Silcher's life, exhibits of the Deutscher Saengerbund and the Schwaebischer Saengerbund, choral music, and Trachten (folk costume).
The coveted Friedrich-Silcher-Preis was dedicated in 1993 "zur Erinnerung an den Komponisten, Chorleiter und Musikpaedagogen Philipp Friedrich Silcher." With a monetary value of DM 15,000 (now 1500 EURO) it was to be awarded every three years.
The prize was awarded in 1995 for the first time by the Kulturamt of the city of Weinstadt, for the "Foerderung der Chormusik, Pflege des Volksliedgutes; Auszeichnung von Einzelpersonen, Gruppen (Choeren) und Institutionen fuer hervorragende Leistungen auf
dem Gebiet der Interpretation, Komposition und Musikpaedagogik im Sinne des Lebenswerks Friedrich Silchers."