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Kunzen, family of German musicians:

(1) Johann Paul Kunzen , organist and composer; b. Leisnig, Saxony, Aug. 31, 1696; d. Lübeck, March 20, 1757. He studied organ at an early age, and was deputized for the Leisnig organist by the age of 9. He later studied various keyboard instruments and violin, and subsequently studied with Kuhnau in Leipzig (1716–18). He played and sang at the Leipzig Opera, and also was deputized as organist at the Nikolaikirche. He then was made Kapellmeister in Zerbst (1718). He served as director of the Hamburg Opera from 1723 to 1725, and became organist of Lübeck’s Marienkirche in 1732. He achieved distinction as a composer and conductor, presenting a noteworthy series of Abend-musiken. Only a few of his compositions are extant.

(2) Adolph Carl Kunzen , organist and composer, son of the preceding; b. Wittenberg, Sept. 22, 1720; d. Lübeck (buried), July 11, 1781. He studied with his father and with W. Lustig in Hamburg, and toured in England with his father (1728–29). He was made Konzertmeister at the Mecklenburg-Schwerin court in 1749, and was its Kapellmeister (1752–53). In 1757 he settled in Lübeck as his father’s successor as organist of the Marienkirche. He was also active as a composer and conductor, following in his father’s footsteps with a distinguished series of Abendmusiken. He wrote 21 oratorios, but only 2 are extant; however, many of his fine songs exist. He also wrote syms., several concertos, and chamber music.

(3) Friedrich Ludwig Aemilius Kunzen , composer, son of the preceding; b. Lübeck, Sept. 24, 1761; d. Copenhagen, Jan. 28, 1817. He studied music with his father, then law at the Univ. of Kiel (1781–84). He was active as a keyboard player, concert organizer, and composer in Copenhagen (1784–89), then went to Berlin, where he set up a music shop with Reichert and ed. the journal Musikalisches Wochenblatt (1791). Subsequently he was made Kapellmeister at the theaters in Frankfurt am Main (1792) and Prague (1794), and finally settled in Copenhagen as Royal Kapellmeister (1795). He also served as director of the oratorio society Det Harmoniske Selskab. He composed a number of fine stage works, as well as cantatas and oratorios.


dramatic(all 1st perf. in Copenhagen unless otherwise given): Holger Danske, opera (March 31, 1789); Das Fest der Winzer, oder Die Weinlese, Singspiel (Frankfurt am Main, May 3, 1793; as Viinhesten, Copenhagen, Dec. 1796); Festen i Valhal, prologue (Festival in Valhalla; 1796); Hemmelighe-den, Singspiel (The Secret; Nov. 22, 1796); Dragedukken, Singspiel (The Dragon Doll; March 14, 1797); Erik Ejegod, opera (Jan. 30, 1798); Naturens rest, Singspiel (The Cry of Nature; Nov. 22, 1799); Min bedste moder (My Grandmother; May 15, 1800); Hjemkomsten, Singspiel (The Homecoming; 1802); Gyrithe (1807); Kaerlighed paa landet (Love in the Country; March 23, 1810); incidental music. other: Various choral works; Sym.; several overtures; songs; keyboard music.


B. Friis, F.A. K.: Sein Leben und Werk I. Bis zur Oper “Holger Danske” (1761–1789) (diss., Univ. of Berlin, 1943).

(4) Louise Friederica Ulrica Kunzen , singer, daughter of Adolph Carl Kunzen; b. Lübeck, Feb. 15, 1765; d. Ludwigslust, May 4, 1839. She began singing in private concerts in Lübeck when she was 16. She joined the Ludwigslust Court Theater in 1787, where she enjoyed a remarkable career until her retirement in 1837.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire