Carl Heinrich Graun
Graun, Carl Heinrich
Graun, Carl Heinrich
Graun, Carl Heinrich, noted German composer, brother of August Friedrich and Johann Gottlieb Graun; b. Wahrenbriick, near Dresden, May 7, 1704; d. Berlin, Aug. 8, 1759. He studied voice with Grundig and Benisch, keyboard playing with Pezold, and composition with Johann Christoph Schmidt at the Dresden Kreuzschule (1713-21), and also sang in the chorus of the Dresden Court Opera. He became a tenor at the Braunschweig court in 1725. Graun was made Vice-Kapellmeister about 1727, and wrote several operas for the Court Theater. He then joined the court establishment of Crown Prince Ferdinand (later Frederick II the Great) in Ruppin in 1735, becoming his Kapellmeister in Rheinsberg in 1736. After Frederick became king, Graun went to Berlin as Royal Kapellmeister (1740); the new opera house was inaugurated with his opera Cesare e Cleopatra on Dec. 7, 1742; many others followed, several with librettos by the King. Graun enjoyed royal favor and public esteem throughout his career in Berlin, his only serious challenger being Hasse. His operas were firmly rooted in the Italian tradition; although not without merit, they vanished from the repertoire after he passed from the scene. His gifts were more strikingly revealed in his sacred music, particularly in his Te Deum (written to commemorate Frederick’s victory at the battle of Prague in 1756) and his Passion oratorio, Der Tod Jesu; the latter, his finest and most famous work, was performed in Germany regularly until the end of the 19th century.
DRAMATIC Opera (all 1st perf. in Berlin unless otherwise given): Sancio und Sinilde (Braunschweig, Feb. 3, 1727); Polydorus (Braunschweig, 1726 or 1728); Iphigenia in Aulis (Braunschweig, 1731); Scipio Africanus (Wolfenbiittel, 1732); Lo specchio della fedelta or Timareta (Braunschweig, June 13, 1733; music not extant); Pharao Tubaetes (Braunschweig, Feb. 1735); Rodelinda, regina de’ langobardi (Potsdam, Dec. 13, 1741); Venere e Cupido (Potsdam, Jan. 6, 1742); Cesare e Cleopatra (Dec. 7, 1742); Artaserse (Dec. 2, 1743); Catone in Utica (Jan. 24, 1744); La festa del Imeneo (July 18, 1744); Lucio Papirio (Jan. 4, 1745); Adriano in Siria (Jan. 7, 1746); Demofoonte, re di Tracia (Jan. 17, 1746; 3 arias by Frederick II); Cajo Fabricio (Dec. 2, 1746); Lefeste galanti (April 6,1747); II re pastore (Charlottenburg, Aug. 4, 1747; recitative, duet, and 2 choruses by Graun; remainder by Frederick II, C. Nichelmann, and J. Quantz); L’Europa galante (Schloss Monbijou, March 27, 1748); Galatea ed Acide (Potsdam, July 11, 1748; overture, 1 recitative, and 1 aria by Quantz; remainder by Frederick II); Ifigenia in Aulide (Dec. 13, 1748); Angelica e Medoro (March 27, 1749); Coriolano (Dec. 19, 1749); Fetonte (March 29, 1750); II Mitridate (Dec. 18, 1750); L’Armida (March 27, 1751); Britannico (Dec. 17, 1751); L’Orfeo (March 27, 1752); II giudizio di Paride (Charlottenburg, June 25, 1752); Silla (March 27, 1753; libretto by Frederick II); II trionfo della fedelta (Charlottenburg, Aug. 1753; major portion of the work by G. Benda and Hasse); Semiramide (March 27, 1754); Montezuma (Jan. 6, 1755; libretto by Frederick II); Ezio (April 1, 1755); I fratelli nemici (Jan. 9, 1756; libretto by Frederick II); La Merope(March 27, 1756; libretto by Frederick II). VOCAL: Sacred : Cantata in obitum Friderici Guilielmi regis borussorum beati defuncti (publ. in Berlin, 1741); Der Tod Jesu (Passion oratorio, Berlin, March 26, 1755; ed. by H. Serwer, Madison, Wise., 1974); Te Deum (publ. in Leipzig, 1757); 4 masses; a number of settings of the Missa Brevis; 2 Magnificats; cantatas; motets; Psalms. He also composed much secular vocal music, including Italian and German cantatas, songs, arias, etc. OTHER: About 40 concertos, some 35 trio sonatas, keyboard music, etc.
C. Mennicke, Hasse und die Brtider G. als Symphoniker (Leipzig, 1906); M. Wilier, Die Konzertform der Bruder C. H. und Johann Gottlieb Graun (Frankfurt am Main, 1995).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire