Christoph Graupner was born in 1683 in Kirchen (Saxony). Spotted by the local organist Nikolaus Kuster, his gifts allowed him to enter the Thomasschule in Leipzig, where his teachers were Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau. He left his law studies begun in 1703, and as soon as 1706 Graupner became harpsichordist of the Hambourg opera directed by Reinhard Keiser. He conducted the orchestra at some occasions, composed a few operas welcomed by the public, and met there Johann Mattheson and probably Georg Friedrich Haendel too, who was playing the violin in this orchestra.
When Christoph Graupner met Ernst Ludwig, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, this was going to be a new start for his career : as an amateur of music, Ernst Ludwig offered him the position of vice-kapellmeister at the Darmstadt court, a small but enlightened society. Graupner composed the music for the office alternately with Wolfgang Carl Briegel, Hofkapellmeister, until Briegel’s death in 1712, as well as operas and instrumental music, as long as the court finances allow it. He became Hofkapellmeister in 1711, writing one cantata for each Sunday and feast until 1754, when blindness prevented him to go on. Johann Fasch, who came to study with Graupner in 1714, will be his only known pupil.
This well-ordered life will be interrupted only in January 1723 when he applied for the position of kantor in Saint-Thomas church in Leipzig. He got the position, but the Landgrave refused to give him his notice and increased his salary ; finally Johann Sebastian Bach got the position.
During his forty-five years at the Darmstadt court, Christoph Graupner published three collections for harpsichord (1718, 1722, 1733) and one choral book for the use of churches and schools (1728) engraved by himself. This will be the only works he will give to the public, neglecting to be otherwise published. Under his direction, the orchestra will reach an excellent level and a solid reputation, and Graupner will dedicate himself in playing many of his own works as well as other contemporary composers, showing an insatiable curiosity.
From 1730, without discontinuing composing for the court chapel, Graupner favors instrumental music and, apart from his 1418 cantatas known to us, he will leave some three hundred pieces of music for harpsichord, chamber, and orchestra, showing a very innovative instrumentation.
After his death (May 10th 1760) his immense work remained inaccessible during some sixty years, because of a property dispute between his successors and the Darmstadt court having led to confine his manuscripts. When his works became accessible to musicians and musicologist, the musical taste had changed and few people were interested in music from the past. Hence the re-discovery of Graupner’s music started only at the end of the 20th century.
- Christ lag in Todesbanden, mardi de Pâques, 1721, GWV 1130/21
- Das ist das ewige Leben, 1139, GWV 1111/39
- Es ist in keinem andern Heil, 1718, GWV 1109/18
- Furcht und Zagen, 2e dimanche de l’Avent, 1711, GWV 1102/11b
- Wer eine Grube machet, 1724, GWV 1124/24
- Wie bald hast du gelitten, circoncision, 1714, GWV 1109/14