Kuhnau (real name, Kuhn), Johann

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Kuhnau (real name, Kuhn), Johann

Kuhnau (real name, Kuhn), Johann, erudite German organist, writer on music, and composer; b. Geising, April 6, 1660; d. Leipzig, June 5, 1722. He studied at the Kreuzschule in Dresden with Krügner and Kittel, then became a chorister at the Kreuzkirche (1671), where he studied organ with Heringk. He also received instruction from Albrici, and then from Edelmann at the Zittau Gymnasium (1680–82), where he was acting Kantor (1681–82). He attended the Univ. of Leipzig from 1682 to 1688, studying law; meanwhile, in 1684, he succeeded Kühnel as organist at the Thomaskirche. In 1688 he organized a Collegium Musicum and also began to practice law. He was appointed Thomaskantor (1701), and was also active as a teacher at the Thomasschule, a conductor of church music at the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche, and later as music director at the Peterskirche (1711). He likewise served as music director of the Univ. His last years became increasingly difficult owing to poor health. He also had to contend with the efforts of others to encroach upon his duties. For example, Telemann organized his own Collegium Musicum (1701), and was also successful in obtaining the right to compose for the Thomaskirche. Kuhnau remains best known for his keyboard music, especially the 6 program sonatas found in his Musicalische Vorstellung eininger biblischer Historien (Leipzig, 1700). His Sonata in B-flat major from the Neue Clavier-ilbung (Leipzig, 1692) is of historical significance as the earliest known example of the genre in Germany. He also composed many sacred cantatas. His secular vocal music is not extant.


Divini numinis assistentia, illustrisque jure consultorum in florentissima academia Lipsiensi (Leipzig, 1688); Fundamenta compositionis (MS, 1703); 2 other works not extant.


Neue Clavier-Übung, erster Theil (Leipzig, 1689; 7 suites; ed. in Denkmäler Deutscher Tonkunst, IV, 1901); Neue Clavier-Übung, anderer Theil (Leipzig, 1692; 7 suites and I sonata; ed. in ibid.); Frische Ciavier Früchte (Leipzig; 1696; 7 sonatas; ed. in ibid.); Musicalische Vorstellung eininger biblischer Historien (Leipzig, 1700; reprint, 1973; 6 program sonatas; ed. in ibid.).


J. Martin, Die Kirchenkantaten J. K.s (Leipzig, 1928); E. Rimbach, The Church Cantatas of J. K. (diss., Univ. of Rochester, 1966); J. Arbogast, Stilkritische Untersuchungen zum Klavierwerk des Thomaskantors J. K. (1660–1722) (Regensburg, 1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Kuhnau (real name, Kuhn), Johann

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