Johann Kuhnau (German: [ˈkuːnaʊ] ; 6 April 1660 –5 June 1722) was a German polymath: known primarily as composer today, he was also active as novelist, translator, lawyer, and music theorist, being able late in life to combine these activities with the duties of his official post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, which he occupied for 21 years. Much of his music, including operas, masses, and other large-scale vocal works, is lost. His reputation today rests on a set of programmatic keyboard sonatas published in 1700, in which each sonata depicted in detail a particular story from the Bible. After his death, Kuhnau was succeeded as Thomaskantor by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Much of the biographical information on Kuhnau is known from an autobiography published by Johann Mattheson in 1740 in his Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte. Kuhnau's Protestant family was originally from Bohemia, and their name was Kuhn. Kuhnau was born in Geising, present-day Saxony. His musical talents were apparent early, and at around 1670 he was sent to Dresden to study with court musicians there. During the next decade, he studied keyboard playing and music composition, as well as languages: Italian and French. In 1680 an offshoot of the Great Plague of Vienna reached Dresden, and Kuhnau returned home. He subsequently studied music at the Johanneum at Zittau, and then law at the Leipzig University. Exceptionally active as composer and performer during his university years, he was appointed organist of Leipzig's Thomaskirche in 1684, at the age of 24.
In 1688 Kuhnau completed his dissertation and began practicing law. He was still working as organist and continued composing. In 1689 he published his first collection of keyboard works, followed by three more in 1692, 1696, and 1700. During the 1690s he translated a number of books into German from Italian and French, completed and published his best-known novel, the satirical Der musicalische Quack-Salber (1700), and devoted his spare time to studying various subjects such as mathematics, Hebrew and Greek. In 1701 he succeeded Johann Schelle as Kantor of Thomaskirche, and kept the position until his death. Unfortunately, although he was successful in directing the many musical activities at Thomaskirche and teaching at Thomasschule, Kuhnau started suffering from bad health. Scholar Willi Apel noted that the job was "as vexatious and difficult for him as for his successor, J.S. Bach."Not only health troubles, but also efforts by rival musicians and composers such as Georg Philipp Telemann and Kuhnau's own student Johann Friedrich Fasch, were undermining Kuhnau's activities as Kantor.
Kuhnau died in Leipzig on 5 June 1722. See: List of music students by teacher: K to M#Johann Kuhnau .He was survived by three daughters, from a marriage of 1689. His pupils included not only Fasch, but also Johann David Heinichen and Christoph Graupner.
Kuhnau's reputation today rests on four collections of music for keyboard, which he published in 1689–1700. Particularly important is the last volume, titled Musicalische Vorstellung einiger biblischer Historien, and known popularly as "Biblical Sonatas". It contains six sonatas, each outlining a biblical story in several contrasting movements:
Kuhnau uses a wide variety of devices to portray both the actual events (the sounding of trumpets, the hurling of David's stone, etc.), as well as the characters' psychological states (e.g. the Israelites' fright before a battle, or Hezekiah's joy darkened by a remembrance of his illness). These devices are not limited to changes of texture or harmony, but also include quotations from Protestant chorales (the Israelites' prayer) and imitations of operatic arias (Gideon's fear).
The other keyboard works by Kuhnau show a varied approach to form. The two parts of Clavier-Übung both include 7 suites, the first only in major mode, and the second only in minor mode. The suites almost always begin with a prelude, and continue through the usual order of dances – allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue – occasionally with a minuet or aria placed between the dances. Kuhnau's preludes are almost always in two sections: a prelude and a fugue (or a fugato section), complete with countersubjects Kuhnau mentions in the preface. Kuhnau's Sonata in B-flat major, appended to the Neuer Clavier-Übung, anderer Theil, was for some time considered to be the earliest known keyboard sonata. Later research has shown that it was rather the first keyboard sonata published in Germany, and that Kuhnau simply followed the naming convention established by contemporary foreign composers. The composer himself commented on the issue in the preface:
I have also appended a Sonata in B-flat major, which should also be pleasing to the amateurs. Why shouldn't one provide such pieces for keyboard which are provided for other instruments? Indeed, no instrument has been able to dispute the clavier's reputation for perfection.
The third volume, titled Frische Clavier Früchte, contains six sonatas modelled after Italian chamber sonatas. A wide variety of forms and textures is employed: even the opening movements range from toccata-like miniatures to full-fledged chaconnes. Kuhnau's approach to the episodes of the many fugues of this collection has been called "perhaps his primary contribution to the historical development of fugue as an extended form" by one scholar.Frische Clavier Früchte was Kuhnau's most popular work in his lifetime, reprinted five times (including one posthumous publication).
Much of Kuhnau's vocal music is lost, including an opera (Orpheus), a setting of the Passion according to St. Mark (Markus-Passion), a three-choir Te Deum, and at least two settings of the mass. The surviving cantatas are simple harmonically and melodically, yet expressive. Unlike those of his predecessors at the Thomaskirche, Kuhnau's cantatas feature a unified approach to form: most begin with an instrumental section followed by alteration of arias and recitatives.The Christmas cantata Uns ist ein Kind geboren , formerly attributed to Bach as BWV 142, was most likely composed by Kuhnau.
Of the few surviving books and treatises by Kuhnau, perhaps the most important is Der musicalische Quack-Salber ("The Musical Quack"), a satirical novel published in 1700. It describes the fictional exploits of Caraffa, a German charlatan who strives to make a name for himself as musician by posing as an Italian virtuoso. The novel's literary qualities have been noted, one writer venturing to call it linguistically innovative,and it has also proven to be a singularly valuable source for performance practices of the late 17th century. Two other satirical works by Kuhnau are known: Der Schmid seines eignen Unglückes ("The Maker of His Own Misfortune", 1695) and Des klugen und thörichten Gebrauchs der Fünf Sinnen ("On the Clever and Foolish Use of the Five Senses", 1698). Some of Kuhnau's satirical concepts and story turns are influenced by Christian Weise's novels. Kuhnau knew Weise from his days at Zittau, where Weise worked as Rector of the Gymnasium, and Kuhnau used to provide music (now lost) for Weise's school plays.
Kuhnau's theoretical treatise Fundamenta compositionis survives in a single manuscript which also contains an anonymous treatise on double counterpoint (Kurtze doch deutliche Reguln von den doppelten Contrapuncten) and two texts by Christoph Bernhard; the entire manuscript was at one point attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach.Unfortunately, Fundamenta appears to be a bad and partial copy from Kuhnau's original. The last five chapters are a direct copy from another Bernhard treatise on invertible counterpoint, while the discussion of modes is very similar to that in Walther's Praecepta der musicalischen Composition (1708), yet omits several passages included in Walther. The similarity raised an important question about Walther's well-known and highly regarded treatise: how heavily was it based upon Kuhnau's lost original? Or did both Walther and Kuhnau borrow from another writer, currently unknown?
Kuhnau authored at least two more theoretical works, but those are only known by name: Tractatus de tetrachordo seu musica antiqua ac hodierna and De triade harmonica. His views on musical modes, solmization, and other matters are preserved in a letter dated 8 December 1717, published by Mattheson in Critica musica in 1725.In addition, the "Biblical Sonatas" include a large preface in which Kuhnau explores the idea of program music and various related matters.
Numerous works by Kuhnau are lost, including stage works, cantatas, numerous pieces of occasional music, and so on. Some cantatas, arias, and odes survive in text-only versions. Lost also were at least two treatises: Tractatus de tetrachordo seu musica antiqua ac hodierna and De triade harmonica. The following list only includes works that are extant in complete form.
Georg Philipp Telemann was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family's wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually settled on a career in music. He held important positions in Leipzig, Sorau, Eisenach, and Frankfurt before settling in Hamburg in 1721, where he became musical director of that city's five main churches. While Telemann's career prospered, his personal life was always troubled: his first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving him.
Partita was originally the name for a single-instrumental piece of music, but Johann Kuhnau, his student Christoph Graupner, and Johann Sebastian Bach used it for collections of musical pieces, as a synonym for dance suite.
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the second child and eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach, was a German composer and performer. Despite his acknowledged genius as an organist, improviser and composer, his income and employment were unstable and he died in poverty.
The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis is a catalogue of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. It was first published in 1950, edited by Wolfgang Schmieder. The catalogue's second edition appeared in 1990. An abbreviated version of that second edition, known as BWV2a, was published in 1998.
The year 1728 in music involved some significant events.
The year 1700 in music involved some significant events.
Clavier-Übung, in more modern spelling Klavierübung, is German for "keyboard exercise". In the late 17th and early 18th centuries this was a common title for keyboard music collections: first adopted by Johann Kuhnau in 1689, the term later became mostly associated with Johann Sebastian Bach's four Clavier-Übung publications.
Vincent Lübeck was a German composer and organist. He was born in Padingbüttel and worked as organist and composer at Stade's St. Cosmae et Damiani (1675–1702) and Hamburg's famous St. Nikolai (1702–1740), where he played one of the largest contemporary organs. He enjoyed a remarkably high reputation in his lifetime, and had numerous pupils, among which were two of his sons.
Johann Ludwig Krebs was a German Baroque musician and composer for the pipe organ, harpsichord, other instruments and orchestras. His output also included chamber music, choral works and concertos.
Johann Heinrich Buttstett was a German Baroque organist and composer. Although he was Johann Pachelbel's most important pupil and one of the last major exponents of the south German organ tradition, Buttstett is best remembered for a dispute with Johann Mattheson.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations, and for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
Johann Peter Kellner was a German organist and composer. He was the father of Johann Christoph Kellner.
Johann Krieger was a German composer and organist, younger brother of Johann Philipp Krieger. Born in Nuremberg, he worked at Bayreuth, Zeitz, and Greiz before settling in Zittau. He was one of the most important keyboard composers of his day, highly esteemed by, among others, George Frideric Handel. A prolific composer of church and secular music, he published several dozen of his works, and others survive in manuscript. However, hundreds more were lost when Zittau was destroyed by fire in 1757, during the Seven Years' War.
The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893, is a collection of two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, composed for solo keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach. In Bach's time Clavier (keyboard) was a generic name indicating a variety of keyboard instruments, most typically a harpsichord or clavichord – but not excluding an organ either.
Uns ist ein Kind geboren, BWV 142 / Anh. II 23, is a Christmas cantata by an unknown composer. In the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis it is listed among the works with a doubtful attribution to Johann Sebastian Bach. The text is based on a libretto by Erdmann Neumeister first published in 1711. Although attributed to Bach by the Bach-Gesellschaft when they first published it in the late nineteenth century, that attribution was questioned within twenty years and is no longer accepted. Johann Kuhnau, Bach's predecessor as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, has been suggested as the probable composer, but without any certainty.
Friedrich Nicolaus Bruhns or Brauns was a German composer and music director in Hamburg.
The Clavier-Übung III, sometimes referred to as the German Organ Mass, is a collection of compositions for organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, started in 1735–36 and published in 1739. It is considered Bach's most significant and extensive work for organ, containing some of his most musically complex and technically demanding compositions for that instrument.
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